Ruth Kadiri Ezerika: Life as Filmmaker
By Rita Okoye
Ruth Kadiri Ezerika is a multiple award-winning Nigerian actress, scriptwriter, and film producer. She is also the CEO/Founder of Ruth Kadiri Films and Ruthkolors; an online hair store. Her passion for acting started in the church; she sees her career as a compulsory service unto God. After bagging an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Business Administration from Yaba College of Technology, and a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, Ruth in her quest for more knowledge proceeded to writing school. She wrote her first script, Wild and Dirty and eventually started featuring in her movies as an actress. Thus far, Ruth has featured in over 100 movies, and has also written and co-written several movies.
Now happily married to Mr Ezerika, and blessed with a daughter, Reign Ezerika, the beautiful actress, shares with us her journey so far as a filmmaker, challenges of a female producer, changes brought on by motherhood and more.
What is new with Ruth Kadiri?
What’s new is that I’m working on my first cinema project. We are still in the pre-production stage and I’m trying to get partnership deals because it’s all incorporated in the story. We hope everything goes well, that’s where we are.
How has life been since COVID-19?
Personally, it’s been good but a lot of people were affected. However, new streams of revenues have been created. I have also used the opportunity to create more income-making avenues for myself.
You are an Actor, Screenwriter and Producer. Why didn’t you just confine yourself to acting?
I’m a very restless soul. I pretty much started as a writer. I love writing and working behind the scenes. It gives me a different kind of feeling than I get being on screen. There are two different things; making money as an actor, and making money as a producer. One is way bigger and riskier. As a producer, you are taking more risks but making more money.
What are the lessons of life that you have learnt in the course of your profession as “an imitator of life?”
Life is a journey and not everyone is meant to stay forever in your life.
Every filmmaker has a philosophy of life that is reflected in their movies. What is yours and how do you reflect it in your films?
My philosophy of life is, “it only gets better.” You can’t meet me where you left me. Don’t block anyone and no one will block you. I’m sure these things don’t make sense to you but I promise you, these are the things that keep me going in an industry where it is pretty hard to trust anyone.
Your movies are always family oriented. Why is that so?
Nigeria as a country is a family-oriented nation and as a filmmaker, I get my creativity from happenings around me. So, regardless of how crazy Nigerian movies eventually get in the future, there will always be a streak of family in most of our stories.
What has been your best and worst moments in the movie industry?
My best moments are moments when I feel like I’m doing good, and my worst moments are moments when I feel like I’m under-achieving. It’s basically a general thing.
Some female actors have complained about sexual harassment in the industry. Give us your perspective about this much-talked-about issue?
The higher you go in life, the more difficult it becomes to understand the pain of the people that are down there. Most of the sexual harassment cases in the industry are of people who are struggling to get into the field, or trying to find their feet. We don’t hear of many cases anymore. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve grown to a point where nobody can say nonsense to me. I have my ears to the ground. People are not coming to me anymore to say, this person requested sex for a role. This may also be because the industry is now female-dominated. These are the reasons why I think that sexual harassment has reduced. I can’t say it has been eradicated, but I think it has drastically reduced. Correct me if I’m wrong.
It is said that you are one of the Nollywood actors without baggage (scandals). How did you manage it?
The word scandal is relative. What is called scandal to one person might mean absolutely nothing to another person. I wouldn’t say I’ve been without a scandal, I’ll just say that some of the things that might have disastrously affected a lot of other people, I have been able to manage well to the point where it didn’t look like a scandal.
Give us your Nollywood survival tips?
I think it’s forgiveness! Nollywood is a place where close friends constantly betray you, fall short of your expectations, do things that you probably didn’t expect them to do that do not make sense to you. I grew up in the industry and I told myself that I wasn’t going to let myself carry all the unhealthy burdens that a lot of people are letting themselves carry. Many are bottling things up. If I feel uncomfortable about something, I say it. If you offend me, I say it. I’m always able to articulate my feelings and I forgive you. I just have to let it go for my sake.
What triggered your outburst on the Eko Film Festival awards?
It still boils down to what I said earlier. If I feel something is not right, I say it. I would rather not bottle things, see you on the street, say ‘hello, hi’ and fake a smile. I can’t do that. If I feel uncomfortable about something, I just say it and move on. You know, when you are upset about something and you express yourself, the anger will always reduce. When you can express yourself to someone who listens. So, that was just one of them. It wasn’t about any form of drama.
