INTERVIEWS OF KEY PLAYERS IN THE INDUSTRY
SELECTED BASED ON THE RELEVANCE OF THEIR ACTIVITIES IN THE INDUSTRY
Mr. Busola Holloway is a veteran in the broadcast industry. He has produced several documentaries including EYO, THE LEGEND, THE STORY AND THE MYSTERY which was screened at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival. He studied film and television in Atlanta, Georgia USA. He is the current president of ITPAN (Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria). ITPAN serves as a mediator between the producers and the regulatory bodies of Nigeria. He is currently the Production Director/ Managing Director of Image Promotions Nigeria Ltd.
Jaiye Ojo is a multidiscipline individual with a career in communications and marketing that is marked by huge records of achievements in TV Presentation, TV and Radio Production, Brand Management, Media Management, Advertising, Public Relations, Publishing and more. Mr. Ojo was the executive producer of TINSEL, the popular soap showing on MNET across Africa. Jaiye Ojo has served as President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) and as a committee chair of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN).
Olumide Akinwumi-Oke is a producer and director. He has produced several documentaries, TV shows, game shows, quiz shows, commercials and also produces radio materials. He studied law in Ogun State University in 1992 and earned his BL degree at the Nigerian Law School in 1993. He is currently the Executive Director at 923 Media.
Miss Abiola Adenuga is the Managing Director of PEFTI film institute. Miss Adenuga studied Business Management and Accounting at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and is a certified Oracle Database Administrator from the NIIT institute and Oracle University. She also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Lagos Akoka, Lagos State.
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF INTERVIEWS OF KEY STAKE HOLDERS IN THE INDUSTRY
Nollywood is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. Feature length films are very popular and there is a huge market for them.
Documentaries, however, do not share the spotlight with feature films as they hardly make it to DVDs that sell in the local market. Not many documentaries are produced in Nigeria as compared to the number of feature films produced annually. A rough ratio would be 3 documentaries to every 10 films produced.
Mr. Holloway, currently the President of ITPAN explains that the most popular form of documentaries currently made are industrial documentaries, as they are commissioned and are financially secure. He also explained that viewers were not very used to Nigerian- made documentaries, but that with sponsorship good quality documentaries can be produced and people would be interested in watching them.
The government does not fund documentary filmmaking according to all interviewees. There is mention of the $200m film fund administered by the government, but the general opinion is that these funds are not readily accessible as the necessary criteria needed to get funding puts it beyond the reach of most emerging filmmakers in Nigeria. The Government does have a film school, The National Film Institute (NFI) located in Jos and the Assistant Director of the school confirms that Documentary Filmmaking is offered as a full course.
The Goethe Institut and the French Cultural Centre were mentioned as organisations that give grants to filmmakers.
Nigeria has a lot of cinema houses, an estimated number of 50-100, said Mr. Holloway. Silverbird Cinema, the most common, is located in four states in Nigeria: Lagos, Uyo, Port Harcourt and Abuja. They have about four viewing halls, each seating about fifty people.
Ozone Cinema is another popular cinema found in Lagos. It was established in 2008 and is a four screened cinema that seats 619 people.
Genesis Cinema was established in 1991 with fifteen screens and over 2000 seats. They can be found in three states: Lagos, Port Harcourt and Enugu.
It costs about $2 to catch a movie at any of these cinemas where some feature films are being premiered before going to DVD. The cost of a feature length film on DVD is about $1-$5, and marketers are found everywhere across Nigeria.
Nigeria has a government television station, The Nigerian Television Authority, with 72 stations and they broadcast all over Nigeria.
“The most common method of audience cultivation is still the television”, says Mr. Holloway, but lamented that the Government owned NTA does not commission documentaries and insists on being paid for any work that is aired. Producer Jaiye Ojo concurred though said that work was sometimes aired if it was given to the NTA for free. Other methods of audience cultivation are via radio adverts, posters and billboards.
Mr. Akinwumi-Oke explained that most documentary filmmakers have to revert to the internet to showcase their work on sites like Facebook, My Space and YouTube and film festivals as it is very expensive to buy air time on television.
The NTA was also cited as one of the few places that has any archives. The Nigerian Film Corporation was also cited. All of the interviewees were of the opinion that these archives are not well kept.
As regards advocacy groups, Mr. Holloway highlighted ITPAN, of which he is the current President. ITPAN has been advocating for filmmakers for 19 years. He spoke of some of the achievements, like snagging prime time for Nigerian productions at a time when it was being overrun by foreign soaps, and settling disputes within the industry. He explained that ITPAN has
a training school, and not only that, but they take teaching out of the classroom to universities and polytechnic, donating equipment in the process.
Mr. Holloway says that there are no advocacy groups exclusively for documentary filmmakers in Nigeria. He pointed out the abundance of guilds and other groups that claimed to be advocates for filmmakers, producers, writers and other disciplines in the film industry.
There are multiple film festivals in Nigeria, including the Zuma and Abuja Film Festivals. Specifically for documentary, there is iREP. All the interviewees spoke of its high standards and level of commitment to providing a platform for documentary films.
So far, iREP has done two film festivals conducted training classes for documentary filmmakers and held monthly screenings of documentaries at various locations.
Filmmakers/documentary filmmakers in Nigeria need funding for: the production of documentaries; training and development of skills of young filmmakers; access to archives and research related materials; and government intervention in the broadcast sector to end the practice of charging producers for air time for the screening of their films. This will help with the distribution of documentaries and will also assist in creating a wider market for documentary in Nigeria.
INTERVIEWS OF KEY PLAYERS IN THE INDUSTRY
INTERVIEW WITH BUSOLA HOLLOWAY
BH: My name is Busola Holloway, a Nigerian. I am a filmmaker and I studied film and television at Morehouse College, Atlanta Georgia. I’ve been in and out of Nigeria making films — documentaries mostly. I did commercials at one time. My father before me was a filmmaker and so I just basically stepped into his shoes.
Documentaries fall into several categories — the industrial documentary, the fiction documentary and the historical documentary. A lot of the work I do is with industrial documentaries because they pay you money upfront to do the work or they pay you when the work is done. With other documentaries you have to do your own research and fund it with your own money and then you may not get the money back.
FO: Talk about your production company, its history and its activities in the industry.
BH: My production company, Image Pro films, has morphed from two other companies. The first company was Olu Holloway Nigeria Ltd., which my father founded in 1977. He was the only one running that at the time. By the time I came home with my sister and dad, we decided not to use Olu Holloway Nigeria Ltd. anymore, because that was a personal name, and we decided to form another company in 1989 or 1991, I’m not very certain now, but it was called Image Promotions Nigeria Ltd.
We three ran Image Promotions Nigeria Ltd. as for a few years until unfortunately we lost two of our directors. I then decided that I was going to change the name and form a new company which is now Image Pro Films. The reason I have said all of this is because we’ve had the three companies, but it is the same people who have done all the work, except for Image Pro Films. The same people did all the work for Olu Holloway Ltd. and Image Promotions Ltd. and so some of the credits for the jobs and those other works are my credits as well.
The company, so to speak, has been in existence since 1977.
FO: How active are you in the area of documentary and fiction filmmaking.
BH: We are very active in documentary filmmaking. I haven’t been very interested in fiction or feature films because of the fact that I haven’t seen good stories in this country. I know there are some good stories but there are problems with the marketing and I do not intend to be a filmmaker just for the sake of being a filmmaker. I am a filmmaker who makes a living from my work. What I have found is that the channels of distribution in this country are very difficult, so it’s safer for me to simply stick with my documentary filmmaking than to go to feature films. With documentary films you either have a client who has sponsored the job or someone who is backing your production, such as a foundation, to make the documentary. It’s not the same as looking for your own money to do a feature film, which you are not sure will make the money back.
FO: As a production company how many films do you think are made in Nigeria every year, both documentaries and fiction?
BH: A rough speculation, I would say 10. Of course that may come as a surprise to you, because the filmmaking industry has changed dramatically in the last 10 years with technology and almost everybody can afford a cheap camera and you see many, many people going out on the streets and shooting whatever they see or they think is a story and they call that a film. They put it on videotape and put it on a disc and put it into the market as a film that has been made. You start asking yourself, when you start to categorise, what a movie is or what a joke is. So as far as I am concerned, I would say 10 real movies are made in Nigeria yearly in terms of feature films or fiction. The others are jokes. Let’s be serious. Most of the films you see will not catch your attention enough for you to sit down and want to watch it for 10 minutes.
FO: What about documentaries?
BH: Industrial documentaries are made constantly and there are many of them. The oil industry is good for that and the factories are good for that. Not many people or many companies know that they need to make documentaries. They probably do not see the importance of making documentaries until five years later. Something happens and they wish they had documented what happened 5 years ago. That is what documentaries do. You do a documentary on when you are starting a company and how your company is today and believe me, 5 years later there is going to be something you will be able to refer to and say, this is how things were.
Many people don’t see that yet. The government doesn’t see that. Yes, a lot of our press crews are following governors all over the state. They film what these governors are doing but they do not edit them and create stories out of them. Take Lagos — Ibadan Express Road, for instance. They are talking about doing or re- doing the road, or even Lagos-Benin road, but nobody is documenting what is happening on the road right now. On the day they finish the road and they want to open it, everybody will go there with big cameras showing the Governor or the Head of State cutting the tape. Nobody documented before the road was there in the 1960s or the 1970s and nobody is documenting what is going on now. Somebody should be doing that. That is what we lack in terms of making documentaries.
FO: How popular are documentaries in Nigeria, how many people are doing them, and what types are they?
BH: Documentaries are not very popular in Nigeria. For those of us who do documentaries, we know the value or the worth of what we are doing. It’s like a magazine journalist creating a story, or a novelist creating a story. There are not too many people who are novelists, but there are many people who want to be the fashion stars of those magazines, but they do not know what it is to create that magazine. Documentary filmmakers are the creators if you see what I mean.
We do not have many people creating those documentaries. The few we have are doing well. I think more and more people will see the light in documentaries, but how many people want to watch Nigerian-made documentaries? Maybe if you had sponsorship to do good documentary stories from Nigeria, then people would be interested in watching. I am sure everybody watched the documentary, Welcome to Lagos, which is a good film. It showed the resilience of people and how hardworking the Nigerians are but how many people do we have doing that? It is because we don’t have the money. I don’t have the money to shoot that kind of documentary. It’s going to cost a couple of million to do it and do I know it’s going to make money back? Unless I have a couple of million to throw away, it’s hard to do.
So how many people are doing it? Not too many. How many people are watching it? If it is good, many people will watch it.
FO: What types of documentaries are there?
BH: In terms of what types of documentaries there are, documentaries are industrial and basically slice of life documentaries that involve day to day living. I did a documentary once, many years ago about the EYO festival, in the year 2000, I believe. I just wanted to document what EYO was about and when it was done, I gave the documentary away free of charge to television stations before the next EYO festival. I told them to air it and let people know what the festival wass about. They were very happy and they aired it.
Now, with the popularity of EYO festival, more people are beginning to do documentaries on EYO, OSUN- OSOGBO and other festivals. Things that people in the past turned their noses up at — the traditional and cultural things — saying, I’m not doing that, but now we are beginning to document our culture and our traditions, which is good.
FO: What would you say people prefer to watch — industrial or real life documentaries?
BH: If I tell you that people don’t want to watch industrial documentaries, then I’m shooting myself in the foot. I will be telling my clients that nobody is interested in watching their films and that is wrong.
People want to watch them. People want to see….I want to watch how…was it BP that spilled oil in the US Gulf of Mexico? I want to watch how they plugged up that leak. I want to know what they were doing before an explosion occurred. I want to see how roads are built. I want to see how the channel tunnel in Europe was built. I want to see how things are done. Those are all documentaries that people do abroad. I sit down in front of National Geographic and I watch. We need more of those in Nigeria but the problem is we do not have the funding for them.
There are many things done in Nigeria which should be documented, but because people don’t have the funding it’s not done and everybody needs to eat.
However, people will want to watch both. The slice of life concerns everybody but those who want to learn, those who want to know, they want to watch the industrial ones.
FO: Is there a government fund that a filmmaker could possibly tap into to get funding for a film? If there is how much are they likely to get?
BH: For documentary films, no. Zilch.
I heard about the 200 million dollar grant for the entertainment industry. I’ve heard about it but I haven’t seen it. I hear it’s authentic and I hear one or two people have gotten it but I think the modalities for getting it should be a little less stringent.
FO: Are there any NGOs or private companies that give grants to filmmakers?
BH: Yes I’ve heard of some of them — the French Cultural Center, the Goethe Institut. I have heard of a few, so yes.
FO: Do you have any idea how much they will give?
BH: I don’t have an idea of how much they will give, I have an idea on how much it will cost to do a documentary, but you see, that is the beauty of filmmaking. Each film is different, each scene is different, and each take is different. Documentaries cannot just be costed randomly at 1 million or 2 million. Some could cost up to 10 million naira. It depends on what you are trying to achieve.
FO: What happens with other filmmakers without a source of help from the government or grants? How do they gather resources to make a film?
BH: You do it from your own pocket. As I said, I did a film about the EYO festival in 2000 and I gave it away for free. I have the knowledge. It’s just about sitting down and writing a story. I have the knowledge and I have the tools, so I did a film which cost me a bit of money. It wasn’t much and I did not make money from that film until 9 years later, when I finally sold the film.
FO: How does your company fund its productions?
BH: It has not been easy. Most times you get jobs that are commissioned by companies and they ask you to do the job and that is what you survive on. Whatever little you have left you can put into doing other jobs that you would like to do.
FO: Are there distributors that fund films?
BH: Not in Nigeria that I know of.
FO: What is the average budget of those that do fiction and what is the average income you think they make?
BH: I would be telling you a lie if I gave you a figure. I really don’t know. It can be anywhere from 2M to 10M to 40M naira. It depends on how big the production is going to be.
So far, in Nigeria, there are not too many rich filmmakers and that tells you that they are not bringing in enough income and this is because of the distribution network. That is a problem that we have here.
FO: What platforms do you use as a strategy for distribution of your films? Broadcasting, internet, TV, phones, mobile cinemas, film video clubs….
BH: I have used practically all of them. I have used broadcasting, internet, I have put it on telephones to be passed from one person to the other. There are many channels now for getting your story out.
FO: Which of these media have you found to be the most effective for distribution?
BH: The television is still the most reliable.
FO: What options are open to you for distribution of your film as a filmmaker?
BH: There are many options. You have the internet which is growing every day and there are the broadcast stations from which you can buy time. Now, that is another problem we have in Nigeria. We have to buy our air-time. They don’t look at our films and say, “Oh this is good. Can we buy it from you?” No. You buy air-time and then you put your film on in the hope that people will see it and like it and commission you to do other jobs. That is a major problem we have in this country.
FO: How many cinemas are there in Nigeria and can you name them?
BH: Roughly, I would say about 50 to 100, maybe less. There is the Silverbird Cinema, Ozone, The Palms…
FO: Are there any government film training institutions for film and television in Nigeria?
BH: Yes, we have the Nigerian Film Institute in Jos.
FO: What about private institutions?
BH: Yes, there are reputable private ones. We’ve got ITPAN. ITPAN has a training school and we have been training people for many years in production and post-production as well. We have gone even further. These days we have carried our training out to universities and polytechniques because what we found was that most students that come out of Nigerian Universities are not employable because they have not learned anything in their 4 years of being in school, and the reason is very simple. They don’t have any equipment to train on or to learn with.
So, we at ITPAN in the last few years, have gone and donated some equipment that we can afford to these universities and said to them: “This is equipment. Start training and start working with these”. We also gave them lectures. We’ve done 2 or 3 universities now. We have given them lectures, donated equipment and it has been very helpful. One of my staff, a talented young lady is one of the products of such education and I am very proud to say it.
FO: Is ITPAN the only one?
BH: ITPAN is the only one I will talk of.
FO: How many people who work with you here, at your production house, are formally trained in any of the institutions?
BH: I have at least three who are formally trained and I do not have a large staff. When there are jobs, I call professionals in from different aspects of the production field and they help with the job. There is no point keeping people on staff when there is no work to be done.
