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Archive for the ‘Distribution’ Category

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L-R: Ambassador Rick Barton, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, U.S. Department of State; Jeffrey Hawkins, U.S. Consul General in Lagos; Jeta Amata. © 2014 Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com

It has been five years since the inception of this blog and everything has come full circle. This evening, I went to the U.S. Department of State to attend a screening of Dawn in the Creeks: A Niger Delta Legacy, a reality series directed by Jeta Amata. It was beyond serendipitous to witness this collaboration between my current employer and my past research passion.

Nigeria is important for its promise.” U.S. Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins cited Nigeria’s economic and population supremacy in Africa when he talked about the right time to address the “negative narrative that violence pays.” Dawn in the Creeks follows 21 Niger Delta youths – ranging from okada drivers to ex-militants – selected by Amata to go through filmmaking and leadership training to make movies on non-violent resolution. Per the State Department, “Their films tell true stories of non-violent transformation and challenge the narrative that violence is a predominant legacy for the Niger Delta.” This project was the result of a yearlong collaboration among the Bureau of African Affairs, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, Amata, and the Niger Delta Legacy Board of Advisors.

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With Jeta Amata. © 2014 Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com

Amata was emphatic on the power of the film industry to change attitudes and affect lives: “Our problem in Nigeria is that we have no way of expressing ourselves, which builds up a lot of anger. I wanted to give [the youths] a way to tell their own stories and how best to send a message than Nollywood?”

Hawkins mentioned an unprecedented poll of 3,000 households in the Delta is being rolled out to monitor and evaluate the impact of the program in changing communities’ perspectives. However, the biggest measure of sustainability would be if the project could continue without the monetary support of the U.S. government – which brings the discussion back to the twin Nollywood conundrums of funding and distribution. Amata, who has already signed on for the second season, believes that the key to monetization lies in building the series’ brand, which is being strengthened daily by millions of Nigerians viewers across eight national TV channels.  On a personal note, I am impressed by the Department’s creative deployment of “soft diplomacy,” but it is unclear how the project can continue without USG funds.  What do you think – how can Dawn in the Creeks become self-sustainable?

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Kunle Afolayan, Gov. Babatunde Raji Fashola, Tunde Kelani (L-R) at the National Film Development Corporation of India in Mumbai.

Nigerians and Nollywood producers alike are outrageously underserved by the nation’s existing cinemas. A quick glance at the industry’s Indian cousin, Bollywood, proves my point. In Nigeria today, there are just over 50 screens for a population of some 150 million. That makes the ratio of screens per capita something like 1 screen per 3 million Nigerians. As Tunde Kelani discovered on his recent trip to Mumbai, Indian has nearly 13,000 theater screens serving its 1.2 billion citizens, or 1 screen per 100,000 viewers. When I spoke to Kelani upon his return, he was clearly struck by India’s love for cinema. He heard it rumored that 15 million people visit the cinema in India every day. To put that in perspective, that would be like every Lagosian from Ojo to Ikorodu to Ajah visiting the cinema every day.

Why is this important for Nollywood producers to know? The answer is simple. When Kelani and Kunle Afolayan met with India’s National Film Development Corporation, the director informed them that they no longer permit a film to stay in cinemas for 25 days as was once the custom. This is because a film in India can make its cost-of-production investment back in a single weekend. With nearly every major producer in the Nigerian industry struggling today to recuperate their cost of production and, having secured that, find financing for a follow project, Nollywood should be asking itself what it can learn from Bollywood.

A note of caution is in order, however. To premier one’s film at any of the six cinemas around Lagos does not ensure a film financial success. At best, a producer will supplement the bulk of their earnings, which still come from DVD/VCD sales within Nigeria. At worst, one’s investment in publicity and premier will exceed ticket sales.

A lesson Nollywood producers might learn from Bollywood: cinema is a numbers game. With the six cinemas in Lagos, and the six or seven cinemas across the South that premier or screen Nollywood films, a producer can never make significant box office revenue. Cinema remains an unreliable distribution platform that cannot yet supplant the marketplace-based distribution of home video. For Bollywood, however, the sheer number of screens and spectators has made cinemas the foundation grounding its industry.

