Nollywood and it’s next level of evolution

One topic of discussion that constantly comes up and probably never ends is the growth of the film industry and the need for government intervention and participation; and in recent times the government has responded which is highly commendable. But Nollywood has come this far without them; I think waiting for grants and loans is actually taking a few steps backwards. Grants and Loans are not a long term growth strategy; they should merely be an addition to the tools available for the film industry, NOT the be all and end all. The film industry certainly needs the participation of the government to thrive but the primary way should not be through grants.

Someone reading this is probably disagreeing and likely has valid objections. All I’d say is study the tenure of the United Kingdom Film Council (UKFC) it disbursed over £160m to over 900 films in 10 years and there’s still no “British Film Industry” resulting from that. Brazil and other countries also do the whole grant and loan thing but, nada, zilch. It has birthed several remarkable and breakthrough films here and there but still no industry, at least not one clearly recognized in the way the world knows Hollywood or Bollywood as identifiable film industries.

In a 2007 interview with DVD Monthly Magazine, actor Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, Trainspotting, 28 Weeks Later) was asked how he felt about the state of the British Film Industry.


It’s good to understand it , but there aren’t any British Films out there. ……………It’s a disgrace caused by legislation that’s absolutely crippled the film industry in the UK. It’s gotten to the point that where films have been shut down a week before and friends have lost huge amounts as a result – houses and stuff like that. I’ve got nothing but contempt for the politicians and of course it’s all very nice for them when there’s a British Film Industry and they’ve got their hands on your shoulder, but they don’t give a fuck. So all we get is more and more American product, no matter how good or how bad it is, it’s going to be there
.

So what about that £160m and those 900 funded films!!! Why didn’t it lead to a film industry? Why are the very best British Actors and Directors leaving home in frustration and crossing the pond to Hollywood to seek better opportunities and even thrive in a foreign land?

No matter the grants and loans that are given out, if the policies and systems are not put in place to make those films work upon release or allow those producers and production houses to continue making product without coming back hat in hand, it won’t make much of a shift.

Do we welcome Grants and Loans, yeah, they’re encouraging but not a long term, self-sustaining solution. Growth will come as a result of several factors

PHYSICAL INFRASTUCTRE:

Sound Stages
For too long producers have had to either beg to use people’s houses all the time or rent a place and be restricted by immovable walls, roofs that limit lighting possibilities, camera movement thereby affecting a director and cinematographer’s visual interpretation of the story. These houses were not built with film production in mind. Sound stages will provide sets that can be swung around and used for different productions or projects. These sound stages can be used for sitcoms, movies, commercials, music videos.

It could be a public/private partnership. Subsidized for local filmmakers with budgets under a certain figure, say N5m and fully charged to brands, and ad agencies, which would be glad not to have to fly out of the country for projects.

World Class Post Production Studios
While the UK’s film industry is not big in terms of production like their US siblings, they are known for post-production, with Soho London, having some of the best VFX studio in the world, four of which Double Negative, Framestore, Cinesite and MPC are within walking distance of each other. Many Hollywood productions are brought there because they know they will get brilliant work.

That’s one thing that the Nollywood grants can do. Build post production studios that can compete with those anywhere in the world AND train/hiire the people that can run it, like any editor, colourist, sound engineer in the best studios world-wide. What if a city like Lagos, became known for the place with the best post production in West Africa? It would create a seismic shift in the industry.

This will not only help local film makers, but it brings in income to the industry from outside the country, that doesn’t depend on DVD or ticket sales for the final product. No longer with filmmaker like Kunle Afolayan, Mamood Ali Balogun need to take their films out of the country for post-production, they can keep the money within the economy.

If it’s a public/private partnership that brings it to life, Low Budget films (under N3m) and other films that meet a certain set cultural criteria could be subsidized, and a special rate given to first time film makers. While those with N20m budget and above get a less subsidized but fair rate. The company will make most of its money from ad agencies that no longer need to go to S.A and foreign productions that see the tax/fiscal benefit of coming down to Nigeria for post-production.

POLICY & FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK
Tax Breaks and incentives offered by cities, local Governments for coming to film in their town. Across the US, cities like New York have film offices, which make The Big Apple, an attractive and favourable for filmmakers to come and shoot in. This has made it the choice city for many TV shows over the decades NYPD Blues, CSI NY, New York Undercover , and the choice of many filmmakers Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Edward Burns and so many more. If a city as chaotic, crime ridden and busy as New York can be a favourable film location, Why not Lagos?

