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'Only enemy of progress 'll oppose new film distribution policy'

By Gbenga Salau

RATHER than sabotage the efforts of government in its new drive to make the Nigerian home movies competitive in the international scene in order for stakeholders to benefit maximally from their intellectual efforts through the New Distribution Framework, actions should be directed at making these plans work, the National President of Association of Movies Distributors of Nigeria, Chief Gab Onyi Okoye has said.

"If somebody says he has been making films for fifteen years, twenty years and he has not been making profit that means something is wrong somewhere. And if we can restructure Nigeria economy, restructure banks in Nigeria, what is the film industry that we cannot restructure. So government has everything at its disposal to restructure the film industry. But anybody who is opposed to that, he is an enemy of progress. He is an enemy of the movie industry, because the new framework will benefit everyone".

"If you are an actor, we have said that distribution will drive content and when you distribute a movie that has sold one million copies, you make a lot of money. With that, you can decide that you want Osofia to be acting for you. You buy Osofia off and pay him for the rest of the year so that he will be acting gabosky brand of movies, that every production gabosky is producing Osofia is acting. This will make Osofia not to be doing useless films, films that he will be given a role without script because gabosky will make sure that he makes maximum use of the actor.

"Other actors will benefit because they are going to make good money from the good sales somebody has made. He does not need to complain again that I do not have money to pay you. For you as a movie maker, when you make your movie the bottom line is to make money, so when you start distributing you start making money so you are empowered, that when you want to make another one you have enough cash to make another one and you make a better one. So your content will change and directors will have work because quality movies are going to come out", he stated.

Giving an insight into the new initiative of the government, the New Distribution Framework being propagated by the National Film and Video Censors Board he said, "they have licensed new distributors to take over the formal and legitimate distribution of movies in Nigeria. The licence is categorised into national, regional and community. The national distributors are the ones that are going to be releasing the movies with the regional distributors while the community distributors are the people that will be making sure that you get your movies in your neighbourhood.

"The national distributors have also formed a union, which is just like an association of all the government licensed distributors, which I happened to be the national president of the association. We have gone far in the sense that we registered a body and have elected officers to serve. We have also tried to set up an enforcement unit, a monitoring unit that will move around find out everything that is wrong in the distribution framework, and every distributor will comply with the government legislation or regulation. "We also tried to make sure that every licence distributor has a welfare package, some thing like a motivator something that will motivates you to do the job and do it well in a clean slate unlike before. We have also tried to make sure that each licence distributor has something new and unique that he is going to bring into the distribution of the Nigerian movies so that we have a modern and international code of practice, when it comes to salesmanship or distribution of jobs so all things packaged we are bringing in to make sure that we have something unique."

He said that the new drive is towards fully professionalizing the movie industry where unlike in the past those who market movies sell electronic, or provisions side by side movies CDs.

"Most of the government licensed distributors were once marketers of the Nigerian movies but you see we the stakeholders both the former marketers and the producers, directors, all the film makers picked holes with the system of marketing of Nigerian movies. In a situation whereby you sell films side by side provisions, side by side salon, side by side motor spare parts, side by side with electronics at Alaba, we found out that this is not marketing of intellectual property.

"That this intellectual property is a professional job, that all over the world the international practice is that you sell these movies in an exclusive shop meant purposely, licensed purposely for the distribution of movies and music for instance. So when we picked that hole, we started beckoning on government to come and structure this industry, and that gave birth to Nigeria in the Movies."

But what is Nigeria in the Movies? Chief Onyi Okoye explained. "Nigeria is already in the movie; it is already in the map of the countries in the world that are making movies. So, when Nigeria has found itself in the map of the countries in the world that are making movie we started asking ourselves after this, what next? Where do we go from here? That gave the idea of going to government and say, we have learnt that distribution drives content so can you help us to structure the distribution framework to drive our content, to uplift our content. Every stakeholder was part of it. There is no major difference between former marketers and government licensed distributors.

