In confronting research on the state of documentary in Anglophone West Africa I had a clear consciousness that the countries that make up this community of nations share conflicts of political, social and historical realities that have long needed definition and resolution.

The post-colonial issues of tribal identity and inequitable sharing of national resources have created constant tensions and armed conflicts in many of these communities with devastating impact on politics, governance and development. The landscape in countries such as Liberia and Sierra-Leone where bitter civil war and armed struggle raged for over a decade is littered with experiences needing articulation especially as regards its impact on people, particularly the youth population. In Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia the absence of armed conflict has not always meant peace given the violence of their politics and the adverse effects on their development agenda.

The legacy of the colonial governments was to put documentary-making in the hands of political institutions. The State kept a firm hand on the broadcasting landscape, dominating its content and controlling its messaging. For them, documentary was a key political tool for managing governance. Post- colonial administrations, military and civilian, have found it convenient to perpetuate this approach, using documentary principally as a propaganda tool for consolidating political power. Each of these countries has the same model — government-owned TV stations that answer directly to authority and submitt themselves to censorship restrictions.

Yet, the dimensions of documentary as a tool for deepening experiences by bringing perspectives to history, is a vital and urgent need to foster development and grow the nascent democratic experiments in these countries. It is precisely for this reason that documentary is a genre fostering reflections on culture, politics, ethics, philosophy society, science, spirituality and addressing questions of day-to-day life.

The proliferation of digital equipment and the ease of use of modern camera equipment has created immense activity in the fiction-film genre among the youth population of Nigeria and Ghana and to some extent the Gambia. Nollywood in Nigeria and Ghannywood in Ghana are globally acknowledged video film industries that have engaged the attention of audiences, scholars and filmmakers across the world with their guerilla filmmaking styles and street theatre content. To an extent, because it is also an attempt at articulating the cultural, political and historical experiences of the peoples of these countries, they can be argued to be pseudo- documentary films. In reality however, a fiction film has a different contract with the viewer than a documentary. Fiction promises entertainment first and reflection second. In fiction you invite the viewer to suspend disbelief. It is an invitation to go into an imaginative world. Documentaries offer reflections first and foremost. Reality is far more complex. It invites debate.

Perhaps, therefore, the foundational value of the process of engaging the professionals of these countries in this research report is to project into consciousness the question: which cinema for Africa? Nigeria and Ghana and the Gambia needs a cinema that entertains, but more immediate in value, it needs a cinema that deepens democracy, strengthens governance structures, advocates responsibility, elevates accountability, and fights diseases, poverty and illiteracy.

The critiques of corruption, poor governance, ethnic divisions, economic paralysis, etc., in Sierra Leone and Liberia can find a stronger footing if filmmakers turn their cameras on the issues of realities.

There are also urgent issues about forging a future as engaged members of the international community. We need to integrate the evolution of cultural identities fostered by globalization. What are the influences of new technologies? We need to reflect on issues of civil societies and the emerging economies of Africa. What is our development ideology? Development is a conscious agenda that requires mass mobilisation. Documentary is, and should be, at the centre of that conversation.

The complication of documentary of course is the intersection between art and activism. The perspectives of the filmmaker are formed by his/her background, heritage and experiences. Objectivity is remote. The answers offered are a function of the questions asked. It is possible to distort the answer by the framing of the question. The narrative of reality and “truth” does not allow for simple answers, but because its content is about our shared experiences, its capacity for emotional connections cannot be contrived. That is why the populations of these communities have, for so long, found the existing models of state-managed propaganda documentary structures so offensive.

Taking documentary filmmaking out of the hands of institutions and moving it into the hands of individuals is the key intervention tool. It is about engineering open, more vibrant societies. It is about the education of the viewers — a firewall against the regression to a past riddled with misunderstandings and manipulations.


The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

The country is situated around the Gambia River, the nation’s namesake, which flows through the country’s centre and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is 11,295 km2 with an estimated population of 1.7 million.

A variety of ethnic groups live in the Gambia, each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka ethnicity is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahule, Serers and the Bianunkas. The Krio people, locally known as Akus, also constitute one of the smallest ethnic minorities in the Gambia.

Gambians are known for their excellent music, as well as their dancing. Although the Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, its culture is the product of very diverse influences.

English is the official language of the Gambia. Other languages are Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Serer, Krio and other indigenous vernaculars. Due to geographical setting French language knowledge is relatively wide spread.


The origins of our film and cinema activity date back to the days of the Film Unit within the then government Ministry of Information, and as TV was not available, commercial viewing in open air cinema halls like Mahoney, Ritz and Odeon fuelled a lot of public interest in foreign films and provided social outing opportunities for people of all ages.

Film Unit started with Black and White 35 mm reel films containing material made by European producers for European audiences shown publicly at the McCarthy Square at night to huge Gambian crowds. After Independence, Film Unit continued to be a government body but was doing much more. It not only showed foreign material to Gambians, but also made and showed films tailored to our local needs. These productions were conceptualized, shot and edited by our own people — people like the late Ebrima Sagnia, a pioneer of production at the Film Unit.

At the time he was assisted by, among others, Alhaji Momodou Sanyang of GRTS on sound and Modou Saidy of State House and Sana Sisay of Family Planning on camera. As a small team they had a huge responsibility to document our nascent journey of independence and beyond. Apart from a few open air cinema shows at the square, the material they produced was stored for 30 years in different audio visual formats, as, unfortunately, television broadcast did not exist for the period after independence in the Gambia. Other specialised institutions with audio visual activity from the seventies include the Agriculture Communication Unit of the Department of Agriculture and the Member Education Programme of The Gambia Cooperative Union, where professional and on the job training in audio visual work was conducted. These two institutions used to produce films on agriculture, literacy and co-operation and were shown mostly to the farming community in the village at night from a mobile cinema van.

When in 1996 the new government decided to start national TV broadcasting, staff at Film Unit and some of their productions provided ready-made material to fill airtime as well as vacant positions at the first ever national TV broadcast outfit. Selected staff from Radio Gambia also got transferred to TV. Those of us with prior experience in production and a few others with TV knowledge acquired from outside the country also came on board, some voluntarily. Our immediate task following the complete installation of a brand new top quality control room and a makeshift studio, as well as the availability of professional television equipment, was to transform these into sensible images on people’s screens.

This coincided with an eventful period in the aftermath of a change of government in 1994. This represented a major challenge, as the demand for local TV production became more critical at a time when there were few that could make it happen. Thanks to a corps of young men and women who were quick to learn and ready to serve long and tedious hours, the situation soon improved. As others joined our ranks, confidence, talent and creativity soon became apparent among people who knew nothing about TV production a few weeks earlier. ‘’We never thought Gambians could do this’’ and “we are proud to be watching our own TV’’ were some of the comments from viewers as feedback came in. This motivated every one of us and led to more zeal and an increase in local production of various sorts. TV News production and reporting became one of the most urgent tasks to be developed as a regular feature. News Brief, as the first news programme was known, started by having its anchor recorded in the studio and later edited on tape along with the inserts and stories.

The material was then broadcast at 10 pm on Gambia Television and watched by everyone. Few people knew it was not live. After a few weeks of constant practice and a lot of on the job training, management decided it was time to go live with the news. This called for nonstop production to feed the demand for daily news and other cultural and magazine television programmes. The music performance industry became a readily available opportunity to put entertainment on the screen. The Gambian artist Musa Ngum became the first musician to have his music produced into a video. The video production of Banjul Banjulby, a producer at the station, opened a new possibility and led to a quick way to lift the struggling music industry out of obscurity.

Now, musicians could also be seen. Gambian artists of all music genres lined up for free video production of their music by the station, in return for repeated broadcast without paying royalties. After two years, it became obvious that the demand for new and tailor- made programmes on national TV could not be met by an overworked production staff which led to quality and deadlines being compromised. Independent production was born out of need when Jeggan Grey Johnson, a fellow producer at the TV, resigned as head of news to pursue independent production. Jeggan was soon followed by Nana Ofori Atta and Harona Drammeh who both set up independent production houses to make films and meet the audio visual production needs of clients. Mediamatic and Vinashasoon assumed the role of a private training ground for many young people.

Excerpt from: National Workshop on Copyright Develop- ment and the Economic Contribution and Performance of the Copyright Based Industries

– August 28 2012 at Dunes Resort and Hotel, KOTU.




The film industry in the Gambia is virtually non- existent. There are no film schools, government or private, and no funding for filmmakers. Filmmaking is still in its infancy and Gambian films are uncommon. Documentary filmmaking is still a relatively unexplored area in the Gambia.

Mr. Baba Ceesay, the newly appointed Director General of National Center of Arts and Culture, an organisation under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism confirmed that there were indeed no structures in place in the Gambian film industries.

Regulatory bodies for film are just coming into the picture. This researcher witnessed the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) give a workshop on copyright development and the economic contribution and performance of the copyright-based industry.

This researcher also witnessed the Inauguration of the organisation of the Royalty Collecting Mechanism in the Gambia. This marked a milestone in the Gambian film industry because it activated the copyright law, which had been around since 2004 but was inactive because of the absence of the Royalty Collecting Organisation.

The film guilds were also inaugurated at the Alliance Franco, an event that was sponsored by the National Center for Arts and Culture.

Ebou Waggeh, the recently appointed president of the newly formed Film Producers association of the Gambia (FPAG) gave a speech that detailed the history of film industry in the Gambia.

Documentaries and documentary filmmaking are not popular in the Gambia. However, is a small group of documentary filmmakers in the Gambia made up of first generation filmmakers. Ebou Waggeh and Sina Sisay are some of the few.

DVDs of feature length films found in the Gambia are mainly of Senegalese, Nigerian, American and British origin. Gambian films are very hard to find. There are no cinemas in the Gambia. Those that used to exist are now burnt down and are in ruins.

Unlike other West African countries, hawkers selling DVDs on the street are not a common sight and there seems to be only one DVD distributor in the Gambia. There is only one television station the Gambia and it is owned by the government. Unfortunately, (and it is the same story in Sierra Leone and Nigeria), the broadcaster does not commission works/content and filmmakers have to pay for their content to be aired.

Mr. Sana Sisay, a first generation filmmaker and one of the few documentarists in the Gambia, is currently producing educational docu-dramas for the Gambia Family Planning Association on health issues, especially HIV/AIDS. They employ the use of mobile cinemas as a means of getting the message across to an audience. These docu-dramas are taken to villages and shown in open spaces to the villagers.

The GSM Company Africell plays an interesting role in the film industry in the Gambia. They have a production unit and young Gambians are hired to produce music videos, voice over’s, radio shows and create TV commercials for the company and for local artistes. Pa Abdul Waggeh and Mam Malen Njie are two young individuals who work in the creative department in Africell.

There are no film festivals that take place in the Gambia.

Challenges faced by filmmakers in The Gambia include:
  • Training (there are no film schools).
  • Unavailability of equipment (most filmmakers have to travel to Senegal to get cameras and other tools of their trade).
  • Funding for the production of documentary

Funding, if made available, should concentrate on training and developing skills of filmmakers, training specifically in the area of documentary filmmaking, and support for the new guilds and organisations. This will help guide the emerging film industry in the Gambia.



There are no regulatory bodies for film in the Gambia. However recent activities in the film industry in the Gambia include the organisation of advocacy groups (Film Producers Association Gambia), artist’s organisations, and the launch of the Royalties Collecting Mechanism in the Gambia.

Excerpt from transcript of the speech the Minister of Tourism and Culture Gambia, Hon. Mrs. Fatou Mas Jobe- Njie gave at the opening ceremony of the inauguration of the film guilds at the Alliance Franco Gambia 

Minister: This morning’s set up can be called a milestone in Gambian arts and culture simply because for the first time you have come together, to be a full fledged organisation as required by the copyright act as enunciated by the chairman. This morning, we stand on the realisation of the long awaited dream of the Royalties Collecting Mechanism in the Gambia, which is enunciated in the Copyright Act. The road which has lead us here has been very challenging but interesting. I have been really pushing them and I do not have to apologise for it. The various stages of this journey include the enactment of the Copyright Law by the Gambian government in 2004, and also the setting up of a copyright office under the NCAC in 2008. Of course, this was followed by the various stakeholders meetings and workshops, such as this one, and lately the various stake holder meetings between the NCAC and the various artists groups and the facilitation by the NCAC of the establishment of the six artist associations in the past 7 weeks. Well done. For that, you have done very well. Thank you chairman.

This association should have membership on the collecting society board. Throughout this laborious work, we have counted on the support of you stake holders and thank you very much — the international stakeholders organisations like WIPO and indeed the Gambian government. Now that we have come this far, we should ask ourselves what’s next? Firstly, the various executive persons here should work towards strengthening their associations and making them more financially viable because we need money, administratively responsive and transparent. For too long artists have created associations only to allow them to die. We do not want this one to die. This must not happen to us. I think we’re very serious. We are are very focused and this association is not going to die.

We should also find out the various ways and means to raise funds, to organise programmes and to sensitise your memberships because it’s very important. We should also recruit more members and set up offices to make your associations accessible. If people want to see you, you have to be reachable. Above all, seek to build international contacts. The international contacts are what can make or break us and I am very glad that WIPO can see that we are really ready, we are organised and henceforth, I don’t want to be travelling on your behalf, you have to do the travelling yourself. In such, you can count on our support. You have the Ministry’s full support.

Secondly, the association should endeavor to educate their membership on copyright issues and I am very glad that I have seen this information pack from WIPO. It is very good. You should educate your membership on copyright issues and other matters relevant to the sector, such as contracts, which are key for artists, if artists are to harvest from their sweat and talent.

The other milestone you must reach is to schedule a date for the general congress of the associations soon. You will elect your president, and then you will have the Terms of Reference (TORs) and the qualifications of the executive secretary of the society and other necessary staff in complement.

If you look at these documents there is a guideline as to how to go about it. You have your WIPO team here, the consultants, they can guide us. We can make it September so that by November we know that we have a collective society. You can be invited to attend this programme and you can start making your networking and your contacts.

This board of course will now work with the NCAC and the secretariat of the society to formulate an outline or a blueprint that I can now use as a ministry to go to the government and say this is the type of support that is needed by the collecting society. We are looking at a situation whereby we will make sure that we will have a budget for you, because the startup is a problem. We can tell the government that we are ready and we are serious, and ask them for this amount of money for the collecting society for the period of two years. Just to give you time to settle, we are ready to do that but like I said two days ago, the ball is in your court. You have our support. If you want us to attend any meeting we will be ready to attend because the collecting society is not just good for you, but it is also good for the government of the Gambia and the people of this country, so you have our support on that.

With determination, these steps can be reached by the end of this year. By the end of this year we will set up the board. We have the guidelines, we will have the TOR, we know exactly what needs to be done, and we will know how to prepare the contracts between us and the radio stations, the Television stations etc. It is achievable. Once we are set, if you need office space, we can create office space at the ministry because we have some offices that are empty right now. We can create the space, we can get people to support us, furnish the office and you will have your office and you will be independent. You have that assurance and that support.

Now of course, you know your responsibility. You will be collecting royalties for Gambian creators and I think it’s high time we make some money. Anybody who uses our music or uses our products has to make sure that they pay us for it. The Collecting Society is key and that is why this meeting and the formation of the board is very timely.

To conclude, I wish to take this opportunity to once again thank the delegation from WIPO for coming to attend this great moment and to assure them of my ministry’s fervent desire to work with the associations, to realise the society, and to have the society set up. We can have it done and with the dedication and commitment of all of you it can be done for sure. I know all of you here are committed and dedicated people in whatever you do.


The National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) is a semi-autonomous institution established by an Act of Parliament in December 1989 to promote and develop Gambian Culture. The 1989 Act is now superseded by the NCAC Act of December 2003. The eight member Board appointed by the Secretary of State for Tourism and Culture is the highest official decision making body on all matters relating to Arts and Culture in the country.

The functions of the Centre are;
  1. To advise the Secretary of State on matters of policy relating to Arts and Culture and in particular on matters relating to national languages, the creative and performing arts, monuments and relics, research and documentation, science and indigenous technology, and sports and recreation;
  2. Promote and develop Gambian arts and culture;
  3. implement, monitor, co-ordinate and evaluate artistic and cultural programmes in the Gambia;
  4. Promote artistic and cultural co-operation at regional and international levels;
  5. Encourage, at the local level, the emergence of groups and institutions interested in the promotion of arts and culture;
  6. Supervise the functioning of the committees that may be established under this Act;
  7. Investigate and report on artistic and cultural matters relating to research, information processing, storage, documentation, retrieval, and dissemination;
  8. Equip, maintain and manage the National Museums;
  9. Establish, equip, maintain and manage such other museums as it thinks fit;
  10. Preserve, repair or restore any ethnographical article which it considers to be of national importance;
  11. When required by the Secretary of State, investigate and report on any matter relating to any ethnographic article;
  12. Keep a register of all ethnographic articles which it acquires or which are brought to its notice;
  13. List all monuments whose proclamation as National Monuments it considers desirable; ascertain their owners, before recommending to the Secretary of State to proclaim them as National Monuments;
  14. Perform such functions as may be conferred on it under any law on copyright;
  15. Perform such duties as are related to the research and development of arts and culture in the

The Institution is the professional arm of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and executes its mandate through three technical Directorates, namely, The Directorate of Cultural Heritage, The Directorate of Literature, Performing and Fine Arts and The Directorate of Copyright.

1. The Office of the Director General

The Director General’s Office is the administrative and financial secretariat. Its functions are:

  • To co-ordinate and monitor the day-to-day activities of the NCAC;
  • To provide the necessary backstopping to the Technical Divisions in execution of their activities;
  • To serve as the public relations arm of the NCAC;
  • To evaluate policies relating to the activities of the Centre in particular, and matters relating to arts and culture in general;
  • To monitor, evaluate the projects and activities of the Technical Departments;
  • To provide information to the Board and to serve as the Secretariat for the
  • To formulate budgets and project proposals for the Centre.
2. Directorate of Cultural Heritage (DCH)

The Directorate has two divisions namely:

2a. Museum and Monuments Division-MMD.

This unit is responsible for the material culture heritage, both movable and immovable. Its tasks are:

  • Management of museums;
  • Proclamation, inventorization, interpretation, protection, conservation and promotion of national monuments and sites of historical and cultural significance;
  • Research into new archaeological sites;
  • Organisation of exhibitions;
  • Organisation of outreach programmes in relation to material and non-material heritage;
  • Collection of historical
2b. Research and Documentation Division – RDD.

The Division is responsible for all research and documentation activities.

3. Directorate of Literature, Performing and Fine Arts – DLPFA

This Division is mandated to protect, preserve, develop, promote and celebrate Gambian arts and culture nationally and internationally.

Its Role Includes:
  • Registration of artists and cultural troupes;
  • Production of a national catalogue/directory of all registered artists and cultural troupes;
  • Encourage and support  village, district, community and divisional cultural festivals;
  • Creation and management of national dance, drama and musical troupes;
Functions Include:
  • Contributing to the biennial International Roots Festivals;
  • Organising drama competitions and story-telling sessions;
  • Organising modern,musical concerts;
  • Organising literary competitions;
  • Organising workshops for artists;
  • Participating in international cultural events;
  • Co-operation with international troupes and organisations;
  • Organising national festivals of arts and culture;
  • Establishment of national associations of dance, drama and music;
  • Fundraising
About the GRTS

In December 1995 the Government commissioned the Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS) TV station. GRTS is the Gambia’s only public service broadcaster.

Under the umbrella of The Gambia Telecom- munications Company (Gamtel) it was to perform test transmissions from a 5KW transmitter situated at Abuko covering the Greater Banjul Area.

Later, a couple of transmitting stations were erected at the villages of Bansang and Soma inland to achieve national broadcasting coverage. Despite these earlier efforts, some areas of the Gambia, in particular the up- river regions, still remain outside the airing range.

Since the moment of its commissioning, GRTS has operated as a public service station in the tradition of the older, established Radio Gambia. The majority of the programmes are dedicated to news, public service announcements, education, entertainment and religious programmes. Broadcasts are made in all the 4 main languages as well as English and French. Some programmes from foreign sources like the BBC News of the UK, CNN of the USA, Deutsche Welle of Germany and CFI of France are also regularly shown within the GRTS station’s programme schedule.

As more and more television units become financially accessible to local families, GRTS has become an ever more vital and effective means of communication.

In 2002 the Government completed building the station’s headquarters to accommodate the GRTS’s administrative, technical, and operational needs.



