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Quality talent will drive new capital into Nigeria’s movie industry- BB Sasore

In film and television, the role of a director is both coveted and critical, characterized not just by the allure of the camera and the action on set, but by deep-seated talent, passion, and determination.

For Nigeria in particular, becoming a movie director like most roles in the entertainment industry is not a direct or easy pathway. Rather, it encompasses a spectrum of routes that reflect the diverse nature of the industry.

Bodunrin Sasore, popularly known as BB Sasore, is the founder of Nemsia Studios, a film production, brand, and advertising company.

In this exclusive interview with Naijaonpoint, he shares how his mix of talent, sheer grit, business acumen, and strategy led to the conceptualization of Breath of Life which won him the Best Movie Director at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) held recently.

The movie and characters in it also went on to win Best Movie, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Lead Actor, receiving 11 nominations.

My journey into filmmaking, I believe, started when I was quite young. I remember the earliest memory of film is watching Clint Eastwood films and Westerns with my dad. It’s not a very clear memory, but I sort of feel like I remember “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and a few more of those.

Through secondary school at Adesoye College, I was quite passionate about drama and someone reminded me that I used to choreograph for most of the end-of-year dances and mimes and so on, and in some way, I guess that’s a foray into some sort of expression through direction.

But the journey really began, or the love and the passion really began in college. Even though I was pre-med at the time, I spent most of my time just watching films.

After my first degree in Biological Sciences, I went to a film school in New York for a year, and from then on, it has been a journey in earnest in telling stories through motion pictures.

I think it’s important to remember that the industry is in its infancy. It’s only a few decades old. And ever since the explosion of Nollywood, which was in the late ’90s or in the ’90s, you’re looking at 25 years really that people have had any sort of focus on it.

And that requires some time for us to hone and get some expertise on: sound, production design, visual effects. I think from our perspective, the two things that we focused on, or the three different things that we focused on, are story-telling, seeing how we could tell different stories, write different stories.

Visual effects (VFX) and computer graphics have become a really big, important craft in storytelling today around the world, and they’re rarely used in Nollywood pictures because they are quite expensive. So, finding people with that skill and enhancing and figuring out the ways to use it properly are critical for us.

And then finally, casting, not for popularity but for talent and for characters that match the story we wanted to tell. I think those would be the three big different things that we set out to do.

I see an industry that’s going to grow quite rapidly and, I hope, sustainably. There’s quite a bit of capital coming in both from the streamers and people who are taking a keen interest as investors, government organizations that have grants, and the biggest thing that shifts an economy or an ecosystem is capital.

I think the more capital it attracts, the more talent it will attract. The more talent it attracts, the more capital it will attract and thus the positive feedback loop.

And, so I do think, you know, projects that some of the streamers have put out in recent times, I mean just look at how much capital is going into indigenous languages and epics and things like that.

And, so I do think, you know, projects that some of the streamers have put out in recent times, I mean just look at how much capital is going into indigenous languages and epics and things like that.

So, I think, hopefully, that projects like “Breath of Life” sort of inspire more capital and more talent to come into the space and I think that’s going to be certain in the short term and hopefully sustained over the long term.

The movie was the idea of my partner, who mentioned that we have a lot of romance stories about a guy and girl, but few about father and son, employer and employee, good friends.

It would be great to tell a story in that vein. Examples of this are Shawshank Redemption, Scent of a Woman, and The Untouchables.

We set out with that as a premise. We also wanted to incorporate some magical realism in very subtle ways. I especially love that, with some supernatural or magical things that happen. They could be real, but they are not. Forrest Gump was a good film to study and Big Fish.

So, we had those two things as foundational and decided to craft a story. We wanted the story to be inspirational and have a strong sense of redemption at the end.

We really modeled a bit of Scent of a Woman and thought that it would be much more enhanced if we did something that explained why Al Pacino’s character became blind and angry. We spent the first 15 minutes figuring out that story.

As for the challenges, that was more on the producer. We shot in Ibadan over six weeks, with 25 shooting days. There was a lot of logistics involved because we lodged people outside Lagos.

The single most important thing that has worked well for me in positioning ourselves for success has been the caliber of talent. At Nemsia, we have a policy where we don’t hire people we can afford. If we can afford you, then the talent is not prodigious enough. So, we try to get the best people who aren’t immediately obvious; we don’t need you to have immense or long experience in filmmaking.

We just need you to have a clear vision of costume or production design, be it from architecture, interior decoration, or something else. So, my point is that we cast a wide net to see what skill set best represents the skill set needed to run this department, even if it’s not already available in Nollywood.

I think that was a premise; realizing that film is inherently collaborative and that the quality of talent you have is what will determine the quality of the film.

That allows us to go after talent. I think that’s key. No matter how small, the biggest thing you need to be doing is finding people who are great, have a vision, have talent, and can collaborate with you.