By Sola Osofisan He has been described as one of the intellectuals in the movie industry. He makes movies that have something to say, movies that feature real people in realistic situations. Multi-talented is Reginald Ebere's second name. Screenwriter, actor, director, producer... He comfortably wears all these hats. He has had a hand in movies like My Town, All Eyes On Me, Disguise, Heartbreaker, The Carpenter and Mission Impossible, to name a few. He's one of the strong few. They have been there for many years, breaking new grounds, learning from every new movie and going to the next level. Read this interview and you will be convinced he will be around much longer... Sola Osofisan: Reggie, you’re in a post-production studio, so obviously something big is going on. Can you tell us about it? Reginald Ebere: It’s a project we call Last Weekend. It’s a meditative thriller about an old man and his billions and how his four children and a philandering housewife conspire to kill him. That’s what it’s all about. We’re trying to make a couple of intelligent movies out of Nigeria. (GENERAL LAUGHTER) Sola Osofisan: Intelligent movies…We need more of that. Can you tell us about some of the people featuring in this movie? REGINALD EBERE.: We have the famous Ramsey Noah and we have Genevieve Nnaji. There’s Mr. Robert Peters, There’s J.T. Tom-West and a couple of others. Sola Osofisan: You brought up Ramsey Noah and Genevieve Nnaji. I can tell you categorically, based on feedback from my web (naijarules.com), that you have an interesting combination there. Audiences are crazy about Genevieve and Ramsey. What is it about these two people, why did you bring them together, because they look like an explosive duo? REGINALD EBERE.: I think Genevieve has immense talent that has not been tapped yet. We keep playing her in a two-dimensional setup. Nobody has explored the three dimensions yet. She’s exquisite as an actress. She’s still very young, has a lot going for her, she’s beautiful. I don’t know why people are so crazy about her, but I think I am too. But I know we’re basically over-using her right now. So I pray that she doesn’t wash off. I don’t think she will. Ramsey…Ramsey is studying. Ramsey is growing. Ramsey is going to be very very big if he keeps his head, if he keeps himself together. He’s going to go a long long way. And he’s a handsome guy, so I guess the ladies will always trip over that. But he also has talent. I think that’s what’s going for both of them, more than anything else. They interpret their roles well, they work at it, they research, they take out time to do the work they’re paid to do. I guess they’re being paid fat fees now. I know how much I paid them. (LAUGHING). I’m not going to say, but I know how much I paid them. Sola Osofisan: You said something about Genevieve especially, that if she doesn’t over-expose herself… How is an actor or actress going to avoid over-exposure with the kind of money the industry is paying them right now? I mean if we were paying them big enough or we had more money to play around with, they probably will do one movie or two movies a year and – she will remain big and all that. REGINALD EBERE.: Yes, but there’s criteria. When you’re making… I won’t call the money we’re making in the industry big, but when you’re a bit comfortable, you start picking materials that you do. You start taking things that will project you in better light, not just everything that comes your way because you need money. Right now, I don’t think a couple of people in the industry really need money – as in need money – as in they’re looking for the next meal. A lot of them can afford the next meal. They know where the next meal is going to come from, so they can take out time and choose the material they want to play. So if Genevieve in particular, if she stops playing everything that comes her way, if she stops working with every two-penny director that comes her way, and every two-penny script that she gets, she’s going to go a long long way. She would avoid over-exposing herself. Sola Osofisan: Doesn’t this take us back to the issue of artiste management? REGINALD EBERE.: Yes, it does. A lot of us are just working because scripts are coming our way and there are productions to do. We just go ahead and do everything that we pick up, but then artists have to be managed. A lot of artists are not businessmen. I don’t think I am. I also need a manager as much as everybody else does. We need managers. We need people who can sit back and say “hey, this is not good for you, this is good for you”. While we do the arty arty stuff, let them do the money making end of the business. Sola Osofisan: Yes, so you can focus on work itself. Being out of the country has made me lose touch with some of the things you have done in recent times. It’s almost impossible to get details out there. Can you give us a brief run down of what you have been doing and the one you consider most challenging and fulfilling for you – and why you think it is most challenging and fulfilling? REGINALD EBERE.: I think the most challenging was “Scars of Womanhood”. We had a topic to deal with and that was female genital mutilation, and we did a lot of research. And we had to sit down and shoot. It wasn’t much of a commercial success in Nigeria, but we premiered outside the country and it got rave reviews outside. That was the most challenging. Apart from that, we shot on a shoe-string budget and had to beg everybody to just keep quiet while we worked. When we finished working of course people got paid finally, but it was something that was very close to heart while we were doing it. Another thing that was that close to heart was Crossfire. We conceived this idea of shooting the entire movie in one living room, and when we started taking the script around, people said “hey this is not going to work”. But we finally shot it and it worked. And it was a huge commercial success. Everybody was asking how come, how did you manage this, you know… I think that was challenging too. But most of the things I’ve done really are scripts, scripts, scripts, scripts, scripts… When you write so many, people forget that you can direct. Some of those scripts… Issakaba (one and two), Last Burial, several others, have been… They’ve done quite well. Sola Osofisan: Going back to Scars of Womanhood, I think I remember