Meet Nollywood Stars | 4 January 2009 01:56 CET

Nollywood: Stakeholders set agenda for 2009


Last year, the Nigerian movie industry, popularly known as Nollywood, did not fare so well. Fees dropped and there was a glut in the movie market. Stakeholders speak to SAM AWOYINFA on how to bring the industry out of the woods in 2009

IT is a New Year, and individuals and organisations are already strategising to make the best of 2009. In the same vein, stakeholders in the Nigerian movie industry popularly known as Nollywood, are not left out.

Taking a retrospective look at 2008, the industry could have fared better. It was that year that the meltdown in the industry reared its ugly head again. The sales figures of the movies, both in Yoruba and English languages, began to drop drastically and the roles dwindled, leaving most actors and actresses in the lurch.

Although the actual figures are not readily available, it took ingenuity of some of them in tapping into their other endowments and qualifications for them to make ends meet. It was not a cheery year for the industry. The regulatory authority, the National Film and Video Censors Board, tried to lift the industry out of the woods with a framework, which aims at restructuring the existing movie distribution network.

The Emeka Mba-led organisation, had insisted that anyone who wished to be a movie distributor/marketer must be licensed either as a regional or national distributor.

Some of the marketers kicked against this directive, while some supported it.

But according to the zonal coordinator, South-West, National Film and Video Censors Board, Abosede Francis, in an interview with our correspondent last October, some of these marketers kicked against it due to lack of understanding of the policy direction and their selfish personal interest.

"But most of them have seen that we are trying to sanitise the industry and they have embraced it," she had said.

Again, most of the movie distrbutors were only flaunting regional licences. A regional licence only allows the bearer to circulate and distribute a particular movie within a certain region.

SUNDAY PUNCH however gathered that some of the movie practitioners were issued national licences last month.

Most practitioners see this as a long awaited development. For those in this category, they explain that the marketers in Idumota are trying their best, but they do not have that nationwide distribution network, which is capable of beating the pirates to their game.

The president, Association of Nigeria Theatre Practitioners, Prince Jide Kosoko, says that this development will lead to improvement in the distribution of movies in the country. He notes, "Though the movie marketers in Idumota are trying their best, now that we have those marketers with national licence, our works can now get to every nook and cranny of the country, just as soon as they are released. This means movie producers will make more money, and this translates and reaches down to all who take part in such works."

Kosoko however preaches that movie producers must now sit up and produce works that can pass quality test, in terms of technical output and content (stories).

He believes that the days of throwing just any banal story at the audience is gone.

He stresses, "These days the audience are more discerning. They know a good story and they can say whether or not you are rehashing someone else's story, which they might have watched before. So, I will advise any producer who wants to do well in 2009 to devote more time to research into educative stories. People are tired of stories of witchcraft, rivalry and juju war in a polygamous setting, etc.

"I am not condemning such themes in movies, but let people have something new, a fresh angle. I must also commend those who have started doing that already.

If a producer produces a good movie, coupled with the new distribution revolution that is about to begin soon, the sky seems to be the starting point for such a producer."

A notable actress, Clarion Chukwurah, also holds the issue of quality as key. She suggests that the artistes' body should create a monitoring and advisory council, manned by veteran practitioners, to advise on and put in place guidelines for creative content of movies. This, she argues, will lead to improvement in story quality and improvement in sales. She believes that if sales improve, all the stakeholders will reap from it.

Chukwurah does not subscribe to the practice in which TV networks beam movies to their viewers without compensation, or recourse to the known arrangement of barter agreement that ensure that such works are aired based on the consent of the producers, which served as movie trailers to drive publicity, and ensure sales.

A reputable actor and movie producer, Saheed Balogun, has a more radical view.

He notes that movie producers should exploit other novel vehicles of communication to promote their works and make good money for themselves in the New Year. For him, he says, some of his works are shown on international flights and he makes money from such arrangements he struck with two unnamed airlines.

"For me, I don't rely only on movie marketers to sell my works, I have other dealings with some airlines in which my movies are shown on international flights.

I make money from such arrangements," he says.

Balogun does not believe in unregulated releases of movies, because according to him, "even in the United States of America, there are regulations guarding the release of films. And here in Nigeria, you see about 50 movies being released in a month." This brings us to the regulation made by the executive council of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Practitioners last year, which stipulates that a movie producer can only release two movies in a year.

This, according to them, is to ensure that movie producers produce good works that could sustain them for a whole year. But the marketers did not and still do not support that regulation.

SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that they have fashioned ways of beating it by using the names of other less privileged producers who do not have money to produce every now and then, to push their different works to the market. So, at the end of the day, a movie glut sets in, since the purchasing power of buyers is not inelastic.

A movie marketer, and managing director, Mustoy Films, Sadat Hassan, expresses her view on the two movies per year. She's of the view that there is no movie distributor/marketer that can survive on two movies for a whole year, and preaches that the number be increased to at least four.

Kosoko seems to be bending towards this school of thought, as he says,"it might not be totally right to dictate the number of movies to be released in a year to our members, but we did it so as to standardise the industry."

Whether or not Nollywood will experience a boom this year, the stakeholders and obviously time will tell.

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