Saturday, 30 January 2010

Passion for the screen

BY CHUKS NWANNE
SHE was in the company of friends in one of the Ikeja hangouts when I arrived. I had concluded she was into modeling, until a friend, who knew her better, introduced Ada Aronu as a producer, with three films to her credit.
However, our discussion that afternoon had nothing to do with her movie career, rather Adaslim, as she’s fondly called in the entertainment industry, is on the verge of airing her TV show, Celebrities With Adaslim, which has already been assured space on DSTV channel.
Truly, the Anambra State native is really on the slim side and you wonder how that name came to be.
“It started way back in school. We had two students bearing Ada in my room in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; one was really fat while I, being the second, is slim; you can imagine how slim I was about four years ago. Those days, people would come to our room and say, ‘I’m looking for Ada.’ And they will ask, ‘which of the Adas — Ada slim or Ada fat? So, over time, the name stuck and I decided to keep it, so, I don’t lose my friends.”
That means you like it?
“Oh, it’s cool; even when I wanted to take up a stage name, I adopt Adaslim because I wanted a name that will reflect my heritage. Personally, I’m not a fan of ‘re-branding’ to the extent of my name sounding foreign.”

LIKE most young people, Ada’s early dream was to be a lawyer. But not long after, that dream was overtaken by her passion.
“Along the line, I developed interest in TV to the extent that I wanted to be a presenter.
You must have watched TV a lot?
“Yea, a lot; there was no Nollywood then, so, it was all about TV. My mother is a born-again, so, we were not into Michael Jackson and stuff like that; we watched more of normal TV programmes. I remember those days, I was admiring Oprah a lot; she was my role model,” she enthuses. “Funny enough, when Internet came to Nigeria, one of the first people I checked out on the net was Oprah; I just needed to read about her.”
Ada opted for Mass Communication after her secondary education, though she was offered Mathematics and Economic at the University of Nigeria.
“I took up the course because it has something to do with the Arts, but I later switched to Mass Communication through the help of my dad.”

WHILE her mates were dreaming of securing lucrative jobs in the corporate world after school, the low-cut wearing lady was more concerned with trying her hands in movie production.
“I’ve never tried taking up an office job because that’s not what I was cut out for. When I left school in 2005, I was more interested in making my own
movie, so, I shot my first movie, Irreplaceable, in 2006.”
How come you shifted to movie production?
“While I was in secondary school, I was actually active in the movie industry, but as a minor, nobody knew me. Then, we just wanted somewhere to hangout, doing stuffs, pending when our JAMB result would come. It was Chief Pete Edochie that introduced me to the industry; I used to disturb him about my interest in Nollywood and he would say to me, ‘that would be after your O-levels.’ So, immedi
ately I was done with my WAEC and JAMB, I went back to him, that’s how I started

before I went to the university.”
From her calculation, working with the production crew is a lifeline to her dream of producing a TV show. “I was more interested in learning the skills involved in production, which I believed would help me in future. As at then, I never knew I could raise money to shoot my own film,” she says.
So, how did you raise money to shoot Irreplaceable when you had never worked before?
“Well, I can’t really say it was through friends because, even in the university as a student, I had enough money. With all modesty, I was a big girl in school; I had a brand new Honda Civic car in school; I used to travel abroad to buy stuffs and sell while in school, I was making money. I was more of an entrepreneur then; just wanted to be doing my own stuff.”

HOW did you raise money to start up the business? “Actually, my dad lent me the first capital for the business, which I later paid back. My dad is a businessman, so, you don’t joke with his money,” she quips. “As for my first trip, I didn’t really make enough money, but I struggled not to lose the capital, so, I used it over again. I didn’t pay him all the money at once; I paid him from the profit I made from the business. But the fact remains that I paid back the money I borrowed.”
So, it was more like a business relationship between both of you?
“Ah, my dad won’t leave a dime for you; except your school fees and pocket money,” she screams. “But I’m happy he built that discipline in me; I’ve learnt that when you have millions in your pocket, it’s not about spending it just because you have it. I was careful with the money because I didn’t want to disappoint him.”

UNFORTUNATELY, Ada’s first production was a big flop; she lost a lot of money.
“The problem was in the production itself; I trusted a lot of people. Everything was about sentiment; I wanted my friends and my cousins to work with me. I wasn’t professional; it was more of friends, friends thing, so, we shot longer than we should. I was actually paid enough for the movie, but because we spent a lot in production, I lost millions.”
Did you ever think of pulling out from the business?
“I pulled out for a year; it’s not about thinking of pulling out,” she says amidst laughs. “But I came back later and did another movie for Dosac entitled Evil Agenda. So, between 2006 and now, I’ve done three movies in all.”

FOR now, Ada has suspended her movie career to pursue her passion. By next month, her TV show, Celebrities With Adaslim, will hit TV screens across the country and beyond via Dstv platform. The show is centred on celebrating Nigeria and it’s artistes on television.
“Movie producing is okay, but TV is what I wanted to do; even if I have billions to do movies, I would prefer doing a TV show. It’s good; I go all the experience in making TV show because it is my target now.
“I noticed that a lot of Nigerians don’t really appreciate Nigerian artistes. I’ve heard people tell me that they saw Osuofia (Nkem Owoh) in the plane and they snubbed him and I was like, ‘why do you have to do that?’ I haven’t heard anyone who saw Michael Jackson and snubbed him. Some of these things really got me thinking.”
The show will debut with four segments for a start, with plans to spice it up in the near future.
“The core show is One-On-One, which is an interview, but because we don’t want it to be boring, we spiced it up with other segments such as My Blog (vox pop), Take One, which is about making a movie and My Idol, which gives the young people an opportunity of meeting with their favourite artistes. Other bits and pieces will come in later.”

SO, are you afraid of losing money again? She beams with smiles, saying, “each time you are spending money, you are thinking about losing money. But when you lose money in something you love to do, it wouldn’t pain you as much as when you are doing something just to make money. But I know I will not lose money this time.”
You are very confident this time?
“Yes, because I’ve got enough experience; I learnt from my past mistakes.

This time, it’s not about who I like to work with; it’s about who can do the

job.”
As for getting sponsors for the programme, the young producer is not worried for now.
“I’ve come to realise that people seem not to be interested in sponsoring a show if there’s nothing on ground. So, what I’m doing right now is to prove the point that I have something to offer. If the sponsorship comes, then we thank God. It’s a bit challenging, but this is something I love doing.”
On who comes to the show, Ada explains, “through the vox-pop segment, we get to find out who people want to see; so, it’s not about whom I like; even if I’m not your fan, once people want you, you will definitely come on the show. It has not been easy, but the truth is, I’ve paid my dues; I’ve been in the industry for 10 years now, though I came in as a teenager. Even some of the artistes I used to carry their bags those days, would see me today and say, ‘eh, look at my small Ada, she’s such a big girl now.’ So, I have my connections and sometimes, I go through people to get my guests.”
AS far as Ada is concerned, Nigerians shouldn’t lose sleep over the decision of the United States of America to put the country on her terrorist watch list, rather she wants them to see the situation as an opportunity for Nigeria to tell her own story.
“Well, that’s why we have to do our best to present ourselves as good Nigerians. Wherever you are, even if people think Nigerians are bad people, you have to use yourself as an example to the world. But at the same time, I believe we can re-brand through entertainment; that’s one tool we have now that can sell us in positive way. As for the terrorist list, it shouldn’t disturb us as a people; we should work hard and be the best we can. We just have to be good Nigerians.”

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