Judith Audu Talks about working on her Movie JUST NOT MARRIED, Nollywood and More

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Just not Married tells a story of Two brothers who choose opposite paths. Victor is a recent ex-con who is trying to piece his life together while Duke is a brilliant undergraduate determined to see his mum live. Duke enlists the help of his two friends in stealing cars by decorating the cars and pretending to be married.

With Just Not Married currently showing in Nigerian cinemas, the guys from Movie Markers recently got a chance to chat with Judith Audu about the film. A very interesting and brilliant lady, Judith talked about what it was like working on her first project – the short film Not Right, working with Lani Aisida who wrote the script for just Not Married, working on the scripts from initial development to final work, the path to getting the project into the cinema and more. Plus she also disclosed details of projects she is curently working

Lets have a chat about your first production “Not Right”, what was that like?

Judith Audu: When i did ‘Not Right’, i wanted to delve into producing but i didn’t wanna go full fledged into a feature film, because it was a new terrain for me and i felt i needed to sharpen my teeth on this new place that i’m entering. Then i decide to do a short film but then the question “what short film?” came up, and as at that time there was a lot going on, not just in Nigeria but in the world. Domestic Violence was on the rise and i felt okay i should do something about it. i actually wrote that and it was my first attempt at writing.

you wrote the script?

Judith: Yeah! it was my first attempt at writing and when i was done i sent it to a couple Producers to see and critic if they liked it, and  they felt there was a story there – they felt they liked the way it was. So i called up my friend Uduak who is a director and sent it to him and told him i wanted us to do it. He asked “WHEN??” so i got all the other actors on-board and that was how “Not Right” came about.Not-Right-movie

Fantastic, and that was a huge success for you

Judith: Yeah it was actually surprising because i didn’t expect all of that Award Nominations & Recognition, I submitted it for Film Festivals and Awards

Because it was the right thing to do?

Judith: Its free to submit it and as a Blogger, i know when Film Festivals and Awards are open because i write about them. So anytime i write about them, i think let me just submit the movie and then we got the first nomination from ABUJA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. I was like wow “we got a nomination”. Then we got one from NOLLYWOOD MOVIES AWARDS, and another from BEST OF NOLLWOOD AWARDS. It just kept on coming until the AMVCA’S and that just did it. Then i was like “Okay! i think we did a good film” and up till now some NGOS have adopted it as their campaign material that they use whenever they’re having a session on domestic violence – they just play it because its just 10 minutes

You did a brilliant job to get all the award nominations and recognition which is something incredible, well done. So now on to your new project ‘Just Not Married’, how did that come about?

Judith: When ‘Just Not Married’ came about it was actually a joke, and then i got the money so i called up Lani Aisida who wrote the script. I had initially worked with him on +234 a TV series, and i had read a couple of his scripts, i realized there was something different about Lani, the way Lani writes, His dialogues they’re Unique, its different, it doesn’t feel like the same things i’ve been seeing other writers write. Then i called him up, told him i needed a script and explained the kind of script that i wanted; i wanted something fast paced. I didn’t want romance, i didn’t want comedy, i wanted fast paced because i love fast paced films.

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After telling Lani the kind of script i wanted, he sent me a couple of Treatments and Synopsis, we went back and forth until ‘Just Not Married’ came up and i particularly loved it. i called my friend Uduak-Obong Patrick who is a director, the one that directed Not Right and then i said, i think i found the script i want to produce as my first feature so he read the script then we went back and froth, did corrections until the script became perfect. According to us at least until we started Principal Photography and then i realized the money i have will probably not be enough to do exactly what i wanted to do, and if i need to do it, i need to do it right, if you know me you would know im not the kind of person that just do stuffs for doing stuffs sake, i do it because it has to be done and it has to be done right. So i partnered with two other companies Black Creek Pictures and Asurf Films. Black creek pictures came in as the director and they brought in some other people on board and Asurf came in as the Technical partner.

While Uduak was my creative director, Asurf Oluseyi was my Technical Director and Assistant Director, he also edited the film and he was also the cinematographer. I think he’s like the best cinematographer we have right now. All three of us came on board and we had a couple of meetings, we actually did Pre-Production for over Two Months Planning this film cos we know what we have and we know we cant afford to break set, so we made sure we planned for what may happen, what may not happen. That way we would be able to shoot at that stipulated time we had scheduled for ourselves and we actually finished way before we planned, so that ensured a very smooth shoot

Do you think poor planning is one of the major problems we have facing Nollywood today?

Judith: Its actually not anything to debate about, or actually stress about, you cant over emphasize the importance of pre-Production, if your pre-Production is not done right, there is no way you’re going to have a smooth production, there’s no magic to it! ‘cos you’ll end up rushing things. Like if you have this location you should have 3 other locations on stand-by, just in case you get to this location and then there’s a problem, you should have all these things. You should plan ahead!

What has the reception of ‘Just Not Married’ been so far?

Judith: Its been overwhelming, since we dropped the Trailer in February, I’ve got calls from all over the world actually, saying it was the best Nollywood Trailer they’ve seen, I’ve had fantastic veteran Film-makers that i look up to call me up to congratulate me. So we’ve been balling on that, and the fear was people were saying “hope the movie was gonna meet up the standard of the trailer”, because we don’t really know how to cut trailers here (in Nigeria) but we cut the trailer really right and then when the movie came out, when we had the first screening.

