Sunday, January 23, 2022 11:40 pm
Filmmaker Austin Osarodion Odigie is award winning Benin born filmmaker based in Canada. Known for telling intelligent stories that brings tranquility to all, Odigie is teaming up with some of the leading practitioners in the industry to produce the first ever gory Nigerian horror movie in Toronto Canada. In this interview, Odigie, who recently won many awards at the Toronto international Nollywood Film Festival expressed joy and satisfaction at the quality of works being turned out nowadays by filmmakers of African extract, his new work and inspiration among others.
Congratulations on your recent awards at the Toronto International Film Festival. But did the awards place any burden on you as a filmmaker?
Yes, winning big at the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival comes with bigger expectations. But I’m ready to face the demands. Let me also expressed my joy and satisfaction at the quality of works being churned out by filmmakers of African descent these days.
Tell us how it all began – your background and how you came into the film industry?
I’m the son of Mr and Mrs Williams Odigie Aiyevbomwan and the third of five children. I attended Immaculate Conception College, ICC Benin City. I studied Architecture at Enugu campus of the University of Science and Technology ESUT. I later migrated to the then Algonquin College Canada. I have a certification in Film Production from the Vancouver film School, VFS. I guess I have always loved expressions and interpretation, hence, the reason art is very attractive to me. Although I was in the sciences in my college days, my interest in the film industry started way back as I was a member of the literary, quiz and debating society of ICC Benin City. I started on stage as an actor, I represented my high school in drama before finding my foot at Majesty Productions – there we interpreted literature books on stage for high school students. I later got introduced into movie making which was like a dream come through for me. I wrote and produced my first movie in 2003, but it was released in 2005 by ProlensMovies.
Are you satisfied with the progress you are making as a filmmaker?
Well, I started film production in 2003 and took a big break of over eight years before re-launching in 2018. It’s safe to say, I am a filmmaker, I directed Empathy written by Maissa Houri in 2019. The film was released in 2020. So far so good, I have never nursed the thought of giving up on filmmaking despite the hurdles. At some point, some charlatans and impostors tried to frustrate me out of the industry in Benin City. But the details of that is a story for another day. My father is my leading inspiration and his words of inspiration keep propelling me. He told me to ‘revenge with my success’ and that was one of the best thing my dad gave me and I have applied this to all challenging situations. I am striving to become a master. I am really grateful to those who have given me their wings to fly.
What your advice to upcoming filmmakers?
I will advise myself first – ‘Austin! Keep practicing filmmaking.’ The only way to be a professional filmmaker is to keep making films and that’s what I will tell people looking forward to be professional filmmakers.
In 10 years from now, where do you see yourself as a filmmaker?
I will be a galaxy of stars in 10 years.
We are aware that you are partnering with Filmmaker Douglas Enogieru on a new project. What is the project about?
Yes! I am excited about it. It is a very beautiful story written by Benjamin Bitrus Gbemanayi. When Douglas sent me the script, I was amazed at the message in the script, the style of plot, dialect and the use of language. All these spike my interest. We have been planning for the film a little over eight months now and we can’t wait to start filming. This is just one of such collaborations we are working on. “The Wiccan Girl” is something to watch out for. It’s a gory horror film. We are looking at filming in the Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario Canada. It’s written by James Woodland of the Canadian Writers Guild. This story takes us back to childhood days in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria – some of the tales and stories that brought day time horror to us as kids. This story has been carefully reviewed and the script is on its final stage and we very excited to partner with some prolific filmmakers on the project. I am giving this project my all, you know why? People ask me ‘are you considering the Nigerian market for The Wiccan Girl?’ I said of course, I make film for the global market and Nigeria is in the global space. They said this kind of horrors won’t sell in Nigeria because Nigerians face horrors in real life every day. I told them ‘fingers crossed.’ When I am done, Nigerian filmmakers will queue up making this genre of film. I am already working with some Nigerian filmmakers on this project; the producer of Omogheto The Saga- Wendy Imasuen is on board, we are looking at actors in no particular order, but at least one or two from these names – Nancy Isime, Linda Osifo, Idia Aisen, Iyabo Ojo, Sola Sobowale, Nosa Obaseki and Kanayo O Kanayo.(I like the way he is re- launching himself into the new Nollywood space). The draft of the script is presently being read by Shaun Piccinino – a film director in LA, you should see his film, American Fighter released by Lions Gate. Because of the nature and style of the film, we are in talks with several distribution companies as we would like a global release once the film is made.