Biodun Stephens Oladigbo is a scriptwriter, director and producer. She has directed and produced about 30 movies and won awards and nominations, including the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) for Best Film in 2015 for her movie, ‘The Visit’, and an AMVCA nomination as Best Screen Writer in 2019 among several others. In this interview, she talks about her early days in the film industry and more. Excerpts:
Weekend Magazine: What drew you to scriptwriting after your experience as an actor?
Biodun Stephens Oladigbo: I started as an actor and transitioned to scriptwriting because I have always loved telling stories whether as an actor or producer.
However, at the beginning, it wasn’t easy getting roles. Though I was much younger, I nonetheless experienced tribal bias back then. I was also in the University of Ife, so actively pursuing this craft had to do with being in Lagos all the time. Leaving school wasn’t the best option for me.
When the roles were not forthcoming, I decided to finish my schooling before coming to Lagos. Afterwards, I worked with a radio station where I as a copywriter before I decided to go back to film school. It was there that I realized my place was really behind the camera as against in front of it.
WM: Why do you focus on human angle stories?
Oladigbo: I have always wanted to tell human angle stories. I had a programme on Rainbow FM called ‘Whispers’ where we always shared different life stories. When I decided I was going to be a storyteller via film, it was important to tell stories that were from the human angle because they are so many out there. I believe whilst film is meant to entertain, it is also meant to educate and spotlight issues that are not given enough attention. For me, film making is purposeful. It’s like a ministry for me. I don’t think we made a mistake when we made the first film and people kept thanking us for it.
WM: What project would you say was most challenging for you?
Oladigbo: My most challenging movie is titled ‘Beauty and the Beast’. I say this from a production point of view. We had to travel to a village very close to Seme that has the most unfriendly people. They had a beautiful landscape and trees. It looked exactly like what we wanted but the villagers were very unpleasant and so speaking to them was a problem. There are films that I thought would be challenging but ended up being easy.
WM: What would you say has changed in Nollywood so far?
Oladigbo: Quite a lot has changed. There is now a whole lot more space for the women as directors, producers, and cinematographers. When I was young and trying to be an actress, the film industry was male dominated. Now there is a comfortable space for women to be and we recognize, appreciate and applaud it.
Also, as an actor your talent does matter. Back then, your talent was not as important as what you carry. I am happy for the actors who are coming up now. Their talent means something though it is not so easy to get a role. If they don’t get a role, it is due to the fact that there are far better actors and not because they are not sleeping with someone.
I’m happy about the available platforms because at a certain point, the industry revolved around only some selected actors, so much that If they are not in your film, it is hard to sell. Currently there is a full crop of TV, online, and cinema actors. There is space for everyone, especially on the web via YouTube. There are some actors who are very popular on TV, some who are popular online while others are known in the cinema.
Due to the availability of various platforms, it gives room for many opportunities. The massive opportunities could be credited to digitalization of everything. Nollywood has gone international and it is being respected so much that the work we do is being accepted globally and we are jostling for space on Netflix and other international platforms. We are doing cinema releases abroad. A whole lot has changed and the industry is recognized as a money spinner.
WM: What are you working on at the moment?
Oladigbo: I’m working on a lot of things. There is a series called IJCC to be released on a record platform sometime next year. Also, Season 2 of ‘Picture Perfect’ is set for next year. I worked on a film called ITK (introducing the Kujoos) and it is expected to be in the cinemas at the end of November. I worked with temple motion pictures and I am so excited as it is the first family drama in such a long time. I think people will love it.
I also just finished my third cinema film, ‘Braided Lie’, and it will be out next year as well because we just finished filming and we are already working on it. So, the list is endless. With COVID-19 everything is pretty much happening fast now.