FO: What is the state of broadcast industry?
BH: Poor. We don’t have enough content on television and the content we do have is very badly produced. It is shortchanging the viewers. There is one programme that I keep giving an example of. I saw it and I could not believe it. It’s a TV series. When I decided to watch television that day I saw that what they did was, for the first 10 minutes they showed what happened on the programme last week, then they went to a commercial break, then they came to this week’s episode and they showed 10 min of this week’s episode, next thing I know is, they say, “Next on XXX programme…,” and they show 5 minutes of what is going to happen next week. What’s the point if you are going to show people 10 minutes in a 30 min time slot? That is cheating. That is stealing. Granted, this man has bought his own air-time, but if you are going to do something, do it right. Do not shortchange the people. We need a lot of training. We need a lot of sincerity.
FO: Does the broadcast industry commission work for either fiction or documentary films? And if they do commission, how many documentaries do they commission?
BH: I would say no, maybe it has been done 5 or 10 times out of 1 million productions, so basically, no.
FO: If I made a documentary would a TV station buy it from me, for instance, or would I have to pay them?
BH: You shouldn’t have to pay them to broadcast it. That is a part of what we are fighting. It is wrong. They need to pay you. They need to commission you in the first place to give them content. They need to commission you to go and produce content, so you don’t have to worry yourself about finding money to produce this content to be aired. The TV stations need to commission you to go and produce content, bring it to them and they air it. Then they get the money from the commercials, or they share it, one way or the other, but you shouldn’t have to pay TV stations for the air time.
FO: What if you gave them content for free?
BH: They will air it very happily and then they won’t pay you. They will air it 100 times because they don’t have any other content. They do not produce their own programmes.
FO: In terms of the capacity of filmmakers here and the structures that surround them, are there archives where you can find old materials? What is the access level of filmmakers to that archive? Is there a government archive or are there private archives where you can get old films or footage, if you are doing a historical film for example?
BH: I would say it is very unlikely you would find anything because people simply do not take charge or take care of things that they have. I have some archives that we have taken care of well, but at the same time, things that were shot on film in the 1960s and the 1970s — I know that if you do not keep them very well, the celluloid will disintegrate. In terms of most places that claim to have archives, I would like to see what condition their archives are in. I would think that video tapes are probably not viewable any longer because they weren’t well taken care of. I doubt if you could find archives in Nigeria. Believe me, if you want to find anything on Nigeria in the 60s, you most likely will have to go to BBC or ITN.
FO: What are the challenges you face as a filmmaker in these three stages of production: pre-production, production or post-production?
BH: The thing about pre-production is that first of all you have got to develop a story and that is a challenge in itself. Trying to develop stories in Nigeria and knowing that you are going to have to get backing from people when it comes to production time is hard, too.
For example, you want to shoot something on the streets and you know you are going to have a camera out there. The average policeman on the street does not understand what it is — that you need to shoot a film — and so you need police backing for when you are shooting this film. You go to them at the police station and say, “I need police backing for filming” and they say, “No, we don’t understand what you are saying”. It should be part of filmmaking. You also need to go to the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board to get your permit, which is not a problem, but they are supposed to go with you to location, and sometimes they don’t and so you get into all sorts of problems when it comes to production time.
In terms of production, first the problems are numerous — too numerous to count — but one of the other issues we have is the ever changing equipment profile. Last year, I bought a new camera. It been released less than a week when I saw it and I bought it. I was just reading a magazine now and it appears there is an upgrade to that camera, so what should I do with the one that I haven’t finished using?
Post-production facilities are becoming obsolete very quickly, but our people are catching up and we are still able to use the old equipment that we have to do post, which is good. So, I would say production itself posses the most challenge.
FO: Which area of production would you say, in general, in the industry, needs the most funding support? Is it pre-production, production or post-production?
BH: I wouldn’t say equipment, because when you say equipment, generally you are talking about digitalization. You are talking about getting the latest camera. I know some people who have the most expensive cameras which include the RED-ONE, but if you are planning to air your film in Nigeria, why are you shooting with a RED-ONE because the TV stations are not digital anyway and then you shoot with a RED camera at the end of the day you are still going to come down to VHS quality. So, why did you shoot with a RED in the first place? Why did you shoot with a high end camera, when that RED could have bought you 20 cheaper cameras?
It would have to be production. That’s what most of the work goes into.
FO: In terms of your views, what would you say is the importance of documentary to the politics of Africa?
BH: Extremely important. Those who do not learn from the past are bound to be burnt by the future and in Africa we have a penchant for not learning from the past. What our leaders are doing now is very similar to what happened in the fifties and in the sixties which burnt this country for years and if they are not careful they are heading in that same direction. However, if we had documentaries, which we could watch and learn from and not close our eyes, maybe, just maybe, we could save this country and many other African countries. We need to learn from the past, we need to archive things that happened in the past and learn never to do it again.
America documented the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and because of that they are afraid to drop another bomb in any other country because they know how much human suffering it will cost anywhere else. They didn’t envisage that the A-bomb would cause so much damage in Japan, but now they know and they know that the nuclear bomb is a thousand times more powerful. They won’t do it again. You need to document your past so that you can learn from it.
FO: Should a new funding programme be introduced in your country, and what are the critical areas you think it should address? And, please state your reason.
BH: Education firstly, education secondly and education thirdly. Most of the people who handle equipment or who are into production these days are not educated in the art of filmmaking so we need to go back to the basics and go to the schools and get some equipment into the schools for these students to train with.
I have been talking to some equipment manufacturers and I have been talking to television broadcast stations abroad. They have all this old equipment they keep junking after a year or two years but they are working and they are still perfectly ok. Give them to us and we will give them to the schools and the schools will use them for training.
Can you imagine that students who study computer science in universities in Nigeria go through universities for four years and they never see the inside of a computer. What are they learning? They come out and they are not even as knowledgeable as the man in Alaba market or computer village who is tearing computers apart by himself. Why would someone go to school to waste four years ? It is the same thing with cinematography. People are going to school to study mass communications and then they come out and they don’t know the back end from the front end of a camera. Put money into education and put some money into productions by the people who are in the business.
FO: What would you imagine would be the criteria that would be acceptable across the board to filmmakers in Nigeria if a fund was to be set up? What kind of filmmakers would be eligible for that funding? Who would manage that funding? Should it be managed through the guilds, or should it be something that is given individually to each filmmaker? Who decides who gets the funds, for instance, and how can this be seen to be fair in the context of the culture of the country?
BH: I would say the serious ones, the ones that are identifiable as serious filmmakers. You don’t need to have a degree in filmmaking but serious filmmakers who have some track record of having done some things. That would be important. For instance, I know a few people who have produced films out of their own pockets. A gentleman I know has produced a couple of films out of his own pocket and there is another gentleman I know who has produced films out of his own pocket as well. There are other people who do films out of their own pockets for the common good. You look at people like that and you ask them, who they think should be taken seriously. Then you go to an association like ITPAN, and you ask them who they think needs funding or should be taken seriously in this industry.
To manage the funding we would have to look for a core group of people that are experienced in the industry who know the serious ones. Advocacy groups have to be people who have knowledge about the industry, of the inner workings of the industry. Don’t just put a bunch of lawyers to manage filmmakers, because they don’t know the first thing about filmmaking. Put practitioners in the industry to manage such a fund. You look at someone obviously who will be in control of money. You look at people who are practitioners in the industry; you look at people who are workers in the industry; you look at people who are actors and viewers in the industry. Obviously you won’t take five of each; you only need one or two from each group to put a solid team together.
When you mention guilds, my heart tears apart for this country because there are too many guilds. Everybody wants to form an association. Everybody wants to be president of an association. I don’t know why we cannot live in existing guilds, but on the other hand, maybe I do know why. I received a text message in the last 48 hours from a guild, saying they were holding their AGM and the outgoing president does not want to relinquish power. He has been there for 2 terms and his terms are over. He does not want to relinquish power because they are expecting some money to come in. Now, I don’t know if there is something in us Africans that does not allow us to say, “Ok my time is up, let me relinquish it to the next person”. So, please forget the guilds. There is one that calls themselves the Association Of XXX, then someone else breaks away from that and goes to form The Real Association of XXX and someone breaks from that and goes to form The Core Association of XXX! All from one Guild! We need to strategize. There is another group that I hear is forming now and they are going to Abuja saying that they are the television content producers and the Abuja people are saying, “We don’t know you”, we know ITPAN. Why do people have to form so many guilds? Very soon you will have a guild in your own house as well. At the end of the day, it doesn’t serve anybody well. It doesn’t do any of us any good. We need to go back to basics. Tell all the guilds — please go away. We will talk to individuals and we will identify individuals who you know we are serious. If they belong to guilds, fine. Or, if they can corral the members of their guilds to tow the line, then fine. If they cannot, please don’t waste your time.
It is the guilds that are causing problems for the 200 million dollar federal government intervention. One will say, “Don’t give the money to these people, give it to those people”. They are back biting each other and it is not helping.
Who gets the funds? I think, as I said, you’ve got to identify serious filmmakers. I can tell you of a young lady on my staff, who I mentioned before, who is very serious. In her time at youth service, she went and produced a film for Delta state which had never been done by anybody for the state before. Even the state Governor was impressed. Yes, we find people like that and then we get them. I am not saying just young ones, but older ones as well. By the time you do maybe 10 or 20, you will find that many more will see why those 10 or 20 were picked and they will start to toe the line, but don’t just throw money out there. Don’t just throw money around because you will waste your money and a lot of it will be lost.
FO: Is there a place to create a start up fund that will allow us to fund the ones that have enough talent to make film in documentary? Would funding address that?
BH: Yes, yes definitely. Form a core group of people, and I wouldn’t even want to go to an association because in an association you have too many dissenting voices — “I want the money, she wants the money”. You have to be autocratic sometimes.
FO: In terms of training, what area should such a fund target in terms of education of filmmakers or the development of skills of filmmakers?
BH: Development of skills will come from provision of equipment that they can do practicals with. I remember when I was in university, we used to just go to the equipment store and sign out equipment. In my first year of university, I was signing out equipment and there was a film I produced in my first year. I edited it myself. I had editing facilities open to me.
My daughter came home from school one day and brought with her a Canon 7D camera that she just signed out from her school. I said, “Oh! You guys have facilities to sign out these kinds of cameras that I’m using professionally”. They have hundreds in their own schools, we don’t have any here. If we can find a way of getting some to the universities it will help our students and it will help us.
FO: Is there a distinct database for filmmakers in Nigeria?
FO: How many guilds are there and what are they made up of?
BH: If there were 99 yesterday, I assure you by next week we will probably have like 150.They keep breaking up and forming new guilds. I don’t know what the others are made up of, but I know that ITPAN is made up of television producers.
FO: What film festivals run in Nigeria? How many have run that you have you been involved in and that your films have been promoted in?
BH: There is Zuma. iREP is an upcoming film festival that’s only been going on for two years. They have been doing documentaries and they are interesting, but iREP needs content and where does this content come from? It comes from the filmmakers in this country and what do the filmmakers make the film from? The films have to be funded. If the filmmakers don’t have funding, they can’t do films.Yes, I have had films shown at iREP and I have had films shown in Atlanta, but I don’t think I’ve had any films shown at Zuma.
FO: Are there any advocacy groups that are trying to create awareness for interest of filmmakers in Nigeria?
BH: Yes, I am the outgoing president of ITPAN. I will soon be done. I have done two terms.
FO: Can you give a little background history of ITPAN?
BH: ITPAN was founded in 1992, I believe, and registered in 1993. The full name is The Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria. At the time it was registered, we had but one television station, which was NTA. We had many independent television producers who were having many problems with NTA, so we formed a group of people who are independent producers or independent of NTA. It was a few years after that, that the government threw open the airwaves to private television and radio stations, so ITPAN became the umbrella body for private producers — non-NTA producers, basically. Producers, directors and actors are all members of ITPAN.
Our goal has been to foster the growth of the television industry to help our members. We are very strong in training as we do a lot of training and retraining of practitioners in the industry. We have a training school which awards certificates that are recognised by many organisations.
We have never had any issues of succession at ITPAN because each person serves the maximum of two terms and leaves. I am going to serve my two terms and leave.
FO: What is the function of ITPAN in the industry?
BH: We are basically a mediator between the producers and the regulatory bodies. One of the greatest things we did at ITPAN was to win the prime time for Nigerian produced programmes. At one time, foreign programmes such as the Brazilian soaps were taking over Nigerian airwaves and ITPAN fought against that and we won prime time for Nigerian producers. When you look at television these days, 6 pm – 10 pm is only for Nigerian productions. Unfortunately, most of the people who have programmes running in that time belt are not ITPAN members because they do not know where that benefit came from. When they lose it with shoddy programmes, like the example I gave earlier, that’s when they know that there is an association, that if they had been a part of it, would have helped them fight for their rights.
FO: What are the goals of ITPAN?
BH: ITPAN is an association created to foster the growth of the television industry, to see to the well being of its members and to ensure that independent television in Nigeria continues to survive.
FO: Leadership and membership of ITPAN?
BH: If I talk about the leadership of ITPAN it would mean that I would be talking about myself and I will not do that. Membership at ITPAN initially was very strong, but over the last few years dwindled. Maybe because a lot of new practitioners in the industry do not realise the benefits of being part of an association and a lot of them just do their work and get tossed around by the TV stations.
However, if they were members of ITPAN, and by the way, most of the TV stations are members of ITPAN, then we would talk on their behalf and say, “Hey, you can’t do this to your own member”. We would be the backbone central for producers in the industry. We do not have specific guilds in ITPAN, just different people, so there are no guilds as such in ITPAN.
FO: Is your production house part of or a member of them?
BH: Definitely. I am a member.
FO: If this advocacy group were to be put in charge of administering a fund for filmmakers, what would be your reaction to that?
BH: I wouldn’t take kindly to that because I don’t think any one guild or any one association should be in charge. I think it should be a consortium of people in the industry, not a guild. Definitely you can say that ITPAN could take some money and use it for training as they see fit. That will be ok, but it would not be ok to say that ITPAN is the overall administrator of this fund. I don’t think it will be wise. Then you would have a lot of people rushing to join just to be able to get that fund and then you might have issues of mismanagement.
If you formed a group of people who were respected in the industry to manage that fund, it would work better for you. Let the associations continue to be associations. Fund ITPAN to be able to do more than it has been doing. That is different from having ITPAN take all the money and run the fund.
FO: Are there any other advocacy groups that are trying to create awareness for interest of filmmakers in Nigeria?
BH: I know iREP has done very well. If there are any others, I have not quite heard of them.
FO: Is filmmaking in Nigeria concentrated only in the Lagos area?
BH: I’m from Lagos and Lagos is where everything happens.
FO: What is the cost of a DVD movie?
BH: I hear that it is 150N for the fake copy, which is equivalent to a dollar. I hear the original ones range from 300-1000N.
FO: How much does it cost to see it in the cinema?
BH: 1000N for students and 1500N for regular.
FO: Do films premiere in Nigeria and, if they do, how long before they are available in DVD?
BH: Yes, we do premiere movies. Well, we shouldn’t just go from a premiere to a DVD. It should go from a premiere and release into cinema houses. That is what should happen, but we have this way of going about things — from release straight to DVD. Piracy has been a major issue, so you try to release on DVD immediately and you try to make as much money as you can within the first two weeks. If you don’t make your money within the first two weeks, the pirates get it and they make more money than you do.
FO: As a filmmaker, I am pretty sure you are concerned about piracy. What is the situation with piracy here in Nigeria? What are the laws against piracy? What is the enforcement situation like?
BH: Piracy is very bad. It’s not good for the people and it is not good for the industry.
FO: Are there laws against piracy and what is the enforcement situation like in Nigeria?
BH: Yes there are laws against piracy everywhere. They are not very good.
FO: What are predominant issues in Nigeria that you think the voices of documentary filmmakers might help shape?
BH: Poverty, corruption, crime, resilience of the people, the adjustability of the people to hardships, the ingenuity of the Nigerian people — those are basically the things I would like to see films about.
