Blossom Chukwujekwu, Tope Oshin and Etim Effiong talk making of Nollywood film
Blossom Chukwujekwu, Tope Oshin and Etim Effiong share how they got involved with "New Money," favourite scenes and how they decide who to work it.
During an interview with Pulse Nigeria, the director Tope Oshin and Blossom Chukwujekwu and Etim Effiong, who play Joseph and Ganiyu,respectively, share how they got involved with the project, their favourite scenes, how they decide who to work with and the choice of music.
Read interview below
On what attracted them to the project
Oshin: "New Money" was written by Naz Onuzo, who is also one of the executive producers. So Naz shared the script with me, he said, 'I have a story that I think you're going to like and I think it's right up your alley.
So I read the script and I liked the fact that it had a sense of awe, it had a lot of magic, and all I saw while reading it were bright lights and a range of emotions. It was a human angle kind of story that I badly wanted to create.
Chukwujekwu: It was a great script, colours everywhere. Naz and I have been wanting to work together for quite a while, so when that call came, it was a very easy decision to make.
Effiong: New Money is drama meets fantasy. It's every person's dream to wake up one day and find a billion dollars in their bank account. So I thought that it was very interesting.
It is also made of amazing people - from the director down to the cast members. When I heard the number of amazing talent that were going to be on board, I was like 'definitely, I want to be on board the project as well.
On the casting process
Oshin: The producers and I worked on the casting for this film. We put together a shortlist of about four good actors that we felt were suitable for each role.
Then we had series of screen test where they were given pivotal scenes for each character. We tested them to see who was the best fit and then we ended up with fantastic actors who became the characters.
On making changes to the story
Oshin: I read the script and I loved the whole essence of it, but of course, as any director should if you are taking someone else's vision and making it your own, there were adapted changes here and there which I asked for.
I ended up doing two or three more drafts after the draft Naz sent me.
On challenges during shoot
Oshin: I honestly don't think about challenges when thinking about "New Money." As the actors have also said, it was a project we particularly enjoyed making. It was done with a lot of love, everybody was on board with their A-Game.
If there are any challenges we would like to record, it would probably just be the major challenge of shooting in Lagos, which are the natural logistic problems, traffic and all of that.
But by and large, the essence of the project itself, making it, performing it, directing it, was an amazing experience; intense and fulfilling in every way.
On most emotional scene to shoot
Oshin: I think I had a few intense scenes to shoot. One of them was the mother-daughter moment between Kate Henshaw and Jemima Osunde. That was a powerful one.
Even during shoot, after I said cut, the room was silent for a few seconds before we picked up.
Another scene was Jemima going through her moments in her bedroom, trying to decide if to drop her dreams or follow it (and) what to do at that particular time when she was having the conflict with her mum.
Another emotional point was Joseph's declaration of love to Toun.
On the choice of music
Oshin: We basically went for what we felt was best for the film and what best carried the emotions we were trying to portray. Falz's music happens to fit into his character in the film, which was Kwam: very upbeat and afro. And even the lyrics went with the character we were trying to portray.
Some of Simi's songs that we used went very well with Jemima's character; her down moments when she was being introspective, the battle between her old and new life, and her friendship with Wofai Fada's character.
So basically, that was what we considered when choosing the music for this film and they fit perfectly well into what we were trying to do.
On the decision to portray Henshaw's character as strong
Oshin: Fatima was one of the characters that I really connected with in the story, and the producer Naz would tell you this, I fought a lot for her.
I had him do several rewrites of scenes for that particular character because, for me, she represents that strong and independent woman that is not usually represented in a lot of movies. Women who are thrust into that life without having a choice and she had to deal with that. She was in love, she was married (but) she had to let go of that for what was right.
She raised her daughter all alone, she had to settle for that life. So I didn't want her to play her as a poor, almost-illiterate woman because she was an educated person, who just happened to have had that lot in life.
Through her, I wanted single mothers, women who have that lot in life to connect and say 'yes, this is my life,' 'this is what I'm going through,' and connect with the story through that.
That's why the character was important to me.
On what they liked and didn't like about their characters
Effiong: I think what I loved most about the character is that he had a lot of money. It was interesting playing the character because I'm a lot different from him in real life, because I'm not an asshole. But Ganiyu was quite interesting of a person.
