June 29, 2013 – Yoruba Actor Aina Gold Speaks: Most Nigerian Actors Can’t Afford A Car
Popular Yoruba actor and movie producer Aina Gold in this recent interview with Damilare Okunola spoke at length on his lengthy journey to Nollywood movie industry and the current problem facing his colleagues in the industry.
How did your romance with theatre begin?
Acting has always been a part of me while growing up. During my secondary school days in Ibadan, I did a lot of stage plays. When I got back to Lagos, I joined the drama group in my church, First Baptist Church, Oshodi. We are always travelling to different parts of the country to perform. Also during the New Year Eve, we normally held stage plays and I discovered that the congregation at those times was always more than the normal size of the church. In those days, I remember people always telling me that I should start thinking of how to take to acting professionally but I laughed those comments off. Then I was a student of Yaba College of Technology where I studied Estate Management.
At what point did you decide to give it a thought?
I attend Daystar Christian Centre and on a particular Sunday morning, Pastor Sam Adeyemi said in his sermon that we had talents which won’t fail us even if our professions do. I felt I was the one he was referring to. I felt very uneasy and on my way home, I discussed it with my wife but she seemed not to understand. After much deliberation, I decided to give it a shot and here I am today.
When did you start professionally?
Officially, I started eight years ago. I started as an apprentice with the Osumare Theater Group. I spent nine months of intense training. After graduation, Mama Rainbow (Mrs Idowu Phillips) took me to the ‘Odunfa’ caucus led by the trio of Yinka Quadri, Taiwo Hassan and Abbey Lanre. There are some other people that I met there. Mama Rainbow told them that she wanted me to have another feel of acting under them. I stayed there for some few months before eventually going into acting for real.
What was your experience on set for the first time?
I had a tough time interpreting my role because I worked with a top professional in Ajoke Ashewo To Re Mecca (Toyin Adegbola). She was complaining bitterly about me because she played the role of my wife in that movie and was not really comfortable with me all through. I kept apologizing but I did not lose focus. And I guess that has helped me a great deal even till this moment. After Erukeru, I became more experienced and in Alapatira, I think I fared better.
To what would you attribute your steady rise in the industry?
I have nothing else to attribute it to other than God. He brought me to this industry and has kept me there till this moment. Special thanks also go to my boss, Femi Phillips, who is in London presently, for believing so much in me. He gave me my first major role and I remember him telling me that I was going to play the lead role in his movies, Erukeru and Alapatira. I was surprised because it came quite earlier than I expected but I took up the challenge. In essence, God brought me this far, but special credit would go to Osumare and Odunfa Groups because they really shot me to limelight with the roles they gave me.
Given your experience, would you say caucus system in the Yoruba genre of the movie industry has helped?
It could have its disadvantages somehow but I believe it is inevitable. Naturally, wherever you have a gathering of individuals, you will surely find caucuses and cliques. People of like minds will always attract each other to seek to achieve a common goal and that should always be expected. The people who trained me are from different groups and they made me who I am today.
Are you also thinking of having your own caucus?
I can’t have any caucus because my caucus is everybody’s and I try to maintain that for as long as I can.
Have you produced any movie of your own?
Yes, I have produced about three movies but the experience I had with marketers will not permit me to talk about them because I’ve not been able to say I recouped my investment.
How much did you sink into them?
I wouldn’t want to start giving you figures now because it might not sit well with some of my colleagues. Even as a businessman, you don’t just reveal your investment on previous projects anyhow.
How have you fared as a family man and a movie star?
I think I have been lucky with my wife’s extraordinary nature. She is a very understanding woman. Her nature has helped me to carry on with this profession. You can imagine a woman who did not marry me as an actor and I just woke up one day to tell her that I want to start taking three or four days off as a movie person. She has reasoned with me and never for once had a quarrel over my new profession as an actor.
How have you managed to avoid controversies associated with your colleagues in the industry?
