In Patience Ozokwor’s movie world

Patience Ozokwor at the launch of the Uganda Film Festival where she was the guest of honour at Uganda Communications Commission head offices in Bugolobi, Kampala, on Tuesday. photo by Abubaker Lubowa

What you need to know:

Mama G. Nigerian actress Patience Ozokwor, popularly known as Mama G after one of her numerous roles, was in Uganda early this week to launch the Uganda Film Festival that starts in August. The winner of the Best Actress in a supporting role award at the African Movie Academy Awards, let Arafat Ndugga in on the secrets to success in her career.

Who is Patience Ozokwor?
I am a soft-spoken person, actress, mother of four and teacher, born in eastern Nigerian Enugu state in 1958 in a polygamous family of 12 children where I happen to be the last born. I went to a Methodist girls school, but I never graduated due to the political turmoil in the country by that time, so I shifted to a teaching institution where I finished with a degree in Fine and Applied Arts, then upgraded studies with a degree in Mass Communication.

When did you start acting?
I had passion for acting since my primary school where I used to act in different stage plays, but had no dream of doing it at a professional level since I always wanted to be a nurse. Nonetheless, after a teaching career, I concentrated on broadcasting. After my first job at Radio Nigeria, which expanded my creativity to state (national) level, I met my cousin Chika Okeale, who opened my world of acting.

Tell me how it all progressed.
When I went to Lagos, Chika took me to auditions and I emerged the best candidate due to my good presentation. I was offered an opportunity to do adverts for televisions and radios. Excited as I was, my first pay of 5,000 Naira (about Shs78,000) from my first movie, Sinners of the Father, never diverted my mind as it introduced me to more opportunities after the complimentary reviews from the viewers. With my second movie, Out of cage, I opted to make acting my full time job.

You seem to act negative roles like tough mother in law; does it portray who you are in real life?
Ha-ha, that is false, although people think what they see is what we are. But that is not the case since it is the directors who assign us roles according to our personal traits for the preferred movie cast.

How did Nigerian movies penetrate to the continental level?
After we had improved on the quality of the movies, business-minded Nigerians on the continent started to market our DVDs to other countries where they lived. This was a great step for the growth of Nollywood.

Today, Internet is a major threat for the DVD sales; do you still make profits from DVDs in Nigeria?
Yes, despite pirates causing losses to movie owners, that cannot set back a big industry. In Nigeria, for one to distribute movies via Internet, they have to get permission from the government agency that gives licences. Pirate website operators are arrested and prosecuted. Of recent, the copyright agency introduced state-of-the-art CDs that are difficult to duplicate and clearly, CD sales have increased, thus income generation that has made the movie industry the highest economy contributor.

So, what is the government’s contribution towards your movie industry?
They offer a lot of support by setting up of strict copyright laws, initiated authorities that curb down piracy, decreased taxes on filming equipment, among other incentives.

How much does it cost to make a movie?
It really depends on the type of movie; production of the cheapest movie costs 5 million Naira (about Shs78 million), whereas the expensive one goes for 50 million Naira (about Shs776 million). In such movies, the cast includes senior actors, who are usually very expensive. The senior actors always want at least 2.5 million Naira (about Shs39 million) so this makes the budget bigger.

Do you also write movies?
Yes, I used to, but I stopped since I wanted to concentrate on the acting since it would have been a burden to balance both.

How long does it take you to master a script?
That is God given I suppose, because for me, I just read the first paragraph or possibly the producer briefs me about my role then I will act there and then.

You seem to have started years ago, how many movies have you starred in?
If I don’t include stage plays, I have 250 movies all together, both that I have featured in and those in which I am the lead actress.

Tell me your secret recipe to a great acting career.
It is dedication and passion for the movie industry. I give all the best in all my movies.

What are some of the achievements from your movie career?
I am glad that I can share my achievements so as to motivate aspiring actresses and actors to keep the hopes high that they will one day reap from their creativity. I have different businesses like fast food restaurants, boutiques, gyms, and Wendy’s plaza, which I named after my daughter, amongst others.

Is being a celebrity challenging?
It is difficult to manage stardom, because if I tell you what we go through, it is really hard. Fans can grab you out of excitement, forgetting that you are also human and need some privacy. That is why I always stay indoors.

Have you watched any Ugandan movie?
No, but on my way to the hotel, I watched one trailer but it didn’t capture my attention.

What is your advice to the Ugandan movie industry?
In Nigeria we developed the movie industry gradually. We had a vision to achieve. Either way, the simplest advice to the Ugandan movie industry is to take it easy and give it time, train stakeholders like directors, producers, actors and actresses at movie academies in well-established nations like South Africa, Egypt, America and European states as we did and still do.

Some of her movies
• Sinners of the Father
• Turning Point - Ade’s Mum (2012)
• Heavy Storm
• Mama Gee goes to School (2011)
• Missing Child (2009)
• Personal Desire
• Act of Faith (2008)
• After My Heart
• Bottom of My Heart
• Critical Truth
• Female Lion