Nollywood After Covid 19: Why Nigeria Must Focus on Its Film Industry Now!

There are many lessons that top economies of the world have learnt from the aftermath of the Covid 19 global pandemic. One of them is that you don’t trifle with the most important sectors of your economy especially health, infrastructure, transportation, food, hospitality, entertainment and the likes.

A second lesson learnt, just like the time of war, is that you have to pay attention to the potential active drivers of your economy and provide the necessary pushes to make them one of your major revenue streams as well as growing them for increased exports.

Now that the world is coming to terms with the post-Covid 19 era, with the lessons from a virus that hit virtually every sector of the world economy due to lockdowns, illnesses and deaths, countries are beginning to return to their everyday lives and activities and are also coping with new ways of doing businesses and carrying out their affairs.

Nollywood After Covid 19: Why Nigeria Must Start Paying Attention to Her Film Industry

While many economies will take years to recover, others have completely gone under and will take a miracle to get back up any time soon.

For Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation which has over the years been predominantly dependent on crude oil, applying the second lesson may be the only way out for this once giant of Africa to get back up since global oil sales outputs have crashed.

While the Nigerian government have continued to pay lip service to its prospective revenue streams such as agriculture and entertainment (film industry in this case), these sectors have continued to thrive on the premise of private efforts majorly and with very little government participations.

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Let’s look at Nollywood after Covid 19 and some key reasons why Nigeria’s Government must start paying attention to the film industry as a matter of urgency:

A Robust Revenue Stream

Nollywood industry has evolved over the years and grown into a formidable industry in terms of revenue for Nigeria. But while the Nigerian film industry stays largest in Africa in terms of value, the number of films produced annually, in terms of revenue and popularity, India’s Bollywood is the largest movie producer in the world. However, Nollywood takes after Bollywood in the global space as 2nd largest film producer in the world, meaning that it produces more movies than America’s Hollywood.

Though in terms of film quality and revenue generation, Nollywood doesn’t compare to Bollywood or Hollywood, in 2019 Nairametrics quoted Afreximbank in its report that the Nigerian film industry generates $1 billion annually. It also says in the report that the Federal Government identifies the industry as one of its priority sectors in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

Nzekwe Henry’s article for Weetracker gives a fresh perspective of how much revenue Nollywood generates every year which leaves one to wonder.

“…It is an integral part of the arts, entertainment and recreation sector that contributed NGN 239 Bn to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016.

“And as such, it is quite fitting that the industry has just been revealed as turning in between USD 500 Mn and USD 1 Bn in revenue on a yearly basis, while also employing some 300,000 people directly and another 1 million people indirectly, the article says.

A Tool for Reshaping Public Opinion & Cultural Norms

Nollywood has found a way to infuse our rich culture and heritage into its movies without killing the storyline or making it less believable.

A typical Nollywood movie is filled with the diverseness of the African culture. Movies are what represent people outside their country; they tell our story and educate others about us. Just like in other climes, the Nigerian people have been exposed to a high range of programs and media contents which have moulded their thought patterns, belief systems and actions.

But then, the Nigerian culture has been twisted and contaminated by the interference of Western values and beliefs.

Just as movies expose, liberates, unites, reproaches, reprimands, scorns and attract attention either for positive or for negative purposes, so can it also be used to uphold cultural values visually to avoid extinction of civilization.

Just as Uchenna Onzulike 2007 puts it; since its emergence at the turn of the twenty-first century, Nigeria’s movie industry Nollywood has had a profound influence on African culture. The Nigerian accents, style of dress, and behavioural idiosyncrasies, all of which are distinctly Nigeria, are now being transmitted as images around the globe.

In Nigeria, such a role for the film industry is still evolving. Though certain factors are altering the profile of what could be regarded as the country’s culture, the film industry itself is undergoing a crucial transition as the corpus of songs, oral literature, festivals, rituals, the traditional religion, performing arts, music, dance, etc, represented in Nigerian movies.

A Useful Distraction?

It’s perceived that before, during and after the Covid 19 pandemic, the Nigerian polity seems to be at a tipping point as its teeming unemployed youth will need one form of distraction or the other to keep the country from turning into a chaotic state at any given time.

