Posted by By Ijeoma Ogwuegbu on
Her name is immediately recognisable as not just that of a well-respected movie and television star, but also as a reputed stage actress.
Her name is immediately recognisable as not just that of a well-respected movie and television star, but also as a reputed stage actress. She also with her husband runs a production company that is well-known and respected in the field. Sheís probably been acting longer than most people can remember and has created a name for her by confidently taking her place when Nollywood called.
But she has managed to retain her respect even in that circle trains younger ones with the quality of the roles she has played. Now she also runs training where she passes on her knowledge. Add to that the job of being a mother and you might begin to think of her in terms of the superlative.
But even with all these, Joke Silva still has big dreams, though they are big dreams properly harnessed to reality and philosophical tones.
ďFor as long as one has some form of activity, thereíll always be new mountains you want to climb,Ē she says. ďIf I was very honest with you, itís because my kids are still pretty young, I really wouldnít want to burden them and of course one has an old mother. Yes, there are some things which I still want to do which I havenít done. If I live long, I want to be able to do those things. But if itís not what the Lord has written for me, then Iím fine with my life the way it is.
The only thing I do tell the Lord is to make Him take me in my bed. I think also Iím the kind of person who has always been able to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an actress in a society and social class where it was unacceptable and I did it. That has changed and the change has caught one while it was the right thing to do. So that has been exciting. Iíve always wanted to be training, to pass on what I have, and Iím doing that. There are other things I would like to do, like have a studio that would double as a theatre and a training school and thatís the works already. That is a dream. But if the Lord says Iíve done enough, Iím fine.Ē
This alumnus of Webster Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts, London and Best Actress 2006 at the African Movie Academy Awards seems to enjoy all the caps she currently wears. The cap of producer was what led her to recently produce the renowned and controversial play, The Vagina Monologues, which contains pieces about women speaking about their experience by using the vagina as a focal point.
ďThe experience of producing is an experience I enjoy. For Vagina monologues, I was the artistic producer which was a bit better than being an executive producer. As an artistic producer I had a lovely cast, a great cast. The play is almost like stand-up comedy. It was just wonderful to have a cast of very talented women performing.
Each woman was very confident in her own right, in her own talent and it was fun. The title is an attention grabbing title but inside you find a lot of thought-provoking pieces that first of all make women accept their own sexuality and sensuality, their won place in the world in the scheme of things. And then also deals with the violence that women go through whether it is emotional or physical. They are things that help women to be able to articulate these things.
So even though the packaging was controversial, the content was entertaining and thought-provoking and one just felt that the time was right. I had been approached to do it some two years ago and I felt the idea was crazy, you know, something like that in Nigeria? Forget it. But I became more sensitized to the various issues of violence that were going on to our womenfolk and I think what really pushed the button for me was the high level of rape in our tertiary institutions that go unreported. Itís incredibly high and I felt quite outraged. If I had the chance I would do it again.Ē For her, moving from acting to producing was just one of those things that happen.
Acting and producing
ďMoving from acting to producing just happened because all my life all I ever wanted to be was an actress, I had no interest in being a director or producer or anything like that. But soon after we got married, my husband was interested in going into production and I assisted him. Learning the ropes was a bit heart-wrenching because we were doing our own productions and finding funding for them was always heart-wrenching but once I got the hang of it, it was alright. So whenever I wasnít acting, I was quite happy to be producing. But acting is still my first love. Any day I get a very good acting role, forget it, that comes first. I think itís in the order of acting, producing, directing.Ē
Does she prefer acting on stage to acting in front of the camera?
ďStage acting and acting in front of the camera pose two different challenges so I find it difficult to say I prefer one to the other. The worry is the same for both sides, whether youíll be true to the character that has been created. For me, I have that anxiety no matter which it is. Because for stage, itís sequential, you begin from wherever it starts and you get to the end of the play before you stop. Also you have a long time, usually around three months to prepare for it. If itís a long run play, which we donít have many of here, the longer the run, the better your character develops and you get better at playing it. So the challenge of that is getting to the kernel of the character and then sustaining it night after night. So thatís the challenge you have.
