Akhigbe Ilozobhie, popularly known as Akay Mason, is the scriptwriter and director of ‘Elevator Baby’ (2019) and ‘Day of Destiny’ (DOD). He got nominated for the Best Screenplay alongside Yusuf Carew in the AMVCA, Director of the Year and Best Screenplay nomination at the BON Awards. In this interview, the 27-year-old who is referred to as the youngest box office film director talks to Weekend Magazine about his rise in the movie industry and more. Excerpts:
Weekend Magazine: How do you feel being referred to as the youngest box office film director?
Akhigbe Ilozobhie: It’s supposed to be flattering but it isn’t because unlike other people, I don’t see it as a great achievement.
- How I delivered baby in Kidnappers’ den – Katsina mum
- 20m Nigerians battle kidney disease, expensive treatment
It just so happens that I made a film at the age I did and it was in the cinema where it was considered a box office film.
During the time the film was being made, it was not my intention to be tagged as the youngest film director. It doesn’t add anything, in my own opinion.
If not due to certain circumstances, I would have made the film earlier because my journey started a long time ago.
I have five years’ experience in the industry working behind the screen, so, making a film for me has nothing to do with my age, it was just a natural progression.
I don’t think my age has anything to do with my ability or my success.
WM: Considering the fact that it was your first outing as a director, what were some of the challenges you experienced shooting ‘Elevator Baby’?
Ilozobhie: Being a first-time director didn’t really affect me because I spent four years working behind other directors, watching and learning from them. I knew what I needed to do.
When I got to the set of ‘Elevator Baby’, I applied my experience and the knowledge I have acquired to the job I was doing.
WM: What did you find exciting or not about directing ‘Elevator Baby’?
Ilozobhie: I don’t remember it all but I do recall that working with Toyin was exciting.
It was an eye-opening experience as I learnt a lot from her.
One thing I didn’t like was the amount of time we shot the movie for six days.
The set was really hot, it was tense and we were running out of time. I wish we had more time.
WM: Beyond directing and scriptwriting, do you see yourself becoming a producer or actor in the nearest future?
Ilozobhie: I can’t act so becoming one is a no for me.
As for producing, I don’t think so, but I can be an executive producer.
I like being in charge of the creatives.
WM: Did you ever envision that your first movie will win multiple awards?
Ilozobhie: No. I just decided to make a film that made me happy, that people would enjoy watching and that was relatable.
I didn’t really think about what will come after.
The only concern I had was what people would say when they watch it and whether they would like it or not.
Another was, would people see me as a good or bad director?
Those were the thoughts at the back of my mind while making ‘Elevator Baby’.
I wanted to make a movie that I would love and that people would relate to and like.
I believe I should trust myself to make a good film and hope that it grows wings and flies.
In ‘Elevator Baby’, I just wanted to make a good film and everything that happened thereafter just did.
If it had been a terrible film, there would have been no nominations or awards.
We set out to make a good film and we were happy it turned out to be so after all.
WM: What inspired ‘Elevator Baby’?
Ilozobhie: I co-wrote the movie with Yusuf Carew.
Carew wrote the original draft in 2014 and it was called The Elevator.
The script then was 52 pages long. Abigail’s character was only referred to as a pregnant woman and the script had a lot of holes that needed some plug-ins.
I came on board in 2019. I was meant to direct something totally different but my executive producer asked me to have a look at the script Yusuf wrote and I was asked to rewrite in my own way.
I liked the script but I needed to add some fun parts to it and characters such as brother Taju who fixes elevators.
I also needed to add the Secretary and give Abigail a name.
The original script does not have Abigail giving birth in the elevator but at the hospital.
When I took the script, I ensured all those were added.
Cinema is about moments and the scriptwriter would want the audience to feel the moment and that is what makes a film special.
The job of the film maker is to bring those moments to life.
So, I gave the movie the name ‘Elevator Baby’, rewrote it, added the social media angle, and the fact that the pregnant woman was sleeping with her boss’s husband and that was the second pregnancy. I turned it around.
WM: Between directing and scriptwriting, which is dearest to you?
Ilozobhie: I like writing because it does not involve many logistics such as budget, location, and lots of other things.
With writing, I am free to explore. With directing, I have to think about the budget, location, and so on.
However, I enjoy directing because it makes the script become reality.
It becomes whatever I want. So, I like directing more. It’s more fun.
WM: Your latest movie, ‘Day of Destiny’, hits cinemas on January 1, 2021. What are your expectations?
Ilozobhie: The ‘Day of Destiny’ is the first Nigerian time travel movie and it will be an exciting experience for everyone to watch.
It was written and directed by myself and Abosi Ogba.
It was made by young people who understand the gap between the old and young generations.
From my view, it will be the most prominent movie to come out of Nigeria.
WM: Do you expect DOD to generate as many views, awards, and nominations as the ‘Elevator Baby’?
Ilozobhie: They are two different movies with different approaches and I think people will react to them differently.
WM: What advice do you have for those who are planning to make a profession out of film making?
Ilozobhie: Pain is temporary but film is forever.
The journey can be a long and hard one but if you can withstand the pain and persevere through the tough nights, then you will find gold at the end of the rainbow.
In simpler words, keep moving forward.