I have learned that those who know where they are going at a young age normally arrive more quickly and successfully. I have to thank God, for giving me a father and mother who coached me growing up to love film and installing humility in me, as I succeeded in an amazing film career. My dad, Joe Uko, was a painter and a fine artist. He followed his dad, my grandfather, Harry Uko who was a sculptor. As a youngster in Nigeria, they taught me to trace human figures from fashion catalogues, coloring them with old fashion crayons, to the delight of my family, teachers, and friends. That sort of art in today’s Africa would be nothing to write home about, but in the 70’s it was an important beginning to those lucky enough to have fashion magazines, paper and crayons.
Dad saw that my drawings had promise and my art was good, although his perception was clearly clouded with the love of a father, as he kept pushing me to get better and better throughout my adolescent years. From his own artistic career, he knew that there wasn’t much of a living in being a fine artist and painter; no matter how good you were, so he encouraged me by always roaring in his overly animated and expressive voice “I want you to make your images to walk and talk!” He took great delight in animation, and wished he was a film maker specializing in animation.
One day dad came home with a used 16 mm cinematic projector and sporting a big smile, “Abasseno, let’s make your perfect drawings come to life!” I was so thrilled! I knew it must have cost him a fortune and looking back, my fondness and love for him is over the top. None of my friends had a father so kind, so creative and a father who was such a natural teacher as mine. He defended me when I was right, and with hard love, made sure I did not repeat the natural bad things boys do.
Dad then showed me how to build my own cinematic projector with a carton! We took a medium sized empty carton and cut a square hole in front and a round hole on the backside. We then cut transparent cellophane paper into the size of 35 mm film strips glued them together into about twenty feet long then used a marker to create frames. He then taught me how to draw matchstick images directly on the frames to tell my animated story. You can imagine my excitement winding the roll of African style film unto a small wooden rod beneath the square hole then gluing it to another rod above the square hole. We used a flashlight to shine light onto the cellophane paper and manually turned the roll creating our first animated cartoon, projected on our home’s wall. When I watched the images I drew moving, I opened my mouth and started shouting; providing sound effects as my cartoon characters were riding on horse backs:
I was adding kudos and a talking voice to my animated movie. Oh! It was my raw voice not recorded, but I was shouting with joy to add life, and sync the movements of my cartoon characters. My dad gave me all the credit for the brilliant movie, even though I know who deserved the credit.
While in elementary school, dad also encouraged me to act in theatrical productions of popular African plays, written by South African author, Athol Fugard, and Nigerian authors, Eneh Henshaw, Wole Shoyinka and J.P. Clark.
I became a very good actor at a young age and in my teens at Holy Family College, I took leading roles in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I also acted in ‘As You Like It’, ‘Comedy of Errors’, ‘Henry IV parts 1, 2, and 3’, ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Merchant of Venice”.
In the seventies when I was 19 years old, I traveled to the US and studied acting at the “Stage Group Theater” in San Francisco. I worked as an actor, a theater director and producer in the Bay area. I went to study filmmaking at San Francisco Art Institute, graduating in 1983. I have been working as an Actor, Writer and Filmmaker in Africa ever since.
In 2002 I registered my company, Filmagic Africa Ltd. Our business is the coordination of feature film productions, TV Series, Documentaries, and corporate videos anywhere in Africa. Our connections in each of the continent’s countries are massive and our core business is to supply everything a film producer or director needs to make an excellent film or video production anywhere in Africa. I work very well as a professional actor, writer and film director!
Recently Filmagic Africa Ltd, coordinated the production of two corporate videos titled “Tele-Education” and “Tele-Medicine” which was produced by Albert Hasson from Los Angeles California, in the USA for INTEL. These corporate videos aired on CNN.
My novel “JOE LEVI AND THE PRICE OF PERSIA” set in San Francisco will be published this year. I plan to direct it into a feature film for international audiences.
If you are planning a production anywhere in Africa and need our excellent consultation, kindly contact me at abassenouko@