In the movie Industry, people get to know more of actors but less or nothing about people behind the camera (crew members). Meanwhile, in the actual sense, Crew members make the actors. Francis Okolie is one of the Crew members whose impact cannot be sidetracked especially in the gospel film industry. Okolie as an annointed professional Light Expert has paid his dues. His name is one of the few that defined lighting in gospel films. In this Exclusive Interview with Gospel Film News, Francis Okolie reels out his autobiography, why he becomes master of many trades, impact of his wife, amongst others. Excerpt:
WHO IS FRANCIS OKOLIE?
Francis OKolie is my name; a native of Ibusa in Delta state, Nigeria. People know me as and call me F. A
F. A is the name I got when I was into school business. I had this team and we were consulting for schools; it was known as F. A consult. Infact, we were also called ‘school prostitute’ because we set up schools for people, recruit staffs, produce instructional materials and manage the school for an agreed period of time before handing over completely to the owners. The F is Francis and the A is my middle name Aneneifechigemenke;meaning let’s wait on God and see what the child would become.
I left the school business for full time christian drama when I met my father, my mentor and teacher; Kolade Segun-Okeowo (KSO).
Though I was a member of the now dissolved All Christian Drama/Film Ministry (ACDFM) in Ikorodu that housed notable theatre practitioners like Mike Odiachi, Austin Awulonu, Edmund Enaibe, Pastor Mrs Aka, Donald Iloka, Benedicta Ogunjobi, Mayowa Stephen, David Ajani and so many I can’t, remember now.
I joined Christoline Evangelical Ministries shortly after KSO and family relocated from Ile Ife to Oko Oba in Ogijo via Ikorodu, Lagos. I found a father in KSO and a mother in SSO (Sunmbo Segun-Okeowo). They taught, rebuked and blessed me.
I would also not forget easily my great mentor Mike Bamiloye. I remember vividly one afternoon while on the set of ‘Silent cry” A mount Zion movie production,I was handling lighting then, he saw me with a crew jacket that I customized with “Studio de FA”. He called me aside and sat me down, though that wasn’t his first time but this one I have not and would never forget.
‘There is power in a name,a name can make or mare a man. Go and ask God for a name and change that name’. Those were daddy Mike’s words. It sank immediately and I started praying and seeking for a name.
Not long the Lord took me to Exodus 31 and said ‘that is you’. I searched and studied the chapter and i discovered that truly there is power in a name.
Today ‘Studio de F. A’ is now called “Bezaleel Media” and just as the biblical Bezaleel. F. A and his wife J. K can do all manner of workmanship. God has made me the Bezaleel of my generation and my wife Aholiab.
HOW DID YOUR CAREER IN LIGHTENING STARTED?
My lighting career started when we wanted to shoot “The thorn in my flesh” that was immediately when we finished the first edition of Christoline Film Academy. I remember Abayomi Ojo, Laolu Amodu, Segun Oladoye, and Gladson Ekwusi were invited to be part of the cast and crew of the production as part of the first set of CFA.
The role of Dapo was not meant for Abayomi Ojo initially but it happened as the Lord wanted. During the shoot I served as the production manager, Light man and welfare since it was just the three of us then; Faith Ojikutu, Theophilus Adeyemi, and myself. It was then I picked interest in lighting and I started working on myself with the help of KSO, Ben Ope Johnson and Kunle Omojola.
Since then it has been F. A and light in christian drama.
I later got a scholarship to study cinematography in Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) courtesy of OLaitan Faranpojo my able lecturer, He stood by me all through . It was through OLaitan Faranpojo that I got to Wale Adenuga Productions (WAP). I was really technically blessed at WAP, because I was exposed to the professional handling of various state of the art production gadgets and accessories.
PEOPLE KNOW YOU TO BE A LiGHT PROFESSIONAL, BUT IN THE LONG RUN YOU BECAME WHAT COULD BE DESCRIBED AS JACK OF ALL TRADE. HOW DO YOU DEFEND THIS?
