Delectable and unassuming actress, Uche Mac-Auley (formerly Osotule), is back in Tinsel town, the industry that brought her fame and fortune, after a long and self-imposed break. Delta State born Mac-Auley, also a producer, is currently on locations lensing her newest movie, In A life Time, with other cast and crewmembers. Amazingly, the inspirational work, which she said dwells on hope and positive attitude towards life, is being directed by her youthful husband, Solomon Mac-Auley.
Very versatile Mac-Auley, who awed and wowed viewers with her wondrous role in defunct TV soap, Checkmate, as well as many other memorable roles in movies, recently went into the publications of children stories, a passion she described as her first love. With two of her books already published, she hopes to drop four more between now and early 2011.
Shedding more light on why she took a long break from Nollywood, Mac-Auley argued that it was necessary and afforded her the opportunity to creatively express herself in other areas of entertainment, especially children stories. In this scintillating encounter, the pretty and quintessential role interpreter, who’s also a script writer, bared her mind on many developments and challenges in Nollywood. The daughter of a retired principal also proffered solutions on how Nollywood can quickly catapult itself to the next level.
Enjoy the interaction!
For a very long time, you’ve been off the radar of Nollywood; we would like to know where you’ve been.
I’m asked this question almost every day; I’ve been around and didn’t completely go off the radar. Even though I wasn’t in front of the cameras, I’ve been behind the scene doing a lot of works. I’m working on scripts, especially our latest movie, In A Life Time, my children stories publications, and a couple of other things. So, I would say I’ve been around, only that I’ve been very busy, but not in front of the cameras.
Which was your last movie before the long vacation from Nollywood?
It’s almost embarrassing, but I don’t even remember the title. It was a project I did with Paul Obazele, over three years ago. In fact, I did two separate movies that year with Obazele and Shan George respectively. I played the lead in both of them.
Why the passion for children stories, did anything push you into it?
The passion for children stories has been there for a very long time; like I said to somebody not too long ago, I’ve been writing before I started acting. In fact, I’ve been writing since my school days as an undergraduate even though they were not published. Most of them short plays that were performed on stage. I’ve been involved with children stories for close to 15 years now. When I picked the interest to do children stories, I sent my younger sister to our village to collect stories for me.
We have a lot of stories and I also grew up in a family where my mother tells us a lot of stories whenever PHCN strikes. I had a lot of aunties who would tell us tales by moonlight all of that had been somewhere in my mind and I just thought it would be nice to put our own African stories into books and well-illustrated like the Cinderellas, Beauty and the Beast and so many others from the western world. We have wonderful stories, and it would be nice to have our own stories. Some of our stories are stronger than theirs and even much more entertaining.
So, how many of your children stories have you been able to publish?
I’ve just been able to publish only two; it hasn’t been very easy getting them published. Initially, we were looking for publishers, then we stopped. The difficult thing is that when you start to send your manuscripts to publishers, sometimes, you get a lot of no. I wasn’t ready to go that way. People send in stories every day and the children’s books industry is a very competitive one. Publishers receive over a thousand stories in a month. I thought there was no need for me going through that route. We eventually got ourselves a partner, who was also ready to put in some money and that, was how we were able to publish. The titles of my books are Jabari: A Long Walk from Home, and The Lion and the Fawn. We have these books already available in a couple of schools. We also have sales reps all over the place marketing them.
We tried not to go into bookshops currently, because we don’t have much, we haven’t really published so much. It’s expensive publishing and we don’t have the funds yet for large quantities, we only published very little and that made the cost of publications to be very high coupled with the illustrations. It was difficult getting an illustrator; it took us over two years to get one.
Aside the two published works, how many unpublished works are still in your kitty?
Honestly, I have over 75 titles written and waiting to be edited, illustrated and published. In fact, whenever I tell people this, they think I’m joking. Writing is my day job, because I wake up to write, just like you wake up to go to the office for your journalism works. I can write anywhere.
The inspiration to write children’s books, where and how does it come to you?
Without sounding so holy, because I’m really not so holy, I would say I get my inspiration from the Holy Spirit, because once I sit to write, the only time I struggle with my writing is when I don’t pray. As soon as I pray and ask the Holy Spirit to take control, I will begin to flow. I actually call the Holy Spirit my head writer. And I can actually switch from writing children story to doing a screenplay to even TV series. It comes very natural for me, but I have to pray, otherwise nothing comes.
J.K. Rowlings and other children’s books authors in Europe and American are making waves with their works. Do you see yourself attaining similar height with your works in Nigeria and the rest of Africa soon?
Yes, I see that coming my way soon, because in Africa, you really can’t pick one author and say this is a children’s books writer. There is no singular author that has done up to 15 to 20 children’s books in Africa. But outside Africa, some children’s books authors have over a hundred titles to their names. I don’t know of any African author that has series of titles, I want to be that author, I’m working towards it. It won’t be easy, but I know I would definitely get there. It is not that writing is easy, but because you do it every day, it becomes easy.
Two of your books are already out. How soon do we expect to see more on the shelves?
We should see two more before the end of the year, then another two by February next year, by God’s grace. We could do more than this, if the funds are available.
Do you intend going round schools to read your books to pupils, as a way of creating awareness and reviving the dwindling reading culture among students?
Arrangements for that are already on the way, we are actually planning to do all of that soon. Aside Nigeria, we also intend distributing our books in Ghana as well as staging some reading for pupils over there.
Away from your life as an author, let’s talk about your latest production, In A Life Time?