I may not have had my fair share of scandals now but I don’t deceive myself thinking it won’t come. When I asked my senior colleagues how they managed scandals around them, they only asked me to avoid issues that could attract scandals. That has helped me a lot over the years. But to say that I have completely avoided scandals may not be right because I have had some issues which I was only lucky did not find its way into the pages of newspapers and magazines. Scandals are part of our lives and any celebrity who says he doesn’t expect it is deluding him or herself. Life is full of ups and downs and such things should be expected.
Do you have any of your children showing interest in acting?
I don’t see anyone of them tending towards that direction now. If they choose to later, fine. My first child is already a graduate and he studied Banking and Finance. The second one just gained admission to study Business Management, while the third child is still in secondary school.
What has happened to your Estate Management certificate or you have dumped it somewhere?
Not really. When I graduated from Yaba College of Technology, I served in Rivers State. I later worked with Onakanmi & Partners for some years before moving to Diya Fatimilehin & Co. I also had a stint with Jide Taiwo & Co. before setting up my own firm, Multichoice Estate. I continued with my Estate Management profession until that day when Pastor Sam talked about the talent.
Your surname ‘Gold’ sounds foreign.
Who says? Is it out of place for you to find such names in Isale Eko area of Lagos or Abeokuta? Ransome-Kuti is also from Abeokuta and the name may not sound Nigerian. I can’t say I am from Sierra Leone because my name is Gold.
Are you implying that you are of Sierra Leone descent?
I didn’t say that, you just told me that.
How much was your first earning as a professional actor?
It is difficult to say but I can recollect when we were shooting Erukeru and someone gave me N500 as my feeding allowance for the day. Maybe I should say that was the first amount that I made from acting. I never asked for anything to act in that movie. The fact that I was chosen to interpret that role among the lot was enough remuneration for me then.
Can you do a comparison of your remuneration as a Yoruba actor with what your English counterparts earn?
We give Glory to God. No Yoruba actor will tell you that he is adequately remunerated compared to our English counterparts. There are so many factors responsible which I can’t readily explain now. That is why you still see some of our stars on commercial motorcycles. It is very rare to see any Yoruba actor buy a car with the money he or she made from movies. We are grossly underpaid. The men especially aren’t lucky enough to get helpers like the women.
Could that be responsible for what we heard about some actors and actresses romancing transport union kingpins and unscrupulous businessmen?
You can say that again. What do you expect when people mock them on the streets, taunting them that as popular they are, they still jump from one bike to another? Naturally for some, they would want to cut corners to meet up with the societal trends. Take myself for example, I get paid peanuts for appearing in movies. Those stipends are not enough to sustain me for just a few days compared to my English counterparts who get about N400,000 to N500,000 to appear just in a movie. I just have to behave and live within my means.
With this scenario, how long do you see yourself in this industry?
By the Special Grace of God, I’ll be there for as long as I’m alive. I can’t retire for whatever reason because it’s what I have great passion for. At a point, I might have to stop Estate Management but definitely not acting. Presently, we’re planning an estate even as I’m on location and it has been my dream over the years. I know it’ll surprise my noble colleagues in the estate management field that this man still does this even while acting.
What will you say are the gains and the biggest challenge facing the industry?
Things are better off by far than when we started, no doubt. Obviously, this is due to the advancement of technology. It’s just that as the improvements started coming, the piracy marketers’ problems took the shine off it. Why can’t we have our movies in cinemas? The marketers should find means of ensuring that our movies are screened at the cinemas rather than shoot straight to DVDs. If these pirates don’t have means of pirating our jobs again, they will leave. You can’t go into a cinema without being adequately screened. You can’t go in with your camera, there’s even a mobile demobilizer to stop them from recording the movies with iPad or what have you. Those, that won’t stop everything but it will curb the trend.
Do you still nurse the hope for a better future for the industry?
Of course, that is why majority of us are still here. We believe that things will turn out well. The profession has a hard fighting spirit. Look at the job we came to do for instance, the producer will not make money until about five months. But we know that the revolution will come one day, and a department of this industry will crash though it’s already crashing. When it eventually crashes, those of us in other departments will sit up and say this is how we want our industry to be then, it will be better for us.
[Culled from PM]