Ene Victor Kene is not new in the moviemaking business in Nigeria. Having begun his filmmaking journey with one of Nollywood’s greats; Amaka Igwe almost 20 years ago, he has walked the tight rope of growing into a master in the filmmaking craft.
In this interview with AMH, Kene talks on the need for improved policies and regulations as ways to grow the Nollywood industry, as well as roles government and film practitioners, can play.
Read the highlights and the full interview below:
- How we can grow Nollywood into the likes of Nollywood and Bollywood
- The most common misconception about photographers in Nigeria
- My most challenging Job I took on as a producer and director
- How I almost gave up filmmaking
AMH: Please introduce yourself, brand, and tell us about your work
Kene: My name is Ene Victor Kene. I am from Enugu State. I am a filmmaker, writer, cinematographer and director. I hold a diploma in Electrical Electronics Engineering; I am a Cisco Certified Network Engineer and a Systems Cloud Computing Engineer. I am also the MD/CEO of Specks Degrees Media which houses both Specks TV & Nollyflix.
AMH: How did you get into photography?
Kene: I got into photography after my secondary education in 1998-99. A senior member of the youth fellowship department of my church took me in and taught me photography. It was through him I got exposed to the art of photography. He was one of the guys in charge of photography at Exxon-Mobil, Qua Iboe Terminal, Ibeno-Eket.
In 2001, I relocated to Lagos to work with Amaka Igwe’s studios, Moving Movies Production as a location photographer. That was where my journey into the world of filmmaking started.
AMH: At what age did you start, how many years have been into film productions and what age do you hope to retire?
Kene: Hahaha….. I started photography at the age of 17/18 after my secondary education. I got into the industry in 2001 as a location photographer for the late Amaka Igwe of blessed memory who happened to be my first cousin. Though I left the industry partially in 2003 when I left to further my studies in Ebonyi State, I returned again fully in 2008/2009.
I hope to retire the day my creator calls me, which I am hoping will be around the next 5 decades plus by His grace (smiles).
So, I have been into film production as a crew (cinematographer) guy for roughly 19 years now and as a producer/director for about 5 years now.
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AMH: Which Nollywood producers do you yearn to work with, and who are your greatest inspirations in the industry?
Kene: The Nollywood producers I would love to work with includes the likes of Tunde Kelani, Kunle Afolayan, Ayo Makun, Genevieve Nnaji and Mo-Abudu. The Nollywood producers who have been my greatest inspiration in the industry are: the late Amaka Igwe, Tunde Kelani, Genevieve Nnaji, Ene Byron & Idowu Adedapo (Hydee /Mr Views.)
AMH: In your opinion, is the Nollywood industry where it should be with regards to film productions?
Kene: I don’t think Nollywood is yet at the level it should be. Yes, we have recorded milestones of achievements but I think we still have a long way to go.
We need improved regulations and policies to enhance the industry. We need structures and institutions that will make this industry what it should be and compete with the rest of the likes of Hollywood and Bollywood.
We need more private sector participation in the industry to assist filmmakers with grants, loans, establish film villages, Nollywood studios and establish more cinema houses across the nation.
We need more media players to come in and break the monopoly of a few who think they can hold filmmakers to the jugular and dictate to them what to create, write, produce and sell.
More so, I strongly believe the government should sit up and save this industry which is becoming one of the highest employers of labour in the country from collapsing.
…I think we still have a long way to go. We need improved regulations and policies to enhance the industry. We need structures and institutions that will make this industry what it should be and compete with the rest of the likes of Hollywood and Bollywood – Ene Victor Kene
AMH: What measures do you think can be taken to have more quality productions for our movies?
Kene: Put in simple terms, we need improved policies and regulations for the industry.
Piracy is a major problem which cannot be tackled by mere words of mouth. The government, public and private sector have to come together to save the situation. Although it is getting a little better with the advent of new media, but we still haven’t solved up to 20% of the challenge.
We should be able to find ourselves in that place where banks will start getting more comfortable to release funds (loans) to filmmakers because they are sure that the distribution channel has greatly improved and become so tight, transparent and rewarding to the level that their money will come back a hundredfold to them at the end of the day.
AMH: Tell us about some of the most common misconceptions about photographers in Nigeria.
Kene: The most common misconception about photographers in Nigeria is that the profession is seen as something for the less-intellectually sound minds and school drop-outs. But I think the narrative is fast changing. We are beginning to see men and women of timber and calibre when it comes to the academic field take up photography as either a full time or part-time profession.
