Jamilu Nafseen is a sought-after young director and screenwriter who is said to be the only Kannywood writer to have contributed to Nollywood film. In this interview with Daily Trust, the director who periodically appears as an actor tells how he got started and what he aims to achieve in the near future.
How did you end up in Kannywood?
The things that caught my attention are many. However, the most important thing is that I think acting is my calling, and I also write scripts. There are indeed many factors that attract people to the film industry, but as far as I’m concerned, I see it as something I grew up with. So I started exploiting it and here I am today. We thank God so far and we are still pushing for more success.
While many young people rush into the industry to start acting right away, you started as a screenwriter, why?
I didn’t choose to become a screenwriter; writing and screenwriting films chose me. Screenwriting chose me because I believe that’s how I was born. I grew up surrounded by writers, and eventually I also became a writer. It is a manifestation of the popular Hausa saying: “Zama da madaukin kanwa” which translates to “you inherit the traits of those with whom you mingle”. I started writing Hausa novels before I started writing movies. So it was divine that I started my time in Kannywood as a screenwriter.
How did you combine screenwriting and directing?
Writing doesn’t stop me from doing other things that don’t involve film production. Writing and directing films often go hand in hand. They are like different sides of a coin. One always complements the other. If you have a good movie, then the writer must have done a good job and the director must have done a good job of making sure they’re directing exactly what the writer wrote. If you are writing, you must have in mind the message you want to convey, as well as the central theme of the script. So it’s the director’s job to make sure the message is clear. Thus, a good writer can be a good director if he decides to be. That’s why I decided to try it, and I can say so far so good.
Between writing and directing, which do you prefer?
I can’t choose one. I like both because I do both with passion and dedication. Writing is part of me as I told you. In fact, writing is my life, it’s become a part of me, and I’m growing in directing, and since I started, I’ve only gotten better. So the energy I put into doing both is kind of the same. I consider them to be closely related. I like both and will continue to push in both aspects.
You are probably the first Kannywood writer to have contributed to Nollywood film so far, how did you do that?
My writing entered Nollywood through my boss, Solomon Emmanuel. And I think I had that opportunity because maybe he saw something different in me. I know that I like to go further in research both in any work that I do and in building my capacities. I think doing research helps a lot in getting these kinds of opportunities.
What is your dream as a screenwriter and director?
I hope to be the best screenwriter in the world in the near future; not Nigeria alone. And in directing, I hope to be like James Cameroon, the director of “Titanic” and “Terminator”; and SS Rajamouli. They are among the best screenwriters who start directing.
Do you see yourself fulfilling in Nollywood?
I have a bigger dream. My hope is to achieve in Hollywood and other global film industries.
They say that screenwriters are the backbone of films, but they are not well known and they are said to be underestimated, how do you see that?
I can’t comment too much on this because the company I started my career with which is Ali Nuhu’s popular “FKD Production” they value writers so much and respect them like they do actors and members of the team. . So I never had that experience and it never happened in our business. It was later that I started hearing all sorts of things like that from my professional colleagues; complaining about some kind of bad treatment they had suffered.
Before anyone thought of doing this to me, I had already become so popular that people recognized my movie scripts even without seeing my name on them.
Also in my case, the underappreciation won’t even happen since my fans know that I’m the one who scripted a movie. This is one of the reasons why I decided to become a director. To script and direct exactly how I want.
Kannywood seems to have serious marketing problems; What went wrong?
The marketing problem is our fault. We in the industry underestimate the industry and its potential; this is probably the reason why we have limited our reflection to the traditional market and the cinema alone. We need to engage in research on how to improve our marketing and shooting strategies so that we can get a lot of money. One thing that a lot of our people don’t understand is that in the movie industry, you’re expected to get rich if you do the right thing; not getting chicken change. So if we can do the right thing, we can get other ways to market our films to get more money.
But the biggest medium today is Netflix, and no Kannywood has made it; therefore, people say it’s the fault of the writers who can’t write to the standard; what can you say about it?
It’s not the writers’ fault. If it’s about writing good movies, like right now, I have stories that can get into Netflix, and they’ll like them. I say if they get these stories, they will be very happy to have them. So it’s the producers’ fault, and to some extent our nonchalant attitude of not trying every possible way and doing our best to reach them and make them understand the market we have here in the North.
You have scripted many successful films; which one is best for you and why?
I love all the movies I’ve scripted, but my favorite would be “Ni da ke mun dace” because it’s the first movie I had the chance to join senior screenwriters to write. It opened my eyes and opened many doors for me, and the message was well received after the film was released.
What about the movies you have live; which one is your best?
I also love all the movies I’ve made, but I most sincerely love “In ba ku ba gida”.
You are currently working on a film, “Babbar tawaga”, tell us about it?
“Babbar tawaga” focuses on how the rich spoil their children by pampering them and how this affects society in general. I scripted the film, and I also appear in certain scenes.
How and when do you think Kannywood can compete on the world stage?
By accepting new changes and working to improve and standardize ourselves all the time. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as local, because cinema is a global phenomenon. If you locate yours, that’s how people will look at you. Any film industry can produce any type of film.
What are your role models?
Among writers, my father remains my idol. As for directing, I think I’ve studied it and I’m still learning by doing research to perfect myself. Except maybe the people we work closely with like Sheikh Isa Alolo and Kenneth Gyan.
A message to your fans?
I would like to say a big thank you to my fans. I hope they will provide the same love and support that I receive from them. They should expect great things from me and I promise never to disappoint them.
By Isiyaku Muhammad & Amratullah Kazir