"The only significant difference is that why this person is marketing and selling electronic, selling products in his one shop, the government licensed distributor is following international practice by distributing movies, using everything he has to distribute movies, to make sure that movies reaches every nook and cranny in Nigeria and where it is sold, it is an exclusive shop meant for that, with the name of the agent boldly inscripted on the shop and the government licence hanged in front of the shop. So you cannot look for the person and say Mr. A took my movies to the market I cannot see him again because he has an office, he has a licence. You cannot say I do not know how many copies they have sold because the government will tell how many copies of your movies have been printed and other things the government has structured that you will not run away from.

"Government will be bold enough to say this is made in Nigeria movie. Government can then package us. If you have gone to Cannes this year, there was no movie on display, because none of our movies irrespective of the fact that we produced 1000 movies in one year, none was on the international table because of the quality. You cannot use Akin and Paw paw to go for international festival. But if you had sat down to craft it well, the problem is not from the artistes; the problem is from the filmmakers, the directors, and the equipments. If you ask, why is this so? They will say they have little money. But why should they have little money? They will say the former films they produced did not sell well. Why in a country of 150 million, you cannot sell twenty thousand copies of movies. So we want to restructure so that we sell one million copies and have money. So, there is a lot of money.

"Moreover no filmmaker can move to a bank now and say I am a filmmaker. There are certain questions the banker will ask you, you find out that there are no structures; no accountable standards for the bankers to come in and say this is an industry. So there was no industry, we were operating in a vacuum, in a void. So, we decided to invite the government to come in and help us structure it. What I believe is that a lot of people are going to gain".

However, to ensure that the framework works, he said his association, the movie distributors, has set up a task force that will ensure compliance with the new directive.

"Censors' board in the act is not empowered to fight piracy; it is the National Copyright Commission (NCC) that fights piracy. The distributors are not fighting pirates, though they have the right to fight for their right, because the copyright you are talking about is the copy right of their own, so they have right to stop anybody from using their own works. But the enforcement officers that we have is enforcement to make sure that there is strict obedience, strict compliance to New Distribution Framework (NDF), so that it will not fail. We want to fight the sabotage, those that are going to sabotage the framework, and sabotage our position as the new distributors. They have licensed us to be everywhere, national distributors. They have licensed us to have shops created everywhere, and there are people who have already positioned themselves, where we are supposed to be by virtue of our licence. We want to stop these people from being there so that they won't make nonsense of the licence government has given us. When you go to those shops that they sell films, we want to make sure that if you are given film to sell, those films you sell it the way government wants you sell it and return it to the owner so that the owner will be proud to say that this new distribution framework is working. So we do not want government to licence people that are going to use their licences go into the market and violate government laws. We want to be able to discipline our members who err, we want to make sure that as a licensed distributor, government has said that you are a regional south west, that any movie you are to distribute, you distribute it within south west, we want to make sure that you distribute it within south west. So that you will not make non-sense of the man in the South East that government has also licensed. So we do not want prostitutes to disguise as distributors, hawking movies all over the country, making non-sense of government law. We want to make sure that when you are to release a movie, that you go to government and ask for the stickers so that each copy of your movies will bear government sticker and government has lesser pens that they will go round. The monitoring team check the films to ensure that that this is what you have told government that is going into the market, so compliance to the law and to the rules and regulations. Obedience and enforcement of new distribution framework laws and regulations, that is what our enforcement officers are going to do. But if in the course of our enforcement we found out that somebody is pirating we package that person to the appropriate body that has been empowered to monitor that, which is the NCC and make sure that NCC prosecute that person."

He also enjoined the media to help make the idea work. "The media must joined in this, by helping to publicise the new body that is handling movie because they are stakeholders in the art sector. We want to them to ensure that this new body and idea come to limelight so that we will be proud of it. We also need the media as we are trying now to reach out to people so that they will now see that there is this paradigm shift from the old system to a new system."

On the plans to roll out he said, "gabosky venture has national licence to make, acquire and distribute movies all over the nation. We have got partnership with some banks to roll out 11000 sales outlets all over the nation. Zenith is interested, UBA, Union banks are all interested in this partnership.

"If you know gabosky from my record you will know that I have not released more than five films and still I am one of the pioneers since 1993 and there are people that started two years ago that have released more than thirty films, so I have standard and for this new distribution frame work.

"Some are licensed to stand-alone; some are licensed to have chained stores, I am one of them that will have chained stores", he said