I don’t see too many films done about progress, because I do not see too much progress going on in this country. I just came back from a trip to the USA and I saw places that I knew many years ago and I saw the progress that had been made in just a few years. In Atlanta, for instance, a road I had known for many years to be just three lanes, is now seven lanes. When I entered the airport in Atlanta for the first time in the 70s, it was just an airport. It was a good airport. By the 80s when I was there, they had improved it and it was the best airport in the world. Today, I have never seen anything like it. They have even improved it further, and they are building more and more concourses. They improve it every day. They are not standing still.
Name one thing that has improved in this country in the last 20 years. Nothing, there is nothing. Other countries improve constantly. I wish people would take a cue from Lagos State government and try to improve. This country is just at a standstill.
FO: Would it be acceptable thing for a foundation to try to fund Nigerian films and documentary films? Would it be accepted as something that is not political by the Government of Nigeria?
BH: I think I should make a bit of a distinction between Nigerian film and Nigerian television. I am more into television and not a home video market. So, yes it will be a good thing for the foundation to try to fund Nigerian movies. If we are doing films that are sensible, we would have to criticise government a bit, so I guess they would say it is political, but if we do films that are sensible and we are being honest I do not see why anybody should be bothered by it. Entertainment is the first business of this industry.
INTERVIEW WITH JAIYE OJO
CEO of Audio Visual Communications Ltd.
JO: My name is Jaiye Ojo. I have been around television for 35 years. I started out as a television presenter/announcer. I’ve moved on to programme presentation, newscasting, news production, and scriptwriting. I’ve done everything around television except directing and the reason why is because most of the time I was in front of the camera, so I can’t be in front of the camera and also be behind the camera.
I worked in NTA for twelve years and got some good training, but I have also been a trainer. Some of the people you see on television today I recruited and was also involved in their training. I have also worked on the private sector side. I used to be the general manager of MITV some 12 years ago.
I have been around running my own business for a good part of the last 20 years. I did an HND degree in Mass Communication. In the course of working with NTA, I was exposed to a lot of training on the job in that immediate work environment
FO: Talk about your production company, its history and its activities in the industry and how long has it been in business?
JO: AV.com in full means Audio Visual Communications Ltd. Our flagship in terms of our brand name is East End, and we have been in the business of developing content for a good part of the last 20 years. We have done a lot of things, especially with television, from doing children’s programmes to doing game shows, to doing entertainment programmes, to doing talk shows and some documentaries. We have tried our hands in all of these areas very successfully. There is nothing that we have done that has not been a masterpiece in all of these years. We are proud of our contribution to the business of content generation in this part of the world.
On another platform, I have also been involved with another production company called 3 41 Media.
FO: How active are you in the area of documentary and fiction filmmaking?
JO: Not too active at the moment. In the past, we have done quite a few things in that area, particularly when it comes to commissioned jobs, working for multinationals, international agencies on specific assignment like working for Shell for instance. From time to time we get commissioned to do documentaries from such organisations. It’s not a regular line of business for us, like what we do on our own just making documentaries… no. When we find clients who have a need in that area and they invite us in, then we work. We have done quite a few of those kind of things. I hardly do fiction films.
FO: As a production company how many films do you think are made in Nigeria every year, both documentaries and fiction?
JO: I am the wrong person to ask because I will just give you a figure that is not based on any serious research. I’d rather not just throw numbers at you.
FO: How popular are documentaries in Nigeria, how many people are doing them?
JO: Documentaries are not particularly popular in Nigeria and in my own estimation, it is not because as a genre of programming that documentary is not acceptable here, it is simply because it is not an easy area for most production companies to get into, neither is it an area that most Nigerian viewers see often. Nigeria has a market that is more for drama, football and musicals which are not as intellectually tasking as documentaries usually are and documentaries tend to be more expensive to produce by virtue of the issues that go into it. You can put someone on stage to play music for you and run the next few hours on whatever he does, that is not too difficult.
Generally documentaries are likely to require a lot more intellectual work and research and take more time to produce. You have got to wait for the right times to do the right thing, if you need to shoot at sunset you have to shoot at sunset, if you need to shoot an animal hibernating you need to wait for the right time of the year or the right time of the day to get that done. Those are not things that you can create especially if it has got to do with nature. That makes it a little more difficult for most people to engage in. It is not an area that is exciting for most people.
FO: Is there a government fund, NGO or are there private companies that a filmmaker can tap into to get funding for a film?
JO: From time to time you hear of projects that the Government throws money into. For instance, the government wants to shoot ten short films to support the Proudly Nigerian Campaign of the Ministry of Information but most times there is nothing that is well structured or in place that a filmmaker can approach with the thought that funding is there. It’s more ad hoc, indvidual people. Maybe there is somebody in the ministry who has some interest and wants to do something. Sometimes they will share it out, sometimes it is a closed thing and they give to selected individuals to do.
There is nothing like what they have in a country like South Africa, where they have a film fund, well-established structures that producers can actually work with and the assurance that it is stable. I know there have been some lame efforts in that regard here but I am not aware if any progress has been made or if any are in place as we speak.
Funding from private companies? Maybe, but that will be few and far between.
FO: What happens with other filmmakers without a source of help from the government or grants? How do you gather resources to fund your production?
JO: I do not know how other companies get funding for their own productions. My production company gets funding generally when I work on projects. This means I talk to potential clients, and I try to find solutions to their problems. That is why I cover different areas of communications/marketing. For instance, if I come in and I find out that your problem requires documentaries, then I will propose it to you and if you are convinced then we do it for you. Even if it is advertising or print, we will do it. We produce comics. I am a one-stop-shop business enterprise. It really depends on what the needs are, so for us documentary is just one aspect of so many other things that we do.
FO: What is the state of the broadcast industry? Does the broadcast industry commission works, whether fiction or non-fiction and if they do, how many documentaries do they commission? If I made a documentary would a TV station buy it from me for instance?
JO: It is not the norm for the broadcast industry to commission works or to buy works. This is one of the few countries in the world where there are no proper structures for the funding of projects, which is inclusive of documentaries, so most times the producer looks for the money and then when the job is completed, if he wants to air it he has to find sponsors, then take it to the station and pay. In other parts of the world you don’t pay for air time and most times they commission the job, so the minute you finish the work you hand it over to them. It is their business what they do with it. They will even find a sponsor, but here the producer does everything. You have to look for the funds to produce and sometimes do whatever you have to do in order to be able to achieve that dream. When you finish, if it is something that needs to air on television, you have to look for money to pay the TV stations for them to air it.
FO: Are there archives where you can find old materials? What is the access level of filmmakers to that archive? Is there a government archive or private archives where you can get old films or footage, if you are doing a historical film for example?
JO: Yes there are a few places, but unfortunately we do not have good records in this country. We face a lot of challenges and when you get to these places you will be amazed at how much waste we have generated in this country. It is not a good story to tell. Most of the places that may have good records are government places, but government institutions are not well run. They recycle tapes with valuable materials, recording new programmes on them instead of keeping and archiving them. These things are supposed to be stored away, not used for recording new materials.
If you go to NTA for instance, and you ask for Village Headmaster, which is supposed to be the number one drama serial ever done in this country, you probably won’t get a single episode. There may also be some institutions or corporations trying to keep records, I don’t know, but I’d be shocked if any of them have good records. There may also be some production houses that have some storage. Some people with production houses like us have some storage but we don’t consider what we have significant to the volume of business and opportunities and content that are happening today. Those are our challenges — and challenges of power surges that damage our equipment. We are still very far away from where we should be.
FO: What would you say is the importance of documentary to the politics of Africa?
JO: Well, the documentary genre provides the right treatment for dealing with most of the issues of politics and of development. No doubt about it. but there are other options of dealing with issues along these lines. Documentary is a very strong and powerful treatment option for many, if not most, of all developmental issues in Africa. In terms of politics and of the economy — yes.
FO: Should a new funding programme be introduced in your country? What are the critical areas you think it should address? And, please state your reason.
JO: Funding has always been one crucial area, because without funding it will be very difficult to do great jobs. Of course funding is tied to equipment and to the quality of manpower for the projects. All of these things are affected by funding.
When it comes to filmmaking there are a hundred and one issues to look at. One very important issue is the education of filmmakers. If you have someone who is knowledgeable in his/her field of choice then the intellectual quality of such a person will also be reflected in his/her work.
FO: What would you imagine would be the criteria acceptable to filmmakers in Nigeria if a fund were to be set up?
JO: It depends on what the provider of the funds wants to achieve. For instance, if the provider of funds is interested in films around nature, then you have to look at the background of the different prospective producers to see who among them will be able to meet that criterion. Let’s assume you are a filmmaker and there are some people, by reason of what they have done in the past or are doing presently, that are better prepared to do work in specific areas because of their knowledge of these things and of what they have done in the past. I expect that the antecedents of the filmmaker should be one of the main things that determines who and who gets what done. Among other things you have got to be looking at what the person brings to the table in terms of skills and work experience. It will show you have a passion for your field of work.
FO: Who would manage that funding?
JO: The provider of the funds has to be actively involved in its management to ensure that the resources are judiciously used. Secondly, they need to put a team in place that monitors the disbursements and the use of the funds. In other words, it is not enough to give a producer money and say go and do a film. It is also important that you monitor the judicious utilization of the resources.
That is not to say that Nigerian producers are not responsible enough to manage funds. What I am saying is that two heads are better than one. Good results can be achieved when the funding agency and the producing company are both involved in the management of the resources. I am an advocate of funding that is staggered in such a way that ensures that at every step, the right thing is done and all the goals are met.
FO: Should it be managed through the guilds or should it be something that is given individually to each filmmaker?
JO: I do not know much about the guilds. There may be some guilds in Nigeria but they are not under ITPAN. ITPAN is a body that I belong to and we don’t have functional guilds to manage, but I expect that in any business relationship involving the use of money and committing resources, it is important that you have a small team of experts and distinguished persons/practitioners who will arbitrate and ensure fairness in all dealings.
FO: Who decides who gets the funds and how can this be seen to be fair in the context of the culture of the country?
JO: There have got to be some criteria that will help determine who gets the funds. The team that you put in place will then help you to ensure that those criteria that have been agreed for determining who qualifies for receiving such funds are adhered to.
I think that merit should be the number one criteria for determining who qualifies for funds. You cannot rule out geographical spread, but that will be secondary to the extent that you want to promote the emergence of these kinds of initiatives across the entire country so it is not concentrated only in the hands of Nollywood producers for instance. There has to be some spread, but more importantly the number one basis for allocating resources should be merit.
FO: Is there a place to create a start up fund that will allow us to fund the people that have enough talent to make documentaries?
JO: There are a few schools that have shown the capacity for an initiative of this nature. I am aware of the ITPAN training school. I am also aware of a few other organisations that can also provide this kind of opportunity. There are also private organisations — bodies like iREP that I think have done some work in terms of projects. There are also private companies that might be willing to open their doors. I am of the opinion that there is nothing that is done anywhere in the world that cannot be done in Nigeria. In other words, you can do a documentary anywhere in Nigeria. You do not need to bring foreign crews to Nigeria to come and shoot. We have enough resources, we have manpower and to some extent, certain facilities.
What we may need is primarily resources to improve on some of the facilities that already exist here, rather than those kinds of opportunities. We can conveniently and effectively cover most of Africa, especially West Africa. There are those that are doing documentary including young, Nigerian producers that are fully capable of developing these kinds of opportunities.
For those of us who understand the culture and the people, I think we should get the first shot at these kinds of opportunities. That’s not to say collaboration with strategic technical partners should not be entertained in certain instances — for sharing skills and cross fertilization of ideas etc.
FO: Is there a distinct database for filmmakers in Nigeria, is that data available to the public? Is there a film censor board in Nigeria?
JO: I know some effort was made in the past along these directions, but honestly I am the wrong person to give a precise answer on this question. Some places may exist, but where they are I am not able to tell you. However, I am sure there are some pockets of data in some places.
FO: Is there a film censor board in Nigeria?
JO: Yes there is.
FO: Are there any other advocacy groups that are trying to create awareness in the interests of filmmakers in Nigeria?
JO: Yes there are. I am aware of iREP. They have been creating awareness for documentary films. They have been running now for the past two years or so and that suggests that iREP is positioned to lead in this segment of the television business. There is also ITPAN, a more all-encompassing professional association of key practitioners, of which I am a member. It is an organisation that has been operating successfully now for many years and they are the leader in the area of film and television production/media owners.
There are a few others but they are not as prominent.
FO: Is your production house part of a member?
JO: AV.Com is a member of ITPAN.
FO: If this advocacy group were to be put in charge of administering funds for filmmakers, what would be your reaction to that?
JO: As long as the people who run it have good intentions, I would be glad to support such an initiative. I am more concerned with ensuring that the right people would be involved — those who have the love for the business of documentary filmmaking, those who have proven themselves in the past, who have invested their resources and their talents in the past and have proven to be serious.
FO: Can you recommend another advocacy group that you think would be eligible for distribution of funds if a fund were to be set up and why?
JO: ITPAN and iREP come to mind. These are the bodies with which I am quite familiar and whose leadership in the industry over the years has been so sterling that it would allow me to recommend them without reservation.
FO: Is filmmaking in Nigeria concentrated only in the Lagos area?
JO: No it is not. There are filmmakers outside of Lagos.
FO: What is the situation with piracy here in Nigeria? What are the laws against piracy? What is the enforcement situation like? What is the perception of the law enforcement agencies about piracy?
JO: Piracy is a big problem in Nigeria and it is one problem that has stood the test of time in terms of its exploitation of the creative wealth of this nation and unless we address it in terms of the future of creative business, we will continue to be threatened. It is not only limited to setting up laws. Laws are important, but we need to look for multiple solutions to this problem. I have heard people in the past say things like, “Why don’t we cooperate with the pirates?” I thought that it was quite ingenious. Indeed, it may just be one of the ways that can help us to fight this dreaded situation.
FO: In terms of film festivals, how many film festivals take place in Nigeria, what type of films do they show? Are there film festivals for documentaries/fiction? Have you been involved in any?
JO: Quite a few…but my involvement has been marginal.
FO: Would it be an acceptable thing for a foundation to try to fund Nigerian films and documentary films? Would it be accepted as something that is not political by the government of Nigeria?
JO: I should think so, yes.
INTERVIEW WITH OLUMIDE AKINWUMI-OKE
Executive Director at 923 Media
OA: My name is Olumide Akinwumi-Oke and I am a producer and director. I shoot documentaries, TV shows, game shows, quiz shows, commercials and I also produce radio materials. I studied law at Ogun State University in 1992 and earned my BL degree at the Nigerian Law School in 1993. Currently I am the executive director at 923 Media.
FO: What are the challenges you face as a filmmaker in these three stages of production, pre-production, production and post-production and where do you consider you have challenges in terms of human resources in relation to those three stages?
OA: I think the major part of the job is actually done in pre-production. If you have most of your indicators available or in place at pre-production, it makes production at the end of the day quite smooth. There are differences when you are on factual documentary production as opposed to corporate documentary production. The distinctions are quite clear, so most of the time if you have all the indicators in pre- production, you are probably going to have a very smooth shoot. Skills gap is another thing, but that usually manifests during production. Part of the problem also manifests through funding. Many clients are not prepared to pay as well as they need to for what you really need to get the job done, so a lot of the time you need to hide under stock photography to cover up for places you cannot go in order to make your material as credible as it needs to be.
FO: Which areas of production would you say, in general in the industry, need the most funding support? Is it pre- production, production or post-production?
OA: Well, I like to take it as a whole because trying to distinguish which area needs the most support I guess is determined on a client to client basis. As clients become more knowledgeable, they also apply that knowledge when they are negotiating with you. For documentary makers who are factual documentary makers, a lot of the time they get little funding for what they need to do, so it is more of their passion and interest that is at work, but in regards to corporate documentaries, it’s a simpler,but not necessarily easier, road. A lot of the funding requirements are agreed even before you set out.
Even when you are discussing or negotiating with clients, they look askance at pre-production, as in, “What do you want to use all this money for?”
