30th November, 2022
By Taiwo Okanlawon
Nigerian writer and filmmaker, Francis Madubuko and Kalu Anya Ndukwe, a talent-road manager and label services first connected at AFRIFF 2018, the duo immediately became due to the obvious reason, they both love art!
Francis is a writer and filmmaker based in Lagos, Nigeria. He has written TV series and Tele-movies for production houses and, most recently, for Teen Africa Television on DSTv. While Kalu, a talent-road manager, and label services at Plug Entertainment Limited, is finding his feat in the movie industry as a producer. They both worked for a film company called Raconteur Production.
The ingenuity and an undying desire to tell African stories to an international audience and change the narrative and degrading view others have of the continent pushed Francis and Kalu to join forces to create the short film, ‘Lana’; a story about the repercussions of evil, even when it seems nobody is watching.
In this interview, the duo speaks about their careers, collaborations, and challenges as well as plans to explore the opportunities that await African creatives.
What are your names and what do you do?
Kalu: My name is Kalu Anya Ndukwe. I am a tour road manager and label services at The Plug Entertainment and I am finding my way in the film industry as a producer.
Francis: My name is Francis Madubuko, I’m a writer and filmmaker.
You recently released your first movie together, how has the feedback been so far?
Kalu: It was great. A lot of people had their interpretation but it was generally positive.
Francis: It’s been amazing. We’ve received constructive feedback on what we should have done better and this being our first short film, we’ll definitely improve on our future projects.
Tell us more about your backgrounds and how you connected.
Kalu: I grew up in Aba in Abia State. I have always seen myself as one of the sons of Abraham. So I spent my time shuffling Owerri, Port Harcourt, and Lagos in between my school year. I struggled through studying Mathematics at University, but I’m free now. I met Francis, I think in 2018 during our time at AFRIFF. We both worked for a film company called Raconteur Production. We still do, partly— the love for art brought us together.
Francis: I think what connected us was the similarities and outlook we both have to work. Kalu is one of the smartest and most hardworking people I know and it’s only natural that we vibe. Plus we come from the same state. I’ve been in film for a while now and it’s been amazing.
Is it difficult to combine your respective jobs with movie production?
Kalu: For me, it’s not that difficult and also not as easy as it looks. Nothing is easy in life. It’s all about planning and having a direction.
Francis: It’s challenging sometimes, can’t wait for the day filmmaking is my only job.
How would you describe your struggle over the years finding your feet within the creative space?
Kalu: Believing in yourself is the first step. Working hard, learning, and bringing value whenever you are called upon is the only way to navigate and find footing in the creative space.
Francis: It’s a big challenge because nobody really wants to give you the opportunity to thrive in the industry without some form of guarantee and these guarantees come from projects you’ve created and you cannot create anything without an opportunity. So the circle can be frustrating, you just have to do what you have to do to get noticed and hope for the best.
You’re obviously quite talented yourself but are there any specific people or creatives that helped you along the way?
Kalu: I would love to thank Chin Okeke, Asa Asika, and Chioma Onyenwe because they are an important part of my journey. They believed and gave me a chance when nobody did.
Francis: Yes. I had a lot of guidance from people like Mildred Okwo, Ramsey Noah, and Chris Odeh who were my teachers at Pan Atlantic University.
How long have you been in the music industry?
Kalu: I’ve been in this space for as long as I can remember lol. It depends on when I choose to start counting. There are 2008, 2014, and 2017, so it depends.
Tell us about challenges faced by both of you and whether was there a time you felt like quitting music/movies completely.
Kalu: The biggest challenge is not having a support system—without it, there is no moving ahead.
Francis: Challenges are inevitable in life, from seeking funding for your work to networking, getting jobs, or any other thing. The most important thing is to remember that it is all temporary, no matter how overwhelming the odds are stacked up against you. The thought of quitting sometimes filters through my mind but I remind myself that it would be very selfish if I don’t tell all the stories that needed to be told and touch the lives that needed to be touched. Until then, I do not have the luxury of quitting.
How big a role does having funding play in the production of movies?
Kalu: Funding is a big part of filmmaking. It is the most crucial aspect of the process. Making a movie without one is as good as not making one.
Francis: Funding is everything, I mean except having an amazing script. Funding is what gets you the right equipment, crew, and cast. The funding pays for the location and production design. This allows your creativity to thrive with no holds barred, so yeah better soup, na money kill am.
Who would you like to collaborate with among the heavyweights in the film industry?
Kalu: I love it when Ben Affleck is either producing or directing a movie. I would love to work or shadow him if the opportunity presents itself. I also love Kemi Adetiba. She’s different.
Francis: I’ve always admired and would love to work with Kunle Remi and Stan Nze, and the directors I’d love to work with are Kemi Adetiba and Kenneth Gyang.
What do both of you think the future holds for Nollywood?
Kalu: Nigeria’s movie space is evolving. There are lots of stories to be told and I believe we are getting there. We are really putting out quality and I believe we are about to close the gap in quality sooner than you think. It’s happening.
Francis: Nollywood is a gold mine. Many people don’t realize it yet, but it will become the biggest sector of the economy in a few years. The reason why most streaming organizations are pitching their tents here in Nigeria. It’s our duty, as creatives, to tell our stories and change the narrative the outside world has about our people.
What other project do you want to embark on now?
Kalu: I have a couple of projects I would like to bring to life, but it’s all a thought process for now.
Francis: I have a few scripts I’ve been developing and working on, both shorts and features, and would love the world to see them. But first, funding!
Your advice to younger creatives looking to enter the movie industry?
Kalu: Do it. Just do it. Just know that you have to be a student before becoming a master. Ask for the opportunity. Volunteer for the opportunity. Then show you can when the need arises.
Francis: Use what you have to do what you know. Don’t wait for life to give you all you think you need to achieve your goals, all you need is right there in your hands, and in your head.