Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Sleeping with Directors and Producers cannot make one a Star---Veteran Nollywood Actress, Shan George

Shan George

Aside being a humble, physically charming, lively and veteran Nollywood actress, producer and writer, Shan George is the chairman of Callywood, the movie body in Cross River state. In this exclusive interview with Topflyers Magazine, she talks about the Nigerian movie industry, her aspirations as Callywood chairman, factors that could boost the Nollywood industry and her life in general.

Can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Shan George, I am a movie producer, actor and a writer. I am partly from Cross River State, Nigeria and partly British. I schooled in my village in Cross River State and I studied Mass Communication in the University of Lagos.

Some people wonder about your name, Shan George, there isn't any tribal or Nigerian name seen. What could be the reason?

The reason is that my father is British. Like I said before, I am partly Nigerian and that is why my names are English.

A few months ago you were appointed by the governor of Cross River state, Professor Ben Ayade as the chairman of Callywood, the movie body in Cross River state. We believe the governor had other options yet he chose you. Why do you think he chose you?

These kind of questions should be directed to the Governor because I am not in his mind to know why he did it but I believe it is because naturally, I have been acting and producing movies most of my life. So if he wants to appoint somebody who will head the movie body, who else but someone who has been producing, acting, writing and directing movies for the past 22years.

You are a model to many Nigerian youths and currently, you have one hundred and eighty six thousand (186, 000) followers on Instagram. Why do you think many people love you?

(Laughs) I don't know, really, I cannot say. It is difficult to know why people love you but I guess they just love the work.

(Cuts in) One hundred and eighty six thousand followers is quite a huge number and that is not easy to come across

Seriously! I have colleagues that have millions of followers so I don't think it is a big deal.

You studied Mass Communication from the University of Lagos and not Theatre Art. Career-wise, one would expect you to be a journalist. However you are in the movie industry. What prompted this choice?

First of all, I majored in broadcasting and broadcasting has to do with film, movies, documentary, etc. Also, I was working part time at the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) before I gained admission into the University. It was more like I was already doing TV work so when I got into school, I majored in broadcasting. However, while I was in the university, I had challenge of how to pay my school bills and someone who was already in the Nollywood movie industry, Blessing Stephen introduced me to nollywood so I can act and be able to pay my school bills. My first movie was produced by Emeka Ossai who is still in the industry and the late Jennifer Okere. The tittle of the movie produced was The Thorns Of Rose.

Is there any of your children delving into the movie industry?

No, none of them is.

Since your children do not have interest in the movie industry, what are they interested in?

My first son is an economist because that is what he studied in the university and he does events for big organizations. He practically does event but house event as a DJ. My other son studied music in the university so he does music. He is a hard core rapper.

At fifty, you have maintained a charming look. What is the secret behind it?

Actually I do a lot. I don't just sit down there and be the way I am. I sacrifice a lot being that, I time myself for my food and I am very particular about what goes into my mouth. I also make sure no matter how tantalizing the money of a job could be, I can forgo that job because my body needs rest too. So basically, I mind what I eat, the time I eat, and the kind of food I eat. I am also extra-conscious when it comes to maintaining my body, 24/7, I am very conscious that I don’t become overweight. I am practically hungry every time just to stay healthy and fit.

Our findings show that you are the founder and CEO of tuition-free film school, Divine Shield Film Academy in Calabar. How are you managing the academy?

I just feel after being in the industry for 22yrs, going to school to study various courses, studying on my own and working in the movie industry and expanding my horizon in movie making, I should not just carry it all inside me because, who knows, this life anything can just happen to anybody. So I thought I should share everything I know with some youths here in Cross River state. As a result of this, I had to come back to Cross River from Lagos were I had been based for many years and because my mum is old and is not feeling well, she insisted we go to Cross River state. I am her only child so I have to stick by her. During that spare time I decided to start training some kids on movie production.  When we started, I didn't collect registration fee from students because the body here are not financially balanced. Also, I do not have cash to be giving to people like some people do, but I just thought I could give them knowledge. The academy started in my compound and with time, I began to have a lot of students before I now decided to make it legal and by registering it as an academy. Infact, a couple of weeks ago we produced a movie titled The Punch.

Is the academy still open for new intakes?

Yes, it is still open but since the corona virus saga started everything has been somehow. Luckily we had shot that movie, The Punch before the period of lock down and we have placed it online on Callywood TV.

If new students wants to join the academy after the Corona Virus and lock down, how can they join?

Shan George
First of all, they have to be based in Cross River state because we don't have hostel except, if they have somewhere to stay or someone to stay with in Calabar. I don't plan on taking new students but probably by next month (May). The registration is online. We have our phone numbers and email online. Most people in Calabar already know how to reach us and maybe someday we will expand enough to have hostels where people can stay. Probably now that the governor has appointed me as Callywood chairman, hopefully he will help in that aspect.

What is the website people can register for the academy?

We don't use website, we are still on that process because the academy started not quite long. We don't have enough materials to open website but we will build one soon by God's grace.