Though they say ‘Jack to all trade is a master of none’ but to me delving into almost all the aspect of film productions like Continuity, Lighting, Camera handling, Production management , Make up and directing really helped me.
Today as a director I can tell my Crew members what and what I want because I have been there. I started directing films fully in 2007, I think with a New Covenant Church, Ibadan movie, ‘Broken walls’, though it was my starting point, there were various challenges here and there.
I have directed movies for so many drama ministers and ministries across Nigeria. Like for Evangelist Damien Deruewuru, Enugu state, ‘Journey to eternity’. Peter Amusa in Abuja ‘You are the One’ and ‘I have my regret’ also ‘Bone of contention’ by Segun Fash, Ikorodu, Lagos, Reward’ and ‘Arikogbon’ by Heaven is home ministries,Lagos. Also ‘The wages’ by Pastor Lawrence Oshike, Asaba in Delta state and ‘caught in the storm’s by Evangelist Segun Badejo , Ibadan, Oyo state. ‘Aiye Keji’ Dominion word drama ministries’ Abeokuta, Ogun state. ‘Oba Awon Oba’ Pastor Olajiga, Ikorodu, Lagos state. I have also directed two movies for Dr. Bayo Fasunwon, Ikare, Ondo state and also ‘Esosa’ for Pastor Godwin Agba-Anyim, Sokoto state.I have also done technical/Assistant directing for Elvon Jarret in ‘If you let it’ and ‘ Little Lie’, ‘Kotemilorun’ and ‘You are warned’ for Pastor Moses Owoseni of CSEM, Lagos but now back to Ilorin, Kwara state. Also ‘Poisonous honey’ an Opeyemi Akintunde movie, Captain Killer’ and ‘Adufe’ for Dr. Bayo Fasunwon. I also assisted in my Oga, KSO ‘House on the rock’ a soap on AIT. At Bezaleel I have directed and co-produced two movies so far: ‘Sense in Nonsense’ and ‘Ikoko Ogo’. We are also packaging ‘Strokes of Life’ a Bisi Olowo movie, in Lagos.
God really gave me the rare privilege to work with great directors like Mike Bamiloye, Kolade Segun Okeowo, Elvon Jarret, Kolawole David Okeowo, Lekan Asikhia, Laitan Faranpojo, Bolaji Dawodu and so on.
I have participated either as an actor or crew member in almost two hundred (200) movies, to God alone be the glory. Woking with wonderful crew members really helped in building me as a director.
I thank God for also giving me the opportunity to work with wonderful names like sunday Ogunyemi, Ben Ope Johnson, Wale Laws, Kayode Alao, Roy Adegbite, Seun Jonathan, Niyi Omodara, Godwin Agba-Anyim, Peter Amusa, Damian Deruewuru, Adedeji Adekusibe, and so many others. They are wonderful people though we have had in the course of the Job had ‘Technical fights’ but it helped a lot in understanding our nature and level of our technical and spiritual understanding.
WHAT IS BEZALEEL ALL ABOUT?
Today we run a mobile film school, Bezaleel institute of film Techniques (BIFT) and we have trained to the glory of God over one hundred and fifty (150)students that are doing great in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
Bezaleel media is an outfit that packages movies, musical videos, Documentaries and Advertisements (Godly).Just call us and we would be there regardless the distance. We give people the opportunity to choose the venue of their choice and the desired time either for training or production as their choice may be.
WHAT IS YOUR WORD OF ADVICE TO YOUNGER ONES?
I would like to tell my younger ones and the young at heart to please take it a step at a time, please don’t jump the gun. Rome was not built in a day. With God on your side you can achieve your desired goal.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR FROM YOUR END?
We have so many movies the Lord has helped me to direct that is lined up for release. Some would be dropping late this year and others would premiere God willing early next year.
So be on the look out for inspiring and soul lifting movies as directed by Francis Okolie (F. A) and you would definitely be blessed.