Yes, I’m playing three major roles in the movie, the lead actress, producer and script-writer. I’m co-producing with my husband, Solomon, who’s also the director. In A Life Time is an inspirational story, I’ve tried to make it as inspirational as possible. I started out writing tragic stories, I used to write and love them a lot, because I felt that tragic stories give you food for thought
. Someone came and changed that mindset and these days, I try to do positive stuffs, stories that would inspire, be uplifting and cherished. In A Life Time is a story of a family of about four relatives, all women, who were kind of imprisoned by their mindsets, very horrible mindset that they picked up from God-knows-where and it’s been haunting them all their lives. They were not able to move forward to the next level.
The lead character, which is me, made them realize that our destinies cannot be the same even though we are from the same family. What happens to you does not necessarily need to happen to me. There has to be a change. In her little corner of the world, she tried not to believe all of the things that every member of the family believed. In African, we usually believe that if something is not going well for you, you think it’s because of one witch in the family and it may not really be that.
It could just be that the time is not right for what you’re pursuing to come to pass. God could also have other plans for you, you maybe praying for A, while His plan for you is B. In A Life Time, is a story of hope, I needed to write something that will give people hope – it’s not a true-life story, but of course, you should know that writers don’t write in vacuum. You pick things from here and there and then make up. I tried not to write about myself whenever I’m creating my character. In fact, my character in the movie has nothing in common with me.
Who are the other stars on set with you?
First and foremost, my husband is directing, while Omar Shariff Captan is playing the lead male role. Other stars are Ebele Okaro, Ireti Doyle, and a host of others.
Are we going to see the movie this year?
Yes, but not on DVD; we are not in a hurry to come out on DVD at all. We want to hit the cinemas first in all parts of the world. By God’s grace, and marketing has already started, we are already marketing.
When people like you started acting in Nollywood then, there was still sanity in the industry, but all that has been bastardized. What do you think is responsible?
I wouldn’t claim to have a solution to what ails Nollywood. But I listened to somebody say that where Hollywood is today, it would take us 100 years to get to that level. But I disagree, because they have perfected the art and have the platform. So, there is no need for us to start from the scratch. Why don’t we borrow from the masters and study what they have done and ride on the waves of that. Few weeks ago, I saw certain scenes in an American film that were practically lifted and pasted in an Indian film. When I called my husband’s attention to it, he told me that’s what the Indians do. I always tell our people that being a talented writer is not enough. Learn the craft of writing. There is a difference between a screenplay and a TV drama.
You have to learn that a screenplay is beyond dialogue, for TV drama, yes, its dialogue driven while a screenplay they say, is story told in pictures, in dialogue and descriptions and placed in the context of dramatic structure. If you take your mind back, you’ll see that most of our stories are just told in dialogues. From one talking point to another. It is what we give the scriptwriters that they’ll work with; besides, a director will not go on set and begin to do abracadabra. If you get the scripting right and also get a good director to interpret your script, then the better for Nollywood. I see it as a teamwork that should involve all. Again, a good story can also be murdered at the editing level. Everything has to be right.
Now that you’re fully back in Nollywood, will you be working for only your husband or …?
It really depends. Sincerely, it’ll take a very great script, a wonderful director and a very brilliant producer to bring me on any set. And if that is not possible, then I’ll be working for only our production company. I’ve not really taken part in a lot of productions; I’m just one of the lucky few that when they do one, it becomes a big bang. Our production outfit is called QNX, please don’t ask me the meaning.
Is this movie the first you’ll be producing?
I’ve produced a couple of films in the past, Sinners, Broken Chord, and I was the associate producer of Tade Ogidan’s Dangerous Twins.
Back to your children’s books, how affordable are they?
They are very affordable; an average Nigerian family can easily buy these books without thinking twice about the cost.
We’ve not seen your pretty face in any of the corporate celebrity endorsements flying round Nollywood stars. Any special reason(s)?
I don’t actually want to sound like Madam Know-it-all, or that I’m better than anybody in Nollywood. I’m glad that some of my colleagues are getting corporate endorsements. But on a second thought, when I look at the number of top Nollywood stars and music stars that Glo has used and is currently using, I begin to wonder. How much were they paid each? You can’t see a big company in America or Europe using over a dozen top stars to endorse one particular product at the same time, because they can’t even afford it. With this in my mind, it makes me to wonder if it was two for a penny contract that they signed with Glo, because they are everywhere. I’m sorry for sounding this way and I’m not envious, it’s just that I’m still wondering. It gives me food for thought.
Let’s assume you’re called to endorse a product by Glo or any other multinational brand, would you oblige?
I’ll put a lot of things into consideration, because I really don’t have to be everywhere, if I pick on one, it must be a solid one. Also, what they are bringing on the table really matters. I’m not really out looking for something to do, my table is already full, so if I must endorse, it has to be something really juicy. Part of the reason, I took a break from Nollywood was because I have seen it all, nothing exciting is coming my way again in Nollywood, in terms of roles.
How does it feel being directed on set by your husband?
In the past, he’d directed me a couple of times; we’ve been working together and are partners in our company. Whenever we are on set, we don’t see ourselves as husband and wife, but professional colleagues. As an actress, I like doing series more than movies, because of the anxiety that comes from the viewers.
We would like to know more about you and your new husband?
Sincerely, there is nothing new to talk about us. I’m married to Mr. Solomon Mac-Auley and you always see us together. That is all I can say about us, thank you so much.