He is not new in the game; he is an old and reliable hand. Mention 20 significant and relevant motion picture practitioners of the ‘old brigade,’ or let us say, the pioneers of Nollywood, and you would not miss out top movie director, Chico John Meziakpono Ejiro, who is popular as Mr. Profilic.
An Agric-Economic graduate of the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike in Abia State and younger brother to the accomplished movie director and producer, Zeb Ejiro, Chico’s ability to churn out video offerings with ease earned him the sobriquet, ‘Mr. Prolific.’
There was a time in Nollywood when four out of every 10 movies released monthly had the signature of the third of the Ejiro brothers, who are neck deep unto movie production, the others being Zeb and Peter Red Ejiro.
However, Chico took something of a back seat around the late 2000. Not that the amiable and humble Chico was not working; as he actually was, but he was not hitting locations as he did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“The production ecosystem changed. It was the era of new technology and the funds to keep up with the dynamism became an issue. But we didn’t stop working; we only slowed down the pace,” he explained.
Even though he hits location occasionally, it is unarguable that Chico’s spare of work has not been equaled in the Nollywood industry. Even he confessed to have lost count of the number of movies he has produced and directed.
“I cannot say precisely now that I have done this number, but I know I have worked on so many movies. But if you insist that I put a figure to it, then think I have done over 100 movies, and that is being careful, so that I don’t over state it,” he clarified.
A talent spotter and developer, many of today’s leading celebrities, such as Shan George, Victoria Iyama, Emeka Ike, Jim Iyke and Ramsey Noah owe their popularity to Chico, who is the directing force behind commercially successful movie productions, including Full Moon, Silent Night, Emotional Pain, Wanted Alive, Outcast, Open Marriage, Festival of Fire, Wanted Alive and When Dreams Fall Apart.
But ‘Mr. Prolific,’ who runs the notable production outfit’ Grand Touch Pictures, returned to space this year with a thriller, Night Bus To Lagos.
A movie that revolves round a past that came calling, Night Bus To Lagos, which is set for cinema release, stars notable screen personalities, such as Pete Edochie; Monalisa Chinda; Daniel Lloyd; Rachel Oniga; Ebube Nwagbo; Paul Obazele; Bolanle Ninalowo; singer, Omawunmi Megbele; top Yoruba actor, Odunlade Adekola; Eddie Watson and vivacious actress and producer, Lisa Henry Omorodion.
“We pulled a good cast for this and they all put in their best. It is something everyone will enjoy. I think moviegoers should just be on the watch out for the thrilling drama,” he enthused.
The Isoko, Delta State-born husband of costumier, Joy Chico Ejiro, it was the elder Ejiro, Zeb, that influenced Chico’s incursion into motion picture practice. Zeb it was, who engaged him during off school period as a production coordinator for the rested television soap, Ripples.
With time, the restless Chico rose to become an assistant director and was later to earn his full credit as a director when he called the shot of the rested television soap, Mega Fortunes, starring Ramsey Nouah and Lai Ashadele, among other celebrated actors.
He followed that effort up with Aiye Male, a Yoruba movie that ranks as his debut as a director on the home movie turf and then others, such as Tears of Love, Onome, Deadly Affairs, Obsession, Dead End, Sisters on the Run, Running With The Wind and London Forever, followed in quick succession.
Today, Chico is highly regarded in the industry and holds what is obviously an unbroken record of being the director with the greatest number of home videos that have been upped for public viewing, at least for now.
“It is God and then the passion that has kept people like me going,” he snapped in response to his staying power. “There are times when you feel like doing something else, because you can’t break even, but you keep at it, believing that one day, you are going to hit it big.
“It has not been easy. The pirates are everywhere. The DVD market that we made so much money from has practically collapsed. The online market that we should even augment with has now been so saturated. So, it is survival for the fittest.
“But we pray and hope for the best. I believe that things will get better if we get the kind of government and private sector support that we have been yearning for, for decades now. They must help us solve the problem we have with distribution. I like the idea of going to the cinema, but how many movies can possibly be shown there? We need more cinemas and we need to strengthen the other distribution platforms.”
Asked if he would ever contemplate retiring from calling the shots and or from filmmaking, the strong English club, Arsenal, fan, cuts in: “No way! I am in this until I cannot move my body again. I mean, nothing gives me joy as hitting location to tell a story that people will watch, enjoy and learn something from.
“So, I will keep at it and just ask God for His grace and uncommon favour on me and my family.”