A recent example was what transpired during the lockdown where the crime rate soared as the Nigerian police were seemingly overwhelmed leading to a brazen daylight and night-time raids from the infamous robbery gang, ‘one million boys.’

Unfortunately for the robbery gang which usually came out in large numbers, they were met with strong confrontations from youths who brandished machetes, stones, knives, planks and torch lights as weapons.

This kind of reckless accord could metamorphose into a state of anarchy where idleness is fast becoming the new normal for many Nigerian youngsters.

The average Nigerian youth love movies, but due to lack of quality film productions from the stables of Nollywood, they tend to regard foreign movies more. But if Nigerians begin to watch and appreciate its own movies again, this could serve as a much-needed distraction.

Nollywood After Covid 19: Why Nigeria Must Start Paying Attention to Her Film Industry
A modern-day film studio

Job Creation

One role that every country’s film industry play is job creation. Nigeria’s Nollywood has helped to create jobs in the past and is still doing so. If the industry is properly managed, a lot of jobs could be created in the sector.

According to the Association of Movie Producers, the industry has also been able to employ over two million Nigerian youths. The government can fund movies and in that way increase the number of films produced and provide more jobs to Nigerians. The

Also, Nollywood movies can be very entertaining, the comic antics, the music, dance and stories make Nollywood stand apart from other movie industries. It is so unique that it tells the story of common and uncommon Nigerians in different settings. It portrays the life and society of our culture and it is so unique that it cannot be mistaken from other industries.

Nollywood is a gold mine and the government should take advantage of the industry because it can turn in a lot of revenue and boost the economy of the country.

Opens Economy to Tourism

Another reason why the government must start paying attention to its film industry is that it the industry inadvertently opens the economy for tourism attractions.

In the 3rd episode of Film Masterclass with Kunle Afolayan, the ace filmmaker noted that shooting the Figurine movie in Osun Osogbo groove was a place of wonder as its natural landscapes, hills and rocks were a think to behold. Such attractions draw tourist attractions due to their unique and natural ambiences

Now that we examined what Nollywood After Covid 19 can benefit Nigeria and Africa on a larger scale, let’s see some roles the government must play to grow this green sector:

Partnerships with Filmmakers

The government can help partner with filmmakers to reach a wide range of audiences while engaging and inspiring the youth. In so doing, they can support filmmakers via partnerships thereby actualizing their cultural and artistic goals in areas such as events and film productions activities.

If the government partners with filmmakers, it will increase its knowledge base of the key areas where it can better support the industry such ad understanding production flows, budget application, logistics and the likes. With these collaborations government agencies will also be more knowledgeable to provide vital support in the form of regulations for practitioners.

After Covid 19, partnerships with filmmakers can create a channel through which awareness can be created to reach new and wider audiences. It can also provide the community with new and more diverse audience talking about the diversification of Nigeria economy the government can invest in supporting filmmaking to help raise awareness of issues at hand that has been affecting or influencing the conditions of the Nation.

Building More Cinemas

Cinemas can also help in boosting the social life of a people by creating a hub for social interaction, events, shopping, etc. With its power to influence, educate, transform, recreate and create entertainment, having more cinemas will definitely play a huge role in preserving the mental well-being of the people in any given community.

Nigeria’s cinema history dates back to the late 19th century and into the colonial era in the early 20th century and is generally classified into four main eras: the Colonial era, Golden Age, Video film era and the emerging New Nigerian cinema.

Since the mid-2000s, during the decline of the video-film era, the Nigerian cinema has undergone some restructuring to promote quality in output and professionalism in the industry. The likes of Figurine 2009 by Kunle Afolayan and Tango With Me (2010) by Mahmood Ali Balogun  were widely regarded as marking major turnarounds for contemporary Nigerian cinema.

There has since been a resurgence in cinema establishments, and a steady return of the cinema culture in Nigeria. As of 2013, Nigerian cinema is rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world based on its worth and revenues generated.

But today, cinemas exist at the heart of popular business hubs across the country. Building more cinemas across Nigeria will not only grow its economy but influence the country’s modern life as it gives life to all forms of art such as music, audio, video, visuals, colours, etc. But after Covid 19, Nigeria must pay deliberate attention to its ailing film sector.