We stand to be corrected but there is a quote accredited to you which is: Don't be deceived, respect the real actor, you can't sleep your way up”. What do you mean by “you can’t sleep your way out?”

What I actually mean is that there are some people who think that actors can sleep with producers or directors to become a big star or some actors think if they sleep with their producers or directors, he will make them a big star. Basically what I mean is that it does not work that way because to be a movie actor, you have to be an actor. You have to be in the right ability to carry your line and deliver them. If you don't have these right abilities and talents, no matter who you sleep with, they can only use you in one movie or two and it takes more than that and a lot of good job for people to notice you. If you are forced into a movie by one producer or director, you can't produce well as people who are watching the movie are, to determine who the good actor is. They will determine who to follow too, so it is only a good work and attitude that can get one to the top and not by sleeping with anybody. So that is basically what I mean by the quote.

Prior to the total lockdown in Lagos State, you were shooting a soap opera with Wale Adenuga Production. Did the corona virus affect the production as well as other of your productions?

Actually, we were lucky. We started on the 4th of January and finished two days to the day of the lockdown. So I could leave for Calabar and my colleagues also left for their various destinations.

(Interferes) Did the lockdown affect other of your productions?

Yes, alot because I was shooting before the Governor gave me the appointment. Meanwhile, before then, I had planned to shoot a movie in Abuja which was already paid for but I couldn't do it and the money had to be refunded and production postponed. There was also another movie that the owner of Asaba Film Academy was going to collaborate with the Divine Chosen Academy to do a movie sponsored by the Nigerian police. The movie has to do with life of the police in the barrack and on the road…unfortunately, the virus affected the production. But my prayer is for all of us to be healthy and be able to pass through this storm, come back together and continue our work. The most important thing is to get through the virus alive.

As part of her social responsibility, has the movie industry contributed in anyway in sending palliatives to some Nigerians.

Yes, I saw stuffs like that. The current president, Emeka Rolland and other actors like Desmond Elilot, Charles Okocha and other nollywood people shared some palliatives. I saw something like that.

As the current chairman of Callywood, what do you intend doing to make the Nollywood industry better?

Well, I am still in the drawing board because it is something I wasn't even expecting. I will like to be doing some stuff that I don't want to be talking about right now because I don’t really like saying things I have not put on ground. I have a couple of plans especially for Cross River state platforms so that people around here will have jobs to engage themselves. I also plan on training people to make them much better and as well have a studio where all the equipment will be available rather than sorting them from different location like we do right now, when we want to shoot movies in Calabar. I have already started an online Callywood TV which am praying to grow so that independent young stars who are shooting short movies or drama can have a platform to post their movies because most of the platforms now do not buy their movies due to envy, fear of competition and being overridden by new and talented actors.

Where do you see Nollywood industry in the next 30years?

In the next 30yrs I will say that is a really a longtime. I will say if we back forward it to the past 20yrs were it was then and were it is now, you can now imagine what will happen in the next 20yrs and where it could be already. Right now we are making collaboration with the western world and industries such as, Netflix, concerning the shooting of movies for bigger platform and cinema. It is high time we get rid of the mentality that we don't want one person to be better than another or discriminating one another. That is the mentality of most of the producers when they see your movie is better than theirs. We need to stop discrimination in the movie industry for us to grow.

Many Nollywood actresses and actors hardly relax. Do you actually relax?

(Laughs) They do relax and have alot of time to do so. Some travel to Dubai and other countries to relax. Naturally, the movie making job is not easy at all. It is a job that takes one’s time and mental ability. 

(Interfers) So personally, how do you relax?

Hmmm, I don't know really know but probably, I relax by watching a movie, reading a book, or writing a movie. So that’s why I can’t really say I am relaxing because while I am relaxing, I am still working just like the last time I travelled to New York (Laughs). When I got there, I could not really relax because I was trying to study special editing effects like neck slice. One of the most stressful part of our job is editing. The editors are something else. I don’t just want to go there before dem go go vex for me (Laughs).  

(Interferes) And that (poor editing) seems to be the major issue with Nigerian movies
Yes and that was why I wanted to study it myself. However, I haven’t been able to afford the fee to study it but I still plan to study it.
Veteran Actress, Shan George

What is your favourite meal?

My favourite meal is Amala and Ewedu soup (Laughs). Funny enough, it used to be tea and bread. I could eat tea and bread from morning to evening but suddenly, Amala and Ewedu took over.
What message do you have for your fans?

Well, I send message to everybody, my fans and enemies alike. Again, no matter what you want to do, just try as much as possible in getting some level of education. It is very important. No matter what you want to become, be it a mechanic, road sweeper or whatever you want to be, try and attain certain level of education so that you can atleast read and write enough to be able to build a good foundation. My special advice to everybody and every parent is to, as much as possible, get an education for themselves and their children because Education is the foundation of which you could build anything on.

What do you have to say to Nigerians?

I will like to tell Nigerians to try and love and grow each other. Also, we should try and share what we have with each other. What I mean by sharing what you have is to share your knowledge so there can be a balance. The mentality of tribalism will make us keep crashing. There are good people in all tribes so if we can share what we have, then we can move forward.

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