Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, PHOTO: GABRIEL IKHAHON
The federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), recently organised a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the board’s policy document on movie distribution. Hosted by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Director-General, NFVCB, Ms. Patricia Bala, industry stakeholders and guests mulled possible lasting solutions to some of the problems bedeviling the growth of the industry.
The meeting was primarily to unveil and trigger critical and strategic engagement processes with stakeholders and operators on how to generate broad-based inputs into the policy document being formulated by NFVCB for the distribution of films and video works in the country.
It also sought to streamline a system for movie distribution and exhibition in line with the mandate of the board in a way that ensures compliance by stakeholders, among other things.
Mohammed, who attended the meeting, pointed out to practitioners in Nollywood, who arrived late, that their action did not show seriousness, and that they could not expect people dealing with them to take them seriously if they wanted a change. He, however, pointed out he had a duty to contribute to the industry to make it better for the practitioners and the nation at large. Mohammed assured that he was willing to work with the formula being developed by NFVCB for the distribution of films and video works to make it a success.
In her remarks, Bala said, “The industry requires an arrangement that delivers a value chain and is capable of triggering itself to meet the ever-changing market dynamics alongside possibilities offered by today’s digital age. To this end, I need not reiterate that a structure and organised distribution and exhibition regime holds superior prospect of driving content and innovation in the industry and would greatly improve the profile and fortunes of the movie industry, engender transparency, eliminate the untidy incidence of quackery and shylock behaviour, as well as provide a credible database for effective planning, performance-tracking in addition to giving realistic indicators of the true market depth that can meaningfully impact in the overall interest of the national economy.”
Filmmaker and distributor, Mr. Gabriel Okoye (Gabosky), voiced his concerns about the new formula, when he said, “We are not trying to bring out other ways of distribution. This is Nollywood; this is Nigeria; people saw what we were doing and named us ‘Africa magic.’ We are doing magic in Africa and we have been succeeding. The clause, however, is, ‘if we are, why are we not all over the world like Hollywood?’
“South Africa came here to study what and how we were doing it but today they are far ahead of us. The major issue the industry is having is piracy. Alaba is not a sovereign state, where someone can walk into your shop and tell you, ‘we hear you are doing a film and you have not come to settle us,’ and they go ahead and release your film. When Chimamanda borrowed money to make Half Of A Yellow Sun, she was preparing to release it when it was already all over the streets of Lagos. The same thing with AY’s 30 Days in Atlanta; that movie was not officially released. It was pirates that released it. We were in South Africa with Kunle Afolayan trying to negotiate for the release of his movie, when he was told that October 1 had been released in Lagos.
“Everybody in Alaba is united by selling foreign films. Nollywood has to grow. They have 500 cinemas in South Africa, Brazil 2,700, and China 4000 while Nigeria that is the second largest film producer has less than 100 cinemas.”
According to Gabosky, proper movie distribution would create millions of jobs, and noted that it was not the case yet because there was no return on investment. He said people want to invest but that their problem was how to recoup their money, adding, “We are in need of serious intervention.”
Chief Executive, Moving Image, Kano Abdulkarim Mohammed, was of the opinion that technology is changing everyday, with the audience continually being mobile. “So, if the consumer is telling the filmmaker that they need to distribute on the move, then they have to,” he said.
According to Mohammed, “This is a challenge that none of us can do anything about because this is the reality of the day. Where we are today is by the sheer initiative and enterprise of the filmmaker. What is important right now is for government to step in and interject something that will improve the quality of our works.
“If we also want to move distribution forward, we must not ignore community cinema and viewing centres because these are where the viewers are. So, if you are looking for means of getting money into your pocket, they should not be ignored.”
Like Gabosky, Abdulkarim also harped on the menace of piracy, saying, “Another reason is piracy, which is the cankerworm crippling the industry. I have also identified film markets and festivals as some of the avenues to boost movie distribution. Lastly, 90 per cent of distribution outlets are concentrated in a few locations of the country and that must also change so that we can maximise our benefits.”
While responding to the concerns of stakeholders, Mohammed said, “I have studied the complexity of piracy in my short time as the minister. Even the producers are to blame to some extent, especially where the producer goes directly to the consumer; that is part of our problem. This is because, after making the film, the producer has little or no money left for the distribution. Maybe he was able to do 10,000 units. So, our brothers at Alaba market will wait for the 10,000 units to be exhausted and then they move in. Besides, we need everybody to stick to their areas. The director, producer, distributor and the rest should function within their areas.
“The best distribution network can never succeed without us tackling piracy first. Consumers have also not helped matters. It is only in Nigeria that you see learned people, who are exposed and should educate others on the dangers of piracy, park their cars in traffic to buy pirated DVD’s. The worst of it is that music producers actually release their records to the pirates on their own!”
The minister said he wanted Nigerian artists to be like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, “where they could make a living from royalties on their works, even after they have retired so that they can live well throughout their lives.”