Nollywood veteran actor Livinus Nnochiri talks about his journey and career in Nollywood. My journey into the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood) started when I was still in secondary school. Then, acting was something of a talent. Some people had to pass through the university studying Theatre Arts, only to end up not to act.
Take it or leave it, acting has to do with talent. While in secondary school, we formed clubs like debating club and dramatic club. I started from there. After passing out from secondary school, I went to work in Radio Nigeria, where I was presenting programmes in Owerri, Imo State.
Somehow, I got involved in a radio drama. But I finally moved to Lagos. I started with the stage performance. I later became part of the cast of the old NTA drama series “Tales by Moonlight” and “After the Storm”, from where I was ushered into the world of make-believe. The difference between stage and big screen is that, the stage prepares you for the big screen.
If you are a stage person, you will know how to deliver your lines perfectly well, interpret your scripts and move with your lines. But it is not the same with the big screen.
Acting is everything combined. Stage performance gets you prepared for the big screen. That is, from TV acting the movie world is just by the way. It is easier to be on the screen than to go on stage. I have put in more than 12 years in the Nigerian film industry. I started from the stage, before I moved to the big screen. From the beginning, it was a bit rough, because then, I was busy trying to build up myself. But the breakthrough started surfacing about three to four years.
In terms of financial reward, let me be frank with you, Nollywood is yet an individual industry. The government has not established its presence in the industry. The industry till today is run as an individual company by people who invested their money to make the films.
So financially, Nollywood has enriched very few practitioners, whereas many others have remained at the bottom of the ladder. That is why we are insisting on purposeful leadership that will be focused to deliver the gains of the industry to all and sundry.
At least, when one is able to feature in three or four films in a year, he could be alright for that year. But it is not like that now. Some actors and actresses feature in more than fifteen movies in a year, yet they don’t have enough to take home.
The time is yet to surface when Nollywood stars will be happy to claim to be a star. The poor and the rich in Nollywood is yet an individual industry. When I as an industry practitioner put down my hard earn money to shoot a film what do you think will occupy my mind than to feature faces that will sell the film.
And if I succeed in engaging at least four or five of the popular faces and pay them well, every other person featured in that film will go home with a peanut. It doesn’t matter. The producer is more concerned about featuring faces that will sell his film to enable him recoup his invested capital.
For the fact that Nollywood is still seen as an individual investment, things will have to take shape little by little. When it gets to that stage, everybody will jubilate. There are loopholes everywhere, even in our homes, in government and in society.
But the loophole I foresee in Nollywood is that the industry needs leaders who are well positioned, sincere and committed. Otherwise, Nollywood is moving at a pace dictated by the individual investors.
Financially status, I am richer now, because when I was venturing into the entertainment industry, I was still working with the ministry, I also worked in P&T, and NIPOST. Then things were not working out well for me. I used to be on the casts of “Tales by Moonlight” and “After the Storm” which was aired on NTA as at that time.
At a point, my employers felt that I was engaging myself in other things to make ends meet. They decided to sack me. There and then, I opted to go into full time acting. I am better off now than when I was working as a civil servant. My old employers sacked me with the impression that I was engaging myself in private practice.
But actors like St. Obi, who has become successful today started from soap opera, and then St. Obi was working with the old P&T. Uncle Layi Asgadele was also working with the bank when he featured in a soap opera. So it is not a hidden thing that somebody is working and at the same time finds time to do other things to help himself.
Acting didn’t disturb my job then, but my employers were not happy with me. It was sheer wickedness and ethnic sentiment that was at play, because then, I was working in the midst of Yoruba’s. As a result, I was forcefully sent on retirement and that was after I had put in 14 years in service. Thanks be to God, I am today better off than those wicked souls who retired me forcefully.
Initially, they wanted to put it as sack but for the intervention of the workers union, it was reversed to retirement. Now, they are paying me peanut as a pension. Throughout this year, NIPOST has not paid me anything as pension. Tales of Moonlight is no longer what it used to be when we were part of the cast. I don’t know how they are running it now.
Those days, it was aired by 5PM every Sunday, and families would gather to watch the programme. Then, it was fun. But today, the fun is no longer there. We were only paid N1000 per episode and I must tell you, till date, NTA still owes me some money.