Nigeria needs screens. Not every cinema needs to be a Silverbird or a Genesis cinemaplex. As I will post tomorrow, one screen per theater was the norm for the old cinema halls that have largely been converted to churches but still spot Lagos’s cityscape. Is it possible that Nigerian investors could explore the potential of innumerable, low-cost one- and two-screen theaters across Nigeria?

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Collaborative exercise underway between screenwriter, director, and cinematographer participants.

Collaborative exercise underway between screenwriter, director, and cinematographer participants.

In the business of film seminar, participants will be engaging with Kunle Afolayan today, who will be speaking on his recent handling of the DVD release of The Figuring, and the negotiations with OHBox for the online broadcasting of his latest film, Phone Swap. I think this should be an invigorating class today, as we will also be hearing from a representative of Iroko TV, the online platform for Nollywood boardcast.

Today the participants look forward to putting the principles developed over the last three days into practice. The screenwriters will be pitching their works to the business of film seminar participants. In the mean time, the directors have received copies of the scripts and are already underway storyboarding and scheduling the shoots. I still see the cinematography crews shooting on sites around the training center. All the participants are clearly excited to see what they have collaboratively produced over the course of the week. All will be unveiled tomorrow, on the final day of the workshops.

Personally, it has been encouraging to see the intense competitiveness inherent to Nollywood slowly dissolving over the last three days into a generally collaborative learning environment. Without any over-sentimentality here, I want to emphasize the degree that collaboration between the Nollywood professionals in attendance has and can continue to benefit the industry’s stakeholders. The American trainers must be commended for bringing some thought-provoking ideas to the table, especially in the business of film seminar where Nollywood professionals need to start thinking imaginatively about strategies of distribution that have never been tried before in Nigeria. However, the trainers leave in two days, and yet the discussion on Nollywood’s future will continue among the participants and stakeholders.

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(R-L) Tunde Kelani, Kunle Afolayan, Jamiu Shoyode, Aimee Corrigan meeting outside the classrooms of Nollywood UP.

(R-L) Tunde Kelani, Kunle Afolayan, Jamiu Shoyode, Aimee Corrigan meeting outside the classrooms of Nollywood UP.

We are in the third day of training sessions for Nollywood UP, the capacity building program designed by Nollywood Workshops and CONGA President Bond Emeruwa, and backed by the Lagos State Government. Today, Nigerian film professionals will be holding seminars on acting, screenwriting, directing, production design, cinematography, and the business of film production. Later today, the screenwriters will be pitching their projects to the business of film professionals. The cinematographers have been shooting footage throughout the week, and I am very excited to see what they have put together. All in all, the workshops are getting Nollywood professionals to talk to one another about how they can experiment, take creative risks, and explore novelty in the industry. Lagos State Government has been represented at the event by Moji Rhodes, Governor Fashola’s deputy chief of staff.

I want to emphasize the efforts the organizers have made to frame their project such that it consciously avoids creating a hierarchy between American and Nigerian filmmaking. On day one, I was very happy to see Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the head of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), teaching the business of film seminar about low-capital strategies to keep one step ahead of piracy. On the second day, veteran filmmaker Tunde Kelani took to the classroom to teach students production management techniques that were, in my opinion, extremely practical specifically for Nigerian filmmakers. The challenges that Nigeria’s environment throws in one’s way are unlike those challenges faced by the American trainers, so it has been a real strength of Nollywood UP that figures like Tunde Kelani, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, and Kunle Afolayan have agreed to supplement the curriculum with their own knowledge and expertise.

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About a month ago, the folks at Nollywood Workshops announced, in conjunction with the Lagos State government (LSG) and Innovate Lagos, a very promising project for the formalization and ongoing advancement of Nollywood film production. The aptly named Nollywood Upgrade Project is poised, now, to make a real impact on the state of financing, distribution, and production in Nollywood. All the right parties are involved including LSG, Nollywood Workshops, the Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Associations (CONGA), a number of Hollywood filmmakers, as well as some of Nollywood’s finest talent like Tunde Kelani and Kunle Afolayan.

In recent years, Nollywood has seen a handful of projects aimed at formalizing key aspects of the industry (financing, distribution, technique), but with mixed success.

Nollywood UP stands apart for its focus on the core of the industry, its veteran filmmakers, those who hold the skills needed to make significant adjustments to the way films are created in Nigeria. This is a promising opportunity for any interested filmmakers, and I strongly encourage industry stakeholders to get involved.

