The history of the Nigerian film industry popularly referred to as Nollywood has always been a subject of debate, though many industry players and the general public prefer to say that “Nollywood” started in 1992 with the release of what was termed the first home movie in Nigeria titled “living in bondage”. But there is also another school of thought generally made up of people we can call “chips from the old block” who argue that the Nigerian film industry started way before 1992, as there were soap operas, tv dramas and other programs airing way before 1992, but these arguments will be a story for another day as it is beyond the scope of this article.
X-RAYING THE INDUSTRY
It is an established fact that the Nigerian film industry “Nollywood” is the second biggest film industry in the world after Hollywood (the American film industry), but let’s not be deceived by this assertion, bear in mind that this is based on output per annum i.e the number of movies produced per year. Nollywood produces an estimated 2500 movies per year, yes you heard me right. 2500 movies per year, that’s an average of six movies per day.
While that is impressive and very commendable, we shouldn’t forget that this is just about quantity rather than quality. If we are to judge based on the quality of movies produced; picture quality, story line and execution, our dear Nollywood might not be in the first 5 movie industries in the world.
Most of the movies out there are terribly produced, casting and story line is way below standard. In terms of story telling our dear Nollywood has stagnated over the years. That may sound harsh but that’s the truth; 90% of Nollywood movies out there takes the same narrative. It’s always about love entanglement between a man from a rich home (usually royal home) and a girl from a poor home or vice versa, a ritual story, wicked mother in-law, or a jilted lover who later became rich or something like that.
As it stands, those narratives have become stale, no matter how you try to twist it. Should we talk about lack of suspense? Just hearing the name of a Nigeria movie or the soundtrack, you can envisage what the movie would be like or how it would end. In a country like Nigeria with a rich cultural heritage and a lot of national events, one would be expecting our movie industry to have tapped into those stories by now and tell them in a captivating manner. But then, that hasn’t been the case. Could this be laziness?
Should I talk about props and other things? Talking about props, hmm! Sometimes you watch some movies and you wonder “what are these people thinking”? Even some church drama groups can do better in props, a situation where an obvious toy gun is used in a movie, sometimes woods or other flat metals are used in the name of sword or should I talk about ordinary cloths being used in the name of police bullet proof vests? Oh! My dear Nollywood!! Let’s not even talk of their never changing funny school boy styled accident scenes, let’s not even go there nor think of their pathetic gun shooting scenes!
THE MONEY FACTOR
Obviously this is the bane of our movie industry, money!! This is in two ways (1) lack of funds to carry out a good and expansive movie projects, (2) the desire to make money rather than make good movies.
Let me start from the first; Most of our movie producers do not have the funding to carry out major movie projects. Even when they have the desire to, there is no government funding anywhere, and getting a loan or a private investor to help in the funding is difficult because they are not sure of getting their investment back. This is majorly due to the poor marketing strategy available and the issue of piracy which seem not to be abating.
I was told that some producers make movies with a budget as low as 500,000 Naira (about $1500). You could imagine what a 500,000 Naira movie would look like. No wonder some movies are terrible to watch with poor editing, poor audio and pictures quality with actors who doesn’t know that facial expressions and hand gestures are part of acting.
Let’s talk about the second part, which is the desire to make money above making good movies. A man’s passion drives him and determines his actions. When you are driven by your passion for movie making, you will always want to deliver top notch jobs, and each time you would want to better your previous output. This singular goal would lead you to making good movies over and over again, not minding the numbers(sales). But truth is that most Nollywood producers are more profit minded men and women rather than passionate and professional movie makers. Therefore they do not care about the production, delivery, props or how the audience receives the movies, as long as the movie added more penny to their accounts, that’s their own barometer for measuring the success of their movies.
LACK OF PREPAREDNESS
This one in particular is a no go area. Our usual fire brigade approach to things in general is also applied in our movie production. I was made to understand that most times the actors don’t even get to see the script till they get to movie location; there they would be handed the scripts to go over for some minutes and then get to work. Isn’t that calamitous? Little wonder most times we see actors and actresses not fitting perfectly into their character, of course what do you expect when the person didn’t take time to study the character, think over it and get in the mood?
