By Osman Benk Sankoh
He was looking for a hobby that would help to bolster his bravado, make him self confident and be able to influence others. Thus, when he left his native Sierra Leone for the United Kingdom in the 90s, Collins Archie-Pearce naturally took to acting. Today, the United Kingdom-based film director, promoter, script-writer and theatre director is a global household name who has starred in over forty Sierra Leone-an and Nigerian (Nollywood) movies. With over fifty-two accolades to his name and he keeps counting, Ambassador Collins Archie-Pearce sat down with Hidden Voices for this revealing interview, and the first question was:
Who is Collins Archie-Pearce?
Ambassador Collins Archie- Pearce: He is a Sierra Leonean born Film Producer, Director, Actor, and Artist Manager.
Hidden Voices: How was life like growing up in Freetown?
Archie-Pearce: Growing up in Freetown wasn’t easy for me, as I lost my father when I was only 3 years old. My mother went through enormous struggles to care for me as a single parent.
Hidden Voices: When did you realize that you have a knack for acting?
Archie-Pearce: I realized that I had the knack for acting after I had left Sierra Leone for the UK. I started my career as an actor in the late 90s.
Hidden Voices: How did you get involved in the movie business?
Archie-Pearce: I started off with stage drama and later became a member of a theatre group called “Kabaslot N Kotoku” in the UK. After a few years doing stage performances, I then decided to get into film acting. I attended an audition for a UK TV series titled “Everyday life” and was given a major role in the said TV series which was showing on 4 Sky TV channels.
I was later trained by the British Film Institute (BFI) where I developed my acting and directing skills.
Hidden Voices: Was it something that your parents would have encouraged you to do?
Archie-Pearce: I believe that my late father would have encouraged me to start my acting career earlier. My mother gladly encourages me to continue acting and producing and always supports me whenever I have to produce a film/feature a new film.
Hidden Voices: When you left Sierra Leone in 1991 for the UK, you later studied at Croydon College and graduated with a degree in Business Management. What has happened to that Degree, as you are now full time into the movie industry?
Archie-Pearce: I am not full time into the movie industry as people insinuate. I have also been working for London Underground Ltd for the past 23 years. I am a Senior Manager at Elephant & Castle on the Bakerloo line.
I am also the founder and CEO of Archie-Pearce Production Ltd. It is an accredited UK based private limited film Production Company. The company has achieved enormous success with past movie projects and has gained recognition for ‘superior quality and excellence’ in movie production.
Hidden Voices: What was your first significant breakthrough in the movie industry, and when?
Archie-Pearce: My first significant breakthrough was producing the blockbuster international acclaimed film, titled “Ibu in Sierra Leone” in 2013, which includes Nollywood actors John Okafor (Mr. Ibu) and Ifunaya Igwe and some established Sierra Leonean actors like Desmond Finney, Her Excellency Fatima Bio (First Lady of Sierra Leone),Salami Carew, and others. This film has won over 20 awards, it is being shown on IROKO TV, and major airlines across the globe show it on their flights.
Hidden Voices: What various roles have you starred in?
Archie-Pearce: I have featured in over 40 Nollywood/ Sierra Leone films. They include: ‘Rubicon’, ‘Amina’, ‘Shameful Deceit’, ‘Battered’, ’Ibu in Sierra Leone,’ to name only a few.
Hidden Voices: Who would you consider as your role model in the movie business, and why?
Archie-Pearce: My role model in the movie business is Idris Elba. Idris is not only a brilliant actor with great humility, but he is of Sierra Leonean descent and he is very proud to see his compatriots excel in the film industry.
Hidden Voices: What is your assessment of the state of the movie industry in Sierra Leone?
Archie-Pearce: I have always avoided commenting on the Sierra Leone movie industry because of the division and backbiting prevailing in the industry. I think, though, that the industry needs to be united and supportive. It needs to be properly regulated and artists need to hone their skills and take the craft very seriously.
Hidden Voices: What are the challenges for the movie industry in Sierra Leone, and how do we overcome them?
Archie-Pearce: The movie industry in Sierra Leone faces enormous challenges such as lack of funding for prolific filmmakers to produce films; lack of modern film gears/equipment; absence of disciplinary attitude to implement appropriate disciplinary measures towards artists who fail to conduct themselves appropriately while on set; noisy/unconducive environment to shoot a film in; favoritism in film production; poor casting for major roles; marketing films; pirating of films and films not attracting international audience.
Overcoming these challenges is not going to be easy, but it would be expedient to start off somewhere.
Hidden Voices: What plans do you have to promote or develop the movie industry in Sierra Leone?
Archie-Pearce: In 2014, I invited four Sierra Leonean actors and film producers to the UK to attend acting & film production training session organized by the "British Film Institute" (BFI) and to subsequently feature in one of its film productions titled “Flight 442”.
In 2015, I also invited another four to the UK, to network with other actors and film producers, thereby giving them an opportunity to enhance their film producing and acting skills.
In September 2019, I invited another established Sierra Leonean actor to the UK to give him an insight of the film production process in the UK and for him to meet with other UK film makers in the diaspora.
My plans to promote or develop the Sierra Leone movie industry include:
Ensuring that top artists and filmmakers get the required training needed to produce films/feature in films. I am communicating with the current Minister of Tourism Cultural Affairs about taking trainers from a recognized film school/organization in the UK to Sierra Leone.
Visiting Sierra Leone every year to shoot films (involving Sierra Leonean actors) and premiere in different parts of the world, thereby promoting Sierra Leone films to a wider audience. Some of these films are shown on major airlines.
Encouraging Nollywood film makers to involve Sierra Leonean filmmakers and actors in their film productions.
Hidden Voices: Do you think Sierra Leone has unique locations that can be marketed to attract foreign producers?
Archie-Pearce: Of course, yes! Sierra Leone has one of the best beaches in the continent and attractive landscapes across the country.
Hidden Voices: And how do you think they can be marketed?
Archie-Pearce: Producers should include these unique and attractive locations in their films and ensure they are marketed well in order to attract other producers from other countries. One of the ways to market their films is through submission to recognized and established media houses like Iroko TV, Netflix etc. They can also submit their films for film festivals across the different continents.
Hidden Voices: What accolades have you won for yourself as a Movie Actor, Producer, and Director?
Archie-Pearce: I have won a total of 52 accolades. They include the following: Unsung Heroes Award 2013 by Calabash Magazine; Recognition Award for contribution to the African Film Industry in the UK 2013 by ZAFAA; Most impactful member 2011 by the Redeem Christian Church of God, Woolwich and Best Movie Premiere “Ibu in Sierra Leone” 2013 by Sierra Leone Excellence Awards.
Hidden Voices: Finally, what advice would you give to people involved in the movie industry in Sierra Leone, especially the young ones?
Archie-Pearce: Be united and work together as a team. Try to undergo some sort of acting/ film making training, in order to hone your craft. Believe in yourselves and take advice from established actors & film makers.