Kazeem Adesoji Adeoti, popularly known as Adekaz, needs no introduction in the Yoruba movie industry. His work has endeared him to the hearts of many Yoruba movie lovers. Adeoti is the founder and chairman of Adekaz Production Limited. In this interview with DEKUNBI KUYE, he shares his passion for Yoruba movie and his vision for Adekaz Ventures. He also speaks about the battle against pirates by movie marketers and other sundry issues…
Can you give us a brief background about yourself and life?
I was born some decades ago and I was born into the family of Alhaji Adeoti and Alhaja Adeoti. My parents were born in a town called Orokun, Kwara State, Irepodun Local Government, while I was born in Lagos, Lagos Island, Lagos State. I grew up in Surulere, that’s where my family house is. I went to Biodun Nursery and Primary School, Offa in Kwara State. I also attended Oro Muslim High School Oro, in my home state. I also attended Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Ojo, Lagos. I ended up finishing my Secondary School at Surulere Secondary School Lagos, from there I got admission into Kwara State Polytechnic to study Business Studies. But same year I also got an admission into the University of Jos to study Business Management, which I studied at University of Jos and finished in the year 2000. From there, I proceeded to the United States in 2001. I later got back to school and I got a license for being a Mortgage Broker. I was a Mortgage Broker throughout the years of my stay in US.
How long was that?
About 10 years. I got married in 2002 and I’m blessed with beautiful children. I have both sexes. I have four children in total.
When did Adekaz Ventures start professionally?
I have always had passion for this job. I had a family friend or family member so to say. We always had family gatherings, not me and my family friend alone but our two families. We are one family so to say. We are from the same town, we grew up together, from the same neighbourhood and that is the family of Afolayan, Alhaji Wasiu Folayan, Chairman of Wasai Film, Kazeem Afolayan of Epsalum Production. I learnt on the job. Back then, I went around with my friend, Almaroof, to his brother’s office. I used to meet quite some actors there then, people like late Alhaji Aromire, may his soul rest in peace; actors like him. I have always had a passion even before I went to US. While there, I have always been keeping in touch with my friends in Nigeria. In 2005, I got the name registered, Adekaz Production Limited. I have a friend called Sheriff Ayanleke, he is also a childhood friend. He got the business registered on my behalf. He was my first manager and so I have always come back and forth from US like two to three times a year. In 2006, I shot my first movie titled ‘Ona Laafin’ produced by Jaiye Kuti. Then I wasn’t even a marketer. I was not even a member of YOFIMAN then and I think that was part of the reason why the association felt they should welcome me because most of the things I’ve done or I have already got in place, registration, even the registration with Nigerian Video Census Board, everything. I had pretty much everything in place so I told them I was interested in belonging to Marketers Registration and Regional Distributors, so the chairman then was Elder Olalekan Olaoye. He was the chairman then in 2006, and with the help of my friend, Almaroof Afolayan, who was actually the one who helped me out to get the registration done, I became a member. Ever since when I started, we’ve been good.
You know in business, in the first few years or so, things would kind of be rough, but yours seems to be smooth, what was your success story like?
Well, the next truth is that probably because you guys have seen the surface that is why you think it had been smooth all the way for me. I thank God for my life, I have faced a lot of challenges but the point is, I was so blessed. Relocating from US to Nigeria, there is every possibility that I could face challenges because I have seen and heard people that lived in the US trying to relocate to Nigeria, where at the end of the day, after a year or two, they ran back to US, so I did n’t want mine to be like that because I had the opportunity to be in mortgage business, real estate in America, and I was able to secure a few houses I got through mortgage. I was collecting rent on a monthly basis so I felt that at least even if everything goes bad even if I don’t want, I can still live an average life with my family without any problem. When I came, I faced normal challenges I got broke, so I had to go back to sell one of my houses, came back but because no one knew when I went and came back and what I did to continue sustaining my business, everyone just thought everything was the same but that was the turning point for me because already I think I could say you know money really worked for me, something that was supposed to take years took me a short period of time because I really wanted to achieve the best, so I really pumped in a lot of money but the ripple effect was I got back broke. But by the time I got back, I already knew the business way better than the initial stage and as such I was doing everything better.
You said earlier that you faced a few challenges and how did you tackle it?
