Wither Nollywood: Any real hope of revival?
The Nigerian movie industry, also known as Nollywood, is rated the third largest film industry in the whole world, a feat it earned, not in consideration of the quality of films it churned out, but by the fact that it has been able to attract and maintain a near cult-like and sizeable consumer base. How else would you describe the magic that is Nollywood, if after over one year of non-activity, it still attracts global attention and concern, a position that has caused the government of the country to step up action to provide an enabling business environment for practitioners through a new film distribution framework. In this overview of the industry, your Citytracker; VICTOR MORDY takes a trip down memory lane, starting from Nollywood's inception, the good old days, the death blow that eventually brought it to its kneels and also takes a peep forward to see if there is need to shout “Uhuru”, despite government's intervention.
In the beginning.
Many stakeholders in their respective submissions have posited how Nollywood came to be. Some described the emergence of the industry as an accident, while some believed the opposite was the case.
In an earlier interview with Citytracker, a major stakeholder in the industry, Igwe Gabriel Onyi Okoye (Gabosky), declared rather emphatically that it was the very stakeholders who hold the notion that Nollywood came by accident that were the actual accidents that happened to it, in that these lot gate-crashed into the industry. He maintained that the creation of Nollywood was planned by him and a few other stakeholders.
However, he agreed that the astronomical growth that visited the industry in such a short period was not anticipated.
In Gobosky's own words; a few young professionals led by producer of “Living in Bondage” Okey Ogunjiofor, approached businessmen, such as himself and Kenneth Nnebue, who were already big names in the electronics business with proposals and prospects of bankrolling their ideas in form of home video productions.
Kenneth Nnebue's NEK films ventured into the making of “Living in Bondage” while he, Gabosky accepted to bankroll “Circle of Doom”
According to Gabosky, the movie industry we now know as Nollywood started with the efforts of these few, based on real interest to maintain high standards and build the industry to enviable position.
It could be recalled that one of the films that succeeded in putting Nigeria on the international film map was produced by Gabosky. It was titled “Battle of Musanga”, an epic story that showcased the battle for survival by an African community.
In the same vein Amaka Igwe was making marks with her productions.
Also Nek movies, owned by Kenneth Nnebue was not left out, as he also succeeded in making purposeful films after “: Living in Bondage”
Unfortunately these three pioneer film makers soon abandoned the industry for reasons they termed, the overrunning of the industry by charlatans.
Era of doom in disguise
It is noteworthy to point out, here that despite the decision by these pioneers to back out of the emerging film industry, it still continued to grow in terms of followership and financial earnings.
This was the era that mediocrity received celebrity status, dealing a death blow to professionalism. All you needed to be a big player in Nollywood was to be in the good books of marketers, who, though semi-illiterates, played god, as they flagrantly discarded conventional film making norms to embrace the crudest form of work etiquette.
In as much as it would be wrong to condemn or execute one for being a semi-illiterate, it was a professional hara-kiri to have given them so much room to run what portended a thriving image building and money-making sector aground.
Sure the money came, at least to the pockets of marketers and by extension a few lucky actors and actresses, who through sheer grit and struggle insisted on better pay.
The largest players in Nollywood, ranging from directors to production assistants were engaged on master and slave conditions, which likened Nollywood to a sugarcane plantation during the slave trade era, where a slave works tirelessly to harvest the sweet sticks, but is not free to enjoy its pleasure.
Nollywood soon became a place where a mediocre talks and the professional. Works. Educational accomplishments were scorned to high heavens. As the norm became that you can cash in your “dough”, definitely not your professionalism or your certificate.
Soon a war ensued between professionals and fakers. Expectedly fakers won, because marketers are more disposed to working with a non-chalant lot who readily crashed the cost of writing a movie script to a measly N10,000, from the acceptable cost, which, to the marketer was a more pleasing song. Production assistants transformed the directors overnight when the real directors could no longer stomach the high handedness of the emerging lords of the film market.
The era of ludicrous story-lines took over from well crafted story-lines which originally built the foundation for Nollywood's take-off.
Professional actors were chided while sisters and girlfriends of marketers with ridiculous carriages, dictions and characters took over as up-coming stars. Of course we knew they were coming from no where and definitely were headed no where, as it was clear that the boom, in actual fact was a calamity in disguise waiting to happen.
Why? Because the boom was necessitated by a working environment perfected by the marketers which enabled him to apply near slave labour to get his work done with less stress and less cash, but ends up smiling to the bank with good income, done through pushing his low quality products to less than 20 percent of Nigeria's movie lovers. As this went on, a lager percentage of movie buffs in Nigeria had actually switched off.
Soon the 20 per cent they so desperately want to serve with their half backed products became constipated; causing their little “fouls paradise” to bounce back on their faces.
Their uncoordinated manners of transactions inform the incessant recesses they embark on. And at times the banning of top artistes on trumped up charges, all moves carried out in frustration of prevailing unfavourable market situation, which they helped to create through their greed and lack of professional impetus.
When they realized the recesses and the bans could not solve the monstrous problems they created, they backed out and pretended they were seeking solutions to the quagmire, at which point government intervened to save the situation.
The government of Nigeria through the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) in a move to aid the industry stabilize instituted a new films distribution framework.
Initially same marketers who succeeded in killing Nollywood kicked against it, principal reason being that allowing the framework to come in place would displace them as lords of film business in Nigeria.
Quite laughable, because it had become clear that this lot had and still have no idea on what it takes to run a thriving movie industry.
They swiftly took the Censors Board to court challenging the framework already signed into law by government.
At the end of the brouhaha, government had the day, as the once fire spitting marketers beat a shameful retreat preferring to beg to tag along with the new order.
Recently the outgoing minister of information and communication, Mr. John Odey, personally presented certificates to 38 national distributors, who are mandated by the gesture to be the rightful distributors of films in Nigeria.
However, the much expected hope yearned by stakeholders as a result of the government intervention was punctuated when the list of the new Nollywood “messiahs” was unveiled.
The list reveals the names of actors, producers, marketers and individuals, noted not to have delivered in the past, let alone handle the challenges ahead. That is if Nollywood is to come out of the woods.
With this new development, it is not out of place to imply; “for Nollywood, it is not yet Uhuru!”