The Nigerian actor and producer discusses finding international success with Nollywood films and the challenges facing Nigeria.
Elvon Jarrett is a award-winning producer/director, actor trainer, who has acted and directed several Nigerian movies, which include the award-winning Enemy of my Soul and The Centurion among others. Speaking with Portia Onwuyalim of The Foreign Report, Elvon throws more light on problems facing Nigeria as a nation and the way forward.
The Foreign Report: How did your journey in the movie industry start?
Elvon Jarrett: My journey into the Nigeria film industry started in 1988 as a set designer in a production “Eye of Life” shot by an American crew and directed by Ladi Ladele. It was a good exposure for me, and a learning experience. After that, I got involved in several other productions which enabled me carve out a niché for myself.
TFR: Around 200 Nollywood films are released every month, many more than Hollywood. Do you think the industry is focusing too much on quantity over quality?
EJ: As for me, I feel the Nigerian movie industry is focusing more on quality than quantity. The amount of films being churned out of Nollywood is an expression of the energy and creativity reservoir that resides in the Nigerian artist that yearns for a form of expression. It is not a matter of focusing on quantity deliberately because Nollywood has various entry points with both low and high Budget films. Considering the technology being applied mainly which is video, this allows the film Maker to be able to tell his story rapidly and directly turning it into digital video disc, DVD.
TFR: What do you think Nollywood needs to do to find wider success outside of Nigeria, Africa?
EJ: One thing we need to do is have a lot of collaborations with other filmmakers from outside Nigeria and Africa. Although this has already begun, it needs to be on the increase because there is so much to be explored in Nollywood things like, exchange programs, training, workshop, seminars etc. And also have projects featuring a mixture of international cast and crew with some level of support and Funding.
TFR: Film is an influential medium and Nollywood in particular has dealt with morality and spirituality, but do you think Nigerian films should broach important issues such as the religious violence in the country?
EJ: Yes I think so. Nigerian films have been able to deal with quite a number of burning issues. But as for the religious violence in the country, I think which is a sensitive area must be tactically handled with lots of consultations which could help influence the level of religious tolerance in Nigeria.
TFR: What is the biggest problem facing Nigeria?
EJ: To say the least there are myriads of problems in Nigeria but the biggest of them all is CORRUPTION and socio-economic problem. This is as a result of inadequate infrastructure, which has contributed immensely to the unfulfilled dream of many Nigerians. It has also hindered economic growth, stability in the power sector, Increase in the level of poverty and insecurity, poor infrastructure, decline in law and order, just to mention a few problems.
TFR: Where do you see the Nigerian film industry five years from now?
EJ: I see us having bigger and better productions, being a clearer mirror of the society, being a pointer towards national growth and development, setting a pace on the International film market with more collaboration. Most recent movies, Nollywood directors are already partnering with Hollywood stars. All we need is more knowledgeable directors that will bring in flavor into the industry then the sky will be the starting point for us.
TFR: What has been the biggest challenge during your career?
EJ: My biggest challenge has been raising source of funds for a movie production. Sometimes you can be left with no choice other than to sell some of your properties, borrow money, raise fund from event function, just to make a good movie.
TFR: And finally, if you were not acting what would you be doing?
EJ: (Laughs) I find it difficult to answer this question because as a young boy I wanted to be a pilot, Engineer and Doctor but maybe I would have become a Preacher.