vaguely, was it titled Scars at some point? Just Scars? Were you in the studio at Adelabu… REGINALD EBERE.: Yes. It was fully titled Scars of Womanhood, but while we were working, we were calling it Scars. That was just at the point you were leaving (the country). Sola Osofisan: It was like the last project I could associate with you. REGINALD EBERE.: We had so many… Kingsley Ogoro was backing us, Amaka Igwe was backing us, Contech Ventures, there were so many of them who were coming together to say “guys, go go go go”. It was probably one of the bigger things that we were doing on our own. Sola Osofisan: The themes you addressed in Scars of Womanhood, in the seven- six years since you’ve released it, you want to look back and address how the society has been impacted? Are the issues still the same? REGINALD EBERE.: They’re still the same. Scars of Womanhood was like word of prophecy. You know the Beijing Conference came and went and a lot of issues concerning women were addressed: female genital mutilation, HIV AIDS, all kinds of stuff that emanate from that practice… And all that is still going on. Child slavery, prostitution, its all tied together. The wife of the Vice President is campaigning for that now seriously and National Council of Women Societies are also doing other stuff. So, it was as if we took a topic that was tiny at that point in time and we’ve been indicated for working on it. A lot of people have gone ahead and done movies concerning that issue and many more are going to come. The practice is still ongoing. Sola Osofisan: You want to look at the movie industry, how it has evolved in so many years to date, are we doing the right things? REGINALD EBERE.: Yes, we are. Thank God you called it the movie industry. That means that people recognize that there is an industry. Sola Osofisan: Believe me, whether they like it or not, if it is making billions of Naira annually, it is an industry. REGINALD EBERE.: Its an industry and a lot of us are getting rather comfortable working in the industry. So, I think there’s a future. Good thing is that the people who are working within the industry have a drive to succeed. They know that they can get somewhere. The journey might not be so fast, but no matter what it takes you crawl to the finish line. We’re going to crawl to the point where we can actually take off and take wings. The money that we need to work within the industry is not available right now. Government is still a bit reluctant about stepping in. In fact, the industry Is not even taxed as it stands now. But gradually we’re going to get there because – like I say, gradually, we’re forming a bond, we’re uniting, and that bond is going to be so thick that it cannot be broken, because we cannot match what the Americans are doing on celluloid, on cine right now. We cannot match what the Japanese, what the Indians have done with Bollywood, but we can develop our own and that’s what we’re doing. So we’re not looking at “hey, this people have gone ahead, let us follow them”, no. Let’s create our own path and follow it. Maybe somebody else is going to get up tomorrow and say “hey, let’s try the Nigerian way”. Thank God the Nigerian way is succeeding. Sola Osofisan: What new challenges do you see ahead? What great crazy new thing would you like to do? REGINALD EBERE.: The day I reach my peak is probably the day they’re going to dig the ground and say Reginald go and rest. There’s nothing like reaching the peak in the industry. You always aim higher and higher and higher. I want to write the quintessential movie. I’ve not written that yet. Sola Osofisan: How would you define a “quintessential movie”? REGINALD EBERE.: It has no definition. Its just something that you do and you’ll know that “Oh…” Somebody did Titanic. And the guy must sit back today and say “I did well with that”. I want to write something that the whole world is going to stand up and say… and take notice. I want to direct something that when you’re walking down the road, people talk about it, not just within the country, but outside the country. All over the world. The Oscars… Maybe somebody is going to say hey the best foreign movie coming out of Africa, come and take it. Then I’m going to go crazy that Italian man that stands on seats and stuff like that. So there’s so much to do, so much to do. I pray that God give us long life to achieve all that we’re dreaming. Sola Osofisan: When are you going to start taking your products and presence to the Internet so that people outside Nigeria (there’s a lot of fans out there who would like to know more about you) can get more of you? REGINALD EBERE.: We’re working on that. All of us are working on that. There’s a lot of what of what I would call miseducation concerning the Internet in the country. Telecommunications is still at the basic level, so we still have to study more. We still have to open up ourselves more to receive of the things that are coming from outside. People can go the full hog, but we’re getting there. For me personally, I’m hoping to probably put together a website in the next two months. Sola Osofisan: It will be a good idea. Are you aware your movies are being sold on the Internet? Are you getting anything from all those sales? REGINALD EBERE.: No, we’re not getting anything from them, but we’re aware that that’s happening. And it’s tragic. It’s tragic that it’s happening and we’re not getting paid for it. But then, you sow seeds. What all that is for is that we’re sowing seeds and somewhere along the line, it’s going to get cleaned up and people are going to start reaping. We’re not happy that it’s happening. Right now we don’t know exactly how we can combat it, but we’ll find out how and we will stop it. Sola Osofisan: Writer, producer, director Reginald Ebere, anything you think we missed and you should tell us? REGINALD EBERE.: I think God is good and He’s been good to us, He’s been good to Nigeria. We have a democratic setting right now and that’s a first step. Once that had been put in place, every other thing is going to fall into place finally. That was all we were all waiting for. Within the military regime, we were all closeted, we couldn’t do much. But now, there’s some possibilities all over the place. We can just go out and grab them, grab them, grab them, grab them and move forward. Sola Osofisan: Thanks Reggie.