- 2 Hrs With Veteran Movie Makers, ZEB & CHICO EJIRO
- Both Talk About Their Success Stories
Their name is synonymous with the Nollywood industry. Just mention the Ejiro Brothers among the big players in the movie industry and you would be told about their great and pioneering exploits.
There are 3 of them. There is Zeb Ejiro. There is Chico Ejiro. There is also Peter Red Ejiro. The 3 are blood brothers. And they are filmmakers. They have produced and directed many blockbuster movies.
They have dominated the movie industry since the 80s. Zeb Ejiro was the first to go into it before Chico joined him after his graduation from Obafemi Awolowo University, in the 80s. Both Zeb & Chico are based in Lagos whilst their 3rd brother is the one managing their movie academy in Delta State.
So big and influential are the 2 brothers that they have produced a lot of stars. At least 90% of all the big stars in Nollywood have passed through the 2 brothers. There is hardly any A-Class actor or actress that didn’t pass through both of them.
The story is that all the big names in Nollywood evolved from Zeb Ejiro’s Aguda office decades back. It used to be the meeting point for all movie people then, in the good old days.
Decades after, both Zeb and Chico are still very much relevant in the scheme of things. They have also stepped up their game and changed with the times they found themselves.
Both brothers were honoured at last week’s City People Movie Awards in Lagos with Special Recognition Awards for their robust contributions to the movie industry, which also made the Federal Government to honour Zeb with a national award.
After receiving their awards at the City People Movie Awards, both spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and SUNDAY ADIGUN about their success stories as movie Producers and Directors. Both are ageing gracefully. Zeb is 62, while Chico is 56. Below are excerpts of their interview.
What has kept you going since you started?
For me, it’s Passion, because this is an industry that I love so much. I encountered some difficulties and I almost thought of going into something else but my spirit kept on saying, this is you. What has kept me going is not a matter of money.
How many years now?
I have been in this business for 28 years.
How did the whole journey start for you? What was the attraction?
Each time I speak I give my mother that credit. My mother was so addicted to the Cinema. My younger brother, Chico and I grew up following our mother to the cinema every weekend. I think that is exactly where we started developing our interest in the filmmaking business, and I made the decision to stick to it.
How was it like when you came in?
For me, there was nothing to write about the industry when I came in because movie makers at that point in time were Hubert Ogunde, Ola Balogun e.t.c. Our own generation came from the television. We thought within ourselves that we should be able to find a way to improve movie making in VHS and all that. Our place in Aguda practically became a hub for Nollywood.
Anybody that is somebody in the industry today at least 90% passed through us. Our place was a meeting point where some of the association you see today started from. When you come to our office at that time, you will meet directors, producers, executive producers e.t.c. It was in that same office Association of Movie Producers and Actors Guild was formed. Obasanjo in 2005 gave me national honour.
When you remember how you started then and the industry now what comes to your mind?
Some people talk of the new Nollywood and I wonder what they are shouting about. I always wonder what is new Nollywood. Do we have new Hollywood or new Bollywood? Bollywood is Bollywood, Hollywood is Hollywood. But people just want to take credit for what they didn’t even contribute anything to. And it is so painful that even people of our own calibre are the ones looking down on us. I am happy today I have something powerful to show and that is the national honour Order of the Federal Republic, given to me in this country by the government for my contribution. They didn’t give me because I know how to sell garri, or I am a good politician or I know how to dance or how to sing or I am a Medical Doctor. They gave me because I contributed immensely to the growth of the industry. Well, we are not there yet. We have not even come close to the surface, all we need to do is to set up the structure well. Make sure it’s properly structured. Sometimes when I sit at home and watch what some young producers have done I feel so happy because that means we are growing and we have been able to impact the younger ones. They are doing well, movie making is capital intensive, it is not what anybody can just go into with crayfish money, for them to do whatever they are doing presently they need lots of accolades. When I sit back and see all these movies, I know we are getting better and we are not doing badly at all. One of my little girls, Genevieve was given a fantastic recognition in Netflix recently. I think we should support her because she has open doors for us in the industry. The industry is doing so well, my other little girl, Omotola Jalade is one of the most influential people in the whole world. Do you know what that means? I think that is a wonderful achievement for us. They didn’t nominate her because she is a beautiful girl. They nominated her because she is a star and for what she has contributed. I think I am happy each time I look back.
What do you think about the emergence of the online/social media via the traditional ways of running the industry before?
I think social media is the way to go, the world is moving. I challenge you to say how many times you sit at home to watch home videos, people are always on the move.
But with your phone, you have the whole world in your hand. If you love a particular programme all you need to do is to go online with your phone and connect with it wherever you are. I think movie producers in Nigeria should embrace the technology because if you don’t you will be left behind.
How were you able to start and sustain the business with your brother all this while?
People ask me that question a lot. We got the love for this business from our mum. Like I said. There is a school of thought that says if elder brother is doing well in a business the siblings can join him. It happens in every sector even in politics. My brother and I are very close.
He joined me after he finished his schooling and since then we have been together and I am so happy. We have recorded so many successes in this industry. They have given me so many names such as Sheik, Bishop, Don. For me I think it is a sign of respect for what we have done so far. People we started together are doing so well. That is success. It worth more than 1 billion naira, seeing those people that rose to the top through us.
We have really done so much for this industry. Each time I sit back and recount what we have been through. I always give thanks to God. I don’t want to take any credit at all. All glory belongs to God.