An actor friend of mine once told me about a situation where a man playing king in a movie couldn’t memorize his lines, and someone had to hide behind his throne and read the lines for him while he repeats as the camera rolls. As you know, in such instance there is no way his facial expressions and his hand gestures would match the words and actions of the scene. Nevertheless, I was told there are some actors who are so principled and an exception to this practice,like of Rochard Mofe Damijo (RMD), Ramsey Noah, Pete Edochie and a few others, who would insist getting scripts at least a month before shooting starts.
I was also told of a particular actor who charges per day, so what producers would do is book him for two days or three and try to make sure he finishes his scenes within that time frame. Imagine when you are shooting and racing against time so as to save money, that means you wouldn’t have enough time to make corrections simply because you want the man to finish all he should do within a particular time frame.
Again, do we even have movie schools or academy where these actors receive any form of training or go for refresher courses? I know of Wale Adenuga’s school and one or two more, but obviously they are not enough and I doubt if our actors ever see the need to take courses. In the end the result is the same bang average and below average movies that we put out time after time. Even the audience have learnt to ignore the obvious error and focus on the moral of the story. That’s how bad it is.
OTHER ISSUES IN THE INDUSTRY
There has always been talks about sexual harassment in the industry, though not many names has been given and just few people have claimed victim of such while others chose to live in denial, but it’s a known fact that sexual harassment is in existence in the industry. While you may think it’s only the actresses that are sexually harassed in the industry, well I’m about to burst your bubble. Talking to my good friend and fast rising Abuja based actor “Jay” recently about his challenges as an up-coming actor, he made mention of something that amazed me. According to him, the issue of homosexuality is a key factor to a rising film career in Nollywood. Struggling to accept what he was saying, he said to me “look bro, 90% of producers and directors in the industry are gays and they want to have a sexual relationship with you before pushing you”. He went further to say that most upcoming actors have given in. Sadly this is what most talented young actors and actresses out there go through; a rot in the system, corruption, sexual harassment and sodomy. I watched my friend shake his head, eyeballs red as he said to me ” dude if I decide to be gay today, I will be all over your TV in a month or two, I know how many I have encountered”!
Other issues in the industry includes the lackadaisical attitude of most of the actors and actresses. Most of them (established) would tell the producers and directors how long they can spend in a location, in a movie they have been paid for. This would push the producer or director to rush the job which eventually tells on the movies when they are produced.
In retrospect, one thing that must be gotten right in the Nigeria Movie Industry is story line. How come the stories seem similar? Can’t someone think outside the box? Most communities in Nigeria have histories, amazing ones at that, what does it take a movie producer or scriptwriter to go to certain communities and get their histories from the kings and elderly men, and craft super stories that would make a good movie? Or is someone not thinking in that direction? Are there not old literature books written by Nigerian authors that can be made into movies? Nigeria as a country have been through different phases in history which could be made into movies. There are happenings all over this country on a daily basis that could form the basis of a beautiful story. Why must Nollywood be confined to this small space of similar love, kingship, poverty and ritual stories that has become stale?
Nollywood has definitely improved over the years, and reckoned with all over the world, but obviously the inability of the major players in the industry to step up their game have been the Achilles heel of the industry; it seems they have nothing new to offer.
Apart from comedy flicks and a few other outputs from Nollywood that you can beat your chest and say “yes this one is up there” the rest are a poorly done, and it seems the industry players are okay with that because their bills are being paid. One thing I think they should ponder upon is if being the second biggest movie industry in the world have yielded the second biggest gross earning in movies all over the world. The answer would be ‘no’ , as just one movie from Hollywood alone have yielded more money than the entire earnings from Nollywood movies in their entire existence.
So what is it they are not doing right? It’s simple; tap into the resources and numerous available stories in this country, tell it in the best way you can, and reap from it immensely. Let’s not forget so soon the success of the “Isakaba” franchise. A movie with a story that tapped into the happenings in the country as at then .
This is a wake up call to our movie makers..