When you want to have advanced teams do certain preparations and scout locations and all, sometimes it’s a long drawn out process that becomes impossible or you find that you have too little time to do a great job. You need to spend quite some time getting the production design right before you move crew onto
location. Not being able to spend requisite time on that has meant sometimes moving crew to location on the blind and that obviously will have an effect on the final output you get.
FO: What would you say is the importance of documentary to the politics of Africa?
OA: On a personal level, I love documentaries, particularly when you can use them to affect human perception and behavior. In our clime, these documentaries can come from formal establishments like television stations. If they are government-owned, you know exactly how they are going to be filmed. If it is privately owned, then you know maybe they will try to, if they are not owned by politicians with their narrow viewpoint, they will try to make it as objective as possible. Documentaries of that nature are invaluable to political behavior. It shapes attitudes and even voting patterns.
Without documentaries of this nature it is very difficult for people to know what is happening within every milieu. It is therefore key to focus attention on documentaries that educate with sponsors or donor organisations, paying more attention to funding projects in that vein so that you can actually educate the minds of young people who may not be that disposed towards documentaries. Documentaries are seen as boring stuff. It’s not really entertainment, so you need to really invest in that area, particularly in the universities where these things are taught so people can understand the importance of using documentaries to wake up the consciousness of the people. The art for art sake argument still rages in this area too, but let everyone be persuaded.
I have done a couple of advocacy documentaries on my own, trying to talk about different kind of things through different situations and I understand how difficult it can be when you are trying to do that on a shoestring budget.
FO: Should a new funding programme be introduced in your country? What are the critical areas you think it should address? And, please state your reason.
OA: I think education is the very first part. You need to talk to the young, and the best places to do this will be the polytechnics, the universities and even the secondary schools. Get them into the groove of doing documentaries. So I would say, education first.
Distribution is very key, particularly for documentaries. A lot of people are just using online resources — YouTube, Facebook, My Space, or festivals to get their documentaries seen right now. To actually get your documentary shown on television stations can be herculean. You know how expensive airtime is today, so just imagine you have spent personal resources to shoot your documentary and now have to pay through your nose to get it aired. How many people can afford that? Sometimes 300,000 Naira for just 30 minutes, if it’s AIT it could be more! How many people can really afford to do that? However, you need to get these things out so that people can be educated. Distribution is quite key to this.
Production is critical of course. I think if you don’t have a lot of productions going on in this area, it is going to be very difficult to train the human capital that will be responsible for getting these things across. A director may be good, a producer may be good, but if he does not have the right crew behind him, he is going to still come up short. I think these are the three key areas that we could basically design a strategy around.
FO: With respect to training, what areas should such a fund address? Education of filmmakers or the development of skills of filmmakers?
OA: You cannot separate the two. They go hand in hand, but if someone is educated and he does not have the skills at the end of the day he will not be able to achieve what he had in his mind or in his heart. A lot of people are out there just picking up cameras and doing something without understanding the basic production elements. On Twitter the other day, a Harvard Professor was saying education without an ingrained skills set is disaster and I agree. So, I find it difficult to separate the two. I think the two of them are critical and they go together. Education must be practical to address skills and business requirements in order to survive in this environment.
FO: Is there a place to create a start up fund that will allow us to fund the people that have enough talent to make documentaries?
OA: Funding, after training should. I think a lot has to be project-based and I like what iREPis doing in terms of awakening consciousness about the need to use documentaries. We need to be able to get the mass of young people, who have wonderful ideas about contributing to society, working as teams to — even if it has to be like a competition of sorts to start it off — to get them introduced to documentaries, get them working on these materials, ‘incentivize’ them.
A festival of that nature needs to also reach mass audiences and that means television. If you have to put all that together I think iREP is an organisation that could be useful.
ITPAN could also focus on those activities and target the young people. I am looking at association- based organisations that can actually go out there and push these young people. You could also look at schools. I know UNILAG Mass Communications is quite ok, and MAPOLY is another, but if for instance an endowment of sorts could be done at UNILAG, projects of a particular nature could be given to young filmmakers to produce and submit to a university or higher institution film festival and people are actually honored. It will actually kindle in the hearts of people the need to do a lot more as far as documentaries are concerned. I learn a lot when I do documentarie, so I know that for people that will do them it is like being paid to get educated.
FO: Is there a government archive or private archive where you can get old films or footage, if you are doing a historical film for example?
OA: No, I am not aware of any formal archive. NTA is probably your best repository but no one knows just how well they are able to supply stuff dating decades back.
FO: Is there a censor’s board in Nigeria for films?
OA: Yes there is one. There is a Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board. I do not think they bother with documentaries since they are hardly released en masse but I know they do look at films generally, particularly Nollywood films.
In terms of a censors board, I think there are a couple of online resources that are trying to do that, get information back and forth, but I don’t think that it is as organised as what we have internationally.
FO: As a production company, how many films do you think are made in Nigeria every year, both documentaries and fiction?
OA: I think the figures being touted are in the region of about 10 or 15 released per week. I know that is why they say we are the third largest film industry in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood. I think the figures basically also relate to movies. I am not sure that you will ever get a count of where documentaries stand in the scheme of things. If you had other genres apart from feature films or Nollywood films you might actually get a higher number.
At 10 or 15 films per week, that actually gives you an idea of how many films do go out in Nigeria and why the Nigerian Film Industry is ranked the third largest in the world.
FO: What is the situation with piracy here in Nigeria? What are the laws against piracy? What is the enforcement situation like? What is the perception of the law enforcement agencies about piracy?
OA: Yes I am aware of piracy. Piracy is so bad that sometimes within the first week of release, the fake prototypes are already out there in Alaba Market. So most of the time what people are doing today to beat the piracy thing is to release your films first at the cinema. Great, but then, how many people can afford to pay the cinema guys about 5 million Naira, to roll out the film at the cinemas before the producer actually does put it on a DVD?
That is what happens internationally — a film should go to the cinema/box office before it comes out in DVD. I think if producers can actually embrace the cinema part of it things might be better and it might force producers to up their game as far as quality is concerned. If we have more cinemas that are not as expensive, and don’t require a filmmaker to fork out about 3-5 million Naira before the film can be screened at the cinemas, then it might make it a lot easier to actually beat piracy. It is just because a lot of people have to go from production right on to DVD or V-CD. That is why piracy, in my opinion, enjoys quite a huge space in our time grid.
In terms of the enforcement situation, the fact of the matter is that a lot of noise is made about enforcement, but beyond the usual one or two arrests made in the year and paraded on television, nothing else happens. These films are pirated, sent to China where they are mass produced and then brought back here and that is the end of the film for the producer. For instance, I saw on the road Jenifa 1 & 2 and 20 other films bundled in one DVD — obviously that could not have been done by the producers of the 22 films — and it was being sold for the price of one.
FO: How do you fund your own productions? What is the average budget of those who do fiction and what is the average income they make?
OA: I can’t speak for fiction because I am in awe of their resilience for the returns they have to endure! I do more documentaries (factual and corporate) and for factual I generally fund personally while corporate styled documentaries pay for themselves via commissioning from a client.
FO: Are there distributors that fund films?
OA: The great Idumota and Alaba distributors/pirates! They are probably the best sources today. To the best of my knowledge, cinemas don’t fund films even though they provide an excellent outlet today for marketing and distribution.
FO: What platforms do you use as a strategy for distribution of your films? Broadcasting, internet, TV, phones, mobile cinemas, film video clubs….
OA: New media — internet particularly, but that is just beginning to grow in Nigeria so it is fraught with some stress. Broadcasting/TV is usually an option but airtime costs not factored into initial costing will either stop you totally or re-jig your orientation! This is usually not a problem though for corporate documentaries. The others are possibilities, although I have not used them for commercial distribution. Sensitization, yes.
FO: How many cinemas are there in Nigeria and how many halls do these cinemas have?
OA: I can’t say exactly. I am only familiar with The Palms (5 halls I think), Silverbird (not sure) and Ozone (not sure) in Lagos. Silverbird is also in Port Harcourt.
FO: Are there any government training institutions for film and television in Nigeria?
OA: I’m not aware of any unless you count in the Universities who offer related courses within the Mass Communications degree.
I know that the government has supported some of the associations in principle, but not materially. The fund President Jonathan announced that what was supposed to be disbursed by the Bank of Industry is thought to be a ruse, so I guess it doesn’t count!
FO: Are there any private ones? If yes, how many would you say there are?
OA: ITPAN used to be a stalwart, but I can’t say today, particularly in view of stringent circumstances and the lack of donor organisations it needs to make it vibrant. PEFTI is well known but I’m not sure if its well-run. A lot is theoretical. Very little can be achieved without hands on or practical training. IFBA (Victor Okhai) is doing its best. These are the ones I am familiar with.
Adaobi Obiegbosi holds a certificate in Film Production from Gaston Kabore’s Imagine Film Training Institute, Burkina Faso in 2009; a diploma certificate in Mass Communication from University of Jos Nigeria in 2001; and a Bachelor’s Degree in Film Arts/Motion Picture Production from the National Film Institute, 2010, Jos Nigeria. Born in Lagos in 1979, Adaobi is a journalist turned filmmaker. Adaobi has attended film festivals within and outside Africa including Sound Track Cologne Festival in 2011, FESPACO 2009/2011, AMAA 2009/2010, ION 2009 and Mis Me Binga 2011 in Cameroon.
Ogunsanya Oladimeji Abimbola is a trained filmmaker with special concentration on Motion Photography. He has vast experience in the field of Producing, Directing, Cinematography, and in audio/visuals and lighting. He trained as a cameraman under the renowned Tunde Kelani of Main Frame Productions and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). He also trained at the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) Training School in Lagos, Nigeria.Bimbo, as he is commonly called, has worked with both local and international visual-media outfits as a Director of Photography and has won many awards including The African Audio-Visual Awards TAVA 2009 for outstanding TV Programme in editing, photography and directing, and the Al Jazeera award for Best Cinematography. His films have been screened at many film festivals including In-Short Film Festival 2012 sponsored by the Goethe Institut and IFBA.
Cy Okonkwo is the former Head of Documentaries for the NTA. He served in this position for 25 years. He has a lot of documentaries to his name, most of them within NTA and a few outside NTA. He has been inducted into the Nigerian Movie Makers Hall of Fame as a documentary producers and has also been an awardee of iREP.
Makin Soyinka, Director of iREP International Documentary Film Festival, received his University degree from University of Ife, graduating in 1991 with a BA in English Literature. He has worked variously as a proof-reader, sub-editor, magazine columnist, contributor with the Sports Parachutist (British Journal of Parachuting), Tempo Magazine, The News, Farafina, True Love, etc. Makin Soyinka has worked extensively in the field of documentary through his company, Barollo Productions, an Arts, TV, Radio and Promotion Company which he founded in 1993. he was an associate producer with Auric Goldman on projects such as a documentary on Nigeria’s natural resources (1992).
His TV documentaries include:
- Technological Exposition: Nigerian Potential (Asst. Producer) (1992)
- The Courier is a Killer (producer) (1993)
- Stolen Heritage: Trade in Antiquities, BBC2 (story researcher) (1997)
In 2006, Makin became the Consultant to the Lagos State Governor on the Lagos Film Commission.
In 2007, he became the founding head of Nigeria’s Pioneer Film Office, The Lagos Film Office and Project Head of the Lagos Film City Project, an initiative of Lagos State.
FOCUS GROUP MEETING
TRANSCRIPT OF FOCUS GROUP MEETING
BO: Ogunsanya Oladimeji Ambimbola “Bimbo”: documentary filmmaker
CO: Cy Okonkwo: documentary filmmaker, producer
AO: Adaobi Obiegbosi: filmmaker, producer
MS: Makin Soyinka: iREP coordinator, documentary filmmaker
FO: We are just about to being the Focus Group for Nigeria. Let’s start with four questions to Bimbo Ogunsanya: how many films are made in this country, how many of them, percentage-wise are documentaries, how many do you make in a year, and how many are documentary
BO: I don’t think I can really tell you how many films are made in this country, we don’t have a database that we can go to and determine. Nollywood films are made almost every day, so I can’t give you a specific number. I make an average of 8-10 films, because I do a lot of shorts. I am more of a guerilla filmmaker. I walk on the street everyday with my camera and once I get hold of something that I feel is a story to me, I actually go shoot and tell my story from that angle. Out of these I try as much as possible to make sure that out of every 8 films that I make, about 4 of them are documentaries because I feel that’s the only way I can have a voice about the kind of issues that I feel there should be answers to. My films are based on women and children, so anytime I walk on the streets and maybe I see a child, or I see something not going right, I just try to tell a story about it and that’s basically what I do.
FO: There is surely some data, if you judge by the number of films that go through the Censors Board. That is where you have some figures, but even with those, generally how many documentary films would you say are being made in the country in your own assessment?
FO: You can’t say you know?
BO: I can’t say.
FO: Ok, let me ask you the same questions, Cy?
CO: Well, I’m a little bit confused as a ‘filmmaker’ is a person who makes feature films, too. I make documentaries, but even then in documentary I would need to distinguish whether it’s a sponsored documentary for an institution or government, or if it’s a self-initiated documentary. If it is sponsored, I would say maybe about 3 to 4 a year depending on who is coming with the money, but if it self-initiated, I think maybe in the past years I have done only 1 or 2 because of funding. That is the major problem, but for the number of films that are made in Nigeria, I couldn’t say. I can’t say for documentaries because there is no forum for documentary producers to come together and discuss the number of films they have done. Those facts may be difficult for me to present but as an individual, I make an average of 1 or 2 independent films a year. There are short films because of funding and most of the time I don’t distribute them, I just keep them. I try to make a whole compilation of short films which maybe one day I will sell to a media house.
FO: I would like to ask you one more question. How do you sponsor…how do you fund your films?
BO: Basically, I am actually the Director of Photography and most of the time, most of the Nollywood makers call me to come shoot for them. After being paid I always set aside some part of my money to fund some of my own projects and because I told you am a guerrilla filmmaker, I do not have to have the big set ups to tell my story, I am always on the street and I get my stories done. I have a Canon 60D and a small laptop. I shoot, I direct — I am like an all round filmmaker. I do my sound and every other thing on my own. I am just a one man army, so that is why it really works for me.
FO: When you make these films, what’s the distribution plan, what’s the channel?
BO: I don’t think there is a specific channel for me and that’s why I send my films to film festivals, waiting for someone to watch it and say, “Oh this is good. Let’s work together”. Ever since I started that I ‘ve won awards but nobody has been able to say, “Bimbo, come do this documentary for us”. I’m just doing everything to just keep me going.
FO: Let me ask you, Ada, to address the same questions based on your own experience.
AO: I don’t know how many films are being produced yearly in Nigeria, but in terms of documentary films, I don’t think it’s 10%. We don’t really make documentaries apart from the government propaganda kind of documentaries. They pay people to make these films for them, that’s all. The last time I made a short film was two years ago because of the same funding problem. I’m really not into documentary per se. I have done a documentary film, but I would just say documentaries in Nigeria are more about propaganda than people making documentaries just because they want to make documentaries. And even when they do make documentaries, they are more often short than feature- length.
FO: If I am a young filmmaker, where can I go in Nigeria for funding?
AO: Well, we are like toddlers. We are emerging talents when it comes to filmmaking in Nigeria so we don’t have a place we can go to and say we need funding or grants to make our films. What we do is just call our friends and say, “We want to shoot this movie at this particular time. Why don’t you assist me with handling the camera, or maybe sound or something”. That is how we make our films. We don’t get funding from anybody. We have our brothers, our siblings, our mums, our parents. Sometimes if we are working and being paid, we use some of the money to also make our own films. That is why most of us have the basic things we need for making films — like the camera. We use our laptops to edit our films. That is how we do it.
FO: The federal government has a $200m fund which filmmakers can tap into. There have been disbursements and filmmakers are applying. There has been a disbursement for the building of a cinema, and there have been disbursements for a couple of films. Have you applied?
AO: I have not applied yet, but I have a friend that has and he said to me, “It’s like a nightmare”, because he does not have most of the criteria. He does not have a building to use as collateral or a car or land or something to use to borrow this money. The things that they require in order to give you funding are about as good as you going to the bank itself and asking for a loan from the bank. It is the same thing, the same story, different day. I just think that the funding is there, but they are not really giving it to emerging talents in Nigeria, because they need the already established filmmakers that have the collateral. The emerging talents don’t have it.
