Tayo Elesin is a British-Nigerian actress. She also prefers to be referred to as a “storyteller.” Famous for her roles in some BBC TV productions including Casualty, Law and Order, Doctor, among others, Tayo has also acted in the critically acclaimed play by late Ola Rotimi ‘Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again’ produced last year by Lookman Sanusi. While in the country recently, she paid a courtesy visit to the Vanguard corporate office, where she disclosed why she hate the name ‘Nollywood’; and how to reposition the Nigerian film industry, among other issues. Enjoy!
I don’t like the word, Nollywood. I really don’t like it.
There are several reasons. One of which is, when I think of the word, Nollywood, quite frankly, it reminds me of a mimicry, if you will, of Hollywood. Now, Hollywood is the home of the American film industry. It’s actually a location in Los Angeles. I have found nowhere in Lagos or in Nigeria called Nollywood. Except if you are telling me it’s located in the Mushin or Ikorodu area of Lagos. But I’m yet to see such a place in Nigeria.
That’s why I don’t agree with the word, Nollywood. Incidentally, the word, Nollywood was not actually created by a Nigerian, but by a newspaper publication back in the States which started to identify Nigerian films as Nollywood. But when you read through that article, it wasn’t used respectfully like Nollywood. Rather, it was used to describe the film industry in Nigeria in a mocking way.
But Nigerians took it up and turned it the other way. But for me, Nigeria is a big country with a flourishing film industry. It doesn’t need to mimic the word, Hollywood. Also, there are films from countries like Finland nobody calls such films Fin-wood, or British-wood referring to films from Britain. It’s called British films. What I want to see is a Nigerian film to be called a Nigerian film. There is no need for the mimicry at all. We don’t need it
I intend to tell good stories. I’m a story teller. If a good story comes from Nigeria, South Africa, Italy or from any part of the world, I will do it. The thing here is that a good story is a good story irrespective of wherever it’s emanating from. If a Nigerian film maker has an excellent story and it’s directed by a tested hand, why not? I will do it. But I don’t think I can answer the question; ‘do you intend to be part of Nollywood’ because of the fact that I don’t agree with the word, Nollywood.
What’s your assessment of films from Nigeria?
I think Nigerian movies are getting better and better every day. This is an industry that is about 20 years old and it has recorded remarkable progress in the time frame. I think, with more training for actors, producers, directors and structure put in place, the industry has the ability to make more progress in future. For instance, we need agents and managers who will deal with contracts so that artistes don’t have to be bogged down by these things.
A producer and a director should not be having a meeting with me about my fees. They should be talking to my agent and manager. Over here, they talk to artistes directly. That’s not how it’s meant to happen. An actor is a creative person. What I want to deal with is the story and not discussing my fees. That’s left for my agent to handle. Also, there is need for structural things like casting directors.
The casting directors are people who cast the right actors to the right roles. For example, if they are looking for a 50-year old Igbo man, a casting director will go all out in the search for an Igbo man within the age bracket of 50 and 60 years and bring them in for audition and choose the right one from the lot. But, it’s not so. A director should be a director, a producer should be a producer while a casting director should be a casting director.