PASCAL AMANFO is an award-winning writer, actor and director
He hardly grants interviews, and when he does, it’s definitely for a just cause. From an ordinary guy with dreams of becoming a star actor, to an award winning director whose name comes up anytime top thespians are mentioned in the movie industry both in Ghana and in Nigeria, Pascal Amanfo, cleared the air on his lineage, three things his fans don’t know about him and reasons why he and his wife were separated for eight months and how they were able to work things out to live together happily again.
Tell us about your childhood and family background because you are mostly referred to as Nigerian Ghanaian descent.
I’m not of Ghanaian root. I am 100 percent Nigerian. My dad is from Imo state, 30 minutes drive from Owerri, Awomanma, and mom is Edo, Esan. So that means I’m a full blooded Nigerian. I’m from a family of five, my dad has five but I am the only child of my mom and I’m the first in the family and I have other siblings who are all over the world; Uche, Linda, Oyekachi and Chijioke. We are Igbos from a royal Amanfo family, so I’m a full blooded Nigerian. I grew up in Port Harcourt, then we moved to Aba. My father used to work in a hospital and in-between that I went to a catholic school in Edo state. Then I also moved to Maris Okigwie. I moved around a lot because my parents were separated, so I ended up in Benin and Lagos and all of that. It was fun growing up, but predominantly I spent eight years with my mom in Port Harcourt as an only child. So, that was growing up for me.
It was around 1999 or there about. There was an actor, who lived around my area, and I was in drama team in my school. I was interested in drama, so I told him I have interest in acting. He told me to go to Surulere that there is a particular hotel and all that. I eventually dabbled into acting, I was on the same set with Paul Nwadike, Sly Alexandra, these are old Nollywood acts, Ifeanyi Odukwe and all. So around 2000, it should be early or thereabout, from ECOWAS to Winnis Hotel in Surulere, went through nine years of early rudiment of acting and I spent my professional training and with Nollywood experienced writer, for five years from Emeka Rollars to Charles Inojie, Ikechukwu Emeka, Lancelot Imaseun, Paul Obazele, can’t forget to mention his name. These were people who impacted me one way or the other, working with them and majoring in writing, so I developed the art of writing before I tried directing.
But why did you decide to pitch your tent in Ghana and not Nigeria?
I shuttle between Ghana and Nigeria. But I think at some point in Nollywood, I found it easier to control my content here in Ghana. Nigeria is a massive industry, massive is under emphasized, But it is smaller here, there is less pressure.
I find it better working and I’m able to control my production. It’s almost like a rush in Nigeria, you have to get it done like in a second and I basically couldn’t cope with that. But I think it was the ability for me to just build myself here in Ghana, because I was also learning when I was starting out and I had the time and the patience to build myself up and get to this stage. But I also shoot in Nigeria, but I’ve been going back and forth between the two countries. Now Nollywood, for lack of better words, is redefined. They are now on DVD. Emem Isong, kudos to her, she has done well with Royal Hearts, Desmond Elliot, Uche Jumbo have built their own thing. It’s no longer the core Enugu and Asaba shoot, so the practice is a bit better now. Not to take anything away from those who started it, the likes of Ikechuwku Emeka, Lancelot Imaseun, Andy Amanechi, these are fore fathers who you know. Charles Novia. But I think it got to a point that it was over populated. I have no issues with it being over populated, I just think that it was matter of quantity and not quality. But I think right now with the advent of cinemas, it’s getting better. So I shoot in Nigeria.
It’s hard to tell. When I started out most of the movies were not making it to the cinemas, so I did Bed Of Roses in Nigeria, it was good. Naked Faces, called Open Scandals in Nigeria was also good. Open Scandal was really good for primary VCD market and it gave me good followership. And again, House of Gold called Family Runs, people really liked that. And then single and married too also did well. I don’t think there is anybody who remains a permanent champ in this business. You could have a season where it’s all you and you could have another season were. So it’s a couple of good shoots here and there.
Which of the actors are your favorites that you like to work with?
Ghana or Nigeria?
Ghana here, I’ve always said that Adjetey Annan is the most complete actor for me in Ghana. I use the word most complete because he might not be the best but his act, his personality and all he brings to it are commendable. I also love Majid, his intensity. Prince David Osei, Rocelyn, Yvonne Nelson. Of course, Jackie. Nana Ama also for me is the most complete female actor in Ghana. In Nigeria, I’m a fan of Etim, an amazing fan of Etim Nse, and then lately, Deyemi Okanlawon is amazing, very deep actors. Funny enough, this one is behind the camera. There is no best; there is no favourite out of them. I think each of them for whatever reason at a time they always pull it off. Like if Tomorrow Never Comes, Yvonne was like close to Oscar winning act. So from time to time, they always churn out some amazing acts.
