Saturday, 12 March 2016

I Train People To Shoot Cameras, Not Guns - Forinclay Ejeh

Forin-Clay Ejeh is an outstanding, courageous and dynamic filmmaker. He is classified as a director, a cinematographer, a photographer, a graphics designer and an entrepreneur. Clay, as he is popularly called by friends and fans, is a fine man and also the CEO of DMK Media. He hails from Benue state and he is ready to take this profession to another level by impacting the lives of others coming behind him.

Today on the AUTHORITY Lounge, Clay takes us through the power behind the cameras, cuts and actions. Enjoy.

Can you share your back­ground with us?
My name is Ejeh Forin-Clay. I’m a filmmaker and I am from Benue state, Idoma. I’m from a family of six and I’m the first born. I attended University of Maiduguri where I studied Mass Communication. I later furthered my education where I studied Film Media Studies in the University of Cape Town, South Africa. I was sup­posed to be an actor. I can re­member vividly in 2009 when I was on set acting a particular film and my basic mentor, Toka Mcbaror told me that I would make a better director than being an actor. And that stuck in my head till this day and that was how it changed.

So, how long have you been doing this?
I’ve been doing this for five years and it’s not been an easy one. It’s been up and down but we thank God for where he is taking us to; we are not where we used to be. You know the competition in the industry is not a healthy one, a lot of back­stabbing and unfriendly friends but we are glad we have God and the gift he has given; making good use of it for a better tomorrow.

Are you fulfilled in this profession?
If I say I am not, then I’m a liar. This is life. I love what I do. I always let the people I train know that this line of business can build them houses, buy them cars and build empires if only they love what they are doing. I am extremely fulfilled in this line of business and it’s the only thing that makes me happy apart from the realisation that God loves me. And I want to say this clearly that we are selfish in this business. Don’t get me wrong but this is the only profession that brought me out of the struggle for survival. I should guide it with all passion and that is what brings about selfishness in the profession. When I started, my mentor told me that he won’t give us everything but we should build on the platform and I took it very dear. And so far, we have a couple of things we have done, including the FIRS project.

I’ve seen some works you did with Uti Nwachukwu, you guys kinda look alike. What’s the link?
Uti is my brother and my friend. People at times make me believe we look so much alike and I believe it’s probably be­cause of our hair – the dread­locks team. He’s really a cool dude and working with him was an awesome experience.

Because of your hair, are you generally accepted?
I will say in this contemporary day, yes I am accepted. Before now, it was hard because there are places where we were not allowed to enter. Places where people see us like street boys but right now, all that has changed. The applause for this style is unique and people find it fun-filled to be around us be­cause ‘na we dey reign, na we be the industry.’

Between filmmaking, cinematography and photography, which would you call your first love?
All of them are a part of film­making; just that they are different sessions. I was not a photographer; I was just a film person but out of cinematography, I was able to see photography from a different perspective that I started like a joke. I learnt from others as well and somehow, photography came out big. It pays actually. It has its own good sides and it pays even better. My first photography job earned me a thousand dollars when I took pictures of Mr Churchill, Tonto Dike’s husband. And that actually encour­aged me to keep up with photography but my thing is really filmmaking. I just have to major in some and minor in others when necessary.

Photography has gone to another level following the TY Bello and Olajumoke’s story. What are you doing with yours?
Wow! That’s a nice and a very inspiring move and it’s what has really kept everyone amazed. I am touched by that and I am working on something that will take a new turn and give meaning to different lives. That’s the reason we are all living. ‘Project Off the Streets’ is designed to encourage many young, energetic people. POTs is like a rev­elation that I got and it made me remember when I was in school; there were lots of people before and after me. But today, some are not around to see this day. Some are around but struggling one way or the other while some are in the place of their dreams. Out of frustration, a lot of people have gone into wrong dealings and lifestyles that are not what they dreamt of, and if you look deep within those people, they have a passion for something and also they have the skills of having a vocation, but the resources are few. After seeing what is going on, the passion of love came out burning in me; the desire to help my people. So, I came up with Project Off the Street to help them acquire skills in acting, make-up, cinematography, filmmaking, set designing and other areas so they can shoot cameras and not guns. It’s time to drop weapons of war and embrace peace as a weapon too. We are out to train five thousand youths and it’s extending to other states. It looks tough but it’s easy. It’s going to be an intensive training for three months and the best five hundred will be empowered. So, be on the look out for this life-changing encounter.

Is this funded by the government or is it a personal project?
The original design was for us to get support from NGOs but we are still working on that. But as a Young African Leader Initiative (YALI) member, that was introduced by President Obama, I was selected as one of the ambassadors because of this project so that’s a sure zone. Then I have some individuals who are standing by this vision to make sure it becomes a huge success. Ambassador Tony Ujah, a footballer from my place is a pillar of support. Adoyi Ujah also is a part of it. Another big support I have to make this work a reality is Mr Churchill – the Big Church Gate Group. He’s solely into changing lives and thus, it’s a project that is set ready to sail.

With all you have said, you haven’t mentioned a woman. Is it what I’m feeling?
(Laughs; clears his throat). Why I’m I not married? I’m officially not married because I am not married. I will get involved very soon. But it’s actually really difficult finding a woman that will understand my kind of job. Any woman that will respect and appreciate what I do and under­stand that the camera is my first love, I will automatically give her the crown in place of the camera. But she has to under­stand that the camera is my first love. When heartbreaks or troubles come, the camera is what I look up to and smile. The camera is feeding a lot of people today and the camera took care of me and saw me through school. So, I respect the camera a lot.

What do you see in 10 years?
Ten years from now I should be employing 200,000 African youths in this same business. And it’s a possibility be­cause God is on the throne. If you can see it, say it, it’s achievable. All I do is dream and wake up and work to­wards making that dream a reality. I give glory to God.

By Imaobong Cletus

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