Chijioke Anaebonam: The 300 Level Theatre Arts Student Who Employs 12 Staff
Meeting Chijioke Anaebonam (Ceejay), also known as Lil Grandpa, for the first time you would be forgiven for thinking he’s one ordinary guy in the neighbourhood. That’s because of his happy-go-lucky, extrovert nature. But make no mistakes, Ceejay is a hardworking and resourceful personality.
“I am the only son in the middle of 2 girls. I grew up in a home where discipline ruled. I have a very supportive mother and a loving immediate elder sister. I owe them a whole lot,” he introduced himself to Outrepreneurs.
Chijioke, a 300 level student of Theatre Arts at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, is into the movie making business. He tells Outrepreneurs “I would prefer to call it a craft rather than a business because it requires a blend of talent and expertise to do exceptionally well in it.” The name of his firm is Rowboat Productions Incorporated, a subsidiary of Rowboat Ventures Inc.
He enjoys spending his time savouring little details from the environment. That is probably what gives him that natural instinct to tell stories in minute details.
Sheer passion for storytelling motivated Ceejay to study and be in the business of Theatre Arts. “I have been a story teller since elementary school days. My choice of study also boosted my love for the business. I got into this business in 2013, firstly as a script writer, then as a director and finally as a producer.”
What was the big bang of Ceejay’s journey into Theatre Arts? He tells Outrepreneurs “It all began when a friend of mine read my unproduced script back in 2012. It’s been God all the way since then. I have been on for four years now, though I have been behind the scenes for almost the whole time.
After that initial motivation, though, there was no capital to invest in the venture. But that problem was short-lived. Seeing the potential for revenue generation and Ceejay’s passion for Theatre Arts, his female friend, Gloria, and his immediate elder sister were quick to garner some cash for him as initial capital. He praises the duo for being ever supportive. Today, a few of his scripts have actually been bought, produced and are on the market, and he does not see any limit to progress.
Most students would find it difficult managing a movie business and studies. For this young man, there is no problem juggling between business and his studies because, for him the business is fun. “This is what I have a passion for; as a theatre artiste, sometimes I find it hard to put a boundary between my studies and my job. So in summary I don’t have any hassles juggling between job and school,” Chijioke says.
Regarding competition, he says he’s less concerned about competition because for him, the difference is in the concept. “So many people are into this; the difference is in what you have to offer. I have seen so many people in the industry, their aim is to make money. My dream, on the contrary is to do films that will tell real life stories, breaching the gap between reality and the movie. I hear people say “I don’t watch Nigerian movies because I predict them. I want to put a stop to that,” he tells Outrepreneurs.
For all the effort Lil Grandpa is putting into work, though, it’s not a smooth sail all the way. He says one of his major challenges is managing people, especially in movies with too many extras. Another problem is logistics. Moving people in and out of extreme locations is another because currently they do not have a crew bus. Lastly, sourcing for funds and sponsorship is the most challenging of all.
“I hear people say ‘I don’t watch Nigerian movies because I predict them.’ I want to put a stop to that.”
Does Chijioke have people working with him? “I have 7 permanent staff; they happen to be my crew members. We have 5 registered actors to the team making it 12 in all,” he says. He hinted, though, that Rowboat does not shoot on a monthly basis because intellectual jobs take time to plan and execute.
He revealed that by January, Rowboat is hoping to organize live shows. “We also hope to start training artistes from next year. We will also take creativity to the cradle; we hope to embark on a project of interpreting literature texts for WAEC and NECO students.”
Although Ceejay told Outrepreneurs that he would like to keep information about his income private, he says there are many things that he can do now, and places he can enter that he wouldn’t be able to do or enter
if not for his job.
His piece of advice for people his age is: “believe in yourself, you have a talent, you can make genuine money. Say no to crime.”
Cees Harmon14 Posts
Cees (pronounced Case) is on the editorial team at outrepreneurs.com. He has been in the field of journalism for 11 years and counting. He relishes Banga soup with fufu.