For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer. The novels of Enid Blyton, Roahld Dahl, John D Fitzgerald and Judy Blume fired up my imagination as a kid; in my teens Sidney Sheldon and Jeffery Archer stimulated my solitary life. My imagination and creativity, was one of the Perks of being a wallflower and I began to write my own short stories unleashing it all, like a genie escaped from a it’s prison. Err ,his bottle. I dreamed of a career like those writers I admired…I dreamed.
Problem was creativity was often seen as a hobby, or something that only the select few geniuses are able to do; it is rarely seen or encouraged as a career path, especially in this part of the world. In the 90’s most parents envisioned their wards getting a degree that would enable them work with a big oil company so they could be guaranteed a safe, secure and well-paying job that could enable them travel the world. (Today it’s telecoms)
Schools divided classes into Science, Arts and in some cases commercial (some school collapsed the two into one). Most kids were pushed into science courses, where they could prepare to be Engineers or Doctors. Arts was looked down upon, or seen having little prospects that would involve low pay and financial struggle.
But with the growth of Nollywood, actors gaining continent wide fame , multi millions endorsement deals, musicians touring the world and earning some people’s annual salary in one show, it’s the next best thing to having a son that plays for the EPL.
I strongly believe that we need a creative class that is separate from the arts class. A class where,creative strengths are embraced and harnessed. Where courses like; Music Theory/Practical, Creative Writing, Dance, Performance Arts,Acting etc are part of the curriculum. Majority of the people currently working in the film industry never received any formal training, and in many cases, it shows in the end product. It shows in their ability and evident in how capable they are of handling certain things without being micro managed.
We need entire schools dedicated to Creative and Performance Arts. The school would be only from SS1 – SS3, with an extra optional year to get a diploma or A level. Entry would be on merit, by passing a creative equivalent of Junior WAEC; it may be a practical exam, it may be some form of audition or interview, where they can display their creative leaning/strength. Ever seen the movie FAME( 1980 original/2009 remake), that is a great example of what I picture.
Our creative industry (music/film/tv) has the potential to be the one of the biggest generators of income, even matching oil (with solid infrastructure and legal framework). But first it needs professionals, who have shaped their natural creative talent into a craft and professionalism.
There’s the mistaken assumption that “natural talent” is enough to form a career in the creative industry, but that thinking and attitude is why we see so many mediocre movies, with bad writing, worse actin, horrendous production values, hear shallow songs that recycle themselves. People wake up one morning at age 30, having never done anything creative In their life, and they decide they want to write, act , sing. The frightening thing is some of them because of looks, articulation or knowing someone gain entry and start a career. Watch the gag reels/auditions of any music talent show, and you will understand, the film industry also has many like those we all tune in to laugh at on those shows.
Take a look at any really gifted American actor or singer under the age of 35,from Ryan Gosling to Justin Timberlake, from Michael B Jordan to Chris Brown and you will discover that they had been shaping and harnessing their talent from pre- teen days, into the skill that they are currently use to make a fortune. Many had coaches, belonged to talent clubs, some attended performance arts schools, or if they went to regular schools were involved in creative extra-curricular activities. From their formative years they started to pursue, harness and shape their talent into skill. So why re-invent the wheel?
The creative industry is growing every day resulting in actors and performing artists from the US and UK relocate home to seek a career. Banky W, Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay are examples of those that have returned for the music industry and experienced great success. Beverly Naya, Kc Ejelonu,Uru Eke and others have gotten a warm reception in Nollywood . But as the next generation prepares to enter the creative world, they need a lot more preparation that a lot of us had. If we are to take our creative industries to the next level of global relevance, we need to re think how creativity is nutured.