But what I hate most about the character is that he lost the girl in the end. I wish that he found a way to end up with Toun.
On similarities between the character Joseph and Blossom Chukwujekwu
Chukwujekwu: I would say yes, there are similarities. He doesn't talk too much. He is always in the background, but he is very loyal and trusted, which I liked.
To an extent, he bottles up his feelings and not always say them when you feel he should, but he would always step forward the right time to say it.
Of course, he is not a character that had too much to say, but a lot was expressed and communicated through his facial expressions and presence.
On favourite characters
Effiong: Well, I have quite a number of them. Kwam is a big one for me. I also loved Toun's character. Binta (Wofai Fada)was also hilarious.
Chukwujekwu: I had to keep a straight face but Wofai's character just wouldn't let me.
Effiong: And the Deolu Adeferasin character too was very interesting, always angry like a blown fish. I thought he was going to burst at some point.
A different character they would love to play
Effiong: Joseph, because I want the girl.
Chukwujekwu: Kwam. Maybe with a different accent and angle to it. Maybe, an Alaba boy.
What the audience should take away from "New Money"
Oshin: While "New Money" is a lot of fun, a lot of laughter and different ranges of emotions, there's also a lot plugged in there.
A few minutes ago, I elaborated on the Kate Henshaw character and what she stands for. So these characters, one way or the other, are plugged in to represent real people in our society, what their journey is and what they are going through.
Guys like Joseph's character also exist. They are the loyalist. They are the ones who are always there and sometimes, lose out on the best in life because they are not able to express themselves.
There are characters like the radical playboys (Ganiyu) who don't take life seriously. And then the Toun character is like every young person in this country today. What would you do when you're faced with important decisions in your life? How do you handle it? How do you handle that make or break point in your life?
So those are the little bits here and there that were plugged in there that are the realities of our lives.
Favourite scenes to shoot
Effiong: I would say the makeout scene. Why? Because it came out really well. Not a lot of directors can pull that off - a makeout scene that won't be just raunchy. It was very well done.
Oshin: I think the whole film had different moments for me. Every scene brought a different thing to it. Yes, there were moments when everything came together, but, entirely, the whole film was an experience for me.
Chukwujekwu: It would be the reveal. Finally getting the chance to express myself and get it off my chest about how I feel about the girl, I liked it.
On how they choose people they want to work with
Oshin: I am also a casting director, so to a large extent, I have very good knowledge of actors working in the industry: their methods, who they are, disciplined or not.
For me discipline is key. I would pass on working with a very talented actor that I know has no discipline. I have done that, I did that even on "New Money." There was a casting decision we were going to make and the producers wanted to go with it, and I said I'm not going to work with that particular actor because of discipline issues.
First of all, I need for there to be that discipline, for an actor to respect their craft and understand that 'this is what I am doing and I need to be serious enough and respect my profession,' before you can now get to the point where you can hone and direct the talent.
If an actor appears on set without lines or late when everybody is tired, we are not going to get the best. So I would drop talent and pick discipline first.
Chukwujekwu: I think it's important that I work with a director that trusts me, that trusts my ability to deliver the craft, and someone who is willing to understand my perspective so we can form a formidable team.
Effiong: For me, the story is important, the story has to be amazing, I have to fall in love with the story. Blossom has talked about directors trusting him, I would flip that to trusting your director with your heart, with your emotions, with your talent. I want to work with a director that won't take all of me for granted, won't misuse me.
To my greatest pleasure, Tope Oshin was an amazing director and did great justice to what we gave to her.
What they can't wait to explore in the future
Effiong: I want to play a very razz man. For some reason, people have cast me in the cool, fine boy typecast. I am waiting for an opportunity when someone would totally recreate this person into something really gritty, really grimmy.
Chukwujekwu: I am looking for a madman. I am looking for a schizophrenic, I am looking for an area boy, I am looking for an HIV patient, let me lose the weight. I am looking for a glutton.
I am looking for the unusual, something to just take me on a very riveting, emotional journey.
On why some actors may not be willing to lose or add weight for a role
Effiong: I think there are many things involved with the production. And for the industry we are in and for the phase we are in the industry, timing is of the essence. Are you willing to invest that amount of time and funds in a project like that?
To lose weight, you need to go on a regimen, you need to not work on any other thing.
"New Money" is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.
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