The Gambia Film Producers Association, on Saturday, held its first congress at the Alliance Francaise-Gambienne along the Kairaba Avenue in Kanifing. The forum afforded the opportunity to take stock of the achievements of the Association, and the challenges that continue to be grappled with.

Speaking at the occasion, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Tijan Kamara, told the film producers that according to the Copyright Act of the Gambia, it is the professional artistic associations that have to come together to constitute the collecting society.

He underscored the important role of the Association in developing the country’s artistic and cultural endowment, saying: “Your role must be such that it will generate interest in artistic creativity and film production as relevant to our developmental aspirations rather than heavily depending on foreign movies that will not help our society, especially the youth, to achieve their self-realisation”.

“Given the adverse effects of Western acculturation in our society”, according to Kamara, “the Association is naturally faced with the challenge of exploiting the creativity of our hidden or underutilized artistic potential, but at the same time choosing subject matter that is compatible with our cultural norms and values for general acceptance”.

The NCAC Board chair encouraged the Gambia Film Producers Association not to focus on film production for entertainment sake, stressing that their focus should rather be of an educator with the emphasis on “how do we do it” and not “how others do it, or have done it”. However, he noted that one of the canons of judging a nation is its artistic heritage that serves as the mirror through which its past and cotemporary lives are reflected.

Kamara further urged the Association to engage and share ideas with the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), the national television station in the country. In his view, collaborating with GRTS should be geared towards developing a movie repertoire and showcasing the Gambia’s very own stories that will promote its image and heritage.

Speaking earlier, the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Baba Ceesay, said the gathering is an offshoot of the consultative forums the new council’s management has been having with artistic groups, with a view to creating understanding on how best to work with the creative artistic community.

Ceesay reminded the film producers that the NCAC is the institution charged with the preservation, promotion and development of art and cultural affairs in the country, and as such, needs to encourage the actors in this industry to come together so that their concerns can be addressed collectively.




Selected based on the relevance of their activities in the industry

Ebou Waggeh is a media and branding consultant with wide ranging local experience and proven expertise in the management of public information and matters of brand imaging. The name Ebou Waggeh is a media brand in itself renowned in all sectors of Gambian society. The company he manages, WAX Media, was founded in 2003 and provides branding, media production, public relations and product development services to corporate clients. He is the current president of Film Producers Association of the Gambia, (FPAG).

Mam Malen Njie is a Gambian TV presenter with her own show, called Its Here, and a music promoter. She also works for the GSM Company AFRICELL in the media relations department, handling some of their radio and TV shows.

Sana Sisay is a first generation filmmaker in the Gambia. He was one of the few filmmakers that worked in the Government Television station when it was first established. He currently works as a producer at the Gambian Family Planning Association producing docu-dramas on health issues.

Pa ABDOU Waggeh is a video director and editor who studied editing at MEDIAMATIC media house. He currently works at AFRICELL, a GSM company in the Gambia, as a creative director and is in charge of TV commercials. He is also the manager of WAX MEDIA, headed by Ebou Waggeh.

Baba Ceesay is the newly appointed Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture in the Gambia.


The event was organised by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and it provided an opportunity for a gathering of all cultural sector practitioners in the Gambia. Stakeholders from different segments of the cultural sector, including producers, directors, actors, writers, and musicians were in attendance, and it was a platform for all of them to share ideas about their works and the creative industry.

At that time, there were no guilds, structures, nor laws in place for the creative industry. The industry was practically dominated by creative outputs from Senegal and Nigeria.

The event served as a great opportunity for a focus group meeting with all relevant stakeholders in the creative sector in attendance. The meeting lasted for over two hours and everyone in attendance had a chance to talk about their thoughts and frustrations with the creative sector. A lot of them also have actually been working abroad because there has been no opportunity, no structure, equipment, or resources to support the creative industry.

There has really not been a lot of originality in what they have been doing and they bemoan that too, as a lot of them made their names with old Gambian folklore stories. They are now under pressure from a new generation of practitioners who are looking for some kind of structural context for their own creativity.

The event was a prelude to the actual formal launch of the guilds, especially for the film sector.



EW: My name is Ebou Wage. I am a journalist and a filmmaker in the Gambia and my career in journalism started when I became the editor of the newsletter that was run by the Gambian cooperative movement where I worked in the 80s. I used to work for a section of the cooperative movement called the Member Education Programme. This programme, which received assistance from the Norwegians, was meant to provide numerous literacy functional skills to the farming community in the Gambia who formed probably 75% of the population. If you look at literacy in the farming community, you will find out that it is less than 2%, so we have to make 98% of the farming community literate through this programme.

In the days we were doing this, there was no television in this country. I used to work in the material production of this Member Education Programme and my job was to design and use educational materials for numeracy and literacy. I received my professional training in Italy in 1988 on the adaptation of illustrations to local myths whether they were stills or whether they were video.

From this project I was able to use the technical equipment needed to design and print these usually paper-based educational materials like flash cards and items like that. Two years later, after my training in Italy, the Norwegians decided to buy us a video camera as well as a projector, so the idea was to move from using only flash cards to using audio-visual in our educational training programme. I had a camera which was a VHS and VHS was à la mode at time, so I would go upcountry, and go to a certain village and film because we used to also do education on farming techniques. In the past, it had been based on drawings and posters.

When we got the camera and the projector I went to village ‘A’ and then when we wanted to transfer knowledge on how to use a certain farming technique in village ‘A’ to village ‘B’, we filmed it and then went to village ‘B’ which was very far from village ‘A’. We used to have a van that we hired from the Agriculture and Communication sector, and when we’d go to the village, we’d announce during the day that there was going to be a film shown at night. We ended up having everyone in the village, from ages 1-99, come out to the see the film. What surprised me was that one technique that we had unsuccessfully spent a lot of time trying to transfer to a particular village all of sudden succeeded with the audio-visual because the next day when we went to assess and evaluate how much they knew about what they had seen, we saw that they could remember every detail of the film, from the beginning to the end.

The Norwegians saw that this was working, so we moved to audio visual. That’s how I ended up using audio visual on a film van until 1996 when television came. When the government body that was responsible for TV wanted to get staff for TV, they brought in a unit that government had called the film unit. The film unit was part of the ministry of information at the time. It was a leftover from colonialism because what the Europeans used to do was to bring a film meant for European audiences to us, and at night, because there was no television, they would invite everyone from the capital into a big square and then show the films. When the film unit took over, they had a lot of these films.

After independence, the film unit started filming things that were Gambian made and based on our own livelihood and then showed it later at the square. When television came, government decided to roll up this film unit and transfer the entire staff because that was the only place where government had a producer and a few cameramen and some editors. They moved them to the TV — whole stock and barrel and then they also moved some radio announcers from Radio Gambia to television.

There were a few of us who had prior knowledge and we had to prove that we could do the job. For myself, I had to prove I could do the job by showing a documentary I had already produced in 1990. That was how I got the job. I went in and I became a producer. I was probably the only one with experience on how to use that Betacam camera because Gambians didn’t know anything. They were in radio for about 18-20 years and didn’t know about television, cameras and things like that. They were just waiting for us to get them a script to read. So I and a colleague of mine decided that we could start a news programme, and the way we started the news was I would go out and interview people and come back and do a story and edit it. Then we would get the anchor in the studio and she would read the script. Later on we would edit the script on to the story and at ten o clock we would play the tape. We were actually recording the news. It wasn’t live, but people didn’t care because it was the first time they’d see in Gambian television with news on it.

It was big and we became very busy and I eventually lost my wife after four years because I didn’t have time for anything else. I would spend 18-19 hours at the station doing everything. I pioneered TV production for news, music videos, magazine programmes, documentaries, and religious programmes. There were few people who knew how to do it but everyone was willing to learn, so eventually they all learned. I realised after a couple of years that TV couldn’t do all the productions that were needed because there was a lot of demand. For me, the demand in news was about how to cope with the new change of government. All of a sudden there was a coup and there were some military boys at the state house instead of the traditional old jawara that we used to know. People wanted to know how things were panning out, so it was our duty to show people.

The new government introduced a TV station and they wanted to be seen and they used it to their advantage. We went there every day and got the opportunity to practice and got a lot of on the job training. I trained a lot of young boys and girls who came and they were quick to learn, but the fact is we also started experiencing changes. People started to move out because once you are on, especially the women — because TV as a lady and start doing well, somebody will offer you a job and pay you more and take you to their enterprise. That was how every one of the ladies moved and took their skills along with them.

I decided to leave after nine years because there was a need for independent production. I had been in TV and I had produced films while I was in TV. I had produced documentaries, features, and music videos and I’d write my own scripts, do script to screen, and edit my own work. I took care of the entire cycle. I depended on myself. When I started setting up my own media works, the first offer was a contract I won in a bid where the national TV also bid. I It was a World Bank project. They decided that they were building schools, and hospitals and roads and things like that and they wanted to have a visual image of how it was being done. I won the contract, and I did so well, that 2-3 contracts later, the agency decided that I was going to be the single source whenever they needed a video. I have stayed with them for more than 8 years and I am still with them now. I do documentaries for them for whatever they are doing. I have other clients with government projects that come in that need to have media presence and video as well. Mostly it’s video because that’s what people look at. They want people to see the things that are being done and so I am always involved.

Some of my works appear on TV outside the country, and some appear on TV here. There are some institutions where I am retained as a media consultant, not only for audio-visual works but for print media as well because I have been in print and I have also been in radio and I take care of all the media that the agency requires.

Recently, because of the fact that I have a specialization in documentary making, I get to take on most of the documentary contracts that are given out in this country by an institution because one institution will say, “you go to him, we were with him”. Most of my work appears on TV. I have a name in this country in terms of delivery and in terms of the area I am serving but recently, with new developments, things will probably become much bigger. It will involve other people apart from me, which is what I have always wanted. That is the formation of our association of filmmakers of which I am the president.

The reason we are forming this association presently is because of the copyright law that came into existence in 2004. It hasn’t been enforced until now because there hasn’t been a society which collects the royalties, so in the absence of all that, it hasn’t been possible to implement it. Now, The National Centre for Arts and Culture has been really put on the grill by their minister who was put on the grill by their president who was put on the grill by ECOWAS who said it was only the Gambia and Guinea Bissau that had not started having their copyright laws enhanced and functional.

Everybody is pushing and our audio-visual sector, will now start to work on its programme. Mostly our programme is going to be based on training.

The way I work with the TV as a media consultant, as a producer, and as an independent producer, is that I get commissioned work. I charge for production and also for air time, so when they pay me, I do the production and then go to the TV and I pay them to air it. That’s the arrangement I have with the TV. Just this morning I went and paid for some work I had for some clients. That’s where we are now but we would like to be a functional training ground for young people with the knowledge, or perhaps interest, or perhaps gift from God, in this creative art because we all know, as filmmakers, that creativity cannot be taught anywhere, in any school. You either have it or you don’t have it. So those who have it and don’t know that they have it need to be identified and brought to the field and those that don’t have it will be told what to do. There are so many functions in filmmaking that if you are not good in one aspect, you can be good in something else.

We want to identify all those areas where different skills can be harnessed so that we can train people and get Gambians to be more interested. Right now, 80% of the video consumers consume Nigerian films in this country, like most countries in Africa and around the world, because the industry in Nigeria is so versatile and resourceful. There are so many productions that come out of there and find their way to the Gambia that people are watching them every day. That is what we want. We want that kind of interest in Gambian films. One other area that has not been helpful to us in the film industry is the death of cinema halls. We used to have cinema halls but now I think only one cinema hall is left in the whole area and most of the time, what they show is premier league matches and not films. For us, the industry needs to really look at what we can do to survive the changing times — piracy and all that.

People also don’t invest in films. We don’t have executive producers here. You go to somebody and you tell him you have an idea for a film and it costs you a particular amount…it is not easy. I am working on a film and I am in the pre-production stage of the film and it is going to be based on a book written by the former president of this country. I have had discussions with him and he has given me the license and all that but I haven’t got the amount of money I need to make the film, so I have had to look for some partners. I am also looking at what to do — whether to do a docu-drama, or to do a documentary or whether to make a fiction film. We are looking at all those possibilities.

FO: Let’s try to be more specific about general overview. Give me the low down on the Gambia itself. How big is the Gambia and how many people are in the Gambia.

EW: The Gambia is the smallest country in terms of area in mainland Africa and the population is about. But I can tell you, .8 of that figure are non-Gambians. We are probably one of the most cosmopolitan nations in West Africa, and probably have half a million Senegalese living here. We have maybe two hundred to three hundred thousand Nigerians living here and I am not even including Sierra Leoneans. In fact, we have more Guineans than anything else in the Gambia. It could even be that there are one million people that are non-Gambians because when we had independence in 1965, we were 315,000 as a country. Between 1965 and 2012 we reached 1.8 million. Our density is very critical. We have only 11,000 square km of land and we have got one 1.8 million people living on it. Perhaps this is an opportunity to do films about family planning, about space planning and all those things to educate the public.

FO: And in terms of the public, the love of the creative industry… ?

EW: The creative industry in the Gambia is highly misunderstood, undervalued, and under harnessed. We have a problem of Gambians not appreciating painting or good books — most of the time it is the appreciation of a beautiful dress you are wearing. You hardly see a painting and say that is a nice painting, Gambians don’t look at things that way.

FO: Why is that?

EW: It’s a good question. I think it is because there is very little talk or even coverage about the arts anywhere, whether it is at home, on TV, or on radio, it doesn’t exist. We need to really talk about what art can contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation. That is lacking and that is why this WIPO study will examine the socio-economic benefit. We are also looking at other things — including tourism, which this country depends on for its foreign exchange. Over 16-18% of our GDP is from tourism. The other thing is that even though we have an 18% contribution to the GDP through tourism, the tourism attractions of this country are very limited and have not changed for forty years. The attractions are the beach, the night life, and the birds — the niche market for the sun, sea and sand, what they call SSS. We know there are people who are interested in theatre, in the arts, but we have never promoted this country as a place where you find the arts.

FO: Are you saying these indigenous African communities are losing their storytelling culture?

EW: Exactly, I used to work for the Sheraton when it opened in the Gambia here. I was the PR director at the Sheraton and I introduced things that were not being done in other hotels. I introduced a group that would come and talk, give oral tradition presentations like we used to have here and this would be translated into English for the audience to understand. There were some activities that were based on understanding what the Gambia is all about in terms of culture and arts. We, in the media, are responsible for a large part of the un-awareness of the population about certain issues, and art is one of them. Art is the one that has suffered most, but it’s true with music too because now nobody even spends a dime on music. You either get it through the internet or you listen to the radio. That is one area we need to work on.

FO: If you had to put a number on the media/creative community…how big is it? What is the number of people in the creative community who currently make a living?

EW: The creative community falls into categories. We have traditional entertainers who are people who entertain people at social events, and they are mostly drummers and dancers. We have the contemporary artists — those musicians using Western style music and changing and adapting it. That is the area that is getting bigger, the other area is actually dwindling. As someone was saying, when was the last time you saw somebody learn how to play a kora? We don’t have people learning to take over from traditional musicians but we have people coming into the contemporary music of the Gambia everyday and this is the mixture of African, Western, hip hop, and rap that is dominating everything now.

FO: In terms of television and film, how many producers, directors and all that? 

EW: That is what we are trying to really get to. We have formed our association and we are even finding it difficult to go by the definition of a producer to become eligible because if we go by what we call a producer, we make it more harmful to the whole country. What we say is anybody who ‘produces’. As I said, tourism is one of our main attractions,  and when tourists come, they do tours of the Gambia, go to villages and things like. A staff member of the tour company, who has a video camera, will video their movements and afterwards provide each of them a copy, so these are people who are taking images of the Gambia and giving it to others. We have a whole lot of them. This includes social events as well. If you go to a hundred social events, you will find a video cameraman shooting. Mostly these people are just filming, editing — cutting out the rough parts and giving it back to us.

FO: So, the association of filmmakers that you are beginning will be concentrating first and foremost on training?

EW: Exactly. Training people is what we need help in, because the true producers, like myself, are trained.

FO: How many people are there like you?

EW: Three to four, to be honest.

FO: And these three or four, do they all have production companies?

EW: Yes, I have my production company, I have my equipment, and I have somebody else. You are going to meet the three or four and find out where you can go to find equipment. They are producing and others are individual producers who will do something once in a while. They will come and hire your camera to shoot. Some have HD cameras but they are not very good using it.

FO: In terms of training, which area do you suspect is needed? Is it technical, artistic or production management?

EW: All! I am talking about the entire production cycle — how to manage it, what to look for, what to plan for, and also how to implement it.

FO: Are there people ready to take this kind of training?

EW: Oh yes! Yes, very young people. Since people started seeing others they know doing things on TV, they say, “Oh!, If you can do it I can do it”, and that is a very good thing. That is what generated a lot of interest.

FO: How come there are no training institutions at all?

EW: I think it is because if you are trained as a filmmaker or producer, you will have to go and look for the job yourself, and the space at GRTS, the only television station in the country, is limited. If you don’t have a job in the GRTS, you don’t have the chance to work anywhere because you have not been trained to work in radio, you haven’t been trained to work in the newspaper, you have been trained to work in the audio visual unit and it doesn’t exist. I have a lot of people asking to come and join me in my outfit but what I say is that I don’t have permanent employees. I call them, work with them for one week on a documentary perhaps, pay them and that’s it. I have a plan to open my own TV stations if I can get the license. For about four and half years now I’ve been trying but there is no decision yet to award any license to any individual private person in this country for television. Not yet.

FO: Let’s talk about the film industry. You are saying government is not going to be giving out any licenses soon?

EW: I don’t know, they have not said anything, because when I applied to open a TV station, they wrote back to me that they wanted to see how I was going to do it — my programmes, my financials and all that. I paid somebody to work out how I am going to make a profit, set up a business plan and I gave it to them.That was the last time I heard

from them, and that was three years ago. I do check every once in a while and what they are saying is there is this government agency called Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), that has been given the mandate to work out the modalities to open up the market for television. The last time I checked they said there is no act to regulate that sector. We have to get the bill into parliament and pass the law. I followed through with this and I attached that act to my application. I said this is what government has done now, but that was the last time. They keep telling me that the Ministry of Information are the ones to give out the license. PURA is the technical body that has to work out the modalities, so it hasn’t yet left PURA to go to the Ministry of Information.

FO: For now, the only source for documentary, for the producers that are here, the only exposure point, access point to the audience is the government television?

EW: Yes, it is the government TV.

FO: Let’s talk about the film industry. How busy is the industry in terms of the Gambian indigenous films — the indigenous story of the Gambia, how busy is that? 

EW: Not so busy. I can tell you no more than ten films get made here every year.

FO: How are these films funded?

EW: Part of the funding comes from, for example, the national AIDS secretariat. They want a film that has a message on AIDS and then someone does films about that. There are one or two independently funded films that I know of in the Gambia. I have done a couple of films but they were funded by the National Assembly for Arts and Culture and the TV station. For independently funded films, nothing more than five or so in a year are funded.

FO: How are they distributed?

EW: Good question. Until recently, people used to do their own independent distribution. You give it to someone who can get it played — I know, I had some contract with BEN TV in UK in order to show a film. Recently, we had somebody come from MNET, a Nigerian lady who came to the Gambia to look for programmes for MNET from the Gambia and she invited producers to come and see whether they could use it. We went there and met her, and she looked at some of the films. Some could not even come with a copy of their films, but I did and she looked at mine, which were mainly documentary and she said that was alright. So, hopefully we will be working with that agency in terms of the airing of the films because the films you air on MNET will probably be seen by more Gambians than if you are on GRTS. That is the irony. The viewership is very low.

FO: MNET is the African cable giant and so basically…

EW: That’s the irony, exactly, and even in Senegal you get your film played on one of the channels, you get seen by more Gambians than even our own TV channel.

FO: So basically, the Senegalese broadcast television into the Gambia?

EW: Oh yes!

FO: How many stations come in?

EW: They’ve got twelve of them. We speak the same local language and most of their programmes are in the local language Wolof. We speak the same language in Senegal and the Gambia. Most of their programmes are in the local languages.

FO: So, they filter in here. Do they do drama?

IBU: Oh yes. They do many more films in Senegal, maybe a hundred times more in Senegal than in the Gambia. In fact the industry in Senegal is so developed that they have got some major filmmakers like Sembene Ousmane, Moussa Sene Absa and people like that.

FO: So, a lot of their films are what people consume here?

EW: Absolutely. All of their films are watched here. In fact before the TV arrived, their films used to be shown at the cinemas, and they used to be crowded with people in the days when TV was not here.

