Over the years, the Nigerian film industry has experienced tremendous growth amidst challenges and criticism. PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA and SAMUEL ABULUDE report.
Film industries comprising Nollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood have experienced tremendous growth and gained much popularity across the world.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) survey, Bollywood as the Mumbai-based film industry is known, has produced 1,091 feature-length films in 2006. In comparison, Nigeria's moviemakers, commonly known as Nollywood, came out with 872 productions all in video format while the United States produced 485 major films.
Over time, Bollywood and Hollywood have succeeded in creating quality visual productions with the use of first class equipment, giving them an edge over the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood.
However, Nollywood has taken a giant stride to become an industry to reckon with, both within and outside the country. In just few years, the industry has grown to become the second largest in the world, generating $286 million dollar per year for the Nigerian economy.
Between late 1980s and early 1990s, Lagos was confronted with outbreak of crime and insecurity, resulting to poor patronage in movie theaters as people became reluctant to be out on the streets.
The crime situation paved way for home videos and many entrepreneurial- minded Nigerians saw it as an opportunity to make remarkable difference.
The UNESCO survey also revealed that about 56 per cent of Nollywood films are made in local languages, while English remains a prominent language, accounting for 44 per cent, which may contribute to Nigeria's success in exporting its films.
However, experts credit the birth of Nollywood to the 1992 video release of Living in Bondage, a movie with a tale of the occult that was an instant and huge-selling success.
It wasn't long before other producers discovered the hidden treasure. Today, there are over 300 movie producers in Nigeria and thanks to new technologies; bulky videotape cameras gave way to their digital descendents, which are now being replaced by HD cameras, editing, music, and other post-production work are now done with common computer-based systems.
Amidst criticism, Nollywood movie is a staple in almost every Nigerian home. The appeal has even stretched far beyond Nigeria as the last few years have seen the growing popularity of Nollywood films among Africans in Diaspora.
Today in Nigeria, Nollywood is considered the second largest employer of labour, with an average movie employing a minimum of 130 people.
Fidelis Duker, in a write-up on Nollywood at 20, published in a national newspaper recently, said that Nollywood was made from a meager budget ranging from N1 million to N3 million and it took seven to 10 days to shoot movies then.
"Today, Nollywood ranks as the second largest movie industry after Bollywood (India) with Hollywood (USA) following closely behind in quantity and not quality. It has been able to hold its own despite so many deterrents, which to name a few, include expensive technical tools of the trade, inconsistent supply of electricity (which is taken for granted in almost every other country in the world), the horrible traffic-jam conditions which can lead to extreme lateness in production times (but the "show must go on!"), the lack of training, funding challenges, poor distribution and marketing platforms, amongst several other issues, that have plagued the industry in 20 years."
He said at the beginning, Nollywood movies were made on shoestring budgets ranging from N1 million to N3 million apiece, spanning seven to 10 days. He added, "This is an incredibly short, jam-packed production time by all standards, but most of the producers were able to make their films in this short a time, coupled with the several challenges. But the budget has since improved over the years to as much as N30 million per movie."
Duker said what makes the industry so unique is that it is a video-driven industry. "The movies in the early days were produced and put straight on VHS cassettes and then released/ distributed for sale to the public. Now, with the new technological advancement in place, they are usually on VCD's, Nigerians refer to the movies as home video", he noted.
In 2013, Nollywood will celebrate 20 years of existence. This should call for celebrations considering how the home video industry emerged as a child of necessity and also by mere opportunities sought by Igbo businessmen and an actor namely, Chief Kenneth Nnebue of Nek Video Links and Okechukwu Oguejiofor, then a young daring graduate of Theatre Arts. The child has gown attaining worldwide recognition based on volumes of video films made and the rich stories they depicted.
However, piracy has continued to pose a threat to the future of Nollywood. A recent estimation showed that 50 per cent of Nollywood's profit is lost to Nigeria's endemic piracy and corruption problems.
Nigeria's independent producers personally fund hundreds of movies each year with an average budget of about N3.5 million and in most cases; they are not able to recoup half of the fund due to piracy.
Paul Obazele, Nollywood actor, argued that the issue of, "piracy is a very ugly situation, especially in Nigeria where we have great laws but their implementation becomes dormant. A situation where you have an average film maker today going back to his village with his belongings in a paper bag because he has lost everything to pirates."
According to Hala Gorani and Jeff Koinange formerly of CNN, Nigeria has a US$250 million movie industry, churning out some 200 videos for the home video market every month. Nigerian cinema is Africa's largest movie industry in terms of both value and the number of movies produced per year.
But the industry has been militated by funds and lack of a robust distribution and marketing platform which has allowed piracy to feed fat on it thus causing movie makers not to reap from their labour. Nollywood films are shot on digital video cameras and only take around 10 days to produce. A film costs £10,000-£45,000 to make in Nigeria and the average Hollywood film over a thousand times more.
With few cinemas, the vast majority of Nollywood profits come from DVD sales, and because piracy is so widespread, film-makers only have a window of two weeks to sell their goods before the market is flooded by counterfeit copies.
The problem of Nollywood as a business entity is also akin to that of doing business in an unpredictable economic condition in Nigeria; inconsistent power supply and lack of training of movie makers with the current trends of movie making in the 21st century among others have contributed to the industry's inability to sustain quality production.
Widespread piracy and unpredictable profits mean that there's been little bank lending in the sector. The $200 million entertainment fund set aside by the federal government to help movie makers in funding their projects has not measured much as there have been complaints of inability to access them by the people which the fund was set aside for.
Yet, the growth potential is tremendous according to a stakeholder. He noted that improved funding will raise the quality and professionalism of the industry and could eventually free up resources to combat piracy.