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HANMAKYUGH, Teddy: Towards the Achievement of Potential Benefits of Nollywood: The Challenges of Funding, Distribution and Piracy

Towards the Achievement of Potential Benefits of Nollywood: The Challenges of Funding, Distribution and Piracy

Teddy HANMAKYUGH, PhD

Director, Special Duties

Nigerian Film Corporation, Jos

Plateau State, Nigeria

Email:

GSM: +234-803-590-0114

Abstract

Nigeria is a nation endowed with tangible and intangible heritage comprising a kaleidoscope of rich cultures, which serve as a fertile ground that define the Nollywood brand. These cultural products form the raw materials, which Nigerian filmmakers exploit to drive the nation’s motion picture industry making it the second largest movie industry in the world next to Bollywood, the Indian film industry. Despite its popularity, the Nigerian film industry is faced with challenges of funding, distribution and piracy, which if surmounted could easily pave the way for the industry’s development and growth in accordance with global best practices in the creative industry. This paper’s thrust is the need for a paradigm shift from the status quo by highlighting the problems in film financing and the lack of production incentives to facilitate filmmaking as against the use of personal bank savings and friends to raise funds for the production of films. Similarly, the absence of a regulatory body to enforce standards and professionalism in the industry has left the responsibility of film distribution and marketing in the hands of charlatans, whose empires are located in selected parts of Nigeria. Film exhibition is another challenge to filmmakers who produce on video and transfer straight onto the DVD format for direct sales in open markets. This poor distribution network has made piracy to thrive to the detriment of film producers. The paper examines the modus operandi of some prosperous film cultures like Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United Sates of America and India as models for the Nigerian film industry. It concludes that Nollywood should have a regulated body in line with the world’s professional practice, there should be cinema theatres, the menace of piracy should be tackled, and  a film fund, supported by government and the private sector, should be set up and effectively managed.

Introduction

Films of the colonial period up to the post independent era in Nigeria explored themes deeply rooted in British colonial attitudes as they were made for Africans primarily to serve the interests of imperialist ideology; propaganda and other socio-economic interests rather than promote the indigenous people and their culture. The experience after independence in 1960 was an extension of the former despite indigenous films produced by Federal Films like Bound for Lagos, Kongi’s Harvest and Bull Frog in the Sun by Calpenny Films, respectively, were influenced by colonial authorities as both distribution and exhibition were in the hands of foreigners. Hyginus Ekwuazi states that:

Oladele found it impossible to persuade the NFDC (it was then the AMPECA) and the Lebanese-dominated independent distribution network, to have anything to do with Kongi’s Harvest… the problems of distribution and exhibition had long consolidated themselves in a formidable brick-wall against which all Nigerian filmmakers have had to bat their heads (125).

The lack of formal distribution channels to local and international markets has continued to be a dilemma of the Nigerian Film Producer who has to hawk his films around, screening them at clubs, colleges and wherever there is an avenue to showcase his product. This unfortunate scenario has persisted gradually and has not only paved the way for piracy to thrive but also leaves no room for the producer to recoup his initial investment on the film project thus, making it difficult for him to get back on location for another movie soon.

Very few film producers of that era managed to scale the hurdle but some unfortunate ones like Francis Oladele, Jab Adu, Ishola Ogunshola, Bayo Aderohunmn and Ayo Razak were not as fortunate. Ekwuazi reflects on Ogunde’s submission as captured by Afolabi Afolayan (in The Guardian Sunday Supplement):

Unfortunately, not all producers have been able to make another film after the first one because making a film and handing it over to a distributor is not paying now in Nigeria. One would like to recover the money invested in a film before making another one. I think one is certain to recover it if he does the distribution himself… one of the disadvantages of making a film and going out to screen it by oneself is that it delays, definitely the making of another (B4).

