Hilda Dokubo is a renowned Nollywood actress, producer, youth advocate, model and television personality. She was born and grew up in Buguma, a community in Asari-Toru in Rivers State, South-South Nigeria. The first child among six children, Hilda had her education at Government Girls Secondary School, Port Harcourt. She had her B.A and M.A in Theatre Arts from the University of Port Harcourt.
Since her foray into Nigeria’s big screen in 1992, the A-list actress has never looked back. In fact, she is one of the few passionate theatre practitioners who have invested time, energy and money in the value chain of the movie industry. Hilda Dokubo had an extensive discussion with Oludare Sorunke, Executive Editor, BLACKWASH.
Good afternoon. It’s really a pleasure meeting with a high calibre Nollywood actress like you. Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Hilda Dokubo. I’m an actor, acting coach, talent scout, entrepreneur and activist.
Can you tell us when you joined Nollywood?
I joined Nollywood in 1992, same year I came to Lagos for my National Youth Service- NYSC. programme.
Since 1992, have you looked back? How has the journey been?
It’s been a beautiful journey, with lots of learning, unlearning, relearning, making friends, losing friends along the way. There has been breaking and mending, turbulence sometimes, but worth every minute. Altogether, It’s been an awesome journey.
How did you start your career in Nollywood?
I started entertainment at age 7 as a radio presenter. I was presenting a children’s programme. From 8 years old, I had started stage productions. I joined big screen Nollywood after my university education. I would say that I was one of those restless kids who wanted to do many things at a time and would ask unending questions.
As for Nollywood, the journey started when I was posted to Lagos for my National Youth Service-NYSC. I was initially posted to a secondary school. Teaching came naturally to me because I am the daughter of a teacher. However, I eventually did my NYSC at NICON Insurance. While there, I knew that I was not cut out for 9-5 work. It was a really boring time, reading newspapers from morning till evening in the name of doing research. I got busy doing throw pillows and soft furnishings. A couple of friends had come to visit me and I was trying to see them off when they informed me about an audition at St Finbarrs College, Akoka, Lagos. When we got there, I was shocked when suddenly, I heard my name for casting.
I’d like to say that I had been attending all Nigerian Universities Theatre Arts Festival-NUTAF since my undergraduate days, so I was familiar with almost everyone who read Drama those days; be they juniours, mates, or seniors. Right after the audition, I got a call back, and the rest is history.
Please tell us about the highlights of your career?
I’ve grown from being an actor to a director, producer, teacher, talent scout and trainer. I think I’d be the first female director in Nigeria, because I directed my first movie in 1996-97. I don’t recall if there was any female director, maybe on television, but not on home video.
What incidents gave you bad memories?
Location issues. You get to a location and you see things are not in place and when you want to advise, someone sees you as the problem. Also, having high expectations about a colleague who is supposed to be spontaneous and creative, but does not exhibit the discipline of the craft. So, you have to take your time to see how to carry them along, but directors are usually engaged with technical work and they have very tight deadlines. These people don’t have time for an actor who’s not prepared to take their lines.
I also noticed a lack of training and discipline, especially among the younger actors. Most of the time, they are not cautious when they talk. So, when I saw what was going on, I tried to find a solution by setting up a training centre. Many actors and producers come for free training. As a trainer and coach, I had to go to school to get some training to prepare and constantly update myself.
How many movies have you taken part in Nollywood so far?
About 120 movies, may be more.
Can you remember all ?
Are there particular ones that you can say that you gave your all?
How many of those movies can you say are block busters and evergreen?
Forever by the late Amaka Igwe, Goodbye Tomorrow by Zeb Ejiro, Another Campus Tale by Hilda Dokubo, Also, there was a movie produced by Dagogo Daminas which won many awards. Recently, SAKOBI, THE C.E.O by Kunle Afolayan, where I played the role of the investigator. Others are Stigma, Unchained, which was an amazing production.
Have you taken part in any foreign production?
Yes please. Outside Nigeria, I’ve done 4. I do more stage work, because I’m a stage person. I love to do stage.
So, you do stage production outside Nigeria.
Yes please, and I do here as well. The stage is a good training ground for every actor because with the stage, the work is very intensive. There is no camera modifying anything. You’re either acting or not. With screen production, both director and editor may keep modifying the scenes, but that can’t happen in stage plays.
Which is better; cinema or stage play?
A good actor needs to experience both stage and screen. Screen work is not as demanding as stage. They are two different skill sets, different techniques are needed to acquire two of them. One is not better than the other.
