Only 23 years old, Jubilee Gamaniel has already achieved a lot in her short life. She graduated with an MA in Film making from the prestigious Los Angeles based Film Academy. She is the title holder of the MISS NIGERIA Universe beauty pageant and a successful model in her own right. She has directed eleven short films including a video Clip. Tarmun (our pain) will be her first feature film. Shooting is expected to begin in late december or early 2014.
Jubilee is a passionate screen writer and is presently trying to raise the $US 200.000 she needs to shoot Tarmun through her website you can visit here
Based in Los Angeles, USA, Jubilee, like most of her compatriots who have travelled abroad and seen how high standard films are produced is very critical of the near lack of professionalism in Nollywood, the world’s second largest film industry. Unlike other arm-chair critics, she is determined to change film making in Nigeria and hopes Tarmun, ( that will be largely shot in Nigeria) will kick off the change Nollywood needs now.
A short statement from the website of Tarmun summarises what Jubilee is about; “while not busy saving the world, she spends time with her family and close friends”
She has been talking to Francis Ngwa Niba about her new film.
Q Talk to me about your new feature film Tarmun you will be shooting very soon.
The film is titled Tarmin. (our pain) it is a word from my my local language. It talks about the pain of women in society and what they go through. I decided to concentrate on female marginalization especially in Africa and Northern Nigeria where I come from. When a girl is born there, at a certain age, she is packed to her husbands’ house, she gives birth to children and the rest is history. I decided to write this story because I think women should be allowed to express themselves, have an education and chose the man they want to marry. The film itself is the story of three women, one an American woman, the second an African woman and the third an African/American woman. One of them is going through domestic violence from her husband, the second one is in a forced child marriage (a teenager forced to marry an older man with four wives) the third woman, an American, gets married to a Nigerian man and travels home with him. He dies and she is forced to undergo widows’ rites which is all very confusing and she is trying to understand the culture of the people. A crisis breaks out and brings the three women together and the rest you will learn from the movie.
Q What is the underlying message of the film?
I am trying to say that women do have a voice especially in Africa where a lot of things have a religious undertone and here I am talking about Christianity and Islam. Both religions preach that women should be subordinates of men and all women need to be submissive to men. I want the world to know that as much as women have to be submissive to men, it is always necessary that their views and ambitions should also be considered. Let me give you an example; for someone like me, I come from a background where having a professional career is highly encouraged. Girls, like boys are encouraged to be doctors, lawyers. However, some people still think some professions are only for men. When I first said I wanted to be a film maker, I was told that was a profession for men. I was told good girls don’t get into film-making; but this is about the way people think. I said if my family members whom I think are liberal can say film-making is for men, the situation will be worst for girls coming from less privileged backgrounds. In making this movie, I am sending the strong point out that women should be allowed to do what they think is right. You never can tell, a woman can change the world
Q Your film is mostly about violence done to women, have you ever been in a violeant relationship?
That’s interesting. I came close to that but never stayed in the relationship for long. I decided to walk away because I knew exactly what I wanted from a relationship and violence is not one of them. I like my independence and if I notice something going wrong with a relationship, I am out.
Q When you say you came close to it, did the boyfriend actually get violent before you decided to walk away or he threatened to get violent?
Yes he did get violent. There was this rage coming from him and I did not understand the reason or what was causing it. I said, hey, I have seen this happen to people around me and I was not going to let it happen to me. When violence happens, some women always think it is because of something they did wrong and they keep trying to make things get better or hope things will get better but trust me, it never does. A violent boyfriend/husband will keep abusing a woman on the grounds that they love her but the truth is they end up hurting the other person. The more the woman sits back and accepts the abuse, the more they think it will get better, the worst things get. Before writing the story, I did a couple of interviews with women in abusive relationships and realized to my shock that some of the women actually wanted their boyfriends/husbands, to beat them. They believe in hitting them, he is showing that he loves and cares for them.
Q That must be very strange
Yes indeed. There is one lady I spoke to who admitted her boyfriend beat her and she liked it and I said that was interesting because I never thought some women will actually like being physically abused.
Q Your abusive boyfriend, was he in Nigeria or Ameria?