Furthermore, Samyn Sophie collaborates that;

Film financing in Nollywood is mainly an independent venture. Budgets are small and largely derived from one’s own savings. But this is not the only way of financing filmmaking in Nollywood. Often the marketer pays for a film, and he or she gets the final cut and then distributes. In this sense, it is best to say that Nollywood films are financed on an ad hoc basis, which makes it lack the institutional structure that many film cultures have in Europe, America and Asia (110).

As a powerful medium of cultural expression and entertainment, which provides a window on history and a mirror on society, reflecting the past and assessing the present, it is incumbent upon government to promote the creative art of film to meet its economic and social development agenda. ‘The Canadian Heritage’ submits that;

In every form of cultural expression, governments have a vital role to play in creating a supportive policy and program environment and in fostering partnerships with creators and entrepreneurs. Filmmaking is an expensive and risky form of storytelling. Governments can play a role to reduce the risk and enhance the opportunities for success (page?).

These myriads of problems are of great concern to Nigerian film practitioners coupled with the fact that the producer has to use his life savings and at best bank loans and other forms of assistance to embark on a film project. On this phenomenon still, Ekwuazi quotes Ola Balogun expressing views on film funding thus:

Basically the primary needs in this field are to ensure that funding is available to filmmakers, a proper structure that can device and supervise regulation that will protect and enhance the existence of indigenous filmmaking is established, and that outlets are ensured for the products of our film industry, including the television networks (140).

Such is the business climate Nigerian filmmakers find themselves in their individualistic efforts to tell compelling stories about their societies to the entire world. The desire for and the popularity of Nollywood films is not far-fetched as these films generate indigenous local content with focus on social issues the audience is used to and can easily identify with. Even at international levels, people of African descent, enjoy the cultural hybridity of African traditional culture with western modernism.

            The uniqueness of film production in Nigeria as opposed to Hollywood is a rarity in any part of the world as the first among equals. Nollywood has become an important area of study arising from the breakthrough of Kenneth Nnebue’s Living in Bondage, whose company, NEK Video Links, sold about 750,000 copies of the film (Source page?). Unlike Hollywood that shoots its films on celluloid, Nollywood has embraced the video technology which today coffers high definition pictures. These low budget productions most of which are in English while others in the various indigenous languages with English sub-titles are shot within a few days, edited and released on CD and VCD (in the past) but today, most film releases are on the DVD format for theatrical exhibition and home viewing. Nigerian culture is the force that propels these productions. Ernest Emenyonu, citing Patrick Ebewo, states that,

The movies are very popular and of indigenous content which address issues relevant to the audience. In spite of the ethnic differences, there are core values that transcend ethnic and regional boundaries. These include religiosity; extended family; tradition and rituals; community; respect for elders and veneration of ancestors (87).

Other popular themes like the supernatural, sorcery, deification of wealth, ritual sacrifices and witchcraft, sexual immorality, prostitution, Pentecostalism and several others are the themes which supposedly address the socio-cultural happenings within the society. Thus, film as a cultural mirror reflects the attitudes, beliefs, lifestyles and philosophies of a people by its propagation, promotion and preservation of cultural heritage. A crack in this mirror is however likely to reflect or portray a distorted image to the viewer and often times, these films bear the brunt of criticism as a result of their excessive utilization of these unfavourable themes. Despite all these comments, the audience response to Nollywood film content is overwhelming at local and international levels. Emenyonu equally quotes Anthony Ozele on the popularity of Nollywood films with the comment that, “the movies are so popular that they have driven foreign films off the shelves in Nigeria” (87).

Nollywood’s filmic representation of Nigerian cultures is an authentic voice that speaks for Africa different from the framed existential stereotype realities presented by other nations of the world. Despite daunting challenges, Nollywood is recognized today on the African continent and globally as a dynamic and promising film industry. This achievement is a clear testimony of the ingenuity, resilience and enterprise of the Nigerian spirit who use these films as conveyors of the nation’s rich culture, tourism and cinematic potentials. It therefore, behooves the government and the private sector to re-examine the role of the motion picture industry with its attendant benefits to the nation and give Nollywood the necessary support to meet the entertainment, promotional and economic needs for national development.

The Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) which is a Federal Government’s agency charged with the responsibility to promote and have oversight functions over the Nigerian film industry attest to the magnitude, influence and prospects of the industry within and outside the country. Let us consider the following:

  • Nollywood has the largest motion picture market in Africa.
  • It is second largest film producing country in the world.
  • It is presently emerging as one of the largest employer of labour in Nigeria. A single low budget film production engages and provides employment for a minimum of 250 persons involving not less than 23 trades.
  • It is a potent tool for wealth creation and diversification of the nation’s revenue base.
  • It can generate huge investment and export opportunities for the country if properly developed and explored.
  • It is one of Nigeria’s fastest growing cultural exports.
  • In spite of these remarkable achievements and projections, the industry is bedevilled with the following challenges amongst others which we shall focus on;
  • Absence of funding opportunities for the industry
  • Informal film distribution channels both at local and international levels
  • The menace of piracy of works produced by film makers.

Film Funding

One of the key factors that accelerate the production of films in any country is finance. A nation may have a harvest of good screen writers, directors, producers, directors of photography, best stunts and special effects creators, however, without money, no film could be made. The Nigerian experience is quite unique as contained in the Nollywood official news website contained in an article by Andy Amenechi, titled, “Nollywood: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities.”  

Funding has always been a bane to the development of the film industry. Hitherto, financing films was ad hoc, based on bottom line profit margins, with a very limited access to corporate and institutional finance, due to a dearth of statistics and figures to generate projections or structured growth potentials that could lead to multi-lateral, but diversified revenue streams.

            Film as a hub of cultural expression is a multi-billion dollar industry that affects all aspects of national development. As a form of cultural expression, governments have a vital role to play in creating a supportive policy and program environment and in fostering partnerships with creators and entrepreneurs. Writing under the caption, “From Script to Screen: New Policy Directions for Canadian Feature Film,” ‘The Canadian Heritage’ official document states that,

Filmmaking is an expensive and risky form of storytelling. No matter how promising the script, how famous the cast or how large the budget, there is no assurance of success…. Governments can play a role to reduce the risk and enhance the opportunities for success. Around the world, many countries have been reviewing and modernizing their support for feature films to build stronger, more competitive domestic film industries (page?).

The above statement is true of Canada where deliberate efforts are made to improve the quality of Canadian feature films by fostering an increase in average production budgets from $5million to $150 million. Canadian Heritage further states that,

The Government of Canada will invest $15million 2000 – 01 and $50million annually beginning April 2001 to implement the new policy. This will approximately double the government’s total annual investment in Canadian feature films – bring a greater diversity of Canadian voices to cinema in every corner of the country and other parts of the globe (page?).

Canada can boast of 55 film production treaties with different countries and it has various film funding schemes all over the country. These include; Alberta Multimedia Development Fund (AMDF), Canadian Media Fund, Canada Feature Film Fund, Film Nova Scotia (FNS), British Columbia Film Commission and several others. Canadian film producers also enjoy tax incentives.

Lack of funding for the Nigerian film industry is one of the problems militating against the development and success of Nollywood. Mridul Chowdhury, et al opine that,

Currently, the Nollywood industry has almost no access to formal financing mechanisms. The independent self-employed producers generally re-invest the revenues earned from one film for the next one. Due to the unpredictable nature of the profitability of a film, the banks and other financial institutions do not have procedures for assessing the credit-worthiness of film projects. This simply hampers the growth of the industry and discourages producers from innovating and pushing the boundary in terms of quality (27).

The above truism confirms the nature of Nollywood productions whereby marketers take advantage of this unregulated business to lord themselves on film producers as one who pays the piper, dictates the tune’ they call the shots on content, distribution and marketing of such films. Writing under the caption, “The Igbo: Key Players in Nigeria Film Industry,” Femi Shaka affirms that,

The majority of the video films produced in Nigeria are sponsored by Igbo traders selling electronics or motor parts at Idumota Street, Lagos or Upper Iweka Road/Main Market at Onitsha. These merchants/executive Producers also constitute the marketers; and by virtue of this fact, they dictate what goes on in the industry (184).

