Still on Old Nollywood Vs. New Nollywood

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AIRTIME Plus 

with Onoshe Nwabuiku

Last week I wrote about the ‘battle’ between the old Nollywood and the new Nollywood. Most of my information was based on the reactions to what director/producer Charles Novia reportedly said. A few days later on Facebook, he invited me to read his side of the story. I have his permission to share some of what he wrote. It is a long but very illuminating read.

Please read and draw your own conclusions:

“I was a guest analyst on Emmanuel Ugolee’s ‘The Gist’, broadcast on Hip TV, Saturday morning of 24th September, 2016. A couple of my colleagues in Nollywood were also guests: Uzodinmma Okpechi and Moses Inwang

What was broadcast was the second part of an hour long conversation in the studio; the first part having been broadcast the week before and the topic was on developments in Nollywood and the way forward viz-a-viz the present state of the industry, positives and all. It was an interesting topic and we all had a relaxed conversation about the trends in the industry, in line with the visual theme of the programme, which is supposed to be laid back but with incisive conversations.

In the course of the discussion, Emma asked us our opinions about the ‘New Nollywood’ phenomenon and as part of what the Producers of that programme put out online as a promo for viewership, an edited few seconds version of our opinions were sampled. It is that clip, more than the body of the programme itself, which has gained traction and perhaps has been misrepresented in its singleness as a wholly stigmatization of a certain slant of the industry.

Emma Ugolee after asking his question in the full body of the programme got answers based on the wealth of experience of the guests and their personal perceptions. My reply to the question on the box office appeal of the new stars was an academic opinion based on personal empirical study and what has been discussed many times by many of my producer colleagues well grounded in marketing and distribution in both the cinema and DVD circuits. Emma brought up the names of OC Ukeje and Blossom as examples and our dove tail on the question was that in the present scheme of things, the names he mentioned would probably not pull the numbers at the box office as much as an RMD or Ramsey Nouah would pull throngs.

Uzo proferred the same opinion upon which Emma asked ‘So, they (OC and Blossom) are instagram stars?’. (And with that question, Emma Ugolee unwittingly has started a new catch phrase in the industry). Uzo replied that the new stars may not be recognised in Abeokuta by many people compared to the older faces whom the audience have been used to for years. And that’s what riled the bee-on-the-scrotum brigade on social media, which went on a frenzy which was most amusing because many of such reactions were from those who only saw the clip and went on a tirade because it’s ‘them versus us’.

Usually, I ignore in amusement such vitriol or instigated vituperations on my person over my opinions on social media, as I am more interested in the academic argument my opinions might have prodded but as the tweets went on a personal slant by some colleagues, I began to wonder if there was more to the furore than the fulcrum of the opinions one expressed.

I am inclined to believe ( from what I know) that some persons are holding brief for this New Nollywood and Old Nollywood in such a manner that whenever anything is said about the new school which seems like some sand will be poured in their garri, they are up in arms.

Going back to the conversation, let me make it clear once again that for the records, I do not hold anyone in less esteem in Nollywood than the other person because despite the seemingly giant strides we might have made over the years, there is still a long way to go. But we cannot achieve our goals if we do not have continual conversations about our artistry, our business, our disruptive distribution challenges and what we hope to build in the next decade for the next generation. I proffer opinions on the industry based on personal experiences and part of an intellectual process to get us all to be introspective. The conversation on that programme was indirectly on the commercial juxtaposition of the past and the present in Nollywood and again, it was done in the strictest of professional opinions. .

Why is it that the most popular stars from Nollywood in Africa and in the Diaspora today are those who are from the Idumota/Asaba/Alaba distribution system? These are the same people who some members of a new generation would never believe command such influence and presence but the facts stare at us all in the face. How come a Ramsey Noah or Genevieve or Rita Dominic are more likely to cause heavy traffic in major cities in Africa just by walking down the streets and none of the new cinema school are yet to elicit that kind of reaction ? For a Producer making a business decision these days it’s inevitable that to smile to the banks at the box office, the integration of the cast from the recent past and the present is necessary.

And here is another thing: in Nollywood today you should not be regarded as a tested Producer if you don’t put your money where your mouth is. You cannot produce a low-budget fare and push to the cinema and make a lot of noise on social media about it, when the numbers at the Box Office are telling you that your movie is a new slant of failure! If your movie fails to make a profit, be brave to come out and tell the world, instead of passing off as a new strain of cool. I have produced a few movies wherein I lost money but I learnt from the mistakes and listened to corrections. As a Producer, you should be commercial minded or ruthless in taking business decisions.

If you shoot a movie with N10 million naira and that movie makes N5 million naira at the Box Office, in present day dynamics of distribution, you are not a Producer but a Traducer of the business. You are a Traducer because those Asaba and Alaba Producers would use that same N5 million, shoot a movie with the known mega stars their audience want and sell ten million copies of that movie on DVD in the same period that the Cinema Producer uses in going all over social media to market a new ‘cinema’ movie! And the question some of us ask, for research and empirical purposes, is to find out how those guys are doing it right and smiling to the bank, despite massive piracy and some others are centred in Lagos speaking grammar and strutting red carpets for recognition! These are the conversations we are having and part of the realisation is that the new African cinema still needs the old stars and the new ones. The new ones cannot stand alone and give you the Box Office numbers. Simple!

When you come out to say it like it is, some people hold grudges. Who your Grudge epp? It is apt to say here that perhaps, ‘To Grudge Be The Glory’.

Horribly in Bad Taste: The AIRTEL TVC

Have you seen the new Airtel advert on television? The one with a madam, a steward and the master, portraying a domestic setting where the steward burnt the food because he had too much credit and was talking endlessly on the phone? I find the advert offensive and in very bad taste, but wonder why there has been no uproar about the advert. The sort of noise that greeted and hounded off the air waves the “Mama Na Boy” advert? In fact, the telecommunication company actually apologised for the advert.

I digress. It is rather quite surprising that the said advert continues to air and I wonder how it passed whatever standard of certification for playing adverts on air.

Some of the grounds on which the said advert is objectionable are as follows: Firstly, the advert advances stereotypes; the steward is from a particular section of the country where the occupation of its people is domestic service, further, it suggests that domestic service is servitude. How can the ‘madam’ pull a grown man by his ears with a horsewhip in hand and make him kneel down before her!

The advert also projects domestic violence. Haba! Horsewhip wielding madam? It really does not matter that the horsewhip was never exactly administered.

However, I ask where are the gender advocates? Certainly the point of the advert could have been more tastefully made thereby saving us the indignity of watching the degradation of a grown man.

Where is consumer protection and all the gamut of agencies, NGOs that are meant to spot these things in an advert? Or am I just being oversensitive?