The award winning light director, Francis okolie has declared that any film production without light is a dead production. Okolie made this known recently in an exclusive interview with Gospel Film News publisher, Oluwafemi Dosu. In the interview he also disclosed the reason behind his interest in lighting among others. Excerpt:
CAN WE MEET YOU SIR?
My name is Francis Aneneh Okolie. I’m a child of God, a film maker
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF F.A?
Like i said, F is Francis, A is Aneneh. Aneneh means Kashimawo i.e let us keep looking at it. The name came up when i was in ogijo. I was running an educational consult, i set up schools, hire teachers, i do educational programmes and produce materials then in Ogijo.
So, it was F.A here and there and KSO just made it a household name. That was how people started calling me F.A.
This very small boy has nothing to offer its just that i have flare for film. Well, academically i don’t have too much, professionally i attended Mount Zion Institute of Christian Drama, i attended Christoline Film Academy, i did cinematography in PEFTI and i have one or two professional courses but that doesn’t have to do with drama. That’s all about Francis Okolie for now
YOU SEEMS TO PREFER LIGHTING TO ANY OTHER ASPECT OF FILM MAKING, WHY?
The truth of the matter is that, you know a production without light is a dead production. Just like you cannot close your eyes and begin to walk around, you have to open your eyes, the room must be lighted, so, in production if it’s dark you cant get anything, the camera cannot work, the cast cannot act. Lighting is just the backbone of production, so that is production for you. It was Kolade Segun-Okeowo that influenced my interest in lighting.
Then when we started production we didn’t have anything like lighting, it was general. It was not lighting alone, I’ve done so many things in production, I’ve done continuity management which is called script supervision, I’ve done production management, I’ve directed, assisted in directing, I’ve done so many.
You may be surprised that what you don’t even know I’ve done it in production. So, its not just lighting but i just felt that for a production to be sound lighting should be one basic thing one should pay interest in.
THE KIND OF FILMS BEING PRODUCED THIS DAYS COMPARED WITH WHEN GOSPEL FILM MAKING STARTED, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT IT?
The kind of gospel films produced this days, though some are very standard, i have seen one or two, but the ones i used to see, i can’t say its bad because there is no bad production. I think efforts is not being put in place to make it up to standard, we need to put more effort and more dedication. What we normally see: ‘I’m the president of the ministry automatically I’m the director.’
It doesn’t work like that. You cannot say because you are the husband of the house you can do everything. We really need to put learning into it. What you don’t know you don’t know. You say you are the president you must be the director automatically but you have no skill, you don’t understand the principles of directing or what it takes to become a technical person, you can imagine what will come out, you can imagine the kind of production that will come out of it, that’s just the problem with our production this days , though some are good, fantastic, challenging, i love so many and when i watch them I’m very proud.
THERE IS A RUMOUR MAKING THE ROUNDS THAT PEOPLE NO LONGER INVOLVE YOU IN FILM PRODUCTION, HOW TRUE IS THIS?
(laughs) Well, as you can see, you are meeting me on the set of a production. Not that people don’t really involve me in productions but you see, so many people feel intimidated, you know somebody that doesn’t know anything cannot just come and start telling you anything, so when you come they feels that this one is Mr. know all, don’t let us call him but the truth of the matter is that you need to know it, you cannot do what you don’t know.
Besides, i have trained one or two people so i don’t really want to be everywhere.
I have boys,i people that I’ve trained, i have to give them opportunity, so i cannot be everywhere. Thank God you are meeting me on a production. I do productions but i select. I select because you know I’m a family man now, abi (laughs). I cant be jumping from one city to another for a production at my age, one should arrange his priorities and plan for the future. That is what is actually happening. Its not that they don’t call F.A, F.A does production; I’ve been doing and I’m still doing and i will continue to do.
TALKING ABOUT YOU DEVIATING FROM LIGHTING TO DIRECTING MOVIES, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THIS?