Well, the challenges I faced was just that in any industry you find yourself as a new comer there is always a challenge to face; it might be different from one person to the other but my challenge was that I wanted something good but I think it was being over priced, paying too much for something I should have gotten lesser and at the end of the day I wasn’t making money. I was just running, by the time I was broke at the point people were seeing my creative works, the jobs, so the name brand was getting more popular, people were liking the jobs but you know, I wasn’t making money. But by the time I came back it was a better deal because I knew better. I could do better and had the money to work with, so I pushed on.
Yoruba film industry is becoming larger and larger, YOFMAN is a body taking charge of the entire industry, can you tell me about YOFMAN?
You mean YOFMAN? It is an association comprising those in film making, film marketing, etc. If someone really wants to be known in the Yoruba film marketing industry in Nigeria, in fact all over the world, I think you have to pass through this association even if you were still doing other things to compliment it. It is at the root of the industry and film marketing in Nigeria, even producers, actors in the industry know that and they are aware of that because I can’t think of any producer or actor in the industry that has not passed through this association. So this is an association that has really done so much for the industry, in terms of projecting people to the limelight. Name anyone in the industry that has not passed through this great association? I don’t think I can think of anyone, so this is an association that is very strong and I can say it is the backbone of these actors in Nollywood.
As a marketer, when you see a movie, how do you know a movie is going to sell big?
Well, nobody can tell categorically that a movie will sell big but you can have an idea that this movie will do well and how do I mean? There are some basic things that you need to look out for as a marketer and those things include the storyline and the cast. For example, if the movie is done or has gone through post-production, you have to look at the storyline, technical quality and the cast. These major things determine the success of a movie. At least, it will give you an idea of how a movie is going to perform. Sometimes it can perform beyond your imagination and at times it could perform below your expectation, but at least if people watch the movie or the audience see the movie, they would applaud the movie. As a marketer, as for me, two things I look out for, whether am starting from the script or I’m buying a post-production preview copy already made or done movie. Two things in a movie that will add to my profile or that will give me money but at times you don’t get the truth but if you now get the truth it is still okay. But not to get any at all is bad and that is why you have to know what you want as a marketer, that even the movie does not make you money, people should commend the movie and see it as a good movie. It may now be left to you that people like the movie but one didn’t make money from it, probably because of one reason or the other, but at least you have one gain, if not the two. So if a marketer does not have one of the two, then it’s not good.
What inspired you to this line of profession?
Well, a lot of things like it’s an industry that gives you an opportunity to impact the society, to project your culture both at home and abroad. It’s also an industry that gives you the opportunity to make a lot of changes where things are going wrong because one thing I have realised is that many of us in Africa don’t really have passion for reading. But if you can turn the story in a book into a movie, people would prefer to see the movie and they will actually get the message they are supposed to get from the book from the movie and that goes a long way.
What are the plans you have for upcoming actors and actresses who do not have the money or financial prowess to produce?
I do encourage young actors. If you have been seeing my movies lately, you will testify to the fact that I have a lot of upcoming actresses in the movies. I have a movie underway now entitled ‘Ayomi’. The producer of the movie has never done a movie before. She is a graduate of Theartre Arts, from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife. I met her and I could tell that she is talented and I fulfilled her dream by making sure that she got to produce the film. She learnt to produce, now the thriller is everywhere and everyone likes it, so that is just one case of a producer like that. The producer of ‘Imorin’ called Seliat Adefiwani never produced a movie before but she came to me and I supported her and she produced this movie, I also have a lady called Queen Ali, and she had never produced any movie before and she produced a movie called ‘66’. The movie is all over the place and people like it. I have somebody like Tayo Amokade. Nobody knew he has that wonderful talent in him. He produced ‘Muniru and Ambali’ for me. Before then he never produced any movie, people didn’t even know him too well. I projected him to the world and the movie did very well even more than some of the movies that the ready-made producers had done for me. So I have loads of them that are up coming and I support them and still have some of them with me.
Do you have your personal movie right now aside from the ones you had done before?
A movie of my own, done by me you mean? Yes, there is a movie entitled ‘Epe’ the curse. The major cast in the movie is Mercy Aigbe. She coordinated it for me; the story was written by me. I also have another one coming on the way called ‘Iwalesin’. It was written by me.
What is the difference between a producer and a marketer? We hear of some of the rift going on between marketers and producers.
In every business, maybe buying and selling, there is always one party owing the other party. I have a number of producers that are well known who are still owing me; I mean owing me professional fees.
A number of producers?
