Mike Styles is a renowned US film director, international fashion photographer for magazines and billboards across the country. He has years of experience in branding talent, photography, casting, filming opportunities and guidance. His credits include Spider Man and Transformers. In this interview with TONY OKUYEME, the US thespian, who is set to direct the biopic on Charly Boy, talks about Nollywood, his encounter with racism, the Charly Boy movie and other issues
Tell us about the idea behind this biopic on Charly Boy?
We’re here because we’re going to be filming the new Charly Boy movie. It’s based on his life; the things that he achieved; the things he has done, from American to Nigeria. And I come from America with African background, from being in this country multiple times. And so with all of that you want to create a great story.
We all know Charly Boy who is popularly known also as Area Fada. What is new about him that you want to explore and show to the world?
Why is this movie so important, especially at this time? It is because Charly Boy has already shown his country that he cares; that he’s here for his people. He’s also lived in America, so he has a relationship with that part of it as well. And it’s having him come back for his political background, his views, his mindset, his thinking outside the box that drew my attention. When it was first brought to me, I got excited about it. So it’s something I want to do. And I’m here. This is my motherland. It’s my country. I love this place. So I want to tell the story.
I must commend you for thinking about this great man. Yes, tell us more. What is the concept about?
Okay. Well, he has a relationship that he had with his father. His father’s a wellknown judge, you know, in this whole area. Nigeria has a legacy. Charly Boy got to travel to America, live American life and do the things he wanted, even though his father may have an idea for him to do it the way that he wanted to do it. Charly Boy had his mind set on what he wanted to do, which was okay. That’s what I mentioned, thinking outside the box. But coming back to the reason why I want to come to the Motherland is because I can I bridge two worlds – we have Nollywood and we have American film. And with that, I can, you know, empower people that are natives from this country that are going to be in the film, as well as people that are a part of the American culture that he experienced when he was there for certain scenes, that we’ll discuss based on the script. And so getting Charly Boy’s rest of his story, while we’re here is a very a important piece to add into that. So that’s what I’m looking forward to doing. We’re going to get the rest of the story because there’s a lot of new things that occurred obviously too, that if we put this movie out we want those things to be clear to me as well. So that’s what I’m looking to do when were comign here.
Every filmmaker is attracted to the story first, they want to be a part of the story to tell the story. What makes this story so compelling, and attractive to you you?
I love my African brothers and I love my African systems. Okay. I also love my African culture and I love my American culture. I’m black, you know, so I have certain things that I believe in, and I like his story. The fact that the world needs to get a chance to hear that too, because, when you say Hollywood, they always get this fixating version of what Africa was like, or, and I dealt with that on my way here. So they ask me, so you went to Africa? I’m like, yes. And I’m excited every time you know, and to tell it from this angle, and get it from the real situation, and capture it and tell the story that people know that it is here that needs to be abroad. It needs to happen, that’s why I have to travel so far to just to do that. You know, I travelled into the earth, if is something I really believe in. I’m very big on my beliefs, when I believe in something. That’s why I’ve was asked to talk to Charly Boy, I was excited. His character is amazing. He just filled me with why I’m here.
Given his background as a social activist, fighting for the youth, does this film have any political undertone?
The movie has political implications only because it has political storyline in it. So that is going to be part of it that we have to express because it’s in the story. But anything that is new or anything that needs to be added, we’re going to tell it from a fair perspective. I’ll just be fair with what’s going to be said. The world needs to know because in other countries we go through these things, and sometimes nobody talks to each other. Nobody knows what the other country is going through, or what happened. And sometimes again, it’s not fair because how do you how can you judge something you don’t really know. So you have to be fair by getting the story out the right way.
Will the movie be shot on locations here, in US, or both?
We’re going to cast people from both areas. So they’re going to be casted from America and from from here, because we need the realism and the diversity of the film. Not only does this fit into some of the situations I see from me being here, that I would want to pay attention to is security and spaces, between shots and things like that to make sure that we get what we need. Some of the stuff that’s going to be cool, is when we shoot indoors I’m not really worried about those things because indoors can be controlled. The parts that you can’t control is when you are outside and people excited. ‘Oh my God, look, there’s a film, Charly Boy’s film… That’s where we have the team that’s going to really have to put the work in to make sure that that is covered when we give what we need. And the natives are going be part of it. So they understand that because there are going to be other people that want to be acquired, that might not be actually physically cast. You know, that’s like your extras and then other people who live in the area, because sometimes you can’t stop everybody from wanting to be a part of those things. But yes, there’s going be two sides. I have a few Hollywood people that I think too that can actually be Charly Boy. They better be Charly Boy because I don’t care how big your name is.
We’ve heard at some point, Charly Boy was a victim of racism. Are you also looking into this aspect of the story?
I just told him my story. I have three things in my life that I go by. They are really important. One is trust; the other one is racism; and the other one is things against children. I don’t like those things. I can really I get annoyed. Okay, racism from my experience, I have no tolerance. I’m from America. I’ve been through racism. I’m black. I’ve been pulled over by officers just because of my black skin. And in one particular thing, I was doing film. I went to film in Maryland and Washington DC, which is supposed to be the capital of the United States. I pull up as I was at a red light, and officer he pulls me over. All these cars would know not to hurt any more white folks because I love white people. I love all races but just to say he just asked me: ‘Oh, can you guys see licence registration?’ I said, ‘why me? I didn’t do anything wrong. Why is it that you particularly picked me out of all these cars here? But it’s just me. And he says,’ oh, you know, we’re doing a random.’ So why is it random? Like I don’t understand the randomness behind your question. And he says, ‘What’s your badge number? And that little muscle? What do you do?’ I said, what does that have to do with anything? Like because I talk intelligently, does sound smart? Does that tell there’s a reason why. And he says, No, I’m not gonna let you go.’ You ain’t let me go. I didn’t do anything wrong. They had 10 officers pull me over, 10 police cars. What I decided to do though, I have friends that are in politics, so I made a phone call. So when she called them she said, my friend who’s a very well known person, you guys pulled them over and you treat him, disrespect to them because of his black skin. And I need your officer, the one so and so, I’m gonna talk to the Chief. Chief was calling to apologise, saying, ‘Mr. Michael, I’m very sorry… and so on. But that that’s the only one of my stories.
Yeah, and as a man you know you try to do the right thing. We all because that we all got this colour doesn’t mean we are the same. It doesn’t mean that we’re gonna do the same thing all these other people are doing, but they put us in the same box sometimes. So when I saw that story part in Charly Boys’, I felt like I was there. I was in his shoes. I’m not saying America is built on that, it’s not. But there are some folks out there that have their ways of thinking, they got a thing against race which doesn’t make sense to me. So believe me, in telling that story, I can’t wait to tell that part.
What is your opinion about Nollywood?
I love Nollywood. The actors are good. I liked the work. Not only what we hear, that’s what it’s all about. There’s a lot of greatness and everything so wonderful. We need both Nollywood and Hollywood.