Nollywood film distributor Chukwuemeka Ejiofor in an interview with Africa Movies Hub had advocated that if the government can build cinemas in every state in Nigeria and peg movie tickets at N500 each, this can break the monopoly of the few distribution companies who currently run the cinema business as a cartel somewhat.

Providing Funding for Movie Productions

Nollywood as a growing industry needs all the support it can get. While successive and even the current government have had several intervention funding schemes for film production, it is pertinent to note that the sector still needs all the support it can get.

Under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, for instance, a Capacity Training Fund was launched. The intervention scheme named “Project ACT Nollywood was a N3 billion grant to address the challenges of production, and of training and skill acquisition. The grant had the Capacity Building Fund and the Film Production Fund.

However, like most projects in Nigeria, the Project ACT Nollywood grant has since been mired in policy complications. First, there is the seemingly trivial but significant issue of managing the Project’s website; www.projectactnollywood.com.ng which never went live.  

Secondly, the initiative inaugurated by that government had to be reassessed by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s successive government. But then, the policy reassessment led to the killing of the initiative altogether as Buhari’s administration sang a different tune that ended the program.

Nollywood After Covid 19: Why Nigeria Must Start Paying Attention to Her Film Industry

Enabling More OTT Platforms

There is a huge deficit in the film distribution chain according to veteran Nollywood actor and producer Osita Iheme. In a recent interview with The Nation, Iheme called out to investors who can help create such platforms that can offer distribution services.

“We need to have distribution outlets all over the country and I am calling for all of our people who are in the creative sector, even if you are a producer to start creating a distribution outlet, that is the way to go. Anybody can come up to create something but everybody cannot have a distribution network because it takes dedication, money, and management to handle that, we need to go into that.

“You can sit at your home and produce content where are you going to put it? Where are you going to market it? Where are you going to showcase it? not every film goes to the cinema. Those films that don’t go to the cinema, where will you distribute it?” the actor added.

In recent times technology has expanded beyond measure, as most people use the Internet more than before.The internet has, no doubt, changed how we consume content. The cost of data is getting relatively cheaper compared to the last decade. And now that the Covid 19 has hit the world making it almost impossible to gather in clusters to watch movies at the cinemas, the Over-The-Top (OTT) media services seem to be the new normal.

OTTs which are streaming media services offered directly to viewers via the Internet and are typically accessed via websites on personal computers or mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets.

Due to the Covid 19 lockdown, streaming giants Netflix recorded additional 15.77m subscribers in the first quarter of 2020 earning them a whopping 182.86 million total after the new numbers came in.

Nigeria needs enabling environment as well as encouraging government-private participation in the OTT business but the recent NBC Code which seeks to regulate exclusive and original local contents on OTTs and VoDs might be the industry’s undoing if not properly handled. 

Build Movie Hubs & Production Studios

Movie hubs are places that provide film-like experiences but then they provide much more entertainment than the regular cinemas. Movie hubs are locations where everything and anything movies take place from ideation to production, movie-viewing to distribution and distribution networking to business

They can come in form of production studios, works fields, film cafes, etc where film people meet for business discussions, team production work and basically whatever physical film activity needs.

Nigeria needs more movie hubs and the government must do all in its power to achieve that in order to grow the sector.

Grants for Smalltime Movie Entrepreneurs

Finance is important in every business and, in its absence, movie entrepreneurs with wonderful ideas risk failure or stagnation.

Unlike partnerships with filmmakers, grants should be given to small time businessmen in the industry. Small time movie makers in Nigeria have shown over time that they are the drivers of the industry as they own small production companies which make these films. They, like SMEs embark on filmmaking from their own purses or from friends and relatives. And when they cannot procure adequate funding, they end up producing low-quality films.

Providing grants for these small movie entrepreneurs will further help provide jobs, create better revenue streams and engage the teeming youths.

Let us know your thoughts on the article below in the comment section.

 

This piece was written by Entertainment, Lifestyle and Relationships Blogger, Ajoke Adetoye. 

Click on link to contact Ajoke Adetoye on Instagram or Facebook

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