FO: What can they do differently, and how come so many filmmakers have not actually engaged them?
CO: It is just like you are starting a factory — first of all, you are asking a filmmaker who does not even know what the market is going to look like, how much are you projecting to get? When are you going to pay that entire loan? So, you find that anybody who is applying for that fund is going to have an institution, maybe a training school, but it is not for an emerging filmmaker.
I was thinking, if that fund is available to improve the industry — you have organisations, you have institutions, like the Nigerian Film Institute, the Nigerian Film Corporation, the important production houses, some NGOs. The fund could say, “iREP we are giving you this money, collect a team of documentary producers, work it out and let us know”, and they will do that. They get the money, they get paid a fee, and the government in itself gains, because the government can now transmit those things to Nigerians abroad. However, asking a filmmaker who does not have a camera in his hands right now, to tell you how much he is going to make in the next five years and all that, doesn’t work. That’s my opinion.
FO: So let’s talk about funding then. What kind of structures do you think are necessary in this industry? Talk about the landscape of funding, what you think the needs are and what you think the solutions of funding might be. If you can, go ahead and answer those questions all in one.
BO: I am actually a Director of Photography and most of the time I shoot films for the Nollywood filmmakers. At the end of the shoot I always have to fight for money, which I use to fund my films. Because I am actually a guerilla filmmaker, I am like a one man army. My sound and editing I do all on my own, because I can’t afford to pay an extra technician, what I have is not enough to push the project. It is the passion I have for the job to just keep it going.
FO: Where do you think funding for documentary filmmaking could come from?
BO: If there was a place that I could go, like a studio set aside for filmmakers, to do my post production at minimal cost, I could work in there as a filmmaker and pick equipment that I would actually want to use and that would facilitate my production. That would really help somebody like me a lot. I would like to say, “This is my script. This is what I want to do.” And have them say, “There is X, Y, Z equipment available for you, there is post production available for you, there is this fund, no matter how minimal it is, it is available for you”.
CO: I agree totally with Bimbo. The issue of how many documentaries I do or…we have to differentiate between what I call the PR (public relations) documentaries that are sponsored documentaries and the independent documentaries. We do more of the PR documentaries because they assure pay, and maybe we have about two or three in a year. For independent production, we have maybe one or half in a year, because we do not have the money, not because we do not have the talent.I think what the government should do, if they really want to help the film industry, is to give money to some of the credible NGOs or institutions in this country and let them disburse it to qualified filmmakers, and then account for it properly. I have screened a lot of films for international film festivals in Nigeria and you look at the very good films, every one of them has one to five sponsors. None of them, not even one, is sponsored by an individual. If it were sponsored by an individual, it would have taken that person 15 years or 20 years to get the film out, and that does not help us.
AO: Personally I have not applied for the fund, but I have had some friends that went to the bank to apply and they said that it was like a nightmare for them because the requirements where too much. I think it is really sad because, what is the point of bringing out that money in the first place, when it can just be given to the filmmakers that really need it. I think that funding is for the well known people or the people who have already made it in the industry or for the rich people to go there and get more money and build schools or whatever they want, but it does not get to the grassroots people.
FO: Isn’t there an argument somewhere for creating a $200m revolving fund? To call it a revolving fund means that it should fund projects that bring the money back. Why is that a problem? Why should filmmakers not want to be responsible in terms of the financing of the film in such a way that the film makes money? Why is documentary different? Why must it be funded by government to start with? Those are also important conversations to be had, why is that a bad thing?
AO: I can only speak about Nigeria, basically. When we were growing up watching NTA documentaries, we used to call them “sleeping pills: because you’d doze watching them teach you how to cultivate yam or something. People got tired of seeing the same documentaries all the time, and as a result think of documentaries in a certain way – pictures with people narrating or just talking… very boring.
Now we have so many talented filmmakers in Nigeria and so many beautiful documentaries and I think we are going to find new and different ways of making documentaries, that could be more interesting. People don’t want to really put money in it for now and it is safer if you say government should fund it for now so that people, audiences can actually see the other side of documentaries. I think that that is the reason… and again documentaries are not like fiction, they bring in money but it takes a longer time for you to make a documentary, and it takes more funding to make a documentary, and most fundersare business minded people so they want returns immediately if they invest in a film or in a project. They want their money almost immediately, and documentary sometimes takes 5 years or 15 years — it depends on the documentary. For now, I think it is government that would have the kind of money to actually make those kinds of documentaries and not mind how they get their money back. We do not really have structures for documentaries in Nigeria.
FO: What do you mean by structures?
AO: Structures in the sense that, we just started reviving cinema culture in Nigeria, so for now people are more into fiction than documentaries. We don’t really have the kind of documentaries that can be screened per se in our cinema houses and that people would want to go and see and say, “We are paying money to actually watch this documentary”.
FO: You’ve got MNET, you’ve got local stations, how come independent filmmakers are not exploring broadcast?
AO: It is because you have to pay for your film to be aired. You have to pay the TV stations. You just don’t make films, go to them and say, “Pay me for making this film and for airing it too”. Instead of them paying you, it is like the reverse is the case. You are actually paying them to air your films. It is really funny but that‘s what happens in Nigeria, you actually pay those TV stations to air your films instead of them paying you for your production.
FO: Mr. Makin Soyinka has just joined us. He is the co- founder of iREP and is drumming up a consciousness or awareness for documentary making. Ok, coming back to the questions…
CO: Ok, you asked a few questions. One is, why are we not taking advantage of the revolving loan? But let us look at the market and where we are operating. In Nigeria, how many people — no matter now interesting it is — how many people will sit down to watch a documentary? Firstly, we have not been able to make good documentaries. We don’t have the man power and we don’t have the necessary funds to do that. If you don’t have a good producer to produce a good film, nobody will watch it. Nigerians watch home movies because it is related to their life. Documentaries are not just common stories — they are stories that change people, change ideas, change the focus of people. Therefore, they are more serious things. That will not have an easy market in Nigeria. The literacy level is not high enough in Nigeria to appreciate documentaries. We have a number of film houses but none of them has shown a documentary except when there is a film festival, because nobody will go to the market.
Now, if this guy gets this loan, a so-called revolving loan, he spends the money making the film and not just a film, but a documentary. Then pays to do advertisements for that particular documentary, he pays for the hall where that documentary will be shown, so people will come and pay, or he pays the TV station millions of Naira. AIT for example, is two point something million Naira for a twenty minute, or a thirty minute programme.
Where does he get that kind of money? How can he now revolve that loan to be able to pay it back? This is the problem. It is not that the people don’t have initiative. They have initiative, but the market is not there for them. I just mentioned a few minutes ago, for international films, look at the line up at the end and in the credits you see one, two, three, four, five, six organisations supporting one documentary. How many companies in Nigeria are ready to put in 5 Naira for a documentary production as a sponsor? There are none. They give to Nollywood. These are some of the issues we have to think about when it comes to funding documentary in this country.
BO: You asked the question of the TV stations MNET, BBC and the rest of them. I’ve had an issue. I created a programme about transformation, which is more like a documentary. The first episode was a beggar turning into a recharge card seller just because he didn’t want to beg anymore… then, a chartered accountant who sells 60 Naira ice blocks and makes about 4 million Naira a year. I put together this programme and spoke with the CEO of ON TV and he said, “Bimbo, if you are going to do this, I am not going to give you air time, because no sponsor will come on board for such a programme. Nobody puts money into entrepreneurship programmes. Do your normal TV series. Do your normal home video and then we will talk”. I don’t think MNET or BBC is assigning filmmakers in Nigeria to do things for them. I just won the TAVA awards and MNET was one of the Major TV stations and today I still do not have a call from MNET saying, “You won the best documentary. We want to show this documentary”. The only time I had such an offer was when I went to Qatar to Al Jazeera and the moment the film was shown, Al Jazeera called and said, “We want to show this film”. I was advised not to sell the film to them but now it is two weeks after the TAVA Awards, one month after the ZUMA Film Festival and not one person is calling — not one TV station. Yes, they will use it. If you give it to them, they will play it. They will play it for free, but does that pay the bills? No.
FO: (to Makin) please introduce yourself and then share your perspectives on what the landscape is for filmmaking in Nigeria right now, what is the place of documentary, what kind of audiences is your organisation iREP seeking out, etc. Then if you will address the questions they have responded to about funding…
MS: Good afternoon, my name is Makin Soyinka. I produce content for media — the arts generally. I started out as a documentary filmmaker, principally my passion, but many moons ago I branched into other aspects of TV and film when I realised I might starve if I was producing only documentaries, but I have come back full circle to try to make documentary again the focus.
That is my background, but because I do suffer a bit of short term memory loss, I will quickly ask a question — Bimbo why were you advised not to sell your documentary to Al Jazeera? We have seen what they are doing which we think fits into the sort of documentary format that we are trying to promote in Nigeria. We think it is a great outlet. I will come back to the BBC and why they have not been commissioning documentaries from Nigerians. I have done quite a bit of work over the years including several documentaries with the BBC but not as a commissioned work. I have sold story ideas to them, but I was not commissioned and some of them were made into documentaries with me being credited as something else.
In terms of the landscape, basically everyone has touched upon what the issues are, but, fundamentally, it still comes down largely to what you mentioned — lack of structures, funding, but more importantly, the core is the fact that the TV industry, which is meant to be the first promoter, buyer of documentaries in Nigeria is upside down as you have rightly mentioned. We are paying them to show our documentaries. They need content. It is content that drives their ratings and ratings that drive their advertising which is where their money comes from, but somehow, nobody is really interested in pursuing advertising because it seems to be easier to get producers and filmmakers to pay for their films to air.
That is the landscape today. Yes, it has changed a bit, they will show your programme for free if you bring advertising, maybe. But we have not progressed beyond that, so I think what we really should be thinking of is the sort of funding mechanism we could put into the broadcast industry. What sort of regulation, what sort of financing, could go into the broadcast industry that would allow the TV stations and even the radio stations, for radio documentaries, to begin to commission documentaries?
I think that is really where we need to begin. When I was a bright eyed graduate in the very early nineties and had all of these bright ideas of doing these great documentaries. I became a proposal hawker and went to every UN agency and every government agency. But in a short time I became a propaganda hawker. I wanted to do something in the drug trade, an investigative documentary, but by the time I got money from the UNDCP, NDMA a I had to tell the official agenda. I was not really investigating, I had to balance the interests of various. So what we have increasingly come to understand is if we really want to push the art of the documentary format, we can’t just wait for funding. We had to do commercial projects, and take the money from the profits and — instead of buying fancy cars and nice houses — put it into making documentaries that are good enough to show at festivals and get noticed. Eventually, hopefully, that is how we will be able to sell these documentaries internationally. Look abroad, how many documentaries really even make it to the cinemas? Michael Moore, a couple of other guys, maybe three four maybe one or two documentaries a year make it to the cinema.
Then you show in broadcast, you make your money, you make your commission with your little documentary house and if it becomes highly successful you go to DVD releases and then you sell as well.
There are very few really rich documentary filmmakers globally. I think we have to be realistic about that, but more importantly what I think has to be done is to see how some of the $200m in funding can go into the broadcast industry, because there ought to be feature- length films made for TV as well.
At the end of the day Hollywood with its B movies, make up 90% of the movies that make the millions of dollars — the Cameron’s “Avatars”. What really feeds the industry, that keeps millions of Americans employed, is the Nollywood style. That’s the truth. Then you have great quality HBO amd Showtime films which can also translate to cinema, but they are made for TV. How do we get the BOI, the Bank of Industry….
FO: The Bank of Industry and the other one NEXIM…
MK: I think it’s NEXIM (Nigerian Export-Import Bank) that starts releasing funds actually, but their own mind set is more infrastructural, and the Managing Director admitted as much. The truth is really that today if we are going to access this 200 million, we would have to learn the language, or the business, or hire the people to go to these meetings with us and speak the lingo. If you don’t speak it they are not going to release money, no matter what bright ideas.
Just to come back to the point, if we study the global trends, and I always have in documentary filmmaking, it is a broadcast industry and we have to look at our issues, otherwise all of us will make one film every two years, show it at festivals, make a bit of a name, but we will all still survive on the corporate documentary propaganda market.
Now, another thing I want to disagree with slightly — I think that Nigerians do actually love documentaries as long as it reflects their own internal realities. I don’t know how many clients we have gotten recently just because we have gone to do something for someone, funeral, birthday suddenly you begin to get these calls — my mother has died, I must do a documentary, I want a 30min version, a 2 hour — people are beginning to see quality and they want to do it. This is also documentary. NTA has always done documentary. They did it for education. Documentary started in Nigeria as an educational vehicle, first by the colonialists, then the western region of Nigeria. The reason Awolowo agreed to establish WNTV was because they said to him, “You want to educate 30 million western Nigerians…how are you going to get education to them? How are you going to teach the farmers agric extensions services?” TV — that is how they convinced the old man, so of course the programmes were all geared towards that. So yes, Nigerians already have an innate thing for documentaries. Every corporate company, every ordinary General Manger wants a documentary, but they are still looking at it from the propaganda perspective, so I think we need to begin to find those ways where we can use their funds, which they want to use for their own self-propaganda, to begin to ke on larger issues. However, at the end of the day, we still need to go back to the broadcast industry, because if ON TV is not buying from you, if DOVE Media, is not commissioning documentaries on Scripture, if Sam Adeyemi — and the churches spend the most on broadcast now — can’t buy your programme then there is a problem. We need to get that funding into the broadcast industry to begin to turn the broadcast industry around so that they can buy content, otherwise we will be here in 5 years saying the same thing.
FO: We also have issues with training, issues with funding the films themselves, whether it is in pre- production, production or post production. Can I then go forward and ask, if there was going to be an intervention, where would that intervention be best put? Is it in training, is it in broadcast or distribution, is it in giving the money to the filmmakers themselves or in creating infrastructure for them to make films?
BO: Well basically, if there is no medium to show your work, there is no reason why we are in business. Everything should be geared toward the TV stations, they need content more than the cinemas. If we are talking structure – if they could have a daily slot in their line-up, or commission in-house documentaries, I think that would help.
CO: You see, when you talk about money in Nigeria, there is this issue of accountability that is the major concern of anybody who is given that money. Bimbo has made a good point, and like Makin was saying, we could concentrate on media houses. But if you give them money, and a template, how do you know what quality of documentaries you are going to get? So this may become an issue. I think what we should do is look at the media houses, but also look for organisations or institutions that are credible. I work for some. When we were talking generally I was toying around with the idea of the documentary society of Nigeria.
A body like that could work with funding agencies and media houses and use the criteria or template by which standards are judged and then be accountable for the monies. The basic thing is that you cannot say I am going to spend money only on training. If you train and they don’t produce, what happens? You won’t say you are not going to put money into infrastructure. Training is important because we don’t have that necessary manpower for documentaries. The way we see BBC do their documentaries e — we don’t have that type of money or manpower yet, and we don’t even have that type of equipment yet. However, if you have credible organisations or NGOs that can be monitored effectively to identify topics, identify individuals, then I think we are going to move forward, but there has to be that element of credibility. To me, government associations are not very credible. I prefer NGOs that know what is called accountability. When you give it to them and you give them a target, they will succeed because they know that they have to succeed in order to be in business.
AO: Yes, I agree and I also want to talk about something happened recently. We had a call for entries for my festival and we just had one documentary being sent in from Nigeria, but from South Africa, from one film school in South Africa, we had 20 films — 20 documentaries from one film school. So, I think training in the institutions will actually go a long way in Nigeria. When I was still in the National Film Institute, we had throughout my stay only one documentary workshop in the school and we produced only one documentary film in the school. The rest was TV, fiction, and TV commercials. There was just one documentary that we produced. Since then I don’t think that they have produced that many documentary films so I think we should start from the grassroots. They should start with the schools and tell these institutions that they need to train students in documentary filmmaking. I also think that we need to look into the NGOs because I think they will do a better job of distribution and of funding. With the government people it is the same story everyday. They get money and they find a way to spend it by setting up committee after committee. The money gets spent, and there is no result. So I think NGOs should also be a part of the process of us making headway in terms of documentaries in Nigeria. Also, as you said, Makin, TV stations too…we need to give them part of the money too.