Yes, but I’m not going to mention names, probably the movies over which they owe me are not sold yet, maybe I’m still doing the awareness on the movie, maybe there must have been some money committed to it, but where there is buying and selling at any point in time there will always be somebody owing another person, but the most important thing is the management of the relationship and how the business is being conducted, that is it.
The Yoruba movie industry is big and still growing. As a marketer, what are the challenges and how is it been accepted internationally?
You see, when I was living in US, I had the opportunity to know that most of our people over there are pirates online, some will pirate on DVD and at the end of the day, they will make money off us. They will scan the pictures, it will even be far better than the ones we have here with the way they package it. But over time I was also privileged to be a Director at IBAKA TV and part of the reasons we came up with the online was to curb the piracy internationally and most of our movies that people tend to have access to are watched online. IBAKA TV is an online TV, you have to subscribe before you watch the movie and with a reasonable amount, probably just 7 dollars per month, it’s just like paying for a cable subscription, 7 dollars just per month. I think that’s reasonable and you will watch the movies hot and direct. So that has really helped us in curbing the piracy internationally and people are now getting to enjoy our movies a lot better because we have the original upload from the source online. So people get to see the pictures even better and they can follow our release time. Now, our customers and audience can be faithful to the channel because they know that the movies that are being uploaded on IBAKA TV are good movies and they know the schedules at which the movies are uploaded. That has really helped us in terms of international piracy because whether you like it or not even if someone wants to sell you a DVD movie for 1 dollar, you’d be like how many movies do I want to buy? I can easily do my subscription and watch movies unlimited on IBAKA TV, so that has really helped.
Do you have any branch or an avenue where you sell your films outside the country?
You see, the online thing has really taken care of that and that is the truth because whether you like it or not, things are going with time and most of our people in the Diaspora prefer to do things online because most of the challenges we have here in Africa or in Nigeria are not the challenges those people over there have, so it’s easier and cheaper for them and every movie released from Adekas can be seen online.
How do you think the government can help to fight piracy?
In our association we have a committee that raids the pirates but the point is we face a lot of challenges. Why? Because the law that deals with piracy is very light and by the time we raid the pirates, we see those pirates the following day because the law that deals with piracy is very light
Why do you say so?
Because when the law says the pirates or you see a CD with a pirate seller, then that person should be charged 20 kobo per CD, things like the file or charge is not really something tough.
What do you expect?
We see this and the point is we are law-abiding citizens, we can’t say because these guys are pirates we go on the street and start fighting them. No, we just have to involve the law enforcement agents to support us and these guys that are doing these business know what the law says about it, they know the level at which we can go. But we are pleading with the government to help us make some adjustments to the law that talk about piracy. If the punishment is a bit tough, maybe that will scare them because I know nobody and by the time you are making money and you know that if you are caught maybe you’d go to jail for a year, then you’d weigh the option, whether you have to do the business? I can do some other businesses than just to risk my life unnecessarily. So I think, if something like that can be done the level of piracy in our society will reduce.
What is your relationship with the people at Alaba market because we hear piracy is big business at Alaba?
The point is if I tell you something it may be funny to you. I have never been to Alaba Market in my life, although I used to pass through, probably when travelling to Badagry or Agbara or whatever. But I have never stepped into Alaba Market before. But not that my movies or other things don’t go there, buy the point is that most of these guys at Alaba Market are taking advantage of the fact that our members are not there at Alaba and they have really made that place the headquarters of illegal businesses. If you go there I’m told there is a counterfeit of Adekaz who does business and get paid on behalf of Adekaz in their own company of illegal businesses. If somebody does Adekaz’s job, that person could even claim before the person he is pirating his job that he has the right to dub or market Adekaz job because he is Adekaz himself. That is how bad this business has gone. Yes, we get the information, but we don’t know what to do again, it’s just sad.
Talking about your social life, not much of that is known out there like every other movie director or marketer. How have you been able to keep this off the media?
I do attend parties, but the point is I’m a quiet person, even if I’m at an event I’m always quiet, even when I was younger. But I’m a sociable person. I enjoy my business as well. I work hard and when it comes to having fun I party hard, but at least I enjoy myself. It doesn’t have to be loud, but when I mean to, I enjoy myself. I go out to have fun and I do have fun.
How do you relax?
I relax with my kids. I love having my kids around me; I love to be at home watching movies with them or to be at the cinema. I travel a lot as well; it could be within or outside the country. But I love to be around my family a lot.