STAR actor cum film maker, Saidi Balogun, otherwise referred to as James Bond, has denied winning a multi-million naira movie contract from Oyo State Governor, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi. He added that it’s nothing but false.
He said this and much more when ENCOMIUM Weekly visited him in his Ikeja, Lagos office on Thursday, July 9, 2015.
What’s going on now at Saidi Balogun Productions Company?
Something good and fantastic. From my stable I will release a one-cast movie, The Rider, very soon. Before the end of this year or January 2016, people should be expecting four solid films from me. We have done another two-cast movie, Too Good, Too Nice, in English. The Independent Boys is also on the way. Let’s leave it at those three for now.
How would you assess the industry at the moment?
We’re growing, to be honest. I am the president of The Golden Movie Ambassadors of Nigeria (TMAN). We believe in rebuilding and rebranding the industry, and everybody is trying his or her best to make things work according to plans. And we have a new government now, we thank God for that, a government that preaches and believes in change.
But it was reported a couple of days back that TMAN has broken up, what’s your reaction to that?
That’s their issue. But as for us, we’re waxing stronger and stronger and more united. We’re growing with full force. We’re having consulars of embassies coming to talk to us. For instance, in October this year, we’re going to Scotland. We have got a letter from there take part in a film competition. The letter requires all Golden Movie Ambassadors to submit their films. The competition is in categories. If you have a movie, between the ages of 18 and 35, as an actor, sound man or equipment operator, you can participate in the competition. And all our executive members have been invited as well. So, we’re moving. By October, we’re all going to Scotland. We had a meeting with German consular as well, he also embraced us. He said, ‘You guys are good, especially you, Saidi Balogun. You have done You or I with an American speaking Yoruba. I challenge your association, go to Germany and do the same thing.’ You can see we’re moving. ‘You guys are not bloggers who don’t investigate before writing their stories, you are journalists, that’s why you came to ask before putting your pen on paper. That’s the difference between men and boys, I give it to you.’
Just like you and other colleagues of yours have always said, piracy is really killing the industry. But at that, you keep churning out movies. Is there any need for that again since you know you’re not making profit any longer?
Yes, you’re very right but that can’t stop us from producing. We have written to the Bank of Industry and two companies, the Golden Movie Ambassadors want to have a seminar on how to fight piracy. Our own seminar is not the kind where actors just sit down and start talking. Now, we’re inviting a senator on the Senate Committee for Arts and Culture, House of Reps member who is also in charge of Arts and Culture, let’s now sit and rub minds. And we tell them that we want them to pass a bill in that respect within a specified time. Let’s ask them why such a bill has not been passed for the past 16 years. Then the second seminar will centre on how the investors will recoup their money. Apart from the internet, the cable which are doing well we have Djibouti, Siffax, is the consular of that country, they have come to have a meeting with us. We asked them if we could send our films to other countries and if we can, how won’t they be pirated there as well?
So, when we call these people who are in the Committee on Arts and Culture, we will sit together and fine tune everything. We believe in the new government and we know the popular slogan of the government is change and that will take effect in our profession as well. That’s why I am saying these new films I am shooting won’t go the way of the other ones.
How much have you invested so far in the movies?
I have invested a lot, as you also know, I don’t take anything for granted when it comes to shooting my movies. My movies are not the type you can just complete in four or five days or even months. It usually takes a long time because I can’t settle for anything sub-standard. In these three movies I have mentioned, I have invested close to N80m.
How do you source funds for the movies?
Thank God, we have people who are willing to support us because they have seen our handiwork and they appreciated them. They saw the first two-cast movie I shot, Modupe Temi, they saw Eti Keta and You or I. So, they have invested in the new projects. That’s why we’re calling on those at the National Assembly to pass a strong bill on piracy as soon as possible so that we can make our money back and also have some profits at the end of the day. And this money, to me is really big, because if Americans can do a movie for $300 million, if you calculate it very well and convert it to naira, you will realize that billions had already been spent. So, how much have I invested now? After all, we’re calling ourselves giant of Africa.
Do you have access to bank loans also?
The Bank of Industry has done so well. Banks have also done creditably in supporting the projects. Apart from these banks, I am also doing my best to get to some banks, The Golden Movie Ambassadors too are also trying to write some banks. If your proposal is good, it may fly. And if you know people, I mean, those that matter, they may help you. I am using this medium to call on all banks to please help others who have genuine proposals, not only me, Saidi Balogun, so that our industry can move forward.
We learnt you won a contract worth millions of naira from Oyo Governor, Senator Isiaka Ajimobi, to shoot a movie for him. How true is it?
No, I didn’t win any contract from him. What happened was that people around him, including myself just wanted to show Ibadan people what Oyo State as a whole is now through a well packaged movie. Let the whole world see what we’re clamouring about. Just like your outfit, ENCOMIUM Weekly, anything you guys write, people believe so much in it because you always take time in doing your work. So, we want the public to see what Oyo as a whole is now under Ajimobi. We want to prove to the whole world that truly we’re the Pacesetters and we are moving forward.
Are you saying it’s all for free and nothing exchanged hands at all on the project?
No, there is nothing like that. I have said it many times, Ajimobi is a very nice person but he always wants you to do things and let him see the result of your efforts first. He doesn’t believe in let’s give him this, let’s give him that, so that he can do something for us. He always wants to know where you stand first.
– TADE ASIFAT