In 2013, the Federal Government of Nigeria in an attempt to boost film production set up the Nollywood Capacity Building Fund, called, Project ACT – Nollywood. This was a deliberate initiative designed to encourage the sustained growth of Nigeria’s movie industry so that it realizes its full potential to be a significant creator of employment and considerable contributor to the Gross National Product (GDP). The aim of the capacity building fund for the Nigerian movie industry is to improve and promote key components of the movie value chain through the provision of grants schemes designed to support existing or aspiring practitioners within the country including in the Diaspora (www.projectnollywood.com.ng/aboutus/php). The focus of the programme is to reduce the hurdle for private sector capital to participate initially sharing some of the project risk that would take projects from “almost commercial” to fully commercially viable and this accelerate the industry’s development onto a path of full monetization/sustainability.

            With a budget of N3billion, the Project ACT Nollywood is made up of three components that complement the movie making value chain, namely, capacity building, film production, and distribution. Like any other grant or fund, good management is essential to achieving the desired grab. The Project Act Nollywood Fund is managed by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

However, the Nigerian Film Corporation believes that the need for the provision, funding for film production, development and training by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the NFC are in line with global best practices in the development of the film industries. In tune with the above reasoning, it is justifiable for the NFC to manage, disburse and monitor funds for Project Act Nollywood and not through any other agency, considering its mandate to develop and promote the film industry in Nigeria. For instance, the following film development agencies are charged with the responsibility of developing the film industry in their various countries:

  • South Africa       -           National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa
  • United Kingdom           -          British Film Institute
  • India                    -           Film Division in Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
  • Australia             -           Australia Film Commission
  • France                 -           National Centre for Cinematography
  • Canada               -           Tele-Film Canada
  • Kenya                  -           Kenya Film Commission

The above film agencies are the equivalence of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), yet financed through the following:

  • Direct Government Funding
  • Lotteries
  • License Fees
  • Commissions from Censorship
  • Donations
  • Taking from Theatres
  • Acquisition and Distribution of Films.

In India, the National Film Development Corporation of India is charged with the responsibility to “plan, promote and organize an integrated and efficient development of the Indian film industry and foster excellence in cinema” (Source page?). Operating under the supervision of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Government of India, NFDC encourages the production of high quality Indian cinema in the area of film financing, production and distribution. Besides the NFDC, India filmmakers enjoy a variety of film funds for feature and documentary films from The Global Film Initiative, World Cinema Fund, Hubert Bals Fund, Jan Vrijman Fund and others. These funds are usually assessed through production studios and applicants must meet the necessary criteria and be qualified before disbursement of the film fund (Source page?).

The Government of India has made concerted efforts to sustain the growth of film production by positioning itself as a proactive facilitator to make India a hub for the 21st century. Furthermore, the Government uses regional and national; tax incentives for the building and improvement of the production and exhibition infrastructure as well as signing a number of co-production treaties to provide a framework within which private and public partnership can flourish. According to a report based on a UK Film Council,

India’s film and television industries are increasingly adopting digital technology from high-end digital cameras and graphic equipment to state-of-the-art studios and post production facilities. Studio facilities from the State-Fund Film City in Bombay/Mumbai to the privately owned state-of-the-art Roma Rao Studios in Madras are the country’s key drivers for film related inward investment (Vir et al 2).

