The new Nollywood: Factors and faces driving it
A new Nollywood is fasting emerging .It's driven by passion , quality and excellence. It won't thrive on the whims of a particular person or association but by a collective spirit of new stars who want to out-do the pioneers without rubbishing their legacies.“Nollywood has to die” Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen said in an interview sometime ago.
“The industry is already messed up”, said Ope Banwo, another stakeholder months ago. Not a few celebrities have lamented over the decline of Nollywood.. Veterans like Eddie Ogbona, Ali Balogun, Tunde Kelani, Amaka Igwe, Tade Ogidan and others have noted with dismay the parlous state of Nollywood.
They were ignored , because the chaos in Nollywood was making sense as “everybody” seemed to be making money out of the “chaotic mess”.
Yes , chaotic mess. Actors' grossed seven digit earnings, and directors, producers and even investors raked in millions with little effort. Scriptwriters would come up with anything that looks like movies, directors cared less, actors performed below average and buyers cared less as long as the popular faces are on the jacket.
Marketers and investors smiled to the bank.
But the bubble busted early last year when the shaky foundation began to collapse.Buyers now want more value and cinemas which had returned refused to show Nigerian films. Investors are losing money and actors who earned millions are “making do” with a few hundred thousands. Things were hard.
Like terminally ill patients , stakeholders watched as the legacies of Ogunde, Alade Aromire, Ade Love, Kenneth Nnebue began to fade into oblivion.
A quick-fix mentality became the order of the day as some smart Alecs resorted to the use of Ghanaians to boost their appeal.The Ghana market was beginning to open up. The market in Ghana was more lucrative, hence the mass exodus to Ghana. Some of our renowned producers even relocated to Ghana. Stable power supply was also an attraction.Inevitably, Ghana came up with a new policy. Ghnana insisted that for any Nigerian movie to be sold in Ghana, a Ghanaian must feature prominently in it and be on the jacket.
And like Esau selling his birthright, our producers complied. Since “man must whack” they started featuring Ghanaians in their movies. Van Vicker, Nadia Buari, Jackie Appiah, Majid Micheal, Yvolnne Nelson, John Dumelo and the likes featured in Nigerian movies. Most of them could act but some are misfits.
There was a temporary reprieve. Sales picked-up again, money exchanged hands and everybody was happy. Unfortunately, the alliances broke down as Ghanaians became more demanding and came up with all sorts of retrogressive policies to frustrate Nollywood. They assumed an attitude of “we are your saviours, you will take whatever we shove down your mouths”.
That was shortlived as a new Nollywood emerged . Its credo is entertaining the audience, setting a standard, leaving a legacy, and maintaining an enviable position for Nollywood . It's remarkably rewarding too as records would show. 2009 was the beginning of new Nollywood. Everything changed and changed for good. A new crop of producers said no to the Asaba cartel who now do about three to four movies in 10 days.
If the truth is to be told, some individuals like Mildred Okwo, Emem Isong, Omotola, Genevieve, Rita Dominic, Uche Jombo, Kate Henshaw, Ope Banwo, Jeta Amata, Saidi Balogun, Tunde Kelani, Peace Fiberesima, Tade Ogidan and others muscled-up to fight the status quo. But their effort was not fruitful. Some A-list actors like Omotola and Genevieve refused to touch scripts that are not worth their salt. Same for Rita, Kate and Uche. Some producers would rather produce very good movies and if they want to release into DVD they do only parts 1 and 2. Mildred and Emem Isong fall into that category.
It is on record that Peace Anyiam Osigwe led others to form Film Corporation Of Nigeria (FCON) to solve the marketing problem and Ope Banwo in his days at Dove tried to bring sense into the chaotic marketing mechanism. A new industry driven by passion, vision, boldness, knowledge, business acumen, creativity and ability to dare emerged.It's made-up of the young and the not- too -young .
First came Through the glass in September 2009 by Stephanie Okereke who just graduated from New York Film Academy. The movie was the first Nigerian film to beat an Hollywood movie at the cinemas here in its first week. It grossed about N13 million in the three to four weeks runs at the cinema. Figurine came shortly after and its impact almost wiped the memory of Through the glass. It was a box office hit and was number one for several weeks. It was the first Nigerian film that attracted a large audience and people were willing to stand and watch despite having bought their tickets. In its first four weeks, the movie grossed about N22 million.