I have lawyer friends, bankers, engineers and a lot of others who are into photography. Kelechi Amadi Obi is a shining example. He is a lawyer and a renowned photographer. I believe photography has given him so much that even the law profession is yet to give him.
AMH: Since you started your career, what has been the most challenging job you took on, and why?
Kene: The most challenging job I took on was producing & directing ‘’Sonship Mistake’’. That was my 1st time of working with over 60 casts in a film of about 110 scenes. The crowd management coupled with production intricacies were out of this world. At a point, I almost collapsed because I was producing and directing at the same time. It was a huge learning curve for me, most especially the post-production and marketing aspect of it. But in all, I still give glory to God.
The most challenging Job I took on was producing & directing ‘’Sonship Mistake’’. That was my 1st time of working with over 60 casts in a film of about 110 scenes. The crowd management coupled with production intricacies were out of this world. – Ene Victor Kene
AMH: If you had the opportunity to go back right from when you started, what will you do differently?
Kene: I wouldn’t have left Lagos to school in the east by 2003. I would have tried harder to gain admission into one of the schools in Lagos so as to have remained closer to the industry. My partial absence for 6 years slowed me down and I had to struggle to find my feet again when I returned in 2008-2009.
AMH: Was there a time you almost gave up your art? If yes, how were you able to pull through?
Kene: Yes, after my tertiary education in the South East, I returned to Lagos to practice what I learnt in school which was engineering. It was a different experience on its own because it is always from one job to another within short spaces of time. I wasn’t getting that job satisfaction I wanted. I always felt something was missing inside me career-wise, coupled with the deteriorating state of my late mother’s health then. She had cancer and was admitted at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). The experience was terrible.
At a point, I had to start teaching in schools just to see if I could fill that void but it never happened, until I made up my mind to go back into my natural calling which was cinematography. It was something I loved doing with so much passion and ease. Cinematography doesn’t confine me to space, it gives me the opportunity to travel, meet people, make new friends, and learn new things about places, people and their culture. It is something I enjoy doing so much.
AMH: A lot of experts in the Nollywood industry advise that you must have a side-hustle in order to survive and become successful. How true is this? And what’s your side hustle?
Kene: That is very true. But then it depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from that rich home where the financial backing is there for you 24/7, then your view about having a side hustle may differ. But for real street hustlers who don’t have anyone aside from their God, then having a side hustle is very key.
It takes time to grow in the industry either as a cast or as a crew person. Within this period, it’s the side hustle that will provide you with the cash to attend meetings, auditions, etc. So within that period of your growing and coming to limelight, you really need a side hustle. Most times the side-hustle continues even after you must have started cashing out big in the industry. So side hustle in Nollywood is a necessity.
My side hustles include shooting wedding videos, editing, script-writing, etc. I also sell leather bags, shoes and human hairs online.
It takes time to grow in the industry either as a cast or as a crew person. Within this period, it’s the side hustle that will provide you with the cash to attend meetings, auditions, etc. So within that period of your growing and coming to limelight, you really need a side hustles. – Ene Victor Kene
AMH: With regards to camera types, models and lenses, which are your favourites?
Kene: My favourite camera anytime any day is the Canon DSLR series, mostly 5D Mark IV. I enjoy the Red family cameras too. They are high-end user cameras meant for special shoots. But the canon models are so rugged and ready anytime.
For the lenses, I don’t joke with prime lenses. They give so much life to your picture and make your craft stand out. Rokinon lenses are my favourites.. 50mm, 85mm f2.8-1.4 etc.
AMH: Please share 5 tips for new-comers who are hoping to get to where you are in the Nollywood industry.
Kene: I am not yet there as regards film making in Nigeria, but the praise is to God for his grace so far.
My advice is simple:
- Be humble.
- Work hard.
- Always strive to learn and update yourself on new materials and equipment.
- Put God first in all you do.
- Don’t be an introvert like me, make out time to network and hang out with industry friends.
AMH: Anything else you might want to add; like new projects, programs, plans, etc?
Kene: There is a couple of new projects and films that are coming up. I am about to shoot a new short film in the coming weeks and I just launched my TVOD site; //www.nollyflixtv.com.ng.
I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone for their support so far most especially my family.
God bless you all.
Writer – Film Critique – Entrepreneur – Gospel Musician