Seyi Akinsola is poised to be one of the new game-changers in Nollywood, working tirelessly to bring entertainment to audiences with quality and creative content. Although his work may take place mainly behind the curtain, for now, the impact is nonetheless spectacular.
Born about 50 years ago in the idyllic town of Ijebu Jesa, in Osun State, Nigeria, Seyi is poised to become one of the most influential and famous filmmakers in Nigeria, with his influence spreading across the ocean.
He started his journey as a consulting assistant with Bond Consulting Limited in the late ’90s where he rapidly rose to become the consulting manager through a dint of hard work and commitment. While at BCL he championed many consulting assignments in the area of education consulting, OHRM and strategic services. He also recruited top-level personnel for many clients.
Seyi relocated to the UK in the early 2000s where he worked for several blue-chip organisations in finance, energy and telecommunication, working as a software quality engineer.
Seyi obtains on merit an honours degree in theatre art from the University of Ibadan. He followed this up with masters in Managerial Psychology from the same university. He also holds a Master degree in Information Technology from the University of West of England specialising in Software Engineering.
Seyi Akinsola, the CEO of Astrocraft Productions and the Executive Producer of ‘DIEKO, intends to provide a platform for quality Nollywood movies that is topical and germane to society.
He recently spoke to Citypeople Head of Movie Desk, BIODUN ALAO, on the journey so far, and what to expect from the stable of Astrocraft
Can you take us through your journey into the movie business?
Most people usually ask how I got into movie productions, and that is because they don’t know about my journey. Most people knew me as a Management Consultant or software engineer.
So how did I get into movie production?
Actually, I studied Theatre and I had the privilege of being trained by the best in the industry at the University of Ibadan. Ibadan is the cradle of academic theatre in Nigeria.
My project was supervised by Jonathan Haynes, now a professor. Perhaps he’s the most knowledgeable person about Nollywood who is not a Nigerian
However, the theatre couldn’t give me the type of money I was looking for at that point in my life. I worked as a presenter after my first degree but left the job after 3 months. The money was bad. Very bad. My take-home did not take me to the bus stop,
Then I went for a second degree In Management. I then came back to join the consulting circle until I left Nigeria. Again when I left Nigeria, I realised that consulting will not give me the type of money I was looking for, so I went back to school again and did a Master degree in Information Technology, skewed towards software engineering. And that provided what one was looking for and a bit more
Then at a point you realise that where the next meal is coming from is no longer a problem, the kids are sorted, then you are in a position to start looking at the next challenge and that is why I am back in Nollywood.
One of my visions is to make stars in this industry. Part of the strategy is that in every movie I make I will feature unknown people, people who have not been featured in movies before and I knew we will discover great talents.
I want to make money from Nollywood, but it will still be fun for me even if money doesn’t come on time. So I set up a company called Astrocraft Production. It will be the mother company for other companies that will come under it. I have huge dreams in the media space, for event planning/management, show promotions, and all that. But let’s start with Nollywood. I have about seven scripts I have spent millions upon, waiting to be made.
Did you foresee these many challenges when you ventured into the movie industry?
The position or point I was coming from is slightly direct from other filmmakers. Most of them want to make money immediately but I want to invest, so if I am not making money immediately that will not break me, it is an investment and the name will be out there, the quality of what we are making is out there. I know there is a problem with finance, problems with marketers, copyright issues and piracy and lots of other challenges in the movie industry. I am not unduly bothered.
I also know that I can make movies over here and sell them abroad. I can find platforms abroad and they will sell my movies forever. Take for example Uncle Tunde Kelani is still making money from “Ti Oluwa Lo Ni Ile” and “Saworode” and he will keep making money.
So for me, I don’t need the money that I put into one production immediately or need it to make another one, so not getting it immediately won’t break me. I have given a lot of thought to these challenges. If I had gone to the bank to take facilities to make them then I would have been worried, at least to make money to pay my loan.
What I was really worried about is actually the integrity of people I was working with and that is very key for me. If I am on set with you, I want you to be honest, hardworking and straightforward with me because I am not on ground. I need to depend on people. Seun (Faseru)is a very capable and dependable person and I know his family. He is my Ijebu Jesa brother. I can easily report him if he misbehaves (laughs!!!) Though he won’t misbehave, he has not misbehaved so far.
I don’t want to do business with people I don’t trust and because of money, they will want to take one’s life, so for this, I don’t go into business or partnership with people.
However, I have been working with Seun, I entrusted everything to him. Despite all that he will still insist I pay some people directly into this and that account. So, that Ijesha integrity is the only commodity I’m looking for and I am happy to have found that in him. So we will work hard for the next couple of years and see where God wants to take us
You talked about making new stars? How do you intend to do that, with lots of audiences who are only crazy about popular faces?
