AMAA award-winning director, Jude Idada is the creative brain behind the recently staged, play, “Lost” that showed at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in Canada. The movie lover and most importantly, maker, has been able to cut across countries from the African continent and beyond to share pieces of his creative vision translated into plays, movies, documentaries and the likes.

He speaks with Tolu Iykon about these and interestingly more in this interview. Three ‘words’ by me to describe him would be Introspective, creatively strong-willed and Spontaneous. Feel free to find your own beautiful definitions as you read through.

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The Interview

Tell me about preparing for and directing a play or movie and the adrenaline rush and excitement that comes with it.

It starts with having a buy into the premise of the play or movie, knowing that interests and captivates you. That is when the excitement begins. When you read the logline which is the play surmised in one sentence or two and you say – this is something I want to bring visually to life – then you read the play or the script and your imagination begins to run wild. You read it a couple of times more until it is etched in your mind. When you are certain you know the text like the back of your palm, you begin to cast it, see the people that best fit the parts; the more you see it, the more you know who best fits in. There is an excitement when you see the right people. Once that’s done, you move to rehearsals, the moulding of the play or film, the seeing it from different provs and with all the 5 senses. For me, while directing, I’m an automaton. I forget to eat, I sleep sparingly, I am possessed by the play or film. Infact, I become the play or film. Even when done, it takes me a week or more to get out of that mode. And then seeing the final product is such a joy, a validation that all your effort wasn’t in vain. But you’re never satisfied because the ideas keep coming and the ideas are manifold.

But in my working style, I am not the least dictatorial as I believe the creation and exhibition of art is a collegial effort. So in as much as I have my own ideas, and even though those ideas are clear and creatively strong, I still work alongside the team, cast and crew alike to shape them.  I ask the team; What do you think about this or that because I know there might be better ideas than mine so I listen and I’m smart enough to know a great idea when I see it. I am also secure enough not to feel intimidated by a greater or more brilliant mind because I am a perpetual learner so I take from here and from there with the belief that the end justifies the means. A great play or movie must be and is the product of a meeting of different minds and there is a mind boggling excitement when the fission of minds occur – the jaw, the moulding, the remoulding, the building up, the tearing down, the building up again. It all comes together when the movie begins on screen or the play opens on stage and you heave a sigh of relief and you say We did well.

Oh cool. Are your works of art usually a reflection of societal debates or they are in themselves an extension of your convictions?

They are both. First they reflect the issues that exist in the greater society, the opinions that exit in abundance and then they mirror my own convictions vis a vis these issues, doing all these in such a way that an opening is left for the commentary or the opinions of the viewers because I strive not to make my works, pieces of propaganda, tools of proselytism or machinery for the advancement of a personal agenda. They are supposed to be platforms that enable the engagement of minds and the coercing of those minds to think, to see the world differently, tackle issues from a fresh angle. They are supposed to be springboards towards the upliftment of mankind, an artistic interaction of collective enlightment… My works are socio-cultural discourses presented through the paradigm of the artistic purview.   

Jude & the cast of Brixton stories

Jude & the cast of Brixton stories

So let’s talk about characterization. When people talk about getting into character with your whole being submerged into a particular role(s), can one after the movie, get out of that mode? Is there a thing in your opinion as getting out of character or do people live with bits and pieces of the characters they’ve played the rest of their lives – because come to think of it, they were really into character?

Very interesting question. First and foremost, we have to define Art as being a reflection of life. In that light, whatever is created already exists. Therefore the actor who is a method actor, (which is the style of acting that requires you being the character through and through) actually draws that characterization from their reality, which is from what they see, hear, feel and have researched. While acting, they are and after acting, it depends on the individual. It could take months to get out of character, which does not mean forgetting about the character or throwing all the mannerisms into the bin but more of moving from the active to the passive state. There really is no way you will get rid of everything about the character you played. Some of the things will remain in your subconscious, some of it will actually manifest from time to time in you as an adjunct to the richness of your own character but the best of actors do know how to take on a character fully and have their ritual of stepping out of it fully; actors like Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino and Daniel Day Lewis have developed rituals. Some are short and instant, some take years to go through characters for example, Daniel Day Lewis who does one film in like 2 or 3 years. So the honest answer to that question will be that stepping in and out of characters is a personal skill set that is crafted by each individual actor and is a reflection of their expertise with their own craft and their psyche or personality. It is also dangerous, for sometimes in pursuit of characterizations, an actor can pick up a mannerism or habit that totally takes hold of them and they can’t shake it off or step out of it and this unfortunately can lead to their demise. Case for example is River Phoenix and his drug overdose. So an addictive personality or someone with a fragile mindset should definitely not be a method actor.

