SULTRY actress Iyabo Ojo is on the move again. She has just finished the shoot of her star-studded multi-million naira flick, Tenbelu. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly at her Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos office, the single mother of two children spoke extensively on the production of the movie, her children, other business interests and more…
How would you rate your career in 2013?
It was beautiful. I know I’m getting there gradually because I’m not yet on top but I have always wanted to do what I’m doing now and I’m doing a good work at it although it entails a lot of money to make it real and classic. So, 2013 was beautiful because I shot a movie, Silence. It is an English movie that has a bit of Yoruba and our culture. When I produced Arinzo, I spent a lot of money and I did not even recoup the money. I was a bit depressed but I did not know I was going to shoot Silence because it is a deep and classic story about the rich. It’s not a story where you talk about the poor and manage locations. Having to shoot a story about the rich you spend more because you have to get a location that suits the story. The year was a success for me because I was able to achieve my dreams.
What were your major challenges last year?
One of the major challenges was getting the right cast for my movie, Silence. I got an unusual cast, someone like Joseph Benjamin, Tina Mba, Biola Williams, Alex Osifo, Fathia Balogun, Bukky Wright, Doris Simeon and the rest of them. Getting them was not easy because most of them have not worked together before and also getting my director, Alex Mouth, who is a very busy person. He works with MNET. I used someone like him because I worked with him once. I discovered that his style of shooting was unique. I love when we introduce new things into the industry because it gives him that fame and glamour that it needs.
How would you count your pains and gains in 2013?
I can’t recount any pain in 2013 but I can recount my gains. Part of my gains is the production of Arinzo, and it won me the Best Actress of the Year at CAMA and I was nominated in so many other awards. Arinzo came out a success and I also shot Silence because I have always wanted to shoot an English movie with a bit of Yoruba.
Can you tell us about your movie, Tenbelu?
That is my first comedy movie. It is an old school comedy movie shot in old school. I’m so proud to be the executive producer of that movie because the story is fantastic, funny from the beginning to the end. It was a bit difficult for me because I’m not a comedy or comic person. So, playing that role was really tasking for me. But my director, Lasun Ray, made it easy and convenient for me. I can’t wait for it to be out because I know people are going to laugh seeing Iyabo Ojo in a different dimension.
I wanted to shoot my own comedy story in a unique way and ancient manner. So, I sat down and started putting things together. I also wanted to promote my students because I am breeding future stars. I wanted to shoot a movie that almost all my students will feature and that was where the inspiration came. Actually, when I’m working on a story, I like producing a movie that has a message for everyone.
What were the challenges during the production of the movie?
The challenge was that I am not from Oshogbo and that was the location. The reason why I picked Oshogbo was that I needed ancient houses because the movie is old school but because I am not an indigene, miscreants came around asking for owo ile (land tax). But along the line, we were able to work out things with the help of the Ray’s family. Their mother is from Oshogbo. She was a strong backbone for me during my stay. Apart from the miscreants, there was no other challenge. We had gone ahead of time to make adequate preparations.
Who were your choice of cast and why?
My major cast was Patrick Ifeanyi, a mixed race. The major reason why I used him was because I wanted something unique. Going back to the days where white men were not popular in the country, when you have one white man, everybody’s attention is on him. So, I needed him to complete my story. I also had the likes of Femi Adebayo because he is a fantastic actor and naturally funny. I felt he just suited the role. Helen Paul was on set because she is a comedienne and suited the role pretty well. The rest of the cast were mostly my students. My young colleague, Fadekemi Momoh was also there.
Who directed the movie and why?
Lasun Ray directed the movie because I have worked with him so many times and I also like his style of directing movies. So, I chose him to direct my movie, Tenbelu.
How much did the movie gulp?
It gulped millions. But I don’t mention figures for security purposes. Having to get old school costumes, payment for location, getting the cast to Oshogbo and the lead cast Patrick Ifeanyi to come from Port Harcourt. I spent a lot of money trying to get costumes and equipment but it was worth it.
Would you be taking the movie to the cinema or on DVD?
We actually want to take it to the cinema but my marketers, Corporate Pictures, wants to release it on DVD. But our fingers are still crossed because if they would delay the release on DVD, we would probably suspend that and take it to the cinema. Although he is still looking for a perfect date.
What were the pain and gain?
Like I said, the pain was securing the location and getting the miscreants to cooperate with us. The gain was that I achieved all I wanted and the message came out right.
Can you tell us about your role in the movie?
I was the prodigal daughter who got carried away. I also played the major role. Actually, we were two who acted the major role because it is a two family story. The other role was played by Kudirat and Gbeminiyi, my students from Future Stars. I wanted to promote them.
Do you think the movie would be widely accepted and why?
With God Almighty, my productions have all been successful up till now and I’m not stagnant. I now write better stories. If Arinzo could make a success, definitely, Tenbelu would make a success as well because I do not produce a movie for the fun of it. I produce movies in order to tell a story and pass across one or two messages. Every story that has a good message must make a success.
How did you come about Fespris?
The name came from my two lovely kids, Festus and Priscilla. So, I made use of the first initials of their names. I have always loved to be a businesswoman ever since my high school days. I once had a salon and boutique at Ilupeju which was Alfespris. The Al means Alice which is my English name. Along the line, I wanted to rebrand myself so I came up with Fespris for the salon and boutique but in a different and classy manner. I discovered massage because I love people looking good and healthy. I felt massage is also a good form of relaxation and it relieves you of any form of depression. Instead of dashing into that line of business, I decided to travel abroad and learn the trade. So, I travelled to the UK where I attended a beauty academy for intensive training on massage. After that, I decided to have everything under one umbrella, so I named it Fespris World. I also manage events, I have my ushers, event management, bridal make-up, bridal beads. I have the spa where you massage, facials, body scrub, waxing, tattoo section and many more. I major in making people look fit and young.
How old is Fespris and how has business been?
Fespris is still very young. We are just five months old and we are fantastic. Last yuletide was a beautiful season for us. We had a lot of customers. We made new customers and our old customers are still very loyal to us. Every month is better and that is a good sign. We pray to keep growing stronger and waxing strong because I pray to have branches all over. So, I have to be hard working, please my customers and give them better services.
How would you count the joys of motherhood?
I love children so much and that was what brought the passion for Pinkies Foundation. I love my children silly. Despite the fact that I love them, I don’t spoil them. I have to be strict so that they know good things don’t come easy and cheap. They are becoming teenagers now and I’m enjoying every bit of them. I have two of my own but I have six kids with me. That is, I have four other children I take care of apart from mine. We also have a foundation. We go to see kids with special needs. Although people call them kids with disabilities, I call them my special friends. We have been able to reach out to over 12 homes and come April, we would be three and we would stage an anniversary party. We would be picking Modupe Cole this year to celebrate with them. My kids are blessed to have me and I am also blessed to have them.
How do you juggle career, family and business?
It is not easy, it depends on your mindset. If you are not lazy and you put beauty aside and use your brain, everything will work well for you. For your business to be successful, you have to think a lot, research and be up and doing. So, I sit down every day and draw out a plan. I know when I need to spend time with the kids, relate well with their principal, find out if they are okay mentally, physically, morally and spiritually. I make sure they have a good relationship with their father. I carry them along in all I do and they understand me perfectly. When I’m not working, I am always in my shop making sure things work smoothly. I go home at night and when I have to go on location, the office and my kids know how to carry on without me.
– DOLAPO AMODENI