Nollywood is dying— Francis Onwochei
Twenty-four years ago, Francis Onwochei began his career in acting. Having come a long way, he has achieved a laudable landmark not only in acting but also in other fields of arts. He established Frankochei Productions, a film and television production company.
His major preoccupation is to use these outfits to re-engineer the communications system and advocate strongly for a better way of inculcating indigenous culture into the people.
Onwochei is one of the initiators of the Real Me Show, a celebrity televison programme which is billed to hit the screen before the end of second quarter of the year.
Also there are other programmes he is anchoring, including “Najia comdey Blast, and Energy Today.” Giving the prevailing challenges facing the film industry in recent times Onwochei in this encounter posits that unless a functional Motion Picture Practitioners Council is put in place, coupled with tackling some of the teething problems confronting the future of the industry, movie makers in Nigeria would continue to experience tough time.
What's happening to Najia Comedy blast?
We have actually had two series of Najia Comedy blast. But Real Me Show, which is under way have actually distracted our attention. Later this year, we plan to tour four cities in America with Najia Comedy Blast.
For me, these are the things I love doing when I am not making a movie. Of course, my company, Frankochei Productions is always involved in one project or the other.
It's either we are consulting for television projects, or that we are consulting for live entertainment shows.
Apart from Najia Comedy Blast, which we have held successfully in London and Manchester, we also have “Energy Today”, a television programme , though we have not broadcast our pilot episode.
That's what we currently have in the offing. It's a programme on oil and gas. And we believe that they are things that are critical to the ultimate development of our environment.
All of these, is as a result of the kind of situation that Nollywood is currently facing.
Movie makers are currently in a quagmire, and most of us are trying our hands on other things.
To make ends meet, I now direct television commercials as well as documentaries. Only recently, I released my film titled, 'Crux of the Lion” which I made some time ago.
Did I hear you say, the kind of situation that Nollywood is presently facing, what kind of situation?
Nollywood is actually facing some of the biggest challenges in recent times. I honestly can't itemise the myriad of problems facing the growth of the film industry in Nigeria.
But I must tell you, even the marketers whom producers initially used to blame, following the encouraged irregularities that characterized the film industry, have also started complaining about the bad situation.
Today, people no longer buy films. Nigerians have become so sophisticated that they now know what they want to watch on screen. Some producers have resorted to making great films. Yet movie bluffs are not patronising the market any more.
This is as a result of the fact that video clubs are still renting out films without any legal restriction. The National Film and Video Censors Board is still licensing Video Clubs to rent out movies without due finances coming to the private producers.
NFVCB is coming out with a new distribution model that has not been passed through proper court process to be able to work or, not. Even right now, the average movie maker is almost impoverished in Nigeria.
Therefore, what the industry needs to do is to come together once again to think as well as begin to look at these issues with an aim to addressing them. Nollywood is gradually coming into comatose.
And in spite of what the government has done for the industry, the agencies that are supposed to be responsible for restructuring the industry are busy doing things geared towards lining up their pockets.
For more than five years now, we have been talking about the Motion Picture Practitioners Council(MPPC) that ought to have been put in place to regulate everything pertaining to ethics, practice and code of conduct for the industry.
This is to give us proper direction as professionals. But four years after, the Nigerian Film Corporation has not deemed it necessary to establish the Motion Picture Practitioners Council. Where do we go from here?
The Nigerian film industry cannot move forward until the Motion Picture Practitioners Council is put in place. That's the beginning of Nollywood.
Don't you also consider the advent of such cable stations as African Magic, DSTV.. as part of the problems undermining the growth of the film industry?
You know, anytime cable stations emerge in any country, they tend to reduce the patronage of local movies.
But I am saying that, because of the capacity of Nigerians, if we have proper distribution model in place, local movie producers would not be rushing to African Magic to collect just $1000 to allow their films to be shown on these stations.
Now that you have said it, fortunately, the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria is giving all the cable stations, including local stations ultimatum to stop showing all these old Brazilian soaps for Nigerian viewers.
Perhaps, most of these stations have no single programme of their own. But rather than collaborate with producers of TV drama series to ensure that viewership is sustained, they aptly resort to asking the producers to buy their airtime.
Fortunately, the industry in a short while is coming together to correct all these anomalies. We are putting plans in place to deal with some of these cable stations, including African Magic, DSTV that has caused deeper impoverishment of the movie practitioners.
The activities of these cable stations are undermining the growth of the movie industry in the country.
Could this be responsible for your decision to stay-off the screen for a very long time now?
I must be able to bring back profits to my investors. And also, I must be able to tell the kind of story that I want to tell.
Till such a time when we will re-strategise and re-engineer the environment to ensure our survival in this industry, I probably would never make movie any more. I have succeeded in making some full-length movies in the past.
They are in the area of feature, biographic and other genres. Some of them are: Raging Storm, Final Onslaught, Tansi and Saving Alero, which deals on widowhood practices in Nigeria.