Everyone Must Follow His/Her Passion – Gloria Okekearu
Speaking with Gloria Okekearu is an eye opener, she is an embodiment of talent and great ideas, and she is a graduate of Mass Communications with specialties in Public Relations and Advertising from the Lagos State University (LASU).
Okekearu hails from Abia State and she has added values to the film industry through her publishing talent.
She is a lady with great talents that impact the youth through her story telling.
The woman bore her mind on some of the challenges facing authors and the poor reading culture in the country and the use of electronic media to pass the message across to the future leaders of our great nation in this interview with Wale Adegbuyi.
She speaks on the ills and other challenges associated with the use of broadcasting technology, which she said is uncensored.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Gloria Okekearu, I got my BSC in Mass Communication, particularly Public Relations and Advertising from the Lagos State University.
Before then, I was at the University of Ibadan studying Communication and Language Arts, but I later relocated to Lagos. I am the last of 11 children of my late parents; Mr. and Mrs. Kalu Ogbonnaya from Bende Local Government Area in Abia State. I am married and blessed with a wonderful son.
What motivated you into filmmaking and which year were you inducted?
Film making came as a result of my first novel, which a popular celebrity bought for a movie.
Prior to that time, when I was writing the novel, I frequently saw my story been acted in a dream. I didn’t understand this until the person that read my novel called me and said, and I quote her “Gloria, this is a lovely story and I would want to make a movie out of it. I hope you don’t mind” those words brought reality to my dream and I also remembered her saying “maybe someday, you will make yours.”
I grabbed those words of encouragement from her and that was the beginning of the passion to turn my stories into movie. I am yet to be inducted but I am hoping to do that soon
How many of your stories have been adapted to movie so far?
Two, another one is about entering into the movie industry, let’s just say I am a movie producer to watch out for. The first one was, “Better than the Beginning, the second one was “Emotional Error.” The third one is coming and it is titled; “Agony.”
Can you tell us what your experience in the industry is like?
The movie industry is really competitive, but with a good storyline and good scripting, you are sure of making a head way. I have seen people that spent a lot of money making movies and they couldn’t sell. Also the fact that most movie marketers are into movie production is a factor.
“My first movie was an eye opener to so many things in the industry and one has to be careful with the kind of director you employ for your film”
So for you to sell your story, the story must be very tight. I was really favoured to have sold my first and second stories and they were inspirations from God. In all, my stories are sourced from a raw talent and that has lowered piracy because there are lots of online marketers who buy your films and sell online and most producers now prefer to make movies and sell online right away, which I have also embraced.
Now as a writer, how many books do you have to your credit?
I have written two novels. The first one “Better than the Beginning” and the second one, “Ogechi.” They are all inspirational books. “Ogechi” would be launched soon and I have already scripted it for an epic movie.
As a writer, can you lead us into your experience and the challenges you encountered in the course of marketing your books before adaptation them into movie?
The reading culture of our youths is really poor. After the launching of my first book, marketing it was not easy mostly because I am greenhorn then. But for those who were present at the launching coupled with my Chief Launcher, who read the manuscript before the event. I was able to give a detailed content of the book to the guests that were there. So that helped to sell the book at the launching venue. Pastors bought for church youth, for ministers etc. But after the launching, I personally took the book to bookshops that reviewed the book and later sent me a letter to bring copies to them, which I did.
But frequent visit to bookshops as a follow up on the sales performance of the book wasn’t impressive.
That tells us about the lack of interest of reading. I am still trying to explore other ways and I did that by visiting schools. Some copies were sold through the schools librarians, but it was still not encouraging. The book is good for the youths, and most of them wanted it, but they complained that they had no money to buy it.
I went to a particular school and I had to give out copies for the libraries. At least, let the students read it. For now, I still have copies in bookshops in Lagos and more copies are still left unsold. It is a pathetic thing that the youths are more inclined to the television than books. I felt it is useful for youths and even adults, therefore, I decided to reach a wider audience through adaptation of the stories into movie.
“Frequent visit to bookshops as a follow up on the sales performance of the book wasn’t impressive”
Don’t you think the fall out of our society must have led to this, the economy is not favourable to the educated people, the young ones no longer have mentors?
Partly yes. Everyone wants an easy way out of the economic situation, there is quick money syndrome in the country. The youths are no more patient, even the ones in schools are involved in one business or the other.
The novel “Better than the Beginning” is a story of a young graduate, who paid the price of studying hard. He was patient and he had trust in God and at the end he got the reward. But can we find many of such youths today?
As a writer, have you thought of animation for your story? If yes! What steps are you taken? And if no! Can you think about it?
Hmmm! This is a new idea and I wish to explore that. Pictures are attractive avenue of sending messages across to the youth. I think I will think in that line too.
I did a picture story for a young boy, who wrote a little storyline and showed it to his father that he wanted it published. The father called me and showed me the ten lines of sentences his son wrote and he wanted me to develop it. I did that by employing an artist, who drew the pictures like cartoons and the book is selling.
Well! There are categories of books that should be animated, but certainly not adult novels.