            The Indian Government has also set up several film development funding schemes to service the film industry. The ‘Uttar Pradesh Film Bandhu’ Film Development Fund is utilized for the following purposes:

  • Development of infrastructure for production of films/video films/documentaries and regional films
  • To encourage making of Hindi films/video films, documentaries/regional films
  • To finance production of the above films
  • To arrange equipments necessary for filmmaking
  • To set up film studios
  • To institute film awards
  • Scholarship to students of films
  • To organize film festivals
  • Other programmes related to films
  • To bear expenditure on setting up and maintenance of Film Bandhu

Such has been the support Indian filmmakers get from Government and the private sector to project the rich tourist potentials, exotic natural beauty, history and culture of India through the film medium within and outside the country. Nollywood on the contrary according to Radwan Ismail and Pierre Strauss:

Nollywood has almost no access to formal financing mechanisms. The independent self-employed producers generally re-invest the revenue earned from one film for the next one. Due to the unpredictable nature of the profitability of a film, banks and other financial institutions do not have procedures for assessing the credit-worthiness of film project (27).

In Australia, the Screen Australia’s Feature Film Programme offers financial support to a diverse State of Australian films for theatrical release, films that reflect unique characteristics of Australian identity with a touch of entertainment and enlightenment for both domestic and international audiences. According to Screen Australia,

Screen Australia offers funds for the development, production and marketing of Australian screen content as well as for the development of Australian talent and screen production business… project funding is generally provided to professional practitioners with some level of industry experience depending on the program… the program is open to all films of any budget size, including low-budget projects and projects that require completion funding (Source page?).

Although these projects attract a funding of 65-75% of the total sum, they go a long way to assist any professional filmmaker who wants to embark on a serious film project. There are always prequalification requirements such as: having a project in place at time of application and that synopsis, script, treatment, financial plan, distribution plan, biography and as well previous works of a director are a sine qua non for consideration of the grant award.

The production and distribution of films in the United States of America is dominated by the major studios namely; Universal, Fox, Sony, Paramount, Time Warner, Walt Disney and Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). In the US, movies are financed using a variety of the following means whether they are initiated as independent or “major” studio projects. The majors – have unparallel access to capital and typically finance self-initiated projects in-house, however, many movies begin their lives outside the major studio system, even if their eventual commercial release and success depends on their being acquired or distributed by the “majors.” In exchange for certain rights, major studios will sometimes provide financing for a promising project requiring gap financing – funding for a portion of the overall budget (WIPO page?).

            US Banks and other financial institutions play an active role in financing films including insurance companies offering financial guarantees should the production encounter financial difficulties such as budget over runs. The various methods of financing a film in the United States, according to WIPO, are through:

  • Government grants where governments run programs to subsidize the cost of producing films with the hope that it would attract creative individuals to their territory and stimulate employment. It is also government’s belief that a film shot in a particular location has the benefit of advertising the location to an international audience.
  • The United States offers tax incentives between 15% and 70% or cash for labour, production costs or services on bona fide film/television/PC game expenditures.
  • For the Private Equity financing of a film, the investor pays for the film or a television production and receives back an equal amount of capital in tax-incentives, pre-sales and state tax credits.
  • Debt finance is based on the script and cast as well as selling the right to distribute a film prior to the completion of the film. Casting suggestion of big name actors or directors may be considered on essential element for drawing an international audience (Source page?).

Funding, therefore, has become a key factor that would determine the competitive spirit of Nollywood filmmakers. Bank loans are very rare considering the risk involved in such an unregulated industry which is at crossroads with distribution and piracy if at all the production gets completed and ready for exhibition.

Film Distribution

Film in the entertainment parlance is “show business” and as such film business is a venture that is profit driven. All manufacturers explore distribution channels where their products could be marketed for profit and film is no exception. According to James, “for the film and video industry/business in Nigeria and the world over, the end product, the commercial movie is meant for consumption and brimful tills in the box office, i.e. good financial returns (53).The faulty and unprofessional methods of Nollywood film distribution exhibition and marketing have compounded the myriads of challenges confronting the industry in Nigeria today. The value chain of the average Nollywood film may be classified as follows:

  • At the production stage most producers today shoot on the video digital format to complete a feature film within 10-20 days after which a period of about two weeks is dedicated to post production.
  • Production on the video format makes it easy for distribution as the producer makes multiple copies on DVD direct to video retail shops with limited access to international distribution channels. Theatrical releases are also limited due to severe dearth of theatres across the country unlike countries like the USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, etc. where the cinema box offices are the main source of revenue generation.

