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Up, Close and Personal with Alenne Menget

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Alenne Menget is a multiple Award winning Cameroonian Actor, Comedian, MC and Entrepreneur. In this interview, he lets the world in on his career journey as an actor, how he has successfully branded himself as “Ni” and his future projects. Read through and get inspired:

How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?

Alenne Menget: My name is Alenne Menget. Studied history in the University of Buea, investigative journalism at World Bank Institute of New York, an online course. Yeah quiet a long career. I started with a radio station, that was when I was young from Bamenda; Afrique nouvelle Abakwa FM, before I decided to create the Ocean city radio that I brought in Wirsiiy Charles, we did Ocean City Limbe, Ocean City Kumba, Ocean City Douala.

In Kumba at Touch Movies that’s when I did ‘Sacrament.’ It was a challenge being a radio manager. One day in the studio, I  criticised Nigerian movies and this opportunity came that I wanted to prove my worth. Sacrament was the first movie that I did, in Kumba, when I got back to Douala, I actually gave space now Alahji Baba opened a then broadcasting system, the television station. Yeah so that’s where I found myself as editor in chief of the TV station through Nyoh Moses. I learnt a lot of practical television production and of course which means I’m trying to say that I have handled most important posts on radio stations which is the manager and most important post for TV management which is the editor in chief. And there, I learned how to do documentaries. That is how I got my way through because with the knowledge of movie that I had in building, then blending now with television, I had to do my own personal productions. So movie has been up and down. Once I see a good script, I go there and try to get my best.

I’m  also an auto instrumentalist, I know most instruments, like Jazz instruments. Then I’m also involved in catering these days. I’m a good cook which is a passion of mine.

I have kids. I don’t like discussing my private life on magazines because of the social atmosphere these days. Fairy well quite a number of them and we are all together. Planning to get married sometime later this year or so. Yeah I think it’s that time. I was born in Mbengwi 42 years ago. Don’t tell me it’s late. I have always been late but I usually overtake. Don’t tell me it’s late or I ought to have been married coz I’m now really interested in someone and I’m looking at it coming.

I’m basically on retirement in active journalism, I’m on retirement on active movie production, I’m trying to touch my catering career. I also belong to real estate I have built some houses although they are in those Anglophone zones but my whole ambition now is catering. I want to cook, I want to keep doing real estate and build my own media empire which I don’t want to talk about now because we’ve already started with partners and I’m looking at the possibility that we could feed on and run things the way I want to run things. My dream is at 50, I’m comfortable running my media empire, selling my name, selling products and the name I built, Ni. The products could be on media, catering, cosmetics so I want to run a lot of Ni products. That’s the business on the show.

Many people don’t know that you have produced successful documentaries. How is that part of filmmaking, fairing in Cameroon?

Alenne Menget: When I left radio (Audio production) for TV production I left movies and by the time I got back there were bigger stars. Many other people had come to the situation and I had no name. so when I got there, I saw a lot of mistakes, a lot of problems. And I asked myself many questions. Will I stay in these problems and be broke because I want to do movie? Will I respect all these Nigerians and come here we don’t have respect for our own selves and at the tail end nobody is going to give me a hundred thousand? That is when I had to blend my audio-visual character and I realised that even on audio-visual production on TV I had to work alone to get money. I had to take a path alone to be rich, to drive a big car, to be able to get my own home. So that is when I started looking at what is it in movie that if you blend on TV will produce a movie and you can do it all alone without necessarily quarrelling or fighting with somebody? Then documentary stories started coming to my mind that you could still build a whole movie alone and do the interpretation with your voice.

So I started realising that I needed to learn how to use a camera so that I could shoot alone if I didn’t have money for a camera man, I needed to learn how to use a sound. In the beginning it was mediocre and so I needed to learn how to create my own story boards, I needed to learn how to do voice editing, because I needed all these for documentaries to work. And one day I wrote a letter to CRTV and told them I don’t think I like your documentaries, there’s a DVD in this envelope can you check it for me please. And the former general manager called me and told me to meet Mr Robert Okokole for a meeting and then boom I picked up my first major contract in life. It was more than 10 million and I was so excited they loved it and the next year again they doubled the contract and I was like I need this money to invest in other businesses because you know of course movie will not give you money now.

So that’s it, I decided to do movie alone and that’s why I decided to do documentaries. In a short while documentaries took me round the world. Doing documentaries in USA to come and sell in Africa and documentaries in Cameroon to go and sell in the US on TVs there and in London. Doing research about other people’s culture, trying to make movies alone was one of the most difficult period in life and today I’m proud to say that I have made more than 270 documentaries. I haven’t put some out there coz I still want to sell them while others are online. I still have about 102 documentaries that are with me. I give some to Cameroon TV stations for free today but I will still want to sell them abroad. Through that I had some capital which I put into my estate business. That’s how I blended movies and documentaries. I have an award for best Cameroonian documentaries. Very few people do it here and there is less competition in that sector and I think I have tried my best in that level.

Last year, 2018, you beat Ramsey Noah and other major African actors to win the coveted “Best Male Actor” at the Golden Movie Awards. Earlier this year, you won a Cannes Award for Best Actor, we have lost count of how many Awards you have gotten so far. Please enlighten us, and which of them is your most cherished?

Alenne Menget: Yeah I have had so many awards in movie production. It gave me quite a lot of exposure I am Best African Actor in the Golden Movie awards, The Best African Actor at Cannes France, Best African Actor London Nollywood Awards and lots of others. I have been getting round the continent with that big name but being Best African Actor has brought me so much jealousy, mean ideas on my person. It’s not worth the name I have. I use this opportunity to make this public announcement; I’m not interested in doing movies anymore. Sometimes they say take a retirement when it’s due, I could now have peace, I’ve proven my worth that I’m a leader and good in this.  I don’t want to go and announce or say I’m doing a party on my retirement. But if a script is not good like it’s that kind of real Nollywood or Hollywood standard or something I see an interest in, I can’t do it.

