ESIFF 2023: Jay Franklyn Jituboh Describes Challenges in Making “The Origin: Madam Koi-Koi”

Braving a harmattan haze on Thursday morning, filmmakers and press members gathered at the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub, in Benin, for an interactive session, on the first day of the second edition of the Edo State International Film Festival (ESIFF). Filmmakers present included Kenneth Gyang (Confusion Na Wa) and Jay Franklyn Jituboh. Lasting about two hours, the session was moderated by Victor Sanchez Aghahowa, the Head of Productions at Multichoice West Africa. Answering a question posed by someone in the audience, Jituboh narrated the origins of The Origin: Madam Koi-Koi, his two-part horror movie which premiered October 31 on Netflix.

Jituboh’s second movie, it is based on a popular Nigerian secondary school lore, and features newcomer actors like Martha Ehinome, Chuks Joseph, and Temidayo Akinboro. Despite the mixed reactions greeting it, it was Nigeria’s most watched Netflix movie for some weeks. This success, however, belies its difficult origins: Jituboh disclosed that raising the 50 million naira initially slated to make it was a hard nut to crack. Part of the problem was that some of the potential investors worried about the sellability of a horror movie in Nigeria.

“They weren’t sure if it would sell. They were also skeptical because I wasn’t tested yet. They would have been more confident if it were a known name like Kunle Afolayan or Niyi Akinmolayan or Jade Osiberu,” Jituboh told a rapt audience. 

Inflation, according to Jituboh, caused the initial 50 million naira budget to all but double; but he eventually received the funding needed to make the movie, most of it coming from family and friends, some of it offered as loans. But, as he discovered, his troubles were far from over. Streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon Prime signalled interest in acquiring the movie but were slow to take action. The delay put him in debt, “the kind that has your phone ringing every minute.” It also meant that he couldn’t pay the actors months after shooting was complete, leading to some angry text messages. “Some of them said they would out me online, and I was like, if only this people knew what I was facing,” said Jituboh.

Just as he couldn’t fulfill his contract with the actors, so, too, did one of them not fulfill her contract with him, thus complicating the filmmaking process.

“Sometimes you have a contract with an actor for eight days, but then they are stuck on another set. Meanwhile, you can’t change the actor because you’re already far gone into the project. We had a similar problem: an actor was supposed to be with us for eight days, but she had to leave before then for medical reasons,” said Jituboh.

The great inconvenience, however, yielded a creative solution: “I had to shoot all her close-ups and conversations with her alone in the scene. I marked the floor to indicate the places she stood and then used a body double to fill in the blanks.” 

Jituboh also had to deal with a failure of architecture. “I got a call from the hotel that the POP had fallen on my drives. Two of the drives were destroyed, but thank God we had a third drive,” he said. “Spiritual attack,” interjected the moderator Aghahowa, to which the audience laughed in mock agreement.

Jituboh urged the audience to find encouragement in his struggles. The road to Netflix, and filmmaking success generally, he said, is long, painful, and paved with many unanswered emails. “But you have to keep sending those emails,” he said, “and don’t be angry or take it personal when film executives don’t respond immediately.” Interjecting again, Aghahowa claimed that “I receive 600 emails on average each day, so it’s impossible to attend to them all in time.”

Regaining control of the microphone once again, Jituboh delivered the second half of his advice: “You will face some rejections. There was a time I even started to question my creativity. But you have to believe in your project.”

The director, who began his career in Edo State, moved away from talking about his movie to offering general advice about filmmaking. He advised that filmmakers should cater not only to craft but to the business side of the industry. Using a James Bond flick for illustration, he also explained the importance of strong openings and endings to a movie. 

“The cold open is very important to a story. This festival screened about 480 films, and sometimes how the story begins will determine whether you will be interested in it or if it will put you off. So whenever you want to make a film, think about how it will both start and end, because they, as well as your plot points, are very important.”

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