FO: In terms of people being able to afford to watch a film in cinema…

EW: Where? In cinemas it doesn’t exist. They are closed down and even those that are operating only show football.

FO: Do the people have to pay to watch football? 

EW: Yes, I am telling you football is the biggest way to pass time in this country.

FO: So basically, if the film industry were to get back into the cinemas, people would be interested?

EW: I think so.

FO: What parts of the filmmaking chain are most critical to succeed in commercially?

EW: Production! Pre-production — you need to plan. Even if you don’t plan, if somebody plans for you, but during the production period, you need to do things right. You need to have a good story line, a relevant storyline. We have a couple of films that were made in the Gambia here. The one that was made into a series on MNET and has been running is called BANJUL COPS which was done with quite a relatively good technical back up, but the story line was one they got from Hollywood and just brought here. Ithas nothing to do with our life style  or our culture. It was entertaining, but it wasn’t very useful. We need something that is useful and entertaining.

FO: What would you consider to be, for a filmmaker, the most important asset of the Gambia as a filmmaking country?

EW: The Gambia has some unique features. We have got a river that runs 400km right through the country and life on that river is completely unique. We have also got probably 8 or 9 major ethnic groups with among them, more than probably 25 different ethnic practices. I have done a documentary that looked at 16 different ethnic practices across 5 different ethnic groups. This is a docu-drama that is still in the rough cut stage. This is what I am trying to say — our culture is full of things we can use in films — our costumes, our location…. Look at our beach. It is one of the cleanest beaches in Africa and it goes for 40km on the coast line. If you look at the nature of Gambians you’ll see that we are practically a minority in our own country, so that alone can be a good thing in a film. There are so many things that we can show.

FO: In terms of support for the industry, I know that you are putting the structures together now. Let me just quickly ask you to talk about what the structures are in terms of the guilds that you are putting in place and is there a government regulation to put a statutory backing to this effort? 

EW: Yes, in fact this outfit we are working on now is going to be launched tomorrow and has been pushed mainly by the government. They are the ones giving out the funds so that many organisations can organise themselves. Once we have a collecting society, they will give total independence to the collecting society and they will say “you run the affair of artists in this country and their royalties, their interests, their advantages and all that”. We hope that once that has been done, the different sectors within the board — the film, the drama, the music, the producers, fine arts, painters, writers — that we are all going to try to make sure our sector develops and reaches Gambians in every corner. Right now we are talking about the urban area.  As you know, the Gambia is mainly an urbanized country. Apart from what you can see here, if you go up country, you can see places and houses, but you see less people. Everybody has moved to this side and maybe 70% of the Gambians live within the first hundred kilometers of Banjul, so all the activity is here — the cinema, the TV. At one time the TV station could not even be seen up country. There were only radio stations and most of the time most of them didn’t reach up country. So, what we want to do is to really take it further because we have people who are locally based, who probably have a creative mind and are doing creative things that we can expose.

FO: Do you think documentary has a place here?

EW: Oh yes! My gauging of Gambians’ perception of film is they hardly realise that this is fiction. They take it too seriously. Even if you act as a character in a film as a bad person and then you go on the street, people attack you and ask you all sort of questions. Even my wife does it. She watches a film and she gets so angry and I tell her that it’s only acting. That’s why documentaries, which are non-fiction, is good. In documentaries you cannot do anything that is not true. It has to be true. You have to interview people and see their opinion about things which is very important.

FO: What are the issues that you think documentaries will address that will be critical to development?

EW: For documentaries, most of the development areas are health, education, society and how we relate to each other and things like that. Right now I am working on the pre-production of a documentary which is going to look at Banjul which will be 200 years old in four years time. What has happened is that the port authority in Banjul has expanded in its third phase to buy out a lot of houses that are close to the port so that the port can open up and become bigger for containers. All the ships now bring big containers, so we have to have big areas for containers. The problem is that now they have been acquiring homes but these homes that they have been acquiring have been there for more than 150 years, so they are demolishing a lot of history. Before they started demolishing, I started filming and interviewing people about what was here and when their houses were built. What happens now is that I am working with the port authority. I have convinced them to spend money on the production of a documentary which will document the things they are demolishing, so it will be good for posterity and for the museum. They agreed with me and I am working with them on that.

FO: What is the name of the association you just formed. What other association is being formed and what is your role in it? What are the ambitions and objectives?

EW: Our association is called Film Producers Association of the Gambia with the acronym, FPAG. Our association is going to be the mouth piece for all audio visual workers in this country, and we will be the training ground for audio-visual work. We will also look at issues that are of interest to the audio visual sector and also help to develop the film industry because what we have now are only a few individuals doing our film work. You can’t call that an industry yet, so we are looking to form an industry whereby we will get people. I know that there are people who are non- traditional filmmakers, and because they think they have creative mind, they think they can come up with the idea for a film. We want to encourage these people and they can work with us. There are few of us who have been lucky enough to have invested in equipment. As you know in filmmaking, before you can show something, unlike the writers or the musicians where you can just go with your voice you need to have used a camera and edited and all that. What we want to do is to connect people with ideas with what we have so far as equipment so that we can help them to see that they can do it. Once we get them to see that they can do it, perhaps they will be interested in buying their own equipment and start doing it on their own.

FO: Now you are forming an association for filmmakers?

EW: There is also another one for music producers and a third one for drama actors and there is another one for fine prints, painters and there is another one for writers.

FO: And, there is going to be another inaugurated tomorrow? How old are they now?

EW: They were all formed within the past four months. Most of them didn’t exist before.

FO: How are you funding the structure of this association?

EW: We have come up with application forms which we are going to sell to people, and we are going to start with the registration of the association with the justice ministry and the GRA (The Gambia Revenue Authority). After we have done all that, we will look for space for small office somewhere and then we will start to do our linkages and see how best we can take it from there.

FO: So, you are the one starting this whole thing, you are the pro interim president?

EW: I am the president. The last time we had our first congress, we elected our executive board and we have a president, a vice president, a treasurer, a programmes coordinator, plus the executive secretary. These are the five in the executive board.

FO: Assuming a foundation was to come in here in terms of support for this industry, in your own opinion, what would be the key need areas and what would be the priority areas of support?

EW: The key need area would be training — training in the area of documentary making. You are looking at real documentary making which is going to be a whole new area for some people. Even those who are working in the TV station are not doing it right because in documentary you need to do a lot of filming of locations and places so that you can have evidence of what you are talking about, but most of the documentaries they do are just talking heads. It is nothing different from what you can hear on the radio.

What we need to look at is how to produce a documentary that it is a complete picture so that it doesn’t become a documentary where people just keep talking. That’s one area, and the other area is how to get people interested in it. The question is what to do to attract the interest of people, especially young people, and once that is done then we can have an initial training. For example, I was a judge in a talent competition which was funded by one of the major communication companies here called Africell.They called it, “Face of Africell”, so they called me and said they wanted to do a television talent show in which we would look for a lady’s face that they could put on a SIM card. They spent some money on it and they brought in a TV crew from Senegal. I was one of the judges and what we had to do was to come up with a subject close to their heart. I guided them in doing a 5 minute television piece on it. I did for each of them a crash course on how to go about your topic, what you should shoot, what to ask about and what to look for. Then I would be the cameraman and in 3-4 days they would all come back with all their pieces edited. Most people didn’t believe that these people didn’t know anything about how to do it. It was simply because I told them. They were so quick to learn and they remembered everything they had to ask when they went on location and when they met the person. You can say that my interest is in patriotism — people loving their country — it is just an example, but they all came with different things. So for me, with help from a foundation, to identify young people who we can turn into good documentary filmmakers is not a problem. Now that we have this association, it becomes much easier.

FO: How do you expect such support to be administered? Wll it be through this emerging association?

EW: Through the association because we already have a programmes coordinator and we have an executive board. If we have a programme there is somebody to coordinate the programme.Then we will all plan, and we will need to identify the people that will participate in it and we bring them in. Documentary is easier than film simply because in films you need to use a cast. In documentary perhaps you don’t need to use a cast, except if it is a docu-drama. Most of the time, it is easier to train someone on how to make a documentary than train him on how to do a ten minute film, because they need to go and get the actors, the cast, shoot several times and edit, so it is easier for us to start our training with documentary making.

FO: Where will the outlets be? We have the same problem in Nigeria. If you make a documentary, you have to pay the TV station to play it, which is upside down because the TV stations are actually supposed to commission these things or take them because they need content. What is likely to happen?

EW: I have an idea and I know because I have been in the business for a while. There are people out there who have the money to get something audio visually done for them but they don’t have people to do it. When it comes to training, if we have a training programme and we have ten guys to train, I can go to ten different institutions and say, “Look, we are having a training programme for documentary makers in this country. Do you have anything that you want us to do as a documentary? You can pay for and then air it at the end of the day”. If you write to 15 or 20, at least 10 will say yes.

FO: Is it a possibility that if there were many more documentaries being made through the support structure there would be a possibility that the government broadcast station would be convinced to give an hour on air?

EW: I am coming to that. It can happen, because we are trying to get the NCAC to put it in their act. They have to put it in their act for the music sector that 70% of music played on radio in the Gambia every day should be Gambian. They haven’t got the same thing for television, but now they are promising us that they will do the same thing with television. Once that happens we have an agreement with the television that we will give them a playlist. We will provide a play list to play 2 to 3 films for Gambians every week. We can make this agreement with the NCAC because the NCAC has airtime there which I am trying to convince them to use to play films that are made by Gambians. So, there is a possibility of things changing, but even before things change, I want us to have a small group — not so many but at least the first ten — well trained documentary filmmakers who will open up the market and make people stop and say, “Are these Gambians doing this?” That is what I want. We have the people and we have the creative minds here. The problem is that opportunities don’t exist. I didn’t have the opportunity when I was doing my audio visuals, and if a television neighbor hadn’t come, I never would have become the person I am today.

FO: How much work is done by NGOs?

EW: The actors in the Gambia are government, NGOs, and civil society, but the civil society is usually association. 80% of NGOs are financed by people abroad, 20% are local NGOs and the government is the biggest, so what we are looking at is tapping all the sectors. We tap the government, we tap the NGOs and we tap the private sectors as well. The private sector is actually the biggest funder right now for music development. For example, they are the ones giving the musicians money. The president also. He personally gives out a lot of money to musicians. The telephone companies help a lot of musicians pay for their recordings as well. Once we are settled in the audio visual sector, we will have the same support.



FO: Can you please introduce yourself?

PAW: My name is Pa Abdul Waggeh and I live in the Gambia, working as a video producer.

FO: Give me a sense of what you do, the different things you do and the process by which you do them? I also need you to tell me your age because it’s also about the generation of filmmakers in the Gambia.

PAW: I just turned 30 this month.


FO: Congratulations.

PAW: Thank you. We specialise in video production. Actually, I was introduced to film by my dad, Ebou Waggeh, who encouraged me and taught me everything that I know today. I studied video editing and I specialise in video editing. The software that I am familiar with is Adobe. We use this software to do music videos, documentaries, TV adverts, and mostly all video productions. This software also has versions that have a lot of elements inside such as Photoshop, Adobe After Effects and now we use all of these software packages. We use Photoshop to design and we use Adobe After Effects to do interesting things to add to our jobs.

FO: What do you see as a primary challenge as a young filmmaker in the Gambia and what do you see in terms of your opportunities and your challenges?

PAW: In terms of challenges I would start with equipment. I know I have the heart, the courage, the will to do anything I see on TV if I have the right equipment. Actually, if you see the machines we are using they are Windows PC’s, who uses Windows nowadays? Everybody has upgraded to Macintosh. You don’t have to worry about viruses, slow machines, slow work, rendering, and all of that, but we are still there. We are still using PC’s with less than 200G of hard drive. Can you imagine 2G of RAM? That is slow, so equipment is our main problem.

Secondly, I would say cameras — good cameras. Our cameras are ok, but common. They are 3CCD

Panasonic. You have to do your filming and come back to do the editing and then enhance your pictures. Now people are using HD and you don’t need to enhance anything. You just shoot, edit and you’re done, but

our cameras are weak. We are able to produce quality pictures because we believe in quality and so we work on our pictures to the best of our abilities.

FO: In terms of the industry itself, the performance of the young generation of the creative industry in the Gambia, what’s the scenario?

PAW: Right now, we have a lot of young people involved in the media and just recently for the first time in the Gambia, a school has been opened to teach young people about editing and about 3D software. I just heard about it a week ago. Can you imagine? For the first time in the Gambia a foreign body just comes to invest in production in the Gambia. I think that is something because young people here in the Gambia are really interested in media. Some are into music, others into acting, but I’m into directing and producing. That is what we are interested in.

Things are really changing in the Gambia. 10 years ago we didn’t have what we have here today. We have at more than 12 to 15 radio stations. Compared to other countries where they have up to 100 radio stations, we have at least 15. That was just in the last 2 or 3 years. Even though we still have one national TV through which we broadcast our videos and products, that’s the only TV we have in the Gambia, so that also is a challenge to us in broadcasting. Sometimes, or most of the time, if the TV can’t play our videos we just upload it to Facebook or YouTube and people can watch it there because the TV can’t play all the videos all the time. That is one of our challenges — that we only have one TV station.


FO: How active is this generation of young creatives in the Gambia in social media? How connected are they to the internet or social media?


PAW: Very, because right now that’s the only means we have. It’s the only way of showing our work without a problem or without having to go through difficulty. If you have your video clip ready and you need it to be played on GRTS, instead of them begging you to play it, you would be the one begging them to play it and once they play it one time you have to be calling them “when is my video going to be played again, is it going to be played on your next show or are you going to play it on the next interlude?” With social media like the internet you can just upload it within a day or two and thousands of people can see it because nowadays young people in the Gambia are very familiar with the internet, especially Facebook. Almost every kid has an account on Facebook, so if you upload your video, you are likely to be popular within a month.


FO: In terms of other forms of audio visual works do you think young people in the Gambia are interested at all in documentaries? And, are there people who would possibly want to work in that?


PAW: I would say yes. Young people are getting involved in a lot of things and I am surprised to see young graduates talking about documentaries. In my own personal experience, my dad encouraged us to do documentary and that’s where we started. That’s

where I started because he is a documentary guy and he does documentary all the time, so when I was learning editing, that’s where I learned it. It’s something I know very well and am really interested in — not just me, but a lot of young people nowadays are doing mini documentaries, like 5 to 10 minute documentaries, but most of them want to do videos. It’s more of a teenage thing, but as you grow older you tend to grow wiser and you can’t compare a documentary to a music video. I am glad I found that out early.


FO: In your opinion, how important are young people’s understanding of documentaries in relationship to their ability to begin to tell their own stories — to begin to integrate the history — to begin to define their experience as Gambians?

PAW: Personally, as I said earlier, we need more schools; and we need more lecturers to let the young people know the importance of documentary. I don’t think young people really know the importance of documentaries in the Gambia. Out of 10 young people who are involved in the media, 7 are more interested in music videos, so not many young people know the importance of documentaries.


FO: What do you see in terms of your evolution as a filmmaker in the industry in the future? What are your own dreams and your ambitions as you express yourself more?


PAW: I want to make movies. I mean, deep down in my heart I know I can do it. Just get me the equipment. I can express myself so deeply about how I am capable of doing production. I taught 4 people and took them from knowing nothing, to working at the national TV as editors. Now I have 3 that I am teaching because

I just can’t hold it all to myself and I just have to give out. As I told you before, we need equipment to be able to express ourselves. I shot a movie in 2 days with 1 camera. It was a short movie, a 20 minute movie, with good sound with just with 1 camera just to prove a point. Then I took my salary and paid those actors. I paid them a little money, but mostly to prove to somebody that I could do it.


FO: You work at Africell as well during the day and make movies and videos at night. I understand that Africell is also making content. Africell is a Telecoms operator. How did they get there and how are you involved in what they are doing?


PAW: Actually, I was working with my dad when they gave me a call, “Hello Mr. Waggeh. This is Africell. We would like to have an interview with you because we are really interested in what you do”. Africell is a mobile company, but Africell is a company that wants to be self-sufficient — self-sufficient in that they want to do everything for themselves. They want to do their carpentry, they want to have their own welding, they want to produce their own billboards, their own design, and use their own video editors. I can call it selfish, but it’s good. They don’t need to go out to get anything.

They have everything in-house.








While other companies will have to hire other people to do adverts for them or to do billboards for them, Africell has it all. When they called me to say that they had an interest in what I did, I said, “Ok, cool”, and they gave me a job and an office and that was how I started about four years ago. I am there from 8 am until 5 or 6 pm and then come back home and continue working in the house office.


FO: They invest in equipment?


PAW: Yes, they do.


FO: What kind of equipment do you have to work with?


PAW: At Africell, they gave us PC computers with a huge capacity hard drive because they do a lot of

videos and everything has to be stored. They bought cameras including a Sony HD camera. Recently,

I told my boss to get a 7D Canon, which is ok for

filming, he’s right now in Lebanon and I asked him to buy the camera on his way back. I don’t know, but they are doing well. They buy equipment, especially when I am in need of it.


FO: What are the things you do there exactly?


PAW: I do TV commercials there. I do editing. When we have coverage or shows I get camera men to help me film and I come back and edit them and keep them. We have a library of everything that we do.


FO: How much has this helped you?


PAW: Definitely it has helped me a lot because it’s a company that doesn’t play with quality. They know that they have competitors. The Gambia is a country with four GSM operators and everybody wants to be the best, so Africell doesn’t take chances. They always

work with the best, so whenever I do a TV advert it has to be checked by four people before it goes out on TV and all of those people are not all in the Gambia. Two are in our office, one is in Sierra Leone and the other, in Lebanon. We have to email jobs to them so they can confirm that they are ok before they go out on TV.


Sometimes I’d do some TV adverts and have to make changes 25 times or so and I’d get terrible because

I was tired, but then it taught me to be patient and showed me that these people really know quality. They trust quality and they don’t take chances with their work. So, they’d just call me a million times a day and say, “Ok, just change the colors. Change the blue. No, make it green. I think the blue was better”. The first year I got frustrated. I really got frustrated, but my boss told me to get used to it. Finally, it taught me to be patient and to love quality. I just can’t stand non-quality products.


FO: What do you think, apart from yourself, is your assessment of the work being done by the emerging generation of filmmakers here?


PAW: Gambians are very ambitious people. I am the type of guy that appreciates other people’s good work. I can’t just hold it back and I can’t just hold it in. When I see somebody’s work and I appreciate, I will tell you. I pick the phone and call you and say, “Yo bro! That was a nice job”. We have some pretty cool editors here. I’m pretty sure in about two to three years time… oh my God! You will see marvelous jobs in the Gambia because I know in about three or four years people will see our interest in media and they will come to invest. They will come to open schools or bring cameras because our main problem here is finding a good camera. You can’t go out today or tomorrow or even next week because there are no shops that sell good cameras. We don’t have any in the whole country. Even

if you have the money, you can’t get it here. You have to travel to Senegal, England or Nigeria just to get a camera because you can’t just go to any shop in the Gambia to get a camera. There are none. That’s our problem, but we are ambitious people and we use what we have to do great things.


FO: Looking at Gambians, what are the things you would say for instance to a foreign filmmaker that wanted to collaborate with you? What are the strengths of the Gambia and what are the issues that you think filmmaking might make a difference with here?


PAW: Recently we had 10 people — outsiders from Nigeria and other countries — doing movies here and thought, “Why do those people just come here, make movies and go?” Something must be done.

That’s when our actors and producers came together and decided that we have been holding back for too








long. Let’s get something done. That’s how the whole association started and we have formed the association and everything has to be in order now. Before, foreign filmmakers just came and made their films and left to sell their movies. That was it.


The Gambia was just their location and it was a good one. They would take 1 or 2 of our actors or actresses, involve them as extras, and do their movies and leave. There was these time I had a chat with an actor and he told me, “They told me they would pay me when they got back”. I thought, “Yeah, they will pay you when they get back”. I think it’s changing now though. Since the association started we have had lots of meetings.

I think there is absolute change now, but before they would just come and do their movies and wave goodbye to us.


FO: You think training is a big issue, you think equipment is a big issue, what about funding? Where do people get money to make these things? A camera is not the only thing that makes a film, so is there funding? IHow do you find money to make the film in the first place? I want to talk about the little film you did, how do you distribute and do you make your money back?


PAW: Even now there are no big budget films in the Gambia. There are none.


FO: What is your average budget in the Gambia?


