By Yinka Olatunbosun
It is no longer news that the Federal Government has given the stakeholders in the Nigerian movie industry otherwise known as Nollywood a sum of N3bn and a huge responsibility to improve on the quality of the production of movies. Drums should ordinarily be rolled to celebrate this but it is only a fool that celebrates a goal when his opponent has scored about five against him in a football match.
The stakeholders may applaud government’s effort in order not to appear as ingrates but in truth to run a competitive movie industry demands that all other variables are seriously considered. Variables such as power distribution, road network, capacity-building and continuing education are some of the factors that impact either directly or indirectly on the industry.
If these factors are left untended, the N3bn will only increase the quantity and not the quality of movies available in the market from Nigerian movie producers. That proliferation is unwanted because we do not crave to build an industry that is “big for nothing”. Hence, if care is not exercised, this grant may be abused or misused. It is therefore imperative for Nollywood to identify key problems plaguing the industry and attempt to do its part in addressing some of these.
At the root of any shallow movie shooting is an uncreative editor, unidirectional thinking cameraman, idea-deficient director and actors whose faces define “cliché”. These traits do not require government funding to be corrected. Government policy on commercial movie making can tighten its grip on movies produced in Nigeria by giving rating to individual movie. The effect is that when a movie is poorly rated, either by a regulatory body or a critic, the viewership is automatically threatened, provided that these gatekeepers are persons of integrity who will never trade their recommendations on movies for a pot of stew.
It is also important to point out that most public institutions that train actors, directors, cameramen are ill-equipped. A few universities have state-of-the-art equipments to train man-power. Most lessons are taught in content absentia. For instance, some higher institutions have carcasses of equipments that they rely on to teach undergraduate and graduate students. Most students spend huge amount in performing assignments and have thus consoled themselves with the thought of reaping the reward for their labour even at the cost of ethical and professional practices. There is need for government to provide funds for institutions where acting and film production are taught and monitor the execution of such project as history has shown that most grants have been misappropriated.
It will also be a crying shame too if it is discovered that government has provided equipments but the teacher is incapable of handling the ready tools. It follows that teachers of film production techniques should be trained and tested to handle such courses and where incompetence is detected, strict action should be taken to ensure that such one is replaced by a qualified person. For those who are already in the Industry, periodic seminars and workshops in overseas country will help to fine-tune their skills while award-winning veterans take the initiative to give back to the society.
The N3bn grant awarded to Nollywood is an indication that the government has heard the critics’ voices and the industry stakeholders’ cry. It is left for the movie producers to respond like the biblical slave that added to his talents. The grant is relatively small. If a movie of substantial budget is produced from the grant, that is the end of the grant. Thus government and Nigerians at large should not expect magic from Nollywood following the N3bn grant. The movie industry deserves to have a reserved territory for staging scenes in movies so that when two actors are fighting, passersby will stop staring at the camera in amazement and the act will be more convincing to the viewer. In addition, action movies will be reborn. Our action movies will be elevated from the pedestal of village wars to serious contemporary crime scenes that address issues of national insecurity.
Bridging the gap between the likes of Jeta Amata and Lasun Ray will empower the industry. In the first place, “Nollywoodism” is an anomaly. Some segments of the movie industry that are predominantly from the south-eastern part have fallen into the category of “Nollywood” while those from the northern region have been branded “Kannywood”. These “wood-like” genres in the industry should be merged in unity for progress. The fragmentations and politics in the movie industry affect the growth adversely and many producers do not seem to be bothered. If grants will not fuel the underlying discriminatory practices in the movie making industry, it means that more grants will be received and be judiciously used.
Focus should be on other areas of movie production like scriptwriting, costume and make up. It is quite unfortunate that we do not have a system that encourages creativity. That is why actors say very foul language and utter uninspiring lines. It is the same reason why all witch doctors in Nollywood have a white circle drawn around one eye and they grow gray hairs on moustache and not on beards. The bottom line is to produce a movie that “Chukwudi the distributor” will willingly sell. That has to change. The film distribution network must be reviewed so that movie producers who have created works of ingenuity will not be stranded in the market.
Technical directors need to use camera angles to tell stories. The dialogue should not tell it all. Audience should be accorded some respect for their intelligence and actors’ lines should not be too loaded with information that could and should be inferred from the dramatic action.