The exhibition of these films is primarily through direct purchase, rentals and cinema centres which are more or less make shift viewing centres. Chowdhury et al collaborate that,

 

In Nigeria, there are limited options for formal distribution channels, a phenomenon that has given rise to scores of informal distribution channels which make and distribute illegal copies of DVDs. There is almost no formal channel for distribution to international markets (17).

The lack of formal distribution and exhibition channels which the industry has experienced since the debut of Living in Bondage has continued to be a threat to the revenue base of Nollywood, thus making it difficult for the filmmaker to reap full financial benefits that should come from cinema releases. The role of a film distributor is to market a film. In the United States, the major studios dominate the business as they own production studios and cinemas where films could be exhibited. The new distribution windows are gradually opening up opportunities in the industry such as non-theatrical distribution which includes airlines, film societies and internet video-on-demand and “DVD-on-demand” which have broken the monopoly of the studio system. According to the Duke’s official website,

The power of the industry is very much dominated in the distribution companies, for the product, the film, cannot be completely produced without the finances and influence of the distribution company. These vast entertainment conglomerates very much dominate the industry because they do have more clout with theatre owners and TV networks (Source?).

As a point of fact, Nollywood lacks distribution channels which are vital links with the international market just as it does not have distribution channels to effectively service the domestic market. Unlike the early film distribution windows, which focused primarily on the studio system with its monopolistic practices, the major studios responded to the antitrust action by divesting themselves of all theatres. “Today, the major studios – Columbia, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, MCA/Universal, Time Warner and Walt Disney – typically make 20 films a year. The rest of the films are made by outside agencies and they simply distribute them”(www.cybercollege.com).

            Distribution and exhibition of films worldwide is in the hands of entrepreneurs who are supported by different types of incentives from government to operate their business. With this support, countries all over the world have set up film distribution companies to service the products of the industry. South Africa, for instance, has four major film distributors; each of these distributors have studios: Nu Metro, Ster Kinekor, United International Pictures, and Next Entertainment. The total number of cinema screens by 2010 was 857. According to UNESCO Report on Cinema in South Africa, the indigenous Film Distribution Company of South Africa handles the film distribution process:

Film producers oversee the process of filmmaking from development to completion. They bring us their films and if we agree to represent the films, we secure the best distribution possible for the films. We help filmmakers to determine how many copies of the film should be made for exhibition in cinemas… we work directly with movie theatres bookings… we negotiate the best deal for the filmmakers taking into account the subject matter of the film, the overall quality of the product and its intended audience (Source page?).

To ensure that more South Africans watch South African movies, the distribution companies secure DVD distribution through partnerships after several theatrical showings during which enough revenue is generated from the box-offices. Next, the movies are sold to television stations for broadcast and marketing outlets for public purchase. The Nollywood experience is a far cry from the norm. With an estimated 100 screens in Nigeria and a population of over 160 million people the production of films on DVDs has gained an upper hand in the circulation of films. According to Cinema in Nigeria:

The direct-to-video films in Nigeria are made mostly by individuals who usually have their personal digital cameras and they are shot at extremely low budgets. The average home video cost between US$17000 and US$23,000 is shot on video in just a week, and sells up to 150,000 – 200,000 units nationwide in one day. With this type of return, more, and more are getting into the direct-to-video business (Source page?).

The digital revolution has brought about immense prospects and commercial opportunities to the Nigerian filmmaker thus opening up new windows for film distribution. The alternative challenge for the film producer/director is to meet the increased demand for quality content by taking advantages of the social media which provides access to many users in this era of technological convergence.

