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By Aoiri Obaigbo

The government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, through his Minister of Finance, saw reasons with the

industry stakeholders and placed ₦5Billion on the table.

The facility was meant to reinvigorate the Nigerian movie industry, moving it from the rash of weekend projects to something we can proudly screen in film festivals and everywhere.

Essentially, it called for a renaissance.

The 2020 gangster comedy by Funke Akindele, ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’ officially smashed a four-year

record held by Kemi Adetiba’s 2016 Comedy movie ‘The Wedding Party.’

With a Box office of ₦636.1Million , the film points the way to a marketable culture waiting to be served

to the world, just like the waves of Nigerian music.

Is there a connection between government intervention and the soaring resurgence of the New Wave

Nollywood?

“I will say without any hesitation,’ says Wale Adenuga, a motion picture old-timer whose debut feature film Papa Ajasco 1983 predated, by close to a decade, the coinage of the term ‘Nollywood’ for the Nigerian film industry. “Jonathan did a lot for Nollywood, unfortunately, it seems this government has a lot on their shoulders, I don’t know.

“Nollywood isn’t one of their priorities. What I see is a few states are carrying on with the Jonathan

strategy. Like Lagos State is doing so much for the arts, you know. They are even trying to establish a

film village or a film city which would be the first in Nigeria”.

Onwochei-Capacity building is soft power. It’s not something that is seen, but the value created can be large

Adenuga thinks that government assistance is key.  “When it comes to film and television production, there’s a limit to what we can achieve without government assistance. We need grants. To do big films and the way we can pay back is by projecting the nation. I know there are so many bad stories about Nigeria out there, the film producers and television producers can correct the image and they can only do it when they are helped out in the area of finances. If every state in the country, thirty-six states, can just vote ₦1Billion a year to Nollywood, the impact can only be imagined”.

Many filmmakers share Adenuga’s applause for President Jonathan’s 2014 disbursement of grants.

Andy Amenechi, a former president of Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) credits Project ACT Nollywood, as the intervention is titled, for the industry’s continuous growth. “That inflow enhanced production and content quality of Nigerian films. It enhanced professionalism in Nollywood and the world is moving in to profit from the industry they boosted”.

Training, production and distribution were the three components of the initiative. The training bit was where groups benefitted from. The production is where individual companies benefitted. The proviso was that they’d mark it, co-funding contributed by Project ACT Nigeria.

Since I became an adult, there’s no Nigerian government that has in such a way intervened in the optimum development of the motion picture Industry in Nigeria.

“The creative intervention fund was ₦3Billion. The training went well as far as I’m concerned because a lot of people benefitted. Now the production aspect was when the politics came into it. Because of the slant of some of the people involved. A lot of foreign based Nigerians got production funds. As well as locally based Nigerians”.

Amenechi reckons that the injection of financing fattened the sector into a $5.1Billion industry.

“They had their criteria. Then the distribution, our big cinema houses today also benefitted from this

Fund”, Amenehi explains.

FilmOne Entertainmnent

“I’m not sure whether Film House was given. But I know their application definitely came. I know that for

a fact. I know they got funding also from Bank of Industry. At the very beginning. A lot of money went

into the distribution as well. Today when you see a lot of distribution arms coming up, they may not tell

you but you’ll find out that some money came from there. When I say it was an intervention that

benefitted the entire industry, I definitely know what I’m talking about. I and twenty-two other directors

were sponsored to Colorado Film School. In terms of continuity; approval was in 2013, our trip was in

  1. In 2015 Jonathan was removed. Kemi Adeosun became minister of finance. Intervention was

made for the continuation of project Act. It’s a government project and it’s not an individual project.

And she bought it. Actually, a second batch of DGN members were supposed to go. Eleven people were

approved to go to the same Colorado. Word came in from the presidency that it will highlight the PDP

programme. That is how Project Act died. It’s not as if there was no continuity. There was at the beginning, 2015. But certain elements in the presidency at that time didn’t want it.

It was an asset that was neglected. That’s one of the things government should look at. Not everything is

Political”.

Andy Amenechi on set-Project Act Funding had feedback mechanism. It was of immense value to the society

Project Act had a feedback mechanism, Amenechi recalls. “When we came back from Colorado, every single person who went for that trip had to write a report. Which was sent to Colorado for confirmation. And Colorado wrote back that everything that was said was correct. People who collected funds and so on were given time to be able to show what they have done with the fund at a particular time. There were contracts signed. We have done this with our production, this is where we are, this is the final project. Every single person who collected funds was supposed to send a copy of the film back to them. How many of them have sent films?’

Not everyone shares in the applause of the Jonathan era grantmaking, of course.

Emmanuel Oguguah’s production company, Green Waters, got a grant to shoot a movie. “I got five million. It was my budget though. With it, I shot Twin Rivers but I didn’t budget for promotion, because I wasn’t sure I could get more.

“Some got fifty million and so on. They used our name just to complete the list, that’s all. Because they

got a lot of names we don’t know, called them consultants who brought in their friends and fed them

fat”.

Oguguah alleges that “those who collected money from government to create distribution outlets are not doing so good about it and some are becoming Sherlocks”.. He argues: “If you take a film to cinema now; you did the film, you did everything, you’re paying for distribution, paying for Media and they give you forty percent. It doesn’t make sense

“The Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) is still offering funds for the creative industry, but maybe if you find out about those CBN gave funds to and find out how it’s being done, you know how difficult it is and the procedure. The process is annoying and frustrating”, Oguguah explains.

“It is those who operate the fund, that are the problem. The CBN has a committee that gives money to

people to shoot films. It’s in the committee that the trouble is. Because they’ll go to the studio.

