EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: How we shot ‘76’ movie with $3 million –Tonye Princewill

Set during the era of military assassinations and political unrest in Nigeria, “76” is a gripping romantic thriller which tells the story of the charismatic, “Captain Joseph Dewa”, played by Ramsey Nouah, who is indicted by the military for his alleged role in the failed Nigerian coup of 1976.

PREMIUM TIMES had an exclusive chat with the Executive Producer of ’76’ , Tonye Princewill, at the media screening of the film in Lagos.

PT: Why did you decide to collaborate and also fund this movie project?

Princewill: I have always been interested in the arts and I think film-making is a great way to pass a message across to the people. I think one of the problems we have in Nigeria is orientation. I think we can re-orientate our people through film-making.

Hollywood sold America to the world and I thought American streets were paved with gold until I arrived there and saw that things are also as bad as you can have here. I see film, as a form of communication, so getting involved in film-making is a default setting for me.

PT: What drew you to the script?

Princewill: I loved the idea that the movie talked about history and I like the concept of making a movie that is inspired by a real life event. I also think that 1976 was very fundamental as far as Nigeria is concerned.

Many people say it was the year when civil servants realised that their jobs were no longer secure and corruption was born. So I think 1976 is a significant year in the development of the country. It was a story that needed to be told and I wanted it to be told properly.

PT: How much did it cost you to make the movie?

Princewill: We learnt a lot while shooting this movie. We had our cast and crew on set for six months; nobody does that. We booked two hotels one for the crew and other for the cast and they bonded. For two months they were working together and it was almost like a prerequisite for normal shooting.

They had full military training, which included waking up at 5.30 every morning. So, getting the cast into that frame of mind is not an easy feat so that cost us more money than it would ordinarily have cost us. It cost us $3 million to shoot 76. Many producers hide or inflate their movie budget but we don’t.

This movie took us seven years to make but when you spend money slowly and surely it’s a lot easier than when you attempt to make a movie overnight. Fingers crossed but the movie in my opinion has broken even already. The international distribution deal we signed with Shoreline Entertainment in Hollywood is enough to make up for all we have spent so far.

PT: Tell us more about the deal?

Princewill: All I can say is that it is a seven-figure dollar deal with one of the best – Shoreline Entertainment from Hollywood for rights for the movie.

PT: Kindly take us through the production process.

Princewill: It took three years to plan the movie and it was filled with its unique challenges. While shooting the movie, the Nigerian Army delegation visited the cast and crew with assurances of their full support. For the first time in Nigerian history, a film shoot was allowed within the barracks. A first in cinematic history. After production the movie enjoyed the full approval and endorsement of the Nigerian Army and the Murtala Muhammed family.

It comes 40 years after the actual events. I am also glad that we were selected by both the Toronto and London Film Festivals as they had been watching our progress and to get their endorsements as well as that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who lived frontline through that historical period.

PT: Do you see yourself funding another historical movie such as this?

Princewill: There is nothing stopping us from telling other stories and anyone who has a passion for film-making will always want to raise the bar. The next movie we will produce involves going to shoot in Sambisa forest in Borno State. The Nigerian army was so happy with the movie. The director, Izu Ojukwu, lived in an apartment owned by one of the coup plotters so he had a bad image of the army. But when he along with his crew was involved in an accident they were rescued and treated by the army.

So, he saw a human side to the army and that is part of what led him to do this movie. The film is a chronicle of so many things put together. When the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, approved the film, he said he was not so happy with the way we portrayed the brutality of the army. But we know that if we had over glamourized the army the movie wouldn’t be relatable.

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