Andy Abulun of CGI Africa Animation Studios: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Content Creator

An Interview With Susan Johnston

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine

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Like J. K. Rawling’s harry Potter, publishers and literary agents may reject it because they may not see a market for it.

As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Andy Abulu.

Andy Abulu is a Civil Engineer, 3D Animator, Writer of Science Fiction & Fantasy books and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, U.K.

Andy founded CGI Africa Animation Studios, Nigeria and the Children Animation and Story-Tellers (CAST) Network, a Teen and Young Adults training and mentoring program.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I was born in September 1959, in precolonial Nigeria which soon got its independence from Great Britain in October 1960. Life in Lagos, capital of Nigeria, was still pretty much British with the BBC English lessons broadcast on one unchangeable channel on the wired “Redifussion Box”, hung in every classroom in my St. Patrick’s Catholic Primary school. Library days were the best for me, especially when the literature storybooks-filled trolley rolled into my classroom. I only picked fables, particularly those with lots of pictures. They were not just stories to me; they were an escape from reality. Though I had friends at school and at home, I much preferred the world of strange beings and faraway places. My grandma told adventure stories and sang songs to me and my three siblings every night; drawing us into her imagined world. Secondary school at St. Finbarr’s Catholic school added science to my imagination and soon I had my world backwards. I preferred the imagined world to the real. Our school principal, Rev, Fr. D. J. Slattery took all 600 students of the school on Moral Instruction weekly lessons. So, I will say, we got the best lessons of how to have a good life while you make an honest living. Graduating from college with a first class in Civil Engineering initially threw me off my childhood path of fantasy and unhinged imagination but fate seemed to have kept me from straying from my true calling. After three decades of structural designs and building construction, I swapped my computer added designs software for computer generated imagery software.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Born to an Engineer father and Draughtsman mother, both educated in England, I was introduced to gadgets and Arts very early. Through my teens, I was fascinated with the mysteries of the Universe. I developed many hypotheses of my own and in 1998, I sent my “crank theory” on space and time to NASA and got an encouraging response to apply for their “unsolicited award”. Though I didn’t follow-up on NASA’s application due to family apprehensions, I continued my scientific search to unravel the many mysteries of the Universe and later published a collection of science futures essays called the “Imagine-that series”. Not satisfied that my postulations were “not coming to life”, I began to write my theories as science fiction movie scripts and later learnt the art of computer-generated imagery. In 2005, after four years of self-training, my 9 mins animated short, “ABIKU”; which was inspired by Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka’s epic poem. In 2000, I founded the 3D animation production company, CGI Africa Limited in Lagos, Nigeria. I have lived in The Hague, in The Netherlands and Guildford, UK and traveled to several countries on family vacations which also influenced my Sci-Fi and Fantasy imaginations.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your content creator career?