Each state needs a Film Office/Commission, which liaises with film makers. Policies, created to make filming in said states mutually beneficial for both parties. This is something done in the US and many countries around the world. For example in New York, they have a policy that states.

The state offers a Film Production Credit a 30 percent fully refundable tax credit on qualified expenses while filming in the state. A 30 percent to 35 percent post production tax credit is also available, regardless of filming location. Refundable tax credits available for qualified commercials with added incentives for companies increasing volume of work in New York are available and there are film production activities/expenses that are exempt from state and local sales and use taxes. Also a film investment tax credit of up to 5 percent on investments in construction and upgrades to qualified film production facilities plus employment incentive tax credits for two additional years

State Film Production Incentives and Programmes
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES

When a producer can’t find favourable terms, they go outside the country. Many US productions are actually shot in Canada because it’s cheaper and Canada offers better benefits that they get at home. American Producers discovered that certain Canadian cities could double for American cities and in the last decade + have outsourced well over 1500 television and film productions to their neighbours up North

They take advantage of the Canadian Government’s Film production Tax Credit, a subsidy for foreign filmmakers. Now they aren’t’ just giving the money away to foreigners with no benefit.

For a production to qualify for this tax credit, either the director or the screenwriter and one of the two highest paid actors must be Canadian. Think, Ryan Reynolds, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Rachael McAdams etc.

This is just one of many of the beneficial policies they have that attract so many American productions.

Now, imagine we had that in Nigeria, and foreign filmmakers that want to shoot on the continent see the financial benefits both on the production end and also tapping into the Nigerian fan base for when the film is released due to the stars cast?

Picture this scenario:

Imagine that Lagos State decides that it wants to become the most film friendly city in the whole country. To do this and encourage filmmakers to choose the state as their location they:

-Offer tax breaks/credits, subsidy and incentives

– Offer preferred choice locations for free which either show the city in a great light in the film , which can attract tourists, or barter with the film maker to shoot a promo video for those locations at another time.

-Offer protection, from thugs and area boys, make arrangements that film makers are not harassed by anyone that wants to claim “our zone”

What does the state get in return?
The cast and crew of the production stay in their hotels/guest houses, eat in their restaurants, use their cabs, rent their vans and trucks. Hire their caterers for welfare, their residents as crew, extras, and production assistants. They rent equipment from local productions house. These and many more benefit the residents and business owners of the state and thereby, the local economy.

Truth is, the ripple effect of a structured film industry creates jobs for; Accountants, Bankers, Lawyers, Electricians, Carpenters, Painters, Welders, Stylists, Tailors, Drivers, The Food Industry, The Hospitality Industry ,Fashion Industry etc. All jobs that are not directly film related, but support the work in the film industry behind the scene ,some on camera and others off camera.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK- That enables licenses, royalties and residuals to work. Now this would take a lot longer to achieve, but is absolutely necessary for the industry to thrive. Here’s what one American Producer said


“Hollywood isn’t in the film business … they are in the business of exploiting licenses…..The monetary value of a film lies in the ability to exploit it….. The film industry revolves around copyright, because almost every film-company asset relates to the ownership or exploitation of copyrights”
– Schuyler M Moore

George Lucas was able to exploit his Star Wars licence for decades and made several multi millions as a result of it. Licences are why Fox and Sony hold on to the Marvel Comic characters they own despite not making decent live action films. Why? They know the billion dollar value they can earn from distribution rights, TV rights, streaming rights, merchandizing etc

Films like Back to the Future, JAWS, The Godfather ,The Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca and others made 20-60 years ago still earn money for their producers/studios in 2015 each time they are sold on DVD, Blu Ray, are aired on television or streamed on NetFlix.

We need a legal frame work which will allow producers to earn money for their property and be able to prosecute those that infringe on their copyrights.

Copyright education is also ESSENTIAL in the film industry. A producer can’t wail and moan about being the victim of piracy while they used Celine Dion and Boyz 2 Men songs in their film without paying for it , or clearing the rights from the publishing owner.

COMMUNITY CINEMA
Right now, there are multiplexes shooting up around the country, which is a very good thing, but we also need , smaller , community cinemas with two or three screens that charge N300- N500 or less for a film. The working class who are the majority of the population cannot afford N1500 on a single movie ticket, and most of them would likely feel out of place in a Mall where they can’t afford anything sold there.