FO: How important is documentary to a country like Nigeria, because if it is not something that is that important, why bang our head against the wall? The iREP documentary film forum is all about trying to build a consciousness at the grassroots for why documentary by independent filmmakers is critical. Why is it to so important for our experiences and our nation ? Makin, as one of the people responsible for iREP perhaps you can respond first?
MS: I think documentaries are important in any society, especially in societies like ours because we need to tell our stories. It is simply about telling stories and we are not telling enough of our stories and therefore stories are being told for us, about us by others. It is as simple as that. Then we go to the different layers, there are things happening in our societies we are not talking about, we are not examining issues. There is no society that is going to evolve if it doesn’t examine its stories that are happening every day. Why are things going on in Jos? Nobody is really investigating that. Nobody is looking at the contradictory stories that are happening. Nobody is talking about corruption.
There are so many things going on and then it is also about archiving, keeping your stories, recollections and records. Still, today, if you want to know anything about Nigeria, you have to go to the BBC, you have to go to Reuters, you have to go to various archiving centers around the world to get access. NTA Ibadan does not even have tapes. When you start a process of storytelling, you feel the need and the compulsion to archive it, to keep it. We then have a collective memory of what has been, what is and what should be. So for me, that’s it basically.
FO: What is iREP and what is it doing along these lines?
MS: Basically iREP actually is about telling our stories, it is about those conversations, and like we said in the first iREP film festival “AFRICA IN SELF CONVERSATION” — stories about Africa are being told by westerners, increasingly now even by Arabs. Why did Al Jazeera come about? They realised that Arabs were being portrayed only negatively, so they are now telling stories for the global community that were not being told, that complicates the image. They are very strong, especially in the documentary format, they do the most amazing documentaries on Al Jazeera. They commission people from around the world, people come back from their home town, their villages, they tell stories through their own eyes as people who have gone abroad and come back as investigative journalists, in depth stories. That is what iREP is trying to do. We say, AFRICA IN SELF CONVERSATION. Let’s talk about ourselves, what are our issues, what are our stories, let’s give it our own perspective — what is going on in Africa, what’s going on in Nigeria? That’s one of the agendas we set out and one of the ways we try to do it. We decided that maybe our own generation needs to stimulate the younger ones. Let them see the documentary as an art format, as a proper aesthetic format, as a creative format. It is probably as difficult, if not more difficult, than shooting feature films. The arts and craft that go into feature, that go into music, into poetry, is all there in the documentary format. That is what, in a nutshell, iREP is all about and what iREP is trying to do.
FO: Bimbo can you also address the questions? Why is documentary so important? Why are you willing to do this with no money, yet doggedly??
BO: Well, basically I see documentary as a check point for both the people and the government. You asked before why I was advised not to sell my film to Al Jazeera. I was actually advised because of the Nigerian structure, I had my family here, and… it was not propaganda.
I had made a film about a boy who was beaten to death in the streets of Lagos. This happened near a military barracks. For the 14 minutes that this happened, not one policeman came to that boy’s rescue. He was 11 years old. Mr. Ogdugbemi watched the film and said, you know where are over 40 NGOs that are meant to protect the rights of the child in Nigeria. How come they don’t know this happened? That is where a documentary filmmaker comes into play because you don’t know all these things happen but a documentary filmmaker, he brings it out. There are so many talents… we are talking about the entertainment industry today which is the second most important money making venture for Nigeria now.
The future of Nigeria are the kids…these children trying to come up. Like the boy that has danced for President Goodluck Jonathan and that has been on stage with Joke Silva and others, and yet is still living in a dust bin. To me there is no future in that, and it takes a documentary filmmaker to bring that out. That’s why I said I see it as a check point for both the people and government, and why it’s so important for Nigeria. We are talking about so many things happening, but there are so many things happening that we do not see.
CO: Yes, why documentary? You didn’t ask me why Nollywood? You didn’t ask me why musicals? There is a simple reason. Anybody that wants to tell his story factually and convincingly must use a story format. As Makin said, “Tell your own story”, and one of the strongest ways of telling stories is by doing documentaries. Any nation that is developing or wants to rebrand itself cannot do that successfully without documentaries because documentaries are very factual, they are not fake stories.
When America was trying to sell America to the world, they produced America, My America. When the colonial masters were trying to instill in us the British mentality, they used the colonial federal film unit. When the Muslims wanted to sell Islam to Africa they used Ali Majiri. Documentary is the only way you can tell a story factually and help people to understand what is going on with them, and if we don’t tell it ourselves, we have a problem. Why are companies going now into documentaries? It is because they have now found out it is a way that they can sell themselves.
I have done films for the World Bank and they ask for 20, 30 and 5 minute versions for presentations. We have no alternatives than to focus on documentaries, and unfortunately we are not doing that, and until we realise the fact that documentary production is the only way, or the major way Nigeria can start changing its image locally and internationally, then we have a problem. Documentaries will tell us our stories the way it is factually, positively and even if it is negatively, you will indicate which side is negative and which is positive and balance the story.
AO: I think documentary is very important in any community in any country for historical purposes. A few weeks ago I was with my mum and we were watching NTA and a clip of the Biafra War was shown. I wasn’t born then, my mum started crying that she was there and for her it was the worst period in her life because she lost her dad, and she was even praying that she would see her dad in one of those clips in the documentary. For her it was a flashback within seconds and for me it was something new because I have never seen those kinds of clips before. We have so many untold stories about history and I think we should do something about it so that our kids and the unborn generations can actually see and know where they are coming from and know where they are headed to.
FO: What are the dominant issues in Nigeria that you think the voices of documentary filmmakers can help to shape?
MS: I would just say one — the Nigerian question. We haven’t resolved the Nigerian question. Are we a country, are we a nation, are we a geographical unit, an
idea, a wreckage just moving along? If we are a country, why are we a country, if we are a nation, or if we are going to be a nation, what are those things that are going to make us a nation? It’s through those stories that these discussions can happen, that we can solidify these bonds that we already have and also maybe begin to repair the cracks in those bonds. It’s all because we are not having conversations.
Documentaries are another form of conversation. Why are we here, what brought us together, why do we need to stay together, why are we really a great people as we believe we are despite all the problems? What makes a Nigerian unique anywhere in the world he goes? As other Africans and other people always say, there is something about a Nigerian. It is not in a propaganda manner, it is just by talking about it, by just showing different examples. Why do Nigerians excel when they are abroad, but are not allowed to excel here? That’s it for me.
BO: Documentary tells us a lot about ourselves. I was working on a project that went back to the colonial system, through Awolowo and Azikwe… Nigeria is like a script and the director is still there directing. If we can discover where our problems started, we will be able to see a solution. Right now we keep going round and round a circle. The same that happened during Awolowo’s time is happening now. If we were able to document ourselves, I think that would really help us a lot as a country.
FO: What are the predominant issues in Nigeria that you think the voices of documentary filmmakers will help us see, even if not resolve?
CO: Predominant issues? Everything in Nigeria is predominant, I think I heard Makin say we need to converse. What tis making Nigeria difficult to run? Why are Nigerians the way they are? Why is it that you put something on the ground, tomorrow it disappears, nobody gives account? Why is it that we steal money from government coffers? Why is it that the man in the village is more honest than the man in the township?
These are all issues that we need to discuss. The people and the nation called Nigeria, the political entity that is being bombed, these are issues. It is an issue of survival. How does Nigeria as a country survive?
These are the issues we have to look at very critically. A friend of mine who does a lot of international programmes, told me when he came to Nigeria he said “Cy, let me tell you one thing: what we shall buy outside Nigeria is not your movies (fiction), because we don’t understand the way they speak English; we shall rather buy your documentaries, and if I cannot understand the English I can get someone to subtitle it, and it will make an impact”. So the predominant issue as far as I am concerned is us. We have to discuss us, how we relate to each other, how we go about our things.
AO: Yes I think that Nigerians are really unique people, and all over in the world, people want to relate with Nigerians. Just last week I was talking with some friends and we were saying Nigerians are used to harsh weather and a harsh way of making it in life. They see things as privileges, they do not see it as a right…it is my right to have 24 hours of light, it is my right to have the basic things that we need in life — so when they travel out of the country, they do what they are used to doing. Other people look at them as if they are overworking but you know, this is what they are just used to. In a sense we are used to hardship, we are used to being bossed around, we are used to bad government, we are used to so many things and it made us be unique in that there is nothing that we can’t face in life, that we don’t strive to get over. So when we travel overseas and we are in a new environment and see people really enjoying themselves, we realize we’ve been living in a country where nothing seems to work. We don’t see the basic things we need in life as a right, but rather a privilege, because we are so used to being bossed around. This is why we need documentaries, so we can show this – so we can talk about it, know our rights.
FO: I am going to ask now about the regulatory bodies, because the regulatory structure for film in Nigeria is also a critical aspect of filmmaking. Can you describe your perception of the regulatory film bodies, name them, who is charge of what and of what use have they been to you, your work as filmmaker? Are there any laws in the country that you think have not been helpful to you as a filmmaker? What I am trying to find out if there are official or governmental barriers to functioning optimally as a documentary filmmaker in Nigeria.
BO: Well for me, the regulatory body is not really doing anything at all as far as I am concerned.
FO: Who are the regulatory bodies?
BO: They are the censorship board or the Nigerian Film Corporation, and the rest of it. About four years ago I made a film called Silent Scream which I sent to the Women of Color Film Festival in Atlanta and they did a pre-screening and it took the screening there for the man who heads our Nigerian censorship board to notice. He called me in Atlanta to send a copy of the film to the Zuma Film Festival that is being organized by them here. How are they going to regulate whatever I do, when they don’t have an idea that I exist as a filmmaker? With Nollywood, home DVD, the film that goes to the censorship board is not actually the same as the one that gets to the market. So what are we really regulating?
CO: I can think of three regulatory bodies in the country, but I may be wrong. There is the Nigerian Censors Board that censors films that are produced. There is the Nigerian Copyright Commission, that supposedly protects our copyrights and there is the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission that monitors or guides the media houses. These are the three. There may be more, but I don’t know.
FO: The Nigerian Film Cooperation.
CO: The Nigerian Film Cooperation is not a regulatory body. It is a film institute and a developmental body.
They do not make laws for any filmmaker. Now let me take them one by one. The Nigerian Censors Board has never censored any documentary and I don’t think they even know that there are documentaries anywhere in the country, but they censor Nollywood films. In terms of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, I do not know how many copyrights they have been able to protect, because once we went there to register a concept and at the end of all the grammar, they said, “My dear brother, just pray that nobody copies your rights because we cannot defend you”. So, you are on your own. Now, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission is doing well in regulating the media houses but they do not regulate the content of the media houses per se. All they will say is very general: “TV houses don’t want to show miracles on air, they don’t want a lot of blood on air.” Nothing happens at the end of it. TV houses will show blood, but they will say it is make-believe. Of course, they also regulate the cable stations, they are very concerned about when or not they are going to pay their fees.
Now it comes down to this: who is regulating documentaries? Nobody! The problem we have that is the video/film industry in this country doesn’t have an association, doesn’t have a body that can make laws. For the newspeople you have News Gem, you even have an accountants’ organisation by which standards are maintained. But do we have anything like that for the media industry or for the film industry? We don’t have any yet.
Until we, ourselves, form a body that will make regulations and send them to the House of Representatives to promote as law in the country or as an Act, there will be no regulation as far as documentary is concerned.
AO: I am the last person to ask this of, but I don’t think there is anybody regulating documentaries in Nigeria. I think that because we don’t really have much and we see it as a waste of time and maybe because we haven’t really talked about it yet, that maybe they will still do it, but for now we don’t really have regulatory bodies doing something about documentaries.
FO: There was a freedom of information bill recently passed and I was expecting at least that filmmakers or documentary filmmakers would have an opinion about that.
MK: The truth of the matter is that nobody has really tried to challenge and bring up the matter of the freedom of information act. I was at the town meeting with the Newspaper Association last year on the FOI. Even the lady from Canada, which has one of the most advanced FOI bills said, Freedom of Information Acts are always a work in progress and that in Canada it took about 5 years before they could begin to see the gains. Even in Britain Tony Blair said that one of his biggest regrets was passing the FOI bill in England. So, it’s not just going to come, we have to work at it, use it. But then with Nigeria, we are also talking about a country where investigative journalism really is dead. That is the truth of the matter and considering that we are not yet beginning to make or tell enough stories in the documentary format, I don’t even know when we are going to begin to approach the FOI bill for assistance.
My own little experience of documentary making here is that the agencies we have, that are meant to regulate, have tended to be more of a nuisance than a help. If you come into Nigeria as a filmmaker, the Film Corporation insists that when you arrive in the country, there are people they must attach to your project, whom you will pay. Then you must come to Abuja physically to get your work permit, even if you are here for 3 days to shoot some scenes, you must come to Abuja because they don’t have a liaison office in Lagos.
I used to go and get this permit in Lagos, Ikoyi, and then I used to have to fly to Abuja to go and chase this thing at radio house. At the end of the day, if you are a nuisance and you are not helping me to facilitate my work, then why should I come to you. I mean I tried to set up a facilitation agency for Lagos: the idea was that as long as you are filming in Lagos, Lagos film office will give you your permit and will do everything for you, so you don’t start running ragged when you bring your film into my country, or into my state or my city. Basically the little they do does nothing per se for the level of filming we are doing.
CO: On this Film Corporation comment — I think it is a good idea if you are a foreigner coming to film in Nigeria that you must register with the Film Corporation and have a guide you pay to take you around. The reason for doing this was to ensure that people don’t talk nonsense about Nigiera, because in my experience, when foreigners go out and see children naked in the street and they film, when they go home, they use it against Nigerians. That was the major reason behind all those things.
I remember I went to Zimbabwe to film and they had this law. We didn’t know that person who was our guide was supposed to get all the licenses. Next thing, the police turned up saying ‘show us your permit’. We had to go to the embassy and before we got back on our feet, it was wahala (trouble). At least there, they are keeping the law. In Nigeria if you want to film successfully, all you do is go and pay the police, they will take you around.
What are the police doing? The police are not looking at the content. The police are there to take care of the area boys who will disturb you in Lagos. The Nigerian Film Corporation has this law for visitors who come to Nigeria to film and I support it. The only thing I worry about is the way they sideline the law for whatever reason. Sometimes you go to the station and they will say “we don’t have anybody, we don’t have staff ”, so how does it work?
FO: The final question now… let’s assume that there is a fund created to support documentary filmmaking especially in Nigeria. What are your thoughts on: What kind of filmmakers will be eligible for that funding? Who do you think should manage that funding? What issues will emerge in your opinion in its management, should it be managed through guilds, should it be something given individually to each filmmaker? And who decides who gets the funds and how can this be fair in the context of the culture of the country?
After this question I would ask you for just general opinions and thoughts about what you are trying to do as a filmmaker, how empowered you are so far, where do you see your future, what projects are you working on at the moment. I’d like Makin to specifically discuss, when we get to that, the landscape of what iREP is doing. Are there any other organisations like this and what is happening across the country, because it seems to me we haven’t even discussed the fact of whether documentary filmmaking is Pan Nigeria or is it just something that is concentrated in Lagos, Abuja… I’d like to discuss that.
AO: What kind of filmmaker can be eligible for funding? I think all filmmakers should be, but I think we should have a body that sees to the funding — who is to be funded, if that person is a credible filmmaker, what work they have done before, and the merit of the project they want funding for. I think, as I said earlier, that the people who manage that funding should be people not from the government, but from NGOs. I think NGOs are more transparent. They are like individuals and nobody will want to spoil his or her good name, so they would want to do a proper job in terms of managing the funds and actually know who they are giving it to and follow up. What we don’t do mostly in Nigeria, is follow up. We just give out these funds and no follows up. Nobody says “what is actually happening” and “when is the production going to be done” or “when is it going to be ready?” I think the NGOs should also look at follow up apart from giving money for production.
