Chuks Enete

Chuks Enete on his Debut Movie, ‘Inside Life’

Cook your mind! – Chuks Enete

Chuks Enete recently battled one of his greatest life challenges, bringing his debut movie, Inside Life to cinemas. The journey six years in the making was birthed by the shared trauma of injustice among its creators is one that was almost scrapped several times, due to numerous production complications.

After years of working for Alpha Vision as the Coordinator of the Programme on DominoChuks Enete left the industry for a more lucrative venture, unknowing his journey in the industry has yet to begin. Suddenly, years later, Chuks finds himself producing the now critically acclaimed dramedy, Inside Life. Juggling multiple roles, nearing the brink of depression, emotional and financial constraints of Covid-19, and the problem of a lengthy runtime, were the struggles Chuks had to conquer on his journey. Chuks’ persistent and aim to tell his tale finally bore fruits when the movie debuted in cinemas on September 9 to the acclaim of critics and audiences alike.

In an exclusive interview with The Cinema Radar, Chuks details his journey into the industry, how he first got the idea for the film, and the complexities of debuting a film in the industry as an unknown producer.

How and when did your journey into Nollywood start?

Professionally, it started in 2002. I had an MBA degree but I couldn’t get a banking job. So I auditioned at Alpha Vision, now known as CMA. The only option was to be a PA, so I took it and my first project was Domino on AIT. I was a PA for a season, then Coordinator of Programme.

When did you first get the idea for this movie?

 I had left the industry because I couldn’t fulfill my dream of becoming a producer, the Asaba route wasn’t working for me. In 2016, I used to write on Facebook, so Lanre Olorunnisola reached out to me about a story he had written, one he said I inspired him to write. The book titled Prison Notes captivated me so much, I pitched the idea of making it into a movie to him. Inside Life is an adaptation of that book.

What are some of the difficulties you faced in the process of bringing this film to life?

The journey started with convincing him (Lanre Olorunnisola) to make the movie because when I approached him, he had gotten a similar proposal from someone else. He reached out to me two months later as he couldn’t come to an understanding with that person. I had no money to make the film but I planned on reaching out to my friends in NGOs and pitching it as a means of reforming the criminal justice system, but they weren’t interested. Then the challenge of writing the script started as Lanre is not a screenwriter, so using my knowledge of movie production I guided him. I eventually took on writing and after a long list of EPs involved backed out, the sixth set was the one we entered production with. Production was a breeze as I had the experience, but when post-production started we faced the issue of having a 3 hours 40 minutes final cut for an intended 2 hours. The issue of finding a director as I was an unknown at that time, I reached out to well-known directors but all refused as they lacked belief in the production. The part where I was devastated was when covid made a set of EPs pull out as it affected them financially.

What were your aspirations for this film and why did you put so much effort into bringing it to life?

It was the story we wanted to tell, part of it for me was Nigeria can be a better place. Growing up I listened to a lot of Fela music and that influenced my outlook on things. I always wanted the right things to be done, so when I saw this story I remembered what happened to my friends who were unjustly picked up for five days. Another friend of mine, who is the associate producer for this film, was wrongfully incarcerated for six months. We wanted to shed light on the implications these injustices have on the life of the average Nigerian. I decided to contribute my little quota to see if people can start thinking of what we are doing to ourselves and doing it enjoyably. Unfortunately, most people only laughed and lost the message.

You are credited as the writer, producer, casting director, and one of the cast, how did you juggle all these roles?

Most of the roles were not simultaneous, so it helped in easing the process. My process of juggling came with my first production role, Domino, in which I was a cast member and I was PA. Doing all that was me training myself unconsciously. I was never supposed to be the writer but I stepped in when it was proving difficult. I also took courses in screenwriting during COVID to save myself from depression. In the production aspect, I’ve been a production manager for years, in which I was the producer in reality, so it was a breeze. For the acting, I was in just two scenes so it was not demanding. A good actor can always sight a good actor, so casting came easily because I could recognize talent. I was very passionate about the project so it didn’t feel like work.

Why did you add the comedy elements to the film, as it was based on such a serious topic?

First off, I’m a comedian who hates horror films. I could have made a film with a more serious tone but this film was mostly shot in a prison cell, and I felt if we didn’t have enough comedy, people would lose interest. So I told myself we needed to have comedians. The irony of it was the book we adapted, the characters in the prison cell were comedic. Go to any park and notice the Agbero, even in their seriousness, there is comedy. That was what inspired what we did.

Inside Life The Movie

Which of the cast were you thrilled about working with the most?