Piracy

The motion picture industry today enjoys massive distribution and exhibition of films not only through the traditional cinema theatres but also via television and of course through the new media distribution channels by means of the internet, cable, satellite, video-on-demand and streaming services. Despite the numerous advantages of technology, its negative use has caused serious economic damage and financial loss to creators of artistic works such as film. Of great concern to the film industry today is piracy, which Economic Times views as,

The unauthorized duplication of copyrighted content that is then sold at substantially lower prices in the “grey” market. The ease of access to technology has meant that over the years, piracy has become more rampant. For example, CD writers are available off the shelf at very low prices making music (film) piracy a simple affair (Source page?).

Piracy is a global phenomenon and pirates have devised various means to produce other people’s work like film in form of video cassette without proper authorization from the producer who is the right holder. As such, the deluge of pirated DVDs/VCDs is dealing a deadly blow to the motion picture industry worldwide. According to Springer Link,

Piracy definitely hits the motion picture industry hard. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates annually US films studios suffer losses over $3billion in box office revenue from piracy. This is problematic as the estimated amount brought in is under $10billion. Film studios have made many attempts to put a stop to piracy (Source page?).

The piracy of movies can cause a ripple effect. Other than reducing the revenue of most film and production companies, movie piracy also have a negative impact on the economy of the country producing the films. The revenue that is lost from potential sales creates a ripple effect which can result in the loss of jobs, worker earnings and tax revenue. The Nigerian motion picture industry (Nollywood) is also grappling with its own share of piracy as reported by the Octopus News. It states that,

The menace of pirates and piracy in all sphere of the Nigerian life has eaten deep into our system. From beverages to fashion, to almost every item is being pirated or counterfeited today unabated. Piracy in Creative Arts Industry is rendering the practitioners bankrupt and the pirates smiling to the bank (Source page?).

The growing rate of piracy is definitely a concern to filmmakers who toil out of hardship to raise funding to make a film only to discover that he is unable to recoup his investment because pirates are having a field day by making a compilation of several such movies on one DVD to sell for peanuts. The illegal, unwholesome business of pirates is not only a criminal activity but outright theft and loss of revenue to the artist which culminates to low budgets for subsequent productions of substandard quality films.

The major film production and distribution axis in Nigeria are concentrated in the South West, East and the Southern parts of the country. The pirates have established a network that covers the entire nation, thus new releases as well as old ones find themselves on sale at open markets and video rental shops. The losses filmmakers count while the pirates reap the benefits in profits necessitated a group of Nollywood actors and filmmakers to stage a peaceful protest, tagged, “March against Piracy in the Movie Industry,” in Lagos, on 20th April, 2015. The protesters observed that films produced in Nigeria are pirated, released and sold on the streets of Lagos while still showing in cinemas. It is truism that piracy is destroying lives, property and business at international and local levels, so there is urgent need for the Federal Government of Nigeria to enact a law that would curtail piracy activities nationwide. James  concurs in a terse statement that “intellectual thieves (pirates) are only quietly digging the grave of the industry that serves as the source of their livelihood as such, the crime, piracy can therefore be compared to ‘economic sabotage” (81).

In their study, Ridwan et al lament that,

The speed and rate at which pirated copies of video films in DVD are released is quite alarming and leaves much room for suspicion. It is so serious and worrisome that pirated copies are released just a day or two after the release of the original version, and thereby destroying the market for the original video movies (80).

Similarly, Ridwan et al quote P. A. Tomtom, a representative of the Nigerian Association of Video and Film Producers, as saying that,

It is unfortunate that Nigerian video films are just being posted and wickedly hosted on the You-Tube freely and indiscriminately without regards for the interests of the producers who are trying their best to contribute their quota to national and world cultural development. Our investigations reveal that most youths in the Nigerian institutions watch Nigerian movies freely on You-Tube (Ridwan 80).

Despite these daunting challenges of funding, distribution and piracy, the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood) continues to churn out films while reflecting on their ordeal at the end credits with the caption, “To God Be the Glory” as a consolation. Nollywood has great potentials and it holds infinite promise to excel in the provision of authentic African content as well as meeting up with socio-economic and cultural aspects of the Nigerian society. Already, the industry is known to have created employment for specialized technicians (cameramen, soundmen, electricians, editors) contributions to Nigeria’s GDP, promotion of culture and tourism and other related and supporting industries.