Tell us about your awards
I have quite a number. they’re about one and half wall full. I’ve won all kinds of awards; professional, organisational, services done . It’s all mixed up.
Burna Boy and Wizkid won GRAMMY awards this year. We see it as a welcome development, a game-changer and a reward for hard work and outstanding performance. When will our actors compete for the OSCARS?
Two years ago, Genevieve Nnaji’s movie, BRAVEHEART was nominated but disqualified. It got disqualified because the movie was produced in English language, and couldn’t compete under any category. If they had kept all the local scenes in Igbo, maybe that would not have happened.
However, that is commendable. We came close. But beyond that incident, I’d say that this business is all about collaboration. Who’s your growth important to? The world is on its way to Africa and Nigeria is the hub for creativity. When you think business, think of Africa as a country, Nigeria as a state and Lagos as a local government.
We cannot afford not to market our Africanness. We need to therefore project the right image to people who are trying to understand how we create the magic that DSTV called Africa Magic. People will come to us if we put our market together. We’re trying to catch up with people who are trying to understand us. When we tell our African stories, using the best of technology and collaborate with the people who want to grow their own business as well, the rest of the world will come and probably, the OSCARS will be too small to win. If we can push the narrative that there is an African award that is bigger, the rest of the world will come to Africa.
Can we say that our actors are well paid when compared with other professions in Nigeria?
When an actor gets to a certain level, like senior civil servants, I don’t know any other profession or career that pays as much as Nollywood. But when compared with world standards we don’t even earn as much as extras because of the exchange rate. Can you compare an actor who earns USD20m with one who earns N20m?
Another problem is the distribution network. How many people can watch movies when there are few cinemas with limited capacity? Investors need to understand the enormity of the poitentials
Private investors are building cinemas. Many shopping malls now have cinemas.
These investors are going the same route the marketers took. Rather than focus on distribution, they fund their own movies and give prime time slots to their movies. This impacts the efforts of the independent producer and the movie industry.
But this is business..
Yes please, but when a company got approval to be a distributor and takes the role of a producer, that is killing the business. Also, at the box office, the distribution companies take more share of ticket sales than the producers.
Omo Ghetto, a movie produced by Funke Akindele in December 2020 was a blockbuster, but we didn’t know the sharing formula.
Ask her what happened. At some point, movie producers had to partner with the cinema companies.
What’s stopping movie producers from partnering with the distribution companies?
Just as you said earlier that it’s all about business, but when a business which is an offshoot of another takes the upper hand, what should we do? If producers don’t create movies, the distribution companies would not be in business. It is very wrong when I create a business for you and you use yours to kill mine.
And nobody is venting?
People are venting, but how well.? The best producers can do is to take their movies to other viewing platforms, like NETFLIX, AMAZON Prime, KONGA. More people are now going online.
Which medium is more profitable; cinemas or virtual platforms?
Any business that enables you to earn in USD is where to be right now. A lady had a dispute with Silverbird distribution company some time ago, After a while, people had to intervene, but it didn’t change anything. She had to put up her movie on other platforms. Now, she’s making more than she made when her movie was in the cinemas.
Now, people are setting up streaming platforms. You see, Nollywood was stronger than the music industry when we started, but now, see where the Nigerian music industry is today.
People invested in music business. Look at the quality of the music videos, what about the sound quality? Apart from Kunle Afolayan, how many film production companies are around?
Movie prodcution is capital intensive. It requires reaching out to a lot of people. Kunle has done a great job. He keeps improving on himself. Kunle also knows how to find money. because funding is a tough part of the deal. Other directors are just as good as he, maybe better, but they don’t know how to find the money.
So money is the issue now.
Money is a major part of the business. Concerning the GRAMMY awards, Burna Boy is very good with his music, but if he didn’t have a way of entering the GRAMMYS, how could he have won? He is fortunate because he had everything needed to win. A lot of people do great jobs in Nollywood, but funding is a big challenge. Now that there’s a GRAMMY that we can see, people can work together.
However, I also observe that a few of the organisers of awards are not thorough in categorisation and selection. They don’t take their time to select winners. Creativity is like religion. We see and interpret differently. Organisers need to set the right criteria and be more thorough
I like Burna Boy. He’s taken his position. He keeps going regardless of what anyone says.
What’s your next project?
I’m working with children on a story about child abuse. The title is Don’t Shut Her Up.
Any word of encouragement?
Never give up, keep doing what you’re doing.