‘I want screenwriters to finally get the credit they deserve’ – An interview with Emmanuel Eyo

The Nigerian movie industry is mostly burdened with a dilemma where writers, who are the foundation of every production and better suited than directors and actors to convey the plot, are never visible or available during press conferences for movies and dramas. 

These writers come up with the entire storyline and are often relegated when it comes to production, and the producers and directors swiftly take control of their creations.

“I want writers, particularly screenwriters, to finally get the credit that they deserve.” 

“That’s what I truly want from this interview,” Eyo Emmanuel, says as we chat over Zoom.

Emmanuel Eyo is an ambitious, goal-driven creative who is enthusiastic about the creative/entertainment industry which cuts across film, music, and media.

He has worked as a screenwriter in Nollywood, one of the largest movie industries in the world. Within the span of three years, he has worked with prolific film and TV producers within the industry garnering over a dozen movie credits in films such as: ‘Jail’, ‘Dear Dianne’, ‘Ex Husband’, ‘The Pitch’, ‘Conundrum’, ‘Taunting Faith’ etc. across platforms such as DStv, IrokoTV, Youtube and IbakaTV.

Emmanuel’s passion and enthusiasm for the creative media space have enabled him to work on PR campaigns for A-list artists like Wande Coal’s 2018 King Coal Concert and Show Dem Camp’s 2018 Palm Wine Fest. Not only was he part of the PR teams for both concerts, but he also contributed to organizing both events.

His ultimate goal is to experience the various facets of the creative and media space.

Q: Tell us a bit about your journey and how you got into screenwriting.

A: I’ve always loved movies, to be very honest with you, and growing up, I was always “that movie guy” who would take it a notch further by going to IMDb to find out all he could after seeing a movie, including the backstory. I, however, didn’t think that I would make a career out of it.

However, in 2017, I just got a nudge I couldn’t explain, and I went to take a three-month course at the Royal Art Academy, and my career was really birthed.

Q: What are some of the most exciting movies you’ve worked on in your career?

A: Well, I’ll probably go back to the very first feature-length script I wrote while at the academy. I remember thinking about it the other day and I just cringed about how bad it was.

You couldn’t tell me anything about it then though. I mean, for where I was at the time it was good. I even won an internal award for it but I guess that is what growth is. Looking back and I see how much better I have gotten and how much more understanding I have now of my craft.

Then there was Conundrum, which starred Shawn Faqua at the time, and I think just the amount of fun I had with that project is worthy of note.

There was also the second season of My Name is EZ on TMC, where I got to work with Lami Asida.

Then there’s the current project I’m working on that centers around opioid use, which has been very revealing, enlightening, and exciting at the same time.

Q: Is there a genre that you prefer?

A: To be honest, the genre I like, I typically run from it because it’s a very difficult genre to pull off. 

I’m referring to “mystery thrillers”. As against other genres, you can’t hide with that because you are inviting audiences to come and think, and if it’s not working, you will be called out.

I also worry about comedy, to be honest, because getting people to laugh, especially Nigerians, is a different ballgame.

So if I’m writing in either of these genres, I ensure I’m double solid on all fronts.

Q: What’s your process like?

A: To be honest I don’t have any grand experience of traveling to Europe to get seclusion or something. I just do some research, and it comes to me at some point, and I follow it, do more research, find similar stories, and so on.

I might even spend a week just doing research and I’ve learned that sometimes when the idea comes it seems exciting, but the next morning it’s not as bright as you thought it was at the moment you got it. 

So I spend enough time researching before I get to do a final draft.

But yeah, that’s my process, really.

Q: Is there another career path you would have chosen if you did not become a screenwriter?

A: To be honest, I remember a point in my life when I had multiple dreams. The one I can remember clearly was with Aunty Ada, who thought my dream to be an Actor and Musician was the most ridiculous thing ever.

I remember uttering those words and she got so livid. It was like I stole something.

“People are saying doctor, engineer, you say, actor, musician.”

I remember her reporting me to my mum on the next open day, and my mum, being the savage queen that she is, replied to her by saying

“Aren’t actors and musicians human beings?” 

It was the best thing ever.

I also remember wanting to be a doctor at some point, because I was in science class. A plot twist, right?

I do remember the point when I watched ‘Legally Blonde’, and it really shaped my perspective on what I wanted to do. I thought I’d excel as a science student and then get to do movies just like the character in the movie excelled even though people told her she could not. In my head,  the resolve it gave me would make the entire journey easy, but it wasn’t. My dear, I struggled and failed my way into art class. 

I got into art class and I started blossoming. It was like I was finally where I was supposed to be.

Q: What is the big dream?

A: I knew this question was coming! (He says, as he lets out a huge sigh). I knew it was coming. 

I know this is where I’m supposed to give a fancy aspire to perspire speech but I really don’t have any of those lofty dreams or anything like that.

I truly just want to be able to write a story or stories that connect to people on a global scale. I know it’s very cheesy.

Frankly, I’m not even sure I’ll be just writing in the future.

I think I might actually try to do Stand Up comedy. This is the first time I’m saying it out loud.

But I’d really love to try that.

Q: What would you like to be remembered for?

A: I really want to be remembered as someone who treated people well. I want to be remembered as a good person and to be someone who cared. 

In the world, today it’s increasingly trendy to be selfish, but I really want none of that. I want to be remembered differently, or at least to really try to do that on my journey.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?

A: The movie’s title is “Broken Portrait”.

It’s about a newly engaged woman who decides to take her fiance to visit her family for the weekend. However, the weekend becomes tense when her younger brother, who’s straight out of rehab, comes to visit.

I’m writing and executive producing this as my debut feature film under my Nuel Eyo Entertainment banner. I believe we’re currently living in one of the worst drug epidemics today. With opioid-related death being at an all-time high and bound to increase in the incoming years, this is why a story like Broken Portrait needs to be told. 

Most films about addiction tend to laser their focus on the addict, however, with Broken Portrait, I want to put a spotlight on the family of the addict. As someone who’s personally witnessed addiction as a child from a member of my extended family and a neighbor in my childhood home, addiction is never just an individual struggle of the addict, it’s a collective struggle that affects the addict’s immediate family and sometimes its ripple effect is felt amongst the extended family members. 

I want to shine a spotlight on the struggles of such families and give them hope in what can feel like a rather hopeless situation. We’re currently in pre-production with hopes of beginning principal photography in December and, hopefully, the film will be released on one of the streaming platforms by 2023.

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