Cameroon-born Nollywood actress, Okawa Shazny popular for her roles in movies like “Iyore”, “Refugees”, “Cheaters”, “Sisters at War” and TV series “Delilah” (for which she won ELOY Award‘s Best TV actress) recently sat down to chat with Pulse Nigeria.
She talked about her biggest challenge so far in the movie industry as well as how difficult it is to get a good role in Nollywood.
See excerpts below.
On biggest career challenge: My biggest career challenge has got to be in the period when I moved to Nigeria sometime in 2013. I had to understand my surrounding and the people; basically getting acquainted with Nigerian living because I felt it will play a big part in the film roles I’ll play. As being in Nollywood, it is normal to find scripts written from a Nigerian perspective. So understanding the country I now live in was very important which wasn’t easy back then when I first moved here as it is now years later.
On what her ELOY award means to her as an actress: It was indeed an honour winning the Eloy award for best TV actress for my role in the “Delilah” TV series. That was my first award I won in Nigeria and I felt some sense of validation coming from a personal perspective, because here I am a non-Nigerian who is following her dreams in Nollywood. So winning the award validated that am on the right track as I have given myself some personal goals I need to achieve in this industry and more so, being nominated in the first place shows that people within the industry are aware of my work which is a good thing.
On the difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian film industry: The only time I filmed in Cameroon was back in 2004 before I travelled for school and i have not permanently lived there ever since, so I may not be able to give a better analysis on how the movie industry is in Cameroon. But from a general perspective after attending the Cameroon International Film Festival last year, I would say the big difference between the two industries is that Cameroon is at a stage where people are exploring and taking risks in making movies, which I applaud, but with little or no distribution channels within the country. I feel that is a major challenge in the Cameroonian film industry if the movies being made are not able to penetrate into a vast majority of the homes across the country. More so, there is a need for cinemas to promote a strong film culture within Cameroon, but without these, it is difficult for a lot of people to have access to the movies made in Cameroon. I find these the major difference between both industries- the distribution factor that is, which I hope should be looked into.
On how difficult it is to find a good role in Nollywood: In general, I would not say it is difficult, but it definitely takes hard work and determination to find good roles in Nollywood; as you can see in recent years based on some great movies which have been released, we find that there are actually good roles which come from great writing and producing as well. Now getting the good roles will have to come with how well you’ve carved a niche for yourself in regards to the type roles you’ve had in the past and the ability to network within the industry. More so, I find that if you are not getting good roles or roles In general; actors are getting into the production aspect of filmmaking to create these opportunities for themselves which is a big plus. If you look across Nollywood today people have created big brands by producing movies themselves to have those roles they desire. So, in my opinion, I generally do not think that it is more of being difficult in finding good roles, but rather more on focus and networking in the right channels.
On what she wouldn’t do as an actress: For me, I would not compromise certain personal attributes for a role I don’t feel comfortable portraying. Not in terms of how challenging the role is per say, but more on personal grounds psychologically.