I met the rest of my colleagues in the other works of life that I am together with it’s all ok. But every move in movie is so contradictory and unfortunately I would say it hear folks, movie has never ever given me a hundred thousand. That money that I could spend on a couple of this or that, it has never ever given me that sum. I feel bad as it is one of my arts. True it wasn’t a dream art, it was to prove a point. I would have wanted to go further but it’s too risky on that lane. Someday if I have an opportunity to act with top African actors in an international scene I would appear. If I have an opportunity to work with a very organised situation, goal getting ideas and movies, I will join, but I don’t want to be a regular film actor. You will also realise after A Good Time to Divorce, the only movie I did was one in London that I wrote myself – Compactible, then Synthia Emade’s recent film Broken. I have had so many other calls for movies but I have turned them down. It’s not because I minimise the stories but because I don’t want to fall in the polemics. Though after that, I did a movie in Puerto Rico that’s because it was out of Cameroon and had a good pay.

Still I don’t want to be a regular actor, I don’t want to move from set to set nor think that I can live on movies. Though some people do. I indirectly live on movies because I’m using my name from the Movie Industry to do business. Movies raised my personality and popularity. I don’t want to limit myself to the people around me to be my fans so I decided to use short comedy skits to break through the population to get the millions followers I have today. You realise it was difficult for our movies to even gain recognition amongst us in the cinemas, it is taking time to grow. I don’t wanna be somebody that will be celebrated when I’m dead so I decided at a certain point to create so many comedy short stories. Some of them have millions of views online. I thought that was a way of penetrating the population and that’s how I succeeded in building the brand name Ni and that’s why everybody wants to at least get to know me. And how would they get to me? I’m now looking on ways to sell products like my own fruit juice, the Ni juice, to get into necklaces Ni  necklace … what I love most is catering and building the kitchen, NI’s kitchen. I have 1 in Douala- Bonamoussadi now, I will have 1 in Limbe which is a franchise. It’s already ready we will launch it soon and I’m looking for space to open the Akwa branch by God’s grace I will have it  throughout the country and I don’t want to die without opening one in Maryland, Houston and London. Places that I’ve gone to that I like. So that’s why no matter what, I want the name clean. That is why sometimes I have to drop some of those talented things just to work on what should be my focus in the business part of the show that I spent half of my life doing. Half because I have forty two more years to live. (Winks) so that’s it. The awards are there, they will be there for posterity. If I get another 1 in future that will be by God’s grace and I pray I have this opportunity to come back and do great movies.

In your opinion, what needs to be done for the Cameroonian Film Industry to manifest its full potential?

Alenne Menget: In my opinion what we need for the Cameroonian film industry to get into its full potential is Work. Work has to touch a lot of souls, Work has to let a lot of things happen.

What you should know is the English speaking part of Cameroon has one of the best movies in Africa. And if we had an opportunity to make these movies good from within, when I say within I’m talking from within the producers of the movie, the actors I mean everybody who was part of the movie, then let the mentalities change and that of the society, that will support movie makers. Because we need that support from outsiders, and we need a lot of organisation from inside.

Any advice for those thinking to venture into film?

Alenne Menget: For those who want to venture into movies, it’s a beautiful thing. Those who want to act like be in front of the camera, build your brand and you could sell other stuff and you could be very rich in future. Now for those of you who want to venture be very careful. Those who want to put their money into movie coz that’s where the problem is. Most of the people who are in front are always coming there to get their money for the ventures and not the workers. The best directors are yet to be named because those who come with the money take them, use them put them behind for them to do the job and they go hang the name and soon start getting angry about it.

The little advice I will give to people who want to join the movie stuff, remember you don’t need a crowd to make it. You just need to make yourself very important. You need to do what you’ve got to do to be the best and somebody somewhere looking is gonna pick you. And when there, even if you are paid 2 5.000frs for a role, think like me Ni. Build a brand and sell something. Use it and build your personality, your popularity and then you market yourself. You can be brand ambassador for companies like I am, you could be a huge supporter for humanitarian teams like I am, you could use your name to influence society, you could even use your name to get a better job if you want to be a worker. Because each time you have a good name in movie you could always break through to get other important things in life. People will always trust you because they have watched you before. So they know they can trust you, you can’t be a criminal overnight.

Now you should also be ready to work on the marketing plan for any money you invest. We’ve had lots of quarrels between executive producers who come to pour money and they are promised huge some of money that will come automatically, no! All of us are supposed to work on the marketing plan for a movie. Cameroon got a beautiful industry in especially the technical aspects. The most important thing about the industry is the technicians. They are marvellous in fact they are the best if I want to rate. After that you have the actors, whom the technicians make to work hard but worse aspect in our movie industry is the marketing. You do not expect the actors, technicians to do the marketing. We want free hearted new marketers to come and sell this beautiful works. Because once we have the marketers together with the marvellous technicians and actors, that’s how it’s sold. We cannot be rushing through movies when there is no money, when there is no market. There is a lot of talent in the technicians and because of that the actors will be good. Get to any international award in the world that is not gonna be by votes, Cameroon will win the award in movies. If it’s by votes, we will not win because Cameroonians will not even support by voting. But if it’s on regular quality that you bring for experts to sit and watch good acting and good technicians, Cameroon will win. Thank you for this opportunity, I just want to be an inspiration to many…

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