ASURF OLUSEYI is not a new name in the Nigerian Film Industry. Asurf is known for his previous works- two impressive short films, Hell of High Water and A Day with Death which got recognized with 10 international selections and won Best short film at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2016. It didn’t take us by surprise when we learned that the award-winning Film Director was the brain behind Hakkunde.
From the intriguing storyline, the stellar cast and the captivating picture quality, Hakkunde leaves little to no room in the viewer’s heart not to love it. The movie was released on August 4th, but before then we got the opportunity to engage Asurf to take us through what inspired this story and his choice of cast, what motivated him to continue with production in spite of obvious challenges financially and otherwise, and how he was able to ensure quality of production and content in his first ever feature film, HAKKUNDE.
Was there a particular reason why you chose to produce the movie yourself?
First of all, I didn’t have the budget to hire a professional producer, so I leveraged on my previous experience co-producing with friends and also producing two amazing shorts. Considering I was spending my personal funds on the film, it just made a lot of sense financially managing my costing and also taking risks for things that can add value to the narrative.
At what point did you decide you were going to crowd-fund… Was there an “oh-crap moment” when you realized you couldn’t afford to fund this big idea you had? Or did you kind of just know that this was something you were going to need public support on?
While writing the story, I had a rough estimate in mind, and I was able to raise it personally, but because it was my first solo outing at the cinemas, I decided to reduce my risk. I wanted a scenario where I could use my existing network to buy into the film before making it, I knew I could convince one or two people since I hadn’t asked them for such a favour before, and I could use the support to reduce risk. Unfortunately, I couldn’t raise my requested goal but what was raised ended up being support for capital invested. At the same time I was using the process as a marketing tool for the film to create anticipation which worked at the end of the day. If you watch the video again, I stated in there that even if I don’t raise my target, I’ll still go ahead with making the film in my best form.
So now, the movie has gathered a fan base and everyone is anticipating its release, but at the point when you were still trying to raise funds, would you say people responded? Did crowd-funding work or you just had to pull some strings in the end?
The calculation was using my Facebook and Instagram network to raise the requested funds, then I had over 4000 followers each on both platforms making like 8,000 people in my online community, so the calculation was to get 50% of the 8,000 people to support the film project with N2000 which would have amounted N8, 000 000 and that would have been half of the initial budget, but unfortunately I only raised N1,800 000 from 43 people out of my 8,000 friends lol, so statistics can fail you sometimes, but the good thing is, I never expected to raise such an amount with just 43 backers. I wasn’t surprised because I knew crowd funding for film isn’t so common here, so I was ready for any outcome. When I couldn’t raise the target, I ended up taking a loan from the bank to make up for the balance.
In pulling off the crowd- funding thing, you put out a video of a prank you did with your crew on Lagos streets (Journey to Hakkunde). It was fun to watch, but did you get any negative backlash?
The prank wasn’t part of the crowd funding process, it was used to unveil the title of the film. After working with event promoters for years, I’ve come to understand the power of publicity and knowing no time is too early to start, I came up with the idea of re-creating a scene in the movie to see if it could go viral, and people actually thought he was a real job seeker. They were taking pictures of him, and one of the posts found its way to some blog, and we were super happy there was a talk-bout around the title before shooting. No backlash, in fact, we got two job offers from random people calling the number, a recruiting company reached out to offer him a job and use him on their campaign, but we told them it was a prank. A lady even called from Canada and asked for his account number but I turned her down and told her it was a prank to reveal a film title, so no backlash at all. WATCH THE PRANK HERE
From all the BTS goodness you’ve shared, we can tell that a lot went into making this movie, was there something in particular about this idea that made you feel like you just had to push through?
Yes, Fear of failure. From the day I decided to do the film and declared it, I knew I couldn’t afford to fail myself and everyone who believes so much in my little ability. I couldn’t afford to fail our backers on the crowdfunding campaign, I couldn’t afford to fail my instinct, the story is so humanly I was worried about the commercial side of it, but my instinct never flipped and I was just ready to do everything to bring my vision to life. My two short films A day with Death and Hell or High Water got good reviews, so I knew I couldn’t do anything less in photography quality. It would interest you to know that we ran out of budget after 3 days on set, and our camera packed up in Kaduna, we ended up borrowing between N300,000 – N400,000 every day to sustain the shoot till end, I lost physical strength but the joy of creating my vision got me going through all. I beat the fear and shooting Hakkunde was one of the best decisions I made in 2016. WATCH SOME BTS FOOTAGE HERE
Just from the trailer, it’s clear that this film has a very unique emotion to it, and the stylistic elements you used are also very different. Can you tell us more about that?
One thing I’ve learned over years is, there are many ways to make a film, and knowing well that it’s an art-form, it means there isn’t a one size fits all approach. I influenced most of the process and I never rushed it. From the story (because I love a humanly story), to casting, to locations, to choice of music and outlook, it was pre-designed. It was my first feature so I wasn’t worried about failure because it is expected. Right from the development, my interest was always, how can I do it differently and still look amazing. So while shooting, I was considering all elements knowing fully well that I’m editing it myself since I can’t afford a professional editor. So all decisions on the creatives were carefully made to create a film that can put you in an experience rather than just entertain you. But I must say, what works for me is based largely on my situation, circumstance, experience and Luck.
Lastly, I just have to ask, why Frank Donga? I mean he’s someone that has been known and loved, but we’ve never seen him in this light (a serious role). Was there any particular motivation to work with him on this project?
Lol I called Kay, while writing the story. The only existing character that I knew was in line with Akande was Frank Donga. Unfortunately, their characteristics were so different, but while casting, I wanted an actor whose struggle the audience could easily connect with without having to watch the film, and my instinct kept dragging me to Frank Donga. My team got worried that people might not take him seriously and I said what if we make people take him seriously for the first time, that would be a big deal and we can still drive humor around his struggle without making him look like Frank Donga. And boom, I reached out to him and during our first meeting he asked if I’d read his bio before writing the film. I said no, I got inspired by my brother’s struggle and he mentioned this is like his life story, and to make it more amazing, he actually studied animal science in school, and right there I said to him, Kay! You’re the one I’m looking for, let’s make magic. And working on this with him was so beautiful, even when he was stretched, he was ready to do anything to the success of the film, we always shared good vibes on set because he’s also a filmmaker, he was interested in the look and projections and I’m sure he’s happy with the progress so far. He’s a fantastic actor and supporter of art and I wouldn’t have casted anybody better for the role. So yes, it was just basic instinct.
Find Asurf on Instagram: @iamasurf and on Twitter: @asurf100
Hakkunde has been officially released, and is showing in cinemas nationwide now.