The first screening we had was at the Lagos Yacht Club,  where we had around 80% of foreigners watching the film so we were wondering if they were going to understand it – because there was a lot of Vernacular in the film, but they got it. At the end it was a standing ovation and we were like okay if these foreigners could get it, then the Nigerians should get it! The main premiere held on the 6th of may and it was attended by virtually all industry giants, at the end of the day it was also another round of applause for the team, so it has been awesome, word of mouth has just been spreading it since it got into Cinemas, its been doing fantastic.

How long do you ‘Just Not Married’ plan on staying in the Cinema?

Judith: I don’t know, (laughs) i thought it wont even stay up to a week. You know we took a risk with this film we didn’t have any major face in it, which was a major risk as a producer even when we took it to some cinemas they told us the Film won’t do well because we don’t have any star in it, and people come to cinema looking for names and we don’t have any name or face in it. I said well this is a risk i took when i was making the film, initially i didn’t plan to put it in cinema, i just planned to do a film and put it out there, but people seeing the film were like “your film is too good to just go out there you should take it to cinema at least its gonna be a Yes or No, either they take it or they don’t take it but just try”, so i took it to the cinema and they accepted it.

I planned on asking you the question “How it felt like producing a feature film without any known and recognized face or actor in it?” but i feel you already answered it

Judith: I think we proved a point, when i set out to say something to make a statement and i think we went way overboard of what we tried to do, because now the movie is doing way better than we thought. I didn’t use a face not because i didn’t want to use a face, i didn’t use a face because the script didn’t permit me to use a face. Now i’m also a casting director and i believe in casting right! I don’t believe in putting a round peg in a square hole. In the script, the lead characters are supposed to be less than 25 screen age , we don’t have any face that is less than 25 screen age, so i had to think of fantastic actors – Stanley Nze ive worked with him before, severally actually. Rotimi Salami, i’ve worked with him before, when i was  reading the script these were the faces i saw, i didn’t see any other person playing these roles, the  faces just stuck.

I only had a problem casting one character and that was  because i already had a lead role in my head. Its a family, a younger brother, elder brother and mother. I already had a younger brother, and needed an elder brother, but i needed someone that looked like the younger brother. Now the casting is so perfect that we have a lot of people waiting till the end of the film to see the credits to know if they’re actually related in real life, because they really do look alike. That’s why i used these guys because i felt it was perfect for them and trust me they killed the roles.

Any information for the general populace on “Just Not Married”

Judith: Well its still in cinemas (laughs). I will like people to troop out and support Young Nollywood Film-makers, we are breaking boundaries and stretching ourselves to do this, and we’re trying to do it right. Now people keep complaining about Nollywood films, we have been going to cinemas to try to get people to buy tickets, and they keep saying “No”, they’ll rather watch a Hollywood film. This is what i tell them, “i’m a film freak i watch a lot of films and recently even Hollywood films, high budget films they’ve been really doing a lot of not so good films these days in terms of story. Now this is the thing you complain about our stories, our films, our techniques but you don’t put money in it, you don’t invest in it, you take that little one Thousand Naira, One Thousand Five Hundred Naira you have to go put it in another film. Imagine putting that in our films? Then we can have money to do something”.

How much do we use to produce these films and we still live up to expectations? You know i was talking to someone from Italy the other day and he was telling me a low budget film in Italy cost at least One Million Euros, a low budget film! I tell them a low budget film here will cost about maybe Two million Naira or Two and a Half million Naira, so their low budget film is way above our high budget films.

I just keep encouraging Nigerians to support Nollywood, we’re actually really improving these days, our movies are becoming highly rated. We Got Into CANNES Man, we got into CANNES This Year. So we are beginning to produce standard films but we need more support from Nigerians, we need more support else we would also go back to just doing it same old same old. It takes money to make a good film.

What do you think is the solution? We see Nigerians troop to see the likes of The Avengers Movies, and Hollywood blockbusters, who do rigorous Publicity. Do you think Publicity is the problem?

Judith: I think some do, i’ve heard people spend over Fifteen Million Naira doing publicity you know. Not everybody can afford that. But for ‘Just Not Married’ i will say we’re actually very heavy on Social Media, we’re really very heavy on social media, not just social media on Prints, but even on TV and radio you’ll hear about it a lot. I think what we probably didn’t do was like what Omoli (Oboli) is doing, is travelling round the states to places were the film is showing, you know going to do meet and greet and promote it, but that costs a lot of money.

Publicity does cost a lot of money, so what most people say is if you’re shooting like a Ten Million Naira Film, you need to put Twenty Million for publicity, so when you’re going to meet an Investor and you’re telling him “i need this amount of money to shoot the film and then i need this amount of money for publicity” they don’t get it, they don’t. But i’m happy now that things are changing, the whole dynamics of movie making in Nigeria is changing, people are beginning to realize The Corporate World And The Government are beginning to realize that this is how your culture is being shown out to the world, these are the people you need to invest in to do things right, because people are craving for Nigerian Films outside.

What future projects are we to expect from Judith Audu Productions?

Judith: I have three projects i’m currently working on now. I have a Documentary, a TV Series and a Feature Film, so whichever one funds come in for first will be the one we will Produce. But our hands are full presently. People should watch out, there is a lot in store for this year, at least before this year runs out we will have another Production from Judith Audu Productions.

Source: Movie Markers

Mistah Cole

Mistah Cole

is a Nigerian-born Music critic and movie blogger

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