Monday, 23 March 2009

Musing round R7O World

Producer, director, writer and journalist, Ayo Shonaiya, is the brain behind R70 world. The multitalented UK-based artiste has worked with the biggest name in the industry. He speaks on his motivation.
Family and education background
I’m the fifth of six children. I had my primary and secondary education in Lagos before going to film school in America and later Law School in England.
How was growing up like?
I was the mummy’s pet. I’m still my mummy’s pet, though I have children of my own now. Growing up was really cool for me. I was exposed to a lot of the rich Lagos culture and ‘scene’ back in the 70s, especially with the music. I would listen to Elvis Presley and the Temptations, while also rocking Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey; and of course, I used to go to the original Afrikan Shrine to watch Fela live when I was like eight years old.
Journey into the entertainment world
I’ve always loved the entertainment industry, even though my lifelong ambition was to be a lawyer when I was younger. When I was in film school, I got into a whole load of stuff, like once dyeing my hair blonde and playing bass guitar in a rock band, for real. Apart from producing my first two films, I really got into the entertainment industry through KWAM 1 (K1 the Ultimate).  I was his international manager for about three years, then Trybesmen, D’Banj and so on.
Tell us about the “New Urban TV”
Urban TV is a UK-based Nigerian and African business and entertainment station, which is re-launching.  I’m the new COO and Director of Television. Black television has been suffering for years because of lack of funding and unqualified people running around the place.  With Urban TV, you have two professional people (along with the CEO) running the station the way a proper TV station should be run.  It’s going to be on the Sky satellite channel 191 and we aim to be the No.1 black station in six months.  I’ve done it before; I’ll do it again. Urban TV is more of my life for at least the next three years, but I’ll still working with my people at R70 World on other projects like Green Shorts, Stars on the Runway, Intro Summer Jams and so on.  Next on my plate is filming United States of Nigeria, a TV series about Nigerians in America, that you should see on Nigerian television soon and of course Urban TV in the UK.
What R7O World does
R70 World is my production company. We produce film, television, music and others, including fashion projects.  My company will be producing a bunch of original programmes for Urban TV while still doing other projects. One of such projects is Green Shorts. I’ll let you know when the time is right.
Managing his career
I don’t manage, I just do it. I spend pretty much every waking hour of my life creating something or the other; so, I’ve got a lot of stuff to go through before my time is up.  Ultimately I’ll ‘retire’ to concentrate on just making documentaries.
Actors he has worked with
  I have not worked with many actors.  Although I’ll like to do something with Mike Ezuruonye and Yemi Solade in a proper film setting, maybe outside of Nigeria. I’ll love to work with Kate Henshaw and Genevieve Nnaji too some day, maybe put them in a film where they fight over me, abi? I once directed Jim Iyke in a film in London and found him to be the craziest, funniest, get-on-your-nerves, erratic, charming, explosive man you will ever meet. He likes to read romance novels in between scenes. Can you believe… when he should be reading his script!
Which artistes was most challenging?
Working with K1 the Ultimate was an education, with the Trybesmen it was like babysitting (don’t really mean that) and my work with D’Banj wasn’t really rewarding for me as we parted ways just before he became the biggest thing since Bic biro, although I love him and Don Jazzy to bits.
His inspiration
Life and love inspire me. And of course, my children and the music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Role models
Papalolo and Jacob. Those two guys kept me alive when I was growing up. Of course, there’s former Manchester United legend, Eric Cantona; Indian actor Amitabh Bachan and American director, Oliver Stone.
How do you see Nigeria entertainment industry?
You know how people are saying the industry is booming, I’ll tell you there’s another sonic boom coming, and I hope to be in the middle of it. Continued creativity and perseverance are lacking.  We’re at a point where we know what’s good and what’s not, so you can tell what’s lacking.  As long as we just keep pumping out quality material, not quantity, we’ll be fine.
Most memorable moment
Births of my children.  I’ve been advised not to keep saying when Nigeria beat (West) Germany 2-0 to win the first U-17 World Cup in China in 1985.  That was my ‘former’ memorable moment of all time!
How many films have you produced?
Five feature films to date, but I’ve worked on a lot of short films since 1992.
Shooting on 35mm?
I’ll explain all that when my Green Shorts project starts.
Projection into Immediate future?
Manchester United winning the quintuple! Mid-term future?
Paying my daughter’s university fees and socialising expenses. I know what it’s like to be broke in university. 
Long term future? 
Retiring to concentrate on documentaries.
If you are given a chance to change something in Nigeria what will it be?
I don’t know.  As per Lagos, the good, the bad and the ugly gives the city its own character. Eko o ni baje o!

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