Have you been wondering where filmmaker, actress and script writer, Steph Nora-Okereke is? You need not wonder anymore, the actress is back with a bang as she is currently on set working on a couple of new projects. In this chat with Entertainer, the actress opens up on her new look and projects. Excerpts:
What project are you working on currently?
I always tell people that I am a dynamic artiste. I have my finger in many pies in the industry. Professionally, I am filmmaker, actress and scriptwriter. I have various projects I am working on right now. Talking about acting, I am on set doing Family Ties. I am also on set shooting a movie with my friend entitled, Go Getters, and we are still shooting. Talking production, I am working on my first feature film entitled, Robata.
What inspired Robata?
It was the upsurge in female gender abuse. I don’t like to use the word dehumanisation but that is precisely what it is. Most of our girls, driven by the urge and the need to survive and succeed in society have compromised and a lot of prey are waiting out there to pounce on them, because they know the challenges they face so they use them for their own personal ends and abuse them. Too much of that is happening and I don’t want to mention places but when you watch the movie, you will know what I am talking about. Someone once asked me, ‘is it a movie on prostitution?’ And I said ‘no, it is not; my thrust is not prostitution.’ Of course, they call prostitution the oldest profession in the world, so talking about it would be sounding like a broken record stuck in the groove. What I am talking about is the fact that the Nigerian girl child has become a casualty in this modern society of ours, a place where people are jostling for power, wealth and whatever, and the girl child is cut in the middle of it.
This is your first feature film. What are the challenges you have been facing?
Finance is a big challenge but I am believing God that I will scale the hurdle. Presently, I have applied for a loan from Bank of Industry and I am also looking at other areas to source funds for this project. I have been on this project since 2009. I have done a lot of research and now I am ready to shoot but I realise that for me to achieve what I have in mind, I need funding.
A lot of ladies are going into movie production these days, what do you think is responsible for this trend?
I don’t think it is a ladies thing but if it is, good! The truth is that I have been producing since 1999. However, I know that most actresses always dream of making their own films. I have been doing straight to DVD films. I have shot like seven films of my own. But this is my first feature length film.
You have been in Nollywood for 21 years, how has the journey been for you?
I have grown from strength to strength, from trials to tribulations and then to victories. The industry like I told you has metamorphosed into a grown baby and now we are where we are. Back then, we probably were taking a shot in the dark but now we know what we are doing and where we are headed. We have enough technical expertise and whatever. We can achieve anything now. We have the right platform because people are now investing.
21 years after, what is your most challenging experience in Nollywood?
That is transcending from an actress to a producer. It was not easy. I started aspiring to be a producer very early. I had to deny myself a lot of things. My first attempt at shooting a movie was in 1995 and I only came into the industry in 1994. That tells you how long ago I have been working. To shoot a cinema film is a challenge I am facing now because the picture is different and requires more funds.
What has been the secret to your success?
Perseverance, I must confess. I am just one person who has not been lucky. I couldn’t scale the fence or come in through the window. I had to do the do and go through the rudiments. I had to do all the auditions and all the lobbying and had to work without getting paid. As a writer, I have written and written but the challenge I have as a writer which actually is my primary profession was that I was writing closet drama. Getting someone to tell your story the way you have written it was a big issue for me. Once I sold my script and by the time I watched the movie it wasn’t my story. I was so disappointed. Ever since, I have been producing my scripts myself.
You are looking different, what inspired this new look
If you look at me, my fingers are mine, my hair is mine. The only part of me that was artificial was my hair but about two years ago, I just got tired of putting on anything that is not natural. I needed a breath of fresh air. It was like I was wearing a cap permanently, so I took out all the stuff and started wearing my natural hair. I have so many things to do that I can’t be bothered. It was so uncomfortable wearing hair extensions. I have so many things to do than waste time fixing nails and packing artificial hair. I am artificial free
Do you want to grow locks?
No, it is just natural. Also I don’t eat artificial food, I eat only organic food. I eat natural. I don’t do tinned and frozen foods.
Who is the man in your life?
God, what do you mean the man in your life?
I mean your guy
You are young and beautiful, how could you say there is no man in your life?
(Laughter) Don’t you think I am looking this way because there is no man in my life?
But like they say, every woman needs a man
That is what they say, it is not what I know.
Tell me what you know?
Probably, what I know is that every man needs God but this is my private life, let’s talk about something else.