If you’re up-to-date with the African movies then the name Zynnell Lydia Zuh is no stranger to you. A celebrated award-winning actor in Ghana, Zynnell is known to be a lady with fire, passion, talent and style, one of the many reasons she is GLAM AFRICA’s celebrity feature for Day 2 of #12daysof glam, our 12 days of Christmas giveaway contest sponsored by Oshunluxe
Having starred in over 50 movies since 2010, she has expanded her portfolio to way more than just an actor, model or personality. Zynnell is also a film producer. Her first movie ‘When love comes around’ which won an award at the 2015 Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice awards.
And despite her busy schedule between Ghana and Nigeria, the talented multi-hyphenate sat down with us to share her latest ventures, her struggles within and her career as an actor and producer. Check out the interview below.
How did your journey into acting begin? Did you always want to be an actress? Why?
Z: My journey started in 2004, after completing secondary school. Just before I started university (I auditioned for a role –it was my first attempt) and I got cast to play the lead. It was by Pointblank Media concept. I have always wanted to be an actress. I have always loved the Arts. Growing up, I took part in Extracurricular after-school activities including Drama Club, Writers and Debaters Club, The school choir, e.t.c. When I got into university though, it was very difficult to juggle acting with my studies. I was not really active from 2004 to 2008. In 2005, I actually got cast by Shirley for her very first production “Different Shades of Blue”. That was the only thing I was able to do as the schedule was quite flexible and it did not take up much of my school time. When I was done in 2008, I worked for about 2years then got back into the game in 2011.
What were the greatest challenges you faced?
Z: The first major challenge I had to deal with in the industry was the politics. The politics when it came to casting, you had to have a leg: you have to be friends with the producer or the executive producer; some people had to give bribes or sleep with certain people to get a role. It still happens. That actually was part of the reason I even decided to chill when I was in university. It was crazy! You could go for an audition and get cast, and next thing you find you have been cut out…you get sabotaged. I got sabotaged so many times, and I felt it was not worth it. I was not willing to do that. This was also the major challenge that inspired me into producing my own movies. I just cannot see myself doing what I do not want to do just to get cast in a movie
Over the years you have transformed into this from being on screen to being behind the scene? In addition to being an actress, you have delved into movie production. What inspired this move?
Z: My decision to go into production was firstly a creative decision. I co-wrote a script with someone and wanted to play a bigger role in seeing it come to life, so I decided to produce it. Secondly, it was a business decision. I wanted to make money. Thirdly, it was an opportunity to contribute my quota in the industry. At the time, most of the production companies had folded up and producers were no longer producing good movies. The industry was on the decline. Actors were the ones now producing. These three reasons, as well as the desire to boycott the ‘politics’, were my motivation for going behind the scene. So far, I have not regretted it.
Did you go through any training before making this move? Are you going through any training at the moment?
Z: No, I did not go through any training. Everything I know about acting and production right now, I learned on the job. I did Economics and Geography for my first degree and I am currently studying law. I have not really done any form of training or taken any courses related to the arts. It is funny, but maybe in future, I might take up a course. I really should, maybe directing or film editing, because production is something I am really invested in.
You are an enormous inspiration and a role model for young people looking to break into the movie industry across the country. How does that make you feel?
Z: Well, I feel awesome about it. It gives me a measure of fulfillment as well. Actually, before I embarked on this journey, I got very little support from my family and friends. In Africa, acting is seen as an informal job of some sort. There is a negative connotation to it, and very little respect is given to actors in Ghana. There is the general impression that most of them are probably prostitutes, school drop-outs, e.t.c. So, my parents were not really excited when I told them I wanted to pursue a career in acting. Like I said, I started when I was just about to get into university, so I told them it was just a hobby. I managed to get them to warm up to the idea. I must say that I am glad, where I find myself today. I won’t say that I am where I want to be, but it feels good to know that I am an inspiration to a number of people. Knowing very well that when I started it was just my determination…the opportunities were not really there, I am glad to help others in any way that I can. In my productions, I use more of first talents than popular/old talents. I am always glad to give freshers the opportunity.
What issues would you like discussed/raised regarding film production in Ghana and Africa as a whole?
Z: It’s a simple thing; we need support from the government. The government does not support us in any way. I remember my first production; I brought in cast from Kenya, Nigeria, e.t.c. I was on set filming….we moved from one location to another, and my PM informed me that just after we moved, some policemen and executives of the actors guild came and wanted to arrest me as I had to pay $500 for every foreigner I brought in. I had about 8 foreigners at the time, so I had to pay about $4000. Really? This is an industry that is dying, we are producing with money from our personal coffers and this is the support we get? We do not get any support at all. Again, if the support from the government is not available, independent producers need to collaborate. In Hollywood, the big budget movies are not produced by one person, different studios come together to produce these movies. Our industry is so fragmented that it is almost impossible for us to come together. In Nigeria, ‘The Wedding Party’ was a collaboration with Ebony Life TV, an executive producer, and two other studios, why can’t we do it in Ghana? Again, movie producers should do their research and feasibility studies to know what will appeal to not just Ghanaians but to a larger audience. Our movies should have a cross-over appeal. If you only sell to Ghana, you cannot make much money. Some of the Ghanaian movies are not premiered in Nigeria; they are rejected because of this. I have been lucky, I have been able to release in Nigeria and some of my movies are even on Netflix. The movies need to have the cross-over appeal otherwise you are limited. Finally, Ghanaians need to try and patronize Ghanaian products.
Stay in touch with Zynnell: Instagram/Twitter/Facebook
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