What is your advice to the younger generation?
My advice to the younger generation is that they should not give up on their passion. I started writing for my school’s magazine in my secondary school days, but I never knew it was a talent. I discovered the talent after my university days and since then, the passion keeps burning. It may be difficult at the beginning to gain ground as a young writer, but one day, you will break even. Encourage yourself in what you love doing when no one is encouraging you, study hard and read books of great men and women.
I have started and I won’t give up because we are told not to despise the time of little beginning.
“The movie industry is really competitive, but with a good storyline and good scripting, you are sure of making a head way”
Where do you see book writing in the next decade?
If people of like minds continue writing, and the youths are getting more exposed to reading through symposium and workshop, the next decade will be great. By then, authors’ intellectual works will be appreciated, and this will encourage other authors to write more books.
Where do you see filmmaking in the next decade?
There would be more filmmaking because a lot of people are coming into the industry, lots of events are becoming daily news and they are good for films. So, I see more talented producers and directors coming up. Also, let’s not forget that some good institutions are training younger ones on film making. So, I wouldn’t be surprised when film making becomes a veritable means of livelihood in the next decade.
What would you want to be remembered for?
A successful film producer and novelist.
With the prevailing circumstances in the country, as a writer and actor, how do you think arts can effect a positive change on the citizens?
Arts can effect positive change on the citizens if our films and stories are presented in a way to address social ills in a positive manner and we should strictly outline the negative implications of doing otherwise to the citizens.
Art plays a major role in nation building and artists must be careful in passing out messages through the media so as to impact positive change on the audience.
Therefore, our stories, either movies or novels, must be captivating to the younger generation to make them choose better paths in life.
But looking deeper, our movies these days, are totally derailing and most parents prevent their children from watching our films. What future do you think this holds for the industry and do you think artistes are also modest in their approach to life?
I personally have watched movies that I felt uncomfortable to watch to the end. Most of our local movies have taken foreign pattern, which is detrimental to our culture and has nothing to offer our youths. You will find out that these movies are not even registered under the film censorship board. People just produce and upload on youtube and other online facilities, which is impacting negatively on the society, most especially the youths.
How do you think we can remedy the situation?
It won’t lead to a positive change in the future unless we go back to the basis as well as tell and make stories that will portray our culture and correct the intervention of foreign influence through our beliefs in every movie we do. Going back to the basis is the answer.
The film censorship board must be on ground to scrutinize every film produced before it is released. They should monitor online viewers’ outlets and ban unregistered movies that have no positive impact on the audience. The artistes are not really modest in their approach because most movies feature ladies in sexually appealing dresses, cars, houses etc.
I remember, when I was shooting my movie, the costumier brought one mini dress gown for my lead actress and I had to correct her because the lead actress is from a poor background, saying’ why dress her to look sophisticated. She replied that the audience want to see beautiful looking girls and that’s what the online buyers are looking out for before they buy. I told her No and asked the lady to go and change to a low class outfit. So, you can imagine that mindset, your film would not sell if you don’t wear clothes that would expose your body.
But will you agree with me that most directors are not properly trained for the job they are doing?
Yea! Some of them learn from friends and began working on their own. Some cannot interpret the story very well. I was on location throughout the period of shooting because I had to be correcting one thing or the other. They just want their money, whether the film sells or not is not their business.
My first movie was an eye opener to so many things in the industry and one has to be careful with the kind of director you employ for your film. They don’t want to go and acquire more knowledge, those that did are good directors today, but they are very expensive to hire
You will agree with me that we need more training to get the industry equipped for the future. How do you think we can achieve this with the prevailing economic circumstances such that people are just after food and survival?
I know some institutions like the one owned by Wale Adenuga that are into training, and I know some youths that are attending such schools. But there is no director that will bring out money that he wants to go for more training, when he is looking for money to pay children school fees, and put food on the table. I know the coming generation in the field will have a lot to offer.
Then where is the future of the industry?
So we really have to encourage our youth, those who are in the field of art should go for training and this should start from the universities, they need more practical than theory.
The industry would not die. Many movies keep springing up every now and then. Many online organizations are now going into movie production, which is helping to bring in competition in the field. So that will make the untrained ones to go and acquire the basic skills or else they would become jobless.
We are hoping for the best in the future of the industry, more producers are coming in and lots of stories come up every day. The industry has moved on.
What is your advice to our leaders of this country on the film industry?
I really don’t know the impact of the leaders in the film industry. There is no leader that I can easily go and present my proposal to. Where there are no government sponsorship to a movie that can benefit the citizens, it is very sad. The leadership should create an avenue for people with good intriguing story that will benefit the masses to come with such and help to produce for nation building.
But such does not exist or rather I don’t know of any. For example, I have many stories on ground, but I need sponsors.
What do you have to say about www.movietainmentmagazine.com?
It is a magazine that brings to the limelight great men and women in the movie entertainment industry, when you talk of their achievements and perseverance in the industry. It is really worth a while reading about them. It is nice speaking with you sir, I really appreciate this, it will help one to be more encouraged in the industry.