Film Execs Demi Banwo, Adesegun Adetoro Want To Make Films With Depth
Following the success of their first major production with 'Gangs of Lagos', Demi and Adesegun are ready to take Nollywood global with their company, Depth and Optics.
One is an actor and the other is a film business enthusiast. Together, they run a production company, Depths and Optics, and co-executive produced the recently released fan-favourite Gangs of Lagos.
The film follows three friends, Obalola, Gift, and Ify, who grew up in the tough Isale Eko and are trapped in it. Since its release, the project has provoked conversations around the activities of the Lagos underbelly and the prospects of the young people trapped in it.
How did Demi Banwo and Adesegun Adetoro get involved with the project and why is their company important in the Nigerian film industry? They answered these questions and more in this chat.
Congratulations guys on a successful outing with Gangs of Lagos. Adesegun, you started by writing about the industry?
Adesegun: Yeah, I did and I was really vocal about the business of film. Then people would ask what I thought about the films they wanted to invest in. I became sort of a middleman. But somewhere along the line, you know, when you keep doing work that is progressive and progressive and progressive, it just makes sense at some point to also start to produce. So, I was thinking about it.
As I was thinking, here comes this person that I’ve known for a bit, we are really good friends and he says ‘I’ve been thinking about going into production and everywhere I turn and I say who should I deal with, everybody says well, ‘turn to this young person that is right next to you and ask him if he’s interested in that.’
He came and we talked about it. We agreed that we were going to embark on this production journey together.
Demi, what’s your side of the story?
I come from the background of being an actor first but kept getting edged towards production. Whether it was because of the skills that I had or the people that I knew or the access to the resources that I had, I just found myself always entering production even though I have run away from it.
So, it just made sense to finally start a production company and do it well. I reached out to Adesegun and we were both thinking about it at the same time. It was the right time, right place and right person.
What is the philosophy behind Depth and Optics, your production company?
Adesegun: We want to create things that people look at and say ‘That feels like they put their heads together to try and create something good.’ Even though art is subjective, people will constantly have their own opinions about what you create.
We also want to create stuff that is engaging to the eyes.
Demi: The company is called Depth and Optics, and the idea behind that is to create stuff that has intellectual depth and thought to it as well as having technical and visual appeal. So, in layman’s terms, our stuff looks good and makes sense.
One of the key things that is very paramount for us is collaborations. We want to do it in such a way that we learn as we build something that potentially could become sustainable.
There is a bit of a mystery in the industry and a lack of clarity too as to what the structures are. So, what we were trying to do is to create some sort of sustainable, replicable structure for what we do. Collaboration is one of our key core values. We also want to work with new and established faces and create films that are well throughout and appealing.
Interesting premise. How did it inform your collaboration with Jade Osiberu on Gangs of Lagos?
Adesegun: We wanted to work with certain people so both of us did lists and Jade was at the top of our lists. Interestingly, Demi’s first project, Gidi Up, was with Jade. I had spoken with Jade about a couple of projects in the past, including Gangs. So, we reached out and said we were ready to start working in film production. She shared a couple of projects she was working on and we loved Gangs.
What was the appeal for Gangs?
Adesegun: The first time I heard the story, it felt so personal. A part of my growing up was in Lagos Island and I have memories of the festivals. The place always intrigued me. So a film centred around the place was definitely interesting to me and it was also a good story with really nice elements and a very daring scale. The scale, particularly, was very interesting to us. It’s been two years since we started work on the project, an interesting two years.
(Poster for Gangs of Lagos. Source: Amazon Prime)
Demi, did you expect the reactions the film got? Does this inspire you to take on more projects of this scale?
Demi: On one level I would say yes, I did expect this sort of reaction we are getting. The combination of all the production elements we discussed putting into the film sounded promising. You know you can’t always predict these things but I think Jade crafted the best–of–the-best and she crafted it in a way that gave us the best chance of getting the sort of reception that we are getting.
Going forward, what kinds of projects are you both interested in?
Adesegun: We want projects that have shelf life and help us build a sustainable structure. It is important that people watch what we make and connect to it in one way or another. We also want to make daring projects and tackle stories that may not be told all the time.
There will be so many great projects but we won’t be able to do all so we will go with our guts. Overall, we want a balance of creative magic and business acumen. That’s the general philosophy.
Adesegun, you have very solid thoughts on the business side of Nollywood and have been very vocal about them. But Demi, what are your thoughts?
Demi: I think we have grown as an industry. We can’t deny it. We have grown and are facing the right direction, but we are not yet where we need to be. There is still a lot of work to be done on the business and creative fronts.
I am a creative that is now getting to understand what goes on on the business side of things and I wish more people get to have this experience. It would inform some decisions creatives make in Nollywood. I also want the reverse to happen for more understanding on both sides. For example, I now understand why I didn’t get certain roles or remuneration I asked for, because I’m at the other side of the table making those decisions. Ultimately, let’s not forget that film is an art form and it outlives all of us. People need to look at it as something created to last hundreds of years and still be relevant. It should dictate how things are created.
Adesegun: The industry is very much at its infantile stage and there are no formulas to anything. We have constantly been surprised as to how you know, people will say this is ‘how you do things in Nollywood’ and then somebody comes and breaks all of that, right?
One thing we need to constantly do, especially because there are a lot of eyes on the African entertainment space, is that we should not sell ourselves short. Demi has said that he wants more creatives to be involved in the business side. I’m just saying, maybe not necessarily be involved but understand it.
What I will say to filmmakers in this space is that no matter what, always upscale and surround yourself with people that you can trust. Generally, I think filmmakers in Nigeria are doing amazing work. Even some of the things that have been created but yet to be released sound so exciting, right? I think we are going to see better and better things come out of Nollywood. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to be a part of that.