PAW: It’s like 100,000 Dalasi or 4,000 dollars for a whole movie. There is no big budget movie yet in the Gambia compared to Nigeria. Big investors have not realised the importance of movies yet here in the

Gambia. I can say because in Nigeria businessmen put a lot of their money into movies. They sponsor movies because they know the importance of the movie. They know what it can bring them. I think in the Gambia they have yet to find that out, so it’s not as if there is

a company waiting to sponsor movies. You have to be

knocking on their doors and pleading with them to convince them. In other countries you don’t need to convince them, you just show them your script and they give you the funding. It’s not like we have it here in the Gambia. We don’t have it, so producers like myself have to gather our salaries for 3 months in order to be able to buy tapes, pay some of the cast with a

few dollars and at the end of the day, no one buys the movie. We have to keep it in our company and watch it.


The movie that I did was a short movie. My intention was not to sell it. As I told you, I was proving a point because somebody wanted to see if I could do it. The movie had four characters and it was just a day’s movie from morning to night. It was just to prove that I could do it and the guy was impressed.


FO: Did you write the script?


PAW: Yes, I wrote the script. I shot the movie and I directed the movie. My brother did the lightning so we were like 2 crew and we had 4 characters. I was the camera man, director and the location manager and my little brother was the light man. We did it in a day and it was good and at least I proved a point. That was what I wanted.


FO: Distribution wise, I noticed there are no cinemas?


PAW: No, there is no cinema. There are no centers to sell DVD’s or movies. It’s just beginning, and the

Gambia is just beginning. I promise you that in about 5 years, when you come back, you will see something different because we are really ambitious people. We love what we do. I tell people that I could do this job for free because that’s how much I love it. As you can see,  just came from work and in my free time I am working and I don’t realise that I am working because it’s like a hobby to me. I don’t even realise it.












FO: I am in Africell, Banjul, Gambia interviewing Miss Njie. Talk to me about who you are and what you do?


MMJ: My name is Mam Malen Njie. I am Gambian, and I work in the media. I’m a media presenter and at the same time, a musical promoter. I also work at a GSM company in the media relations department, so I handle some of their radio shows and also shows on TV.


FO: How long have you been here?


MMJ: I have been working for Africell for 3 years now.


FO: How long have you been doing on-air work?


MMJ: I have been doing on-air work for about 5 years as a presenter and as a radio presenter.


FO: What is your ambition in the realm of audio-visual productions?


MMJ: I feel it’s my zone and so I have ambitions to further my education in Media Relations, Mass Communications, and then come back and build a media empire of my own — basically filmmaking,

shows — probably if I’m lucky enough, get my own TV station.


FO: Do you see a space for women in the media in the Gambia?


MMJ: Oh yes I do! There are a lot of women in the media here in the Gambia and some of them are doing pretty well. They have their own media companies and they have their talk shows that have been airing out for a couple of years. They are prominent people and very influential people in society. There is a lot of space for it. I think that it is even more welcoming for females in media than males.


FO: What kind of challenges do you think females face in the media here?


MMJ: I think the challenge is basically internal, such

as how bold, or how brave, or how far the woman in media wants to take herself. It is just a matter of

courage, a matter of how much challenge you would want to take up, but apart from that, if you really want to do it, it is pretty simple really. You just have to get into it.


FO: You look at the landscape for media now for young people — and by media I mean television, radio and social medias, the internet — what is the scenario from your point of view? How do you see it, how interested are young people in this landscape and what is the possibility of their being able to express themselves?


MMJ: Well as you know, here in the Gambia, media is still very young and our people are not very accustomed to being out there, being on TV, being in the media, or being heard, so some of them are pretty reserved.That is why it is so hard for a lot of people to be in media.

It takes a lot to be working in the media here in the Gambia, but that is changing right now. There are a lot of young people who are coming up and who feel like that they can do a thing or two in the media. It can be on the radio, it can be on TV, it could be on the internet or whatever, but they are coming up and they are growing, so I see a bright feature for media.


FO: What is your most important achievement to date as a female in the media?


MMJ: My talk show. I have a TV show called Fela*, which means “IT’S HERE” and it’s basically about the Gambia, the entertainment side of the Gambia and also the working side of the Gambia, entrepreneurship and just everything that shows everything happening in the Gambia and why we should be proud of who we are and the things that we have achieved. That is what

the show is about. The show has been on for three years now and it has been very consistent and very popular, so it is pretty much a success and it has been my greatest achievement.


FO: What is the impact of the show on young people, how is it changing anything? What is it changing?









MMJ: It has changed a lot actually. It has changed the way a lot of young people look at the country,

because there was a time when they were more focused on what was happening in other countries and on what was happening in the West. They could tell you everything, word for word, about what was happening in Hollywood, what was happening in New York, what was happening in London, but they couldn’t tell you what was happening in Banjul, Serrekunda or who was the latest artist, what was the hottest song — all that is changing. Now there is standardized video on TV and people grow to love their own music and grow to love and respect the young artists that are coming up. They also see another side of the Gambia that was never portrayed on TV.


FO: What’s that side of the Gambia?


MMJ: Well, the side that shows there are people out there who can actually do well on TV, who can actually talk properly during interviews and who have a lot to show, those who are busy and active in their lives and are doing something very progressive. They were not featured much, so we created a show that allows people to speak their mind, and that really opens up people to media.


FO: What do you think you would look for to take you to your next level?


MMJ: More flexibility. I think if we had more stations and that if our media field was wider, it could help a lot of people expand. We are in a country with just one TV station and a whole lot of radio stations, and so expansions of the media and also more schools that

focus on mass communication would help. If you had a media school it would help a lot to broaden the media field of the Gambia and it would help a lot of people achieve what they want to achieve in media. Right now you can go really far, but you get to a point where you feel like you are getting to a dead end.


FO: How is your show funded, where is it broadcast?


MMJ: Right now it is broadcast on GRTS and is funded through sponsorship. We have companies who sponsor the show and they sponsor it on an annual basis or a bi-annual basis. We have two companies —

two very solid and strong companies right now who are sponsoring us — that is Banjul Breweries and Africell, and they have been with us for three years now.


FO: Your day job is in Africell?


MMJ: Yes, but my work at Africell and the fact that they sponsor my TV show are two totally different things.


FO: Let’s talk about filmmaking in the Gambia. When I go out there all I see are Indian films, Nigerian films, Senegalese films, but no Gambian films. We went to the guy in the market and he spent 30minutes, but couldn’t find one copy of one Gambian film. Why is that?


MMJ: When it comes to the Gambian film

industry it’s pretty slow still. We have a couple of filmmakers, and we have a lot of good actors, but filmmaking is really slow and it’s not something paid attention to that much in the country. That is why there is not much motivation for it. What

people usually do is they try to connect with other countries, they go to Ghana for example, or go to Nigeria and act in some of their movies.I think that is a good thing if you want expand yourself, but you also need to think in terms of home and start your own film industry here as well. I mean, they started

off somewhere so I think we can start somewhere as well. I just think they need more support and more motivation in order to achieve that and I think that is something that they are lacking.


FO: Support? What does that mean?


MMJ: Support means they need to be motivated more and they need to build organisations like an actor’s guild, like a director’s guild, the kinds of things that could help empower them into filmmaking and also help them come up with some movies. They come up with drama skits and things that they show on TV, but that is where it stops. When it comes to selling there is a problem because a lot of people will not buy it. They would rather buy a Nigerian movie or a Ghanaian movie or an Indian movie over a Gambian movie because they are not used to seeing it. There is not enough promotion for it.








FO: Let’s talk about the audience. The audience is not very large. What is the audience like? We are talking about 1.8 million the most, but how ready is the audience for what people of your generation are trying to do? I mean that culturally, politically…the space. How ready is the audience for what you are talking about?


MMJ: Personally I don’t think they are ready. We still have a lot of preparation to deal with. We still have to spoon feed a lot of it to them before they can actually get used to it. We were born into a generation where we grew up watching different things and nothing that belonged to us. We grew up with other people’s music, we grew up with other people’s movies, and we grew up with other people’s shows. There was a time we didn’t even have a TV of our own, so we were always

dependent on other people such as the Senegalese, the Americans, the British, the Nigerians, etc., so we lived their culture, their musical industry, their movie industry, etc. All of this is really young at this moment for us and we are still trying to grow, and so while we are growing, we need to spoon feed it to them so that they can prepare themselves for what we have in store for them. We need to give them a reason to believe in us.












BC: I am Baba Ceesay, the Director General of the National Center of Arts and Culture (NCAC). The NCAC has a basic mandate to preserve, promote and develop arts and culture in the Gambia and to do this, we are structured in such a way that we have three main departments: the department of Museums and Monuments takes care of the material heritage, the department of Literature, Performing and Fine Arts under whose purview the area of film falls, and our third department is that of Copyright.


With regard to film, actually for a long time there has not being any type of focal point or government institutions that are responsible for film affairs, so by virtue of a mandate to promote and develop the arts,

our ministry, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, felt that we could take some initiatives by virtue of some of the provisions within our reach.


The situation was such that there was no focal point for gaining permission for filming and the like, and we have been recently inundated with requests for permission to shoot films. We realised there was a vacuum as to which institution was responsible for it and so our Ministry set up what they call a “standing committee” to advise on the next steps, the procedures to be adopted and things like that. The standing committee is basically responsible film and beauty pageants. It was headed by one of our doyens of the film industry, but unfortunately he passed on.


We started our work by conducting a survey on the film industry in the Gambia. The survey is yet to be

completed, but more recently, in our efforts to establish a copyright regime, we found it necessary to facilitate the establishment of an association of film producers which hitherto was absent, but is very vital for full representation in the board of the collecting society for copyright in the Gambia. This association has effectively been formed and you met with the duly elected president, Ebou Waggeh, who is also a renowned producer with vast experience, so he is a valuable resource person. He is joining the standing committee to replace Mr. Salia who passed.

As of now, our chairman is not specialised in film, so for the formation of the association of film producers, we felt he certainly has a place in the standing committee.


What we are going to do is to write a report to government, spelling out what needs to be done to move the industry forward. Ultimately we will

recommend the establishment of a one-stop shop where all matters dealing with film can be dealt with. As of now, this is the situation.


FO: In terms of statutory regulations and law, there are really no laws or anything specifically debarring

filmmakers or particularly prescribing anyway in which film can be done, distributed or funded?


BC: Certainly there is not, at this stage. I think this is the vacuum that has been exploited by Gambians who are really flocking here in droves, because they see the country as a kind of location, and there are so many incentives in terms of the cheapness of the destination and like that. However, we are very concerned about the industry that is not representative of what the Gambia is all about and that is why we are guarding ourselves so much against this invasion. We know it has its positive sides because definitely talent or expertise is lacking, and we have a lot to learn from the success of industries in their countries and the like, but certainly, we want at the end of the day, to have films that are representative of Gambian novels and traditions.


FO: Just one more question…is there, in your estimation, anything that would right now be a problem for an outside organization that wishes to invest in the Gambian film industry? Then, what areas do you think would be critical in that funding or that intervention?


BC: I think one of our most acute needs is in the area of training. We do not have any institute or educational facilities for film, so really investment in training is a priority for this industry to grow.








FO: In facilitating that kind of support, would you, in your position, be able to be a point of contact as someone who could support that?


BC: Yes, as of now, the ball has been kind of trusted to us by virtue of our very broad mandate. Even

when people go to the Ministry of Communications and the like, they are ultimately referred back to

  1. Certainly we are in the position to facilitate

this kind of thing. I would advise anybody who is coming in to give us sufficient time so that things can be built up within our plan of activities. My main problem is that people just keep coming

in impromptu and want us to work together, when actually, we are under the umbrella of a

whole ministry who always wants to be informed beforehand and in sufficient time.

FO: Are there any other thoughts you would like to express with regards to your hopes and aspirations for the Gambian film industry, especially in the area of documentaries?


BC: I think Ebou Waggeh is in a better position to speak about this because he has been living it and he is one of the few people who has actually produced documentary. I see a big gap, whether it is production skills or creativity, in the production of documentaries. That really needs to be filled because I have not seen any interesting things apart from his works. In other words, he is in a better position to tell you. My area of

specialisation is in material culture, even though I have a coordinating role for all these affairs.










Producer at The Gambian Family Planning Association




FO: TI am at the Planned Parenthood Association Offices in Banjul, Gambia. I am going to be speaking to the TV producer here. Please introduce yourself and give me a back story of your work as a film producer and television person, what you do, how long you have been doing it and basically, the history of your work up until now in film.


SS: Ok, my name is Sana Sisay and we started the film industry in this country which was called the film production unit. Being an arm of the then information department, we were charged with producing films, mainly educational films in agriculture and health, using the 16 millimeter film reel. Then came the low

band pneumatic camera. After a change of government in 1994, we had a television station and we were the first to operate that TV station. I was fortunate to

be among the first batch to go to Ghana for training for 6 weeks before we started operating this modern equipment. I worked at the GRTS as a camera man for a while and then in 2001 I decided to move out of GRTS to work with the The Gambia Family Planning Association’s media unit. Here I double as a camera man and a director, and right now I am doing almost everything: I do camera, direct and write scripts. I have been in this business for over 20 years.


FO: How many films do you make here in a year, both fiction and non-fiction?


SS: Basically our work is mainly on mini dramas dealing with health issues. The advent of HIV/AIDS has increased our work in sensitising people on prevention, care and support. Working for family planning we

really do a lot of advocacy, especially for youth on modern contraceptives, so we have made films on family planning, about spacing. When we say family planning we are not saying don’t give birth, but we want space.


We have also produced films on entertainment such as film opera in Creole, which was aired on GRTS, and we have also produced documentaries for government

as well. We made a documentary for GRA on how they operate since they came into existence and we partner with other organisations who need our services as well. The only way to show our work is through GRTS, but since we are health oriented, we decided to get a Road Show van which we imported from the UK. It is a van built-in with everything, so we can send our driver

and operator up country where they cannot access the GRTS television station to show films on health.


FO: So you basically put a projector in a van and you take it to open village areas and you show these films which are basically about health awareness or health oriented?


SS: Yes.


FO: How much money do you spend in making the films that you make at the Planned Parenthood Foundation?


SS: As of the advent of HIV, we have funds from Global Funds. They have supported almost all our productions and we are not only into film, but we do audio as well.

We use radio stations and we have contracts with radio stations, through which our field officers up country are in collaboration with the health department officials

around the area and speak on health issues. It is interactive, because the telephone line is open for questions and answers.


FO: What’s the average budget of your films, these films that you make on health?


SS: Actually I don’t know because our finance department submits our proposals to the donors. I am informed about the availability of funds.


FO: So what is the average amount that you get to use?


SS: Well, it is at times very huge because we need to pay our drama groups and we need to buy all the

necessary things we need for production. So, it is huge. I just can’t tell you how much exactly to be honest.






FO: We are trying to understand what the average cost of making a film in the Gambia is. For instance, even if it is not from your own experience, based on your

understanding of the industry, what is the average cost of making a film here?


SS: It is very expensive at times. I have already written a drama script and my budget is almost a million Dalasi.


FO: How much is a million dalasi in dollars? It is about three hundred thousand dollars,.


SS: It is around that or less than that.


FO: About three hundred thousand dollars?


SS: Yes, but still I can’t get a sponsor because it’s difficult to get sponsors around here. The script is here. I did my auditioning, but I am still waiting for funds.


FO: You have been here twenty years. In terms of the film industry, what’s the state of the industry in your opinion? How many films are being made and what are the difficulties or challenges of a filmmaker in the Gambia?


SS: The numbers of films being made are many and basically the film industry has advanced very quickly. When we started the film production, there was only one unit, then came the Agricultural unit, and then the cooperative. Now there is a vast improvement insofar as the film industry is concerned in this country.


We have problems at times. We have restrictions when doing some outside shots.


FO: What do you mean by restrictions?


SS: For instance, if you want to go to the airport to shoot a plane landing, they will have so many

“bureaucratic procedures” that you will have to write to get permission. There are so many things.


FO: You have to get a film permit in every country.


SS: Yes.


FO: If you have to get a film permit in every country, it is the same, so it is not unique here. Is there any particular


thing that makes production a challenge apart from funding, in terms of equipment or in terms of training? Do you think the industry is in a good place?


SS: Well in terms of training, we really need to be trained. Equipment is also a problem because it is very expensive. It’s not easy for an individual to get his own equipment. It costs a lot. You can work through

organisations because the equipment is very expensive. There might be some tax levies so a tax holiday should be considered for those who want to import such materials.


FO: What kind of equipment, what type of cameras do you use here and what type of software do you use in your post-production?


SS: I have an Apple Macintosh editing system and also I have this machine which uses CS4 for editing purposes. I have two Sony playback machines and at the moment I am using a Sony DV camera as well, but quality cassettes are also a problem in this country. We used to order quality DVCAM cassettes from the UK but now it’s too expensive so we resort to using these mini DV tapes, which are plentful here but are of a lesser quality.


FO: So do you basically use HDV cameras?


SS: No. I don’t use HDV cameras.


FO: What kind of cameras do you use?


SS: I use a DV cam camera because using HDV, you end up using it as a camera and play back machine which easily damages the recording head of your camera. Having these machines where I can easily play back my tapes from the camera saves my camera. I like working with HDV but the problem is we do not have the playback machines.


FO: Talk to me about the new generation of filmmakers. What kind of opportunities do you think can be created for them to tell their stories?


SS: In this modern age of technology people can produce films without physically going to some places. They have a brighter opportunity than when we started








and the only thing they need is to exploit it to the fullest. With that, I think the industry will reach the heights we desire.


FO: In terms of government support in the industry, if there was an intervention, what areas do you think would be most important to help the industry grow?


SS: As I was just saying, if there were no import taxes levied at all on these machines. In the Gambia, productions by an independent producer are taken to GRTS for airing and instead of them paying you a

royalty, you pay for the air time. These are some of the things government should consider changing so as to encourage us to produce more films.


FO: Again, if there was a foreign foundation wanting to support filmmaking in the Gambia, in what areas do you think they should consider investing that support?


SS: Equipment and training. If they can help us with equipment and training and all those things necessary to make a film production easy, we would be very grateful.


FO: Training in what specific area?


SS: In different areas. Some would like to do editing; some would like to do graphics or camera work — all the disciplines in the production.


FO: Based on your exposure to international work through the Planned Parenthood Foundation, how do you assess the quality of work being done now?


SS: Well as far as it is within the Gambia it is good. We are learning a lot from watching the international TV stations. We are learning a lot from the style of productions,

editing and all those things. We are really trying and we are doing fine, but there is still room for improvement. In production, the producer is only as good as his last production. That is the saying; you can always gauge a producer by his last production.


FO: I wonder is there any training institution here that trains people for film and television?


SS: Well there is one that is just trying to set up. It’s just around here. The guy is from Senegal, he has an office in Senegal, but he is trying to set up a new training institute here just by my place.


FO: So it’s just beginning?


SS: Yes, it is just beginning. In fact they have not started yet. They are just trying to set up their office and they have brought in equipment. I went to visit them once, but it has not started in earnest yet. They might be sending out application forms.


FO: How many films have you done through here, how many films does Planned Parenthood do, say in a year?


SS: As I said, because we are working with so many agencies it is difficult to tell. It depends on the proposal we send and if it is approved by the agencies.


FO: Based on the last 5 years, how many have you done per year?


SS: Per year? It is more than 20 per year. FO: You make more than 20 films, dramas? SS: Dramas, yes.

FO: What about documentaries?


SS: Documentaries might be one or two.


FO: Are those dramas docu-dramas really, because they demonstrate health issues?


SS: Yes, they do. Of course if you go to our archives there is a mini drama about almost all the ailments that people do suffer from here.



The Gambia is a very small country. It is actually the smallest country on mainland Africa. It is not surprising, therefore, that it has absolutely no history

of any kind of filmmaking that I consider remarkable. However, the Gambia has a small core of documentary filmmakers who I find very interesting and believe can be extremely encouraged on two levels.


The first level of encouragement that can bring any meaningful impact is training. It is very important to immediately design training programmes that can

effectively take filmmakers in the Gambia through the fundamental rudiments of filmmaking as an art form and a narrative art, and it should be structured across the board to accommodate filmmakers of all genres.

Currently, the Gambia has no training school of any kind that can provide aspiring and practicing filmmakers with any valuable knowledge of the film art, so the kind of media school that I have suggested for Sierra Leone will be the kind of media school that I think can do

very well in the Gambia. I think that any such training institution established in the Gambia must seamlessly incorporate both the performative or creative arts and technical skills development that can groom students on essential camera work, post-production, and other relevant technical areas involved in filmmaking.