What are the three things your fans don’t know about you?
Three things they don’t know about Pascal, you could walk pass me on the street and not know it’s me. I guess TV just helps me a bit, I’m like the guy next door. Life is that simple for me. I am very ordinary in terms of way of life.
You seem to have tattoos on your arm.
Yes, the names of my kids. And what else don’t they know about me. I’m very spiritual, almost like…it’s not phase or ideology, it’s like a way of life and I am extremely born again, again and again. Extremely, rigidly, almost Deeper Life.
But that’s why I’m spiritual. Who breaks up for almost a year and comes back as the same person again. I mean, in this industry or business, sometimes for eight months I’m on set…
Were you guys separated because of work or you had issues?
No, I had issues in my marriage. And then I thought about it, I had options with due respect to her, and I’m sure she also had options too. But I weighed so many factors and I realized it’s easy to blame the other party when things go wrong. I had to look at myself and say, hey, what am I not getting right and I went back to the bases. Naturally I had to reach out to her and say; hey we can make this work, we can go pass this. It happened to Benny Hinn. He broke up with his wife and they are back together again. Every marriage differs. Marriage is a very practical institution; it has nothing to do with how much you pray. You have to be very practical about it. And sometimes we tend to miss it, I was getting distant; I was travelling back and forth. I was always on the move. I think it happened when I was in France with Frank Raja and I think at a point I was moving forward in my career, and she felt caged, nursing one kid after the other, two kids. She felt very distant, very withdrawn, very separated and her connection was lost. Guess women are very emotional and all that, so it messed up her mind a bit, so I also had to learn that you have to pull them along and be patient. So all other factors came into play and here we are.
What is your greatest achievement in the movie industry?
My greatest achievement will be in life. Yes, it will be settling down as early as I did. My son is eight, going on nine. That’s the biggest thing, that I got married in 2008 December 12, so I’m seven going to eight years.
Have you ever had any bad press so far in your career?
One of the reasons why I don’t do interviews, one of the reasons I mind my business. My business is my business, if I mess up, I will settle my case with God in my bedroom. I don’t need to come outside and make a show of it. I’m a typical showbiz person, I don’t look for scandals, I don’t want it; don’t say Pascal said or Pascal did…I don’t want to hear it. So, I try and keep my stuff together, low profile. People talk and you can’t avoid that. Once you are in public, you are in public. No jaw-dropping moments for me so far, and none is going to happen.
What are the challenges you come across in the line of your job?
Beyond the challenges of the job, it is coping with female advances, and exhibiting self control and coping with producer demands and of course, film practice in Africa is just so challenging. I mean how to get that script to screen with all those challenges, power, inadequate location, inadequate funding, inadequate equipment, it’s a big challenge. I always say that; a bad film took a lot of energy to make because, they went on set, they had problems, a lot of issues. So, the challenges of running a business like this in this part of the world are tasking, how much more a creative one at that.
My last job was Candle In The Wind, it’s for Venus Film, and it’s out. It premiered in February. We are also having entries for the NBCA awards for a film produced by Yvonne Nelson and Any Other Monday by ABC produced by Kafui Dei, Cartel, The Genesis. Yes, sending all that out for awards.
Who are your role models?
My fathers, Lancelot Imaseun, Ikechukwu Onyeka. They are great veterans. The younger ones, John Njamah is amazing, he is not an everyday on set person, but he is amazing, I love his works and yes in life generally I do a lot of T.D Jakes for personal character and development of the mind.
How do you unwind?
Time management is my problem. I don’t know how to manage my time. In between ministry and work is difficult. if I have to shoot, if I have to go back to counsel people; I have to find time for prayers. I have a programme coming up in November 26, I have to fast and pray and get ready for that. All of that, it’s tedious, it’s hard, but I guess, I just have to find a way round it.
Advice for those aspiring to be a successful director like you?
I will say be patient. It takes a process. Nothing comes easy. It took me 15 years to get here not yesterday, so I don’t know how else to do it beside waiting for your time. Be patient, commit to God and keep doing what you are doing. Go through the lows and highs, pick yourself up, get up, make a bad film get critiqued; let people say; oh my God, how could you do this? The next day make a nice film and let them also praise. So believe in yourself, keep developing yourself. Watch good movies to sharpen yourself, read books and do on-line courses. Whatever you need to do to get you up there, do it.