Tuesday, May 12, 2015 3:09 pm
Wale Adenuga, seasoned television producer and Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) meets with some select journalists where he shares his thoughts on the Nigerian film industry, piracy and how the actresses in the industry make their money. FUNSHO AROGUNDADE was there
You recently called a parley to discuss the issue around the Nigerian film industry. What informed this?
The parley was all about how to make the best of the enormous potentials of the film industry in Nigeria. As someone who has been in this industry for close to four decades, I called the meeting to share my opinion on how to make the best of our industry and lay a solid foundation for unborn generations who may be interested in the business of filmmaking.
Can you share with us some of the challenges you noticed that necessitated the parley?
Seemingly, these should be the best of times for Nollywood as the filmmaking business in Nigeria has come to be known. When the national economy was rebased in April last year, Nollywood was said to have contributed 1.2 per cent to the new Gross Domestic Products. The GDP was N80.2 trillion (US$509.9 billion), which means that Nollywood added about N1.72trillion to the revised GDP for 2013. The business of filmmaking in Nigeria, which is amongst the first three in the world, has also become a major source of employment for our teeming youths, a reason for which we believe that we have a lot to celebrate. But a keener assessment of the situation in the industry would show that we just have a lot of glitter without substance. While the industry has enormous potential that could benefit our nation and her people, there are a couple of challenges militating against the appropriate positioning for filmmaking in Nigeria.
But the major challenge is the silent war that is going on among producers of the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups over the history of filmmaking in Nigeria. I imagine that this is at the root of all other problems as a house divided against itself cannot stand much less make progress. A corollary to the foregoing is the unhealthy situation in which we now have Igbos, Yorubas and Hausas operating separately under the aegis of Nollywood, Yorubawood and Kannywood respectively. Even within these groups, we still have infighting and misunderstanding over leadership. In spite of these lack of cohesion however, each of the woods has its own guilds where separatism is very apparent in their dealings especially casting.
But there are various guilds that have members across all the ethnic divides…
Their problem is lack of umbrella association. Our industry is the only one in Nigeria where you do not have a national body or association. We cannot boast of a national association of filmmakers, the way that doctors talk about their Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), lawyers talk about the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and you gentlemen of the press have the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). It is true that we have all manners of guilds but these are all based on the sentiments that I described earlier. I am persuaded to believe that our inability to come together under an umbrella is one of the reasons why we have some of the problems that detract from the development of the business in Nigeria.
Could that also be responsible for some of the poor productions viewers are assailed with?
Of course the all-comers nature of the business of filmmaking in Nigeria is the reason for the low quality of a lot of our films. We do not have any quality control mechanism. This has resulted in loss of confidence by patrons over and over again.
What do you think could be responsible for the lack of unity among filmmakers?
I have a feeling that I am not the only one thinking about the urgent need for us to have a national body for filmmakers but this has not worked because of the interest of some people who exploit the poorly constituted guilds for their personal needs. Such individuals nurse the fear that they will lose out in a democratic environment and will continue to do everything to resist change. Some people will also not support the initiative unless they are sure that they would emerge as leaders.
They consider the leadership of any such association their birthright and would not support its establishment unless they are assured of the opportunity to lead. This is the time for everyone to put all personal ambitions aside and let us all work together for an industry which would be a befitting legacy for our children.
Many of your fans have expressed concerns that you have not produced any movie in a very long time aside your various television sitcoms. Did you have issues with the movie segment of the industry?
I have no problem shooting movies but under this present situation, I do not consider it viable to produce a film. As things are now, you can hardly make your money if you shoot any movie. The few people who have succeeded like Kunle Afolayan, Emem Isong and others, they are lucky to have some big sponsors who invested into their creativity. Aside that, the risk is too much. This is not a business that you approach banks for a loan. You could hardly break even not to talk of paying back your loan. The environment is too hostile and unfriendly. May be later when things get better we can.
What is your thought on the growing menace of piracy in the country?
That is part of the challenges that make me keep my distance from film productions. Piracy has nearly killed the industry and there is no structure in place to deal with the problem. We have a lot of scripts in our office to churn out many box office hit films but this piracy issue is restraining us. We have also not been able to fight the hydra-headed monster due to our inability to speak with one voice. Even though, the problem is global, Nigeria’s case is becoming too extreme. A recent survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC revealed that nine out of 10 copies of Nigerian films are pirated. This has frustrated so many practitioners to the extent that many have jumped out of the boat to join politics or take up some other form of employment. The real passion for acting is fast becoming a thing of the past. A lot of our actors are moving into other ventures the moment they become popular. But the truth is that less than 10 percent of practitioners make money from filmmaking. Majority of those actors, especially the ladies who parade Lekki houses and posh cars acquired those properties from other sources aside filmmaking.
What do you think can be done to arrest this scourge?
I am of the opinion that a major reason for the level of piracy is the direct to home video format. Government should therefore ensure that the cinema culture is promoted by the three tiers of government all over the country. I will suggest the establishment of cinemas in all the 774 local councils in the country. If producers have the opportunity to screen their films all over the country, before releasing them on home video, piracy would be greatly reduced. It is also important that we have a review of the Copyright Law in line with modern realities. This will ensure that pirates receive punishments commensurate with their crime. Also, I believe there is power in unity. I think the urgent formation of a national body of filmmakers is one thing that we cannot avoid if we are serious about making the best out of the industry.
The national executive of the association will then be able to work with government at all levels and corporate bodies on issues affecting the industry like piracy and funding. Such a body would be in a position to lobby for the review of laws guiding piracy and ensure that government funding gets into the right hands through the state or zonal offices.