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Kayode Kasum On Soole And Escaping Death While Shooting
Kayode Kasum speaks on going on the road to make Soole and getting attacked by gunmen while shooting.
A visibly excited Kayode Kasum was jumping up and down at the premiere of Soole. If you know Kasum a little, this is unlike him. He is usually calm and shy, but it was different at Soole’s premiere because he and his crew almost died while shooting.
“If you are going to make a film about a bus going to Enugu, you actually need footage from the road going to Enugu,” Kasum starts the story. “So I selected the team of ten, and we went to Enugu. We're shooting cutaways on the road that goes to Enugu with drone, cameras and everything. And we were stopped by gunmen on bikes that chased after us in the middle of the night, shooting at the bus. [It was] as if the film we wanted to shoot happened to us, but we got out safely.”
So, he was very animated at the premiere, for he was glad to be alive to see this film accepted.
It had been a long year for Kasum; Soole was his fourth film in cinemas. So, I asked the question on everyone’s lip. Does Kayode Kasum sleep? “Every day. I sleep every day,” he replies, laughing. The Oga Bolaji director has been criticized for making so many films within a short period. Between 2019 and 2021, he directed over ten films that opened in cinemas. Some have been excellent and mega-successful, others, not so much.
But for Kasum, making films is a lifelong dream he never thought would come through. The opportunity to make films is something he doesn’t take lightly, and he has a childlike wonder for it. “I love making films,” he says. “Just the thought and idea of making film excite me.”
In this interview, we discussed Soole and escaping death while shooting it.
There is a repeated theme of underdog stories across your films, from Aiye to Bolaji. I want to know your attachment to underdogs.
Underdog stories are stories that I love telling and watching, and you can say it is part of Kayode Kasum's style of storytelling. Even Dognapped, my first feature film, was an underdog story. They are stories that I'm drawn to. I wanted to make films because I felt that the people I grew up with were not represented in Nollywood. I want to tell stories of the other 99% who can't even afford to own Netflix on their phones.
There is also this thing with yellow. A character is either wearing a yellow shirt or singlet, like the dildo lady in Soole.
Yellow represents me in my work. Most of the characters wearing yellow have a bit of my personality. It is just me highlighting that this person has a bit of Kayode in them. It is also my best color; it is bright and represents light. But it is also a way of knowing a Kayode Kasum film. I even shot a film titled Love is Yellow.
You started with small and intimate films. Then you were catapulted into the blockbuster space. Was this always the goal, to eventually go on to make big films with big stars?
If you ask anybody if the goal to do whatever they were doing was to be big, they will say yes. But for me, it wasn't the plan. I'm not trying to make a blockbuster when making my films. I'm just trying to make a film. I don't think I've ever had in my mind while I was making a film that this film was going to be a blockbuster. I've never had that feeling.
The only film I did think would be a blockbuster was Quams Money. And that's because that was the plan. As a director for hire, you ask a question like what's your plan for this film, and when I did, one of the executive producers said that [was the plan].
You've been crazily busy in the past two years. I think five films last year and about four this year. I'm curious about this level of output. What's the story behind it?
It is not like there is a plan. It's never been a discussion of whether I want to make X number of films or I don't want to make X number of films. If I get a script that I'm excited about, I just want to jump into it. And I've been lucky to get some really strong stories that have been challenging. If you see the films I released this year , they've all been challenges. There's Ponzi that has a group of people, like ten to fifteen actors, talking at once in a scene. It was a challenge shooting in a moving bus for Soole. For Dwindle, it was working with two big brands, Funke [Akindele] and Bisola [Aiyeola], to make a really fun film. It has always been the challenge for me. What excites me is the edges in filming, like filming in a moving bus and stuff like that.
But do you get bothered or worried when people criticize you? Saying, “why is he making four films in a year?” without understanding that there might be a reason behind such decisions?
I'm not bothered just to answer the question. You also can't tell a man how to use his gift. I don't think God gave any man talent for the man to hide it for a specific amount of time. I love making films and that's what I do. If I get a good opportunity to tell [a story] that I like, I will do it. Because that's my life, and you only get one life. No rule says a filmmaker should make X number of films a year. If you want to make twenty films a year, do it. If you want to make one, do it. Both ways are right. So, I don't get bothered with stuff like that.
Let's talk Soole. I think it is a unique film. What inspired the story?
We had a couple of stories at Film Trybe that we had been keeping. I liked Soole because I have experienced it before, taking a night bus from Kaduna to Lagos, and I always wanted to do something like that. I knew that it was an experience many Nigerians would have had, road travel because of NYSC or whatever will just take you back to the village, and that excited me. We watch a lot of Hollywood films, which is where most people draw their inspiration from and you've seen a lot of road-trip films, and you get the opportunity to do one in Nigeria while you're alive. Why not do it?
How did you manage to shoot on the road and were you guys like actually driving outside Lagos?
We moved outside [Lagos] and we were attacked sef. That's shit that people don't know, like the bus was shot at. We shot Soole while driving for real; it is not green screen. It was risky, but that's why Soole really excites me. I thank God the crew is alive today, imagine if there was bad news that something happened to so and so people making a film.
Wait, you people were shot at?
We were attacked! The film we were shooting happened to us.
Can you tell the story?
We had pick-up scenes that we were going to shoot in Enugu and the actors didn't want to travel by road because of the insecurity in the country. But if you're going to make a film about the bus going to Enugu, you need footage from the road to Enugu. So we selected a team of ten and went to Enugu. We were shooting cutaways on the road that actually goes to Enugu with drone, cameras and everything. And we were stopped by some gunmen on bikes that chased after us in the middle of the night, shooting at the bus as if the film we wanted to shoot was happening to us, but we got out safely. Thank God!
I assumed you guys went to Epe to shoot.
We travelled for real. There's no land in Epe, dem don buy all those lands — there's no bush. Epe was the initial plan, but we drove for like three hours into Epe, no bush.
There's a recurring theme of villains with Juju in your films. I remember Anikulapo in Sugar Rush, we called it JujuFi. This is something we saw a lot in old Nollywood, are you trying to bring it back?
I would say it was a coincidence for Sugar Rush. But I do believe in passing our culture from one generation to another. You're going to see a lot of that in my film. You've seen them already. Amala in This Lady Called Life; Afrobeat in Oga Bolaji, and Soole, just the name. But Sugar Rush was a mere coincidence because Jade Osiberu and Bunmi Ajakaiye wrote the script.
I am also influenced by a lot of Marvel projects. And it just felt like what if we have an African Thor, and that’s Professor Ifebuchi with the cutlass appearing and disappearing. It was more of trying some African legends because, as a film director and producer, you want to test your audience to see if they will like it if you make a film in a certain direction. And with Soole, the response to the gun and juju battle shows the audience is excited about it. Hopefully, there is enough confidence to try a project like that in the future.
With Film Trybe, you are a producer and executive producer. But you also work as a director for hire for Inkblot and others. What is the core difference between when you direct films you produce and when you direct for these other companies?
I have full control over the script. When you're a director for hire, somebody is telling you, “come and interpret my story”; it's the producer’s story and that's the job. You are to help them interpret their story with your style and talent. However, as a producer for projects like Oga Bolaji, This Lady Called life, Kambili and I will say Ponzi, I had complete control over story decisions. But as a director for hire, you have control but not full control. That’s the major difference.
But I always put my best into every story I tell. You still get a hundred percent of Kayode Kasum as director.
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