Damilola Mike-Bamiloye is a Drama Minister, a Christian Movie Writer, Producer, Director and Director of Photography of Mount Zion Film Production, arm of Mount Zion Faith Ministries Int’l Nigeria. In this interview with Sunday Okobi, he highlights how the production house has propagated the gospel of Jesus Christ globally through film-making, as well as sundry issues in the production of films in Nigeria.
Many people across the world have watched a lot of films produced by Mount Zion Film Production without knowing much about the production company. Can you tell the world all about the film production house, and what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Mount Zion Film Production is a ministry established to produce gospel or evangelical movies. It was founded in 1985, and has produced over 200 movies from its stable. The founder of the ministry is my father, Evangelist Mike Bamiloye. In a significant way, he inspired me to become a filmmaker. I vividly remember accompanying him for his stage productions, and while following him to film shooting, I am always amazed at how people, who I am very familiar with, transform and become completely different people on stage and in movies.
What’s the projection for the future for Mount Zion Film Production?
The future is definitely greater. The Bible says, “Your beginning may be small, but your latter end shall greatly increase.” Mount Zion started small with basically stage productions, and now we are making quality movies. However, we have not reached our final destination because it shall still be greater.
As a filmmaker in Nigeria, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and still are facing?
The art of filmmaking itself is challenging, whether in Nigeria or in foreign countries. The reason is that it combines various forms of art into one cohesive picture, including music, drama, set design, costume, lighting, and more. Excellence is expected in each department to create a compelling final product. However, in Nigeria, the major challenge is funding. The lack of sufficient funds has been a constraint for us and has limited our creativity to what we can afford. However, over time, Nigerian filmmakers have mastered the art of maneuvering through these challenges.
How did you arrive at your preferred genre of film (Christian) or style of film-making?
For me, filmmaking is both a calling and a ministry. It goes beyond mere passion; God has summoned me to utilise my gift in spreading the gospel. This is the driving force behind my work. To date, I have written and produced over 40 movies. I penned my first movie, ‘Youthful Lust’ in 2005 at the age of 15 while I was still in the secondary school. Additionally, I wrote and produced the inaugural film by Bowen University titled: ‘Fiwajomi’ in 2010, which was followed by ‘Abobaku’ in 2012. During my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), I collaborated with the Mount Zion Faith Ministry to create a film for the Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF) in Imo State called ‘Shadows of Death’ in 2013. Subsequently, I continued to write and produce other movies, such as: ‘A Journey in Circle (2014); ‘Bosom Fire’ (2015); ‘Ignition’ (2016); and ‘The Manager’ (2016). I was also the Director of Photography (DoP) for movies such as ‘House on Fire’ (parts 1-7); ‘High Calling’; ‘Abejoye’ (Seasons 1-7). Furthermore, I wrote, produced, and directed the following works: ‘The Train’, a biopic of Evangelist Mike Bamiloye; ‘Legion’; ‘The Abattoir’ series; ‘30 Pieces’ among others. Additionally, I wrote and co-directed the biopic movie centred on Pastor EA Adeboye, titled: ‘Enoch’.
How has the film industry in Nigeria changed since you started, and how has it affected your work?
First of all, the quality has changed significantly. Nigerian filmmakers are now producing more cinematic movies that have captured the attention of the international market. Thanks to new kinds of cameras and gears; it is easier to shoot high-quality pictures. In the past, complex cameras required ample light to achieve clarity in the picture. However, with advancements in technology, this process has been simplified. As a result we get to make movies faster and better.
Just like other conventional filmmakers, how do you approach the process of storytelling in your films?
The most important aspect for me is obtaining the right script. As a gospel filmmaker, it is crucial to seek God’s guidance to discern the message He wants to share with the world. Once the script is acquired, the second challenge is finding the right cast to effectively portray the roles. Additionally, assembling the right crew is essential in bringing the story to life. For me, it is imperative that even as I create a gospel film, it is packaged with excellence.
You have been presented with the opportunity to guide many aspiring filmmakers, so what’s your advice to them?
My advice to young filmmakers is to focus not only on making movies but also on creating films that have a positive impact on society. This is because the world is profoundly influenced by powerful visuals and compelling storytelling. The Bible teaches us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, when we produce movies that instill the fear of God in the hearts of people, it can greatly contribute to curbing the negative influences affecting today’s youths.
You produce mostly religious (Christian) films, so what is your model of selecting actors and actresses for your films?
The majority of our actors are trained at the Mount Zion Institute of Christian Drama and the Mount Zion Film Academy, so they come into the film acting from that background. However, we also collaborate with individuals who share our vision. In Nigeria, there are numerous full-time gospel actors and drama ministers who are part of an organisation, All Nigerian Conference of Evangelical Christian Drama) (ANCEDRAM). They participate in the vision of the film house in propagating the Word of God across the world through acting. Most importantly, we are not mere actors, and the individuals we bring onto the set are not simply there to perform, but rather to minister the gospel of Jesus through the medium of drama and film.
How has technology impacted on the film-making process in Nigeria, and what are your future goals as a filmmaker?
Yes, technology has made filmmaking easier and less stressful. In the past, there was never a concept of mobile phone filmmaking, but now you can literally make a short film with your phone. So, it is really becoming easier. My future goal as a gospel filmmaker is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to new territories through the tool of film-making.
What is your most recent film project, and how do you handle criticism and feedback on your works?
My recent project is ‘Abattoir’, a series with four seasons. We have been filming it since 2018 and are still currently filming. We are presently filming Season 5. You cannot have a hundred percent perfect movie. The best filmmakers will tell you that their films are not their best. So whenever I make a film, I ask myself questions: What do I need to work on? How can I improve in the next project? Because if you stop learning, you stop growing. Personally, I strongly believe in constructive criticism because as filmmakers, we continue to grow and develop with every movie. That’s why it’s important to have an open heart.
Source: Vanguard News