Evangelist Wole Olaleye is no doubt a veteran film maker. His face has defined many gospel films in this country. He is known for his deep yoruba accent in movies. Wole has starred many Christian movies in Nigeria, featured in many and directed some. He is also a broadcast presenter. In this exclusive interview with Gospel Film News publisher, Oluwafemi Dosu at Ile-Ife, Osun state, Wole Olaleye noted that he would have been useless if he is not into film making. He also revealed some salient fact about himself among others. Excerpt:
Could you please lead us into your academic and professional background?
My name is Wole Olaleye, born in the very early 60s. In fact, let me call myself a child of independence. I started my education career from United Methodist School, Iloko. I am a native of Iloko-Ijesa in Oriade Local Government Area of Osun State. My father was a teacher, a head master. I startes following him everywhere he was going.
I finished my primary school and gained admission into Ilesa Grammar School, i was in a boarding house until i finished. While waiting for my result to come that year, there was a crash programme that Bola Ige introduced in 1979 for teachers college and i took advantage of the programme at Teachers Training College as the programme was to last for six months. I graduated in 1980.
I later gained admission into the then Oyo State College of Education in Ilesa where i spent about 2 months before crossing to The Polytechnic, Ibadan where i graduated in 1985. I had my 1 year service (NYSC) in Ondo State and came back to teach Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro in Ogun State before leaving the teaching service in 1990.
After that i went to do some courses again and i attended the Mount Zion Institute of Christian Drama, that was in 1992. In 1997 i did a special course in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife in Food and Science Technology then after that i came into full time drama ministry. Along the line i went back to school but this time on a bible based scholarship and i had to go through all the teachings until i had my Phd. in church growth and administration last year (2017). I did my graduation in October.
Talking about my professional background, i don’t believe i have a profession, i believe i have a ministry because all my professions are subjected to my ministry but talking about the real professional background, i was trained while in the polytechnic as a Secretariat Administrator and that was what led to my working with Academic Press, Ilupeju in Lagos for about 4 years.
While i was in Ilupeju i was doing some training at the National Theatre under the tutulage of Antar Laniyan and later at Ososa with Baba Ogunde (Hubert Ogunde, the doyen of theater in Nigeria). So i admitted that that was where my teeth was cut for drama but that was a secular drama and it was the trait of the secular drama i brought into the Christian drama in 1992 when the Lord called me into ministry and i have remained in Christian drama since then till now.
What is your take on the kind of gospel, films being produced these days?
There has been a lot of improvement upon the kind of gospel films we produce now unlike when we started in 1992 that we have to use lantern as our lighting. You know what i mean by lantern, the security light that we use in the house. We refer to them in the theater as lantern. There was nothing like professional camera or lighting then but recently there has been a lot of improvement that we have a lot of production companies, ministries coming up, we have some schools coming up too, teaching people on film making. We have the Mount Zion Institute of Christian Drama, Christoline Film Academy, BT Academy of Multimedia Studies and so many others. This has been opening the eyes of the intending producers or upcoming producers to produce better films than when we started long ago.
What other thing do you do apart from film and programme presenting?
There is nothing else i do because when i was called into the ministry, i was called into the ministry on full time but you know it’s not everyday i will be on field shooting movies and acting drama, so, at my leisure i do some little farming. I have a cottage farm in my home country, Iloko Ijesa and presently I’m thinking of going into big farming on a large scale and some other products.
What can you say about marketing of gospel films in Nigeria?
Well, marketing of Gospel films in Nigeria is like in any other country. Anything that has to do with religion people are not always kin about it, they tend to move back, so i won’t say marketing of gospel films is so fascinating in Nigeria, people are running away from it. I remember there was a time i went to Idumota and was discussing marketing one of our films with Alloy and one boy just came in that day and said ‘which Christian film, the Christian films that you will be begging God to sell one thousand’. That was around the time ‘Saworo Ide’ movie came out and he was comparing Saworo Ide with the movie i took to him.
He said ‘look, Saworo Ide came out about two weeks ago and it sold over a hundred thousand copies and you will be begging God to sell one thousand copies if it is Christian movie’ and i looked at him in the face that day and i told him ‘ i give you seven more years, after the next seven years you marketers will be begging Christian movie producers to market their films’ and exactly 5 years after All Nigeria Conference of Evangelical Drama Ministers (ANCEDRAM) produced ‘Esin Ajoji’ movie and marketers were pushing themselves to have the marketing right of that movie until we gave it to Alloy and when Alloy finished the terms of agreement and we were going to renew it, we told him we were not going to renew it with him that we will withdraw it he was like begging, begging that we should please that he was ready to mortgage his house to go on selling Esin Ajoji because it was a master piece, maybe because it was a joint production and it was so powerful that’s why. Even at that he didn’t make enough noise and advert on it like any other secular film used to market. If he had done that maybe Esin Ajoji would have had more than triple size of the output.
Generally speaking i would say marketing Christian movies in Nigeria from these so called marketers is nothing to write home about. I think the best way to do marketing is by ourselves. When we go out for outreaches, just take our copies along, whatever we sell we come back to the ministry and we can always use the proceeds to move on in producing more.