Film production and consumption in the Gambia is practically influenced and dominated by films from Nigeria, Senegal, and Britain. Sadly, filmmaking in the Gambia is nowhere near becoming an industry as most of the filmmaking activities in the country are largely below average standards in other parts of the world, and this is repeatedly attributed to the poor level of film literacy in the country. Everyone who is of note that I interviewed on this subject unanimously agreed that there is an urgent need for a formal training institution which can serve as a beacon for film development in the country. Filmmakers in the Gambia are now trying to organise themselves

into professional association(s) or guilds that can help to consciously foster the development of filmmaking in the country. One such association is the Film Producers Association of the Gambia (FPAG). The emergence

of more of these kinds of professional associations for filmmaking in the Gambia will ultimately bring about a concentrated and speedy effort towards film development




in the country and I believe that this is another area where filmmaking in the Gambia needs support.


Support for the guilds and associations that are emerging would be a critical and well appreciated intervention in the Gambia. Provision of filmmaking equipment is an intervention that can effectively support the new guilds that are emerging, especially in broadening their scope and imagination of the possibilities of their own creativity. However, I think that the more pressing intervention will be to create a proper media school that can provide the right kind of training for those who want to be in the media, and it

seems like all the young people in the Gambia want to be in the media.


I think the country is going through a cultural transformation now because the older generation of Gambians do not tend towards the performance arts or to speak out politically, but the upcoming generation of young people are beginning to make a different kind of music, dress in a different kind of way, and they are beginning to question common assumptions in ways that the older generation would never have. In this kind of environment, giving voice to the upcoming generation would be less about providing them access to the audience, but more about empowering the youth to be able to create their own works. Right now there seem to be a lot of activities of Gambian youths on the internet and I think access to the international market will also be important for them in some form.


The Gambia does not currently have any form of funding for filmmaking, as such, creating opportunities for filmmakers in the Gambia to get funding for

their stories through the Guilds will be a remarkable intervention. In doing so, however, it would be of utmost importance to coordinate with the government. The country runs a very closed political environment and it is one that would need to be carefully treaded in terms of making sure that the proposed interventions are done with reassurances that they have no political or religious intention of any kind.


— Femi Odugbemi



I think Ghana is, in all respects, second only to Nigeria in terms of the volume of activity, structure and potentials, among the Anglophone countries of West Africa. Almost everything going on in Nigeria seems to be replicated or mirrored in Ghana. The video film industry was born out of their broadcast industry, and there is a very large mass of creatives both in Accra and

up north, and a distribution channel that connects them to a local audience willing to consume Ghanaian movies.


The documentary genre is also something that they are very familiar with because the British who

colonized Ghana left a legacy whereby documentary was essentially used as a mass platform for government propaganda. An altogether new documentary genre which serves a much different purpose is now emerging.


There is training for filmmakers, even though it is via only one major film school that is called the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI). The numbers are not impressive and I think that is due to the cost of the training, but they have a very solid curriculum that has done well in producing filmmakers within our African context who can do works that are interesting. However, the commitment of the school to documentary production is weak at best. New York

University started a documentary film festival in Ghana called the Real Life Documentary Festival, that did

a lot to begin to build the awareness of documentary as a multi-dimensional form of filmmaking that is connected to culture, human empowerment and that can give filmmakers a voice in a challenging socio- economic environment like Ghana. What is clear

is that the training institution for filmmakers for documentary is not affordable to most of the students.


  1. What I think might be a good intervention is to provide support for the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) with a specific focus on their documentary I would imagine also that a scholarship package for students who might wish to specialise in documentary production may be a good idea for a limited period, if just to encourage enrolment in the curriculum. Collaboration with the school to expand that documentary curriculum would be a very positive




contribution in terms of documentary filmmaking.


  1. I also think that perhaps some collaboration with some of the locally-based Film Festivals is also a good channel to promote the awareness and encourage careers in issue-based cinema especially for emergent filmmakers who form the core of Ghana’s film practitioners today. I think it will do a lot to create the right kind of awareness and to bring into Ghana international quality documentary filmmakers and to show a variety of documentary films which have the kind of quality to inspire younger


  1. The other area of opportunity is perhaps the broadcast Currently, as in many other African Television broadcast environments, the Government is a dominant player in the control and access to

air-time. Unlike other environments where the TV stations commission programming from Independent producers, the stations here monetize the air-time and demand that content producers pay for air-time. It is a really critical area of intervention that filmmakers and documentarists from all over this region desire a change of policy and or approach. Even if they have managed to taise enough to produce their works,

the prospect of finding the huge cash necessary to secure access to an audience kills any initiative and/or enterprise for documentary-making. Could engaging the broadcast industries and authorities in the region be the way forward so that at least a guaranteed percentage of air-time is invested in documentary work on local development issues, even if only by emergent filmmakers? Definitely there needs to

be a documentary channel that connects African audiences without impoverishing African storytellers and filmmakers. The idea of a Regional or Africa wide documentary channel devoted to the issues of Africa was well discussed most recently at the 2011 Conference of the Documentary Network Africa (DNA) in Johannesburg. It may be a solution worthy of support and exploration; and in that, wise Ghana would provide perhaps the most ideal environment, politically and socially, to situate such an enterprise.


— Femi Odugbemi


Ghana is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The word Ghana means “Warrior King” and is derived from the ancient Ghana Empire.

Ghana was inhabited in pre-colonial times by a number of ancient predominantly Akan kingdoms, including the inland Ashanti Empire, the Akwamu, the Akyem, the Bonoman, the Denkyira, and the Fante among others.English is the country’s official language and predominates in government and business affairs.

Christianity is the country’s largest religion, and predominates in southern areas and parts of the northern regions, while Islam is more populous in parts of the northern regions.

Textiles are very important in Ghanaian culture. These cloths are used to make traditional and modern attire. Different symbols and different colors mean different things. Kente is probably the most famous of all the Ghanaian cloths.

Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana, with an estimated urban population of 2,291,352 as of 2012. Accra is also the capital of the Greater Accra Region and of the Accra Metropolitan District, with which it is conterminous.

Accra is Ghana’s primary city, serving as the nation’s economic and administrative hub. It is furthermore a centre of culture and tourism, sporting a wide range of nightclubs, restaurants and hotels.




Formed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, in 1957 Ghana became the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence.


Film exhibition in Ghana started as a private business with the opening of the first cinema in Accra in 1925. Film production, however, started as a government activity which eventually led to the establishment of the Gold Coast film unit in 1948. That year also saw the establishment of a film school by the Colonial British Administration in Ghana, with three students from Nigeria, Messrs. A.A. Fajemesin, J.A.Otigba and Malam Yakuba Auna, and three from Ghana, Messrs. Sam Areetey, R.O. Fenuku AND Bob Okanta as the pioneers.

As film developed worldwide, film in Ghana also grew steadily and provided much support for government information campaigns during the colonial period.

With independence, the new government saw film not only as a tool for disseminating information, but also as a powerful communication instrument to be exploited for national integration, social and economic development and for the preservation and further enrichment of the cultural heritage of Ghana. This saw the opening of Ghana’s TV station in 1965.

To provide an institutional base for the development of film and its utilization for these purposes, the government in 1962 established the Ghana film industry corporation (GFIC). For the following 28 years, the GFI produced a considerable amount of films and undertook the distribution and exhibition of both local and foreign films. This growth was accompanied by equally impressive advances in all other sectors of the film industry.

The most remarkable growth has been in “video film” production where growth has been phenomenal over the past decade and where the private sector has played an outstanding leadership role. Much of this role can be attributed to the electronic revolution which has led to major technological changes in the film industry worldwide and has made it possible for filmmakers of varying degrees of experience to attempt production experimentation which would have been out of reach a decade ago.

The film industry lost a major anchor in 1996, when as part of the divestiture programme of the government, GFIC was sold to a private company which abandoned film production and converted the technical facilities into a television station.

Although the movie industries continue to grow and the number of local productions continues to rise, the industry is plagued with a number of issues which works against the achievement of quality in productions and economic viability in the industry.

Poor technical, artistic and ethical standards associated with most of the current generation of films made in Ghana are attributed to the inadequate training of film personnel, not only for Ghana, but other African countries. The inadequacy of facilities, staff and financial resources, however, do not allow the institute to expand its training programme sufficiently to address the vast training needs which have arisen from the growth of the industry.

While there are extensive and powerful international networks for the distribution of foreign films, no such facilities cater to African film productions. The absence of an effective film distribution system, both within and outside the country, has been a major constraint to the achievement of economic viability in the film industry. Locally produced films do not have adequate exhibition throughout the towns and villages in the country and the major local productions, which have sought markets in other African markets, have fared rather poorly.

Almost all films currently produced in Ghana are made on videotape. This is partly because of production costs and partly because of the lack of relevant equipment. 35mm or HD equipment and other items required for complex productions are expensive and are usually hired for productions and not purchased.

In recent times there has been some collaboration between Ghanaian and Nigerian crew and cast with a number of productions being turned out. Among these co-productions were WEB and LOST HOPE, which received nominations at the Ghana Film Awards. Though Ghana shares borders with Francophone neighbors, so far there have not been any co-production to hit the Ghanaian screen. This has been attributed to the lack of funding as well as to language issues. Ben Musa Imora of Ghana, vice-president of the Video and Film Producers Association of Ghana in West-Africa, spoke about a video-boom in his country. He said the effort of networking with other African countries to sell products was a cheaper way of making and marketing films. Many filmmakers use their own family members in films as actors to produce videos which are very popular in Ghana. The videos are shown in humble venues such as garages, churches and community halls.




Filmmaking in Ghana is concentrated mainly in the capital city Accra. The industry is a fast growing one based on the Nollywood model from Nigeria of straight- to-DVD video-based movies and entertainment. The industry there is called “Ghallywood” and there is a lot of activity in the non-fiction genre with a lot of Nigerian video filmmakers and producers also actively working in Accra. The distribution channel mirrors Nigeria as well. There are open market sales of DVD copies of films and very minimal defense against piracy and intellectual property theft. Corporate video production and advertising commercials for private businesses and companies are the staple source of income for filmmakers in the non-fiction sector of the industry. Non-fiction, fact-based, issue-driven documentaries are not numerous.

Filmmakers in Ghana need funding for productions, more training facilities especially dedicated to documentary filmmaking and government intervention into thebroadcasting of documentary on Government Television networks (without being charged exorbitant air ti me fees).

Professional Developmental Support

There is a semblance of structure in the Ghanaian film industry, though not as organised as in Nigeria. There is a video censorship board and there is a vibrant broadcasting landscape with The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and the GTV — Ghana Television — which both broadcast throughout Ghana.

There has been a recent mention of funding from the government for filmmakers, called The National Media Fund, but filmmakers are skeptical of the availability of this fund as they say the criteria have not been made available. There is a government film school, National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) and documentary filmmaking is offered as a part of other courses, but there are no reputable private film institutions.

There are several film festivals in Ghana that are held yearly including the Environmental Film Festival Accra (EFFA), Real Life Documentary Film Festival and Festival of Films Africa (FOFA). Advocacy groups come in the form of the Ghana Academy of Film and Television Arts (GAFTA) and other guilds.

Distribution and audience cultivation

Feature length movies can be found in DVD format and they are sold by street hawkers everywhere. Ghana has cinema houses, with the most popular being the Silverbird chain (Accra), and the other being The National Theatre. Audience cultivation is through TV and radio adverts, billboards, posters, Blackberry phones and the internet. Documentary films do not have a DVD market, they are primarily distributed via the internet (Facebook, YouTube, My Space) and film festivals.

Structure and Focus of Funding

Funding, as suggested by filmmakers on the ground, should be focused on training, the skill development of filmmakers, especially in the area of documentary filmmaking, acquiring equipment and the availability of funds for the production of documentaries.

The general consensus of filmmakers is that funding should be structured in such a way as to avoid going through government, preferably by a private organisation or NGO. Eligibility for funds should be based on the previous works and track record of a filmmaker, a committee should handle any issues that may arise.




The National Media Commission Act 1993 (Act No. 449) establishes the National Media Commission (NMC) provided for in the 1992 Constitution Act. The functions of the National Media Commission, which are set out both in Article 166 of the Constitution and in the NMC Act, include “to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication or information”, and “to take all appropriate measures to ensure the establishment and maintenance of the highest journalistic standards in the mass media, including the investigation, mediation and settlement of complaints made against or by the press or other mass media”. The Constitution, and the NMC Act, provides for the NMC “to make regulations by Constitutional instrument for the registration of newspapers and other publications, except in terms of any direction and control over the professional functions of a person engaged in the production of newspapers or other means of mass communication”. It makes no specific provision for the making of regulations for broadcasting although this may be inferred from the general functions set out in Article 166 of the Constitution. At the time of the establishment of the NMC there were no independent broadcast media. The Constitution provides for NMC to be composed of eighteen commissioners. Of these, thirteen are nominated from named constituencies (Ghana Journalists Associates nominates two, two are appointed directly by the President and three are nominated by Parliament).


The National Communications Authority Act 1996 (Act No. 524) is established “to regulate communications by wire, cable, radio, television, satellite and similar means of technology for the orderly development and operation of efficient communications services in Ghana and to provide for related purposes”. In the absence of any other provision for broadcasting service authorisation this Act has been used to regulate the establishment of broadcasting services. The Act establishes the National Communications Authority which replaces the previous Ghana Frequency Registration and Control Board. The objectives of the NCA, set out in Section 2 of the NCA Act, include “to ensure that throughout the country, as far as practicable, there are such communication services as are reasonably necessary to satisfy demand for the services”, and “to ensure that communications system operators achieve the highest level of efficiency in the provision of communication services and are responsive to customer and community needs”. Communications services and communication systems are very broadly defined to include wired and wireless transmission and the conveyance of sounds, visual images and data.

The NCA Act provides for the Board of the NCA to be appointed by the President and to consist of a Chairman, the Director General, one representative of the National Security Council and four other persons “with knowledge in matters relevant to the functions of the Authority”.

No legislation exists specifically to regulate or guide broadcasting content. A document titled Broadcasting Standards, which gives a guide on programme content and advertising, prepared by the National Media Commission in close consultation with the broadcasters is not legally binding. The Ghana Journalist Association has a Code of Ethics which it provides for its members including those in broadcasting.





The national broadcasting service commenced in 1935 as a radio relay service under the name Radio ZOY, later Gold Coast Broadcasting Service. Through telegraphic connections and local relay transmitters it sought to provide a single national radio service covering the whole of Ghana. With independence, the national broadcaster was renamed Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

Television was introduced later by GBC in 1965. Today GBC wholly owns controls and operates three national radio services, ten regional radio services, and the national television channel, GTV. The national radio services consist of two short wave services, Radio 1 and Radio 2 (at the time of the study only Radio 1 was operational) plus Accra-based, Uniiq FM, which covers a large part of the country with a primarily English language service.

Radio 1 broadcasts in six languages — Akan, Ga, Ewe, Nzema, Dagbani, and Hausa. The regional radio services cover each of the administrative regions. They have their own programmes and an emphasis on local languages but all carry GBC national news.

The present mandate for GBC is derived from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation Decree 1968. It includes broadcasting programmes in the field of culture, education, information and entertainment, to reflect national progress and aspirations, and to broadcast in the main Ghanaian languages and in English.

GBC held a broadcasting monopoly until 1994 and is still a dominant force in radio and television broadcasting. When the National Communications Authority was established GBC was obliged to relinquish part of its control over the broadcast radio and television spectrum. However, GBC retained control over other frequencies which have been used later for expansion or to assist the establishment of commercial broadcasting services. In addition to the services that it wholly owns and operates, GBC holds 50 per cent of the shares and appoints the Chair of the Board of Metro TV, the first commercial television service. It also has minority shareholdings in the Multimedia Broadcasting Company which owns two local commercial radio services — Joy FM (Accra) and Adom FM (Tema). In practical terms though, GBC plays no role in the operations of the private companies in which it has shares and is yet to receive any income from them.

Funding for GBC is partly provided through direct government support for salaries and partly internally generated through commercial activities. Internally Generated Funding (IGF) accounts for around 50 per cent of the total revenues of GBC. IGF is generated through adverts and from selling airtime to private production companies. In 2004 the annual government support was 42billion Cedi (about US $4.5million), which contributed towards the costs of a staff base of around 1500 employees.

This government funding is negotiated annually with the Ministry of Finance and Planning and administered through the Ministry of Information.

Although there is a license fee collectable from all television viewers, it has not increased for many years and is set at just 3,000 Cedi per year (US $0.30). As a result of inflation, the television license fee is now worth less than the costs of collection.


GTV (Ghana Television) is the national public broadcaster of Ghana, run by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. It commenced operations on July 31, 1965 and was originally known as GBC TV.

GTV broadcasts mainly local programming, with over 80% of the schedule consisting of original productions. Although its main production studio is located in Accra, capital city of Ghana, it has affiliations nationwide and covers 98% of the airwaves in Ghana, making it the most powerful mode of advertisement in Ghana. Although GTV is largely funded by the Ghanaian government, it also collects annual fees from viewers (defined as every Ghanaian who owns a TV and has an erected antenna, regardless of whether they watch GTV or not).


A brief History of the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI)

An agreement concluded in 1965 between the Government of Ghana and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation of West Germany for the establishment of a joint film project in Ghana laid the foundation for NAFTI.

In January 1975, the then Commissioner for information submitted proposals to the Government on the establishment of a Film Television Institute in Ghana. The government approved this principle. This in turn empowered the Ministry of Information to make a formal application through the external aid division of the then ministry of Economic Planning to UNESCO for assistance.

In May 1975, UNESCO sent its Regional Communications Advisor for Africa to discuss the matter with the Ghanaian authorities. It was evident that they wanted to help. Following up on this, the government of Ghana sent a delegation abroad to inspect film and television institutes in Britain.

As a result of the report submitted, a new partnership agreement was concluded between Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Government of Ghana for the establishment of the Centre For Educational Feature Film.

The National Film and Television Institute was established by SMC Decree (SMCD.151) and published in the Government Gazette of 17 February 1987.

Today NAFTI has been influential in shaping the film and television industry in Ghana and Africa. In 2002 NAFTI established the African Cinema Research and Documentation Centre (ACREDOC) to work towards a language of film and television that will contribute to notions of socio-cultural development by researching and documenting indigenous African story telling for the screen and research purposes.

Mrs. Vincentia Akwetey, Dean of Studies, says NAFTI accepted 60 students for this academic year and all directing students (both TV and film) study documentary filmmaking. Officially only one or two students graduate as a documentary filmmaker. The school festival partners include: The Real Life Documentary Film Festival, The Environmental Film Festival and Animation Africa.

NAFTI hosts the African Student Film and Television Festival (ANIWA) every other year. Participants include film and television students in Africa and African students from the Diaspora.




The directing course integrates theoretical elements, which culminate in the students writing and directing their own works in the form of short films, television drama, magazines and documentaries.


The department uses digital video cameras such as D9, Mini DV and HD as well as a Television studio equipped with a lighting system for film and television production to train students in the art of modern photography.


Students are trained with state-of-the-art sound equipment which makes it feasible for students to creatively record, process, mix and edit sound for film and television.


Editing students are trained in the art and technique of post–production. They are trained to work with modern professional editing software such as Adobe Premier, Pro, Avid and Final Cut Pro series in digital technology (non–linear).


Animation. Students in this section have access to a rostrum for stop motion with digital video camera, studios with facilities for painting/drawing and light boxes, and laboratories with workstations running 2D and 3D animation software.


This section offers training that provides graduates with employment opportunities as versatile artists and influential operators in the fields of scenography, costume and make up design in film and television.


The general course in FILM/TV provides an opportunity to prepare students in basic and relevant areas in film and TV production. The programme provides the introduction to the intellectual and technical expertise needed to gain a foothold in the film and TV industry.

Yearly intake at the institute startedat 30 students a year. The academic year 2010/2011 numbers increased to 46 and in the year 2011/2012 it went up to 60 students.

Documentary film making started as a specialization course at NAFTI in 2001, so the first batch of documentary filmmakers came out in the 2003-2004 academic year.

All Directing students (both TV and film) study documentary at level 300 before they decide whether to opt for fiction or documentary in the second semester. As such, most graduates end up making documentary films for survival since the feature film is more capital intensive.

Officially one or two students graduate from documentary filmmaking annually but all directing students and students from other areas of specialization engage in documentary filmmaking.