Animators have a sense of godlike powers in their animation environment; being able to make everything do whatever you want them to do; but I soon discovered that my mind couldn’t handle the constant back and forth switch between the control of my digital characters to the loss of control of real people around me. I often stared at people’s facial features when they walk past me and sometimes reach out to grab and adjust their clothes and sometimes the most private body regions of total strangers. In the early years, it took me several minutes to adjust to the confusion I get after I spend 12 to 18 hours a day creating and manipulating 3D models on my computer. It’s the same temporary madness one gets after a long play on super-fast 3D driving simulators just before you get into your car to drive normally on a real road.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I met Stephen John Chalke MBE, FRSA; a British Baptist minister, the founder of the Oasis Charitable Trust, a former United Nations’ Special Adviser on Human Trafficking and a social activist at the first UK Youth Mentoring Summit in London in 2019. Though, our one-on-one discursion was interrupted by the event of the day, his sincere interest in my work of training and empowering children and youth was refreshing. His personal revelation of parental presence in the life of a child was revealing. Taking the stand to address the large hall which was well attended, including Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Tessy Ojo, CBE,FRSA, Members of Parliament and many distinguished people, he redefined mentoring to us all.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I learnt how to add depth and meaning in one’s writing from J.R.R. Tolkien’s true-life story interwoven into his books. Sharing one’s messages in a subtle but discoverable way so that others can find meanings of your writing in their own life. I also adopted Peter Jackson as a mentor in my adaptation of script to film and live by his advice, “Pain is temporary but film is forever”.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life’s quote is from The Lord of the Rings, “There is always hope”. In my journey towards becoming an animator in 2000, everyone told me that it was impossible for one person to produce an animated movie. They showed me videos of halls of people filled with expensive computer gear and well-trained programmers, modelers and digital puppeteers. Though, I saw my task as “impractical”, I was determined to prove them wrong as well as taking the challenge as one about to steal my dream and future. 5 years later, I produced my first fully animated short and won award for it. Today, I have several movies in production and 13 episodes of an animated preschool edutainment series, “Aiko’s Playschool” streaming on my platforms.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have written the script and produced a Previz of a new kids and teens Sci-Fi, Adventure film project, “GAME WORLD — This is not a game”. Created as a sustainable serialized feature or Series with great potentials for a Video Games market. “When the new Augmented Reality Game, GAME WORLD, was released, Game Masters around the World quickly jumped in to experience the ultimate reality; but some players are just too good for own sake. These smart-ass kids strayed beyond the game boundaries, triggering reverse augmentation and get sucked into the parallel Universe of GAME WORLD. Will the kids survive the ordeals of the shifting territories of Time and Space and find their way back to reality, or will they be lost forever battling strange creatures and super villains in the uncharted Multiverse? Welcome to GAME WORLD, this not a game”.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

Completing my fully illustrated fantasy novel, The MONKI Parabola is my most fulfilling work yet. 22 years ago, I wrote the foundation and basis of the story, then called, “Fact or Fiction”; aka, “Power and Terror in the Twenty first Century” as an article for an international competition run by Financial magazine in Europe. The competition was sent to me from the publisher of an online science futures website, “Hackwriters” which already published another futuristic article of mine, “Visions of the World in the New Millennium”. The competition came with a good cash prize and a continuous paying writing job. One of the judges wrote to me, saying my article clearly won the competition but had too much facts, which would put them at risk of law suits. He felt sorry that I couldn’t be given the prize but encouraged me to develop it into a movie. 22 years later, during the Covid-19 lockdown, it became my project and was published in August 2022.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Five things I wish I knew before I started The MONKI Parabola project: 1. It will isolate you from your friends and family. 2. People will see you as weird and possible fetish. 3. It will take 20 years away from your life. 4. It will set such a high spiritual and scientific research standard; I may be afraid my next novel will be unmatched. 5. Like J. K. Rawling’s harry Potter, publishers and literary agents may reject it because they may not see a market for it.

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

Like most artists, my readers and viewers matter most to me, particularly for a story that bears messages I want to pass on to future generations. While I may bend to the modifications by financiers if it doesn’t greatly change the main theme or message, I will be glad to keep my work until someone who appreciates it will come along. I believe certain information, artistic or scientific come to the writer and is not really created by him or her, though it may be colored by the writer’s experience and put in the writer’s words; it is not theirs to destroy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could spread an idea that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can prompt. :-)

I believe everyone is a person of great influence, it is not one’s power, position or knowledge that determines the reach of one’s work. If the message is divine, then the idea will be spread. However, if I may be bold to say, then I will say that all of the world’s problems can be traced to the issue of morals. Morals is not religion nor is it about law. Books and movies can shape the world for good and for bad, so I will like to see more books and movies that teach selfless love, like we have seen in the journey of Frodo and his company, in the tale of The Lord of the Rings.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? They might see this. :-)

J. K. Rawlings

How can our readers further follow you online? If you would like us to tag you on social media when we share it, please list your profiles:

My Author’s page; https://author.amazon.com/profile My website; http://www.cgiafrica.net/cast_network My LinkedIn profile; https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-abulu-frsa-42438513/

This was very inspiring and informative. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this interview!

About The Interviewer: Susan Johnston is a Media Futurist, Columnist as well as Founder and Director at New Media Film Festival®. The New Media Film Festival® — honoring stories worth telling since 2009, is an Award-winning, inclusive, and boundary-pushing catalyst for storytelling and technology. Susan was knighted in Rome in 2017 for her work in Arts & Humanity.

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