Nigeria’s film distribution business is still in developmental stages due to a bulk of movie creatives being churned out every week but little or no structures to absorb them after production. According to industry top players, less than one-third of Nollywood movies get to the cinemas – a development that many practitioners have termed inimical to the growth and survival of the industry if measures are not put in place soonest.
Worst still is the critical issue of piracy of intellectual property which was a big deal in the West African country as movie pirates smiled to the bank while filmmakers counted their losses. This was nipped in the bud when movie producers and distributors cut off sales to DVD marketers and focused solely on distribution channels such as the cinemas which are very few compared to the number of movies being produced. But with the cinemas came a new monopoly, and the only alternatives are direct sales to TV Channels and Over The Top (OTT) platforms such as mobile apps.
Africa Movies Hub (AMH) had the privilege to discuss these issues with film/TV content distributor and CEO of Paradigm Entertainment, Chukwuemeka Ejiofor. In this AMH interview, he talks about the intricacies of the film distribution business and what must be done to salvage it. Enjoy the read:
- How my journey into film distribution started
- What we consider when selecting a movie
- Why the film distribution business comes with a lot of disappointments
- What the government must do
AMH: Please introduce yourself, brand, and tell us about what you do
Chukwuemeka: My name is Ejiofor Chukwuemeka Uju, I am a digital film/ TV content distributor and the CEO of Paradigm Entertainment Ltd.
AMH: How did you become a film content distributor for TVs?
Chukwuemeka: My journey into film distribution started quite a long time ago sometime around the year 2005/2006. My cousin in South Africa, Chuma Ikhazor used to produce movies in South Africa then. Those were the days when Nigeria’s Hitv was still very much the in-thing. He would make these movies and send the soft copies to me via hard drive so that I could take them to Hitv to inquire if they would buy or other discussions about film licensing and all that.
So, from there, the passion for film distribution grew. I never knew there was a business angle to it until he (my cousin) told me also to start approaching TV stations directly to find out if they were interested in buying his films.
AMH: How do you select your movies; scripting, directing, acting or the overall package?
Chukwuemeka: A good movie first starts from the scripting stage. If a movie has a good story, if it’s well-scripted, if the casting is good, if it has a good delivery, if it has good technical hands, and also money which plays a very vital role in filmmaking if these things are in play, we consider them vis-à-vis their marketability. These are the things film distributors look out for.
A good movie first starts from the scripting stage. If a movie has a good story, if it’s well-scripted, if the casting is good, if it has a good delivery, if it has good technical hands, and also money which plays a very vital role in filmmaking if these things are in play, we consider them vis-à-vis their marketability – Chukwuemeka Ejiofor
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AMH: What roles do content aggregators/distributors play in the film industry?
Chukwuemeka: The role of a film distributor is very crucial in the movie industry because after making a movie and there is nowhere to sell, for me that’s the beginning of failure. Every moviemaker wants to sell and wants everyone to see what he’s been able to do. And it’s our job as film aggregators and distributors to get the right TV channels and get the licenses too. The art of filmmaking is about seeing it and recognizing that you have done a good job. So, our role cannot be underestimated. Without good distributors, there is no moviemaking because you have to make your money back after production is done.
AMH: With regards to film distribution, what do you think Nollywood is not doing right and what must be done?
Emeka: Nollywood isn’t doing badly if you ask me. Looking at the way we started and what we’ve achieved, I think we are doing a great job. Today, we have a lot of independent producers. What I think we need to add to what we are doing now is the government’s input and presence.
We need the government to step in and look for ways of helping out in terms of distribution. For example, imagine what it will be like to have cinema houses in all 36 States of Nigeria and the movies come at a subsidized rate of let’s say N500, I am sure you will make your money back.
…imagine what it will be like to have cinema houses in all 36 States of Nigeria and the movies come at a subsidized rate of let’s say N500, I am sure you will make your money back.
We also need a lot of TV stations to come all out to start buying Nollywood contents. These are some of the things we expect that governments presence would help cushion.
It’s a big issue in the industry right now, in the sense that a couple of good movies go to the cinemas and barely make their money, a lot of producers have movies and do not know which way to turn, the cinemas are not enough and as such can not take all the movies, so they have no choice than to pick the very good ones which they believe will give then back their monies.
I really don’t know how long we will be in this mess but if we can have more cinemas being created by the Government at least one cinema in each state – that is on in all 36 states, it will ease off a lot of stress from the producers and also break the monopoly of the privately owned cinemas. Over The Top (OTT) platforms are doing their best here in Nigeria but for the lack of adequate internet services. It’s proven to be a very good alternative in countries where the internet works but we still have challenges with data networks in Nigeria.
AMH: What is the most common misconception about what you do?
Chukwuemeka: Film distribution is really not an easy job. You must have a passion to be able to do this. When producers finish their work, they hand over their works to you and expect that you should be able to hand them deals within weeks. But that’s not how it is.
The film distribution business in Nigeria comes with a lot of disappointments. One major reason is that there are too many movies and lesser structures in place to absorb them. For example, we churn out a lot of movies every week. So there are too many movies for the buyers to see and select from. As they are looking at your movies, they are also looking at other people’s movies as well. At the end of the day, they may not choose what you have, they may choose from a different distributor and most times it comes as a disappointment because you think you have the production done.
So, a major misconception from producers is that they think it is that easy to seal these deals in a few weeks/months after production. Unfortunately, it takes months most times to land these deals.
The film distribution business in Nigeria comes with a lot of disappointments. One major reason is that Nollywood has too many movies and lesser structures in place to absorb them – Chukwuemeka Ejiofor
AMH: Since you started your career, what has been the most challenging job you took on, and why?
Chukwuemeka: Honestly, I don’t think any job is more challenging than the other. Every job comes with its set of unique challenges. However, there was a certain deal I was supposed to pull in 3 months but it took two years to pull off.
AMH: If you had the opportunity to go back right from when you started, what will you do differently?
Chukwuemeka: If I had that opportunity, I would equip myself with a lot of funding. People like us started film distribution from the streets. We started with DVDs, hard drives, etc, and grew from there.
AMH: What makes you different from others who have tried to do what you‘ve done and failed?
Chukwuemeka: I would say passion and integrity. You must have both to stand you out in this business
AMH: Who are your greatest inspirations in the movie industry and why?
Chukwuemeka: Mr Chimdi Chiama – he gave me my first movie ever as an actor from the East where it all began and wanted to make me a star but then I developed interests in film distribution. Also the likes of Chief Eddie Ugboma of blessed memory – he was my father in the industry. Mr Alex Osifo – my spiritual father in the industry as well. Then a couple of others like Moses Babatope, Barrister Izu Osuigwe – these guys have been a rock for me especially when it concerns movie distribution; they are always eager to listen and ready to advise me.
… one major misconception from producers is that they think it is that easy to seal these deals in a few weeks/months after production. Unfortunately, it takes months most times to land these deals – Chukwuemeka Ejiofor