Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

20140910_192104

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.

20140910_194327

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?

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

(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.

Read Full Post »

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. 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

I would like to thank culture journalist Derin Ajao for her very comprehensive profile of my work in the Daily Times last week, the publication of which marked more than 18 months since I first set foot in Nollywood. As I begin a new job next week, it seems to be the right time to retire this blog.  I hope that FindingNollywood.com continues to serve as a resource and a discussion platform for Nigerian cinema enthusiasts in the years to come.


A Nollywood adventure
Fulbright Scholar and film researcher Bic Leu talks to Aderinsola Ajao about finding and loving Nollywood.

ARTICLE | MARCH 2, 2012 – 6:21AM | BY ADERINSOLA AJAO

Stumbling on a Nigerian movie in Ghana set Bic Leu on an exploration to Nollywood. For the young American studying abroad, the films she saw back in 2005 would leave a lasting impression on her even after her graduation from Tufts University, where she studied Art History, Business and African Studies. The economic recession and a stint at the New York-based Museum of Modern Art would seal the inevitable return to Africa; this time to Nigeria, to find out more about the booming film industry.

“From what I knew of Nollywood, it was started by Nigerian entrepreneurs without any government support or any kind of international aid, or any type of formal sector intervention. I thought that was fascinating and I was just wondering at that moment – about 2008, 2009 – why it wasn’t getting the international recognition that it deserved. I really (wanted) to explore that more as an alternative mode of development and to move away from that traditional aid model and towards more sustainable market initiative,” Leu said.

Applying for and receiving a Fulbright grant was, for her, “the perfect way” to realise that dream. Leu hailed her mentors at Tufts as being “very knowledgeable” about Nigerian film and providing her with helpful information prior to her departure. With everything else in place, Leu contacted Duro Oni, Theatre Arts Professor and Dean, Faculty of Arts at the University of Lagos, who agreed to sponsor her.

TOUCHDOWN

In September 2010, Bic Leu arrived in Nigeria and Mission: Nollywood was well on its way.  “It was so much more than I expected,” enthused Leu, whose Nollywood adventure is recorded on the weblog ‘FindingNollywood.com’. “When I landed in Lagos, I didn’t know anybody. I was here because of that curiosity, that passion to discover how the film industry works. ‘I don’t actually have any plans in place! What am I going to do?!’” she thought.

It however proved a smooth ride for the inquisitive scholar as she was easily accepted on film sets. “The practitioners are so open to outsiders coming in and learning about it. The level of hospitality that I’ve been shown has been really overwhelming. I can’t go to Hollywood and knock on Stephen Spielberg’s door and say “Hi, I’m Bic, I’m a scholar and I would like to follow your set for a couple of weeks. I probably won’t even get that far; I’d probably meet with the assistant to an assistant to an assistant…” joked Leu.

Within two weeks of her arrival, Leu was in touch with Nollywood scholar and professor, Onookome Okome, who was doing a sabbatical at the Pan African University in Lagos. Okome linked her up with ace filmmaker, Tunde Kelani, who was then shooting Maami. “That was a great start,” said Leu, of her first location visit. “Once you got on TK’s set… everybody’s so connected and open, so willing to introduce you to their colleagues.” From Kelani’s set, she moved to Funke Akindele’s Jenifa set, to Emem Isong’s and Desmond Elliot’s for Kiss and Tell and to Daniel Ademinokan’s for the DaGrin biopic, Ghetto Dreamz, getting the chance to observe, interview and record as the months passed by. “That was such a great introduction to the film industry,” Leu reminisced. Her exploits on these sets were not limited to research though. Her presence incurred a few acting roles: a spot in the Jenifa trailer, her hair makes an appearance somewhere in Ghetto Dreamz and, “I believe my wakapass in Maami is on the cutting room floor somewhere,” Leu said.

IMPROVING NOLLYWOOD

Work on these sets was also very professional and punctuality was not to be messed with, she said. Leu initially thought it was “complicated” for Elliot and Isong to be shooting two films simultaneously. That impression soon changed. “In reality it was like this machine; some days we pumped out like 40 scenes a day, which is insane. And it worked!” This time it sounded like a confident boast.

For Leu, the productions she tracked were far better than her first Nollywood encounter in Ghana back in 2005. “This is much better. When I came on TK’s set, he was very excited about mounting a RED camera, which allowed him to shoot digital images that were indistinguishable from celluloid pictures and of course at a much cheaper cost and much more accessible in post-production.” It was an epiphany. “That was when I realised that this is really not the Nollywood of the low-budget production: the guerrilla filmmaking that I’d been reading of. This is really the start of this revolution to increase capacity in the industry and look at different re-distribution methods.”

With the conversation tilting towards distribution, the issue of piracy reared its head. “In terms of distribution, I think the way a lot of filmmakers have been able to tackle that is through cinema-only release,” Leu replied, referencing the newfound love for premieres and cinema screenings. “As soon as they release their films straight to DVD then the pirates will illegally duplicate them.”

More cinemas will lead to better quality films; a standard that will help the industry’s international image and also boost employment, Leu argued. In her words, Akindele’s intention to upgrade production quality influenced the hiring of DJ Tee as director on the third Jenifa installment. “She really wanted to improve her production value, show at cinemas and probably at film festivals. The downside to this is that there really aren’t that many cinemas in Nigeria. I think maybe nine or ten, and for a population of a hundred and fifty million people; that doesn’t cover the demand that’s out there and also the cost of access.

