Popular movie director, bass guitarist and script writer, Daniel Ademinokan tells BAYO ADETU about his divorce from Doris Simeon, relationship with Stella Damasus and his foray into clothing business
It’s already a year that you lost your dad. How has it been?
One thing I will tell you is that I have missed my dad’s stubbornness. He was a very firm and hardworking man. He was full of humour; no matter how bad things are, he’d calm things down with a joke. I didn’t have a strong relationship with my dad until the latter years of his life.
You will be launching your clothing line, Code 55, tomorrow. What should people expect?
It is a one-stop shop. I expect the business to mature so that I can get money. I invested money in it. I’m not a guy who sees himself as being just a filmmaker. I try to do as many things as possible. The building itself houses all the things we do. When we launch Code 55, people can just walk into the boutique and buy anything they want, but they should also know that the building is called Index Two Plaza. Inside the plaza is Code 55, Index Two Studio, a rehearsal studio I just set up. It is currently the biggest studio, where musicians can come to rehearse with their live band, in Abuja. I have a music recording studio and my film production house there as well. You can record your music video and everything you want there and, of course, we have offices there. So, when we open the place officially, I expect the place to make a big mark and pray that God will bless the work of our hands.
We named the clothing line Code 55 because you have to really sit down before you understand us. People say there is a mystery about me and they say the same thing about Stella. But trust me, may be you have to buy a decoder before you can decode who we are. For the 55, I was born 31 July and Stella is 24 April. If you add 31 and 24, you will get 55.
There have been many speculations about what caused your divorce from Doris Simeon. Can you clear the air?
People will always blab about what they know and what they don’t know. Doris and I have remained friends. We have a child between us and the most important thing we should focus on is the wellbeing of the young boy. I’m a human being, so I am entitled to have my own emotions and and issues. But people should learn to mind their business. Bankers and other professionals go for divorce, but you will never see it on the pages of the newspapers. Doris and I have retained our friendship. In fact, I just spoke to her few hours ago, so we talk all the time. Whenever there is something we need to discuss, we do that. We have moved on with our lives. Let people keep talking while Doris and Daniel continue to make their money. As far as I’m concerned, Nigeria has bigger problems that we all need to focus on. We have issues of oil, flood, kidnapping, Boko Haram and all that. We have the Niger Delta and amnesty issues to deal with. I’m surprised people are still busy talking about whose home is breaking up and whose home is not breaking up. As far as I’m concerned, Doris is living her life happily and I’m living my life happily, too. Our son is happy and we talk from time to time. Life is about ups and downs. People get married and get separated for reasons best known to them, so they should let us breathe.
There were rumours that Doris accused Stella of snatching you?
Who did Doris say that to? Whoever is saying that should come out to claim that Doris actually said so. People should leave Doris and Stella alone. The people saying these things have bigger problems. Some of them have one and half legs and then they will sit in one place to be fabricating stories.
Perhaps people are speculating because of the business relationship between you and Stella?
They are free to say anything; my personal issue is my personal issue. In fact, if people are looking for stories, tell them that Daniel and Stella now have 24 children. Also tell them that we have bought 24 houses in Abuja and hoping to buy 17 more in America. Let them keep talking.
Okay, let’s talk about the movie industry. What is your assessment?
The movie industry has come a long way and I believe that we are getting better. I always say that there are two sets of filmmakers in Nigeria. We have developmental films and commercial films. We have those who refused to move with time–they are still shooting movies with N700, 000 and N1 million. Such movies actually have shorter life spans. It is either you choose to grow or stay in one place. There are now some intelligent filmmakers, who are actually moving further. The industry is structured in a way that those who are making good films have continued in that direction. If you look at people like Izu Ojukwu, Kunle Afolayan, Amaka Igwe and even the people from Ghana, they have strived hard to put their money where their mouth is in making good movies. But now, the return on their investments is where the big question mark is. There is no proper structure on how to recoup investment in the industry; that is where the big problem is. There are people who can raise money to make the films, but how can the money come back to the investor? That is the problem. That is why I’m delving into other businesses, so that when I make my movies and the profits are not coming, there should be other things that will bring money to me. We have to be honest with ourselves; people are not really making money from movies.
