NOLLYWOOD: The Problems Behind The Scene 

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By George Onmonya Daniel

Viewers at home would never imagine the pain people go through in making the movies they watch and the people behind these movies who are mostly not the Mercy Johnson, Ramsey Noah, Genevieve and Ali Nuhu of this world, even though today some actors have gone into production.

After President Muhammadu Buhari instructed his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to ensure that entertainment, arts, fashion and all creative Industry are included in the 2017 budget; I personally picked interest in Nollywood.

That took me to Asses Garden, Opposite Garki Hospital, Abuja, a location serving as convergent point for Abuja actors. I was keen on talking to the FCT chapter Chairman of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Chief Onwurah Agility Ezeoke, the Vice Chairman Association of Movie Producer, Mr. Ken Awoji, Producer and Actor, Mr. Aik Odiase, and the gorgeous female actress and producer, Barrister Chinyere Onah.

The trio of Odiase, Awoji and Onah are the biggest producers of movies in the city and have come together to make Abuja a film-making destination to create employment for the teeming talented youths in Abuja and environs.

These experts have shot major works like ‘My Pain’, ‘Genesis’, ‘Inbox’, and the movie on Boko Haram to promote the Nigerian Police but it seem the movie ‘Conscripted’ is having some problems. Although the censor’s board has approved Conscripted, SilverBird has refused to show it in their Cinemas, and then, DSTV is scared to buy it and so that movie is stuck.

But why? In the movie that was shot over two years ago, the Senate President was the man behind Boko Haram, as such, no one wants to have much to do with Conscripted in a Nigeria where politicians are accusing each other of being sponsors of the dreaded sect, but if the censor’s board has approved it, why all the fuss?

The movie is not the problem but lack of fund; it is the unwillingness of banks invest in movie production and unwillingness of the federal government to open up the means to access funds by movie makers.

This way, film makers are forced to depend on their lean budgets, mostly soft loans from friends, family and associates to do their job which itself signal the beginning of the problem.

Selling movies have become a huge challenge and the DSTV keeps under-price their while online websites like Iroko TV, Ibaka TV, who offer more than DSTV still down play on the price. “For instance you shoot a film with three million and you have DSTV pricing for five hundred thousand, can you believe it? And high quality movie for that matter,” Aik Odiase lamented.

On his part, Ken Awoji complained about the limited Cinemas; he wants the federal government to build Cinemas and encourage state governments to replicate same in every local government to help movie makers in areas of premiering their films.

He complained about the federal government relocating the Film Village to Kano where it had been rejected before relocated to Kaduna.

Awoji said DSTV has come to destroy the industry and have constituted itself as a major clog to movie producers. He said he did a personal research and found out that out of ten people who buy CDs and DVDs before, only three out of ten buy because of the advent of the likes of GoTV, thereby harming the business for marketers who risked the venture few years back and control the sale of movies.

Awoji lamented that there was no consultation between government and Nollywood before decision to move the Village to Kano; “These areas are crisis prone areas, the Film Village should have been brought to the FCT where all Nigerians would have access to it and benefit from it.”

Onah in her views regretted that government does not believe in the industry in spite of painstaking   personal sacrifice by movie makers in building Nollywood to become third largest movie industry in the world.

Abuja Chairman of AGN, Chief Agility Onwurah Ezeoke on his own part said government is unaware of their existence in view of a statement credited to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed who said in a town hall meeting that there was no Nollywood in Abuja. The federal government mostly does not do business with the Abuja actors but Lagos.

“Is it not because they don’t know you people?” I asked him.

“We have written severally but they have never responded, they know us.”

Marx Kayode Adden, an actor and member of the Guild said he agreed with the Minister; “Yes, they know Lagos actors, everybody knows Lagos, they are on television, we are not on television as much as they are, so the government would of course do business with the celebrities.

“It is not the government’s fault but that of the Actors Guild. If the guild is united like those in Lagos, we would be contacted before they come here and invite us whenever they are engaged here”.

Despite all the fuss, the interest of Abuja movie makers have no waned as they continue to press forward with the sector they invest their passion unhindered.