#CoronaDiaries: The Film Producer With the Shuttered Film

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Only a month ago, life in Lagos was the usual mix of chaotic rowdiness and nonchalant revelry that characterizes the city. People went about their business as routinely as possible despite the looming threat of a global pandemic, sparing a thought only when newer updates about the coronavirus popped up on their Twitter timelines or in discussion with friends domiciled in countries ravaged by the virus. Now, just a mere four weeks later, Lagos is the epicenter of Nigeria’s coronavirus outbreak, and life is changing faster than we can even realize everywhere from the highbrow graces of Victoria Island to the eternal buzz of Oshodi.

On a larger scale, the true extent of the coronavirus on life in Nigeria is just unfolding. With newer cases being confirmed every day, religious and social institutions ground to a halt, lockdowns being enforced in the most states in the country, and the lack of a truly airtight safety net for the most vulnerable members of society, we are acclimatizing ourselves to the reality of a nation practically in lockdown.

We spoke to Film Producer, Daberechukwu Audi on his experience navigating the film and content industry post lockdown.

Was there any specific moment when you knew the coronavirus was going to become a reality in Nigeria?

Yes. The moment I knew was the day before my film project had to be paused by the executive producer due to the COVID-19 — which to me at the time was just another CNN news story.

How far into the film project were you?

The film project was already entering its second week of principal photography. Pre-production had already taken up 5 months.

I’m sorry about that. How has the coronavirus affected your industry generally?

The film industry has only shutdown in terms of principal photography and cinema film distribution.  However, all other aspects like script writing, editing, film distribution online etc. are still ongoing; anything that involves group interaction has been shut down.

How effectively are those other parts going on?

Script writing, editing and online distribution of films are going on effectively because the current stay at home policy is actually helpful to these parts.

What’s your day-to-day life like under the lockdown? Do you experience any difficulty with getting work done?

Under the lockdown, I am taking time to work on some passion projects that I did not have time to work on previously. The only issue with getting work done is the constant reminder that there is uncertainty around the world.

Does that uncertainty spur you on or makes doing the work more difficult?

I think it makes room for a more relaxed approach to active work but encourages me to put more thought into what I am doing i.e. trying to figure out ways in which human behavior would change when this passes and how to capitalize on it.

Do you miss the outdoor and your work community?

Yes. I definitely miss my work community and local community.

Are there newer things that the lockdown gives you the opportunity to explore, apart from your work?

I’m cooking and trying out recipes a lot more than before.

Is the lockdown well-observed in your area?

That I do not know because I am in my gated compound.

Do you fear that the authority charged with maintaining order across Nigeria would go overboard?

I do fear the authority will go overboard but that’s because they are tasked with keeping people indoors but people who don’t have the wherewithal to just sit indoors have to come out both for fresh air when there is no electricity or try and find food because of lack of provision and forcing them inside it not the right thing to do.

How do you think life will change after the coronavirus?

I think that after Coronavirus there will be an economic depression and people will have to readjust greatly in terms of finding ways to earn money. However, I also think that people may take life less seriously as there is always a slim chance which is not just theory anymore, that we can all be wiped out- just like that.

What about the film industry, how does it recover?

The film industry will recover quickly because it is a passion-led industry. A film maker is a film maker first before they are a career film maker – so people may be willing to take pay cuts in order to keep doing the work they love – and over time it will recover as more money circulates.

What is the one thing you have taken from this period?

I need to just appreciate everyone, every day, and everything more. Be more empathetic when I hear about disasters in certain parts of the world because it always seems so far but this one affected everyone that’s why we all care.

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