Deviate? It is not about deviation. The truth of the matter is that I’ve not just started directing, i understudy directors. I’ve been into directing for so many years. I’ve been a technical director, assistant director for so many directors. I’ve assisted Elvon Jarret, Kolade Segun-Okeowo, Kolawole David Okeowo and so many of them that i cannot even remember. So, if now i say i want to direct I’m not in a wrong shoe because I’ve understudied so many. There is virtually no production that I’ve not technically done.
Look at the time we did ‘Little Lie’ i was the Technical Director then, we did so many things that is far back at that time. Segun Fash production was not the first production i started directing, I’ve directed one production in Ibadan (that was actually the first production i directed), I’ve directed so many, in Abuja, Ibadan, Lagos where I’m based. So, i didn’t deviate into directing, I’m a director because I’ve under studied and i have the skills. You cannot just jump into directing you must have done one or two things technically before you can say you are a director.
Moreso, studied cinematography, I’m a cinematographer but i don’t operate camera, I’m not a camera operator, so i have the picture i want to achieve and i know what it takes to direct a production from script to screen.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ABOUT GOSPEL FILMS IN CINEMA?
It’s nothing big, no big deal in gospel films going to cinema. In fact, its a plus when a gospel film gets to cinema but you know there are criteria in cinema. If a gospel film can meet the criteria you should know that the producer have really done a good job physically and spiritually. So, if a gospel film goes to cinema it’s a plus for us in the gospel world.there is no big deal in that.
TO INVOLVE YOU IN A FILM PROJECT AS A CREW, HOW DO YOU CHARGE?
That’s the problem. I’ve been hearing this kind of information for long. Many people will tell me F.A we cannot bring you to production because they say you charge this and that and i challenge anybody that can come and say it to my face that i have charged him or her once in any production. They should come forth and tell me that how much did F.A charge. The only thing i do is when i want to handle productions i take a total package because i believe that you cannot take a film half way. You did a film and you didn’t follow it to the editing stage, its as good as useless because the editor that want to edit the job doesn’t have your consent, doesn’t have your picture. so, you have to follow it up.
That’s why i take a total package, i give the producer the cost of equipment, crew that i bring, sometimes tell them to leave mine. Anyone should just come out to say this is how much F.A has charged him or her apart from the package i take to handle the production from script to screen. So, F.A don’t charge, F.A is not charging and F.A is not intending to charge anybody. We are doing gospel film and we know that what they give us is not honourarium and any honorarium they give me is okay for me.Thank God I’m fulfilled, I’m okay, I’ve done so many things through this my profession, production has done many things for me and I’ve gotten to where i don’t even except to get to.
HOW DO YOU THINK GOSPEL FILMS CAN REACH A LARGER AUDIENCE?
When we concentrate. We need concentration technically, spiritually, sound script, it will get there when we concentrate on what we are doing. If we are serious.
If you want to cook a soup, the soup must have taste, if it has taste it will be appealing to people that want to eat it. If you want to cook a rice and you put concursion there you know it will not be appealing. When it’s a standard production you put the needed ingredient there and the spirituality followed up, it will definitely work out. It will get there when we know what we are doing and back it up with prayer. The sky is our beginning and heaven is our limit.
YOUR ADVISE FOR FILM MAKERS GENERALLY?
Apart from the spiritual aspect of it they should try and know what they are doing. Some people don’t really know what they are doing. Some directors and D.O.P don’t know what camera they are using, light etc. You must at least have the knowledge of what you want to involve in. i challenge them to go and have a formal knowledge of what they are doing even pastors go to theological schools, they go to seminary. The fact that they are called doesn’t mean they know all.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT GOSPEL FILM NEWS?
Gospel Film News is a very good medium for news. So many of us don’t know that we need to tell people what we are doing. It’s not about hyping but people need to know. Some people have done wonderful productions but people don’t know. How can they know what we are doing, we need to tell them. I thank God for the life of Oluwafemi Dosu the publisher. He is doing a very good job and that’s a good vision and i pray that God will not let the vision die. It’s a wonderful vision. Though there will be discouragement but they shouldn’t relent.