“If you stick with a vision, it might not all work, but some of it will be absolute genius. To me, 15 minutes worth of absolute genius in a film is so much better than two hours of mediocrity. I would rather pay to see something different like that” – Kim Cattrall
VENTURES AFRICA – Nigeria’s movie industry, popularly referred to as Nollywood, is considered to be the second largest in the world (in terms of number of annual film productions). It has an estimated worth of $250 million and churns out thousands of movies every year. I believe however, that the industry is currently performing far below its potential considering the high amount of passion in Africa for entertainment. I will highlight a few of the problems and suggest solutions based on my studies of other dominant players in the global film industry:
- Piracy: This is perhaps the biggest challenge in the Nigerian entertainment industry. A popular artiste once painfully lamented that he discovered that his unreleased CD was already being sold in different parts of the country! Popular movies are often pirated and sold for a fraction of the actual price. Needless to say, producers and artistes make far less in profits than they should. The problem of piracy, unfortunately, is not one that can be easily solved. It will require a strong commitment from the government to rid the stores of pirated products. It will also require a high level of public re-orientation with regards to the long-term disadvantages of purchasing pirated products.
- Quantity vs. Quality: Perhaps mainly because of the piracy problem, film makers are unable to invest heavily into their productions. Often times, they have to produce more movies in order to profit rather than concentrating their efforts on a few. This implies a high number of mediocre movies. It should be stated though, that there are a few companies (such as Mainframe Productions) which are known for high quality.
- Training: Contrary to popular perception, the movie industry requires much more than acting talent. It takes a very high level of skill gained through a combination of training and experience. There are aspects that are highly specialized (such as lightening, visual effects, script writing and directing). Having studied visual effects for a while in India, I can affirm that movies like the award-winning “3 Idiots” are products of a culture of skill-development training. For Nollywood to realize her true potential, schools of practical education- such as polytechnics- must be enhanced and empowered. Professionals in the industry must take time to train and re-train themselves as their products will always be compared with those of global counterparts.
- Marketing: It is sad that the cinema culture has weakened considerably in Nigeria, making home videos the more viable option. Although there may have been discouraging trends for investors in the past, I believe that this is the perfect time to invest in building cinema houses in strategic locations. Besides helping Nollywood, it is a very hot investment at the moment. It is commendable that some producers are exploring options of marketing their movies in other countries. More initiatives like internet-based startup, IrokoTV are also needed. Nollywood filmmakers still rely mostly on traditional modes of distribution to sell their movies. With more efficient marketing and reduction in piracy, I can safely predict that the industry will generate more than triple her current revenue.
- Moving with the Times: Nollywood needs to take a cue from Bollywood (the Indian counterpart), an industry with so many similarities, but which has moved much faster with the times and gained global acceptance. While I am of the opinion that most Bollywood movies loosely follow the same plot (a reflection of their culture especially with regards to love and family life), many of the recent ones are filled with intrigues and suspense. The songs are now modernized and the visuals are usually very appealing. In other words, they pay attention to producing movies that are salable in most parts of the world while still maintaining the uniqueness of their industry.
In conclusion, the words of America’s most powerful pundit, Roger Ebert (journalist, film critic and screenwriter): “Every great film should seem new every time you see it”. It’s not about the number of films but the number of great films.