Jude, Tuface & a Friend on set of a feature film

Jude, Tuface & a Friend on set of a feature film

Wow, that’s insightful. So an actor can be said to not be so excellent if he finds it difficult to get out of a character he trained so well to portray?

Stepping out of a character or not being able to step out of a character is not a judgement of the expertise of the actor. The judgement comes in the actor playing another role and their ability to divorce the portrayal of the new role from that of the old role. So if an actor cannot create a new, distinct character, then he can judged to have failed. But for the records, there is nothing like an excellent actor. In art, there is no perfection because art in itself is subjective in nature.

Ok, let’s move to your works. “Lost” is your most recent play?

Yeah, it is.

See the trailer for “Lost” below

Tell me about working on and through it.

Well it was a play written by a professor of English literature at York University in Canada. It is her debut play. So the play was molded into the current form through a style of work shopping which is what I used. It was interesting in itself as it required the creation of a parallel reality on stage, thus I had to create another character and I gave that character lines from other character’s dialogues. It was exciting as I had to create original music and use contemporary music, dance, mime etc to bring the interaction of the children with the forest and also with each other to life. I have directed it twice. Once for a school tour during the Black history month in February where it went to around 50 schools and now directing it on the main stage. So there had to be two different directorial approaches to it; one geared towards kids and teenagers and one for a more mature audience. As I said earlier,I worked through the communal approach. The first show, I had a stage manager who was once an actor under my direction by the name Chibie Okoye, a fantastic actor if there was one and for the main stage. Owing to her unavailability, I had to work with a new stage manager who ended up being more of a handicap than an assistant, but as the saying goes, the show must go on. I believe that the two shows have proven to be hits and for that, I thank everyone who put their hands on the wheel.

It was seen at the Toronto centre?

Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Jude introducing the cast & crew of Brixton Stories

Jude introducing the cast & crew of Brixton Stories

Are you involved in any other things, Film wise, say Producing etc?

Yes, I am. I am currently producing a documentary and there feature films. Not only am I producing them, I also wrote them and I will be directing them. I write a lot of screenplays for other production companies especially when I’m not working on my projects or sometimes, I do them simultaneously.

Writing, producing and directing are key channels that help you explicitly express your creativity. How did you discover all three and at what specific, crucial points did each become clearly relevant to you?

I wrote my first novel when I was 9. It was six 80 leaves exercise books and at the time, I gave it to the guidance and counseling teacher in my high school who promptly put it in her desk drawer with the promise of giving me feedback. That was the last I heard of it. I spent high school writing novelettes and giving it to girls and they became hits in the girls’ hostels. So as per writing, I can’t place a time when it was clear to me that I wanted to or could write, I just know that I have always been and thought like a writer. As my mother said, where all kids’ first words were baba or mama etc, mine was a clear sentence, after not talking for the first 2 years of my life. On my second birthday, I clearly said to the shock of everyone present, “Give it to me” – a complete sentence as my first words in life. So I believe I was born a writer.

Jude & Majid Michel

Jude & Majid Michel

Producing came out of necessity as I needed to procure funds and mobilize folks to bring my works to life. Directing was the same way. Actually, my first directing and producing gigs were at Church. I had gone there as a teen to chase girls since the most beautiful girls seemed to be ensconced at Church and the Pastor had said to the Congregation that he wanted to start a drama group. Being a fast thinker, I had figured that heading the drama group will be a sure bet way to get the best girls so I volunteered and lo and behold, I had free access to the girls and a certain respect and awe from them in return. So I wrote, produced and directed the first Church play and it was a massive hit. I found the experience so enjoyable and rewarding that I unconsciously forgot about the girls and instead started exploring newer and more innovative ways of bringing the written word to life. I have not looked back ever since.

Tell me about the plays and movies you’ve been involved with and what roles did you play on these projects?