It was in Nigeria
Q So I suppose that will not happen to you in America?
Not to me but it does happen in America. Infact, it happens everywhere on earth. I spoke to American and Indian women who are abused in America. Abuse is not an African thing only. The reason for the film is because these abused women remain in those relationships thinking there is no way out. My film indicates there is always a way out. The women need to find the necessary strenght, believe in themselves and they should walk away from those abusive partners.
Q What about the situation when you still love the abusive partner dearly, you just can’t leave him, he is still the best but most abusive thing that happened to you?
In that case, you try to get some help for him. My research indicates the anger or rage that makes him get abusive comes from somewhere and you have professionals who can identify the cause and help him in managing it.
Q Ok, Let’s get back to your film, who are some of the big named actors who are involved in the film?
Some of the actors who have signed up include Sahara Garey? She is an actor here in hollywood and has appeared in a couple of films including Akeelah and the Bee, Model Minority, Snatch and a couple of other films.She has also acted in the TV series “Everybody Hates Chris”. She is the biggest name we have now. In Africa, we are trying to book a couple of actors but I cannot name any now because negotiations are ungoing. I am still hoping to add some two other big names to the project.
Q It is interestin g that you are just 23, you are in hollywood where the film industry is very competitive and you do need a lot of financial backing to produce any film. How do you intend to raise the money to produce Tarmun and what figures are we talking about?
Our projected budget now is $US 200.000. We are hoping to raise the bulk of the money through family and friends. We are also soliciting for finances from companies and investors. You must understand there are people ready to invest money but they need to be sure they will be able to get their investments back. We also have a website www.tarminthemovie.com where people can go to and give donations We have a four month time frame to raise the money and if we don’t get all that, we will have an additional two months during which we will adopt our plan B and kickstarter might be part of that plan B.
Q 200.000 dollars is quiet a lot of money to raise in four to six months. Aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot by having such a big projected budget?
To make a good product, you need good money. If you make a movie for 10.000 dollars, you will get a film of that budget which is not exactly what I want to do. I think it is time to improve the quality of films coming out of Africa and the only way we can do that is to up the game. I am involving actors who have been in the industry in Hollywood for a long time and they are not exactly cheap. We are also getting actors from Nigeria and we hope the Nigerian actors learn a lot from those from Hollywood. You can’t do all that without the necessary finances. Hollywood didn’t grow overnight, it happened gradually. Hollywood now produces multi million dollar film projects but when they started, they were also producing 200.000 dollar movies. We need to step up the level of film production in Nollywood now. Very soon, people will be needing bigger budgets to also produce Nollywood films.
Q For people who are not in the industry, it is sometimes confusing why you need so much money to produce a film. In your particiular case, what are you going to do with the 200.000 US dollars that you need?
We need to rent equipment, we need to provide food and transportation for the actors and crew, you need to pay the actors that will be in the film and you need money to promote the film. Most of the money is allocated for the production phase because you need the right cameras and some other gear you need to shoot any film.
Q Ok, 200.000 dollars is a lot of money but in Nigeria itself, they usually shoot an entire movie in less than a month, in a year they produce about 3000 films with a much smaller budget. Will you still call your type of movie, produced to Hollywood standards with 200.000 dollars a Nollywood film?
Yes of course. It will be shot in Nigeria. The reason I am now in Hollywood is to get the necessary training and raise the necessary finances and head back home to shoot the film. Shooting a movie in less than a month, producing 3000 movies in a year, is that what I think Nollywood should be doing?, no of course. Can Nollywood get better?, yes it can. That is what my movie is all about, to raise the standards of film making in Nigeria. When high quality big budget films keep getting produced in Nigeria, others will eventually follow. When the quality of films produced in Nollywood improves, everyone gains.
Q Tell me how your film is going to be different from the films produced in Nollywood today?
We are going to put in the necessary work and time to make sure the final product meets the necessary standards. We will be using professional crews and equipment, and the experienced crew will bring in their knowledge to the film; we are giving the actors enough time to study the script and get into character. We will not rush anything, we will try to see that everything about the film is near perfect. Nollywood produces 3000 films a year because they don’t take the necessary time and concentration on each project to make them look and feel professional. Though actors and equipment play a necessary part in film production, the time and organization it takes to produce a film is even more critical to it’s success.
