interviewBy Lerato Umah and Jumoke Rufus
Ivie Okujaye is totally committed to her craft; the actress, script-writer, dancer and women's rights advocate talks to ESSENTIALS about her rise in the Nigerian Film Industry.
How did you begin your career in acting?
Even before the career, I had a dance drama group for years in Abuja. So, performing on stage has always been it for me. My career really got off when I went for the Amstel Malta Box Office audition, got chosen to take part in the house, and then won. That was a huge stepping stone for me. Between then and now, I've written scripts, taken part in some really cool movies, produced a feature film, won the AMAA (African Movie Academy Award in 2012), the AMVCA (African Viewers' Choice award for Trailblazer) 2013, and I am now on the verge of releasing my first big-screen film as a producer. God has been awesome.
Recently, your movie was aired on the Africa Magic channel; what was the experience like?
For me, it is always difficult watching my own films with my family, because they tease and yap me for the duration of the movie! But it's always a lovely experience when my movies air, because it helps my fans keep believing in me when they see for themselves what I've been up to. Maybe, it's because I'm relatively young in the industry, but I get shy when my movies air.
What projects are you currently involved in?
My current project, which I am so proud of, is the feature film titled Make a Move, which I wrote and produced. It was directed by Niyi Akinmolayan and features great talents like Tina Mba, Wale Adebayo, Majid Micheal, 2Face Idibia, Omawumi Megbele, Beverly Naya, Denrele Edun, V6 Victor Godfrey, Enor Ekpenyong and Helga Sosthenes (a brilliant little actress). I am so excited for its release.
You had a web serial How She Left My Brother. It has not been running anymore; what happened to it?
Nothing happened to it. It ran its course, just as the producer Victor Aghaowa wanted it. It was a huge success and it has inspired the long chain of web series that came after it. Working with the cast, Chris Attoh, Eku Edewor, O. C Ukeje, Vanessa Kanu and V6 Victor Godfery, is an experience I still cherish.
You were recently in Sierra Leone to shoot a movie...
-That should be Kamara's Tree, which was shot in Sierra Leone. I wrote the script for Desmond Elliot who directed the movie. Being in that country gave me a lot of hope. Despite being a post-war country that has found peace, they are still growing and are united in their single goal to rebuild their country. They also have very beautiful topography. One day, the clouds came as low as the roof-top of the building we stayed in; it was so beautiful. I climbed the top floor and was literally in the clouds. God does know how to create beauty.
How does it feel having so much accolades; AMBO, AMMA and AMVCA?
It is always an honour to be recognised for your work, but an even bigger honour to be recognised by organisers as credible as Amstel Malta, Africa Movie Academy and Africa Magic! Sometimes, it feels overwhelming when I recall it all. But above all, it humbles me when I think of how lucky and blessed I have been. Sometimes, it puts pressure on me but it is good pressure, because it makes me work harder.
What are your thoughts on the Nigerian Film Industry?
Like many other sectors in Nigeria, there is still a lot to be done before it gets to the great heights I know it will one day achieve. A proper distribution structure needs to be created, (and it will be in due time), but I also have to say that it has grown in leaps and bounds! So many films get churned out into the market and each film has its own set of crew and cast. So, it has contributed to growth in employment in the country. For this alone, I give every Nollywood film-maker, indigenous and otherwise, the thumb-up!
Some Nollywood fans are of the opinion that Nigerian movies do not get the recognition they deserve internationally. What are your thoughts on this?
Everything in good time. It's a gradual process. First, most of our movies are unique to our problems as Africans and our stories. As a result, they might be a little weird to outsiders, but our Nollywood producers have begun to tell our stories in ways that cuts across borders and races. We'll get there. In fact, we're getting there. You'll see.
What lessons have you learnt as an actress in Nollywood?
Normal life lessons which having a career and working in Nigeria teaches everyone; professionalism, theatre/stage discipline, smartness and all the other things. Coming from Abuja to Lagos to realise my dreams has taught me to be smarter. Lagos is fast and you have to be smart or miss it all.
What is your ultimate goal as an actress?
Every talent given is from God. If I can use mine to make a difference in the lives of people, especially women and children, then I will know I have done something right! My ultimate goal is not just to speak
People say you look like Genevieve, how does this make you feel?
I am not aware that I am supposed to feel anything about it. Genevieve is a really beautiful lady, so I guess it's cool! If the resemblance is that striking, the conclusion is this: I'm really beautiful too!
What is the weirdest thing you've done on set?
It is just too weird to share on the pages of a national paper. Can't recall any now, though.
If you were forced to watch a movie on repeat till the world ends, which would it be?
Kung Fu Panda! No, wait... Mulan. No,maybe Epic. I just can't decide amongst the three; I love animations.
Who is your celebrity crush and why?
That will be Michelle Rodriguez. She is one actress who performs her own stunts. I can't help but love the way she intrepretes her action roles. Take Fast and Furious 6, for example.
What fashion accessory can't you do without?
Nah, none. I'm not so into the fashion thing. Isn't that sad?
Who is Ivie Okujaye?
Ivie Okujaye is an on-point Catholic of Edo-Delta origin, born in the ancient city of Benin and bred in Benin and Abuja. Ivie is a graduate of Queens College Lagos and University of Abuja.
She is also a dancer, an athlete, and a passionate speaker on issues related to women and children.