Home NewsEntertainment Film execs Demi OluBanwo, Adesegun Adetoro on 5-year journey of making ‘Gangs of Lagos’

Film execs Demi OluBanwo, Adesegun Adetoro on 5-year journey of making ‘Gangs of Lagos’

by Victorious
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Film execs Demi OluBanwo, Adesegun Adetoro on 5-year journey of making 'Gangs of Lagos'

The movie executives take us through the casting, budget and journey to making Nollywood’s latest hit movie.

Gangs of Lagos is Jade Osiberu’s latest release and Nollywood’s current rave of the moment.

A five-year film journey, the gritty crime thriller follows three friends chasing their dreams and destiny on the dangerous streets of Isale Eko. Tobi Bakre takes the lead as Obalola, supported by Adesua Etomi-Wellington (Gift) and Chike-Ezekpeazu Osebuka (Ify).

Making this movie, that would become Prime Video’s first original from Africa, involved several film executives including Demi OluBanwo and Adesegun Adetoro.

For our latest Pulse interview, we spoke with these two Gangs of Lagos executive producers about what made them want to be a part of the project, starring in it and all the work it took to make this movie.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Demi OluBanwo: Everything started with acting for me. My first professional job as an actor was with Jade Osiberu on Gidi Up in 2013. From there, I kept up the acting hustle and did a stint on the radio before going to drama school in London to learn acting professionally. Coming back, I realised that I kept leaning towards producing on several productions. Eventually, I decided to fully embrace production because I didn’t want to invest that much time on effort into something I didn’t have ownership of. I had dabbled in it for a while and I knew that anytime I needed anything that had to do with the business of Nollywood he (Adetoro) was the guy I called. So, in 2020 we decided to join forces as executive producers. Our first course of action was deciding who to collaborate with and Jade was the name on the top of our list. After we spoke with her, she sent her slate of about six films at the time that she wanted to do in the next couple of years. Gangs of Lagos is the second movie we have done with Jade, the first is not out yet.

Adesegun Adetoro: I started out writing movie reviews for a mobile app, then for my blog. With my background in tax consulting that I did for multinationals and companies, I started to do a lot of analysis around the industry and the box office. This soon resulted in people reaching out to me about their budget, finances, and getting investors. At some point, I started to think about the next thing, so when he (OluBanwo) brought up producing, it made sense. I met Jade around Isoken time, which was when we started to communicate about the business of filmmaking. We did the first movie, then decided to do Gangs of Lagos.

OluBanwo: When I first heard it, it reminded me of one of my favourite movies, City of God. One of the biggest things that got to me was the real-world implications of the film because, at the end of the day, film is more than just entertainment. It should be a reflection of our society and our lives. So, I thought this could be a reflection of a part of society that we don’t typically get to see or understand. It was an opportunity to humanise certain entities in our communities that we usually do not engage with. Also, I knew it was going to be huge. It was a combination of everything for me.

Adetoro: The story stood out for me. My mom’s family is from Isale Eko, so growing up, we used to go there a lot to bulk buy. I saw this project involving a part of my upbringing as a great opportunity. It’s also very real; it was a piece of work that balanced fiction and reflected society. Another thing that stood out was the production team; everybody came to the table with something valuable. We wanted to do something great together, and everybody came correct.

Adetoro: Jade and I spoke about the movie for the first time in 2018. We did not start shooting until three years later, and it came out five years after we first discussed it. It was daunting because it was a big project. We had this massive budget for which we were trying to raise money. Concerning the casting, he (OluBanwo) recommended one of the major characters. There was already a list of people in mind for the casting process. Primarily, you try not to impose too much because you know there’s a vision with the creative, Jade. It was probably one of the highest budgets when we shot this film. It cost a pretty penny. We did it just after covid when people were not taking too many chances with entertainment, Hollywood was cancelling projects, and things were happening all over the world. It was crazy, but we did it.

OluBanwo: One of my biggest celebrations of this film is the actors. You have people who come from different walks of the entertainment industry. Someone like Olarotimi Fakunle, who plays Kazeem, has been doing this since 2007, and his big break is finally coming in 2023. As an executive producer, it was about finding the right people and then matching the right energies and visions.

Adetoro: There were a lot of discussions, from the title to the casting. We went back and forth for a while before we landed on the title. I think we did not agree until after we had shot the film. There have been different names.

OluBanwo: It was originally called Once Upon A Time in Isale Eko. Then it was Under Lagos. We used focus groups asking, ‘What do you think about this name?’ to find which name aligned with the story.

OluBanwo: Interestingly, that was not the character I wanted to play. I spoke to Jade about it, and she said, ‘Honestly, you are too well-fed to be an Isale Eko guy.’ But she came back with another character which is where Bolaji, the barber came in. It is a privilege because a lot of actors do not get to be in the position where you are at that level of decision-making. My experience as an actor has benefited me greatly because now I have a full picture of filmmaking. It is hard but I would not have it any other way.

Adetoro: We have a project that is currently in pre-production, our actors have been in training for the last seven months. He (OluBanwo) is acting in it. This project is a story about two boxers on two different sides. We are earnestly looking forward to shooting it. We want to create a concept of filmmaking in Nollywood that balances the creative with the business side in such a way that people see investing in Nollywood as buying stock, like a viable investment option. Entertainment is a space that defines how people perceive a community and a nation. Most of the things Nigerians know about the nation of Korea are from watching K-dramas. So, we want to create things that make people engage with Nollywood and the country.

Gangs of Lagos is currently showing exclusively on Prime Video.

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