It appears that the issue of sexual harassment in Nollywood has been underreported in recent times.
Blessing Effiom Egbe, one of the leading filmmakers in Nigeria, created the phenomenal television series, Lekki Wives.
But she wasn’t always behind the lens. Egbe started out as an actor and in an interview with
, she revealed that she experienced the same level of discrimination that female actors are subjected to.
At a time when the #MeToo movement is spreading like wildfire in Hollywood, Egbe said the harassment of female actors is a present – and ongoing – reality in the Nigerian movie industry famously dubbed Nollywood.
The filmmaker said she has had her fair share of ‘couch-casting’ experiences.
On one occasion, Egbe said she visited the office of a producer and ran into a marketer who, apparently, saw her as an easy target for his indulgence.
She recounted: “The yeye marketer met me at a producer’s office and decided to try his bad luck. He surprisingly placed his hands around my shoulders and slowly made his way down my back side.
“As he did this, he voiced out loud in his igbotic accent – nna, this tall slim gal will be good for our epic feem oh.”
Egbe said she was as angry as she was shocked and hit the man very hard without even thinking about it.
There was a second experience in which a male filmmaker invited her to an hotel room he claimed to be his makeshift office for a discussion on her desire to get roles.
Upon her arrival, Egbe said the director launched into a parable to justify his choice of hotels for writing scripts and preparing for production. Having laid the foundation, he then made a proposition on how Egbe could get a lead role in one of his productions.
According to her, he said: “All the scripts I have now have complete cast attached. What I can do for you is simple, I’ll write like three or four scripts with you as lead. But to do that, you will have to spend some time with me, we will travel to the east together and as I see you, the inspiration will come for the stories.”
The filmmaker said she tactfully exited the room with the excuse of discharging her taxi driver.
Egbe added: “But seriously though, these abusive acts must stop. So many actors have fallen to the schemes of liars. I have had to speak to so many upcoming actors about not giving in to the casting couch practice which they are deceived to see as paying their dues.
“That is why I give as many opportunities as possible to new artists in my productions. I guess it’s my own little way of giving hope to upcomers now that I am a writer, producer and director.”
Speaking on her upcoming N50m production, The Ten Virgins, Egbe said the film, which also has a television version, is a unique offering that is bound to excite Nigerian filmmakers in many ways.
“Apart from the stage like set and characteristics deployed, it is full of music and dance,” she said, adding that “the setting and language are medieval, and a lot of work went into achieving the old-fashioned look and feel. It also had a large cast with over 500 background actors”.
Egbe is also the director of the acclaimed movie, ‘The Women’.