That’s a difficult question, and it’s not about being biased. When you cast some actors, you have expectations, and when they deliver exactly what you expected, it is something you are happy about but it doesn’t thrill you because you expected it. Wole Ojo impressed me a lot but I always knew he could deliver perfectly. Someone I was thrilled about because his performance came as a shock to me as I wasn’t expecting it was Eric Obinna, he appears in just two scenes and I wanted the character to send a message which Eric delivered effortlessly. Those songs he sang to taunt Larry were exactly the way I pictured them before it was shot. After he delivered that performance I wanted to hug him.

What inspired your character of Chief in the film and how did you go about bringing him to life?

 As an Igbo man, I wanted to create an interesting character that won’t be forgettable. I go to the village a lot and I interact with people who look, speak and act like Chief and it marvels me all time. That final scene wasn’t originally part of the script but after the EPs read the script, they felt compelled to see more of him. I wasn’t supposed to play him but we couldn’t get someone who could deliver that role, so I took it upon myself to do it justice. The last scene was the first one we shot, and the reaction to it was incredible.

How supportive was the cast towards this production seeing as it isn’t one from a big name in the industry?

They were all very reluctant before coming on set as most of them didn’t know me, and they didn’t know who else would be in the film. After they came on set and saw the other cast and the beauty of the set, especially the prison set, their reaction to the production changed and they became very active and supportive. Shaggi specifically, on his first day on set requested to see the prison before anything, after exploring the space, his mood was elated.

Lanre Olorunshola

How did it feel to finally see this story in cinemas?

The day we premiered, the guy whose story we were telling was present, and after the movie, he was very emotional. The first thing he asked me was, how did you know the color of my cell? He said when the cell was shown, he cried right inside the hall, to me that was fulfillment.

Your movie has gotten many positive reviews, even from Nollywood critics that are believed to be harsh, how was your process of coming to terms with that?

Well, they’ve been negative reviews, not generally negative but some negative criticisms. I love critics because I criticize my movies, even during production. But, I feel good because it means people are appreciating the story we wanted to tell, but I feel bad because the number of people I wanted to see this movie hasn’t yet. It also hasn’t birthed the conversation I wanted it to have, because one of the aims was to engage ourselves constructively about the situation of the country. After all, the main aim wasn’t just to get applause. When the important conversation around the movie starts, then I will be truly fulfilled.

How well do you expect the film to do at the box office, and have you been impressed by its run so far?

There’s the artistic part of this journey, there’s the financial part of this journey, that’s why it’s called show business. For the show, I’ve been fulfilled because the people who have seen it have good words for it but not everyone has seen it. Like every business, we hope for the best, wanting to break records. Well, we are not going to break records, but we are doing well, I’m a grateful person. We are doing better than a lot of people would have thought.

You’ve expressed your desire to remain behind the scenes, do you have a plan to take the directorial seat in the future?

It’s not impossible, but it’s not my dream, I don’t think I have what it takes. But, if you had asked me three years ago if I would be writing this movie, I would have said no, but I ended up co-writing this movie. I was the assistant director of the movie, but I didn’t want that on my credit so people won’t say I did everything. So it’s possible, but it’s not one of those ambitions.

Are you currently working on any new projects, and if you are, would you want to do more films with deeper themes or pure entertainment?

It will be difficult for me to work on a project that doesn’t have deep themes, I’m always of the school of thought that no matter how entertaining we want a film to be, there must be a message. That is how I’m wired, except if I’m called to manage production or produce something I don’t have a lot of creative input in. Like I told you, I’m very influenced by Fela and when I listen to some of his songs now, the message still has a meaning, that is how I want my movies to be. Am I working on anything now? No! I’m still working on Inside Life and I’m not very good at multitasking in that sense especially since this is my first, so I’m trying to absorb everything so that when I’m doing the next one I can anticipate everything.

Chuks Enete 4

Do you have any plans on taking Inside Life to a streaming service, because like you said it hasn’t gotten that much attention?

Let me digress a bit, it is beginning to look as though Nigerians don’t go to the cinema to watch Nollywood films anymore because there is a belief that every film comes to a streaming service sooner or later. To get a film at the cinema in Nigeria is a very big task even after the film is completed. Now, something is brewing, most of our top producers in a few years won’t have anything coming to the cinemas. So, no Inside Life is not coming to a streaming platform.

Which big names in the industry do you wish to work with in the future?

Your project should determine who you would feature. I’d love to work with everybody, so if the project permits, why not? Anybody and everybody.

Three months ago, you were a novice but now you have the experience and knowledge, so what advice would you give upcoming filmmakers who want to see their project on this level in the future?

Go and cook your mind!! These last few days, I’ve been reading people saying online that if you want to make a movie and your budget is X amount, make sure you have Y amount set aside to do promotion, and I laugh. When I was going to shoot this movie, I was going to show people how it’s done and spend my money wisely, I had my budget for the movie, post-production, and marketing sorted. On the day we finished production, I didn’t have up to two thousand home and abroad both for post-production and marketing. So, cook your mind!!!

Inside Life The movie

Dejar un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *