Cameroonian actress turned Nollywood star, Okawa Shaznay shares her experience as the first from her country to successfully break into Nollywood.
Okawa Shaznay came into limelight after her role in the blockbuster movie Iyore, where she played a double role, as herself and her reincarnation in two different eras.
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In an extensive interview with Pulse Nigeria, the 30-year old Accounting graduate of Texas Southern University spoke about the difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian Film Industry.
While defining a good film and some of her values which she would not compromise for a role, Okawa Shaznay says it is quite a challenge getting a good role in the Nigerian film industry, considering the pack of good heads in Nollywood.
Okawa Shaznay On Nollywood Movies
On biggest career challenge;
My biggest career challenge has got to be in the period when I moved to Nigeria sometime in 2013. I had to understand my surrounding and the people; basically getting acquainted with Nigerian living because I felt it will play a big part in the film roles I’ll play.
As being in Nollywood, it is normal to find scripts written from a Nigerian perspective. So understanding the country I now live in was very important which wasn’t easy back then when I first moved here as it is now years later.
On branching into directing or screenwriting;
I have never considered directing or screenwriting as of yet. Will I in the future? Maybe; more so in directing. I can see myself doing that years later but not after going to school and training extensively for it.
I feel directing is a delicate part of filmmaking which should not be rushed into. But I would say I have considered producing in the future but as of now, I am fully concentrating on being an actor first for a while before I meddle into that area of filmmaking.
On what her ELOY award means to her as an actress;
It was indeed an honour winning the Eloy award for best TV actress for my role in the “Delilah” TV series. That was my first award I won in Nigeria and I felt some sense of validation coming from a personal perspective because here I am a non-Nigerian who is following her dreams in Nollywood.
So winning the award validated that am on the right track as I have given myself some personal goals I need to achieve in this industry and more so, being nominated in the first place shows that people within the industry are aware of my work which is a good thing.
On the difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian film industry;
The only time I filmed in Cameroon was back in 2004 before I traveled for school and I have not permanently lived there ever since, so I may not be able to give a better analysis on how the movie industry is in Cameroon.
But from a general perspective after attending the Cameroon International Film Festival last year, I would say the big difference between the two industries is that Cameroon is at a stage where people are exploring and taking risks in making movies which I applaud, but with little or no distribution channels within the country.
I feel that is a major challenge in the Cameroonian film industry if the movies being made are not able to penetrate into a vast majority of the homes across the country.
More so, there is a need for cinemas to promote a strong film culture within Cameroon, but without these, it is difficult for a lot of people to have access to the movies made in Cameroon.
I find these the major difference between both industries- the distribution factor that is, which I hope should be looked into.
On how difficult it is to find a good role in Nollywood;
In general, I would not say it is difficult, but it definitely takes hard work and determination to find good roles in Nollywood; as you can see in recent years based on some great movies which have been released, we find that there are actually good roles which come from great writing and producing as well.
Now getting the good roles will have to come with how well you’ve carved a niche for yourself in regards to the type of roles you’ve had in the past and the ability to network within the industry.
More so, I find that if you are not getting good roles or roles In general; actors are getting into the production aspect of filmmaking to create these opportunities for themselves which is a big plus.
If you look across Nollywood today people have created big brands by producing movies themselves to have those roles they desire. So, in my opinion, I generally do not think that it is more of being difficult in finding good roles, but rather more on focus and networking in the right channels.
On what she wouldn’t do as an actress;
For me, I would not compromise certain personal attributes for a role I don’t feel comfortable portraying. Not in terms of how challenging the role is per say, but more on personal grounds psychologically.
On her acting career;
In essence, my acting career has been a journey for me. From a very young age back in the 90s when I watched my first set of Nigerian movies/soap operas growing up in Cameroon like “Glamour girls”, “Scores to settle”, “After the storm” etc.
I always knew I wanted to be an actor and I grew to really admire the movie industry in Nigeria over the years because to me I feel like the entertainment hub as far as Africa is concerned is in Nigeria.
So many years later after deciding that it was finally time to come here and follow my passion in acting, I have found the journey quite tasking but rewarding at the same time.
It is not easy but you have to keep your head up and push through because in the end, determination and hard work pays and most importantly the love for the craft brings joy.
I am humbled by the opportunities I have received and grateful for the talented Nigerians I have worked alongside within the industry.
My very first film I shot in Nigeria was “Iyore” alongside Rita Dominic and Joseph Benjamin.
It was a stepping stone to a lot of things I worked on after that especially on the series “Delilah” which is now currently being broadcasted dubbed in French across Francophone countries in Africa. I am grateful for the platform that has placed me in the homes of many to entertain them.
It can only be better onward by the grace of God and I look forward to seeing how my acting career unfolds through the years.
On upcoming projects;
Yes, I am on the set of an Africa Magic commissioned movie which I am really excited about. Also, I will soon go on the set for season 4 of “Delilah”.
Asides the above-mentioned movies, Okawa Shaznay has featured in top flicks like Soul Tie, Crossed Path, Perfect Strangers and more.