But camera work can be so cold because unlike onstage where you get an immediate response and thus you have a symbiotic relationship with the audience, in camera work, you have no immediate feedback. On stage, it can be frightening because the audience say what they thinking and some of what they say might not be flattering and it can get you off your track. With camera, you do your best and try to give the character the best interpretation possible. Also, itís never sequential because you could start shooting with the highly emotional scene only to come back to a very mundane one. For the performer, you really need to know where your character is at every point in time. So you need to be able to perform to the bets of your ability for each take.Ē
Nigerian home video scene
In the Nigerian home video scene, she says the low quality of movies that some people complain about is usually because the industry is still growing.
ďIn Nollywood, everybody is learning on the job and itís a bit slow. Youíll find for those who went before, the people who were involved in television or celluloid film, the technical people who came before were very technically-sound. Also for them it was not just about making money, there was a lot of artistry involved. But now, itís one of the easiest things to go into, because the entry level is so low, whether as an actor or director, whatever.
Now there are a lot of structures being put in place to redress that, to improve the entry level. Until those have a firm footing, the quality will continue to be low. There is very little imaginative directing being done, there are very few stories being told. We seem to still be at the stage of using words.Ē
She adds that most times, actors in home videos donít get the right kind of help they need.
ďActors are not being given the help that they need to be able to convey the characters. The actor performs and has no feedback and he needs the director to give him that. But then the director doesnít know how.
Some just think itís to light a set and put a camera and say action. That creates a problem. Thatís not to say that there are no good directors, but invariably the good ones donít have the same amount of finance that the bad ones do, the ones who are on a conveyor belt making movie after movie. So that is affecting quality as well because the good ones are the ones that should be pushing that bar but when you donít see a lot of them working, thereís very little to compare your work to.Ē
The juggling mother
Silva says that as far as juggling her many tasks and combining them with being a mother is concerned, sheís left that to the almighty.
ďI just leave it up to God. Because sometimes youíre in a situation where there are school runs to be done, rehearsals to be had for one thing or the other and I also do some training and I work as a facilitator, and I have to be on location. Then your child is calling to say, ďMummy, I donít understand this homework, Iíve done number one to three but I donít understand number four.Ē Then you have to say read number four to me while youíre in the car on your way to the location.Ē This elicits peals of laughter from her. ďI use that as an example because it happened to me recently. So thatís where I am at the moment, so I leave it to God to help me juggle. Although Iím also very lucky in that I have good back-up.
I have a battery of helps. So housework really doesnít come into it. My mum also helps out quite often with the kids. My husband too helps out when he can. When he gets back from location, he wants to stay in his house. He can in the house for a week without getting to the gate. Thatís the kind of person he is. So when heís at home, heís like seeing to the kids and seeing to whatever needs to be seen to. So God sorts it out.Ē
Donít feel guilty
She has also learnt one other important message; accept the things you canít change.
ďI donít feel too guilty about not being there for them all the time anymore, just once in a while. Itís something I have to consciously tell myself not to beat myself up over things I really have no control over. I have to work. I could never be a housewife. Iím just not cut out for it. Whether Iím wealthy or my husband is wealthy, itís just not for me. Itís not like Iím cut out to be the high-flying businesswoman either. My niche is the artistic, creative job. I feel alive when I do that. I feel like everything is right with the world when Iím on set.
Not working is not an option for me so over the years Iíve learnt not to beat myself up about it. I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids but at the same time Iím not false with them, I try not to be. Sometimes I really want to be alone. I might not have seen you for a while but right now Iím tired and I want to be on my own. So just let try and regain my energy. But the times when we do have together are good. God has been wonderful. My older son is not coming out too badly as sons go and Iím very proud of him. My baby, because he came later in our lives, we are trying to make sure heís not too spoilt, though he is spoilt already but not too much.Ē
Being married to Olu Jacobs
ďBeing married to Olu Jacobs does help in terms of juggling because he knows the field and what it entails,Ē she adds. ďBut that also means there are very few stories you can come and tell him that he will believe if itís not true. He knows what goes on on location and he knows how awkward it can be. He also does understand the creative juices that drive you.
Heís never been a controlling person. He probably was when we first met, unknown to him. but I think it was also about my maturing because there is that age gap between us and I was very young and in coming in to my own, at a time I think it was difficult for him to accept that I knew what I wanted for myself. But I think that came. It was also easier for him because he could also get the kind of support he needed as a creative person. So all those thorny bits ironed out and Iím definitely happy.Ē
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