So they need a place the can watch the kind of movies that interest them at an affordable price, this also favours those films with smaller budgets that can’t compete for screen space/time at the multiplexes against the Hollywood and bigger budget Nollywood films.

Now, imagine, a community cinema in every local government in Lagos, and then imagine every state in the country replicating that. Now imagine a N3m budget film screening in 50 of these across the country, each cinema is 100 seater . At N500 per ticket the odds of that film making its money back have been raised astronomically. The presence of each of those cinemas would create business opportunity to those selling snacks, shop owners, branded stores with grass roots services.

BENEFITS TO INVESTORS
To a very small extent, Brands have gotten involved with Nollywood productions, but not nearly as much as they can or maybe even should. Product placement is one of the ways Hollywood finances and markets their films. Sometimes it’s done so well that the product enters our subconscious and before we know it , we’ve bought or seek to buy that

The Mini Coopers in both the original The Italian Job and the remake. AOL in Austin Powers and You Got Mail . Even fake products by a real brand The Power lace Nike shoes, and Mattel Hoverboard in Back to The Future, the Audi cars in I Robots and Minority Report.

All these brands aren’t running a charity. They see the benefit in having their brands associated with these films, the subconscious effect it has and the rise in sales they have.

A young Tom Cruise wore Raybans in the movie that made him a star Risky Business (1983) and sales of the glasses went up by 360,000 pieces.

Reese’s Pieces which appeared in the movie Spielberg movie E.T (1982) got a 65% jump in sales two weeks after it premiered.

It cost BMW $3m and a Roadster to become the new Bond car in Golden Eye, movie goers saw the movie and BMW made $240m in advanced sales. Little wonder Heineken paid $45m to become the new drink of James Bond in Skyfall (2012).

On TV shows like Elementary, there are several guest appearances of Windows 7 tablets and laptops as do other tv shows with other brands. All the brands that young ladies started buying because their favourite characters in Sex&The City or Gossip Girl had worn or praised them.

For some of those films that screen outside the country e.g. Kunle Afolyan’s OCTOBER 1 that has a NetFlix deal, it could be exposure to a new audience for the smaller, local brands.

Watch any Michael Bay film The Island , The Transformers films and you won’t see anything less than 8 Brands present on the screen, although he lacks a subtle hand, but these brand make themselves available with each film he wants to do.

Cinema is VERY powerful, and we as Nigerian film makers need to show both the local and multi-national brands the benefits of investing in our films and getting involved in industry, the benefits that it can add to their bottom line ,not only in the immediate but in the long run. We need to find a way to make this work in Nigeria.

BONUS
This might just be me building castles in the sky but, What if there was a film village? Similar to Redemption Camp, set in the outskirts of Lagos and others cities like Jos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Asaba . It would have the above mentioned Sound Stages, Post Production Houses and much more.

On those same grounds there would be Guest Houses, a gym, Provision stores, Restaurants ,Music Studios and Orchestral Stages for recording scores. Art Department Warehouse, Fashion Designers/Houses, Craft Services, Photo Studios and Design Houses, that work on clothes/costumes, EPK and Posters for TV shows, Films and Commercials. That’s A LOT of jobs right there , and the trickledown effect leads to jobs for drivers, cleaners, personal assistants, production assistants, secretaries, security guards etc

There could even creative hubs that smaller producers can use for production meetings, writers conference. Workstations that freelance web designers, editors, poster designers, colourists, graders can rent for days or weeks, powerful enough to handle 4K material and not have to worry about NEPA or other factors .

A producer could camp his cast and crew in the film village and have access to shoot on the sound stage, supervise edit, grading, colour correction and sound mix in the post production studio, work on posters/promotional material with the design studio. This would cut down a lot of the time wasted driving from mainland to island or running after The Film Village would be a place where a producer/director has access to everything and doesn’t have to leave to look for anything.

HOWEVER After all is said and done
If things similar to the described and more don’t happen in conjunction with grants; we will still be having the same conversation in another 20 years. If despite the loans and grants, the issues that make the environment structurally, financially and legally hostile aren’t resolved, then all the money won’t make a difference. Sure it will help some producers get projects off the ground which may still struggle to turn a profit, but no ripple effect to the entire industry.

It’s like cleaning the wounds of a Bantamweight Boxer, giving him Lucozade and then throwing him back in the ring with Floyd Mayweather and thinking the Lucozade you gave him to drink will make a difference in the outcome.

But hey, what do I know.

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