Behind the scene | 5 July 2007 13:22 CET


EFFORTS of the National Film and Video Censors Board aimed at putting in place an effective distribution structure in the nation's film sector otherwise called Nollywood appear to be yielding result.

Four notable Nollywood producers, directors have come together to form a production company named Project Nollywood. Modelled after Dreamworks SKG formed by American producers Stephen Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen which is one of the top five studios in Hollywood today, their Nigerian counterparts, Chico Ejiro, Charles Novia, Fred Amata and Fidelis Duker saw the need to form an alliance and they are the founders and directors of Project Nollywood.

Novia in an interview last week described the outfit as "a formidable movie company with the vision of producing top quality Nollywood movies." Novia is a graduate of Dramatic Arts from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with over 18 years in the Nigeria Film and TV industry in Nigeria, including a stint with the NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) where he was instrumental to creating and producing various programmes. He is also the founder and chief executive officer of November Productions and Records, currently rated as one of the top five music labels in Nigeria.

Novia has also been involved in the production of numerous blockbuster Nollywood films such as Missing Angel, The Convenant Church, Deep Secrets, The Bridesmaid, Real Love among his other highly successful films. The Nigerian filmmaker is an artistic participant at the prestigious Rotterdam International Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival among others.

"This is the first time four Nigerian top producers would be coming together to form a formidable production company like this," Novia stated adding that Project Nollywood that is being bankrolled solely by Ecobank Plc, saw the need in the industry because "distribution of film and music works as well as other artistic materials, has been unfair to producers. And also, the marketers in Idumota have had a stranglehold on the distribution network, they under-declare movie sales among others. So, enter Project Nollywood, which is into distribution and production of quality movies. Our individual companies still exist because Project Nollywood is being run by professionals, we have nothing to do in the day to day running of it because that was what killed similar initiatives in the past."

Scheduled to take off in August, Novia is full of praise for Ecobank Plc "for seeing the vision and believing in it." Between the four producers, they have finished four blockbuster films that would hit the market next month. "We have produced four quality movies and so far too, we have registered distribution outlets in 20 states of the federation. Our staff strength is a thousand at present and it will grow. Ecobank believes in the vision of Project Nollywood and since they are rebranding, they have been friendly to the arts of recent."

The plan of the producers is to produce 15 movies to be distributed by Project Nollywood. "I can assure you that 15 movies are not too much, that is between us, we would be doing a film every quarter. We would be taking quality movies from other producers after they have passed the quality control unit. So many producers and marketers have indicated interest to do business with us because of the structure and our plan for the business. I am not obliged to reveal the marketing strategy but when we finally come on board next month, you would be impressed."

There are effective plans by Project Nollywood to safe guard their films from the ravaging hands of pirates. "I won't reveal our plans to fight piracy. But I can assure you that pirates have been taken care of, because we are in collaboration with all government agencies in charge of films and the Nigerian Intellectual Property Commission formerly Nigerian Copyright Commission is fully in support. Even the EFCC had been notified and they have assured of their support to help fight the pirates of any of our works. The censors board through its director general, Mr. Emeka Mba is strongly in support of the project and industry people are in support of the initiative."

He advised critics of the censors board's distribution policy to do a rethink as it is a model initiative for the industry. "I am a risk taker and there is no need shooting down an initiative when it has not been tried. The censors board means well and they should be encouraged. My only reservation about the distribution policy is the time frame given by the board. The time frame should have been longer, but all the same, I feel practitioners should give the censors board the benefit of the doubt because the initiative will work. Most marketers are not educated and they should be carried along. We have started by forming a company, I think marketers should come together to form a company and see the outcome."

Caught In the Middle, is Novia's first movie for Project Nollywood. It is a romantic comedy starring Richard Mofe-Damijo and Dakore Egbuson. Two people in search of love find out that their hardened hearts against each other can really be softened by one shot of cupid's arrow. They ultimately have to make a choice between separating or working things out. Produced and directed by Charles Novia. He describes the film as "my best production so far in terms of the right financial input. This is my comeback movie after two years and I had the artistic licence to express myself. This is one of my best."

While Chico Ejiro's offering is 100 Days In The Jungle. An action adventure movie starring Emeka Ike and Tony Umez; is a story about a determined young man must unravel the mysteries of a dreadful jungle and the people behind the myth. It is produced and directed by Chico Ejiro.

A gripping drama starring Fidelis Bimbo Akintola, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Segun Arinze entitled Senseless is produced and directed by Fidelis Duker for the distribution firm while Fred Amata writes a Letter To A Stranger. A romantic drama starring Genevieve Nnaji, Ibinabo Fiberisima and Elvina Ibru, it is a story about a love-weary young lady ripe for a love affair and she has to make a life-changing choice between two men who she loves but hardly really knows!

Projected sales of these movies within the first six months of release according to Novia is expected to be in the region of over five million copies with Nigeria making up for 70 per cent of that number. "From research, a Nollywood movie is watched by no less than five persons at every given time. Thus a novel advertising window has been created by Project Nollywood for brands and companies to reach out to over 100 million people through our movies by spot advert placements before and during the movies," Novia said.

Fidelis Duker, one of the founders of Project Nollywood, is a graduate of Book Publishing and Journalism from the prestigious Yaba College of Technology and Nigerian Institute of Journalism respectively. Duker has worked as a TV and Film Producer Director in the last 17 years. Fidelis Duker is also an alumni of the Deutteche Welle training Academy in Germany and BBC TV25 Training Academy in Scotland. He is the president of the Director's Guild of Nigeria and founder of the Abuja International Film Festival, arguably the foremost international film festival in Anglophone West Africa.

One of Nigeria's most prolific filmmaker, Chico Ejiro has over one hundred video feature films to his credit, He is also graduate of Agric Economics from the Federal University of technology with over 20 years as a producer and director. Ejiro is also an award winning filmmaker having won all the major awards in the industry. His films include Onome, Silent Night, among others.

Fred Amata is a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Jos with over 22 years as an actor, producer and director. Amata is the CEO of AMATA Movies and the producer or director of some blockbuster films as Addict, The Prostitute, Son Of The Devil.

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