Nollywood veterans Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva have called for better structures and stricter regulations to help boost film making in Nigeria.
In a recent interview with Tofarati Ige of Punch, the thespians explained that members ought to pay membership fees and be properly registered to grow a database so as to grow the industry.
In the interview, Olu Jacobs said he made up his mind to go into acting when he was about seven or eight years old back in Kano State after watching Nigerian legend Hubert Ogunde live on stage.
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“I was quite young–about seven or eight– back then in Kano State and I was sent on an errand by my parents. When I got outside (the house), I saw a lively crowd, going from street to street. I waited a bit and saw that they were giving leaflets to people, so I collected one.
“When I got home, I showed the leaflet to my mum but she was not impressed. I asked her to let us go and see the play that was advertised but she kept giving different excuses. I told her me and my siblings had cleaned everything and done all the house chores. But, she still refused. I continued begging her until my dad said we could go,” Jacobs said.
The actors who have 78 years’ wealth experience between them stressed the need for quality training and exposure which will boost film making in Nigeria.
“I remember what happened the first time I left for England. Over there, they have an organised system. It is not like in Nigeria where anybody can be a production manager. There, you have to apply before you would be interviewed (for the job).
“Then, a ‘part-time’ friend of mine came around to show off. He had just done a show with the BBC. I asked if he could connect me with anybody (there). He then called the manager’s phone. He was told that the only chance I had was to attend an audition that was very close and would start at 8 am, so I had to be there at 7 am. Then, I didn’t have an agent and my friend said I had to have one.
“So, I called a particular agent and told him I wanted to audition. He said he would grant the audition and asked who sent me (to him). On the day of the audition, I was there before 7 am. I eventually auditioned and we did the interview. After that, I went to the agent’s place. He was surprised. He just said, “You are good”. I can never forget that.”
“There should be structures and stricter regulations. Everybody in the industry ought to pay membership fees (and other levies). All filmmakers, actors, make-up artists and all other allied professions in the industry should be properly registered. And there should be a solid database.”
Sharing their thoughts on the current quality of young talents in nollywood, they explained that the current crop must let acting flow naturally work hard and strive to be better.
“They are trying but they can do more. They are still behaving like they are acting but gradually, I believe they would calm down. Acting has to appear effortless and seamless; that’s why it’s called make-belief.”
They stressed the need for film making in Nigeria to have better quality with regards to bigger budgets, as low budget movies never gets the job done.
“There is an audience for the work but as the audience has got larger, instead of the budget to get bigger, so we can do more quality work, the budget is actually shrinking. I don’t get it.
“You may say that VCDs don’t have a market in other parts of the world but there is a huge market for them in Africa. We refuse to sanction the bad behaviour of pirates. And because of that, a very lucrative area of the revenue stream in the continent has been denied the producer/creator of the works. Where we are now, people are just churning out stories. Sometimes, the budgets are as low as N1.5million to shoot a film. That’s not good enough.
They bemoaned the challenge being currently with film making in Nigeria – the issue of brain drain, “…that the films are predictable is because of the undervaluing of the work. Some of the biggest commissioning platforms that we have, are commissioning at N5million. That way, the industry cannot be sustained and all the good hands would be lost. They would go to places that value their works. It’s that simple!”
They signalled that the government and corporate organisations must pay heed to funds, quality productions and training for the industry to thrive.
“In several ways and they are doing some of that already. They are making facilities, such as loans, available. But there are other areas that can also be looked into. The government can intervene in several ways. It is an ecosystem. When it comes to the funding of the industry, there has to be loans, grants and equities.
“Lagos State, for instance, is doing a lot of training and employment but as much as they are concerned about quantity in the area of impact, they should also be concerned about quality (in terms of impact).
“The entertainment industry is the only one where you are expected to train people in a month. Other industries train people for as much as two years. I think that shows a lot of disrespect for the industry. For people to be properly grounded, anything less than nine months is a fallacy, especially when you are bringing new people into the industry. For me, new people shouldn’t even be trained for nothing less than two years. It is the people who have an idea of the industry that can be trained for nine months.
As regards what will help grow Nollywood, the old-timers advised that Nigerian film industry practitioners and the government must synergize to the film making in Nigeria.
“We should get our industry so strong and tell our stories in such a powerful way that it would be impossible to ignore (us). We have a huge market and it cuts across all continents.
“However, I honestly think that we have to step up our game in terms of quality. When training people for the industry, we shouldn’t do it for the sake of just having many actors, cinematographers, etc. Rather, they should be so highly skilled that they would be sought after all over the world. All through the value chain in film production, we should strive to be the best that we can be.
“The reason we have companies like Netflix in Nigeria is that they know there is an audience for our work. Our huge population should be a market advantage for us but it isn’t yet because we are poor. Is it a man that doesn’t know what he would eat that would subscribe to Netflix? That’s not possible.
“We need to make it possible for the majority of our people to have the right kind of income that can afford services like that. Right now, it is the minority of people that can ‘spare’ money for such,” they said.
Olu and Joke argued that part of the reasons why Nigerian film industry practitioners are always soliciting for funds for one challenge or the other is that film making in Nigeria is not as lucrative in developed parts of the world where the film industry has several revenue streams and their works are valued.
“The (film) industry in so many other parts of the world has several revenue streams for every piece of work. In Nigeria, actors don’t get that. As an actor, one is supposed to get residuals (payments) from all the productions one has been involved in. but how can that even be possible when the entire budget of a film here is not up to the take-home pay of an international actor?
“Part of it is our fault in the industry because we have undervalued our work. However, there are some people who know better but because of their bottom line, they are taking advantage. I think that is where the government needs to come in. Imagine the same platform that commissions films for Nigeria and South Africa doing it at different prices (with Nigeria’s own being lower). Yet, our (Nigerian) stories are the ones selling the platforms.