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.