Ekine Stronghold is a content creator, writer and entertainment consultant with a passion for building credible relationships whose synergy can create innovative ideas that better the society and add value to the individuals themselves. Currently the national P.R.O. of The Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria, Stronghold has written several movies and sitcoms and is one of the writers on the popular sitcom The Johnsons. He’s well trained in several fields of film making and his love for documenting humanity led him to study documentary filmmaking at the prestigious Montana State University. The Chief Executive of Nollyflames Studios Ltd and founder of Lakecity Film Festival shares what made him start the festival and other sundry issues in this interview. Excerpts:
What made you want to start the Lakecity Film Festival?
Every thriving film community needs film festivals because it offers several opportunities in training, networking, exposure and job creation especially for the host community. It is not news that there is no thriving film festival east of the Niger, especially now that AFRIFF (Africa International Film Festival) has left Calabar.
Also, if you look at the mainstream of film in the country, you will surely notice a steady decline of indigenous, cultural, traditional and historical stories, which attracted the interest of the international community to what we today call Nollywood. I saw a need to draw back interest to our cultural heritage and indigenous stories. I saw a need that most practitioners there can benefit from having a homegrown festival and enjoy hosting film-makers from every nook and cranny of Nigeria and the world. I saw a need to create a festival that will cater for films around the theme of culture, arts, tradition and history. But then, an idea came to mind. How about we give festival lovers a unique experience? Think about it. Film, culture and tourism. Ain’t it a marriage made in heaven?
What is the takeaway you want people to have from the project?
We can unify the world through film while exploring the hidden beauty therein. Our country is going through a lot right now but through film we can restore hope and reawaken the resilient Nigerian Spirit that is in all of us and rise above the watershed of mediocrity, nepotism, corruption and ethnic violence that we have unfortunately found ourselves.
What do you want people in positions of power to think about when they think about the challenges facing filmmakers?
I want them to have it in mind that lasting solutions to our industry’s challenges can’t be achieved when you impose on the practitioners. Lasting solution can only be achieved by working with the practitioners in sincerity to help improve the trade terrain. Until people in position begin to see things from the filmmaker’s perspective, their best efforts will not be given or even if given, will yield very little. First, is the paradigm shift then we can begin to talk specifics.
What are the challenges you have faced since you started the project?
Start-ups are always challenging. I consider them normal. It is only now more pronounced because of the economic downturn. Besides funding, there is nothing to complain about.
What is the feedback you have been getting since you started?
Awesome! People love it. Both those in and out of the motion picture industry are enthusiastic about it. If there was a way to monetise the warm reception so far, the festival could afford to give everyone that attends N10,000 each and the festival won’t go broke.
Who has influenced you the most in your life?
Maybe we should ask what has influenced me the most. And it’s simple, books.
What quote do you live by?
Several but the most cherished is ‘One day at a time with the future in mind’.
What are you most proud of about your work/life?
I am most proud of every opportunity I utilise to make another person happy without compromising the codes I live by.
What are the things the average Nigerian can do to change their community for the better?
Lose the hate. Be more considerate towards others. Be more objective.
Hold public officers accountable. Most importantly, take responsibility and initiative.
In what ways is setting up this festival different from your current job?
The difference is like working for a company and owning a company.
At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to become a filmmaker?
From my primary school days, I have always been drawn to perform. I think it had been obvious from the start. The confusion was trying to concentrate in one area as I had excelled in both front camera and behind camera roles. There is this argument amongst my friends as to whether I am a better actor or director. Director was the most prominent choice until they had the opportunity to see me act. Now the story is different because they have watched several of my Episodes on The Johnsons TV show and they can’t make up their minds.
Finally, I have learnt to see myself as an artiste. I am formless. I take the form of the present situation and put my all in it.
Was there a specific person or work that especially influenced you to make that decision?
No! No one. No work. I knew I had to be here. I shunned every other thing for it and I don’t regret it.
You are from the eastern part of the country and yet you have chosen to work with people from all parts of the country on this film festival project; what informed that decision?
We are all too grand to limit our citizenship to ethnic territories. I am first a world citizen and then a Nigerian. When people seem to score me some point on my all ethnic inclusive style, honestly I shiver at how low we have fallen out of love with our humanity. It is a testament of how much we have let politics, greed, nepotism, religion and other external forces divide us. But as filmmakers it is our job to unify the world through our works. Lakecity Film Festival will continuously pursue an all-inclusive ethnic colouration. We are not even there yet.
What is something you used to do as a child that you wish you could still do?”
Dance in the rain with only pants and not paying bills. No! Not paying bills and dancing in the rain with only pants.
What is the one movie that influenced your life the most?”
There have been several movies like that. If I had to pick one, then it’s ‘Sarafina’.
You seem to have permanently relocated to the eastern part of the country – why is that?
The fast pace hustle and bustle of megacity life rarely provides the right atmosphere for creativity. I wanted a less stressful and tensed environment. City life was taking more than its pound of flesh on my health. I also saw a lot of needs to be met down here which meant more opportunities. I had also been planning Lakecity Film Festival so to put everything together, I’d say it was about time. But without mentioning that a strong deciding factor was the readily available fresh palm wine, I will be lying.
What in your opinion makes a great filmmaker?
Originality! This does not necessarily mean that you have to create something that no one has ever done. It is more of expressing your uniqueness in creative ways that may or may not follow conventional rules. Originality is mastering the uniqueness of your innate sense of creativity.