Festival partners of NAFTI include:
  • Real Life Documentary Film Festival
  • Environmental Film Festival of Accra
  • Animation Festival by Animation Africa




Animation Africa is an animation production and consultancy based in Ghana, West Africa. Over the last three years animation Africa has trained, produced and provided consultancy services to schools and institutions in the West Africa sub region. They are committed to the development of the animation industry in the region by building capacities, and exploring folklore and music for archiving and as ingredients for the production of animation films.

Animation Africa works in 2d animation, 3d models and objects design, web development, graphics, Flash Animation, Website Designing and post-production.


Research, answered questionnaires and a personal visit to the country indicates there are no standard private film schools in Ghana.



The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation lost a considerable amount (25 years) of its audiovisual material when a fire broke out in its audiovisual library in 1989. The state of these archives however is unknown, but all individuals interviewed believe that they may not be well kept.

Video and sound archives may be found at The Ministry of Information of Ghana, The Information Services Department.

Website of The Ministry of information: http://www.


There are several mentions of the Ghana Cinematograph Board of Control in media publications about the film industry in Ghana.

However, filmmakers on the ground say that to their knowledge there is no Government regulatory body for film in Ghana.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Mr. John Tia Akologu, Minister of Information on Friday inaugurated a 25-member Cinematograph Exhibition Board of Control and charged it to look out particularly for, and deal with, pornographic, violent and culturally unacceptable films in the country.

The old Board was dissolved owing to the public outcry about its inability to avert objectionable material being shown on the television, public cinema and video theatres even though Act 76 of the Cinematograph Act of 1961 authorized it to censor films.

Mr. Akologu said the new Board “will constitute a preview and classification committee, and until the passage into law, the development and classification of a Film Bill to provide the machinery to deal with the production, previewing, distribution and marketing of films”.

He called on producers of audio-visual materials and television companies to produce films that were sensitive to the concerns of the Ghanaian public. “I wish to urge the industry practitioners to produce educational and positive films instead of films full of violence, pornography and other offensive sounds and images that are harmful to our minds, especially the fragile minds of our children”, he said.

Mr. Augustine Abbey, President of the Film Producers Association of Ghana and member of the new Board, on behalf of his colleagues, expressed the Board’s commitment to partner with government to bring sanity to the film industry through strict censorship. “I also hope that by the censorship, the move would not send creativity to exile”, he said.

Source: topics/cinematograph-board-to-deal#axzz28vX0xSTw



There is no governmental or NGO funding available for filmmakers, including documentary  filmmakers, in Ghana.



There has been mention of

  • The Film Association of Ghana (FIPAG) and
  • The Ghanaian Film and Television Academy (GAFTA)
  • Ghana Movie Makers Association (GMMA)

FIPAG does not appear to have an established website, but mentioned is made in the media relatively frequently. FIPAG held long-awaited elections in August 2013 and has been going through major changes, according to reports:


The newly elected executives of the film producers association of Ghana (FIPAG) led by Steve Asare Hackman is perhaps on the verge of revolutionizing the Ghanaian Film industry as after series of meetings and discussions with other stakeholders of the industry just some few weeks into office have outlined stringent policies to regulate the industry which has been left asunder for a while.

Starting November 1st, 2013, the new directive requires producers with the intention of shooting movies in Ghana to first furnish the FIPAG office; either in Kumasi (for those in the northern sector) or Accra (for those in the southern sector) with information concerning the production.

Refusal to do this according to the directive will lead to a halt in the production, until procedure has being followed and a penalty paid.

Read other directives per their meetings.


New prices from producer to distributor, marketer and to retailers have being agreed on. Howbeit, this will not affect the final consumer price for now. Even though prices of commodities in the country have gone up over the years, prices of local movies have remained the same. We are not increasing the consumer price of the movies yet, but it is something still under consideration.


Very soon names of accredited distributors of our movies would be communicated to all producers. It is advised that any producer due to release his/her movie, would use these accredited distributors only, in their best interest.

Any producer who is not registered with FIPAG, and desire to release his/her movie through our marketing channels, would be required to pay some amount of money before the movie would be given the green light.

This also applies to all foreign or non-Ghanaian owned movies, who intend to sell their movies through our market channels.


Movies are released every week onto the market. This has proven to be very challenging for the producers. In this light, it has been agreed that movies, from November 4th, movies would be released every two.

This means that movies would be released only two (2) times in a month instead of the current four (4) times.


This has become necessary to give the movies some extra time to sell before new ones are brought into the market.


It is being agreed and hereby directed that from November, this year, when these directives take full effect, no movie less than TWO (2) YEARS old should be given to any television station for broadcasting.

Any producer who violates this directive would be severely sanctioned by the FIPAG.


It has being observed that the ‘oil market’ is one of the dangerous evils in the film industry. Some producers shoot anything at all, called movie, with the aim of selling them on the oil market. This has become a very dangerous practice since it has been one of the reasons why there are lots of poor standard productions on our market.

It is now being directed that a movie would have to be ONE (1) YEAR old before being admitted onto the oil market.

It is also being directed by the stakeholders, that the “oil price” to the final consumer should be the same as the price before the movie went on “oil market”; five (5) Ghana cedis for the two part disc.


It has being agreed by the stakeholders, that starting February 2014, Ghanaian movies would be released straight on DVDs and not VCD.

All producers who would be releasing their movies from February next year, would have to do so in DVD format and not VCD.

This has become necessary because the equipment used in productions these days are of high quality, giving quality pictures but when converted to a lower format like the VCD, the quality of the pictures drop drastically, making nonsense of the usage of the quality equipment.

We believe that migrating to DVD would ensure that picture quality of our movies is improved, to compliment the expensive and quality equipments being used in productions today.


Piracy is seen as dangerous evil of our trade. In this light we have decided to tackle the issues with all resources available to us and in collaboration with the law enforcement agencies of Ghana.

Undercover and secret informers and whistle blowers have being set up in various parts of the country to help us arrest pirates of our works.

Currently many pirates have been arrested and arranged before the courts of law in various parts of the country. This process will be going on until we finally win the battle over pirates.


The leaders of the various stakeholders are very much aware of the fact that there will be members or non- members who might want to test or go contrary to these directives.

In that respect, various sanctions and punishments have being put in place to make sure that these directives are obeyed and respected by all film makers to help bring sanity and improvement in the industry.

.Source: NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=289340

Brief History on GAFTA

The Ghana Academy of Film and Television Arts (GAFTA) was established in 2001 as a collective entity of professional filmmakers comprised of the various guilds within the Ghanaian motion picture industry. They are: the Director’s Guild of Ghana (DGG), The Screen Writers Guild of Ghana (SWGG), The Screen Editors Guild of Ghana (SEGG), The Producers Guild of Ghana (PPG), Cinematographers Guild of Ghana (CGG), Motion Picture Sound Guild of Ghana (MPSGG), Art Directors Guild of Ghana (ADGG), Animators Guild of Ghana (AGG), Film and Television Production Facilitators Guild of Ghana (FTPFGG) as well as other affiliate bodies.

In furtherance of its professional objective towards the advancement of excellence in the Ghanaian motion picture industry, the Academy, in partnership with other renowned local and international fine arts institutions such as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS – United States), Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) and FESPACO, the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), engages in the organisation of workshops and festivals, seminars, and conferences, as well as motion picture research. GAFTA also provides fellowships, scholarships and bursaries for its deserving members.

As the mother body of its constituent Guilds and Associations representing the various facets of the Ghanaian motion picture industry, it seeks to encourage a high level of discipline and professional ethics through the strengthening of its various cinematic branches. Moreover, the academy, in collaboration with the sector ministry, has been working assiduously towards the creation of a viable Ghanaian Film and Television industry as well as best practices in the world of cinema.

The main goals of GAFTA are:
  • To promote and maintain high standards in film and TV arts;
  • To maintain discipline and a code of ethics;
  • To promote research and training;
  • To maintain a library and archive;
  • To award fellowships, scholarships and others;
  • Above all, to seek to protect the interest of member

Not much is known about this organization but it does have a Facebook page established in 2011: Association-GMMA/242129915808839


About Environmental Film Festival of Accra

The Environmental Film Festival of Accra (EFFA) is a registered non-profit organisation in Ghana that was founded to raise awareness of environmental issues through film. Thanks to the partnership with Creative Storm, a leading Ghanaian digital production house and marketing firm, the festival has grown from a small event for film enthusiasts into Accra’s environmental educational event of the year. The main goal of the festival is to challenge and broaden the audience’s perception and understanding of the social and environmental problems faced in Ghana and abroad. For the past four years, EFFA has carefully screened selected international award-winning films that have the power to change the way we think about our environment.

This film festival is unique. It is the first of its kind in Africa. While there are other wonderful film festivals on the continent, none have dedicated their efforts to bringing attention to important social and environmental issues touching the lives of people around the world, not least in Africa itself. The film festival has elicited excitement from filmmakers as well as potential donors because it offers such a positive way to strengthen an understanding of environmental issues while enriching the cultural scene.

EFFA has been made possible through the active collaboration of Accra’s cultural venues including: The Goethe-Institut, the British Council, Alliance Francaise, and Busy Internet, as well as the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI). These institutes have supported the festival in lending screening facilities and technical support as well as promoting the importance of the festival.

The broad mission of EFFA is to bring films to Ghana that raise awareness about environmental problems both locally and around the world, while also pointing the way to a new paradigm for healthy and sustainable development for all. Yhey have selected films about environmental issues in developed and developing countries, globalization and social justice issues. Styles range from animation to drama and from personal essay to investigative documentary. There are programmes suitable for all ages from kindergarten age through to adult.

The organisers are Claudea D’andrea, PH.D. (Festival founder & co-director), Kwesi Owusu, Ph.D. (festival co-director), Mildred Samuel, FCCA MBA (festival coordinator), and Creative Storm (leading communicators for social development in Ghana).



Once again, it is our pleasure to bring you a report on the ninth edition of the annual international Environmental Film Festival of Accra held from 28 June to 5 July, 2013. EFFA received funding for various component of this Festival including – Young Film Makers’ Workshop, the Children’s Daytime Screening component of the project; the Open Air Screening at Kwame Nkrumah Circle on Saturday 29 June with the innovative Free Malaria Test for public; and the 3rd State of the Environment Forum.

The mix of funding and other support from our sponsors and donors for various aspects of the festival resulted in another successful edition of EFFA. Over 300 people including Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Ebenezer Ampah-Sampong, representative of the EU, Mr. Herve Delsol, Programme Officer at the Delegation, Officials from the French Embassy in Ghana, the Australian High Commission to Ghana, and other members of the diplomatic community, corporates, journalists and several school children gathered at KAMA Conference Centre, Osu for the festival launch with its focus on Environment and Health.

The week-long festival of film on the environment and State of the Environment Forum are organised annually to raise awareness on the relationship between the environment and sustainable development. The 9th Edition brought to the public, films from around the world including Australia, Denmark, Japan, Germany and Ghana with screenings at the Goethe Institute, British Council, Trashy Bags, and Alliance Française for schools and the general public. Participants, including people watched the films during the Festival period were well over 10,000.

The Festival critically engaged audiences and participants through its different components including Film Festival, Young Film Makers’ Workshop, and the State of the Environment. The Film Festival presented audiences with a variety of environmental films from the international community as well as films produced from Ghana and the Young Film Makers’ Workshop. The films from Young Film Makers’ Workshop told stories of the environment with hilarious accuracy to explain the relationship between the environment and health. The audience response was keen and reflected the emotive impact of the films produced by the school children. The quality of the films and depth of stories also showed continuous progress from previous festivals. On the other hand, films from the international community brought the audience face- to-face with the dire consequences of environmental degradation and neglect through real life challenges faced by communities of people as varied as the people of the Aral Sea Basin – Kazakhstan; the threats of degradation faced by the Islands of Tuvalu; and the e-waste menace facing the Korle Lagoon communities of Accra, Ghana among others.

A new addition to the festival this year was the Free Malaria Testing for the public during the Open-air screening at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle with support from the National Malaria Control Programme. EFFA intends to make malaria screenings a permanent feature of the festival towards eradication of this environmental disease among others.


We are pleased to report on the eight edition of the annual international Environmental Film Festival of Accra held from 08 to 15 June 2012. Over 600 people including several school children gathered at British Council for the launch with its focus on water. The engaging image of two children at a water pump and other symbolic images of Ghana’s quest for safe and affordable water on the festival’s publicity materials attracted much public attention and got a lot of people talking about how we manage this critical resource and the environmental challenges facing us. The media response was keen and consistent with the steady progress of the festival over the last seven years ago. This year, we were pleased to receive the support of our longstanding partners, Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Wienco Ghana Ltd, Royal Danish Embassy, French Embassy in Ghana, Third World Network, Australian High Commission, Canadian High Commission, European Union, UNICEF, Nestle Ghana, Yara Ghana, Zoomlion, British Council, Goethe-Institut and Alliance Francaise. We also welcomed African Women’s Development Fund.


The second 15 part series of the Environment Channel Television series was completed in the course of the year and is now ready for broadcast on Ghana Television. A by-product of EFFA, this project, with its potential to embrace mass audiences across the country was produced with support from Wienco Ghana Ltd, Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and Third World Network. We also produced a documentary on innovative solutions to sanitation challenges as part of our collaboration with the French Embassy in Ghana. These kinds of collaborations have broadened the scope of EFFA and expanded its role as public educator of the environment.


The second edition of the State of the Environment Forum took place on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at British Council, bringing together 200 participants from across Ghana to deliberate and report on progress towards environmental sustainability in Ghana. The forum was supported by the European Union (through the National Authorising Officer for the EDF in Ghana, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning), Third World Network, African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and Royal Danish Embassy. This year, the issues that inform the role of women in the environment were also highlighted in all the plenary sessions. AWDF supported us to bring more women participants and presenters to the forum. This enriched the sessions and turned out to be a much welcomed initiative. Presentations were made in three thematic areas: Climate Change, Degraded Environment & Flooding, Water and Sanitation and Natural Resources. These were followed by small group discussions and plenaries. The Forum was opened by a speech from Ms. Sherry Ayitey, Minister of the Environment, Science and Technology, read on her behalf by Mr. Samuel Anku, Director at the Environmental Protection Agency. Presentations were also made by Ms Theo Sowa, Chief Executive Officer, AWDF and Mr Bart Missinne, First Secretary, European Commission.

In all, the discussions were spirited and engaging as civil society organizations, NGOs, and corporate representatives interacted with government officials, policy makers and leading development agencies on environmental issues. Most participants suggested that the Environment Forum be made a permanent feature of the annual festival.


This year’s festival brought over forty films on environmental and social issues to Accra’s popular cultural venues. As in previous years, the programme included award winning films from Ghana and from around the world – films that challenge us to broaden our perceptions and understanding about the environment around us. The 2012 selection included the internationally acclaimed film about Climate Change, A Thirsty World (La Soif du Monde), The Light Bulb Conspiracy, the Spanish film questioning unlimited global consumption and Up in Smoke, about the causes of deforestation and global warming.

The programme also included The 4th Revolution: Energy Autonomy, exploring technologies that will take us away from reliance on fossil fuels towards clean, renewable energy, Llueve (It Rains), a beautifully shot drama exploring environmental choices, Turning the Tide 2, exploring new trends in Ghana’s sanitation and waste management, Pfad, Vorgaten Kollaps, the critically acclaimed German film about the crucial next steps in an eco-friendly future. There were equally fascinating films about the impact of global warming, food security, pollution, on wildlife, energy conservation, fishing and electronic waste.

An innovation this year related to the Young Film Makers Workshop component of the festival. Six school children were given mobile phones with cameras to create a video report on various environmental issues. A series of one minute films were produced by the participants on:

  • Noise pollution in markets, churches and public spaces
  • Water wastage within urban areas
  • Garbage pollution
  • Health and environment etc

The Young Film Makers Workshop component has over the years been supported by UNICEF, Environmental Protection Agency and Zoom Lion. As in prior years, these short films turned out to be the festival’s favorites.

At the festival launch and schools screenings, the young ‘film stars’ spoke candidly about the wonderful experience the festival afforded them to allow their voices to be heard. They selected films of interest to them; that affected their daily lives at home, in schools and in their communities. After the film was premiered, the participants received enthusiastic applause from the audience for their refreshing films on Ghana’s environmental challenges. article/2-uncategorised/293-sample-content


ANIMAFRIK is an animation festival dedicated to African and Caribbean animation and designed to promote its Art and animation. The festival projects films by African and Caribbean Animators on the continent and in the Diaspora. The festival has screening sessions, workshops and conferences.


The objective of the workshop is to bring to the festival practicing animators or instructors in academia who will direct and share their experience to help build capacities and raise awareness of the art of animation.


This new festival on the scene in Accra “aims to inspire, educate, and entertain through an annual celebration of screening motion pictures, and also community outreach.”



Mr. Jim Awindor is a senior Lecturer at NAFTI, a Professor, and also a well respected documentary filmmaker in Ghana. He trained at Ghana’s National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), where he majored in film directing and then furthered his studies at Columbia College Chicago for his MFA in documentary filmmaking. Awindor makes socially critical and ethnographic films, several of which have won awards. They include: Alokodongo, Biogas, Slidding Bongo (youth sexuality and Aids), Condemned (a film about the effects of surface mining) and Bayaa (an ethnographic film on the ancient burial system of the Grun). Mr. Awindor currently has two films in progress – Rasta and the Weed and Plastic Blues.

Sitsofe Akoto is a first class degree holder in BA (Fine Art) from the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) majoring in Film Directing. She is the General Manager and Head of Productions of Eagle Productions. She has over five years experience in the Film Industry. Her 5 years of experience in the industry has seen her direct and produce some major programmes for the company such as Secrets, OO Baby, Changing Places and Entertainment Today as well as directing and producing adverts for major clients such as Zenith University College, Sanyo Ghana Limited and Speed Ghana. She is also a co-writer for the series Secrets and also writes for a new column in the Entertainment Today Magazine, “The Film Review”.



Filmmaking is mainly concentrated in the capital city of Ghana, Accra. The Ghallywood industry is a fast growing one and there is a thriving market for home made feature length films (DVD).

Documentary filmmaking is a craft that is more commonly found among new graduates or students working on a film project. Most established filmmakers do documentaries, but preferably the industrial type, wherein money is paid up front. Real life documentaries hardly make it to the DVD market.

A rough estimate given by filmmaker Jim Awindor is that about 800 films are produced every year and of that amount, only 6 will be documentaries.

There are no established grants for filmmakers from the Government of Ghana or from private organisations. The government does have a film school — The National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), and they do offer documentary filmmaking as a course. There are no standard private films schools that teach documentary filmmaking in Ghana.

In terms of cinemas, there is the Silverbird Cinema and the National Theatre in Accra, Ghana.

The National Theatre was established by the National Theatre Law, PNDCL 259, 1992 and was officially inaugurated on December 30, 1992. It houses a three tier entrance hall and a three tier 1492 seater.

The Silverbird cinema has about 4 halls and each of these halls seat 50 people.

A DVD costs about 5 cedes which is equivalent to $2.50 dollars and it will cost you $10.25 to catch a movie at the cinema.

DVDs are found almost everywhere in Ghana. They are distributed by hawkers selling them on the highway and in local DVD markets.

Ghana has a government television station Ghana Television Station (GTV). As in Nigeria, the most common and effective method of audience cultivation is the television. The government station does not commission works/documentaries. Filmmakers have to pay for their work to be aired.

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.

A semblance of audio-visual archives can be found at the Ministry of Information, the Information Services Department.

Several advocacy groups for filmmakers were high- lighted including:

  • Producers Association of Ghana
  • Actors Guild of Ghana
  • Ghana Association of Film and Television Academy

Jim Awindor is also a member of the advocacy group GAFTA. They have been in existence for 11 years and were established in 2001 as a collective entity of professional filmmakers comprised of the various guilds within the Ghanaian motion picture industry. GAFTA is fighting for the passage of the film development and classification bill currently at Parliament.



FO: A brief biography of yourself that will cover name, nationality, school, what you do, your function as a filmmaker, some of your films, your function as a film lecturer and Professor. The work you have done…just a little bit about your self.

JFA: My name is Jim Fara Awindor, a Ghanaian.

Right after High School I worked briefly at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust dealing with people’s pensions before going to film school (NAFTI). Before that, I knew I would be going to film school.Working was just a transitional phase for me.

I came to NAFTI, the National Film and Television Institute in Ghana. It was a three year diploma programme and after that I did s a little TA’ing (teaching assistant), because NAFTI for what it was then didn’t have enough tutors and it was difficult recruiting from outside because there were no film teachers in Ghana.

