Interview with Lani Aisida, Screenwriter of Toronto Film Festival Feature JUST NOT MARRIED

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Lani Aisida is one of those new entrants into Nollywood already making a name for themselves and its no wonder when you take a look at what he’s achieved since he appeared on the scene in 2014. In addition to working with some good acts, he recently managed to pull off a commendable feat by having two movies (Gone Grey & Just Not Married) showing in cinemas at the same time.

The screenwriter recently had a chat with 360nobs where he talked about how he got into the movie industry, his movie Just Not Married which was selected as one of the movies in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and which projects he hopes to work on next.

How did you get into the Nigerian movie industry and what were you doing before that?

I’ve been involved in quite a few things. When I came back to Nigeria, I used to organise an entertainment night weekly called ‘talents @ gidi(t@g), and I managed artistes. Also, I worked as a Financial Analyst with a large company before quitting to be a full-time writer.
When I worked in a call centre in UK, I thought it will be great to have a tv series based on a call centre, all the interesting characters you speak with on a daily basis. I met with Soji Ogunnaike and shared the idea with him  we developed it and shot my first ever screenplay – Plus 234

Lani, you are now a screenwriter with movies opening in cinemas. Where did you get your start?

In a relative short amount of time, I’ll say it has been favour and hard work. After writing plus 234, I reached out to several producers and shared some of my spec scripts with them and here I am. I’ve written for several platforms – tv, web, cinema, stage et al. It has been a great experience.

How did your first screenplay go?

My first screenplay was plus 234. To write 13 episodes as an amateur was quite tasking. I remember the first draft I wrote was in Microsoft Word and very unprofessional. But a few books and YouTube videos later, I’m further down on my learning curve.

Let’s talk about the Just Not Married which was recently selected for this year’s TIFF, how did you develop the screenplay?

It is a movie that came in bits. First, the robbery concept, when I was driving sometime in Lagos. Then I built it gradually, the love story and other plots.

What made UduakObong Patrick the right director for Just Not Married?

My initial communication was with the producer, Judith Audu, who happens to be a story person. I shared the script with her and she loved it. I met Uduak at the reading and I was very impressed with how well he understood the story and guided the actors through it. He enhanced the story by adding elements to it.

What was the most challenging scene to write in this script?

Hmmm … I’ll say, the scene where one of the characters died. I wanted to draw as much emotion from there as possible without doing too much. I wanted to take the audience from a high to a real low. I think the production team pulled it off.

While Just Not Married was in cinemas, you had another movie showing titled ‘Gone Grey’. How did it feel having two movies screening in cinemas at the same time and how did you pull that off?

It is a great feeling to have two movies showing in cinema at the same time. Some people tell me it’s the first time a writer will have two movies in Nigeria cinema at the same time, if true, I’m proud of that.
Honestly, I’m just happy to have two movies that have made it to the cinema and several movies to my name in a relative short amount of time. How I pulled it off? Hustle & Favour with God and man.

Some screenwriters have been known to be on the set during the filming of their movie, was that the case with you?

I like to go on set once in a while. I like to see how actors deliver their lines as it helps me write better dialogues. I was on set briefly for ‘Just Not Married’ and I enjoyed every minute.

I’m on set for our productions at Rushing Tap.

You’ve worked with different directors so far. Are they all very different? Was going through a script with Obong Patrick very different from going through a script with, say, Sobe Charles with whom you worked on Gone Grey?

Every director is different and have their own style of working. All the directors I have worked with so far are story people and usually enhance the written words.

Is there a passion project that you have in mind but for some reason hasn’t come to fruition?

Definitely. I have a certain biopic in mind and I’m working hard to get the permission. It is a movie that will draw young Nigeria to the cinemas.

What is the new movie or TV project you have in the pipeline?

I’m always writing. I like to have spec scripts available. I create tv series concepts and write the pilot down as well.

And, I’m working on a few projects now though I’m not at liberty to name just yet.

Whats your ultimate goal as a screenwriter, the Oscars, AMVCA, etc?

I will like to win awards at home and internationally. However, more importantly, I want to be remembered long after I’m gone. I want to write timeless movies with storylines and dialogues that travel across continents.

Mistah Cole

Mistah Cole

is a Nigerian-born Music critic and movie blogger

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