Updated: March 5, 2021
By Joseph Olaoluwa, TODAY NEWS AFRICA
“Film making is an expensive venture,” Arhawho Prosper tells me when I ask how this enormous project documenting the lives of corps members in Plateau State came to be. Prosper is many things to many people. On the surface, he is very jovial and free spirited. In Church, he sings but he would love to be addressed as a film director and script- writer. For most of the members of the cast, he is the man who granted them their first on-screen experience on the set of the movie, the clarion call.
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For Prosper, filmmaking has always been a passion that can be traced to his roots in Delta State, Warri to be exact. He had begun with church dramas and stage dramas when he was a member. One day, an idea occurred to his group to record something- a short comedy skit which was edited and burnt into a CD to be presented to the church. Several members of the church bought it and that singular moment set Prosper on this course.
“That moment alone, kicked off the career,” Prosper alluded.
Going into the university, Prosper studied Mass Communication. However the Mass Communication he studied had several departments. “We had PR, we had advertising, we had marketing, and we had filmmaking. Filmmaking was my major in school and during my IT there was a filmmaking school in Asaba, which is there till date. So I went there and studied acting which opened my eyes to filmmaking.” Prosper says that he has always known that he will take Filmmaking seriously. Taking Filmmaking made prosper know that he will have to do projects continuously. Hence, Prosper had always known he would shoot a movie, but that inkling was a matter of time that led to this moment. “I knew there would be a time where I have to do my own project,” he added with confidence in his voice.
Prosper posting to Plateau state was the inspiration for this particular project. Arhawho Prosper has always been pushed by the desire to serve and leave an indelible mark in the lives of those concerned. Shooting this movie was thus inevitable. “I knew there was no how I was going to finish NYSC if I didn’t take the film industry serious. So I had to use this leverage of being posted to Plateau State to do a project.” Prosper had contemplated the odds of shooting a short film or a full length movie but the inspiration to shoot this movies later came from one thing.
“The inspiration for this movie came as a result of corpers in Jos not liking their PPAs and the lackadaisical attitude of going to their PPAs just to fulfil all righteousness. However I feel NYSC should be a form of impacting our society as corps members and anything we do, we should take it seriously.”
“NYSC is a very important program everybody should go through,” Prosper preached. “on larger grounds, we should value and work for our PPAs.” Here was when the inspiration for the movie scaled up. Being very assiduous with the work, Prosper began to script write for the movies and the process took six weeks. “I needed to go deep into the story. If I wanted to tell a story about people, I must acknowledge their culture. So I needed to make some research and talk to some few persons during the scripting stage.”
In our carefully crafted conversation, Prosper had asserted that Filmmaking is a hectic business and the production stage could be quite a troublesome moment for any Producer. Prosper also made it known that while he was scripting this movie, he already had an idea of what and who he wanted as cast and crew members on this project. There weren’t just randomly selected- there were handpicked. So this led him to discussing with people of his Dance and Drama CDS group to find roles in which they would be suitable for.
“Several persons might have been good in acting, but there was something I was looking for. I just didn’t need somebody that was good, I needed someone to fit into the character.” So the search for the ultimate cast began. He was in luck really as a few of his friends agreed to play some roles in the movie. “It was a difficult,” Prosper says. Filmmaking is a difficult process. It was very difficult getting a cast of corps members. “You know we are here for NYSC, most of them had PPAs responsibilities and they are telling you that their mornings is for work, so it was hard to get them. As regards the crew, it was a little bit hard; you know it is not every corps member that has experience of handling a camera, light, costume, post production and the rest, or continuity and sound, so we had to extend our talents to individuals in the society.”
Hence, useful collaborations were formed. “We had to reach out to the National Film Institute (NFI) so that the project could fly.” For projects like these, they of course involve one’s time and talents and Prosper was well prepared and got it all covered. “Getting a location for our scenes took four weeks. As a corp member I had certain privileges. I saw a house I could use as a corper’s lodge, I saw some certain outdoor locations that were very good for my script. I was like: we are corp members o, this is the project I am doing o. Most people were kind enough to oblige, since we are corps members. On the flipside, some other locations were difficult to get.” Citing the security challenges in Jos, they had to compartmentalize their scenes into a particular area.
“Due to the security challenges in Jos, we needed to do all our acting in a particular area. We could not even go to Tundun Wada or other areas in Jos. We couldn’t leave Low Cost, most of our shoot was done there. We did that because we didn’t want to get to where was not safe.” Getting the gadgets had its own challenges as well. “We needed to hire equipment. We used four types of cameras and this was due to the high cost of renting gadgets for the movie in Jos as compared to Asaba. We used a Mac 3, we used the ET5I, Rebel Series, we used the 6D, and we used the 60D. Why? Because it was challenging. When we rented the Mac 3, we rented it for five days and by the fifth day it had already expired. We had not finished shooting when it was requested for, if not the money was quite a fortune. We moved from there to the Rebel Series, when the Rebel series got to a particular stage, we had to bring in the 6D and 60D.”