I have been involved with a lot of plays and movies over the years but for now, I will talk about the most recent projects. I wrote and produced the multi-award feature film, The Tenant for which I won the AMAA for Best Screenplay. I have also directed three plays; “Flood” by Femi Osofisan, “Brixton Stories” by Biyi Bandele and “Lost” by Modupe Olaogun, the second of which toured Canada nationally. I have also worked on directing a documentary, “Blaze Up The Ghetto” and currently working on directing three other feature film projects. This is all in addition to several other movies I have worked on here in Canada as line producer and the ones I have written internationally for Chinese, Italian, South African, Canadian and American film production houses. The film rights for my play, “COMA” was acquired by ITAKEMEDIA, a South African film production company and I was commissioned to adapt it for screen which I have done. It will be shot in South Africa and Nigeria in September, 2013 and will have Fabian Lojede of Jacob’s Cross fame as the lead character.

Directing on set

Directing on set

Do you think society silently or otherwise puts pressure on writers and film makers to project its issues?

A knowledgeable, functioning society which holds Art as the soul of the nation, does. But a dysfunctional society with obtuse values and priorities unfortunately does not pay mind to its writers and film makers. They put them in the alcove of entertainment and pelt them with insults if they stray from that function to comment or lead the discourse on other issues. There was a time when the writers and film makers in Nigeria namely Soyinka, Achebe etc could speak and comment on issues and the nation would listen but now the value system has changed and even if they shouted themselves hoarse, there will just be an echo to greet them. That being said, a section of the society still puts faith and pressure on the writers and film makers to shed light on issues that are confronting the nation.  The truth again is not every writer or film maker is even interested, deep enough, socially conscious, sympathetic and altruistic enough to serve as the conscience of the larger society. Most of them are in it for themselves and themselves alone, others just want to entertain, the rest don’t even have a clue since their existence as it concerns the arts, is purely by accident. So how will they carry the cross of the society when they already have handicapped shoulders? As they say, who the hat fits, let him wear it. A knowing society expects its writers and film makers to be keepers of the best of its ideals; an unknowing society places its trust and respect on money and the mundane.

Art/Literature, they say is the mirror of life. Do you wholeheartedly ascribe to that?

Yes I do. It is, since it uses that which exists in life to recreate a reality and imagination itself exists in life and art is a creation of imagination. Therefore, it is a mirror of life.  

Directing rehearsals

What inspired your move from banking to the arts, though?

First and foremost, I was a pure science student in high school, never did literature etc, did JAMB with chemistry, physics, biology and English as my subjects with first choice as medicine. I realized I really didn’t want to be a doctor and prevailed on my father to allow me change my course to Agric Economics since it was the only course that wasn’t in the sciences but had those same JAMB subjects. He finally agreed. I changed courses and still was chasing my dream of the arts in the background. After a couple of semesters in Agriculture, I grew disenchanted with it and craved the arts. One day, I came home and told my father, No more! I can’t do another minute of this course;  I want to go into the arts. I want to write, make films, etc. He thought I was stark raving mad, invited all and sundry to pray and advise me but I was adamant. It was arts or nothing. I stayed at home for 9 months and everyday my dad will come to me and say, “You think it’s my life you’re wasting?” I remained unmoved and one day, he said, “Okay, if you agree to do your first degree in Nigeria, then I will compromise for you going into the arts” because I had insisted that I wanted to go abroad to study film. So I agreed and that was how I found myself in the University of Ibadan for theater arts. I graduated best of my class and was the first employee of Guardian Express Bank, a job I got while still a corper and in the most baffling of circumstances. Whilst there, Arthur Andersen, the management consulting firm for which I have been interviewing whilst in university finally offered me a job so I resigned from the bank and resumed there. It was from there I immigrated to Canada, did a postgraduate and started work in banks, telecommunication firms and along that line until one day, I went to see a short film with some friends and was so moved by it that it made me reflect on my life and all the challenges I had been through and I said to myself, This is not the life I had fought my father to live, desk job, 9 to 5, boring jobs. So I went to work the next Monday and resigned, deciding that I was going to throw myself back into the arts and face whatever the music was. I didn’t want to live a life of regret, a life that would echo with musings of “I would have been a great artiste if I really chased my passion”. This was the beginning of my odyssey, my step of faith, my consummate belief to explore my God-given talents. It has been exciting, unpredictable, challenging and most rewarding and I would trade my left arm to remain in the arts. So my talent was what made me naturally gravitate to the arts but it took a short film to finally bring me back home after getting lost in the desert of societal expectations and occupational stereotypes.

