Tony Umez says he wasn’t paid for his first two film roles because the producers had no money.


The Nollywood actor was speaking in an interview with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, the show host, about his early days in the industry.

Umez, who ventured into acting in 1993, narrated how he momentarily left Nollywood to do private tutoring.

He said he had the Hollywood earning model in mind when he started. He added that such thought was defeated after two film projects.


“Truthfully, money was what got me into Nollywood. I studied English and had my master’s in International Law & Diplomacy. When I graduated, the only employable ministry was the ministry of foreign affairs,” he said.

“But there was an embargo on employment then. I had to fall back on my first discipline, one of the course contents of which was Introduction to Drama. I had done some stage performances, so it was not a difficult decision.

“At the time, we had this pattern in Hollywood where you hear that people earned 20 million doing a movie. I saw acting as having serious potential. The acting was unserious in Nigeria then because we didn’t have a structure.


“But I had a mind of my own. Based on the Hollywood model, I felt I could do it. I didn’t think about structure.

“I played the lead in my first film and was to be paid 23,000. I wasn’t. No money. My reason for venturing into the movie scene was defeated. I did another and wasn’t paid too. I saw it wasn’t an industry I could survive in. So I left.

“For about two years, I was doing private tutoring and was making some money from that. I came back and did the movie ‘The Princess’, starring alongside Zack Orji before I hit it big time ‘Died Wretched’.”

Asked about his evaluation of modern-day Nollywood, Umez said Nigeria’s movie industry has come a long way.


“I’m impressed with how far Nollywood has come but we can do better. There’s technology to make things better but talent has dipped. Then, you had to know your onions. I’m not saying there are no good actors now,” he added.

“But the passion and toil that drives you to be better are no more there. We now focus more on the business side.

“I didn’t take a break voluntarily. It just happened. Perhaps it was about the influx of more people in the industry with scripts that were focused on the younger population. However, I’ve always been working on myself.”


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