They are unseen and often times unsung. They make us swoon, laugh, cry and learn. It is to their credit that movie productions are delivered on schedule, budgets are not overrun, locations are ready and cast and crew deliver accordingly.
Jeffery Otas is the very exemplar of a Production Manager. He has been in Nollywood for over a decade and can write a book. Jeffery has worked and collaborated with notable producers and most of the bankable actors in the industry. His signatures are on several television series and Box Office movies; Just The Two Of Us, Three Wise Men, both produced by Opa Williams, Made in Heaven, 30 days in Atlanta, 10 days in Suncity, Merry Men 1 & 2 produced by Darlington Abuda among others.
Jeffery Otas shares his sojourn in Nollywood with Oludare Sorunke. Publisher, BLACKWASH
Who is Jeffery Otas?
My name is Jeffery Otas. I’m from Jesse, Ethiope West Local government in Delta State, South South Nigeria. I’m the fifth among six children. I studied Statistics.
Why did you leave a lucrative profession like Statistics to pursue a career in TV/ movie production?
I ventured into entertainment when I saw that the pay from my employment as a Statistician could not put food on the table. In 2008 when I was looking for a job, I was offered N50,000 as monthly pay. I rejected the offer. The first production job I got same year, the Producer paid me N30,000 and a compensation of N20,000 within 2 weeks, because I did two jobs for her. Since I joined the entertainment industry, I’ve not looked back. Movie was my second love, my first love was Political Science. Statistics was not in the picture initially, but I had to challenge myself to take the course.
How long have you been in Nollywood? What do you do?
I’ve been in Nollywood since 2008. I became a Production Manager in 2009. I was Production Manager for several television series and hit movies. Some of which include Dremez, Police HQ, Accidental Spy, Made in Heaven, Fusion, TBUS, 3 Wise Men, Merry Men 1 & 2, AY Crib, Two Can Play, My Dad & I, Call to Bar.
Which government agency regulates the movie industry? Can you say that they’ve done well?
The government agency that regulates the movie industry is the Nigerian Film and video Censors Board-NFVCB. They perform the following roles, amongst others; license a person to exhibit films and video works, censor and classify films and video works, regulate and control cinematographic exhibitions. I think the agency is supposed to protect the works of artists and film makers by guarding against piracy.
Do you think Nigerian actors are well paid when compared with other professions?
Apart from the oil and gas industry, our actors are well paid like other professions. I know some bankers whose take home is about N150,000-N200,000 monthly , whereas some entertainers receive between N300,000-N500,000 monthly. The difference between entertainers and other professions is that they spend a lot to look good, to package themselves, especially on social media. This is part of show business.
Which of your productions was the most demanding?
I think Merry Men 1 and 3 Wise men. Almost all the A List actors in the industry took part in Merry Men 1 and it was quite a task managing the set. I was overwhelmed, but for the assistance of my good friend and colleague, Darlington Abuda. I will like to say that Darlington Abuda has been most helpful in my career.
Tell us about your current project, Call to Bar.
I’m on the set of Call to Bar right now. It is a hilarious sitcom, coming to the screen very soon. The production has the likes of notable comedian and actor, Ayo Makun-AY, Otega Ben Onoge, Omini Ago, Uche Ben, Peace Olorunfemi, Weymouth Comedian, Comfort Alhassan, Chima Raphael and many others. The production is directed by Umanu Elijah and Patrick Odjegba and line produced by me. The producer is Darlington Abuda. Call to Bar raises the standard in comedy production.
Be honest, can someone build a career in Nollywood?
I have a career in Nollywood already, so I can confidently say yes. Anybody that is focused can build a career in Nollywood. I’ve been in the industry for the past 10 years. I was in Nollywood before I got married, I’ve been doing my business, taking care of my family, paying my rent. The industry is for anyone who knows what he wants.
Can you recall the number of movies you’ve worked on? Mention the ones that are most memorable.
I’ve worked on about 30 movies. The most memorable include Merry Men 1 & 2, 3 Wise Men and Ojulekefa. I fainted on the set of another movie, where I multitasked as Production Manager and Script Supervisor. The job was very demanding. Three Wise Men and Ojulekefa were directed by Pat Ogre. The task was very demanding. As for Merry Men 1, most of the actors were A- list, but eventually I got along with them.
What are the challenges movie producers face in the industry?
Piracy is a big challenge because after spending their funds to produce movies, you see people hawking the movies on the streets. Government needs to secure the works of movie producers so as to curb piracy. When producers get loans from government and their movies are pirated, how will they pay back the loans? How can they recoup their funds?
I want to appeal to government to work closely with movie practitioners to find ways of curbing the menace of piracy. The movie industry currently employs more than 5million people. I don’t think any industry employs as much as Nollywood presently.
South African born Hollywood actress, Scarlet Johansson was paid $20m for her lead role in Black Widow. Which Nigerian actor has earned up to that in a movie?
Honestly, I don’t know if any Nigerian actor has received $20m for a movie. The truth is that we are growing and we will get there very soon. I know with notable actors like Richard Mofe-Damijo-RMD, Olu Jacobs, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde, we will get there.
How do you classify a movie as Box Office?
You can determine a Box Office hit from the story. From the story to the equipment, caliber of crew working on it and how the director tells the story. Also, how the writer composes the story and how the partners promote the movie to draw attention and an atmosphere of excitement and activities that will draw traffic. At the end of the day, the figures and numbers will determine if a movie will be a Box Office. Some movies have nice storylines, credible directors, great creativity and cinematography but did not meet Box Office status, so the promotion matters a lot.
Movie producers are now engaging different platforms to feature their works; cinemas, Netflix, Amazon, etc. Which of these platforms gives the most returns?
Most movie practitioners now patronise Netflix. The giant streaming platform pays better than others. Also, YOUTUBE pays more to those who do skits. I think the Netflix needs to secure their movies in the Nigerian cyberspace because of cyber piracy.
What are your expectations 5 years from now?
I want to be on the lips of everyone. I want to be the best movie producer in Nigeria. I’m trying to do what I can in my own space, because I have many bosses who brought me to where I am right now.
Are you married? Tell us about your family.
I’m married to Allwell Ovoke Omoniyi. We are blessed with 3 happy children. I thank God that I married early, if not I wouldn’t been married now. I draw strength from my wife. She has been there for me through seasons. She is my life investment.
What do you do when you’re not making movies?
I focus on my school business, Single and Married with Jeffery Otas, church activities, hanging out with friends and swimming.