John Vincent, a graduate of Mass Communication from the Lagos State Polytechnic, is a filmmaker, cinematographer, editor and a writer. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Philm Republic Pictures Incorporated established in 2018. In this interview with ADIGUN TEMITOPE, he speaks on the challenges facing the film industry in Nigeria
When did you start making films?
Film-making has always been the end game for me. While in Aba, I loved movie stars. From Ramsey Nouah, Jim Iyke, Desmond Elliot and Emeka Ike to Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic and many others. I paid keen interest in them, hoping that someday I would act; but how I would do that, I don’t know. In Aba then, we only had church drama. I knew no production house, producer or director. When the dream of becoming an actor started fading away because of lack of opportunity in Aba, I jumped into songwriting and book writing. While at that, I hit on the truth that my environment as of then did not support entertainment. I was left with the only option of going to Lagos to pursue that career. So in 2005, I moved to Lagos and started looking out for auditions. I was to attend four auditions of Tinsel and wasn’t picked in any of them. But I didn’t give up on it. Between 2011 and 2015, I had many failed auditions until a movie director called me backstage after in one soap audition in Lagos and told me that I needed to look for something else to do than acting. He told me that acting was not in me. I wept for days because that was the dream I had for years. During this period, I sent out the video of some of my performances to some of my friends and they said I was good to go. But I was wondering why that director said acting wasn’t in me. So, I knew from then that if I could not function as an actor, I could be behind the camera; that I could produce the movie, write the script, shoot and direct the film as well. I started working towards being behind the camera. The first movie I directed was Black Praise in 2015. It was written by my friend and brother, Smart. People commended my effort in that short film. After that, I looked out for a way to better my craft. Helen Paul Theatre and Film Academy and African Colour City Production came handy.
What inspired Philm Republic Pictures?
Philm Republic Pictures was borne out of love for the art. It was inspired by the hope of assisting and developing many young talents out there to get to the top of their career. The world is digitalised and whosoever that is not on visual is not part of the world. People want to see you, how you dance, how you sing, how you make that beat, how you rehearse that script. People want to sit and watch you do your thing while they learn from you. People want to see how that product of yours can help them. They want to see how an artiste started their career, so we document it. People want to see how they can shoot that video to the acceptance of the public. Philm Republic Pictures is here to feed this hunger with visuals; to tell a story in pixels and motion pictures.
What challenges did you encounter when you started and how did you tackle them?
One of the challenges every business in Nigeria faces is finance and we are not immune to it. We have had the challenges of finance, location and other things. How we tackle these issues is first seeing it as no problems or challenges. We are creative thinkers and putting heads together is the best way to solve a problem. No man can survive in isolation, which is not good in business. There is no permanent enemy in the industry. So, what do you do as a business owner or creative in Nigeria when faced with challenges? Use people to tackle the challenges. Work with people with solutions to your problem. Make friends with people with the solutions to your problems, the ones to come, and the one that has come already. Let me give you one example, there was this music video we wanted to shoot. I needed a house that would suit my concept, and there was this particular house I had in mind and I was not in good terms with the woman. So, what we did was to use one of the crew members to get into the house and use it without paying.
How would you describe the level of patronage since you started as a filmmaker?
(Smiles) Rome was not built in a day. Clients are coming and we are surpassing what we did yesterday. People are beginning to buy into our brand, The Republicans. We are moving at our own pace. The patronage is more encouraging than yesterday.
What has helped you in your chosen career?
Some of those things that have helped me are consistency, determination, humility, persistence, prayers and God. I believe that there is nothing I cannot do as long as I believe I can do it.
What important lessons have you learnt in business?
You need people to succeed in whatsoever business you do. These people would give you the results. They would work for you and get the work done. You can ask: Peter what do you think of this? He may say: It is perfect. And in the process of working with people, you must pay them well and make them smile. No one survives in isolation and nobody survives being alone in business. In this, you must learn to work with people, treat them well, make them smile, satisfy them, and improve where the clients are complaining about your services. They should tag you as a money lover businessman or as someone who charges too much but delivers at the right time than them knowing you as someone who they can give N2,000 to run a business worth more than N300,000. This is not good for business, especially young businesses. When building your business, build with resilience, sense and principle. Set a bar you would go below. Know what you want as a businessman. Not all clients are worth all the stress. Some are worth leaving at the start of the business negotiation because you can’t satisfy all.
What are the things you wish you knew when you started?
I wish I had known earlier that I can’t satisfy all clients and that not all clients are mine. I wish I had known or met people who were ready to put me through in the field earlier rather than trying to do it all by myself.
How do you see the industry in Nigeria?
It is growing. Although we still have a long way to go in achieving our dream industry. It is no longer like those days of Living in Bondage, Rattle Snake, Egg Of Life, and Igodo. Now, more people are joining forces to get some works done. We have people who have gone to the New York Film Academy to study film making and come back to Nigeria to advance the industry. We have those who have gone to China, India and many other countries of the world to study film making, and they are making us proud at home. We have films being sponsored by the Bank Of Industry and others. We have Nollywood and Bollywood together to produce a film. We have better picture quality films now, and we are still advancing. Cinema houses are springing up daily and a lot of people can spend their money to see a Nigerian movie in the cinema. Right now, we have better cinematographers and better locations. Filmmaking industry in Nigeria is growing stronger day by day.
Do you think young filmmakers in Nigeria are getting enough support?
No. Many of us are struggling to keep up with the challenges out there. Many of us have called it quits because of no finance or grant from anybody to make a film. For you to stand as a filmmaker in Nigeria, you need to be very stubborn in achieving your dreams. The streets aren’t helping as well. I could remember in 2017 when we went to shoot in Ilaje area of Bariga. Before the production day, we had gone to settle some people in that area to avoid disturbance from ‘area’ boys. On the day of production, we settled more groups than we planned. Eventually, we ran out of cash, and the last group that came, we refused to settle them and they disrupted our production that day. In the end, we were unable to achieve what we planned. This is how bad It has become and this is why most directors, especially music video directors, prefer shooting indoors.
How do you intend to distinguish your brand?
Quality jobs delivery and customer satisfaction. Listening ears and friendly working ethics.
Where do you see Philm Republic Pictures in future?
I see it as a leading filmmaking, advertising, documentary and music video company in Africa. I see it blossom in finance and infrastructure, with an approved college in Nigeria and some other parts of Africa where people can learn filmmaking and stand twice as tall as they can in their career pursuit.
What advice do you have for young individuals that wish to venture into the profession?
Keep shooting! You just need one work to take you there.
Who are your role models in the industry?
The funny thing is, I don’t buy into the idea of role model and mentor. Why? I believe I am the best role model and mentor to myself. Looking up to people distracts me. It makes me not to look deeper into me. The bottom line is, I don’t have a role model or mentor. Everybody is my role model and mentor. I look up to everybody, whether failed or established, because I have something very important to learn from your success or failure.
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