General News | 8 November 2005 14:00 CET

Actors Guild declares war against M-Net


Ahead of the plan by the Nigerian Film Corporation to schedule a meeting of relevant authorities over the face-off between actress Kate Henshaw – Nuttal, principal actress on the set of Doctors Quarters (DQ) M-Net. International, producers of the soap Opera the Ejike Asiegbu led Actors Guild of Nigeria, has ordered that recasting for the roles of the sacked actress be stopped with immediate effect while an unreserved apology is sent to the actress for the embarrassment caused her, her family, friends, fans and for the reputation of the Actors Guild.

Kate Henshaw had been reportedly removed from the project in circumstances linked with the earlier removal of the director, Mr. Jimi Odumosu and his assistant, Mr. Victor Okhai. Henshaw was said to have mobilized the cast and crew on set to resist the action. Mr. Asiegbu, who was addressing the press for the first time since his executive came to office five months ago, was apparently vexed by what he described as an indirect colonization of the film industry in Nigeria and disrespect for its artistes through their Nigerian collaborators.

“We clearly state here, that the attitude of the management of M-Net in regard to the production in focus, is not only exploitative, but must be seen as brazen robbery, perpetual enslavement and domestication. They are cheats, because, they will never subject South African Actors to such unholy and unprofessional treatment. In fact, it can never obtain in South Africa.”

He said that M-Net should explain to Nigerians what it meant in article 10.5 of her contract document which states that: “This agreement shall be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the Law of the Republic of South Africa.”

“To M-NET as an organization, we make bold to say that we must resist this slavish contract, as this kind of contract is never in use in South Africa and anywhere in the world.

This attitude exhibited by M-Net is viewed by the Actors Guild of Nigeria, as a slap on our personality status quo and integrity and makes a mockery of the noble art and a deliberate means of casting aspersions on our professionals in Nigeria.”

Prior to this time, the managing Director of the Nigerian Film corporation Mr. Afolabil Adesanya, had described in the New Age Newspaper of Friday October 21, as unhealthy for the movie industry, the face off between Kate Henshaw and M-Net, a development he said was fast becoming a media war between the two.

Adesanya, in a telephone conversation with our reporter, described the fall-out and its attendant media reports as unhealthy for the foreign collaboration which his Corporation views as desirable to attract more foreign investment to the fast growing local film industry, otherwise called “Nollywood.”

The NFC boss, who said that a meeting of some guild heads and the warring parties may be convened next week, added that since the issue came up, he had maintained close contact with everybody involved with the need to bury the hatchet and allow for a mature resolution of the matter.

Leaders of the guild who have been assigned to investigate the matter are the president of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Mr. Ejike Asiegbu, president of Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), Mr. Femi Odugbemi and chairman of Motion Pictures Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPPICON), Mr. Tunde Oloyede.

Adesanya did not, however, say whether the resolution would seek the return of the actress to the set or that a termination letter be given to her.

The second principal character, Kiru Alintah, who was also eased out of the set, alongside Kate continues to keep mum on the issue. Asked why she did not attend the press conference addressed by her colleague, she said, “I have my reasons and Kate is aware of this. I don't really want to talk to the press about this. I am really very sorry if I am proving difficult.”

When contacted, Remi Ogunpitan the producer of the serial would rather not speak to the press or as he described it, join issues with Kate Henshaw. He however, reflected over his time in the industry, which he put at 21 years, conscious that the issue at hand should not dent his reputation.

“I have been in this industry since 1984 and my first job was with DBN. That is some 21 years ago and I have done several other projects and I like my job to speak for itself. I don't want to join issues with her. If she thinks that the press is the way out, so be it. I really have nothing to say,” he said.

Asked how many Nigerians and South Africans are on the set of Doctors Quarters, he said “There are just six South Africans out of ninety-eight people on the cast and crew, the rest are Nigerians.” On what happens to the characters, Lara and Nadia, played by Kate and Kiru respectively, he said, “Watch out for episode 10.” Remi, who said that he owed his obligation to his clients, said there was no reason not to meet the deadline. He pointed out that cast and crew had since gone back to work, including the director, Jimi Odumosu and his assistant Victor Okhai. He added, “I have never seen any production that goes smoothly without one problem or the other. Ours should not be an exception.”

Apparently convinced that the actress who is also the Public Relations officer of the guild is of proven character, Asiegbu expressed dissatisfaction over the action of the producer of Doctors Quarter when he described Kate as one of the best behaved top rate Nigerian actors on and off set.

“As a professional actress who has been on the scene for well over a decade, Mrs. Nuttal has never had a single case of professional misconduct leveled against her, locally and international,” Asiegbu said.

He said the Guild has made this position known to the management of M-Net and is awaiting the reply to the Guild's their resolution, which includes: that all contracts be forwarded to the guild for proper articulation and forestalling of criminally intended contracts forced on members; that 90 per cent of actors and crew involved must be Nigerians; and that the welfare of the actors in relation to accommodation, feeding, transportation etc must be of paramount concern.

Other matters include: that subjecting actors to a 24 hour shoot non-stop without the provision of adequate welfare is condemned. Any organization or persons that intend to engage the services of any actor for local or international production must obtain clearance from the Guild and that fees must be paid to the actor before commencement of production.

He, however, enjoined all the actors, all over the federation to remain respectful and highly professional in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities vis-à-vis the interpretation of their roles, responses to call times, comportment and respect for producer, director and other members of the cast on any set they may find themselves. He said the Guild would not take lightly issues of professional misconduct, that may be leveled against them.

Also in attendance the press briefing were the National Scretary of the Guild, Mr. Acho Ugenyi, the 1st Vice Chairman, Mr. Abulraman and Chairman, AGN (Lagos chapter) Mr. Remmy Ohajianya and Mrs Henshaw-Nuttal.

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