Director & Cast for Brixton Stories

Director & Cast for Brixton Stories

What other things are you passionate about besides movie making?

I am an apostle of the spoken and written word so I am passionate about writing. My life revolves around that. I write poetry, prose and drama. My collection of poetry, “Exotica Celestica” has been published, so also a collection of Short Stories, “A Box of Chocolates”. Currently, my play, “Oduduwa; King of the Edos” is being published in addition to my novel, “Be My Own Hands”, the last of which is the first in the Hands trilogy of novels.

I am also into song writing and have worked on some songs in the past both for “The Tenant” feature film, the soundtrack of a yet to be released feature film and the debut album of a Nigerian Canadian songstress.

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When I play back your response in my head, how you promptly quit your 9 to 5 job for your passion, almost immediately you saw that short film, your smart move to heading the drama group in Church and how you’ve over time made prompt decisions bring your desires to life, I’m reminded again that timing is extremely vital in laying hold of opportunities – you learnt that. Do you mind letting us into more secrets that guarantee success as they have worked for you?

I think the first cardinal secret of success as laid down by Plato aeons ago is the dictum, “Know thyself”. You have to truly know yourself and know with a crystal clear vision what you want; there are no two ways to it. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll be like a blind man in a China shop. All you’ll hear is the crashing into pieces of everything you lay your hands on.

Another secret is diligence – the need to burn the midnight candle, to research, to know as much as you can about that endeavour, trade, job, profession, gig,  idea etc that you’re about to embark on. It helps a great deal as it creates a map to help you navigate the terrain you are stepping into.

Yet another secret is humility – the need to stoop to conquer, to say I am new at this; Please can you teach me? Please can I learn under you? Please can you hold my hand and lead me? Can you please introduce me to this and that? I can do that for FREE as a way to learn. You just have to understand that everyone pays their dues and you must be willing to pay yours. Money should never be your singular motivation; it should always be the love of what you do and the particular interest in that project or idea or profession, when you have learnt enough to stand on your own footing, then you can quote your price.

Jude & two of his fans at a book signing

Jude & two of his fans at a book signing

I think perchance, one of the most important one is the ability to network – to seek out and find the right people to hob knob with; people who have the skills that can add value to you; people  that you can learn from, that can introduce you to even more people. It is through and with these people that you can build your empire of ideas into concrete living entities.

But most important of all is the will or conviction to sacrifice that which you have to get that which you want. In my case, I was willing to sacrifice a well paying job as a Human Resources Manager of a 700 hundred strong cross continental fortune 500 firm with a house, cars and other huge benefits to make my dreams come true because I believed with every ounce of my being that the dream I had was worth more than all the material and positional wealth I had. It was hard to do it but I did it. You must be willing to sacrifice. It doesn’t have to be as much as I did or the exact route I took but something has to give. Very few dreams are actualized from a place of comfort and empires are rarely built without the tears, sweat and blood.

How do you relax?

I am a beachcomber. I dance like I am possessed, read like it is going out of fashion and philosophize like it gives cerebral orgasms.

Jude Idada

Jude Idada

About the Director and Writer

Jude Idada was born and bred in Lagos, studied Theatre Arts with a specialization in film at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He worked severally in Banking and Consulting in Nigeria before he moved to Toronto, Canada where he did a Postgraduate in Human Resources and Change Management. He worked in Banking, Telecommunications and interactive Media before he resigned to go full time into the Arts. Jude currently owns a consummate entertainment company called Creoternity which is involved in Film, Music, Television and Publishing. He lives in Toronto, Canada but also maintains residence in Lagos, Nigeria.

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3 Responses

  1. john amechi okoye

    Absolutely interesting interview of one of the most talented and gifted writer/poet/director of this generation. The world aint seen nothing yet! Take a bow Jude! We are all proud of you!

    Reply
  2. mrs olasupo

    Judge may God continue to bless u the more and give u more strenght to excel

    Reply
  3. Colonel Clement Iyere

    Nice and a conclusive interview. Quite intriguing but yet in suspended suspense for the next line question(s) to be asked and the intelligent and apt response from Jude. Anyway, its no gainsaying that it was evident right from our secondary school days (Command Secondary, Kaduna, Nigeria) that you would be a prolific, talented and gifted writer/poet/director of this generation. I am proud to be associated with your innate directing prowess and unassuming posture in executing your duties. Well done Jude ‘D’ Idada. Thumbs up!

    Reply

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