Segilola Ogidan: Telling Africa’s Stories

 

Editor’s note: I first came across Segilola Ogidan in the movie production, ‘Mum, Dad, Meet Sam.’ I was fascinated about this Nigerian born British filmmaker and actress who was so full of life and joie de vivre. We are beginning to see more female producers and directors in Nollywood and the dedication to excellence they bring to their craft is rewarding. Coral Lifestyle mag recently caught up with Segilola to talk about Mona, the movie she co-produced with Anthony Abuah. We hope we were able to capture some of her incredible joy and excitement here. Enjoy.

Thank you so much for doing this. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself; who is Segilola Ogidan?

It’s my absolute pleasure. I was born and raised in Nigeria but I’ve spent most of my life here. I’ve always had an interest in film which led me to study Media Arts at Royal Holloway in Egham and then a masters in Cinema Studies at the University of Bristol. When I graduated I worked as a Development Exec at a film Sales Agency for a number of years before then starting my own production company OKP Productions in 2012.

When did you leave Nigeria for the UK and what inspired the move?

I moved here in 1997 (I know it’s been ages!) and the move was inspired by my Dad actually. He had always dreamt of a better life for his family so he worked on moving myself and my siblings here. I, being the first of course was the first to move.

What challenges did you face when you first moved?

The accent and being bullied for my own accent. I had such a huge challenge understanding the British accent and I would literally just nod and smile to everything and of course I would receive baffled looks from people! Gosh thinking back now just makes me squirm.

Likewise nobody really understood me and the kids saw it as an opportunity to make fun of my accent which led to bullying. Initially I would fight back but then I would get in trouble which made no sense to me because back in Nigeria if anyone tried to bully you, you just fought back. But in schools here obviously violence is frowned upon so I stopped and kids took it as me being weak and so they just carried on with the taunting comments.

Those years were not great I must admit but my goodness did I build thick skin!

Marlene Abuah as Mona
How did you know that you were going to be in the film industry?

I didn’t know until I was 16! I started off working towards becoming a doctor but that was purely because that was what was expected of me and then when I was choosing my course for university I was just attracted to the media course. Imagine my Dad’s reaction when he found out! (lol).

It wasn’t really until I worked as a development executive that I realised that I wanted to create for screen as well as lead the production of it because I felt that the majority of the films that were being produced especially about black culture in general were perpetuating certain negative stereotypes.

Furthermore I felt there was just nobody writing about Black African history! Our history predates slavery for goodness sake and it’s time black people in general know their true history and write about it themselves. If we don’t it would be written for us and of course with that will come those negative labels.

You went from acting to producing and now you combine both; how has that worked out for you?

Great! (lol). I control the parts I play. When I first started out as an actress I got sick and tired of being put up for the same formulaic black girl roles, you know the ones, uneducated side chick, young single mum, gang leader’s girlfriend etc. So I decided to start writing roles for myself and that’s how I got into script writing and haven’t gone back since.

 

What are some of the stereotypes you’ve had to contend with as a female producer in Nollywood?

That I don’t know what I’m doing. That I think I’m better than everyone else because I schooled here. That there’s a certain way things are done and you have to succumb if you want to be successful. Frankly no one takes you seriously and it sometimes so frustrating. The number of times I’ve said “this is my business, it’s not a joke!”

Tell us about ‘Mona’

Mona is a period political thriller about the attempted assassination of the Portuguese president in the 70s during his state visit to England.

 

How did it feel working alongside Anthony Abuah?

It felt very artistic! Anthony is a visionary and he’s very meticulous when he’s directing, something I identify with because I paint and each brushstroke matters on that canvas and so you have to be extremely focused and that’s exactly what Anthony is when he’s on set – focused. He sees the end result before he even begins and then he manages to transfer the same vision to every single person that’s part of the film to bring it to life. It was fascinating to watch and definitely something I’ll be taking on board my next film set.

Lonyo Engele as Caetano
You must have grown as a producer from when you did ‘Mum, Dad, Meet Sam’; what pivotal lessons have you learned – about your craft and about you as a person?

Mum, Dad Meet Sam was a fantastic experience and the film set was fun! However working on Mona reawakened that initial passion of essentially changing the world’s view on Africa as a whole and its people. We have been through hell and back and are still alive and still growing. It helped me learn how resilient we are, even during the challenges we faced on set and are still facing with the film! I want that to be the main focus of my craft, re-educating the world in the little way I can through my films.

What would you say has been a defining moment for you?

In life, it’s definitely been having my son. He makes me want to be a better person.

What next from your stable?

I’m currently working on a Nigerian spy thriller which I can’t really disclose too much about. I’ve also partnered up with Edith again to produce Mum, Dad, Meet Sam 2! So lot’s of work in the pipeline.

 

 

 

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