Q In terms of numbers, Nollywood is the second largest film industry on earth after Bollywood. However, more than twenty years after Nollywood started, the quality of the scripts are still bad, some of the acting is really bad; why has it been so diffcult to improve the quality of Nollywood films?
The biggest problem I think is the money or the lack of it. From my experience here in Hollywood, you can immediately tell there was a very limited budget when you see any given film. The quality of a film suffers when you don’t have the necessary funding. The second problem is that producers in Nollywood are comfortable where they are now and are doing very little to improve the quality of their film making. People including actors and producers are not challenging themselves to do better. Nollywood can get better. It is time to let the world know that Nigerian films can get better.
Q Money or the lack of it is a good enough reason to have bad Nollywood films but you still have a fundamental problem with bad scripts. Some of the themes are the same,witchcraft and most of their plots are always very easy to decipehr. A friend once told me he needs to watch a Nollywood film for only ten minutes and he can tell you exactly how the film will end
Sincerly, you can’t go and tell every single screenwriter that their scripts are not good enough and they need to improve them significantly. I can however tell you one thing, more and more Nigerians are now coming to film making schools here in the US and they are learning the hard way how to produce really good, entertaining films. After school, it will be good they go back home and showcase what they learnt. That will improve the quality of Nollywood films.
Q So you think in ten years time Nollywood will have radically changed for the better?
Oh yes, I promise you that
Q You are only 23 and already directing films. How do you look at your future in the industry?
I am hoping to help improve screen writing in Nollywood because that is one of my strenghts. I try to write screen plays that can stand up to any scrutiny. I respect the format you need to adopt to write a good screen play. After we produce the film, I am hoping to use part of the proceeds to train young film makers in Nigeria about good script writing. They need to learn so they can teach others and the long term effect is that film production techniques will improve in Nollywood. People who watch Nigerian films really want to see a massive improvement in the quality of the films. I am now in school and will eventually like to share the knowledge I gain with others and I just love doing that.
Q How many scripts can you written?
Eleven. Tarmin the Movie is the first feature film script I have written. The other scripts were not feature films.
Q What does it take to be a successful script writer?
You need to have the necessary skills in the sense that you need to know how a good screen play is written. Anyone can write a story but what distinguishes a good script writer from the rest of the pact is their ability to use an existing plot and weave it into an interesting and captivating story. A good script writer needs to know the basic format of a screen play. You need to know how to break down a given story into different sections and know how to build the interrelated plot lines. My script writing tutor told us to write a good screen play, you need to divide it into three parts, a beginning, a middle and an end. You write each act around one main character and we should follow that character as he grows in the film. Every act in the story must contribute in one way or another in telling or developing the main plot. A good story needs a good context, a good conflict and an exciting and unexpected ending. Audiences must be wondering what is going to happen next and every movie should be telling or explaining a point of view. The story must have a good climax
Q You will be directing Tarmin. Why are you the person who will be doing that or what makes you the director this film needs
I know how to interact with my actors. When I audition actors for my movie, I make sure I become their friends; I hang out with them at least two weeks before we start shooting. We need to get to know each other. That helps because they are then comfortable to work with me. I work with them like a partner. I don’t behave like other directors who cast and then only meet their actors on set. Any director worth their salt must take time to know their actors. I usually allow my actors to interpret the script in their own way. This helps when you are directing them. I watch them and try to make sure I only correct them when that is necessary. I give actors a part in the creative process.
Q What should people expect from your movie when it does roll off the production line?
People should expect a huge change to the movie industry in Nigeria, people should get ready to see great acting from their fellow Nigerians and people should expect Tarmun taking over Nigeria and Nollywood turning around. I think my movie will tell the world there is still good story telling in Nollywood. Tarmun is a film anybody on earth can relate to. It talks to all of us.
Q You are a female director, directing an essentially female themed film, what final message do you have for women in Africa and around the world who will hopefully watch this film when it is produced?
I want them to know that being a woman does not make you are any different from everybody else. It does not make you a lesser being. I want them to know they can change their world in whatever they decide to do. I want them to stand up for what they believe in.
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