This didn’t cut the fact that they needed a tripod and sound equipment. These things made the sourcing for gadgets an uphill task. “These things are money and were very expensive.” But Prosper said this as a matter of fact, “if you want to do filmmaking and you want to get a very quality production, you have to get those equipment, else you are just a joker. Jos is a filmmaking town and people have these equipment but it was costly on my part and time and money consuming.” In terms of funds, Prosper funded the project all by himself and he stated it for the record as a “portfolio project.” “I had to make some calls to some friends who knew me as a serious filmmaker and they helped me with huge and little amounts of money to secure the equipment. We were able to afford equipment that is why we secured a Mac3. Mac3 is very expensive; it is like #10,000 for a day, so when the money expired we couldn’t afford another one.”
Looking for the cast was also very hard for Prosper. He had to make them understand that it was a portfolio project and not a big cinema project that will bring lots of money. “I had to assure them that their feeding and transportation would be taken care of. Money that I had as well as those gathered from friends was what was used in feeding them and transportation. To a certain level, accommodation was provided though it was not very amazing but it was something. We had to stay back so we can start early the next day.”
Prosper stated that no cast was paid but some crew members had to be paid. “Some were not corps members precisely, some were students of the Film Institute and these are what they do for the living. We had to pay some of them.” Like everything has time and season, so were the odds, Prosper faced in shooting the movie. They can’t truly be a perfect time for doing any project and Prosper sometimes had his crew come up short on a few occasions due to PPA commitments and other things.
The production was meant to last for 5 days but in the end lasted for 14 days. Indeed, nothing can be certain while prospecting a project like these. “We shot approximately two weeks. There were times I wanted to reschedule, the location was failing, one or two people were not there and the battery goes off and all of that. So we shot for 14 days,” Prosper added.
Challenges are indeed the breakfast of champions. Prosper made it known that ever since he set out to achieve this project, he had always faced challenges. “Like you set a time from 7:00am to 6:00pm, you will achieve 9 scenes and out of 9 or 7 scenes, we achieved just 3.” But that’s not all, Prosper says there were times when camera goes off and all the batteries are dead. “We have to sit down for hours, doing nothing for battery to charge before we converge.
He sighed. “Filmmaking is challenging but you just do not have to give up. We had really tough times. There were times we shot at night and you know how cold Jos can be at night? We had to shoot from 11’o clock in the night to 4’o clock in the morning and we were shooting just one scene because the cold was affecting the actors and they couldn’t deliver their lines. Cold was really an issue. So they had to keep doing it over and all over again.”
Prosper felt like giving up, especially on the third day when the battery charger got burnt. “I felt like giving up that day. Mark was on set and he just talked to me that I shouldn’t worry and to keep trying. We had to do a meeting with the cast to re-motivate them again.” I had to tell them we had more scenes to do and if we could all sacrifice to make it work. “Yes was their answer.”
Prosper did well to clear the air on the essence of his doing the project.
“The greatest gift I can give to the cast is the day of the premiere where they can see the work they have done. It is not about money, this is a portfolio project, this project is about impact. He also went on to say that a bad project is better than a project that is unfinished. “Finishing this project, I really achieved a lot, way more than I expected. It is going to be a big dream come true for me and the only way I can pay back the cast is by them seeing their finished work on screen and seeing this is what they did. That is the only way I can pay back the cast. This project has impacted so much. Some of the cast haven’t gotten the privilege of being on screen before. Some of them just appeared for the first time. Some of them are looking forward to me finishing this project” and that alone for Prosper is impact.
Prosper has set a date already for the premiere which is holding March 10, 2019 at Crest Hotel, Old Airport Road, Jos South. The gate pass for the premiere in Jos is a flat rate of #500.
In his final words, Prosper asserted that Filmmaking was not one easy passion. “It is money, it is a financial issue,” Prosper stated calmly. “Not giving up is another thing and knowing what you want is another thing. One thing I want to say to people who have a dream like this is that you have to keep doing it. I know money is always an obstacle but at the end of the line, when you think of the things you have achieved, you see money as nothing. So I believe you should be encouraged and determined. Sometimes after the shoot, I had to maintain contact with my cast and tell them that I really look forward to them pushing their acting career forward. Nowadays you don’t just do things for doing sake. You do things because your destiny is tied to it and it is a do or die affair.”
“Most times it is not about money. I didn’t do this project for money. I spent lots and lots of money, over #200,000 naira. I might not get it back on the premiere but it is not about money. People need to know that you are serious with what you have. You have to be determined, know what you want and never give up.”
Prosper gave a sneak peek into the movie before the interview came to an end.
The story is about a group of corps members, posted to Jos. After camp, they were posted to their place of primary assignments. Looking at the structure of the place, they were very discouraged. The lackadaisical principal made things difficult for them saying they would be paid #1000, #500 in some cases as their allowances. That if they came late to school, a deduction would be made from their allowances. Accommodation was provided but it was not so befitting. And you know how difficult it is when you have someone from the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba living in one place. The drama of living in one peace is another side of the story.