“It’s Easy to Lose Your Way if You Focus on just Paying Salaries and Taking the Money Jobs.” – Bolaji Kekere-Ekun
- You attended the University of South Carolina, where you bagged a Master’s degree in film. Could you tell us about the primary and secondary institutions you attended plus the course you studied in your first degree, including the university where you obtained your first degree?
I attended Corona School, Ikoyi for primary school and King’s College Lagos for secondary school. I then attended the University of Leicester and got my bachelor’s degree in English Literature.
- Did you work in another sector before Film-making beckoned or have you always worked in film? If you were in another field, could you tell us about it and why you embraced Film-making? Did any experience in your childhood, adolescence or adulthood prepare you for film-making? Are you also a photographer? Please, tell us the different roles you play in the entertainment industry.
Since I started working,I’ve worked in film. I take photos in my spare time because I see photography as a great way to train your eye as a film-maker. In the entertainment industry, I’ve done a couple of music videos, fashion films and art documentaries.
- You have a short film on mermaids, Nkiru, and a documentary on mermaids,Lady in the Water. What is the fascination with mermaids?
Haha. The fascination is with African mythology. At the time, Hollywood was big on vampire films and I started thinking about our own mythologies in Africa and if we had any similar ones. The mermaid/mami-wata myth then came to mind and I decided to explore that. We eventually developed Nkiru and also the mami-wata documentary Lady in the Water, both of which are available on YouTube.
- You directed Ife Wa Gbona for Tiwa Savage. Please, could you list all your productions with dates (years of production), giving vital details of your cast and crew plus the nominations and awards, which the films/TV Productions/Music Videos have won?
Wow. I’ve done a lot of work over the years and definitely cannot list them all. Some notable productions however areIfe Wa Gbona as you mentioned, which won Best Editor and Best Highlife Music Video at the Nigerian Music Video Awards, YouTube Nigeria’s launch video in 2011, all Hennessy’s video campaigns since 2012, Lynxxx and Friends Campus Tour music documentaries, Former Governor Fashola’s Google Hangout, featuring MI in 2013, Coca Cola’s ‘Billion Reasons to Believe’ video campaign in 2015, Etisalat’s Prize for Literature award show and Cloud 9 live music series both in 2014 and most recently A History of Lagos Fashion documentary.
- How do you balance producing your own projects and documenting events?
Striking a balance is very difficult and it’s easy to lose your way if you focus on just paying salaries and taking the money jobs. You just have to find extra hours in the day to focus on your own projects and sleep less. Also over time,I’ve realized that business is generally slower at the start of the year and so I tend to focus on our in-house company projects during that time.
- Could you list the memorable events; which your production outfit, 37th State, has filmed? We learned you once filmed for Sean John. Which other international brands and organizations have you worked with?
We didn’t actually film for Sean John. I was chosen by P. Diddy and Sean John to represent the ‘International Sean John Man’ in their 2013 Autumn Campaign. They flew me over to New York for a photo shoot and video interview alongside some Olympic medalists and creative achievers. The campaign focused on individuals, excelling in their fields and giving back at the same time.
- What is the highest point of your career so far OR may we know your remarkable experiences so far?
The Sean John Campaign.
- What is your lowest moment so far (if any) OR could you list some odd experiences you have had in the entertainment industry?
Any time I can’t deliver a project on time or have an unhappy client is a low moment. My best work is usually preceded by a low moment when I feel like I haven’t achieved what I set out to do. Luckily more often than not, when the work is completed, it’s not as bad as I initially thought. I thought Ife Wa Gbona was terrible until I edited it!
- What film/TV production are you currently working on and what should the audience expect?
I directed A History of Lagos Fashion documentary with Francesca Tilley-Gyado, which explores how fashion in the city has changed over time as a result of social, economic and political factors. Hopefully, it will be screened or released by the end of the year. I’m also developing a TV series and working on the relaunch of our 37th State website.
- What are your thoughts on Nollywood; in terms of the industry’s achievements and the challenges it faces?
Nollywood seems great to me. It has taken the Nigerian story global and is growing from strength to strength. The main problem with the industry as everyone knows is piracy.
- Which older film-makers (local and international) do you admire and why?
I admire Tunde Kelani’s infusion of Yoruba culture in his movies. Tade Ogidan’s ability to get amazing performances out of his actors is amazing (Madam Dearest). I enjoy Kunle Afolayan’s Nigerian interpretation of foreign genres. I really liked Izu Ojukwu’s film-making technique although I haven’t seen a film of his in a long time. Internationally, I like Wong Kar Wai, Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, Roman Polanski, Gina Prince-Bythewood and others.
- Could you list your favourite local and international films? Which Nigerian artistes will you like to work with?
Madam Dearest, Blackberry Babes, Saworoide, Games Women Play
Kill Bill, A Bronx Tale, Chungking Express, Lost in Translation, etc.
- What do you hope to achieve in the near and distant future?
It’s a secret.