My name is Niyi Akinmolayan, I’m a film maker and I own a production studio called Anthill Studios, we are into film making, animations and cooperate designing. I’m from a family of four, the third child, my parents are from Ondo state, I studied electrical engineering in school but I am an artistic person. I had an interesting career path, I did graphics in the early 2000, web designs, motion graphics, eventually finding my feet in storytelling, animation and finally film making.
Why did you go into film making?
Like I said I had done a lot of things creatively, most of it in front of the computer, if it wasn’t graphics, it had to do with maybe motion graphics for television or visual effects for music video and a couple of other things. I went into film making because I noticed that it allows you the opportunity to bring all these different elements together. we have the writer, producer, director and editor, all these different people coming together with the story to make a film. It wasn’t something I woke up one day and decided to do, I was just doing my thing in a studio where I used to edit stuffs and the director who ran the studio felt that I had so much more based on the way he saw me analyze a couple of stuffs that we do and one day he approached me and told me ‘ hey, you know you will make a great director’ then I started thinking about it and I went into it. I didn’t go to film school, I’m just a crazy reader who reads everything he sees, I also did a lot of experimenting and then with the few opportunities I had to work in church, I used that as a bedrock to test a lot of my filming study. From there I got my first work with hosanna hour, they were doing this program every morning on television then, so I learnt a lot of production there until I eventually found my feet, I had a script written way back in school and I finished it just in time to get someone to finance it, I found a producer, it was an action sci-fi movie, we did it in 2010, it was called Kajola after which I took a break for a while, I got back and I did “Make a Move” with Ivie Okujaye which was a lot of intense drama. After “Make a Move” I started thinking about the kind of stories I wanted to tell, I was more interested in stories that had a bit of an edge to them, something that had to do with serious societal issues that we are usually not bold to talk about, I was interested in characters that are not perfect, when you see Make a Move, Falling, they ask very important question and they have very imperfect everyday character same thing with the movie ‘Out of Luck’, the protagonist in Out of Luck runs a lottery business and nobody is actually thinking about the guy who runs a lottery business as a person, normally you would picture that sort of business and the people involved in it as bad, but then people that are bad are people first, same thing with Falling, this is the story of a girl that had to watch the love of her life who was in coma, does she wait or does she just move on with her life, she had to make a lot of interesting choices and when we finished the film, people were literally arguing and fighting themselves, that’s what I wanted to achieve, to make movies that get people talking. You would know that by my posts on facebook, I love getting people to talk just to see how they react to different things.
How many movies have you done so far?
Professionally I have released four films, the first one is in 2010, Kajola, second was In 2014 Make a Move, then Falling and Out of Luck were released last year, and I hopefully will be releasing two movies this year
Which of these movies that you have directed so far is your best?
I can’t compare, because they are all unique in their own ways, I get scripts all the time from people who want to make film, but I make movies because they connected to me in a way that I liked to be connected. But on a technical level, Out of Luck was technically challenging, we had too many locations, people, the story had different acts to it, we had to engage the audience, we had interesting set designs compared to my previous film. Falling was my first attempt to romance, for me that was an interesting challenge because I have worked with people like Desmond Elliot when it comes to technical and action sequences, or some camera tricks, plus my first film was an action sci-fi film, I mean we blew up third mainland bridge and we do all kinds of fun stuffs, so when the producer called me to direct Fallen, the first feeling was ‘oh my God, she trust me to do this and can I really do it?’ I don’t know what she saw but deep down I’m a very deep person even on an emotional level, maybe she connected to that when she asked me to direct the story, I’m glad I took it because it worked perfectly and of course Adesua won best actress which is a testament to the work we did.
Asides film making do you have any other job on the side?
Like I said, this is a full studio, we do a lot of postproduction services, we help people edit their films, we cut trailers, we do audio post production, audio processing ADR. For the most part I do documentaries, I work with a lot of NGOs like UKAID, USAID, and some of these international organizations that need to tell short story or documentaries and use them for their NGO purposes. One of the exciting things is that we started our animation studio last year, I’m very obsessed with animation, I want to start an entire bouquet, of programs for children in entertainment to teach children a lot of interesting things in science and technology to inspire them because those were the things that inspired me when I was growing up. Right now we are working on some animated project that hopefully before the end of the year we should have something to show you guys
What is your vision for film making?
