The length of one’s life is not as important as the value and contribution of the life to its community,” words on marble by the veteran Nigerian Filmmaker and Documentary Producer, Femi Odugbemi.
The chief Producer and Managing Director/CEO DVWORX Studio who has such iconic documentaries, TV sitcoms and films including “Like father, like son” (a TV sitcom), “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” (Nigeria’s most popular TV game-show), “Life in Lagos” (an international documentary for CFI in France), “Oui Voodoo”(a cultural documentary), “Metamorphosis” (a musical documentary on the life of the legendary Nigerian conductor Steve Rhodes), “Bar Beach Blues” (a multiple-awards winning film,) “Maroko” (a political full-length feature), the critically-acclaimed documentary “Ibadan – Cradle of Literati,” and most recently, another documentary, “Rolling Dollar-A Legend Unplugged,” to his credit studied Filmmaking at the Montana State University, Bozeman, United States after his secondary education at the Government Demonstrated School, Surulere.
Upon graduation and his subsequent return to Nigeria, Femi worked with the Nigerian Television Authority [NTA] Kaduna as a Youth Corper. He had the rare privilege to work under Bayo Atoyebi the former Acting Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission and copped a world of knowledge from his exposure. A creative mind sees no limits, and before long, Femi had ventured into producing adverts and TV commercials. He worked as a Film & Radio Producer at Lintas Advertising and later as Associate Creative Director at STB-McCann; an angle he has maintained till date as it provides sustenance and funding for producing the documentaries which he is exceedingly passionate about because, in his words, “artistic motivation has to be more than just making money; it has to also be about making a point.”
Femi states in interviews that he has always desired to be a storyteller, because ‘storytelling in all its expressions’ excites him, and the visual arts open up a huge vista of possibilities. As a child growing up in Lagos, Femi was enthralled by the idea of imagery and creativity and begged for a camera when his peers asked for bicycles. In a very fortunate turn of events, his parents did not dissuade him from his chosen path [as some parents including mine are wont to do], and off he went to ‘storify’ the continent.
The documentary advocate who has been in the industry for over 25 years, long before Nollywood became a buzzword, has undertaken several projects with other veteran Producers like Tunde Kelani, Jimi Odumosu, and Wale Fanu and is a founding Content Producer of “TINSEL,” MNET’s acclaimed soap-opera.
On his love for documentaries, Femi practically waxes poetical “documentaries are critical to helping us express our individualities within the blurred boundaries of the global community,” he says. “Documentaries are also important today…for how they shape our thinking and mediate our experiences.” The 50-year old filmmaker, who is poised to empower young Nigerian filmmakers with this awareness, initiated the iRepresent International Documentary Film Festival [iRep], a platform to train aspiring filmmakers in script writing, research, and documentary production in order to achieve a documentary cinematic culture.
Femi was the President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) from 2002-2006. He concurrently chaired the Lagos International Forum on Cinema, Motion Picture and Video in Africa, an international film festival that attracted participants and professionals from across the world. Femi serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Media and Communications (SMC), Pan African University, Lagos, Nigeria. He is also on the Board of Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts (LAPA) and is an International Advisor/Consultant of the Orange Academy, Lagos.
Has Femi had an easy ride expounding his gospel on the role of documentaries in shaping a people’s socio-political reality? Not at all, but the optimist in him declares, “I would rather try and fail than not try at all…I thank my God because he has given me a joyful heart, so I don’t dwell on failure.”
What’s your motivation? And what’s your attitude to failure?
Quotes culled from Femi Odugbemi’s interview with The Guardian’s Shaibu Husseini