For issues that come up later, they should be taken care of by the NGOs. They should have a committee, different committees, such as task force committees, an implementation committee, and a different department in the NGO so that all the committees could know what they are doing. They should know their jobs, so that at the end of the day it will be accounted for so that everybody will know how the funding is being spent. I think NGOs should have an arm that sees to film…they should have somebody that is into the field, into filmmaking, a person who knows film production — a person who knows a good film.
FO: So the Non-governmental organisations you are talking about, people generally understand that they have an agenda, that they’re formed by special interest groups ?
FO: So the question is, who are those that you are asking to do this and what would be the structure of that? Are you talking about creating one, are you talking about guilds, are you talking about associations, are you talking about filmmakers?
AO: The NGO, for example iREP, because at iREP they are into documentaries already and they have been there for two years now. This year will be two years, so I think they have an idea in terms of production, in terms of difficulty when it comes to funding and all those things, so they are aware of the system, and so I think that those are the kind of NGOs that should be given this mandatory power to actually fund documentaries in Nigeria. Definitely not the government!
CO: I think I will start with who will get the funds first? You (Femi Odugbemi), are working on this report for an African Documentary Film Fund. You have an obligation, I am sure they will ask you for an account of every kobo you spend and you must or Femi Odugbemi and his company will be in trouble because they will black list you internationally and hunger will come and visit you. You see, give this one to iREP, (I am using iREP as an example). I want you to form a committee that will manage this fund that I am going to give you, to select the people that are going to do documentaries for us. iREP can now go to ITPAN, “go outside, pick one person” and form a formidable committee which will be approved by the funding body because it will be easier for everybody. So iREP has that responsibility on the side to make sure that this thing does not fail, because iREP already has a commitment. It could be any other foundation, but not a new one, an existing foundation that already understands the industry. Ayo Mosigo is more into home videos, feature films and all that. As for the money, everybody who is in the video industry is into production and manpower development. You don’t have any business with those who want to build cinema houses, no. You might have business with those who want to train people because we need to train people — capacity building. Now, at iREP, you form this committee, iREP gets that money now, iREP asks for what area you want to concentrate on. You will call people, like you have called us to look at the critical areas and say”1, 2, 3, 4”, based on what would be beneficial to the society and the individuals. You will now work it out as a format.
Then, those who want to be a part of it will send in their proposals. Another committee will sift through the proposals and select those that are appropriate based on their past work, whether they can do the job, etc.
I have worked with international institutions, they have a very stringent monitoring system. It is good because you are kept on your toes. You tell people up front, you must give me a report, be accountable, then there is credibility. You have to have criteria because otherwise people will accuse you of favouratism, “he has given it to his Yoruba brother”, etc. And people who accuse won’t know anything about documentary or may not have even applied. So, these are the issues, I think.
BO: Well the question of who is eligible for the funds, hmmm. While growing up in the industry I have seen situations where a lot of funds are given to a body, and the issue of who knows who, comes into place. I am a filmmaker that actually suffered the rejection from the older generation, and when I say suffered rejection I mean, I would say “I am planning to be a filmmaker, I am working towards being a filmmaker”, but there was nobody to assist. There is no body, like no regulatory body.
MNET used to do a project called the New Direction Project whereby you discovered a lot of directors and the rest of them through such projects. I am looking forward to that kind of organisation whereby you have a structure, you have a fund base. I may not be able to write reports, I may not be a report person, but it doesn’t mean I don’t make good films. I can tell you for all the documentaries that I’ve done — and they have won awards both locally and internationally — I did not write a script. I drew all the scripting later with my wife and we just put paper down. It doesn’t mean I do not have a right to the funds. So, we are looking forward to a situation whereby we have credible people who are not saying the fact that we don’t know you doesn’t mean that you cannot deliver. This is one of the things we need to look at when we are thinking about the future of the industry and that is one of the things I am basically particular about. I am looking forward to an iREP that has a studio where I can come and say, “Ok, I want to shoot this on RED,” and I can go there, give them my proposal and they can look through whatever I have to do. If I need a sound man of international standard, they will be able to tell me, “Bimbo yes, this is x, y, z that we can do for you” as a body. I am looking for a situation whereby at least I won’t have to suffer to make a film.
If some of those things are being done I am sure it will really be more attractive for some of us to do more than we doing. It would take off of a lot of stress because, I won’t lie to you, doing documentaries in Nigeria is stressful. It’s a lot of stress, if you are not so passionate.
I have had issues every time I pick up my camera and I want to go shoot. My wife is always saying, “May god bless you as you go”, because she is not even sure whether I am going to come back. That film that I was advised not to sell to Al Jazeera. Well, suppose there was a body that was behind me that could say, “Look, Bimbo, go on. We are behind you.” I would go and give content to anybody without thinking about what any one in Nigeria is going to say about it. The fact that it is not favouritising them does not mean that it is not good work. These are some of the things we need to look at in Nigeria.
As a body, iREP has really tried to bring in new filmmakers which at least gives people like us hope. And now that this possible fund is coming up it is really a welcome development because now there could be a future. Sometimes I didn’t have funds and there were so many festivals I would have loved to have sent my work to but couldn’t. I couldn’t send my film to FESPACO because I did not have the funds to send it to FESPACO. I could only send it to the Nigerian festivals because I didn’t have the money. Now I am looking for a body, that I can say, “Ok iREP, I’m talented, can you help me spread this film and take it to major film festivals and if possible, can you market this? This is a percentage I can give to you.” Things like that would encourage me to keep doing more.
MS: Very interesting questions, I’m thinking maybe I should start from the last question — who decides who gets the funds for instance, and how can this seem to be fair in the context of culture in the country?
Who decides is the grant giver. I think that is straight forward. If I am giving you a grant, if I have the funds and I set it up as a grant, then it is about me setting up a mechanism, basically a board or a committee that decides, supposedly widely drawn from the profession, from outside the profession, media, and business people. Who gets the funds will also be determined, I think, that now goes to the first question — who will be eligible for that funding would depend on what sort of fund it is. Is it a revolving fund, or is it just a straight forward grant giving body, which means go make your films and we are just happy that films are being made in Nigeria. We are making people employed, we are channeling creative energy, we are taking people off the streets who otherwise might be psychopaths and then hopefully we will be branding Nigeria positively.
The type of fund is what will determine what kind of filmmakers will be eligible for that funding. I would like to assume that every filmmaker will be eligible, but until you determine the sort of fund — is it a soft loan fund or is it a grant from the national lottery or from the sports lottery? There are many questions here so I can only be a bit vague. Who will manage the funding? If it is the grant giving body, then they decide to outsource it and decide. What we have seen is what First Bank trustees have done in the area, so, can First Bank trustees come and run it even under different emphasis ? Or do we want to give it to ARM or ARM Investment Managers or to Bismarck J. Rewane financial dervivatives company. I want to give it to BGL Investment Banking and Investment Group who are looking at funding things in entertainment now. When I was in Lagos State what I wanted to do was two types of funds, one is like a sunk fund. You just want to give grants, get young people doing creative things, making them active, making films in and around Lagos, stimulating the economy for the long term. Then, do a second fund which is more commercial. It is like a soft loan, but it will be outsourced. It will be managed so that we get our monies back. The emphasis is not about making a profit, it is just that we want to keep generating the fund. Not everybody is going to be able to pay back, but the whole idea is that you have enough coming back to sustain that fund. You have to have a percentage that you are going to write off and that was one of the problems with the bank project we spoke about. Part of it was that they strictly looked at it as straight forward business — every film must bring a profit and after a percentage lost then they hoped that there would be at least one film that would make a profit for every body else, so they could put the money back in. There will be only one film that makes a profit for everybody else then you sink the money back.
Issues will emerge about how it should be managed. I think there is a need, for lack of a better word, for associations. There is no doubt and I think documentary filmmakers need to follow the examples. ITPAN, when ITPAN was active was a strong advocacy body with an agenda. There has to be an advocacy group, a pressure group. You have the bulk of their numbers, you give examples of an organisation like iREP, which is also a voluntary association, which is now beginning to network all over. iREP too is meant to be an advocacy body. We can push funding, we can speak of our friends in government, we can speak to, network with our partners internationally. iREP is linked with DNA Documentary Network Africa. We get lots of young people coming to us saying that they need to get experience and we are pushing them to studios, people that we know that are doing documentaries. We don’t have that resource, physical resource, but we have the human resources, networking.
At the short film festival of course, quite a few guys were doing documentaries — young chaps, who thought that was their chance to come up. I got a lot of people walking up to me both as iREP and at the Lagos Film Office and saying, “Look, how do you facilitate what we want to do?” and I was saying, “I think you should concentrate your energies on film festivals in Africa, don’t even bother about Europe yet, go to these two, because when you go to those two then you get a lot of international people there”. It’s about giving a sense of direction and giving a push and I think that’s what the guilds should be doing. Funds will not be given to any association to go and manage. If an association decides to go and raise its own funds internally and decides to give funds, members decide, for example, that from every job we do, we are going to contribute 5% and we are going to have a pool and we are going to fund 5 films a year for — choose your criteria: female filmmakers only, age 18-21 only, just graduates, etc. I think funds definitely will have to be given to individuals, to companies, and then they have to be held to the highest standards. You don’t necessarily need to bring in a third party or outsource the reporting, but you have to have basic accountability as well as input.
FO: How do you the see the future of the documentary evolving, and how can it be supported? And what kind of future do you think the industry has in general – not just documentary, but across the board. You know Nollywood, you know broadcast, what kind of impact does that have on documentary?
MS: I think we are in the middle of an evolution. I won’t say a revolution, we are in the middle of an evolution and I would look at it almost like a 10 year cycle. I would say we are almost halfway there, and we can see the budget is increasing in commercials, largely funded by certain industries — maybe three or four industries. The truth of the matter is content is only going to be pushed when you have a strong economy, otherwise you are going to become like the Francophone countries and are going to rely strictly on hand-outs from the French which actually doesn’t really doesn’t stimulate your local creative economy.
We are getting an active economy from the growth of the banks, followed by the telecom companies, and now everybody is building little studios because they need to create sets. We are getting franchises of the big reality TV programmes. Of course it’s all going in a particular direction for now, but it’s still a sign that the space is opening up. When that space opens up and more TV stations become more ambitious, there is definitely going to be some falling by the wayside, but some will remain small niche players and two or three might emerge eventually as continental players and maybe global payers. Take a look at MNET. They are trying to ramp up their programming because I think they sense something is going to come out of Nigeria soon and if they don’t ramp up and try and keep people happy, expand their channels, their programming and forward thinking, that some other person — the way the industry is evolving — is going to wake up one day and take over. It nearly happened to them, and it was a wakeup call, so they are going to have to begin to expand their programming and their content buying. The figures might not be great, but enough to stop the restiveness amongst the natives I would say. You know how the colonial officers used to do it in those days — once they noticed the natives were getting restless, they would quickly arrange one or two incentives for them to calm them down — and I think that is going to happen. As it goes global, there is going to be more space for niche players, and we are niche players — documentary makers — whether we like it or not. We have already seen the TV series, soaps, programmes, “Who Wants to be a Millionnaire”, etc. The budgets are growing exponentially and that is giving more opportunities to other people to increase their income within. If the industry is going to go through a phase, I think we are going to have two or maybe three global players coming out of here, and that is where we all need to be focused, and be prepared for that. It might happen and we won’t be prepared and all our programming is going to go offshore and then, we are all going to be sitting there and saying, “The South Africans and all those white boys have come into Nigeria again”, and then everybody will say, “Well, you guys were not prepared.” And if we’re not careful, we’ll have a catch-22 situation, where we’ll all be saying we didn’t have the funds to prepare. I think this is where it’s all heading…
What was the other part of the question?
FO: Essentially it’s about the work you are doing — what is iREP, what is their goal, what have they done so far, what are they planning to do?
MS: I think what I have just said now — preparing for this, I won’t call it an explosion, but, preparing for this thing happening. We actually have the means here, we have the platforms, to begin to tell the stories globally.
We at iREP are trying to position our people, forcing the agenda, showing that there is creativity here, trying with the few people doing work on their own with no budgets, trying to put it out there so that people can see — so that when that space becomes open and available, we are ready to grab it. We are ready to tell the stories. That’s it basically.
FO: Just talk individually about your work, how the landscape is and how you see your work in the future. What can be done to support your work as a filmmaker and what is your general mission?
BO: Well, basically as guerilla filmmaker, I do most of my work from my home. I don’t really see a future in waiting for people or waiting for funds to come before you get things done, because I didn’t really see that structure coming and if now, there is a structure for funding coming — that will work for development.
It actually is going to facilitate more work to be done. I am not letting go of whatever I am doing. I am still going on with my films and I am still on the streets and still making and telling the stories from the angle of the streets. With iREP now coming on board, I think that is actually showing that there is a future and I really see us doing big things and I really see myself going far. My film having been picked by Al Jazeera was a really big one for me and even in the last short film festival by the Goethe Institut I won the best documentary and I feel like wow! The heat is on and I am not going to stop.
CO: Ok, I think, let me start at the top, I know you want me to be very brief but let me go a little bit wider. First Makin was talking about evolution in the industry…I think there is an evolution. There were those days when we only had cinema houses where we were going for entertainment and we have seen a lot of terrible Indian films, where there was no sound or video synchronization. From there we grew into television houses, people were going home to watch Things Fall Apart, to watch, Mirror In The Sun and all these things, then TV houses started failing. Then as a response, Nollywood came up. Nollywood has had its own ups and downs but it is now resurfacing with better stories and better production than what we had before. Whatever you say about Nollywood, there is progress.
Now from Nollywood we have gone to the arena of reality shows. Everybody wants to do a reality show — how to speak, how to laugh, how to marry, how to eat, how to do anything, but it is progress. So the future is very bright. I believe that the media industry will eventually become the biggest industry in this country, but then how prepared are we? I put myself in that situation. It has been said that we are a wasted generation, maybe at my age it is already getting too late. Many a times I wish I were 25 or 30 years old. I would do a lot in the industry. But for me, because I have not had the money to do the things I want to do in documentary, I have focused more on manpower development. I am very passionate about developing the human resources, because if there is an explosion tomorrow, there is nobody to handle the explosion, so I am doing more in training people. I would have set up a school but I don’t have money to set up a school.
What I do now, is go to people and send proposals. Unfortunately, a lot of Nigerian industries and Nigerian media houses are not even interested in training manpower, but we will continue pushing. When there is money, I want to do things that will show the cultural beauty of Nigeria, the laugh of the Nigerian, that which is most Nigerian, that which makes Nigeria the unique country that it is, whether it is Igbo or Yoruba, the people who occupy the present Nigeria, what they are, who they are and all that, that is where my passion is. This was also the reason behind the idea of having a Documentary Society of Nigeria, where we can build a body that will help in promoting documentary production. That is where I am for the time being. I hope I have answered your question.
FO: You will suffer greatly for that idea that you have.
AO: Right now I am more into production and production management.
FO: Talk about your festival, you have this student film festival – what’s going on there?
AO: I am organizing a pan-African student film festival and it is taking place here in Lagos, Nigeria. The University of Lagos is the venue. As a young girl in film school, people wondered what I was doing there — I was ‘supposed to be’ somewhere else, not in film school. They looked at me and thought “Okay, you are going to be more into make-up and costume,” all that stuff I find boring. I was kind of different because I was more into directing and cinematography, which I loved very much. I started making short films while I was in school and I started sending them out for film festivals because one of my hobbies is travelling. I like travelling a lot and meeting people, so I saw it as a way for me to travel without paying for my travel (laughs). When I traveled, I met with my fellow students and my colleagues and it was always amazing to actually find students like me, you know from Africa, doing the same thing I did — actually girls, who face the same challenges that I did in Nigeria. I came back and I was pressing for us to have a small kind of awards night in school, just to encourage ourselves and also to exchange ideas, but anytime I wrote a proposal to that effect in school, I was always turned down. So when I came back from school, some years after, I said to myself that I should do it. I started organising and telling people. People like Mr. Femi and Gaston Kaboré encouraged me and Mark from the Goethe Institut encouraged me, because I wanted to give the African students a platform where they could meet on a yearly basis to exchange ideas, for them to know themselves, for them to actually grow together and say, “Ok we are film students — what can we do together?” I think to organise that kind of festival will actually go a long way in helping them grow strong in the industry. We also have this problem in Nigeria and I don’t know if it is only Nigeria, or around Africa, but we don’t encourage the younger ones. We only know the stars, we don’t know the emerging talents. And that is one of the reasons why I started organising the film festival. I have been so impressed by the interest the students have had in participating in the festival, because most of them have never been to a festival in their lives – and they immediately saw it as a venue to meet with their colleagues across the border and set up new relationships. That is what I am doing right now and hopefully it will be a yearly programme. We just hope that we get funding to do it because right now we don’t have funding. We have partners that give us the basic things that we need, but no money attached to it and that is the basic problem that I am facing organising the festival. Some of them will say, just do this first year and let’s see what the whole thing is really about and then maybe next year we will come and sponsor you. So, for now we are doing it whether we have money or not because it’s fixed and you know once you fix a date for something, it’s as good as taking place already.
