Fred Amata is a Seasoned Nollywood actor, film producer, and director. He shot into limelight in 1986 after his service year with NTA, Lagos. For Fred, acting is normal life as he has been on the stage since childhood. In this chat with Nollywood Post, he talks about his career, other passions, fulfilment and more.
How did it all start?
Okay. My story is peculiar. I was born into a legacy of acting. In the Amata family, we give all the credit to my late father, John Ifoghale Amata, who, in 1957, did a very, very popular or what became very popular film at the time, called FREEDOM. It was for a group called Moral Re-Armament. It became an iconic film that we all grew up to watch and all aspired to want to be like daddy.
If you look carefully at the Amata family we all do something related to theatre or film. So there are two generations of the Amata family who are involved in film making. From childhood, I always wanted to be a filmmaker. So I studied Theatre Arts at the University of Jos. I graduated in 1986.
What was it like when you started?
At this time, acting was actually looked down upon, I don’t know how else to describe it. It was not paying. You had older actors who, despite their popularity were not financially buoyant. When I graduated, the popular idea was to work in an oil company really, banking came later. Luckily I had some connections that I could have used to work in an oil company. I was lucky first of all to have been posted to Lagos for my youth service. So having gotten to Lagos I said good I’m closer to NNPC now. During orientation, I did everything with my connections to get posted to NNPC so I could start working in an oil company,. Lo and behold, I was posted to NTA.
It was good because the thing I love to do was right there in front of me. It didn’t take long for me to become one of the most popular youth corpers in the entire facility. Most people, including the then director of programmes Victoria Ezeokoli, knew me by name. By 1986/87 I was already in a soap called RIPPLES. Then, also began directing. I was a director. actor, producer doing different things. So by the time Nollywood was birthed I had left NTA, worked in the private sector. Suddenly I didn’t have a job and Nollywood was calling. I plunged in, shot my first film, And there was no going back.
What’s the first movie directed by Fred Amata?
The first movie I directed was ‘The Fire And The Glory’. I was a product of the environment and the environment was high on ‘born again’ and Christianity. The movie was themed around that. It was about two guys. An armed robber who got converted when he confronted a man of God. It was quite an engaging story. In the next few years, I happened to be one of the few who had proper training as a theatre artist. I majored in Technical Theatre and Design at the university. So in the early years of Nollywood, 97 till 2000 we were always around.
Would you say your looks helped you out in your career?
As I grew older I realized I was a fine boy [laughs]. But then I assure you, I didn’t really know the power of what I had. It’s now that I’m older that I look at the pictures and I’m like, wow there’s been such a remarkable change.
What has the journey been like so far, do you regret not working in an oil company like you wanted to?
Not at all. You know, the life of a filmmaker is kind of turbulent. There’s truly no financial freedom. It doesn’t settle. You have got to find ways and means. But I’m completely engrossed in the creative space. There are times when it has been really difficult and I wonder if I had gotten that job in an oil company would probably be a managing director by now. But then again, the gratification from people who your art has touched. That gives a deep sense of satisfaction. Thank God for the film my father made, which talked about morality and high standards.
What else do you want to do other than film making?
If you had asked me this same questions 20 or 30 years ago, l would have said l would love to still make movies and film-oriented stuff like writing and all that. But l also love to play football! I played football from Primary School, Secondary School and even went as far as forming a football Club. We created a football Club for Nollywood.
Today, Nollywood has a team that plays football and l have played in that team especially during my 50th birthday celebration. One time l was the Chairman of Nollywood Football team. Currently, l am one of the technical directors to Nollywood football team and l have played football alongside almost all the famous Nigerian Footballers who have played for Nigeria. I have played with Odegbami, Okechukwu, Taribo West, JJ Okocha. I have played with Kanu Nwankwo. On my 50th birthday, Amodu…, a Nigerian Coach coached the Nollywood team and the Nollywood team played against the Nigerian team and they have done this severally.
The 1994- 1995 Nigerian Football Team, you see people like Amokachi playing Football with us and that is a big form of entertainment. I see entertainment like this; the football team playing soccer music in the background and comedy. That is a major, major entertainment value for Nigeria.