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Archive for the ‘Special Entertainment Fund’ Category

The Federal Government attracted a lot of attention when it announced the creation of a $200 million “intervention” fund for creative industries two years ago. The excitement gave way to discontent when artists, musicians and filmmakers discovered the fund would go to NEXIM Bank to back loans – not grants – for the industry. Furthermore, in  something of a catch 22 scenario, the fund sought to encourage formalization in the creative industries by setting the criteria for securing loans so high that the only producers to benefit were those who already operate along ideal “formal” guidelines. See Bic Leu’s post on the matter from 2011.

At the beginning of 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan made good on a campaign promise to Nollywood and announced his plan for a N3 billion fund earmarked for the film industry. This money will be disbursed as grants to particular sectors of the industry with the aim of reshaping and boosting film production and distribution. The introduction of such a massive sum of money in the form of grants has stirred producers across Nollywood, though most still feel left in the dark with regards to how exactly the special fund will be administered.

Yesterday, as Shaibu Husseini reports in The Guardian newspaper, the Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Minister of Tourism Edem Duke signaled the release of N300 million from the president’s fund, now called Project Act Nollywood. The funds will target capacity building efforts, the ministers say. Provisions have been made for every trade involved in bringing a film to life from producing, directing, and acting, to sound engineering, lighting, and scriptwriting.

The industry should welcome whatever investment the Federal Government is willing to make, as this is the certainly the largest amount the FG has released to the industry without first channelling them through the NFC, NFVCB or other state-run institutions. I am skeptical of the effectiveness of capacity building as a means of reshaping the industry. To the contrary, it seems possible to retrench some of the uneven professional capacity that we find in Nollywood. Sound engineers, lighting gaffers, production designers and scriptwriters should be the focus of training efforts, yet will training programs produce better screenplays if scriptwriters continue to be the least respected and worst paid artists in the industry? Where in Nigeria will a sound engineer go to improve his professional skills?

The released funds, ” will give grants to existing local private institutes that offer training courses, programmes and technical certification in the movie industry.” But most training centers today focus on acting, producing, and cinematography, and are intended to recruit and introduce new professionals into the industry. Will a producer with thirty films to his or her name go back to hone their skills at one of these schools, and if so, will they learn new techniques unlike those they acquired by experience that will translate to what we see on the screen? Training centers are, after all, often run by veteran actors and producers. What would be the effect of revamping the programs offered at the NFI, I wonder, to shift the focus of its curriculum away from an older cinematic style and toward the unique style of production practiced in Nollywood?

We should all be asking, as the FG continues to reveal details about how it is administering the Project Act Nollywood funds, how does this solve matters of distribution and financing in a way that makes the industry better able to stand on its own after the fund is exhausted.

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A Nigerian Endowment for the Arts could help fund film productions like Tunde Kelani's 'Ma'ami'. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

With the recent announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) for film industry development, the question of access to funding in Nollywood is once again a hot topic in the entertainment sector.

SMEDAN Director General Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar stated that the MOU aimed to create opportunities for small businesses to grow in the film industry, especially in regards to youth employment, revenue generation, poverty reduction and social stability in the country. SMEDAN, he said, would support the NFC with funding windows available to Nigerian entrepreneurs such as the SME credit guarantee scheme introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the funding scheme of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND).

This topic was reiterated during the Silverbird premiere last Wednesday of Communicating for Change’s documentary on Nigerian artists, RedHot Nigerian Creativity, and then again during a recent conversation I had with The Guardian on Sunday editor Jahman Anikulapo.  Anikulapo suggested that instead of transient initiatives like the SMEDAN/NFC MOU or the current $USD 200 million Special Entertainment Fund that is administered by the Bank of Industry, the Federal Government should set up a permanent institution dedicated to creative industries development like the US National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).

The NEA is an American independent federal agency that receives annual appropriations from the US Congress to award grants and fellowships to creative industry professionals and organizations in such areas as Arts Education, Dance, Literature, Museums, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. At present, the NEA awards more than 2,500 grants and cooperative agreements exceeding $USD 130 million. Since its establishment in 1965, the NEA has awarded over $USD 4 billion in grants to develop and sustain the American creative industries.

Anikulapo further proposed that setting aside 1% of the annual Companies Income Tax paid to the Federal Government could fund the Nigerian NEA and that a government-appointed committee of art experts could be tasked with evaluating each grant proposal.

What do you think of Anikulapo’s idea to counter the neglect of the creative industries in Nigeria by setting up a sustainable grant-making agency? What can be adapted from this American model to work within the Nigerian context? What type of framework needs to put in place to ensure that the grant-dispersal is free and fair?

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When President Goodluck Jonathan announced the federal investment of $200 million (N30 billion) into the development of the entertainment industry in November 2010, he sent shock waves of disbelief through Nollywood. Last week, Goodluck’s promise appeared to be on the road to actualization when Minister of Finance Olusegun Aganga announced that the $200 million–now known as the Special Entertainment Fund–will be distributed by the Bank of Industry (BOI) as single-digit interest rate loans. The Lagos Business School will provide “entrepreneurial capacity training” for beneficiaries of the Fund. As of January 17, the on-line application for the Fund became available on-line: http://www.boinigeria.com.

When I spoke to Madu Chikwendu, Regional Secretary of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), he was enthusiastic about the Fund’s pioneering status: “I think what’s important is that the fund is even there in the first place. It’s never happened before, since the first year of Independence. I don’t know anywhere in the world where any government has brought this amount of money for the industry.”

However, I failed to find any mention of the Special Entertainment Fund when I browsed the BOI website yesterday and today. I used the site’s search engine and reviewed each page for any information relating to the Fund several times, but was not successful.  The closest item that I encountered to an application was an interactive feature on the home page explaining “3 Easy Steps to Accessing BOI’s facilities”:

Step 1: Collection of BOI’s forms/A formal Application letter

Step 2: Completion of BOI’s Questionnaire

Step 3: Submission of BOI’s Questionnaire

There was no explanation of what these “facilities” entailed. In addition, none of the steps linked to any forms, or dispensed information on how to fill out such forms, or even where to submit them!

For the sake of fulfilling President Jonathan’s original promise to “grow Nigeria’s entertainment industry into a world-class one”, I hope that the BOI will fix this website glitch shortly.

Have any of you been able to successfully apply to the Special Entertainment Fund?

[Update: January 20, 2011] I spoke to Afolabi Adesanya, Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, and hard copies of the application should be available at the BOI head office (address below). Please let me know if anyone is successful in picking these up.

23, Marina,
P.O.BOX  2357, Lagos
Tel: 01 2715070-99
E-mail: info@boinigeria.com

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