Today makes it exactly one month that I grabbed the bull by its balls and began the production of TANGERINE. An eight-episode mini-series produced by me, Bolaji Gelax.
But first, a little back story.
I was seated on the sparkling white bowl in my toilet on November 23, 2020 when I made the final decision to do Tangerine. Ah yes, I was taking a dump, which by the way is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite things to do. Okay, maybe not actually doing number 2 but sitting in the toilet for mega long minutes, sometimes hours.
Don’t judge, okay? If you spend as much time and energy as I do cleaning your toilet, you will be spending that much time in there too.
Anyway, back to the gist.
On this fateful day, I got the crazily ridiculous idea that me, a recently out of job Nigerian lady (emphasis on Nigerian) with less than $50 dollars in all my five bank accounts, could embark on a 2.5 million naira ($6,121) project and execute it within the first quarter of 2021. There’s actually a back story to this particular back story but we’re going to skip that today.
I’m known to take risks but this was by far the riskiest venture I’ve ever embarked upon. With my heart pounding loudly in my ears, I picked up my phone and sent longass voice notes to a few friends (a fashion designer, a writer, a singer, a rapper, and my proposed manager who later handled our welfare). I told them about this dream and confessed that I had no money to pay them for their creative inputs, but I was going to do right by them.
Oh, thank God for the gift of beautiful friendships because, not one of these guys laughed at me. Not a single one of them. They did call me crazy but that’s no news, is it? Their belief in me and the way they were all so gingered up about the project legit scared the shit out of me. I was like, hope I have not bitten more than I can chew like this, because now, these people know about this dream, which means come what, I can’t afford to betray their trust in me.
So did my headaches begin!
A back story to the toilet back story; not the one I said we’d skip for today o, this one is different. Dig me?
Whatever, just read on….
A day before this crazy idea (Tangerine) was birth, an old friend who works at the Central Bank of Nigeria, who I hadn’t spoken with in a long while buzzed me up. We were on the phone playing catchup when the conversation led to a loan scheme powered by the apex bank. I remember saying I wasn’t interested because even heavens know how much I despise being in debt.
“I have no use for such amount of money. I’m just an aspiring actor and presenter looking to get a big gig that would throw me into limelight”.
This was my response to the loan offer. However, my dearest friend who wouldn’t take no for an answer, told me to go think about it and revert. Jah bless your kind heart!
Yup, long story short, I did apply for the 1 million naira ($2,448.41) loan.
Let’s get back to my toilet…
Still on my famous white ceramic bowl, I began to draft a rough budget for this project. The thought of how I was going to pull it off produced a fear that covered my whole body with goose bumps.
My friend had told me that the loan wouldn’t take time and that by December, latest first week in January, I was going to get it. That, of course, gave me a little confidence and all I was worrying about was how to source for the remaining 1.5 million naira ($3,673), and God being my witness, there was nobody who I could think of to even ask for $400 BUT I didn’t give up.
December came and went, no loan. January, nothing. February, nothing.
Oh, how I panicked. By this time, the first draft of the Tangerine (13 episodes) was almost ready, I had spoken to more people I wanted to bring on my team and I had set the production date for last week in March, yet no funds.
Heheheee… see me see big dreams.
March came, still no show. My God and my Father, did I lose my cool? I was spiraling out of control. Two of my friends, my aunt, cousins and I embarked on a week-long fasting and prayer. Skies! Throughout the month of March, I was on a rollercoaster of emotions.
I was excited about Tangerine and had great fun during my birthday, but I was also worried sick and scared of failing. I cried a lot and snapped a couple of times. I was a mess. As if I didn’t have enough issues on my plate already, my director pointed out some plotholes in the script and later rejected the whole thing. See ehn, I died, because… what the heck?! 😩
Director was rejecting the script just two weeks to production? Kuku kill me na.
Not only was I looking for 2.5 million naira two weeks to production, I was also searching for another writer to come on board and help tighten the plots. I was going crazy for real this time!
Still, I went on with my production plans as though my world wasn’t crashing around me. Yo! There I was bargaining with actors and crew as though I had the money to pay them… LMAO. I remember that after every successful negotiation and a promise that they would receive part payment a day before production began, I would collapse on my bed laughing and thinking, now where on earth do I find the money to pay this person?
Did I mention that some of my actors bailed out on me because the money I was offering was understandably too small?
Oh well, not only did I have no money for my production, my script was far from ready and I didn’t even have a full cast. Good Lord!
I got another writer. She bailed out on me two days after. I cried.
Then we got yet another writer who grudgingly accepted to break his back and deliver in the short time left. Yaaay!
My cousin sent me N5,000 ($12) –the first credit towards my project– and I recall being overjoyed as though I had just been credited N500,000. My list of people to call for money was pretty short (less than 15) and some had genuine reasons why they couldn’t help at that point in time. Of this short list, a few… well, let’s just say I’m still waiting to hear from them. So yeah, that 5k felt like a thousand buck. LOL
Due to the Easter celebration, I decided to shift the production to after the break. In spite of all that was going wrong, I had an undeniable confidence than Tangerine was a sealed deal. Gist for another day.
March 28, 2021, the 1 million loan was paid.
Good news, yeah? However, the excitement didn’t last long as in just a couple of hours, the money was disbursed to outstanding payments and I still had no idea where to find the remaining 1.5 million naira. It was getting more difficult to peel off the fingers fear was wrapping around my heart. I imagined every worst case scenario, but kept my faith. He that had brought me that far surely wasn’t going to leave me stranded, was He?
Truthfully, I had moment I wasn’t so sure.
The cast and crew were expected to arrive at the location on April 6 and as the day drew nearer, I couldn’t even pray seriously anymore, and neither did I have the strength nor the liberty to fast. I would just sing songs of praises and say, “Oh well, You know I won’t be the only one put to shame if this doesn’t work out, right, God?”
God no go shame us o!
Late in the evening of April 5, the writer sent me the last episode and I forwarded it to the director. She called me not long after and as soon as I picked her call, we both started laughing. Yup! We still had issues with the script.
I later placed the three of us on a conference call to discuss the way forward. Let me state again that this was just few hours before the cast and crew were expected to arrive for the production.
The writer and director discussed for a while and their conclusion was for us to postpone the production as it wasn’t feasible to fix the issues in less than 48 hours. My mic was muted all the while because I was busy laughing my ass out.
Postpone what? Postpone a production that was scheduled to commence in 30 hours? Where would I start from? Do these guys even know how much I’ve spent and how much would be lost if we dared shift this production? Do they know what was at stake? They surely had no idea what’s going on.
Oh, I laughed.
When I was done, I unmuted my mic, and appreciated them both before telling them we had no choice but to figure a way out. Told them if for any reason we do not start the production of #TangerineTheSeries on April 7, 2021, they could as well forget about it.
The director and the writer sprung to work that night while I went to God in prayers. And I can bet my next meal that the writer cursed me that night… heheheee, sorry Charles 😘.
Less than 18 hours to production, my actors and crew had begun to arrive, I was running around with last minute preparations meanwhile, the script still needed major work, and I was still looking for N1,5000,000. Wild! Wilder! Wildest! 😂
Hmm… If only someone had told me those were small compared to the mountainous challenges that later presented themselves… Oh boy!
(To be continued)
P.S: Made a Way by Travis Greene was playing all the while I wrote and edited this piece. That song truly captures my testimony 💯