ALL GOOD IN NOLLYWOOD

Despite the many challenges on film locations, I couldn’t resist asking if Leu and her research questions didn’t end up an unnecessary nuisance for the cast and crew.

“I would just wait in between takes,” she said. “Basically I tried really hard not to be a distraction.” Working out what times would best be suited for questions also helped. “100% of the time they were super happy to enlighten me about what was going on in between takes,” Leu said gleefully.

A number of things stand out for her, especially the on-set professionalism and quality of output in Nollywood in spite of the same challenges referred to earlier. “What stood out to me was that in spite of the challenges of filming in Nigeria, the cast and crew just really bound together to make it work. My few challenges were pretty standard throughout all of the productions,” she said, listing disruptions from area boys, extra-long scenes, generators and corrupt district officials as challenges unique to Nigeria’s film sector. “For them to exist here and for us to be one of the most productive film industries in the world, that’s absolutely fascinating to me. (The practitioners) not only surpass them but also produce such work that captures the imagination in Nigeria and anywhere else.”

For a much-disparaged industry, Leu’s praise for Nollywood is hugely encouraging. She defends the industry even in relation to other African films, especially at festivals like FESPACO.

“The more I saw of FESPACO; obviously the African films that were shown were very different from the Nollywood films that were shown. In terms of production quality, their history is very different than in the Nollywood films. They showed like maybe three Nigerian films (at FESPACO); Kunle Afolayan’s film (The Figurine) was the only one I watched and didn’t fall asleep,” Leu said with a short laugh.

“I feel like (the films’ improved quality) really speaks to the level of audience engagement that Nollywood has been able to cultivate. Everybody has this mindset that they’ve really come up with a few movies that people actually want to watch.” According to Leu, the storylines were also “solid”, making special mention of Kelani’s collaboration with Nigerian playwrights Akinwumi Isola and Femi Osofisan.

And the relevance of these stories to the audience?

“I would say that the Nollywood films that I’ve seen have really portrayed society’s reaction to certain socio-political conditions that have happened. It certainly shows that our filmmakers and our creative professionals are definitely aware of the nuances and what’s going on in politics and the socio-political environment and are able to translate that very articulately on film.”

WORK IN PROGRESS

Are these nuances apparent in the productions, I ask, especially with the overuse of words rather than non-verbal hints in the plot. “I believe it’s something that they’re working on. The film industry has its roots in the Yoruba tradition, which is a lot of talk, so I don’t think it’s bad as long as it’s portrayed in a way that’s also visually engaging, that moves the story along. I believe that the roots of why the Nollywood films are talky have a very valid and cultural reason,” she argued.

During her stay in Lagos, Leu coordinated Nollywood-themed seminars both within and outside the academia. She commented on the probable disconnect between Nollywood as theory and Nollywood as practice. “I don’t see the link as particularly strong just because we don’t have any formal film studies programme at the universities here. A lot of these professors who are speaking about Nollywood are coming from either the English departments or the Theatre Arts department, so I feel like maybe the film practitioners feel it’s not speaking directly to them. Not to take anything away from the point that we’re making, the industry hasn’t been established long enough for there to be a very established culture of film criticism. As you know, many newspaper articles about Nollywood, it’s not really like an in-depth article, it’s mostly gossip.”

We both agree here and I ask if the academy is not trying too hard to intellectualise the popular. For Leu, such international exposure can only be helpful to sustaining Nollywood’s growth. “There’s a whole field of scholarship talking about popular arts. So, for me to take modern Nigerian cinema and to have it taken seriously on the international stage, you do need people to intellectualise it. You need to do more academic papers published in reputable international journals to speak intelligently about what’s going on in these industries. You need these papers to be cited in doctoral theses that are written all over the world. And you need this scholarship to come from Nigeria.”

Such scholarship need not be overly critical, though. “Constructive criticism is really important to any industry. It’s just that that discourse needs to be encouraged. The more that literary discourse is encouraged and is publicised, the more the industry will be respected internationally.”

THE END?

Leu’s research year ended in July 2011 and she was swiftly snapped up as Head of International Relations and Project Management at Del-York International, a media and communications company with a focus on capacity building for economic development and international branding of Nollywood. She described this experience as “really exceptional” for Nollywood scholars, who usually have no chance to test their research findings. The Del-York experience was specifically helpful to Leu, whose interest was in how Nollywood directly or indirectly provides employment across different professions. “I was going to take that to Del-York and truly implement this job creation model.” As part of the outfit’s training curriculum for aspiring media practitioners, Leu also introduced a weekly roundtable called ‘Filmmaking in Nigeria’, inviting Nigerian practitioners to discuss the history of Nollywood, distribution and piracy, entrepreneurship, on-set challenges and the like.

By the end of her research period, Bic Leu had come full circle from the stuttering newcomer to a fulfilled researcher with positive impact on the lives of aspiring filmmakers. “It’s great to be a part of that and not to just look on as a scholar,” she said with pride.

In November 2011, Leu co-curated the first Nollywood film Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Aimed at bringing Nollywood deeper into an international audience’s consciousness and titled ‘Bemvindo a Nollywood’, the festival featured discussion panels around the Nigerian Video Film sector. Nine Tunde Kelani films were screened during the event. “For me, it’s interesting seeing how Nollywood films are seen abroad and to form this partnership, this really shared cultural exchange, it’s awesome!” she gushed.

Bic Leu is currently in South-East Asia preparing for a new job back in the United States. There is little doubt though that her love for Nollywood will someday bring her back to Nigeria.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: