With over 21 years of doing theatre and then Film and TV, directing and producing classics like MTV Shuga in 2014 and 2018, Chris Ihidero continues to deliver on TV. He is also the Head Writer/Editor for the M-net series HUSH. To Chris, the person with very little talent and a lot of discipline will forever be more successful than the person with a lot of talent and little discipline. He considers himself nothing short of a business man, ‘content entrepreneur’ he says.
In this very detailed interview, he talks about his experiences as a film maker and the paths that have led him here.
Can you tell us a little about your daily routine? What do you do when you are not making films or responding to interviews?
I don’t necessarily have a daily routine. If I’m on a writing project, then I usually wake up at about 6am to write till about 9am. And then my day just follows any shape depending on what I am doing.
Tell us about the environment you grew up in? Has that environment influenced the things you are passionate about?
I grew up in Lagos, I was born in Oshodi. My family moved to Ogba when I was nine years old. These places are the two places I grew up and they kind of mark me and the kind of person that I am. When you grow up in those areas, you tend to be grounded and experience life in a very different manner. The experiences of childhood there are that of community and communality. I went to boarding school when I was 7 years old in Ijebu ode, and I was there for 7 years, till I was 14, left in ss3 and that more than any place marked me. Gave me a sense of responsibility; take care of myself, be independently minded and being decisive about what I want and what I didn’t want, surviving. It wasn’t the boarding school where they have ACs in the room. It was survival of the fittest, like a jungle. That kind of boarding school.
Your Instagram Profile says “Content Entrepreneur” can you tell us why you chose that instead of film maker or writer?
Because I want you to know on first contact that I am a business man. I may write, I may direct, I may produce but at the bottom of it, I’m a businessman. My writing, my directing and my producing are my business. They are not my artistic endeavors, they are not my hobbies, and they are not the things I do so that the world can be saved. I have no savior complex, I have no pretention about who I am or what I do or why I do what I do. Like my late boss will say, I am a commercial film maker. I make film to make money. So, content is not my hobby, it is my job. The same way if you were a brain surgeon or a gynecologist or whatever you are, the same way you are all of that is the same way I am a content entrepreneur. I make content as a business. What I do privately in my free time is my business whether I want to do it for free or not. But when you come to me and you want me to make content for you, we are doing a business.
Why did you start the StoryStory Masterclass? And when should we expect the next class?
I started StoryStory in memory of Amaka Igwe, my teacher, my big sister, my friend who passed on in 2014 and I spent eight years of my life with her. Started out as a trainee director, and became Chief Operating Officer of Amaka Igwe studios and she thought me everything. And I thought that in her memory, I should also teach people. Which is why the StoryStory class is free. It is what I have instituted in memory of Amaka Igwe who was a great teacher and I’m passing on what she gave me. That is the only way I believe life works, pass it forward and let others benefit.
We heard you want to focus more on TV writing going forward. How is this coming? Why the transition from full screen movies?
Nope I’m not focusing on writing for TV, that’s wrong information. I write for TV and I’m doing the second telenovela for Africa magic. I did hush in 2015. It’s just one of the things I do, I’ll continue to write. I write for screen, I’ve produced my second season of MTV shuga. Writing for TV is one of the things I do.
What has been one of your biggest challenges as a filmmaker or content entrepreneur?
For me, it’s the environment one has to work. Nigeria is a tough place to work because things are unnecessarily difficult and even when you finish to produce film, if you are not in full control of the totality of your creation business wise, there are too many things you are dealing with as a filmmaker. Film making is not easy anywhere in the world but it is unnecessarily difficult here because the opportunities for you to make maximum returns on your investment are not there because of course, there is piracy, lack of infrastructure, the skill set in the industry is not top notch. So, these are some of the challenges we face.
You are very particular about storytelling, why?
Because it is the bedrock of all content production. What are we doing if you don’t have a good story? You can’t direct a bad script or story into a good film, you can’t. You can’t produce a bad story into a good film, you just can’t. You can ruin a good story and make a bad film out of a good story but even a discerning member of the audience will be able to say ahh that is a good story but just poorly made but when the story is wrong, every other thing is wrong. It’s like if the skeleton is wobbly, you can’t build a solid frame on the skeleton. It’s not possible. So, I’m particular about stories because once you get the story right, I mean seek yea first the kingdom of stories and every other thing shall be added unto you. That’s my mantra. Once you get the story right, every other thing will fall in. If you don’t get the story right then nothing will follow.
What is that one thing you think is an important ingredient of success especially in filmmaking that people don’t pay attention to?
Discipline. The person with very little talent and a lot of discipline will forever be more successful than the person with a lot of talent and little discipline. Skills are important, techniques are important, trainings are important but beyond and above all of that is discipline. Self-discipline. Because it is discipline that will not allow you go and collect ten jobs and you are not able to do one. It is discipline that will stop you from having deadlines and you mess around and not meet your deadlines. It is discipline that will force you to understand that what you have is a job and you are not waiting for anyone to inspire you before you go and get your job done. Even if you have the minutest of talents, with discipline and focus, you are always going to be more successful than anyone who thinks discipline isn’t important because they are vastly talented or they are super trained. For me, it doesn’t matter. Without discipline, you aren’t going to go far.
What do you think is lacking in young people who are upcoming in the film industry?
Young people just need to decide whether this is what they need to do. Nobody is going to die if you don’t become an actor, a writer or a director. Everybody thinks that because there are no barriers to entry, the industry is where everyone can stroll in and that is nonsense, absolute nonsense. The average person who wants to enter the industry has no talent or training. So go and get the training first, don’t just wake up one day and say I want to be an actor, or I want to write for TV or I want to be a screenwriter or I want to be a director because you think you have some stupid divine calling to go and be an actor or director. You have no divine calling. The divine has nothing to do with it. So, go and get training, go and get schooling, go and get skills, and then come. Young people want to come into the industry because of the glamor and all of that, that’s why they are there. This is why a lot of them are misinformed. They come and they can’t produce to their potential. Because they didn’t have it in the first place. They are just looking for an excuse to come into what they call a glamorous world. But for as long as that continues, they will continue to fail.
You’ve said so much about discipline. Is that your most important personal value?
I would say so. More than many people I have had the grace to have been trained by one of the best hands around. My eight years with Amaka Igwe, I can’t pay for them. If I were to pay her a billion naira, it still wouldn’t have been able to pay enough for them. I’ve trained here, I’ve gone to film school abroad, I’ve trained with some of the greatest story masters in the word including John TRuby, Robert makeyy and all of those good guys. But all of that is fine. I truly believe that what has brought me this far in my career is that discipline, it will take you farther than any other thing and I have been pretty disciplined. People come to me for consulting and all of that because they know that once I take the job, I am going to deliver it. I am going to deliver on time as I promised, I am not going to give excuses, and I’m going to kill myself to get the job done. I have delivered repeatedly over the years…This is 21 years of doing this for me. Started out with theatre then into film and TV in 2007. Putting all of it together is 21years and I have repeatedly delivered over 21 years because I have learned that discipline first. I am not the most talented writer out there, I am not the most talented storyteller. I’m not the best thing. I have had the opportunities and I am forever grateful to the Almighty. I’ve had trainings, I’ve had goodwill, I’ve had support but more than that I have also had self-discipline from the start. I believe I have come this far through the grace of the almighty and discipline.
Two must haves in your travel pack?
Phone and my laptop. That’s about it. Or a book. Actually, I never travel without a book, to read on the plane or train. Give me a book, give me my phone, and I am fine.