Comparing stage, screen actors needless — Adetokunbo Shittu
An actor, writer and filmmaker, Adetokunbo Shittu, tells KEHINDE AJOSE about his career and other issues
You studied Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. What inspired you to go for that course?
I studied it because of my fascination with the arts. I have been artistically inclined since I was child. The music, colour and boisterous atmospheres of cultural festivals and other events that I witnessed while growing up in Ilesa, Osun State, still linger in my memory. The 80s television series, ‘Arelu’ also made me thirst to be a theatre and film artiste. I was also strongly influenced by my childhood experience growing up in Zaria, Kaduna State, where I had great friends, with whom I learnt to build toys, and developed a form of shadow theatre from cut-outs of cartoon characters. I also developed a skill in visual and plastic arts, which spurred my fascination with the interplay of light and shadow on objects.
I actually wanted to study Law at the university to please my sponsor then, and quickly go back to pursuing my career in the arts. However, I had to write the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination about five times, scoring good grades, but not getting an admission to study Law. Thus, I had a perfect alibi to study Drama, and the rest is history.
Some stage thespians look down on film actors because they believe stage productions are more taxing. What is your opinion on that?
As one who has had the privilege of working on both stage and screen productions, I feel the comparison is needless. Both have their high points and challenges alike. Stage acting is quite different from screen acting, and conventions operating in the two vary. On stage, one has to project and exaggerate one’s acting to compensate for the aural and visual limitations of the audience who only view one’s performance from one angle throughout the show, especially in a conventional proscenium or thrust theatre.
However, the camera, lenses and sound equipment remove such demands from the actor. Rather, the film actor is faced with the challenge of creating and sustaining a character that will be recorded in many takes, across many scenes at many different locations. He needs not raise his voice or exaggerate his acting, like the stage actor. On the other hand, he is expected to generate a deeply thought and emotion-driven character, and understand the actor-equipment dynamics. Actors, who navigate these two platforms effortlessly, are worth more than their weight in gold.
What inspired your new movie, ‘Atunwa’?
It was inspired by the realities in modern homes, and society as a whole. It examines the reality of life today, using a traditional telescope to reveal the complex likely causative factors for happenings in the lives of people. Africans have always had a holistic method of appraisal of events and occurrences, which our adopted ways of perceiving reality has pushed to the background. Today, so many bizarre occurrences abound which defy any form of logical explanations. So, the movie was inspired by the need to bring this on the big screen, using the best of film technologies and human resources.
What was your experience making the movie; in terms of the high points and challenges?
Making the movie was fun, actually. A good filming experience is premised on solid pre-production, assemblage of a crew with competence, and cast that are up to the task. Being a co-producer, as well as the director of the movie, kept me in the loop of making decisions throughout the processes. It also enabled me to select some of the finest cast and crew to work with.
Getting suitable locations proved to be a bit of a challenge, because we could not shoot in most neighborhoods into the night. We had to adjust our work schedule to allow us meet up with our daily target.
What influenced the choice of cast you used in the film?
The casting was influenced by the nature of the script and the projected audience. The script discussed an African concept, using the Yoruba model, and it was intended for the cinema audience. Because of that, we were faced with the challenge of assembling a cast that is proficient in Yoruba and English languages, and still have the right appeal to the multi-cultural target audience. We selected tested and trusted artistes from different cultural backgrounds to retain our touch with non-Yoruba audiences; and the result was exciting.
Do you believe in reincarnation, and what experiences have you had in that regard?
Yes, I do. Virtually all ancient traditions believe that the human soul is not lost at death. There are tons of oral records now published in written form on this. The Ifa divination system, like several other ancient records, posit that death is merely a transitioning to a realm of renewal of form and character.
Some people are of the opinion that Nigerian stories do not have enough depth and substance. What is your reaction to that?
There may be some truth in that assertion. Much work needs to be put into generating story concepts that touch on deeply intellectual and emotional human experiences. The Internet has made self-education possible, so, creatives need to take advantage of this and improve their content.