So in the last few years, there have been several Nollywood films , with significantly large budgets. Budgets that are 3, 4 or even 5 times larger than the regular home video budgets. Over the years many conversations suggested that bigger budgets were the solution to better films, and if Nollywood had bigger budgets, the quality would exponentially improve. Now, there is a HUGE validity to this train of thought. A bigger budget would allow for better equipment, better pay for the crew, hire more experienced crew, hire bigger stars, better food, accomodation and more days of shoot for the director. But does it go beyond just budget? Is simply throwing larger amount of money at filmMakers going to automatically make a film better? Let’s explore this.
Now , we are ONLY looking at the Budget, the Quality of the film produced and the legacy of the film since it was made and not the box office gross.
The Godfather, is one of the best films ever made in the history of American Cinema. It’s on every top list of Best American films and deservedly so, it is one of the best written, directed and acted films you’ll come across. But it almost didnt get made. An adaptation of the Mario Puzo pulp novel, most studios turned up their noses to it. Many big name directors of that era rejected offers to take on the project. Until a young rising director a few years out of film school took it on, after being convinced by his pal George Lucas.
The Godfather was given a budget of $6m dollars , while other films financed by Paramount in the same year had an average budget of $20m. How many films can you think of that are more memorable , or have a big an impact on filmMaking,FilmMakers and popular culture as The Godfather? How many other Paramount films made in the same year still sell DVDs/BluRays and merchandize in 2014?
The Usual Suspects(1995) had a budget of $6m , it is still talked about and celebrated till today. Some other films that came out that same year? OUTBREAK $50m , Batman Forever $100m, 12 Monkeys $29m , Mortal Kombat $18m , WaterWorld $175m and the list goes on and on. In that same 1995 there were films in which the salary of one actor or the feeding or art department budget exceeded the entire budget for The Usual Suspects. But which film would you rather watch? Which film is considered a Classic, which is quoted ? Which has a very talked about reveal? It’s the $6m dollar film.
Pulp Fiction(1994) Quentin Tarantino’s sophmore follow up to his debut Reservior Dogs(1992) was made for $8m, and it is one of the most talked about films of the last 20 years, and it’s 20th anniversary was recently celebrated. A film has to be really special for it to have a 20 year anniversary celebration. Other films made that same year? STARGATE with a $55m budget , Clear&Present Danger $45m , Timecop $27m ,Never Ending Story 3 $17m ,Interview with a Vampire $60m .
Now ,im not saying those film are bad, but which one do you and your friends quote? Which have you seen people dress up as the characters for costume parties?
Which inspired a string of imitators and actually influenced a new generation of filmMakers?
Transformers:Age of Extinction had a budget of $210m and im yet to hear of anyone that watched it and actually enjoyed it,anyone that wasn’t annoyed by it and utterly disappointed. If simply having a huge budget was the key to a better film, them T:Aoe should have been a phenomenal film, but you have more people excited about THE RAID, a film with a budget of $1.1m , with no stars, in a foreign language(Indonesian).
Momento(2000) $9m, Reservior Dogs(1992) $1.2m , Clerks(1994) $27,000 , Sex,Lies&Videotape $1.2m are other films with low budgets that went on to have critical acclaim, lauch the careers of their directors and have cult followings. Many directors that made films in those same years with budgets of $20m-$50m cant even be named because their films came, went and are long forgotten.
While budget does play a huge part, it is not a magical solution that suddenly makes a film soar. Yeah, it will add a lot more production value, and make things more comfortable for all involved.. ok, maybe except the producer sweating bullets that the film better be good to make back the money.
The Script, above all, is one thing that made these listed lower budget films stand above those other films which were more generic in nature. They were risky, well crafted and had amazing stories, dialogue and character journeys.
The Directors, were all visionaries , with strong voices and something to say. They knew they did not have access to massive budgets like those being financed by the studios, so instead of throwing money at a problem to solve it, they solved problems creatively and crafted films that stand the test of time. In addition to having brilliant actors that brought the characters to life.
We need to focus on writing better scripts, giving writers time to craft better scripts, take risks on new stories, instead of the safe, generic stories (that everyone else is doing, just with a different cast). Become better directors that keep improving our fluency in the language of Cinema, directing performance and working with actors, and telling a cinematic story.
Simply throwing money at the same old type of writing, storytelling and directing, will just make a bigger and more expensive version of what we are already getting.
Do we need more money, YES, it certainly helps. But Kaizen(Constant and Never Ending Improvement) is what we need even more
A BETTER US(CREATIVES) will make BETTER MOVIES
PS-As per local films? “Modupe Temi”, directed by Daniel Ademinokan, is still one of my fav Naija films, a simple story of marital conflict; One location,Two characters and im certain they did not spend up to N8m making it. Was it perfect? No, but it had good production value, hilarious performances, good video/audio and in terms of entertainment and my desire to recommend it to friends, it totally delivered; unlike some films in the last 6 years with budget close to N50m or above, which were actually annoying in how disappointing they were on all fronts with absolutley no redeemable qualities.