We were mainly engaged to help out so that we could be groomed to be teachers in the school. So that’s how come most of my colleagues and I stayed to teach.

FO: When was this?

JFA: That was in 1991. There were about four or so of us that were teaching there just from my batch, because at that time the intake was so little, our batch was just eleven and then you would have foreign students as well. You could just realise that we were kind of handpicked to stay. Yes, but it was also because we had the passion to teach and to impart knowledge — that’s why we stayed. So, from there, within the process we just grew with the school and then we started doing other courses — going for workshops here and there to improve on ourselves. You know how difficult it is to do your postgraduate studies in film in our kind of environment. It took us a long time before we got the opportunity to go outside to do formal postgraduate studies.

Two of us had Fulbright Scholarships to study in the United States and then one other student at the school got a government scholarship to study in the UK.

We had our MFAs (Master of Fine Arts) and came back and that was actually when we started documentary filmmaking in NAFTI as a specialisation programme. Before then it was taught like another way of making a film. If you don’t do fiction, you can do non-fiction, but it was not a specialised course. You didn’t come out as a documentary filmmaker — it was merely fiction — narrative stories you know, and that’s it.

When I went to the states, I went to Columbia College and I specifically wanted to do documentary filmmaking, so I studied documentary filmmaking for three years and I was lucky to have people like Michael Rabiger teaching us. They were good mentors to us and we came back and decided that we could start a documentary course at NAFTI. We could make it into a specialised course because we thought that Africa actually had a lot of stories to tell and they can best be told in a documentary film. That was how I felt.

Documentary filmmaking actually started as a specialisation course at NAFTI in 2001. The first batch of documentary filmmakers came out in the 2003-2004 academic year. That’s when we started getting people specialising in documentary filmmaking.

FO: How many documentary filmmakers would you say you have graduated?

JFA: They are few, because you see there is this thing about people wanting to be fiction directors… I don’t know the reason, but when they come to film school and you ask them… introducing them to documentary filmmaking and all that is kind of fascinating the first year, but when you start going into the real issues of documentary filmmaking it kind of scares them. It sounds so difficult for them to grasp.

You start talking about representation, about the ethics, you know, the philosophy of it. It becomes too much for them, so they kind of say this thing is too difficult and so in the third year they kind of opt out. You will probably find just one or two students wanting to do documentary out of about ten directors. I cannot tell you the exact numbers that have left but, roughly there are about fourteen since 2001.

FO: What is the speculative number of filmmakers that have completed their studies in the same time? Just so I can compare to those who are doing documentary? How many students has NAFTI graduated, for instance, in the same period of time?

JFA: I If you have roughly eight directors in every year for the last 11 years, that will give you 88 directors.

Out of these 88 you will have about 14 who are documentary filmmakers, which includes even those who specialise in TV directing. What we do is train them as directors, but we have some that specialise in TV.

FO: So those too may end up doing some documentary? You also combined being a college professor with being a filmmaker, so talk to me about your career as a filmmaker.

JFA: You know you have to get your act together when you are a filmmaker, you don’t just sit down and say you are a professor or a lecturer and that’s all that you do. If you don’t practice, you will dry out. So once in awhile either you get a project from the school to do or you initiate your own, or you work for a client.

Working for a client is not what we will call a documentary. As I have said before, they are mainly corporate films, and you want to do something for Electricity Corporation because people are not paying their bills, or for some NGO. We engage ourselves in that sort of thing.

I have a company that I own with my wife. She is the Executive Producer and she runs the company but we are in partnership. She also finished NAFTI and majored in editing. Then we went into a lot of television production.

I have directed a lot of television production rather than documentary films, because we ran a programme on GhanaTV for 10 years continuously that was called Greetings from Abroad. The programme profiled many Ghanaians living abroad to find out what they were doing, whether they were doing well or not doing well. If they were doing well we encouraged them to come and invest. We did that for 10 years and then we created a sequel to it for another year called Back Home Again. It features those who have come back to settle and have started their businesses. We wanted to find out how they were coping, integrating and all that.

We got the telephone companies to sponsor the programme and we are kind of ok with that. The fiction part is so difficult because raising money is not easy to do. However, with documentaries, with the little that you have, you can do something.

We have done some documentaries on surface mining. I think I even showed it at the Real Life Festival before. I have other works in progress, actually three projects I have not completely finished and I have finished shooting two but have not edited them. One is on the Rasta movement in Ghana, the other one is about plastics, jwhich I called The Plastic Blues, and the third one it’s on traditional herbal medicine. It’s a research work that I am doing and am incorporating the documentary aspect. These are the three projects that I am working on currently. The herbal one is ongoing, the other two I have completed but I have not edited and it’s just because there are no funds and I am doing it on my own. There are other projects I’ve worked on for NAFTI for which I have won awards including The Berlin Golden Bear.

The film that won the grand prize is about renewable energy. It was on Biogas and it won the grand prix in Lausanne, Switzerland…. I’ve forgotten the name of the festival, it’s been a long time.

I also directed some TV series here in Ghana. One was a detective series called Inspector Bediako. I did that for one season. The second, a health programme dubbed, The Pepsodent Health Guide, and the last one, Panache, a fashion programme.

FO: All in all what would you say is your overall output? How many films would you say you make in a year?

JFA: Averagely…because of the television series I don’t know how to calculate that since I worked on the series close to fourteen years and since it’s every week, in a year that’s fifty-two TV episodes. However, if its average, probably it would be about ten good ones. If you add the TV it will inflate it a little, but I don’t want to add that.

FO: Generally the volume of film in the country itself, leaving out television whether it is fiction or non-fiction in the whole country, what is your sense of how many films are made, even the ones in the market in a year?

JFA: This is so difficult because we have films that are made from the Zongo, and are done in Hausa and those from Kumasi whose films are in Akan or TWI. You

also have some from other regions in various dialects. The Accra films are mainly in English. If you put them together it could be on average maybe…15-20 a week and then times that in a year.

FO: If you are making 20 films a week that’s roughly 80 films…80 films a month in 12 places. You’re saying there are close to 800 films in a year in Ghana. That’s combining all the other areas in Ghana.

JFA: Yes I am saying that there are about 80 films a month in Ghana. With most of them the consumption are localized. They make the film and it is consumed within the community because it is limited because of language or it is place specific. The stories are about themselves, so if you sell it outside of the community, people might not understand it.

FO: Of these films, of these 800 that you say that are made nationally, how many would be documentaries?

JFA: Probably three to six. If you want to add corporate films or those NGO films maybe, maybe you could get up to about fifteen in a year…yes.

FO: So we are talking about 15 documentaries out of 800 in year.

JFA: Yes. That’s dismal right?

FO: Why do you think that is? What is the problem?

JFA: It is because the genre is — I won’t say new — but it is new to most filmmakers and in a sense that NAFTI’s training was geared towards making fiction films…People ventured into documentary because it was just an alternative for them. That’s one reason, and the second reason is people just don’t understand the genre.

FO: Ghana was a British colony and the British created in almost all the colonies film offices where documentaries were made. Should what we consider the history of documentaries in Ghana include that?

JFA: Yes, but will we call them documentaries? They were newsreels and there is a difference between those newsreels and what we will call documentary today because the purpose for which those film offices were set up is quite different from how we see or what we can do with documentaries today.

They were there to raise people’s awareness, or let me put it this way, sensitize people to the efforts of their colony or of their masters or whatever. They wanted people to know what they were doing and that the things they were doing were good for them, and all that. It was to show that they were in control and it was to show that we were in need, to show that they were there to help us. It was very exploitative and they exploited us in that situation with those newsreels — to show their war efforts and all that. There’s a whole lot of long history to talk about on this.

They were just pictures with a lot of commentary and even sometimes the commentary and the picture didn’t actually gel together. There was no relationship between the commentary and the pictures.

It was to show us in a very different light. It was used derogatively. It was also used exploitatively. I wouldn’t call those documentaries, but then it had a purpose and it worked for them. Now it is quite a different story.

FO: What would you say is the importance of documentary to the politics of Africa> If you say that the British used it politically, then why if we understand this, why are we as Africans or we as Ghanaians, not using that format? Why is that format not being exploited by us?

JFA: Yes, it’s also partly ignorance or it’s just that we are not conscious about our own sensibility, that’s another thing. It’s one thing knowing that this was done to us, but if you actually look at it from a certain angle or perspective, you realise that a lot of bad was done to us and if you have this tool yourself what would you do about it?

You would try to redeem your image — the image that was spoiled and lost and denigrated. You would want to claim it back, you would want to redeem it, because our images were misappropriated, So you take it and give it a different representation… if you are wrongly represented and now you have the tool that they used to do that, why won’t you take that to also do something about yourself?

If we understand it this way, then it is for us to go into documentary filmmaking, because I think that is the best way to redeem our image, because it was not fiction that they used to destroy our image, it was these newsreels. They took actual footage of us and then gave it a different interpretation, so it is for us to say, “Hey, this is who we are and this is what we can do”, and then we use the camera to tell the people that those who came and told our story didn’t tell it right.

We are telling our own story and we are telling it right. This is who we are and there is no other person who can tell his own story than the person himself. If we really don’t sit down, and really go back and think about this and feel for ourselves, then there is no way we can go anywhere without looking back on our own sensibilities to try to see how we can bring back our own images.

FO: For Ghana would you say that this understanding is something that has not taken enough root? Looking at the industry itself, looking at government support for the industry, looking at the legislative frameworks, looking at the opportunities for funding, what would your assessment be for how much awareness there is?

JFA: Well, let me just say this government is, or should I say, the awareness is there and it is very deep and entrenched, but again that awareness is just periphery, say, in implementation. We know so much, we know what film can do, we know the importance of it, and we know the significance of what we can do with film, we know it is a cultural instrument, we know a lot of things and we can use that to promote our own culture.

However, government pays lip service. They know that when they are committing themselves, they’ve got to commit with money and they don’t want to do that.They don’t want to go there. Yes, they organise forums, bring people together, and say look, let’s think about this.

There was just a recent one that I went to called the National Media Fund that the government was putting some seed money into. We went there and there was a lot of talk, but the thing is that you don’t even know the criteria for this media fund. It is a major problem. Sustainability is something nobody is talking about. This government has instituted it and the next government comes and they are not too keen on it and that is the end of it.

You don’t set up a fund like this so that it dies once the governing party that was in power when it was set up has gone. You have to make clear your intentions, make clear your criteria, make clear your strategy and make sure that it stays and that it is part of the government’s legislation. It is something that is an act of parliament and they allocate money toward it every year, or it is part of the budget of government or something, or you get some taxes.

These things are not clear and that is what they do with media, with the creative arts, and with things that are not permanent.

Again, if I tell you that government’s responsibility to our training institute is just running courses and paying salaries, you will not believe me. Most of the equipment that we have is from donors — something from the French government, from the Germans, and that’s it. So, when you want equipment, you have to go looking for money outside. The government will pay your salary and give you money to run the courses that they give you.

I’m just saying that we need funding from government and we need a certain commitment. Film is such that you can use it to advance the government’s agenda, but they don’t see that. They only see that when it is time for campaigning. Then they are ready to commit themselves to it, but after that, that’s it!

I believe that if they are able to put their minds to these cultural institutions…I’m talking about the film industry… they will realise that the GDP will go up. It is just a strategy. They would also realise that they would be able to create a certain direction for citizens, because the more you put in to the community or into the society, and the more you put forth a certain type of image and reinforce those images, people will change. If you provide a certain direction to your citizens, you will change reality. Other countries have used it perfectly and they are able to survive it. We don’t have to invent it. We have seen it. We have examples. So why don’t we go do it?

FO: How many other training institutions are there apart from NAFTI for film?

JFA: NAFTI is the only public one.

FO: Are there any private ones?

JFA: Yes there are private ones that started in the last three or four years.

FO: How many would you say there are?

JFA: There was one that was started about six years ago but it died after three years. One, started by a Nigerian, is still running. Then there are other actor schools, but not really film, mainly acting. There is Gollywood, but he does vocational training for filmmakers. You come in for three months and you are taught the rudiments. Apart from these I don’t know of any.

FO: So, NAFTI is the principal film training institute?

JFA: Yes NAFTI is the principal film training institute in Ghana.

FO: How many film funding organisations are currently in the country?

JFA: Zero, Nil. None what so ever.

FO: So to ask the question, what is the size of funding or grants that are available to filmmakers?

JFA: Zero.

FO: Wow. No funding from government at all for filmmakers?

JFA: What you will find or you will get from the government for filmmakers to do is…when they have formulated a certain political strategy and they want to convince their citizens that they have done well, they will vote some money through the Ministry of Information. Then they’ll give it to a selected group of filmmakers to go and showcase their efforts in different sectors, such as agriculture, health, education or some developmental infrastructure, to be shown on television. That is how the government goes into this kind of funding.

FO: What kind of money? How much would that be?

JFA: It’s not much because of the kind of documentaries or the kind of films they expect. For instance, I was a recipient of one of those, they give you perhaps a thousand dollars per episode which you know cannot shoot a one minute advert.

FO: Ok, 1500 GH Cedis?

JFA: Or even less because the current dollar exchange is now 1.7 Ghana Cedis, so let’s say it’s about a thousand dollars, give or take at that time, yes.

If they’ve given you a number of these projects, it tends to be ok in a way, depending on how you organise it and plan your time. There is some little profit in it. If you are given health as a subject, for example, you would address the health across the country and you would make one film from every region, in the district, so you would have two from a region. If you have ten regions you are supposed to make about twenty of those. Twenty of those will give you about $20,000 USD. In bulk it looks ok, you can “cut corners” here and there, and maybe make it work.

FO: How do you fund your own films?

JFA: Let me give you a rundown of my activities and maybe that will help just a little. Since I own a company, I don’t have to spend physical cash for some things, such as the camera, the sound and like that. That we have. I don’t have to pay for them even though I cost it in my work. That’s one way of funding my documentary. Then, I fund it from my salary. Then with the profits I make from my company, I can put a little away for logistics and operating costs.

FO: So what happens with other filmmakers? How do other filmmakers do it? For instance, do they have the resources?

JFA: Well if they don’t have them, they don’t. That is why documentaries are so few, and that is why many people don’t go into documentary filmmaking — because of funding.

FO: Why go into the whole thing when you don’t have money? Or, why go into a project when you do not know whether you will finish?

JFA: I started this Rasta project in 2005. I started shooting five years ago but by the time I go back to the characters, they have grown older. I was shooting slowly, since I shoot when I have time, because it is something you cannot plan and shoot continuously you do not have the funding to continue. When you start shooting that way, sometimes you forget that you are even shooting a film and so you let it lie on your desk for another three months, and then something reminds you and prompts you to start again. That’s what happens, and when it stays too long you just forget about the whole thing.

FO: What about those who do fiction for instance, how are they funded?

JFA: Funding comes from the distributors.

FO: There are distributors that fund film? 

JFA: They have created a certain scheme for themselves. The guy who sells the films knows that he has a stake in the film that you make because if you don’t make the film, he does not make money. So, he gives you part of the money to make the film and when you make the film, you give it to him to sell and he can recoup his money. That is how they fund the films. Sometimes the distributors even suggest to them the kind of films they should make and they give them money to make it. If they don’t give them all of it, they give them at least a chunk of it.

FO: What is the average budget of those that do fiction?

JFA: $20,000 USD.

FO: What do you think is the average income they make?

JFA: It depends. One of them did a film that was made with $20,000 dollars, they call it Libya Akwantuo that means “The Journey to Libya”. The story was about Ghanaian illegal migrants who travel to Libya through the desert. It grossed 320 thousand Ghana Cedis and

I think it is the highest grossing one, because people were just interested in this Libyan story. It was topical at that time, because there were a lot of people moving from the middle belt towards Libya and there was a bus that left one of those towns to the desert every week. There were lots of bad stories coming back, so it was topical at that time.

FO: So, really there is no standardized funding structure?

JFA: No there is no standardized funding.

FO: What are the channels for distributing these films?

JFA: Channels for distributing are also still guerilla tactics.

FO: Explain?

JFA: You put your film under your armpit and go sell it physically. What they do is they hire vans, they put the movies inside, and then they get three, four, five people into the van. They put some sound system or megaphones in the car, and they blare music out and sell the movies. You will find these boys on the street with posters of the film and holding the DVD’s and they move between the cars, the people and they just sell the films. Now the trend has changed a little. What they do now is that they try to premiere it at Silverbird or at some other place and then after the premiere they start selling. They premiere it and show the film for another week before selling it on the street.

FO: How many cinemas are there?

JFA: There are two cinemas. I mean main cinemas — The National Theatre, where you can show a film and Silverbird. I don’t know of others.

FO: And Silverbird and the National Theatre have how many halls?

JFA: Silverbird, I think has about three or four halls, The National Theatre I think has just one for cinema.

FO: Basically, what’s the deal when a filmmaker takes a film to one of these places? I mean, what is the structure of the deal? Is it 30/40? Who gets what?

JFA: That I don’t know, I don’t know about the split. But it used to be 40/60.

FO: 40 going to whom?

JFA: The cinema.

FO: 40% is the cinema, and 60% to the filmmakers and they get to show it for about a week?

JFA: Yes a week, something like that. I don’t know about Silverbird, but with National Theatre, they don’t deal with percentages. You have to go and pay outright for the hall and then they show the movie. You are renting the place to show your movie and that’s it.

FO: Whether you fill the hall or you don’t?

JFA: That’s none of their business. That’s how it is with the National Theatre. You rent the place.

FO: In what areas of film production do you have the most challenge: pre-production, production, or post- production as a filmmaker in Ghana?

JFA: As a filmmaker in Ghana? Do you know why I am hesitating? Because each presents itself with its own challenge or challenges. For instance, if it is pre- production, funding is the main challenge. It’s easy to get a story, but how do you go about funding it? As part of your planning you are looking for the money and all that. That is one aspect of pre-production.

The production — that’s cool. Post-production for me with fiction is also cool, but with documentary, personally, that is what I find the most challenging. It is about how to make the story at the end of it. That is the challenge if it is documentary. However, if it isfiction, it is pre-production and for production you still need that kind of money because production has its own cost.

FO: What about issues on how you get information from the environment, sourcing it, in terms of research for your films?

JFA: With documentary, pre-production is also hell, because access to information is one thing, getting or looking for a kind of footage is also hell and then getting people to open up is another problem. I don’t know whether it pertains to us as Ghanaians or it’s an African thing, but people find it difficult talking about themselves and family. It’s like they think about the family in its totality. They look at the clan and think, what I am going to say? Will it affect the clan, my family? So they are always censoring themselves and it is always difficult to get people to open up, until they have developed a certain trust. With most of the documentaries we do, most times, we don’t have the time to develop that trust and loyalty. It’s a problem at a pre-production level when it comes to documentary filmmaking to build that trust to be able to get people to open up and then access the information.

A friend of mine wanted to do something about a father who investigated the killing of some people in a certain regime in Ghana and it happened around 1981-82. She was looking for the newspapers that carried the story about the father and that sort of thing. They went to the national archives, and surprisingly and mysteriously the newspapers from 1981 and 1982 didn’t exist in the archives. Where had the papers gone? Were they classified? Nobody knows. You could find 1948 papers but 81 and 82, no way. With documentary, that is the thing that cripples action.

FO: What areas of production do you think need funding the most from your experience as a filmmaker in Ghana?

JFA: In Ghana, I think production, because even if you look at fiction, you realise that production takes a chunk of the income of the whole production. In Africa, post-production doesn’t demand too much but production does, because you have to pay the actors, location and some of the things that they need for production.

With documentary, pre-production and post- production are the areas that I think we need some funding for, but again, it also depends on the type of documentary you are doing. There are some documentaries where I think production is the thing because you need to move or you need to stay in places for longer periods and that kind of thing. If it is post- production, these days technology has given us the edge over a lot of things. If you have your computer, you can edit your documentary in the cheapest way possible.

FO: What area has the most need of human resources in terms of training, whether it is production, pre- production and post-production?

JFA: The areas that we actually support for right now are in distribution, producing and production management.

Out of the rest, there is a way we can manage our way out of those problems. The problems we have now have to do with who would the producer be, who would produce the film, who would the manager be, who would manage the production?

Most of the problems that emanate from the screen are because we have not handled the producing and the production management well enough. If that is managed well, they can put a certain order to the way they do things. People actually have training and they know what to do when it comes to where they put the camera, what angle they should take and that kind of thing. They can get that. They can read and get that, but with production management and producing I don’t know. I think that we need some training.

