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‘Why I took N1.8m loan to produce 11-minute documentary’

Tom Richards, a young Briton who produced the 11-minute documentary, The Drill, which has become a Save-Our-Soul signpost advocacy for the preservation of the last…

Tom Richards, a young Briton who produced the 11-minute documentary, The Drill, which has become a Save-Our-Soul signpost advocacy for the preservation of the last known specie of monkeys in a part of Cross Rivers State, speaks with Daily Trust on a number of issues, including why he has been unrelenting in pursuing his cause

What is the concept behind The Drill?
Well, it is part of the requirements I needed to earn my Master’s in film-making from the University of West of England. Of course, I have always wanted to do something in this area, which I consider a passion. I have always wanted to do a film on conservation. I personally see the film as a voice through which a powerful message is delivered to the society. It is also a vehicle through which I can convey my passion of conservation to the world.
 I had already been aware of the problem and the works of Peter and Liza in Cross Rivers State, and I just wanted to report it to the world. So basically, it is about the fantastic job being done to preserve the last known specie of monkeys in an amazing forest in Cross River State, Nigeria, and the need to talk about it to the world.
You are not a Nigerian, you live in the United Kingdom, so how were you able to know about this rare species of monkeys and the forest they inhabit?
Well, my father, Keith Richards has been living in Nigeria for many years, and I have been visiting the country since the last 10 years. I have been used to the country. I have seen the cultures in the city, but I have always wanted to experience the wildlife aspect of the country and all of that. My father knew someone who knew Peter and Liza’s conservation work and they both encouraged me to visit the place.
 When I went there, I could see that they had been doing an amazing work on the drill. I could see that they were erecting a new closure for these drills. That, for me, was interesting and that was where I started deriving the inspiration of wanting to talk about the place for the world to know about.
In doing the film, who were your sponsors and how much did you invest in it?
Well, I really can’t say I have a sponsor, but I was lucky to have my university, the University of West of England, supply me with a number of camera equipment. That saved me a lot of problems. The rest of it was self-funding. I had to take a loan of 4,000 pounds to cover my university bill and to produce the film.
So, in other words, you have the sole copyright to the film?
Yes, I do.
Did you have some other production members, or you did everything on your own?
There were two other crew members – a cameraman and a camerawoman who came with me from school. They were my colleagues who chose to come on their own after I discussed the idea with them. They were so excited about it and shouldered the cost of travelling on their own, too. It was like trade by barter. I helped in getting a place to film and they helped me in filming.
What benefit was in it for them?
For them, it was quite an additional experience. They are already filmmakers, so this provided for them an opportunity to film abroad.
What has been the response from the Cross River State government?
There has not been any. But I learnt the documentary has been aired on NTA. I think we may still have to put in more efforts in that regard.
What is your next plan for the film?
I am partnering with a number of persons and organizations who have shown interest in it, and which I believe will help in getting the message across to the people. Already, the film has been shown on the NTA and I hope it gets more mention elsewhere in the days ahead. We are still at the early stage.
Has the film been submitted to the University of West of England for assessment?
Yes, it has. The film was shot in about three weeks in April 2015. And thereafter, there was the long editing process. The university did not allow me to show it anywhere until it completed its assessment process in September 2015.
Has there been any form of reward or recognition for the film and your effort?
It has won an award in the UK, and I have also been nominated for a number of others. The one I won was at the World Film Festival. It won the best overall. Then, I was nominated for an award at the Animal Film Festival in the United States. The other was the World Life Conservation Film Festival also in New York, United States.
What are your further expectations on the film?
On a professional level, I will like to tell more stories about this rare species of animal. The story is actually more than what I was able to pick. But I don’t have the funding to do it yet. If I get the right funding, I will like to tell more stories.
 On a social level, I have so far discovered that many Nigerians don’t even know about the forest or don’t believe it is in the country. But really, this is a place that holds lots of potentials for tourism, not only for Nigeria and Nigerians but the world at large. That’s an asset. I’m sure when we talk more about this many people out there will know that, indeed, Nigeria has a rain forest and wildlife of this magnitude and can explore it for tourism purposes.
 Of course, I am aware that the tourism industry in Nigeria is still growing. So, I really want this film to talk more comprehensively about these potentials and the need to preserve the drill.

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