Do you feel it was a ‘clique thing’?
I don’t know, I’m over that now.
If you are not a filmmaker, what other profession do you think would have caught your fancy?
If I were not a Filmmaker, I would have been a Prophetess! It’s not easy to combine both worlds but personally and deeply, I know that’s where I should have been.
What are some of the burdens of filmmaking that producers have to shoulder because of the Nigerian socio-economic matrix?
Filmmaking in Nigeria is a lot more difficult because of noise, getting funds, and a no- friendly, film-making nation where you can literally walk into somewhere with all the paperwork and say please, I want to make a film. It doesn’t work like that. There are so many places that won’t let you in. These are the things that basically limit your ability to tell certain stories because there’s just a lot of NOs that people get when trying to get to a certain location. Certain things that should be made available for us are just not there. So, we literally pay our way through everything. Even when you have your money to pay, they will still say no.
What types of roles will never appeal to you as an actor?
The moment you sign up to be an actor, you should be able to play any role.That’s what being an actor is all about, I think.
ROK TV has continued to serve Nigerian movie lovers with great movies, what is your position with the brand?
I have a good relationship with ROK. I am a ROK producer and actor; and so far, ROK has been so supportive, much more than they take credit for. ROK Tv has also been able to redefine the face of filmmakers and actors. Seeing where we are coming from and where we are now, I know that one platform that actually cares about its people is ROK.
God rest his soul, there was a colleague, Abiodun Alega, a producer who recently passed. You know that as a producer, people don’t know you. It’s easier to raise money when an actor falls ill because he is known. But as a Producer, so many people don’t know you and because they don’t know you, they don’t feel compelled to help you. When this man died, in no time, we were able to raise about five to six million Naira for him.
This is one of the benefits and reasons why I love being part of the ROK family. There are many other things I cannot even mention publicly. It’s beyond a production company, it’s a production company that does care for its people. This is a lifestyle I’m personally trying to emulate in every other thing I do moving forward.
What has been your staying power in Nollywood?
I think it’s basically being myself and constantly aspiring to be a better version of myself. Most importantly, it’s making my own money. Laughs.
You have a hair brand, how has it been running such a competitive business?
I’m already in the filmmaking business, which is very competitive; that’s why I don’t consider the hair business as a competition. Also, knowing that I try to cater to certain kinds of women; people who find it difficult to go to a salon because of their busy schedule, and people who are skeptical and scared to spend their money online because of social media scams. These are the two key staying powers that I feel like I have and of course, the hair itself is very good.
How affordable are your products?
It’s quite affordable for the quality that you’ll get. May God help us with this dollar rate but so far, it’s good. It’s just that the cost of goods is increasing but what can we do?
A lot of women complain about the price of motherhood such as loss of their body shape, impact on their career and lack of time to pursue personal developments. How has it been with you?
These are all genuine concerns and cause for worry. Every person that has been a mother has gone through that process of worry. But, when you have supportive people around you; your partner, your family, it’s always easier to deal with and eventually, you’ll come to terms with the new reality. Nothing is ever lost. The time you used to cater for your baby is never lost. Whatever is yours will always come to you regardless of when. So far, it’s been good. I have loving people around and so; I don’t feel that much pressure. I thought I was even going to have it so; basically, it was just fear that held me down at some point. But, after the whole process, I don’t even feel any of such pressures or restraints.
How do you cope with the demands of motherhood?
I just cope. I’m still a mother, am I not? I’m doing okay. It’s an endless journey, there’s no coping, you just cope.
You have continued to keep your marriage and husband a top-secret, what scares you?
Okay, first of all, my marriage is not top-secret. If it were top-secret, you wouldn’t know that I’m married. Secondly, my husband is not top-secret, if you are close to me and you know me in the real sense, you would know that he’s not a secret. My husband goes to the location, he visits my set when I’m working. He’s home, my friends come home, they know him, they’ve had interactions with him, family and friends know him, what else? That’s just about it. I’m not about stressing emotionally, mentally, I’m just okay. Anybody who knows me personally, knows my husband and that’s alright.
Who are your three best Nigerian fashion designers?
DT Clothing, CEO Lumini and Tope Efinara.
What will you not be caught wearing?
Nothing. I will not be caught wearing ‘nothing’.