Again, it comes to patience. Yes, people want to see popular faces, but the popular faces too also started one day. Also, the popular faces today will die off some days. People at some point will like to see new faces. And moreover, once you are talented you will be noticed, take for example when did Broda Shaggy come on board? Mr Macaroni, nobody gave them chance, but today, they are established, self-made people, and there are several other talented people like that, looking for a platform to showcase what they have.
So we will give them opportunities and if they deliver, we will keep using them and before you know it, people will notice them. Anybody that works with me will be put at ease.
Another thing about me is that nobody will leave my set without being paid if I don’t have money to finish any production, I will not start. If I have worked with fantastic guys then they should get paid well for a job well done. So because we are not looking for big profits immediately, we have decided to take risks with people and if you are good at what you do and very professional, we will continue to work with you till whenever.
There is a guy called Titi Jeje I like what he is doing, he likes using new faces too, also there are some people who are also very versatile their delivery, both in English and Yoruba movies is top-notch. So those are the type of people I really like to work with.
Why the decision to produce two movies at the same time?
I know I can handle many projects at the same time, so, my wife and Babaseun Faseru created two teams, one for each movie. The two teams didn’t see each other, though there are actors who are in both productions, their schedules didn’t clash and everything was done successfully, and I am very happy and pleased with the quality of what we have.
A lot of filmmakers in Nigeria now wants to produce cinema-standard movies, so do you have such plans too?
The two movies, we have made were just to announce us to the industry. Because of where I am coming from and where I want to go, nothing will keep me from cinema and Netflix. I understand Netflix is difficult irrespective of the standard of your movie. But I don’t necessarily need to rely on Netflix Nigeria, I can sell my movies to Netflix U.K. All the stories I have written are all Nigerian and British enough to be considered in both territory
So I could sell them in Nigeria or U.K., so it’s even possible I sell in the U.K. before Nigeria.
Actually, the film I told you we were working on with so much budget was for Netflix. But we will like to slow down and announce ourselves with these two, and that is why we are premiering on Sunday and we decided to make it small as well. We did not make it a ticketed event, just strictly by invitation, my friends, my family and professional colleagues to see what we have made and give us honest feedback. I have never made a movie in my life though I studied Theatre, I also know a good movie when I see one.
So, we are hoping people will give us honest feedback with this, then we will take the feedback and put it into the next production. The next movie will be for the cinema
Do you have a relationship with any other filmmaker in the industry considering the fact, that you are one of them now?
Because I have been away for a long time, even people that we were in school together, that are filmmakers, we are not as close as we used to be. I don’t know them anymore. They too don’t know me. It’s been so long. I know a lot of filmmakers by name and I am sure some will be able to recognise me when we see one-on-one, so that’s just it.
Can you take us through your background?
Someone once asked me during an interview to tell them about myself, I just laughed and said, I will bore you if I try doing that. I am from Ijebu Ijesha. I never came to the city until after secondary school.
But it’s been a fantastic journey. When I left school (university)l, I did little work as a TV presenter with a producing company. We were airing on NTA Channel 5. I presented a program with a lady called Marian Arthur. I did for 3 months and left, then went back to school; I came back afterwards and again I left for England and did other things. Prayers were answered; I am not a billionaire, but I’m comfortable; comfortable in the sense that I don’t need a lot, I only need food, clothes, a roof over my head and just one car. I don’t need G Wagon, I just need a car that can take me from point A to point B.
After God did all that, and a little extra to take care of other things and I can now consider putting it into some other things which I have planned to do before then, so that is the journey so far.
But it was not easy at the beginning. I once trekked from Orile Agege to Ojuelegba. which is part of the journey, I went to see my brother and he was not at the office. It was tough, my parents didn’t leave money for us we are all doing well now but all self-made. It will all be in the book one day.
Do you have any regret so far?
No regrets at all, zero regrets. If I have the opportunity to go back, I won’t change anything, the only thing I would have done faster is to marry my wife. Marrying her was like a total turnaround in my journey. When God blesses you with the right woman that is actually made for you, you will still be happy even if you are poor. My wife has been there. We once lived in Ikorodu and the area was so bad that she would have to carry water so I can wash my legs when I get to the main road when going to work. I was training people, bank managers etc but we were poor like church rats but our story changed gradually.
So I have zero regrets. I was supposed to study Law but decided to go for Theatre Arts. I considered the years for each course and ditched law for Theatre Art and thank God I did. I wouldn’t have met my wife and my journey would have been different. I am indeed grateful for how everything turned out and don’t have any regret.
So finally Astrocraft has come to stay and our plan is to produce two movies every year, though the pandemics affected us this year. I was supposed to come home in July but couldn’t. But by the special grace of God, we will do two movies next year and they will be cinema standard and hopefully sell to Netflix after that.