For instance, if you invest N50 million and I take it to the cinemas, whatever I make from there, the cinemas take 50 percent immediately and the distributor will take 10 percent. So, what is left for me? Besides, I will still pay my tax. What will come to me at the end of the day will not be more than N10 or N15 million. Many filmmakers spending a lot of money are not making it back. Those who are doing it are doing it for the sake of passion. We don’t know the power of merchandising in Nigeria. Look at a film like Jenifa, some Igbo guys did Jenifa slippers and were selling it in Tejuosho Market and a dime didn’t go to Funke Akindele, producer of the film. Somebody also made Jenifa umbrella, but the money didn’t go to Funke. What I’m saying is that if your movie makes N10 million in the cinemas, you can even make more than that from merchandising. That is why I won’t even blame the people making cheap films in Alaba.
How do you think this problem can be solved?
Honestly, it is a tough question to answer. This is because a lot of practitioners have sat on this issue all to no avail. Unless we have a true distribution channel in Nigeria, it won’t work. We need a distribution channel that is not in the hands of a few people. And until distribution channel is properly controlled, filmmakers will continue to go hungry. Look at all the veterans, they are dying. They are poor, no pension, nothing. Until we can control distribution and there is a policy to hold people liable when things go wrong, actors will continue to live in penury.
How true is it that the Ghanaian movie industry now has more quality than its Nigerian counterpart?
I won’t lie to you. If you go to the US now, most of the films people watch are from Ghana. The Ghanaians spend money on their films and the filmmakers know exactly what they are doing and their environment is more conducive for the job. Who are the directors in Ghana? They are Nigerians: Paschal Amanfo and Frank Jaja. These guys were here, but were not doing it well. They went to Ghana and, because the environment there is more conducive, they are making it. Though they still have crappy films over there too, their films are generally better than what we have in Nigeria.
You recently shot a film in Cameroun. What was the experience like?
It was a great experience for me. Stella and I actually went to Cameroun in September to train some young actors, writers and producers. After the training, we made a short film for them. Then, their industry people begged us to shoot a major film for them. We used the actors we trained for the film. We shot the film, Unspoken, and it will be released in Cameroun sometimes next year.
Cameroun is a francophone country. How did you cope as an English-speaking person?
It’s a francophone country, but they speak English there as well. We also got help from a few Nigerians there. We actually got an interpreter at a time. It was quite challenging anyway, but at the end of the day, the movie came out better than what we expected.
Out of the many films you have directed, which one will you describe as the best?
Honestly, I believe that my best is yet to come. I have directed many films, but I still see them as stepping stones to where I’m going to. But if I want to choose among the ones I have directed, I will say it is Unwanted Guest, which I shot in New York. I had white people as crew members and Katung of Big Brother Africa was in it. Seeing the kind of response the film got at cinemas was quite interesting.
As a director, what is your strength?
My strength is in God. Recently, my mum came to Abuja on a visit and she was always telling me not to kill myself because I was like a crazy man. I don’t sleep. The problem I have is that I don’t know how to sleep. I don’t drink, smoke or go to clubs, but the energy is just there naturally. So, my strength is God. Also, when I look at my son and see how interested he is in what I am doing, it keeps me going.
How did your journey in the movie industry start?
As a kid, I was a TV addict. There was no TV programme that I didn’t know of. I was fascinated by how people entertained me. My life was like a triangle: I read books, watched TV and went to church. So, in the secondary school, I started writing scripts for producers. I would go to to meet producers. I can remember Teco Benson bought some of my scripts; Chuks Obiora and the rest, too. Later, I realised that I was more interested in bringing some of those scripts I wrote to life. At times, I wrote scripts for some producers and when they came out, they didn’t look like what I wrote. So, I said instead of these producers messing my scripts up, I can make use of them myself. That was why I started training, following people up and down and studying some directors. Eventually, I went to America to study film production and directing.
You and Stella flew actor Enebeli Elebuwa to Abuja some months back for medical treatment, but he died some days back. How did you feel about his death?
It is very painful, but it is a shame that most people abandoned him when he was ill. Now that he is dead, people are pouring accolades on him. I actually don’t want to talk about this because I can be confrontational. Let’s just remember the man for the good job that he did and pray for his soul to rest in peace.