In view of the significance of the film industry to national development, it is imperative that government supports Nollywood in the areas of funding, distribution and legislation that would protect the rights of cultural goods and their producers. The following suggestions are put forward to enhance the development of Nollywood as a national cinema.

Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON)

This organization will set up standards to determine the eligibility of applicants and admit qualified persons into the Association of Filmmakers to regulate the industry and set standards for professional practice in the industry 

Film Finance

  • The Federal Government should set the pace by providing the necessary financial support such as the establishment of a National Film Development Fund as well as initiate a special credit scheme system with commercial banks to offer loans to filmmakers.
  • State and local governments to invest and give support to filmmakers shooting in their respective areas as this would improve on eco-tourism and promote the region – Legislative provision for provincial and local government funding.
  • The National Lottery Regulatory Commission to set aside a percentage of money raised from its activities for social services including film production.
  • Income from commercial activities like ticket sales from theatres and sales of CDs and DVDs.
  • The National Film and Video Censors Board to make a specified percentage of their earning towards film production – commission from censorship.
  • Interest collected from loans taken for film activities
  • Provision of a large equipment base that forms about 35% of their funding – equipment rentals at cheap rates.
  • Setting up of film studios
  • Encourage and finance the making of films in local languages.

Film Distribution

  • Film Distributors are the key operators for revenue generation from any film. By building larger audiences, at home and abroad through more effective support for marketing and promoting Nigerian films to enable the filmmaker recover on his investment.
  • There is need to register and know who film distributors are; data on marketing, distribution channels and exhibition facilities in Nigeria.
  • Set up a well-structured/organized marketing of film from pre-production stage to cinema exhibition and mass production on DVDs for sale to the public.
  • Infrastructure for exhibition of films.
  • Establishment of cinema viewing theatres in all urban centres and local government headquarters and village settings and at community halls.
  • Provision of comfortable facilities for exhibition – seats, projectors, electricity as well as security around the premises.
  • Increased support for participation at local and international film festivals and trade shows to showcase Nigerian films.
  • Financial assistance to distributors for marketing and promotion of films.
  • Construction of new cinema halls, multiplexes and upgrading of old cinema theatres – Revival of closed theatres.
  • Government to allocate land for the development of cinema theatres.
  • Government to make land available for setting up of film cities.

Piracy

The lack of a well-defined organizational structure with enabling laws backed up by operational legal instruments has accelerated the incidence of piracy of Nollywood film. It is therefore suggested that;

  • Piracy is theft and criminal activity tantamount to economic sabotage as well as a threat to national security and culprits should face stiff penalty.
  • Introduce an effective legislation that is supported by an anti-piracy task force comprising the Police, Copyright Commission, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Standard Organization of Nigeria and Nigeria Customs to fight piracy.
  • Set up large DVD production outfits and warehouses for mass production for immediate distribution and sales.
  • Need to arrest, prosecute and jail offenders to serve as a deterrent to others as well as institute heavy fines on the offenders.
  • The enforcement of the Source Identification Code (SID) on all copyright protected optical discs, e.g. CDs, VCDs, DVDs and other operators of the replicating plants to ensure compliance as required by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
  • Carry out media campaign on the dangers of film piracy and its attendant consequences.
  • Government to revisit the International Film Treaty on copyright and take punitive action against offenders.

Nollywood has been severally described as an instrument for cultural diplomacy which makes it a veritable tool for the cultural propagation to showcase Nigeria’s tangible and intangible heritage as well as promote Nigeria’s image abroad. Besides its economic prosperity, these films have given credence to the fact that “film and video production are shining example of how cultural industries are vehicles of identity values and meanings can open the door to dialogue and understanding between peoples”. The challenges the national film industry is facing as addressed in this paper namely funding, distribution and piracy make it imperative for government and the private sector to take the industry more seriously considering its immense contributions to national development.

Works Cited

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