Like I said, I’m interested in films that use small people to tell big stories, so I love stories about social impact where a group of young people trigger a change that can go on a massive scale, my vision of film making is to change the society for the better by using film, telling stories of possibilities. It’s almost hard to believe that a reporter for example, can start an entire revolution in a country simply because of some pictures or some publication that they do but history in modern times have shown that people that are unknown with an idea can change the world, that small people can trigger big effects.
Advice for the young ones
I would say that the art is a very strong place, it takes a lot from you, it’s a lot of pressure, but you need to be true to yourself. I know it sounds cliché but be honest with yourself, ask yourself am I being peer pressured or does this just feel good?, because what matters is the result you are producing, don’t do anything because it is funky, do it because it gives you result
Who were your first motivations back then?
I have always love the people that other people didn’t think will amount to anything, like people from very lowly background, I have pictures of them on my clock, I look them all the time, Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney scientist like Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, they all had radical idea and went right ahead and did it.
What is your favorite movie?
I don’t have a favorite movie but my favorite movie genre is animation and I’m a film maker I can’t give you my favorite Nigerian movie. But I love a lot of the films that came out last year because they got a lot of Nigerians to go to the cinema and I’m glad that two of my films were part of those kinds of films that triggered Nigerians to go to the cinema
What are the threats in your job?
There are no jobs without issues but I’m hardly threatened by anything, but if I was just a director, my problem will be money to finance films. But because I run a studio, of course my biggest challenge is power there is no other headache than lack of electricity.
Are Nigerian directors truly harsh?
For me I’m a fun loving person, I’m a creative, I spend a lot of time with my guys in the studio, it’s a very stressful job and I don’t see any reason why you should make it more stressful for anyone. I would say that I am very cooperative and I like people to bring suggestions, I love to play a lot but I’m obsessed with excellence so I fire people a lot on my set if it’s not working rather than have an exchange or a fight, I’m more interested in getting the job done.
Is film making capital intensive and is it lucrative?
Film making is a bit risky right now, but if you play your cards right you will make some money off it, I run other businesses and that helps. A lot of other directors aren’t that lucky to be able to do other things because directing is the only thing they can do and right now directors are not being paid well and movies too are not selling that well
Are you social media friendly?
Yes, I use Instagram for basically my company, to share the stuffs we do, Facebook is my personal voice, everything I post on Facebook is who I am, I hardly advertise my work on Facebook and I don’t use twitter much
Has it helped you much?
Yes it has, most of the foreign clients we have found us on social media, also by something we did and somebody shared, if you are in business are you are not on social media, you will crash eventually because that’s where everyone is going now, I don’t play with social media, I post my stuffs by myself, I don’t give it to people to do for me
How do you engage people on social media?
I love to ask questions, I noticed that if you ask questions on social media, people always feel the need to answer, get people engaged and secondly, I love to bare myself, I love to be vulnerable that why I share what going on in my life, my belief and what I stand for, sometimes they are controversial but because they are personal whenever I share them, it always gets people talking, that has always been my formula and it works
Are you married?
Yes I am
How does your family relate with your absence?
They understand that it’s work
Accessories you can’t do without?
That would be my phone and an active internet
I don’t have one, all i know is that I wear cloths
Which personality would you like to work with?
I would love to work with Genevieve, she is very beautiful, and I would love to work with RMD, just to have that old flavor.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five year, I am going to be running the biggest children entertainment network in Africa, where we will be focusing on children entertainment in Africa. We would have a lot of shows, mobile phone application, I’m hoping that I would have made some really high budgeted movies with really strong stories that I care about right now, I’m also hoping that I will be a public influencer
I love anything pasta
Words to live by
As Nigerians, we need to spend more time thinking for ourselves, I want to encourage people to stop listening to dogma, religious theories and things that other people have said, I am where I am today is because I turned a deaf ear to people telling me how a lot of things should be done and me trying to figure out for myself how things should be done. I’m hoping that in a couple of years, more people will rise and say that against all odds I believed in myself, I started thinking for myself and started doing thing for myself.