I am pasting the call for applications below:

Apply now!

Lagos State Government/Nollywood UP Training December 3 – 7, 2012.

http://www.nollywoodup.com

The Lagos State Government – through the INNOVATE LAGOS project and Nollywood Workshops – are pleased to announce the launch of the first phase of the Nollywood Upgrade Project (Nollywood UP). The Nollywood UP Training will be held in Lagos for 100 Nollywood professionals from December 3rd – 7th, 2012. Applications close November 20th, 2012.

The training is free for all attendees. The Nollywood UP Training Application is now live at http://www.nollywoodup.com

Nollywood UP will invite selected applicants to participate in workshops including Cinematography, Screenwriting, Post-Production, Directing, Sound, Acting and The Business of Film and Distribution, taught by leading global film professionals. Filmmakers will be selected to participate through a competitive and transparent application process that considers their experience, skills and willingness to train others in the industry. The Nollywood UP Training will serve to strengthen the industry and support Nigerian filmmakers to withstand the impact of piracy.

The Nollywood UP Training has been designed in partnership with Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Associations (CONGA) to address current gaps in the Nollywood’s capacity. Heads of Guilds and industry stakeholders had a major input in the design of the training curriculum to ensure maximum relevance for the industry.

The Training will consist of Master Classes that cover key elements of directing, camera, lighting, sound, producing and the creative process, along with new strategies in financing and distribution, helping filmmakers harness the power of digital video to achieve high quality results. “Cutting edge training satisfies both the need to raise production quality and to capitalize on new distribution opportunities, while increasing professionalism and growth throughout the industry. Our training will also present an opportunity for Nigerian filmmakers to collaborate with peers from Hollywood and other film industries”, said Bond Emeruwa, Chairman of CONGA.

The training is organized by Nollywood Workshops, a global NGO that empowers independent filmmaking through training and production. The Nollywood UP Training team includes seasoned Hollywood and Nollywood filmmakers and film educators, including Tunde Kelani, Kunle Afolayon, Cinematographer Ed Gutentag (credits include War of the Worlds, Austin Powers, Forrest Gump), Actor Ekpenyong “Kepy” Bassey-Inyang, Screenwriter Lee Zlotoff (MacGyver), and Producer Robert Caputo (National Geographic) among others. Stay tuned to www.nollywoodup.com for ongoing news about Nollywood UP Training staff and highlights. 

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Yinka Olatunbosun’s article “Searchlight on Intellectual Property” in This Day newspaper (Oct 14, 2012) describes a recent meeting on the issue of intellectual property rights held by the Nigerian Copyright Commission, academics, and apparently filmmakers (not questioned or quoted, but pictured on the website). Distinguished Professor of intellectual property law Adebamo Adewopo “observed that the effort of NCC in ridding the industry of piracy at Alaba, Onitsha and other parts of the country has invariably giving way to the new digital market online where indiscriminate downloads of songs, videos, pictures and other creative works now thrive. This development, he said,’requires a sound copyright law and a well focused enforcement strategy to reflect the current dynamics that rely on copyright system.’”

The challenge of re-writing the law to reflect the needs of Nigerian filmmakers and that of enforcing the law is a monumental one. What this article fails to note is that enforcement of copyright protection can aslo stifle Nollywood professionals. Does anyone remember the Censors Board’s hologram solution by which every video sold would require a hologram stamp from the Censors Board verifying its authenticity. Of course, each stamp costs the producers a fee.

Changing the law is one matter, but changing the delivery systems for Nigerian films is another promising path to follow. Filmmakers I have recently been speaking with seem more interested in the development of small-scale cinemas within Lagos. The solution is localized to Lagos State, but having the infrastructure in place could benefit all filmmakers seeking to recuperate their production costs.

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In another sign of Lagos State’s continued support of Nollywood, the L.S. government announces the Nollywood Upgrade Project, “an initiative to support sustainable growth in the Nigerian Film Industry through training, capacity building and innovation in film financing and distribution.” The initiative also seeks solutions piracy, though this release is short on details as to what solutions Nollywood UP proposes. There are several other promising partners for the project, including Innovate Lagos and Nollywood Workshops. Some might remember Nollywood Workshops from the feature-length documentary This Is Nollywood shot in collaboration with Nollywood filmmaker Bond Emeruwa.

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