FO: I just want to thank everybody. Are there any other thoughts that you haven’t expressed that you would like to put on record?
AO: I didn’t talk about the workshop in the festival that we have, documentary…Sorry, we have four workshops within the festival. We have documentary, we have directing, we have cinematography and we have scripting for now because I think those are the four basic areas in filmmaking that we really need to work on in our schools.
FO: Excellent. A thought occurred to me that Nigeria might be the country with the highest number of television stations in Africa…
CO: …and the largest, NTA has 72 stations.
FO: If you count the private and state stations, we have over a hundred television stations. What is it that can be done for documentaries in such a large network, in one country so large? Do you have any ideas for what we could do? Part of the joy of being a filmmaker is connecting with an audience, and something is wrong when the system for reaching an audience is not working with you. How can we change the current scenario so TV channels pay filmmakers and producers – because they are the ones who fill the content of their airtime?
MS: I think it still comes back to the same thing, I think it is a basic misconception about what media should be doing — when TV was sort of technically privatised in the early nineties we got a sense of people rushing for these licenses because they thought it was like an import license. I suspect a lot of people didn’t get their business models right and when the harsh reality of how expensive television is, when the harsh reality hit them I think they just said,“Look how do I find the easy way out?” NTA should be mandated constitutionally to commission programming, because until that happens then the private guys have no incentive or reason to. You can’t mandate the private guys to commission. It’s their money until the environment is forced to change. I am not one for heavy regulation, not at all, but I believe that stimulus policy should stimulate the economy, because there is an economic argument for it. We need to show the figures. The economy will not be stimulated in this sector which can add X, Y, Z, tens of thousands of jobs annually, taking people off the streets and generating sales both from the continent and globally, unless NTA, which is paid for by our tax money, begins to pay for content. What NTA is doing right now is exploitation at the end of the day and so you have a lopsided economics. We need to look at the economics of it because that is the language that people understand these days. What are the economic gains by NTA commissioning programmes? When NTA begins commissioning programmes, then AIT is not going to tell me to come and pay, Silverbird is not going to tell me to come and pay or say I will take it for free, and I will take 60% advertising, no. That is I think what we should be looking at — the economics of it and how do we regulate that aspect. You cannot take my taxpayer’s money and tell me to come and pay you again. That’s double taxation, in fact triple, quadruple, hundruple taxation. So, when we begin to speak the language of economics, then maybe we can force the private guys. It’s because we don’t use figures. It was the same way in the newspaper industry. Why did a lot of newspapers fight the ABC (Audit Board of Newspaper Circulation)? Because they don’t want you to know how many newspapers they’re selling. Because if you knew how many newspapers they were selling (or not), you would redirect your advertising. Newspapers around the world always try and fiddle but it has now become a huge crime in South Africa and in America. If you fiddle with your newspaper figures it means you are lying to banks, to advertisers, so they made it a crime crime. So we must know how many papers we are selling per day — the same way we must know how many people are watching the stations — those are the areas for regulation. I am not going to say to do 40 documentaries a day. It’s not my business to tell you. I will do content, foreign and local, because every country does it, but I will not tell you, you must show 60 documentaries a day and 5 feature films a day. It’s your markets, your audience, your niche, you decide and PZ cousins will decide, am I advertising with you or not. You will find documentaries that are working. In fact, they want you to do a documentary on what you know, not the normal propaganda thing, because there is an audience for it. I think we have to sort of go for it like a twin track. Yes, we want regulation to be as light as possible, but in this case where we are looking at the economics of it and we see that there is this behemoth called NTA which is not adding any value, we do have to regulate that and that is where we need to start talking to NBC (Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation), engaging NBC, engaging the parliaments. Let’s use the economics of it. If you do this, you will provide X number of jobs. If you do this, the government coffers will contribute. Then people think all right – I should go and get a TV license, I should start investing in production, I should start funding, I should start a school.
BO: Well basically I agree with you on some of the points. But I think we should talk more about the NBC than the NTA. NTA was not assigned for documentaries and nobody is watching them. But if the NBC makes it compulsory for all of them — you need to show X, Y, Z content including documentaries — then we will see a change.
It’s not just any filmmaker who wakes up one day and does a documentary, a good one. And that’s where we should try to help. When I was a young filmmaker, I needed to be mentored and there was nobody – not one person who was ready to mentor anybody. The older generation, instead of trying to mentor, they see you as competition. You meet at film festivals and you’re kind of saying, “Ok, who wins today?” It shouldn’t be like that.
I think if we can go in that direction there will be a lot of gains, especially for people like me who are on the streets – because I speak for those kind of guys.
MS: You need to repeat that part, lack of communication…
BO: Ada is doing a film festival now, how many of the people from the film festival are going to be able to have access to filmmakers like us and learn things from us, and begin to build things from there? How much of my work do you want to see, how much of whatever you have would you want to pour into me? Those are the questions we need to ask.
CO: Thank you very much, let me start with the attack on (laughing) the older generation. You see, everybody is in the market of poverty and trying to come out of it, so the old man is also looking for money as much as the young man. Apart from that the problem we have with the younger ones is that they are too much in a hurry. They want to make money overnight, I have had guys who come to me and say, “Sir I want to do this documentary, I want to do this programme, blah, blah, blah”. I sit down and when I educate them on how it’s done they say,… “Ahh! it’s not what we want”. They are already planning how many millions of Naira they will put into the bank and I tell them that if they go like that they are going to fail. Some tried it and failed and came back to me. I say you start from the rudiments. Documentary production is not what you just come in and do. Some of them have come to me saying, “Sir I have this documentary and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”. I say, “What is your budget like? He says, “Well I collected 1.5 million Naira”. I say, “How many states are you travelling to?” He says: “I will go to this, do this, and do this”. I say, “What is the duration?” He says, “One hour”. I will look at you. “Sir I want you to help me”, he says. I will say, “No, I cannot help you, the only way I can help you is this: Go and send back that money, because you cannot produce with that”.
He went and shot and came back with 5 tapes of 30 minutes — a short one hour documentary. By the time he went to the editing table, he didn’t make 5 minutes.
BO: It’s not enough.
CO: Of course it’s not enough, so when he came back I said, “I told you to go and return the money and you refused, you must finish it”. They almost locked up the boy. So you see the young ones are not even consulting, and I am not going to beg you to come and consult me. You have to find me out and come to me. The young ones should go to learn and find out from the older ones how they aquired this knowledge, then they can use their youthful ideas to make money with this knowledge. That is important — they don’t go for training.
Then, we go to the question you raised. Everybody has said, NBC has a critical role to play. I mentioned before that NBC should do a little bit of regulation. NTA for example, the last documentary, pure documentary NTA transmitted and produced was in 2002 and I did that. It was called Rediscover Nigeria. What I see now is a lot of words and pictures that are like a sleeping tablet because they don’t have a trained person working on them. I asked for time to train people to form a national documentary team. I talked, and talked and talked and it was nice until they posted me out of Lagos. When NBC started and media houses were coming to them for producers, I called them a number of times. I called those people and said, “Look, opening a TV station is not bread and butter. It is not import license”. What I would advise to do is to take one genre, transmit two hours a day, and start with that. I gave people an example of channels. It was news, there are certain media houses I have talked to and they want to employ me. I say you cannot employ me, and you cannot pay me my salary. They say, “How much is NTA paying you?” I say, “NTA is not paying me anything, they give me my freedom and you cannot pay for my freedom”.
NBC should be able to make certain general laws. You must be able to, if you are running a media house, you must be able to give a percentage to documentary production. We can help them pull resources together, hire people to produce content for them. If NBC would allocate certain monies to finance production, we would give them content, and that would really help. All the media houses are ready to do that.
NTA does not produce programmes nowadays. What it does is sell airtime to independent producers, at exorbitant costs. There is no way that these media houses are going to help us for the time being unless there is a regulation that helps bring us all together. Otherwise, I don’t know what else we can do because documentary is an endangered genre in television production in Nigeria. Documentary producers are an endangered species. There are not that many and unless we do something…. Government should intervene by giving certain guidelines on how we can make media houses open up a little bit so that they can accommodate stories about Nigeria, documentaries about Nigeria, just as we accommodate for Nollywood now. It is not going to be easy for us in the industry. Our media houses have a role to play in making sure that the television industry grows, the film production unit grows, the documentary producers grow, and the country’s story is told. That’s my own take.
AO: Thank you very much for the mentoring aspect of I think it is really important to mentor the younger ones. When I started in film it was not easy because there were not a lot of women in film production. Even if you went to women who were and asked for their advice, they would say, “It’s not easy, it’s a man’s world.” They were really discouraging, “It’s not for girls, just try and do something else.” You are really shocked, for goodness sake, and you really want to do it because you have a passion for filmmaking. It becomes a huge problem if you don’t have people encouraging you, mentoring you, if you don’t have anyone to look up to. That’s why we have a women’s discussion forum in the film festival. It’s for emerging filmmakers and women who are already filmmakers. They will use it as a way to exchange ideas about the challenges in the industry women face if they want to handle the camea, direct or be an editor.
So, coming back to your question, Mr. Femi, I think we should start by having a body that will advocate “Okay, we are here because we have a right to have our productions, our films, aired.” and which will then enforce this with the TV stations.
You start out with 5 minutes of air time, then later on if they see good documentaries that are really not boring and they have an audience for that particular documentary I think it will help a lot, because that will get more adverts. Also, these TV stations need money to also grow, so yes we start off with 5 minutes and by the time they will see more people tuning in to their station, to actually see these beautifully made documentaries, they will come to you and ask you to produce a 10 minute documentary and offer to pay for it. That’s how I think it will start — not just by forcing them to start airing documentaries for 20 or 30 minutes. If you give them a good job, a good documentary that is properly made and start small, at the end of the day they will get a bigger audience and then get more sponsors or more adverts for that particular programming. Eventually they will need more content from the filmmakers and want you to produce feature length documentaries to air on their TV stations. So I think starting small and giving them quality to entice their audience to tune in to their TV stations could also really help us all.
FO: Thank you. What did you want to add?
BO: Well, we are still talking a little about the regulation here… I remember when Jide Kosoko came in as the president of the ANTP in the Yoruba movie industry. One thing he did which is still really helping the industry today was to establish criteria for professionals. There were so many people calling themselves DOPs and technicians, so what he did was to call all the basic professionals together, and said, “Tell us what you know, let’s check you out. Let’s now begin to place you where you actually belong.” In the end, out of about more than 50 people that could say, I am a Director of Photography, only 10 were credited as Directors of Photography for the industry and that really helped upgrade their level of filmmaking, because now you had people who were actually worth it. Then he sent a list around to all the marketers and all the producers. You want to produce a film and you come to me, I want to check the list and make sure that whoever you are working with is on my list. . Otherwise, I won’t do it. I feel that is a level of regulation that is really helpful.
Ada Obi said something about giving each of the stations a 5 minute piece and the rest of it. I don’t really see it working because some time ago I approached TVC and I told them that I had a couple of short documentaries that I did and wanted to give it to them to actually use, and let me just see if I can use that to build myself up. Apart from the money and the air time thing, the guy in charge actually called me and said, “Bimbo, if we show this we are only just going to show it for the sake of showing it. Nobody is going to assign you to do a documentary for us, just because you have given this to us to show. Why not look for somebody else who is a big name”? That’s why I say I don’t see it working. Maybe there is a regulatory body, and 5 minutes every day these are people that are certified to do jobs for you . Even if they are not paying, you are sure of something coming back to you at the end of the day. So if you are going to meet investors, you have a record that you can fall back on.
FO: Well I think we have done very well. Thank you very much everybody.
ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Nigeria is perhaps the most active hub and population. It has immense cultures, over 100 languages, and the history and potential for stories is just huge.
As huge as it is, Nigeria is also an absolute contradiction because it is so rich yet so poor, it’s so monolithic in a way, yet it’s got all these shades of grey. It has got a history that includes recovery from a war, to the discovery and drilling of oil. It is defined by its people, who are clearly very colorful, clearly very ambitious and clearly very creative.
Nigeria is one place where there is a major need for a better understanding of what it can do with documentaries and what documentaries can do for it. The film industry right now is buoyant and bountiful. There are a lot of filmmakers who are making films with very little money and who are accessing some kind of reward in terms of what open market sales they make. Cinemas are coming back, so in a lot of ways there is a lot of activity. We are talking about hundreds of video films being made a year. Imagination and industry — but the underbelly of it is the same as in every other African country. The broadcast universe seems extremely diversified with over a hundred TV stations, but again monetized airtime is its problem. Filmmakers in Nigeria basically need a couple of things in my opinion.
The iREP documentary film festival is a recent but important initiative that I think needs to be supported. As a matter of integrity, disclosing that I am a founder of iREP. iREP was founded three years ago as a documentary festival because we, myself and a couple of colleagues, thought that that might garner at least a better awareness of what it is that documentary making can do in terms of helping politics, the rights of people, the culture, fighting issues of corruption, and generally creating a level of conversation outside of the clutter of the media itself and of the politics in Abuja (the capital)..
There is a world of young people who have showed up, we have had training where over three hundred kids have come and are interested in documentaries.
We have monthly screenings and we have a regular attendance, so I do think there is some kind of appetite for documentaries in Nigeria and there are many ways by which it can be supported.
I think the principle thing would be support for the festivals because that has created a platform where you find a lot of interaction, a lot of networking going on. Obviously there is also the need to create access for documentary filmmakers to gain an audience in Nigeria beyond broadcasting. At some point, if the right documentary came along, it would also play in cinema houses — and there is the possibility in Nigeria particularly that a documentary film could make money at the box office, because simply, the numbers are there. The subject matter would be key and that might be something important, because the impression in Nigeria is that documentary cannot make money or that documentary is a lower form of art. I think it is very critical also in Nigeria because the huge numbers of those who are making Nollywood films have poor skills. They need to understand that filmmaking is also to a large extent, intellectual. Their capacity to integrate their thoughts, their ideas, can be better trained if they were also given a conscious push into telling their stories in a documentary way.
I also think the volume of films being made will probably increase because now young filmmakers are making their maiden works as features — which basically is not the right place to train. The concept of short films and documentaries as an initial way for them to build their capacities may also be something that would be helpful.
My recommendations for Nigeria are to:
Support the festivals and ensure that the opportunity for networking, for enlarging the awareness of documentary filmmaking is key.
Support in some form for some kind of documentary film fund that can hopefully develop a film that will make it into the mainstream distribution channels here in a big way. Then we would be able to convince some of those people in Nollywood to also think about creating films of a documentary sort.
Those would be the first two things I would say for Nigeria. In addition, there is enough financial capital in Nigeria for young people to generally be able to access funds for equipment, but training and honing networking skills would be good.
There are a lot of schools in Nigeria that are supposedly training filmmakers and now quite a few universities are also beginning to train in film.
I would suggest developing or collaborating on the development of a curriculum model that is standard, that is international, that is practical, that we can give to these training institutions to pursue. Standardizing that curriculum across Nigeria is key. Education in Nigeria in general is not bad, but film education is particularly weak. I think that may be the third necessary intervention point in Nigeria.
— Femi Odugbemi