Amina-2021-movie-on-Netflix

They’ll ask you to bring ₦25Million to rent equipment— enough for you to buy your own equipment. Why should I give you twenty-five million naira to rent when I can use it to buy my own? So most people run away from collecting money from them. Amina is there. Offor did Amina. I don’t think he has finished paying his money. He borrowed money from film fund and he shot Amina. He has not recovered.”

Oguguah’s take on current funding challenges notwithstanding, his colleagues generally like to recall the positives of the Jonathan era disbursement, which contrasts sharply with today’s bleak financing landscape

Francis Onwochei, actor and producer, explores all three components of the 2014 initiative and argues that many potential beneficiaries missed the opportunity because of skepticism.

“It was an intervention designed to support film production, to support capacity building and innovative distribution. Let me say I was one of the few who benefitted from all the three components . I benefitted because I applied. A lot of people did not know or did not believe or they did not have the mindset that it was an honest intervention. Some of my colleagues actually said, they couldn’t go through the pains as they’re supposed to. But I did and I benefitted from the production grant and I produced a film which I submitted, I benefitted from the capacity building which so many of my colleagues benefitted from and went to New York film school, some people went to film school in India, some people attended the film

school in Nigeria here which was named the Del York Academy , then we had a lot of lecturers from

America, who came to facilitate the course. The last strand of the grant was for innovative distribution, designed to expand all the frontiers. If you have any innovative ideas, that they thought would expand the distribution possibility in Nigeria then you’re qualified for that. For me I benefitted because I sought to reorganize what we call a dubbing system so that we can open our market to sub-Sahara Africa, open our market to French speaking territories, to dub successful Nigerian films into French, Portuguese, and also do in exchange, French films and all of that. I benefitted from that angle. Since I became an adult, there’s no Nigerian government that has in such a way intervened in the optimum development of the motion picture Industry in Nigeria. So Goodluck Jonathan stands out as one of the leaders that designed and made a structural, deliberate intervention into the environment.

“When you support capacity building, it is something like soft power. It’s not something that is seen

immediately as the physical manifestations. You develop people. You train people in terms of capacity.

You train them to understand the different level of aesthetics and of course now you have better

producers, better writers, we have better directors because they have also been exposed to other ways

of doing things, you know. That’s the development of soft power. For production, when you know

better, you do better. And these things they don’t end up in one support stream only. But when the

Buhari government came, they did not continue, and of course, that died down. These are also part of

the problem; when we do not have policy continuation in an environment where the government also

needs to constantly be in support of practitioners.

“Where we can give Buhari some credit is for the innovative distribution because it happened under Buhari. He concluded what Jonathan started. And that was how it ended. That was seven years ago.

“Nothing has happened afterwards. I will not say that is continuity. I will not say so.’

We must hand it to Sanwo-olu, the governor of Lagos state because he has also designed something, I

know my colleagues have benefitted from and are still going to benefit from.

“Any of the political leaders who wants to make permanent, deliberate and complete intervention in the

motion pictures environment can pick up the Nigerian insurance policy and pick up the cultural policy as

updated and follow it page to page. These are properly articulated policies. The incoming government

should go back to the blueprint that Okonjo Iweala used and continue in that spirit.”

Back to Wale Adenuga: “Concerning the disbursement of grants in 2014, the most important thing is the intention of the government. We have to draw a line between good intention and implementation. The important thing is the good intention of Jonathan and his government. It’s that good intention we want, then with time we will improve on the implementation. Implementation suffered because of the level of corruption in the country.’

I’m not sure whether Film House was given. But I know their application definitely came. I know that for a fact. I know they got funding also from Bank of Industry. At the very beginning. So a lot of money went into the distribution as well. Today when you see a lot of distribution arms coming up, they may not tell you but you’ll find out that some money came from there. When I say it was an intervention that benefitted the entire industry, I definitely know what I’m talking about

Adenuga has a laundry list of items he still thinks the government can help with. “We still don’t have enough cinema halls”, he laments. “People were doing home video due to scarcity of cinema halls. I’m not saying they should build the Lekki standard in Idimu and Isolo. No.

“Government can build smaller cinema halls, you know, air-condition halls in every local government. Even with the scarcity of cinema halls, some of our films are still making one billion, three hundred million. You can imagine if there are enough cinema halls here and there. That means a film can gross two, three billion and that is a lot of money for the government, a lot of employment for the citizens, a lot will accrue

“There’s no significant piracy right now. These days of cinema, it’s difficult. Whoever pirates it, it’s like a

thief who stole the king’s trumpet. If you steal a trumpet from the palace where will you play it ? So this

is cinema. If you pirate my film, where do you want to show it?

Another help and I think is the most urgent help that we need from government for the film industry

right now is the realisation of what we call Moppicon. —Motion Pictures Practitioners Council of Nigeria.

“Right now, we don’t have that structure. It’s a free for all affair. Everybody is just doing film here and

there whether you belong or not. Unlike the music sector. The bill has been at NASS since I was born.

Nobody is talking about it. It’s what I expected the present minister to achieve before leaving. That

would have been the best gift to Nollywood”.

Aoiri Obaigbo was editor, Mister Magazine, and Associate Producer, Energy this Week on Africa Independent Television. The author of Proverb Child, shortlisted for the ANA/Cadbury Poetry Prize in 1992, and a play, Re-incarnation, a BBC World Service finalist, Obaigbo attended the University of Benin and received his Masters in Literature from the University of Lagos. His novels include: The Wretched Billionaire and The Virgin Widow. He will be a frequent contributor to Bookartville.com

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