By – Montage Media Africa
“Started from the bottom now we here…” that is a line from the 2013 popular song “Started From the Bottom” by Canadian hip-hop artiste Drake. That line best describes the Nigerian Film Industry; the Industry can be likened to a child that has made it against all odds even without the support of his parents, a true “American dream” or in this case “Nigerian dream”.
What started as an industry perceived to be for drop outs and youths that had nothing serious to offer, today commands the respect of the nation. The early 90’s saw the rejuvenation of the film industry with films like Living in Bondage, Nneka the Pretty Serpent, Rattle Snake and actors like Richard Mofe Damijo, Hilda Dokubo, Fred Amata and Saint Obi pioneered this rejuvenation. This group of people were largely responsible for an industry that today makes an estimated annual revenue of $590 million. Presently, Nollywood has risen to the number two position behind India’s Bollywood in the global film market in terms of volume of production and third in terms of revenue making behind Hollywood and Bollywood. A publication by the United Nations (Africa Renewal) stated in its May 2013 edition that the African film industry in which Nollywood is by far the most dominant, would contribute significantly to the expected 5.2% GDP growth projection for the continent. Pretty interesting projections for an industry that struggled to attract the interest of financiers and had to rely on angel investors and personal finance of a few people within the industry to keep it going.
So how did the industry get this “big”? – Evolution. From a time when films were produced on DV tapes and standard definition, it has now evolved to using Digital format and shooting on high definition. A few movies have even been shot on 35mm celluloid, movies like Jeta Amata’s 2006 Amazing Grace which was the first home video to be shot on celluloid and Chineze Anyaene’s 2010 movie Ije (The Journey).
With the cinema culture in the country rekindled, the standard of our movies improved. Today we can boost of box office success at the cinemas. Movies like Kunle Afolayan’s 2008 The Figurine, Mildred Okwo’s 2012 The Meeting, Muhydeen Ayinde’s 2008 comedy drama “Jenifa” and Obi Emelonye’s “Last Flight to Abuja” are just a few of the movies that have done very well in the cinemas with Ayo Makun’s/Robert Peters’ 2014 “30 days in Atlanta” topping the list by making over N100 million (the highest grossing movie in Nigerian cinemas so far). The budget for production of movies have also increased, N330 million was spent on producing Kunle Afolayan’s October 1 making it currently the most expensive Nigerian movie produced.
Our actors and movies are now recognised around the world winning various awards, actors like Genevieve Nnaji and Ramsey Nouah have been guests on CNN’s African Voices while Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Joke Silva and Kenneth Okonkwo are UN ambassadors in various capacities.
Despite this success story, a number of issues still impedes the industry from attaining its full potential, notably amongst them is piracy. Research shows that for every single copy of film sold legitimately, there are 5 to 10 copies sold by pirates, for an industry that produces an average of 50 movies per week, this is alarming. Other challenges include poor production standards, poor marketing and distribution and meagre professional hands in the art of film making.
The government has started to take a serious look at the industry and hopefully with the necessary policies and structure in place things are bound to improve. During the 30th anniversary of Silverbird Organisation in 2010, former President Goodluck Jonathan made the sum of $200 million worth of grant available to the industry. “Make more movies, write and produce more hit songs, provide jobs and give hope to our people.” He said.
Even though it is not certain how many people are employed in the Nigerian movie industry because of its fragmented and mostly informal structure, it is estimated that by 2018, the industry will have the capacity to employ one fourth of Nigeria’s youth population.
In conclusion, the words of Winston Churchill comes to mind “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts” The Nigerian Film Industry is a true reflection of that.