Arts & Entertainments

The entertainment industry seems to have picked up – Akinrowo

Leke Akinrowo is a theatre producer and filmmaker. He is the CEO of Riveting Integrated Entertainment Limited. In this interview with TONY OKUYEME, Akinrowo shares his experience, why he left Chevron to focus on the entertainment sector, his recent film, ‘Tears To Cry’ and other issues

Why did you leave a lucrative job with Chevron just to return to theatre production?

As you know, I studied Dramatic Arts at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and I practiced theatre for a bit before I left the industry to go to Chevron. I was in Chevron for 21 years, between 1995 and 2016. All through the period I was there, I never took my eyes off the entertainment sector. So, after sometime, I decided to come back, then I set up a company called Riveting Integrated Entertainment Limited through which we have produced several stage plays such as ‘The Walking Stick’, written and directed by Felix Okolo and produced by myself; ‘Area Boy’, which is a smaller version of ‘The Walking Stick’, also written and directed by Felix Okolo, which we took to six venues around the six geo-political zones of the country with MTN. It was MTN’s Anti Substance Abuse Project (ASAP) programme of 2019. We also did ‘Kurunmi’ in 2020. Our plan was to take ‘Kurunmi’ to six venues around the South West. We had done the first show in Abeokuta, in February; other venues were supposed to follow in March and April, but the COVID-19 lockdown and several other factors prevented us from doing the shows. But we are hoping that sometime soon we can bring the show back. Also, last year, we did a short film titled ‘Tears To Cry’. It was a commissioned film, which we are yet to release. But we want to see if we can send it to some film festival circuits and see how it performs, and then take it from there.

Looking back, would you say it has been worth the while in terms of financial gain and satisfaction?

You can’t say it is worth the while if what you are looking at is the money. In fact, if what you looking out for is money, you will play safe and not bother to leave. So, the satisfaction I am getting now is not money; the satisfaction I am getting is doing what I love doing and seeing it grow little by little. We are still waiting for our first major breakthrough. But I am happy, the things I have learnt these last few years of practicing. If I was still comfortable in Chevron, earning all the money, I wouldn’t have been able to learn them. You can’t learn them class, you can’t learn them in school. You can only learn them by doing. So, to that extent, I am happy I took the decision I took.

Any regrets?

No regrets whatsoever. It’s a bit tough not being able to afford some of the luxuries you could afford before – change your car every now and then, travel three times a year. You may not be able to do all of those ones now, but basic things such as taking care of your children, your family, and be hopeful; all of those things are still there. So, I have no regrets; I am hopeful.

How did your wife react when you informed her about your plan to leave a lucrative job and fall back into the theatre?

Of course, women are more circumspect than men. My wife would have wanted some things in place before I took such a precipitous. But I couldn’t wait any longer; by the time I took the decision I was ready to go, take the plunge and see where it leads me, which is where we are now. But my wife has been of tremendous support in terms of picking up some of the slack at home, because she still works. She has been picking up some of the slack from time to time when the opportunity arises. If that support from her was not there maybe it would have been tougher to take the kind of decision I took when I took it.

What is ‘Tears To Cry’ about?

It is about a girl who grew up in a home were the parenting was poor. We know all the kind of issues associated with that, particularly for a girl child. All the kind of issues a girl of that circumstance can go through; issues such as sexual harassment, drug abuse and addiction. And in the end, the unsavoury result is that the girl’s life is shattered. When it film was commissioned, it was supposed to highlight three issues – parental failure, drug abuse amongst the youths, and lecture old men who prey on young girls, enticing them with money and all kinds of things like that. I wrote, produced and directed the film. Some of the popular actors in it include Francis Onwuchei, Funsho Adeolu, Tarry West, Muyiwa Oshinaike, and a young actress, Adenike Ayodele, who played the lead female character.

How do you see the entertainment industry in Nigeria today against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 disrupted a lot of things; like I said, it disrupted our show last year. However, I haven’t seen any lasting effect or even medium term effect of COVID on the entertainment industry, from what I have observed. It looks like the practitioners bounced back really well whether you are talking of music or film or live theatre. In fact theatre seems to have bounced back, last year December was full of activities; there were several theatre shows in Lagos, for instance. The same with music, there was no major effect that you one can see. There concerts almost every day throughout that period. And for film, many films were premiered all through last year. Even in 2020, the film that is currently the highest grossing Nigerian film, ‘Omo Ghetto’, was released, I think, on Christmas day in 2020. So, apart from 2020, which was like a bit of setback, the entertainment sector seems to have picked up significantly since the lockdown.

Which of the various genres of music is your favourite?

I don’t I have a favourite; I have several. I enjoy a bit of gospel, particularly older ones, from the 80s…

Such as…

People like Emmy Grant, Ron Kenoly, Jim Reeves, Don Moen, Kirk Franklin. I enjoy their earlier gospel music. The same goes for all the other genres; I prefer older works to contemporary works.

What of highlife music?

I enjoy highlife when I am out, but I hardly would on my own start listening to highlife music.

Why?

It is just not one of my favourites. I enjoy jazz by the older artists; people like Grover Washington, Spyro Gyra, Bob James and others. Also, I enjoy reggae music by people like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, U Roy, Johnny Nash, Jimmy Cliff, Third World, UB40.

How do you unwind?

Basically, I watch movies. But increasingly these days, when I watch movies it is no longer as pleasurable; it is more of work watching a movie than pleasure, because when I am watching I am trying to produce the film, I am trying to cost it, I am trying to assess the actor, the director and the technical input. So, watching a movie is no longer as pleasurable as it used to be. These days I just hang out with friends.

You were one of the producers of the Nollywood action movie project the ‘Caged In The Creeks’. Tell us your experience in ‘Caged In The Creeks’.

Caged In the Creeks was one of the projects responsible for my early retirement from my 8 to 5 job. I wrote it, and was producing it before I had to suspend it for now. The scope was so big that people advised me to find a smaller project to introduce myself to the market first. I therefore decided to try my hands on theatre, which I’ve done for a few years now, I’ve also done a short film, and hopefully I’ll do a first feature film this year along with two of my friends as a joint venture. So, ‘Caged In the Creeks’ has been an eye-opener for me, in that it has made me realise that no matter how lofty your dreams are, you must go the way of nature, that is, start small and grow. It’s a gradual process, no short cuts.

 

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