BY CHIDI CHIMA MAY 26, 2018
Ramsey Nouah has been around the block of Nollywood, and while at it, he’s won some accolades, attained fame and made some money.
Nouah, who has been in the business for over 25 years, has swum around the pool of acting roles a few times and back, and perhaps as such, he’s now expanding his scope in the fickle world of make-believe.
He is now embracing the challenges of directing and producing.
The psychological comic thriller about an impostor and a movie star sees Nouah take on two roles; lead actor and co-producer.
In this interview, Nouah speaks to TheCable Lifestyle about Crazy People, old flicks such as ’76 and Body Language, as well as harping on the shortcomings and advancement of Nollywood.
Why did you choose to star in and co-produce ‘Crazy People’?
Moses [Inwang] gave birth to the story some years back and he told me about it. And I was like wow ‘let’s do it together’. But then at the time, we were thinking about the market demographic. Like what would be the sales. Because it’s more advanced like you can’t relate to it. But as time went by, we started to understand the market and realised that no matter the content we’re trying to make out there has to fit into the market demographic. What they will like and appreciate. So we added a bit of everything so that it can be relatable and enjoyable.
Because the storytelling, to some of us, filmmakers, comes from different perspective. Even artists, the people that paint, they each have their strengths of styles of painting. Some are very good with nature, some are good with landscape, some are good with portraits. Everyone has their strength. In filmmaking and producing, as a director, Inwang’s strength is thriller. He doesn’t like to spoonfeed you. He likes a situation where your brain goes to everything around you. Some directors are just good with comedy, and some are fantastic with drama. So everyone has their strength. So he needed to put his strength to proper use by making sure he added a bit of every other genre to this story. That’s why you see there’s comedy here, you see there’s suspense, thriller, twists and turns.
Aren’t you worried that the movie might not live up to the hype?
Not at all. Because it’s Ramsey Nouah. Basically, I don’t put my hands in stuff that don’t work. If you notice, all my movies are success-related. And that’s because I go in as deep as I can into the production. Not just being an actor. But getting the right thing that will sell. That the movie will not have a good value of money’s worth, wrong. It’s whether the people will appreciate it and go watch it. That’s the key factor.
Have you seen the movie ’76? But it wasn’t such a good commercial success but everybody could testify that it was a good movie. So the market demographic is what we are thinking about. What do the people really want? What can we give them that they like? Hence, the trend of comedy. When comedy comes everybody goes and watches. Because everyone just wants to get out of their extra work, being laid down by all the economic pressure and workload. So they just want something to unwind. Hence, comedy sells a whole lot. So we now, the filmmakers who want you to use your head to understand the film, we can’t make good headway with that in our market, unfortunately.
So a few of you actually appreciate intellectual kind of movies. But unfortunately, people like you are the ones in the arms of places who can do write-ups and say things that pass information strongly. So that makes us seem as if we don’t know how to do our job. Whereas it’s not our fault, it’s the market.
And you can’t really change the orientation overnight
Well, that’s why we are saying we’re trying to infuse all the genres in the movie and let’s see. So it’s not a total loss. We’re not going to go out and do a slapstick film. We still appreciate good works of art. And we went to see if we can’t inculcate all of that genre into one film and let’s try the market and see if it will appreciate it or not.
How long did it take to shoot the whole thing?
Over two weeks.
How long has it been in the pipeline?
Moses gave birth to this story in, I think, 2013. And then we went on about the story. We kept talking to see how we can do it. So I was of the very strong impression that I’m not going to short circuit myself on it. Meaning that if we have to do it, we have to do it very well. Meaning that production quality has to be very standard. Then we got funding from BOI because BOI was the one that put it together and made it work so we were able to get it right and get it done properly.
Some filmmakers say they don’t get funding when they apply to Bank of Industry. What are the criteria?
There are so many criteria that actually allow you to get a film. Of course, it’s still profit oriented. So it’s not as if the government does not put intervention money into an industry without making good returns, without money circulating. They want money to circulate. However, there have to be factors. Either your story is good, or you have a good track record that you are a great filmmaker. All of those things are very important to them so that they do not throw their money away because in the end that’s what it’s going to mean. And BOI unfortunately has been burnt by some producers they’ve given money so we don’t even know that they’re going to continue.
Your last movie, ‘Body Language’, about a serial killer was difficult to relate to. The acting was great, it was intense, but It was hard to relate to the plot.
I can relate with what you’re saying, and I understand it from that perspective. It’s a learning curve for all of us as we grow, as we move on. We have movies like that. It’s the way it’s told or the way the writer wants it told. Sometimes we don’t understand. For instance, you can have something there’s no serial killing in that one.
Have you seen the movie, Gbomo Gbomo Express? With that film, it was still like intellectual gameplay but then we brought it down and made it as local as possible. So we had this guy who masterminded something like a kidnap. Got himself involved in the kidnap so they kidnapped him too. We kidnap, we have our style. They kidnap, they have their style also. So how do we now make our local and bring it down so that it’s relatable. And that’s what Gbomo Gbomo express did.
Of late, Nollywood has been criticised for replicating Hollywood stories at the expense of ours. Is that a fair criticism?
Clearly, there’s been a market for Nollywood, everybody knows that. Which we call the Idumota, the Asaba market. In Hollywood, they have B movie makers and A movie makers. So you have crappy movie makers and whether you like it or not you’re going to have them in the industry.
That has been the trend for us until we started the cinema. Now the cinema brought out most of the dynamic filmmakers who can actually make good movies with good stories. To be honest, most of the films that have gone to the cinema from our Nollywood producers are pretty good. Better than most of what you have on DVDs and at Asaba.
It’s not rocket science to know how to do films that will go into the cinema. If people are condemning those ones that they are picking plots from foreign movies, but then we have a track record of doing that in our old movies. But what about today and now and tomorrow.