His sojourn into the creative world has seen him direct Project Fame West Africa reality TV show and popular game show, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. Growing up in the suburbs of Agege, actor, director and producer Bayo Alawiye didn’t give in to the litany of distractions he was faced with as a young man. He struggled to get university education even after the death of his father. The fast-rising moviemaker speaks about his rumoured relationship with actress Laide Bakare, his marriage and his latest movie, Dark Side, in this interview with AHMED BOULOR.
DID you ever date Laide Bakare?
I get a little edgy anytime people ask me this question because I do not know what gave rise to the question in the first case. I will answer it all the same. For the record, I have never dated Laide Bakare. The only reason I can attribute to people’s insinuation was probably because we acted in some movies together. I directed only two of her movies and she acted in two of mine. The issue has been over flogged.
Are you friends?
Yes of course we are friends. We met way back in school, the University of Ibadan. When I wanted to shoot my first movie, she was the first person I contacted to play the lead role because she was the only Yoruba actress I knew personally then. Unfortunately, she was not in the country. So, I eventually cast Moji Olaiya for the role. When I was ready for my second movie, she was available, so she played the lead character. I also have friends like Taiwo Ibikunle and Gabriel Afolayan who have always been in my movies too.
Did you study Theatre Arts in the university because you knew you were going to end up in the movie world?
I actually went to study Theatre Arts to get myself ready for the industry. I started acting a year before I went to the University of Ibadan. I was with a group called Solid Foundation Theatre Group. We were performing in clubs, ceremonies, market places and so on. As at that time, I was in Ogun State University, now Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye. At some point, I felt I needed to pursue acting as a career. I wanted to sharpen my skills so I went in for Diploma in Theatre Arts. I was later admitted into the degree programme after having acquired a distinction in the diploma programme despite the fact I had a science background. It was during my degree programme that I majored in directing.
As the director of MTN Project Fame reality TV show, how much has that experience helped your career?
Directing MTN Project Fame West Africa is actually one of the landmark moments in my six years sojourn into the creative world. I was part of the first set of content directors of the show. My bosses thought I did well, so, they started giving me more responsibilities. Right now, I am directing my third season. I must confess that it was a different experience for me when it started because my background was purely drama. I was just new to reality TV. Right now, Project Fame West Africa has become the biggest for me because it is the biggest music reality show in Africa and I’m just so privileged to be part of it.
You are also the director of the popular TV game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire; tell us about that experience?
Who Wants To Be a Millionaire is a different ball game entirely. The show is a school on its own. To be part of the show, you have to learn the format. It took me close to six months to have a grasp of the format. Now, directing it is like bread and butter. Believe me, I am one of the luckiest directors around. To be directing the two biggest shows on TV, it is what I call a blessing. The experience has been that of a student graduating from one stage to another, and the learning continues.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up for me was full of ups and downs. I grew up in the Agege area of Lagos where you see young boys of fifteen getting married because he has learnt a trade or the other from about eight years of age. I grew up in the midst of impossibilities. There was virtually nothing around to inspire a young man growing up. I found inspiration from the fact that I never wanted to be like the people I was seeing around me. So, I kind of blindfolded myself, I assumed then that I did not belong there. I lost my father during my earlier days in the university. With the help of God, my mum and my brother, I was able to pull through school. Here I am now, by His grace.
Are you married?
Yes I am married to the most beautiful woman on earth. We also met in the University of Ibadan. Believe me, if I say she’s the best thing that has happened to me, I will not be exaggerating. We have been married for seven years now and still counting. Really, it looks like seven months.
What is it like then being a married man?
Really, I don’t know because I and my wife still operate like young lovers. We only did the official wedding thing just to satisfy our parents. I actually call her “girl”. Truth is my wife married me when I had nothing. She didn’t bother about my state. She was just following me blindly. Her tag line then was ‘you jump, I jump’. Really, for me, it’s sweet being a married man. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have our down moments but love and God have been seeing us through.
Do you have kids?
Yes. I have a girl and a boy – seven and four years respectively, whose school academic result I’m staring at right now and I feel like a proud father of two brilliant children.
Tell us about your latest movie titled Dark Side?
Dark Side is a project that came about from the efforts of two young men, Dare Dada and my humble self. We both share the same dream of doing something creatively exceptional, so we put resources together and bankrolled the movie with our entire life’s savings. I even sold my car at some point. All that is now history because the film is done; it took us about two years to put it together. It is the story of a man whose blindness opened his sight to the atrocities of people around him. The story came about as a result of some random thinking, some wondering, and some “ifs”. What if one can see what people do in one’s absence or read people’s thought?
What were the challenges encountered while shooting Dark Side?
First my assistant director had an accident during the shoot. It took us about three months to get back on location. The first set of actors we already contacted became busy. We waited for some and replaced others. Funding became a huge issue at some point too that we started shooting in bits and pieces, as we saved enough. It was the drive to do something unique that carried us through. Right now looking back, I think it was worth the stress and the wait.
Did you have any issues with the cast?
I had no major issues with cast of Dark Side. I worked with the best set of people in the industry. Joseph Benjamin stood with us all through the process. Sylvia Udeogu, the lead girl started using her own costume when we exhausted the ones we bought, even Uru Eke was wonderful. There was no diva on set. We all worked like professionals and friends. The veterans, Nobert Young and Yemi Solade, also helped a great deal. On this project, I was blessed with great actors and wonderful crew members.
How much went into shooting Dark Side?
If I have to quantify everything that went into the production of Dark Side in terms of monetary value, I’ll say approximately N35million.
How are movie watchers reacting to the much talked about movie?
In fact, people’s reaction to the thriller has been overwhelming. To be candid, I was sceptical at some point; I didn’t know how people were going to receive it. I must assure you that this is not the kind of movie that the trailer will be more interesting than the movie itself. I urge everyone to see this. As I said to somebody this past week, with this movie, I wanted people to be able to say ‘wow! If this guy had a hundred million, he would have competed favourably with Hollywood.
Is the movie Dark Side your biggest project yet?
For now, Dark Side is the biggest of my movies. It is a movie that took all my life’s savings and my friend’s. We are yet to recover.
How many other movies have you produced and directed?
Asides Dark Side, I have produced five movies which are coincidentally Yoruba movies. My first project was Ija Okan. It was released in 2006. I then followed with Ala Mi, then Richie Richie which came out last year. I played the lead character in all these movies and also in Dark Side. I have two more Yoruba movies coming out in April and June this year. I have also directed and acted in a number of movies for people, some of which are Demilade, Ise, Ibare, Mase, Eri, Oritoke and a few others. On television, I was a director on Edge of Paradise, an MNET drama series. I created and directed the first 26 episodes of About To Wed, a sitcom and a few other production credits on TV.
Would you say it is favourable producing movies here in Nigeria considering the seeming obstacles you go through in getting a movies done in this part of the world?
It is clearly not favourable producing movies in this environment. However, it is the environment we found ourselves so we have to make the best of it. I have severally said that low budget is not an excuse for a bad movie. Right now what I look out for in our movies are attempts, creative attempts. I know we will get there soon.
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