There are certain things in life that sounds very strange or odd to the hearing, one of them is a statement by a Gospel Film Director, Teacher Mayowa Stephen that “because a film was acted by Christians doesn’t make it a Christian film.” Generally everyone believes that Christian films are films acted by Christians but in this exclusive Interview with Gospel Film News, Mayowa Stephen educates the populace what a Christian film means or look like. He also shares his opinion on certain beliefs, his directorial style, why people address him as “Teacher Mayowa Stephen,” amongst others. Excerpt:
You made a statement recently that the fact that christians act in a film doesn’t make it a christian film, wht do you mean by this?
It was actually a lecture. It’s a new progrmme we started online titled “Much A Do About Christian Drama- saying it the way it is”, that’s the second series, we are looking at the Christian Drama itself. That statement was looking at the fact that because a Christian acted a play does not define it a Christian Drama, it’s in the bit to define what Christian Drama is, and if you watch the YouTube video i tried to define what a Christian Drama really is. Now, if a Christian acted a play and that play doesn’t preach Christ, teaches the Bible (Bible principles) or lead people to salvation it is not Christian Drama it’s as simple as that. Even if you have the most annointed Christians acting it, that is not a Christian Drama. So, in other words, we are trying to say that a Christian Drama is the one that leads people to Christ or salvation or teaches the Bible.
What of some drama that teaches morals?
Beautiful! It is not a Christian Drama. It can teach morals, it is good. That’s why we need to define what we are doing, if we say we are doing Christian Drama it must center on Christ. You can teach morals, faithfulness and all that, it is good and as a matter of fact, from our Biblical principles we have a lot of morals there but do you know the truth of the matter, Isalm belives in morality, the Buddist believes in morality, mention one religion that doesn’t believe in morality, even traditional religion. For the fact that the play is teaching morality doesn’t make it a Christian Drama.
What is your take on the concept of “Faith-Based movie makers”?
(laughs) I have talked about that last year or a year before on my Facebook page, i still have that material. Let me start with myself; i’m not doing Faith-Based films. The truth of the matter is we are not Faith-Based filmmakers, let us be clear to the people. There are different faith, we have various faith; Islamic religion is a faith, Jehovah Witness is a faith, Traditional religion is a faith. We can’t say that we are monopoly of faith, the faith itself is referring to religion but here we are talking about Christ, Christians, so i prefer you say a “Christian Filmmaker,” a Christian drama if we want to categorize based on what we are doing. If we truly want to classify ourselves we are all filmmakers whatever we are doing but if we want to classify ourselves based on the faith we are doing we can now say we are Christian filmmakers not Faith-Based. What do you mean by faith, if you call me a Faith-Based that means you can call me Islam, i can preach traditional religion because it is faith. I don’t believe in it, i don’t subscribe to it, anybody can propogate that gospel but i can’t, even “gospel filmmaker” i don’t subscribe to it, gospel what? Let’s define the things we are doing, let’s understand what we are doing. If we say we are teachers….well maybe because i’m a teacher that’s why i’m talking the way i’m talking because people need to know, they need to understand, i need to clear things, So, i don’t subscribe to “Faith-Based” or “Gospel” Filmmmakers i’m a “Christian” Filmmaker, i’ve chosen that, i’ve chosen to preach Christ and that is what i’m doing.
Your film directing style seems different, why and how is this so?
Basically as a director i….See, i was tutored by a professional, i learnt under the masters, i did not just stumbled in it. I don’t like to call myself what i am not. If i want to do something, i want to learn to do it, i submit myself to learn it, if i want to learn directing i learn it, i don’t want to stumble on something and begin to do it without going through process. I’m trying to get the style but i interprete script the way they come, i sit with lines as the job of the director is to holistically look at the whole play and bring out what the message is saying, try to interprete. Most actors just learn their lines coming to pour everything but if you go professional (the Nollywood that we feel they are demonic) if you go there you will find out that they do more work than we that are Christians. An average actor will sit with his script, study it and analyze his lines, role and then come to deliver it but we will not, we depend on anointing only to cram and pour. The job of the director after each of the actors have gotten their role is to harmonise everything. Maybe because some of the roles i try to do them as believable as possible because there is no way you will be acting to convince people that this thing you are doing is real. You don’t put people in the position of assuming for you that this is what you are trying to do, acting is real, we must come to understand that we must come to accept that as Christian Dramatists that acting is real, acting is not preaching. If you call acting preaching then let’s all go to the pulpit and take microphone from the pastor and begin to do the same but we have made it look like we are preachers like the pastor who used to take the microphone and preach on sunday and put some comic relief…We are not doing anything different from that and we say we are acting, No! Acting is beyond that, acting is a craft, it’s a job and it’s a professional job that requires extra skill to perform. It’s not just coming, pour lines and we are done.
Gospel Films seems breaking some limits, breaking grounds example is The Train movie which is raking number on YouTube, what do you see to that?