Don’t you think people are not ready to watch a Christian film that’s why marketers are not collecting movies?
No, no….. It’s not that people are not ready to watch Christian films. In fact, recently i discovered that people want to watch Christian film. It was because they do not have enough to watch before, that was why they thought what’s in Christian film, then the standard of production then but now what they are looking for in secular movies they are getting it in Christian movies. Is it location they are looking for, we have it in Christian movies; acting wise, we have a lot of actors in Christian movies, good actors and actresses; is it the story line, talk of storyline we have quite a lot of them. There are many Christian movies that have won international awards, many actors and actresses in Christian movie have won international awards. It’s not as if they don’t want to watch but because they don’t have enough to watch before.
If you want to find out, go to TVC and ask Consat that what is the traffic flow on the Mount Zion channel, they will tell you. Most of their Consat decoder that they sold were sold because Mount Zion TV was on it and Mount Zion TV show nothing else than Christian movies. So, you see that Christian movies is really making waves but the point is maybe because we are not so large in number and people don’t have enough access to production cost that can make them make good movies to compete with the secular, so we are not producing many Christian movies like the secular ones, that is why it looks like people don’t like to watch Christian movies.
Sir, there is a misconception that you were once a Mount Zion member, how true is this?
It’s not a misconception. Maybe they don’t understand how we operate. I was never a member of Mount Zion ministries. The truth is this; Mount Zion is my mother ministry, Mount Zion gave birth to me because i attended their school and since i attended the school till now, i have been part and parcel of that ministry. There is nothing my ministry will do that i will not carry Mount Zion along because the president of Mount Zion ministries is my next father after my biological father.
So, there is nothing i want to do in ministry that i will not let him know. There is a song that says whoever doesn’t have a father that can talk to him is a bastard. I don’t take a step in ministry without letting him know. So, i am not really a member of Mount Zion Faith Ministries parse but i am a member of the family of Mount Zion Faith Ministries.
Knowing fully well that you have a background in secular, what do you see to inviting secular actors to act in gospel films?
Yes, we are praying for them but you don’t just put a secular dramatist in a Christian movie. When you are shooting a Christian movie it’s like you are preaching the gospel and it will be very wrong for you as a pastor to receive message from the Lord and go and look for Babalawo (herbalist) to come and help you to deliver the message , it won’t make any impact. When some of them give their lives to Christ and they show that really they have given their lives to Christ and the spirit is working with them, it is only then we can be sure of featuring them in Christian movies.
What if you are invited to act in Nolywood movies?
Nollywood? No ! God tells me what to do, in fact, not in every Christian movie that i appear. I have alot of invitations for Christian movies that i don’t attend. So, if i cannot finish the assignment in Christian movie what am i going to do in the Nollywood. The time is not just there.
If you are not into film making what will you have been doing?
I would have been useless, because when i was working in the Academic Press i know i will resume 8am but don’t know when i will leave the office and in all those times i was earning good salary, i had a personal; secretary in my office, i was earning a good salary but i didn’t know how i was spending and i was never happy a day until i told my boss then, late Mr. Ajibade that ‘sir, this people from National Theatre are calling me to come and do something’. So, the only time my boss discovered that i was always happy in the office, ready to do any work was when i go to the Theatre and come back, he will say ‘ok, this boy has gone to eat what he wanted to eat’. It was then i knew without this thing in my system i think i will be very useless.
What do you see to using Smartphone to shoot films?
Well, using Smartphone to shoot films, it depends. There are some films that are full length and will go to places. If it’s a film you are planning for the cinema because the cinema culture is creeping back into the Nigeria culture now. If it’s a film that we plan to go to the cinema, it’s not advisable that you use Smartphone because you have only the fixed lens there you don’t have the ones that will give you the right shot that you want but if it’s a short film like 10 minutes, 15 minutes all you want people to know there is the message and this ones can go on YouTube and the likes. You can always use Smartphone if there is no money to hire the big equipment.
If i want to produce a 15 minutes film, i wouldn’t be taking that to the cinema, if it’s what i want people to just watch i won’t be spending much money as on it like the one i want to take to the cinema.
How do you relax as a busy person?
As a busy person i relax sitting in my house with my wife and my children when they were around unlike now that all of them are gone, the lawyer has gone, the scientist has gone, everybody. So, in my home nowadays, i sit down with my wife, watch TV, sing, go to church and come back, then in the evenings i trek to keep fit, that’s all.
You advise to gospel film makers and drama ministers generally?
My advice to gospel film makers and drama ministers is that they should be focus. They shouldn’t allow their focus to be shifted to anything. They have reasons why they have come and that reason is winning souls, which are the primary aim of going into Christian drama.
If winning soul is your primary aim of going there, remain focus, don’t let anything distract you. Someone told me one day and said, if you are in America or London you would have done better than this and i said well, maybe that’s what you think but God has not call me into that, if God has called me into that maybe i would have gone but where i am i think I’m satisfied. So, if it is actually God that has called them they should remain with God and do what God has asked them to do so that they can get the result.