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My passion for African movies –Isabella Akinseye, TV host

‘Why I’m doing The Movie Buff Show’

Isabella Akinseye’s work encompasses radio, television and film. She is the host of the new television quiz programme, The Movie Buff Show, currently running on Africa Magic Showcase (DStv channel 151). She also hosts Africana Literati on Africa Magic Family and Africa Magic World.

Aside hosting TV shows, the University of Cambridge graduate of Education with English and Drama is also the publisher/editor of Nolly Silver Screen, an online publication focused on Nigeria’s film and television industry.

In 2015, Akinseye was selected for the prestigious Durban International Film Festival Talent Press and also the Berlinale Talent Press in 2016. In this interview, the founder and Managing Director of Yellow Tamarind Productions opens up on sundry issues bothering on film, television and literature.

Why are you passionate about movies, most especially, African cinema?

I grew up on a mix – Nigerian and foreign content. I remember watching Yoruba TV series such as Agbara Nla and English soaps like Checkmate and Super Story. At the same time, we had all these Mexican and Portuguese series that were quite addictive. We did not have cinemas in Nigeria when I was growing up, so we had to rely on home videos and cable television. When the cinemas opened, it became a social thing to go to the movies and I never turned back. Even as a student at University of Cambridge, I went to the cinemas often and I took a course in film studies as part of my degree. However, I noticed a gap. We (Nigerians and Africans) were not fully and properly represented. I knew that if things were going to change, it would have to be intentional and we would have to do it by ourselves. No, the West is not going to come down and help us promote our stories. That is our responsibility. So, I made a conscious decision to contribute my own quota. It started off with writing reviews of African films, which grew to become Nolly Silver Screen, an online magazine focused on Nigeria’s film and television industry. In 2016, I hosted The Clapperboard Show where I interviewed people in the industry and reviewed movies on television. My new programme, The Movie Buff Show, builds upon this.

Tell us about The Movie Buff Show

The Movie Buff Show is a TV quiz programme that gives fans a chance to wine and dine with their favourite African cinema crush. I am the host and writer and GCue directed it. It is collaboration between my company, Yellow Tamarind Productions and his, GCue Studios. Every week, I test a movie buff on how well they know their African cinema crushes. It premiered on February 11, 2017 on Africa Magic Showcase (DStv channel 151) and the first season will run for 13 weeks. After 12 episodes, the contestant with the highest score will wine and dine with their crush. The 13th episode is where we make that promise come true. People can be a part of the experience by engaging with us online through our social media platforms and using #TMBS.

Do partnerships work in Nigeria?

I believe they do when things are spelled out properly from the beginning. It is vital that things are recorded on paper, and don’t be a miser, get a lawyer. So, if you decide you are done, the other person is protected and vice versa. I think partnerships are the way forward; like a broom, we can achieve more when we unite. A clear example of a partnership that worked is The Wedding Party, which was produced by four different companies. Collaborating with GCue Studios on The Movie Buff Show allowed each of us to excel in our areas of strength. Plus, the combined experiences of both companies were an added bonus.

Share with us your memorable experience from the set of The Movie Buff Show.

The whole experience was very interesting so picking one is quite hard. I would say the most memorable part was sitting in the quiz mistress seat and having the answers with me. I have never hosted this kind of show and even though our prizes were not millions of Naira, the contestants played like it was for a billion bucks. It was such a humbling, but at the same time, rewarding feeling. Even though, we sat at opposite sides, we were united by our love for African cinema and the stars that make the magic happen.

What is your view on African content?

I love the fact that people now appreciate our own content. The guys in music are a testament to this fact. You hear Nigerian music everywhere. I want the same thing for our television, radio and online content. I want more Africans to support local content first by watching it and then promoting it. We have the numbers and it all boils down to that at the end of the day. An investor wants to know that if they put their money in producing and promoting local content, they will make a profit. We are already creative, now it is time for the numbers to stack up. I think the government can do more to ensure that local independent producers are given a fair chance to compete. There is a market for local content and it is very big.

What can be done to get people more interested in our movies, TV, radio and online shows?

We need to produce quality content that can stand the test of time. I don’t mean copying and pasting everything we see the West doing. Originality is key. The West can’t tell our stories from our perspectives and it’s not theirs to tell. So, let us start by fixing quality issues. Capital investments need to be made so we can manage the production process from beginning to end. It is sad when I watch our films only to see that most of the post-production was done outside the country. That is forex leaving. Those are jobs going. Once we can fix the issue of quality, like the way the musicians have, the distributors will be forced to sit up because they know that money will be made. We also need to do far more when it comes to promoting the content. Abroad, they don’t joke with their marketing spend. No matter how good

a content is, if nobody knows about it, you’re in soup.

Away from the business side of things, how are you enjoying the fame of being a celebrity? 

I am not a celebrity o. I remember when I used to present Bookaholic with Bella on Silverbird television in 2009 and people recognised me in the bank and the bus. It was great knowing that people were watching me on television but it did not change me as a person. I still went about my routine. I was still riding okada and I did not care. So, now that I am on TV again, I am still myself. When people recognise me and tell me what they enjoy about the show, I am very grateful. When they send messages on social media, I am very courteous. I don’t take it for granted because they could have chosen to watch something else or not bothered to even say anything after watching. Even if I become world famous tomorrow, I will still remain humble, because without God and your fans, you are just deceiving yourself.  Being on television is like any other job except that yours is public.

Any plans to go into acting?

Yes. In the past, I acted in a TV series and a movie. I studied drama as part of my degree and I would love to explore that in 2017. I have attended some auditions. I am hoping to get a callback soon. I am open to English and Yoruba films or series. There are a number of characters that I would love to play.

What do you do in your spare time? How do you relax?

I love to hang out with family and friends. Sometimes, I might host friends at home; cook a nice meal and gist over an interesting TV show, film or music in the background. I also love to turn it up. So, if there is a party or wedding, you won’t beg me to get up and dance. I equally like trying out new places. I am something of an Ajala (traveller) and if you leave me with enough cash, I would be globetrotting, meeting new people and tasting different cuisines. I also love a good book although, I find myself reading more magazines these days. And the beach, I love swimming.

What drives you? What wakes you up in the morning and keeps you awake at night? 

My God given dreams! My purpose on earth is to add value, to make the world a better place in my own little or big way. I am happy that I can do that, doing what I love.

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