Well, let me confess, as at today i’ve not watched it, my wife have watched it and i’ve read comments about the movie. It’s breaking ground, ok, glory be to God but if you say it’s breaking ground, where? You know teaching us a message, the challenge that i have is that it’s still ‘we’ that are watching our films. We have our audience, our audience mostly seems to come from the church. I want to see “The Train” movie breaking into Nollywood, fine that’s when we say it’s breaking ground, i want to see Abejoye breaking into Nollywood. I’m not talking about it winning awards because i know we hate talking about it but let our movies not just be within the church, if it’s still within the church it’s not broken any ground.
So, How can that be achieved?
Let’s do movies that is generally acceptable. Go and watch my video on YouTube i mentioned few of these things. When we make films that it’s only Christians that can watch it how will you tell me it’s breaking grounds, which ground? It’s lready in the house, when you say something is breaking ground that means it’s going beyond the normal, it’s entering into other territories but it’s still within us, our films are within us.
But the movie in question has over 400,000 views on YouTube within 4 days of upload?
See, Damilola Mike-Bamiloye’s channel (Damiloa, Mount Zion) already has a name, you and i are part of the audience, we are in the church, those who have come to accept Mount Zion are many but the unfortunate thing is that many of us are still within the house, we are in the church. I want to see a Mount Zion film that can go to hotels, i want to see a Mount Zion film that can go to prison not prison fellowship because we might be thinking of fellowship, can we do a movie that is crime scene that you will show in a place that hardened criminals who knew what they were doing can see themselves in that movie and say ‘whao this is me’ not movie that is churchie because many of these hardened criminals in prison smoke, womanize, so if you do a movie that the criminal sees himself that he smokes from morning till evening and is always with women not that you will see him enter and you cut the scene and then two of them are coming out wearing the cloth, i’m not talking about nudity and i’m not asking anybody to go and do nudity but there are ways you can do certain things to achieve certain things not neccesarily doing those things, that’s why it is called “make believe” and we are not even near it, so if a hardened criminal who used to have three girls rub his chest, i mean you can’t have a Christian drama having a sister rub a man’s chest, have you seen it? You won’t see it because in Christian drama it’s a taboo meanwhile, it’s happening. Let me tell you, drama mirrors the society, that’s the training we got, theater mirrors the society, so if you are doing something that is not real those who are supposed to be your audience they will just say wo i don’t get it. Thank God for Mount Zion, i respect and appreciate the ministry, i respect the Man of God that God has raised at the time He raised him and i love the fact that he’s still consistent with the faith and what he’s doing is not out of place but that is not to say that we cannot do it other ways. We want to begin to see films that will not just be within the church, people have talked about cinema, i don’t even know why the argument is there, for Christ sake where should we not even show our films. If you say we have more crowd in the church how many of them come there as hardened criminal or prostitute, they won’t come to the church, they can go to cinemas to watch some films. Ok, you have heard the title “Sex is good” if you see that title if we do the film very well and you see that title at the cinema, do you know how many people will go to watch it becuse of the title, you know why? It’s not because they have seen the movie but becasue the life they are living has something that attracts them. People masturbates, womnize, people do all manner of things, sexual and yet we can’t mention them, we can’t show them their lives in our films? commom, that’s the problem. Ordinary embrace even to romance, i’m not asking anybody to romance, to romance in film is a problem we say it’s a sin well God will help us, when we get to heaven many things will be clearer but we are all going there by the grace of God.
On the final note, you preferred to be addressed as “Teacher Mayowa Stephen,” why do you adopt this?
It’s a long sory. First and foremost i trained as a teacher in the university, i have my Bsc in Eduction, i have my Masters in education, so professionally i’m trained teacher. I adopted it not because they are calling some people Pastor, Evangelist and all that so me too want to be addressed as one title, No! Actually when i adopted it i was heading a particular school, it’s Nursery and Primary school and i wanted to correct something; the pulpils will call their teachers aunty this, aunty that and i said no they are not your aunty, he’s not your uncle, your aunty is either your father’s sister or your mother’s sister because we are in education we need to educate them, so this is your tecaher it’s either you call her Miss or Mrs. I find out that many people do not want to be known as teacher, though that started when i was in the university, many of our collegues…we did double honour we were doing education and economics so we had double honour…so many of our colleagues prefer to say they are studying economics instead of saying i’m in faculty of education, so they are shy to tell people that they are studying education but i’m proud of what i’m doing; i’m proud to be a teacher. So, i looked at it that time with that experience in the university and people not wanting to identify with it, i just told my teacher then that please call me “Teacher Mayowa Stephen” and i was trying to set examples for them, trying to discourage the pulpils from calling their teachers aunties and uncles and you know leadership start by example and when i started it many of them adopted it: “i’m teacher Nkiru,” “i’m teacher Biola” “i’m teacher this,” “i’m teacher that” they became proud of it and i was happy, pulpils will call me Teacher Mayowa Stephen, teachers will also call me same, that was how i adopted it. Professionally as a teacher that was where it came from, it’s not from church, i’m a pastor by the grace of God but i still prefer they call me Teacher Mayowa Stephen. Any school i go to it’s Teacher Mayowa Stephen i hardly put Mr.or Pastor but that’s how the thing came, i was trying to correct something and if you are removing something there must be something you will replace it with and that was what i did and i started with myself, don’t worry call me Teacher Mayowa Stephen and everybody took it up.
Thank you for your time with Gospel Film News.
God bless you, thank you for having me today.