Kajola then came along. Kajola isn't raking in millions at the cinemas, but it is the first sci-fi movie from Nigeria. It's a good effort that deserves recognition. Ije which is running at the cinemas at the time of this report, has grossed over N22 million already and experts have predicted it should cross N40 million margin. Gross earnings is not what Ije is all about. It is a beautiful movie shot on 35mm (film), an internationally accepted standard.
Jeta Amata, who shot Amazing Grace with 35 mm lense has now proceeded to import American stars and has shot two movies on the proper 35 mm lense. This would render the Asaba concoction irrelevant. Factors driving the new Nollywood are numerous and so obvious that one wonders why it has taken so long to find a new beginning.
The willingness to go the extra-mile
This is crucial. Ije took months to shoot while Figurine took well over two months. The new nollywooders are no longer satisfied with doing things half way. They want to go the whole hug and pay the sacrifices necessary to achieve success in an excellent way. Kunle Afolayan spent several months to edit, re-edit and re-shoot some parts of Figurine. No wonder the movie was an absolute hit.
Since the return of cinemas, Nollywood has been buoyant as practitioners are challenged to prove to cinema owners that their movies are as good as Hollywood movies. “I think Noollywood has come of age with the advent of cinemas.... producers and investors have more confidence in producing more high budget movies. The risk is lower as there are avenues of realizing one's capital”, a movie maker said. Gbenga Adeyinka, a comedian said “I am totally impressed with what Kunle Afolayan and those I call new faces of Nollywood have done. Since the cinema culture came, I was scared everything would be about foreign movies but Figurine allayed that fear.
Ope Banwo said, “Well I think the rebirth of cinema culture in recent months has opened up a new front in the evolution of Nollywood . Just as the home video market was a by-product of the decline of cinemas in the early 90s, it looks like the cinemas this time are borne out of the decline of the home video . We have come full circle and it is a great thing. However, I won't call it a new Nollywood inside Nollywood.
Nollywood in my view refers to the whole movie industry. So nothing is new here. The only difference is that while the cinema was relegated to the background for about 20years, it has now come back to reckoning with the new breed of producers spearheaded by Kunle Afolayan.
I think Nollywood is evolving nicely. While many would prefer to lament a decline in home video sales, I will say that in the end, it's a good thing. In a few years, we probably will look at television (satellite and terrestrial) as viable sources of income for Nollywood. Right now, the gold rush is in the cinema and people like Kunle Afolayan have already demonstrated that indeed there is gold to be found in cinemas”.
Structure and professionalism
New players in Nollywood now insist on signing contracts, professionalism and doing business by the book. We now have agents, management companies, casting agencies, managers and publicists. These are driving forces in the new Nollywood. Talent managers like Mildred Okwo are leading the way. So also are casting agencies led by Ope Banwo, Mildred Okwo. In addition publicity and PR companies like Bigsam Media are at the forefront as well as agents like Bola Aduwo.
Despite the fact that Nollywood was touted as number three in the world , corporate bodies refused to patronize it . That is now changing. Banks provided loans for Kunle to produce Figurine. Jeta Amata got sponsorship to produce his movies. Chineze obtained funds from Stella Maris and Glo is indirectly investing in Nollywood by empowering stars with huge amounts in endorsements .
Producers now prefer to market their movies themselves, because the traditional route is swallowing up their investments. Now, they are selling before they mass- produce. They get companies to advertise, buy up rights to their works and they put sales executives on the streets to sell their CD or DVD. Vivian Ejike sold Silent scandal on her own and it was the highest selling movie around December when there was a lull in the market. She is also part of the new faces driving Nollywood.
It is not surprising that Through the glass, Figurine and Ije are all products of educated minds. The three hands behind the movies, Stephanie, Kunle and Chineze Anaeyene all passed through the prestigious New York Film Academy. Just like Uduak Oguamanam, a film maker and principal of Royal Arts Academy said “a lot of the early film makers were self-taught, now we've understudied them and have also included a formal knowledge to the experience we've gathered from them. Nollywood has been around for a while and change was only imminent'.
Baba Sala, Ade Love, Ogunde all did their jobs for love and went about cap- in- hand looking for investors. But the new crop of movie makers are all out for it for love and the money in it. 'I want to do what I love and make a living out of it” Kunle Afolayan told SBN.
Our producers are doing almost the impossible. Kajola is the first sci-fi movie fron Nollywwod. and Jeta Amata has the reputation of stretching technology to the limits.
Yes, cash is driving the industry . Through the glass, Figurine and Ije are high budget movies. They gulped so much money that could make over 100 normal Nollywood movies. New faces of Nollywood are willing to approach banks, get investors and corprate bodies to stake huge cash in their efforts to achieve better results