At NAFTI we train everybody except producers and actors. Most film schools don’t even train them.

FO: Do you have documentary archives in this country? What is the state of archiving?

 JFA: On a scale of 1 to 10, I want to give you a rating…1%.

FO: In terms of archives?

JFA: Yes. Audio-visual archive are almost zero.

FO: Why is that? Is it that there is no structure for keeping materials?

JFA: It is that bad. It is not about even keeping them. It is about keeping and maintaining them.

I will give you another scenario. Once upon a time, our newsreels were all kept by the ISD — the Information Services Department — so newsreels shot by Ghana Films were all lodged at the ISD, because they were shot for them, so they were lodged there. So you can imagine all the Kwame Nkrumah speeches, projects, opening of the dams and some of the short skits that they were doing to sensitize people and all that, and even some of the early Ghanaian films that they did. The dramas that they shot were all lodged there.

The state of it now is that the silver and the nitrate chemical in the films have eaten up the positives. Almost all are gone. Kaput. Out of about six thousand films that were there, they were only able to salvage six hundred out of the six thousand. Of the six hundred, some of them have been red taped for restoration, and others, about sixty of them, they were able to be put on DVDs. That is how far they went.

We used to have negatives at the RANK laboratories in London. At a certain point, the government stopped paying, so the RANK Laboratories collected those films and dumped the negatives at the Ghana High Commission. They were there for almost three years or so and some of them just started deteriorating until Dr. Chris Hesse and some other people put pressure on the government to renew its contract with the laboratories. Most were salvaged, but some got destroyed as a result.

So, if it is about keeping them, then yes, we can keep them. However, maintaining them is another thing. When it comes to audio-visual archiving, yes we have it, but it is not something you can write home about.

FO: Should a new funding programme be introduced in your country, and what are the critical areas that you think that it should address? Please state your reason.

JFA: Yes I think that funding should be introduced. Especially with documentary filmmaking. People see it as a serious business and because of that, it is an area that people are not so much interested in, unlike entertainment or something to go and watch and laugh at.

However, I think that it is something we should pay a lot of attention to because of our history. History is not just about the past, history that can also speak of the future and also the present. We have a lot to tell, and as I said before we need funding to speak of who we are, to represent ourselves more clearly and more understandably, to be able to encourage ourselves with the films that we make, for people to be conscious about who they are. I don’t want to use the word “patriotic”, but using the documentary genre you can get people to act civilly.

The country that you are living in would probably appreciate it and you would be able to channel people’s ideas towards something positive. We are talking about positive things and we believe that with documentary, if we get some funding for it, it could change a lot of things within a particular country. It could highlight a certain direction.

FO: Which area of production, pre-production, post- production do you think funding should address?

JFA: I would say production. Yes, mainly production. People can sacrifice whatever energies they have to do research because they are passionate about the work that they are doing. They can do it, but they need help when it comes to production. I think that if it is channeled through production more films will be made than when they put it into pre-production where people could get the funding and make the pre- production but then they can’t get the funding to do the production.

Once films are made they can easily be edited, post- production can be done because the moment you finish shooting, you can always find a way to finish post-production. I just believe that when monies are channeled into production a lot more films can be made. There is sense in that.

FO: What would you imagine would be the criteria that would be acceptable, across the board, to filmmakers in Ghana if a fund was to be set up? What kind of filmmakers would be eligible for that funding? Who would manage that funding? Issues will emerge and in your opinion how should it be managed? Should it be managed through the guilds, 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 culture of the country?

JFA: I think that in terms of managing the funds, it would be best if it were an independent body that would probably be constituted of trustees.

Trustees should come from the filmmaking body or from stakeholders. They should be chosen, but not necessarily all of them. In managing funds like that you will probably need some experts in finance. For instance, if you had seven people, maybe five should come from the filmmaking body or industry. That would at least give a certain direction to where the funds should be going.

These trustees could handle the funding. Then when it comes to what kind of people should receive funding, it should be somebody who is qualified to make that film, because funds are difficult to come by and sometimes it is wrong to say that somebody must have a track record, but I think that is the only way to be sure that the film can be made. A track record does not mean that the filmmaker should have made fifty films.You could make one or two films and have a good track record because the films have been successful. One film is enough to say this person is good. Due to a lack of funding people are not able to make a lot of films and get a track record.

FO: How do you define success in filmmaking? When you say track record it means that this person has been successful for what?

JFA: Viewership, audience, and audience response because they make films for the audience.

FO: So you only give a grant to those whose films have been popular?

JFA: No. That is different from being popular. If I said the audience, maybe I should define that, but, not just a popular film.

Somebody who works with Basket Mouth (a comedian) to create a funny film and makes it into a short documentary will definitely get a viewership. But you would want to find out what the relevance of the film is to the people. It’s not about being popular, but about what the audience understands. I’d judge success by that measure. It would be a film that would good far, transcend the moment.

FO: You are a teacher of film. Do you worry about how your students will come out as directors? Is there a place to create a start up fund to allow us to even find the ones that have enough talent to make film in documentary?

JFA: Yes.There are a lot of funding agencies that categorise a way of funding. You even rightly mentioned emerging filmmakers. You have things like the Talent Campus. They know that you have to get them while they are young, when their minds are still fertile. Then you can pique their interest and groom them to stay in the business. It is a good idea. If there are funds, then yes, there should be a category created for student filmmakers or emerging filmmakers who can access a certain amount of money to make some shots. That would be a wonderful idea.

FO: In terms of training, what area should such a fund target? The education of filmmakers, or the development of skills of filmmakers?

JFA: I am addressing the issue of education in film and the institutions like NAFTI that educate filmmakers.

FO: What would you imagine would be an intervention of that fund? Which area would it be most significant to in NAFTI?

JFA: Helping student films is one of them. It is becoming difficult for students to be able to make their own films considering the high cost of tuition for student filmmakers and because of the nature of the course. It is capital intensive and a lot of money goes into it. So, if that fund makes some allowance for students to be able to access it for their student films I think it will go a long way to get them to make good films and to have good portfolios when they leave school so they can have a good start. I think it is a good thing.

FO: Are there distinct databases for filmmakers in Ghana?

JFA: Yes and no. Yes, for the guilds. The guilds that are there do have a database for their members, so that is lodged with the guilds, rather than at a central point.

FO: Is that data available? Is it open to anyone that might want to use it?

JFA: Yes, but it depends on what you want to use it for and it is subject to the rules and regulations of the various guilds. GAFTA (Ghana Academy of Film and Television Arts) has established itself as an umbrella body where all the guilds could belong, so in that way you can find a centralized point where GAFTA holds information about all the guilds and about filmmaking in general in Ghana.

FO: How is it going so far?

A: Unfortunately it is a work in progress. We are still building it.

FO: Are you a member or a founding member of GAFTA?

JFA: Yes, I am a strong member and a founding member. We started it in 2001.

FO: Can you tell me what the goals of GAFTA are?

JFA: The understanding here is that it is still under- going several metamorphoses. The main goals are to promote and maintain high standards in film and TV arts, maintain discipline and a code of ethics, promote research and training, maintain a library and an archive, award fellowships, scholarships and others. Above all, it seeks to protect the interest of member guilds.

When we started GAFTA, we started it as a membership academy. People would have to subscribe to it to be a member. Then, later on, we realised that if we did that we’d only create an elite group of educated filmmakers in the end and you would probably miss a lot of people that are actually in the business of filmmaking.

So we decided that we would probably incorporate everybody into it, but still work to create a certain sense of standards, order and ethics.

Right now the purpose of GAFTA is to get the guilds affiliated with it, to strengthen GAFTA, and to stand as a body that will see to their various welfares. It will be a pressure group for all the guilds.

FO: How many guilds are there and what are they made up of?

JFA: We have about nine guilds or so including all the disciplines of filmmaking: scriptwriting, directing, cinematography, editing, producers, film facilitators — those in the business of facilitating people who come for co-production. We have art directors as well.

FO: The whole of this comes under the umbrella of GAFTA? 

JFA: Yes, but the idea is to make sure we improve on the craft of filmmaking, because we want to be able to attract a lot of filmmakers into the country and film productions so we can make sure that people have access to knowledge of film. We are thinking of creating seminars, trainings and workshops. It’s not even formal, but more like short courses for people to be able to upgrade themselves and to create a certain sense of belonging, a kind of cultural relevancy, and to make sure there is a certain ideology to it.

I am not trying to say we are going to force people into believing one thing, but to say that yes we are filmmakers and we think we have certain responsibilities to create products that are good for our own country. We have a certain idea about what we are supposed to do and I think that GAFTA should be able to do that.

FO: Can you speak about leadership and membership of GAFTA and its guilds?

JFA: Leadership is by the guilds. GAFTA is a representative of all the guilds. The guilds nominate representatives that come into GAFTA and then they become the executive body of GAFTA.

FO: So, effectively, will such a fund be easily administered through GAFTA? Would the government be supportive of GAFTA self administering a fund for instance for the film industry?

JFA: We don’t want GAFTA to be tied to the strings of government. We want GAFTA to run independently from government and be an independent body that we believe can steer their affairs alone without any government interference.

GAFTA can be part of the administering of the funds by the expertise that it has because when it comes to looking at the kind of script that should be funded or which kind of filmmakers should be funded, I think they will be in the best position to do that. Administration of the fund by GAFTA is a good idea perhaps together with the experts.I think it’s a good idea. It could be  launched within a GAFTA set up if that is possible and could run comfortably there.

FO: Would it be acceptable for the foundation to try to fund Ghanaian films? Would it be accepted as something that is not political by the government of Ghana? Are there regulations in place that affect funding of filmmakers for instance by an outside source?

JFA: You see right now it is difficult to say because there is a bill that is supposed to be passed by parliament or by government to take effect which they have not yet done. We fought for it for the past 10 years. GAFTA has been in the forefront of fighting it for them to just pass the bill. It goes back and forth, from the Attorney General back to parliament and it’s never been done. Right now the bill is still lodged…I don’t know where, if it is with the Attorney General, with parliament or with the President.

FO: What is the bill supposed to say?

JFA: The bill is supposed to give a direction to the film industry and when I say the film industry, I mean generally, in the country. As to how it should run, how it should be constituted, government commitment to it, all that it is all part of the bill, including training and how training institutions should be run.

The bill is supposed to take care of all this and all the legal backing that helps make it exist are taken care of by the bill. It also takes care of co-productions, takes care of funding, such as from outside sources and like that. The bill is supposed to handle all that. It makes clear all the functions, objectives and the significance of the film industry in the country and that is what it is supposed to do.

FO: Who has a copy of this bill? Is there a public reading at all?

JFA: Not yet.

FO: Who are those promoting the bill? 

JFA: Only the stakeholders have been given copies to look at and return. What happened was that one copy was sent to GAFTA and then we made some input and then we sent it back.

FO: So GAFTA is aware of and promoting this bill?

JFA: Yes GAFTA is aware of and promoting this bill. I went to some of the meetings and we used to call it the film bill review committee. A lot of things needed to be changed and I could mention some of them.

One was that the bill had a lot of government interference which we thought was not going to be good for the film industry. Most of the committees that were to be set up within the framework of the bill had a lot of government representatives. For instance, if you had for example, seven members on your committee, you would find representatives from the President’s office, representatives from the Ministry of Culture, representatives from Information Services. They took about five, and then two or three would be coming from somewhere else. We felt that there was too much interference. Every time there is a change of government, these committees will have to be reconstituted and it won’t create any form of sustainability. It is not going to move the industry forward, so we decided that should be changed.

Another thing is that right now the film industry is under the Ministry of Information and we felt that if there is any ministry that we should belong to, it must be the Ministry of Culture.

Therefore, in the document we said that the film industry should be moved to the Ministry of Culture. That is where we can rightfully belong.

If it is done that way, then there are a whole lot of things that will change within the set up. You would not have the Ministry of Information, which is obviously the voice of the ruling  government rearing its head on the industry at all times.

FO: What platforms do you use as a strategy for distribution? Broadcasting, internet, TV, phones, mobile cinemas, film video clubs? What kind of strategy do people use here to connect to an audience?

JFA: Television, if it is to advertise the film. They do a lot of advertising on television and the mobile vans that go around. They hardly do internet because the kind of people who make the films are not interested in using the internet to sell their films. They want hard cash and they want it quick, so they do a lot of advertising on television to pique people’s interest in it and then they sell their films through the use of mobile vans.

However, for us, from the other side, I’d hate to say that we are the educated ones, but when we make our films, the festivals, film markets, and internet platforms are key to our distribution networks.

FO: How do you advertise your films? What medium do you use for audience motivation?

JFA: Internet. That is the way now, internet. FO: What do you do on the internet exactly? JFA: YouTube or video.

FO: You put your film on youtube?

JFA: You put up an excerpt or you put the whole thing on there.

FO: Which ways would you generate revenues for your film?

JFA: You only hope that somebody would want it and would want to buy it for television. It is a hope, but also a gamble. You gambled when you made the film, so you continue gambling. It is a risk, but I am not saying that is the best way to do it. You are asking about what we currently do. We make documentary out of passion. We make documentary because we think those stories have to be told, but not necessarily for commercial purposes. If it happens that somebody sees it and wants it, then you are in luck.

The films that I have made, I have not done for any commercialization of it. They were made for specific purposes.

FO: What film festivals run in Ghana? How many have run that you have you been involved in and that your films have been promoted in? And, would festivals also be a structural support system in the industry that will also require funding? Would you name the festivals and name their state?

JFA: Right now in the case of documentary — I’ll mention documentary first because that is my field — there are two festivals in Ghana that showcase documentary films and they are The Real Life Documentary Film Festival (TRLDFF) and The Environmental Film Festival. The Environmental Film Festival, given its name, is very specific. It is about the environment, so they show films about the environment and it happens once in a year. The Real Life Documentary Film Festival is another platform where documentary filmmakers can showcase their films and that also takes place once in a year.

These are the two areas and I think that if they are well funded they can expand because right now. TRLDFF runs in a limited way. It is not too wide. It is still small and we think that if it gets the needed funding it could go on to be like FESPACO, but it is the funding that is the problem and you need to put the structures together. As I am speaking now, I don’t know what structures exist for the Real Life Documentary Film Festival in Ghana.

They don’t have a recognizable office, maybe it’s virtual, but they don’t have anything here that I know of. The thing is organised in New York and is brought into Ghana and the platform is created. Ghana becomes a platform where filmmakers are brought together to watch their films and discuss and then expose their films to those that come around. I think they need funding to create real structures where every year people can submit their films.

A market could also come out of it. It is just a platform for showcasing film, but who knows? If there is funding, then a market could be created and then television producers could come and see what they can get out of it. When it comes to the other festivals, like those big festivals that show fiction, a lot of them have happened in Ghana and are what we call “the nine day wunderkind film festival”. They come in for one particular year and then the next year you don’t see them again, then another one emerges after three years and then maybe for two years it runs and then it just vanishes.

Right now one has just come. I think it started this year and it just happened two weeks ago and it is called FOFA (Festival of Film Africa). They have come into the picture with a lot of energy. I happen to be one of the members of the advisory committee and we worked on it for it to happen. The patronage for it wasn’t that good because it was the first time and I think a lot of publicity wasn’t done and again this was because of the funding. The publicity wasn’t wide enough, but at least they started something.

The idea of FOFA is mainly for the market. The festival is a part of it but they have a concentration on the market — to be able to sell African movies. I think it is a good initiative because distribution is a very big problem in Ghana and across Africa for that matter.

Many people make films and they don’t know how to distribute them. The distribution channels are just steeped in mystery or just shrouded. It’s like a cartel or mafia in that if you don’t belong to a particular group you can’t get your film distributed.

I am just saying that if these film festivals are well organised, patronized and well funded we would have natural distribution channels, because the platforms that they create are not just platforms that are limited to the festival. The festivals are linked to other larger festivals somewhere else and you would get a whole network — so when you are showing your film, it is like a collaborative work. All the other markets will also come to participate in your market and you can imagine how global that can be.

We believe that having a festival that has a market in it is the best way to go. Given the right support it can expand into something astronomical and help filmmakers in Africa to make it as well.



FO: Please introduce yourself, talk about what you do, about Eagle productions, its history and its activities in the industry.

SA: My name is Sitsofe Akoto. I am the head of productions with Eagle Productions, and at the same time I am the general manager here. Eagle Production ia a media house and we are into all sorts of productions including adverts, documentaries, films, series, and TV programmes.

Apart from production we are also into publishing. We have a magazine we publish, Entertainment Today Magazine, and also, we have a drama school, Eagle Drama College, which is also under Eagle Productions where we teach acting.

FO: How long has Eagle Production been in business? 

SA: Eagle Productions have been in business for 10 years now.

FO: How active are you guys in the area of documentaries and films?

A: Films are not very active. The reason why we have not been active with filmmaking is that Juliet Asante, the CEO, is basically interested in making a film that can cut across the whole. Not only in Ghana, but maybe outside too. What we are doing is developing a script with outsiders, which has not as yet been finished.

We have done documentaries before. We have done documentaries for companies including one for PPA, and we also did a documentary KAYAYO, and one for Speed Ghana. We’ve done about three or four documentaries.

FO: As a production company what would you say are the number of films, both documentaries and non- documentaries that are done in Ghana every year?

SA: Some time ago the industry was not very active and now the industry is very active. There a lot of producers who have come up now, and a lot of directors. So, if I put a number on it, I’d say that in a year, fiction and non- fiction…it could be like 500 movies made in a year.

FO: How do people get funding for these movies?

SA: The major funding comes from sponsors. We have individuals that are executive producers — individuals that are into funding of films/movies. They look at the script, see it has potential and they want to fund it and see what they can get out of it. There are also a lot of companies going into funding nowadays, so it’s mostly individuals or companies.

FO: Is there a government fund that a filmmaker could possibly tap into to get funding for a film?

SA: Not that I know of. It has been on debate for awhile that they should give us funding that we can use to fund our movies. It has been in parliament for a very long time now and is debated on. So, there is nothing like that for now, but it is in the pipeline and I hear it’s something they are looking into to see if it is possible.

FO: In terms of the type of films again, how popular are documentaries in Ghana? How many people are doing them, what numbers do you have on documentaries and what types are they?

SA: Documentaries are not very popular in Ghana. People do more fiction movies than documentaries. If I had to give a percentage, I’d say that out of 10% of the movies that are made, documentaries may be something like 4%. Yes 4%.

The kind of documentaries that have been made are mostly educative documentaries made to educate the general public on what this is, or what these people do, or what this is about, or what you need to know about this person, or this company, or this government or this political party, something like that. These are the kind of documentaries that are mostly made in Ghana.

FO: Why do you think documentary, perhaps as a way of expressing individual experiences, is not so popular here?

SA: First of all a lot of producers are not making documentaries because they don’t see them selling as much as feature films. When you make a feature film, people tend to buy or watch the feature more than the documentary. The most important thing is the money — the revenue that is gotten out of it. The revenue from feature films is more since people tend to watch features more than documentaries.

A lot of directors are not documentary directors here. There are just a few people that trained in documentary filmmaking. I was a student of NAFTI and at NAFTI if there were ten people in the class, only two would want to do documentary as their major. I think it is because it is the way it is seen in the industry. There are more features and people advertise and sponsor more features than documentaries. If you have a documentary and you go to a potential sponsor, the answer that they give you is not as encouraging as if you had a feature. With a feature, they know, no matter what, that people will watch it and people will buy it, but for a documentary it is not that way. It is not very safe to sponsor documentaries.

FO: What is the state of the broadcast industry? Does the broadcast industry commission works, whether it is fiction or non-fiction and if they do commission, how many documentaries do they commission? If I made a documentary would a TV station buy it from me for instance?

SA: No. In Ghana, it will interest you to know that the TV stations are not helping the producers. What we do, rather, is that we buy time from the station to show whatever content we have. If you have a documentary and even if it is educative, it is educating Ghanaians. If you want to show it, you have to buy the time on TV to show your documentary.

You go to the television station they tell you that they cannot buy beacuse they don’t have money to buy, but you can buy one hour on the TV and show your documentary. You realise that even for something that is supposed to help educate people, you have to buy the time to show that on TV. You can’t go to half of the private stations with your content as they’re not interested. The national television, GTV, does not buy documentaries from individuals either. You have to pay for the time to show your documentaries.

FO: Let’s talk a little about the industry itself. I understand there is an association called the Ghanaian Association of Film and Television (GAFTA). Is Eagle Productions part of, or a member of that association, and what is your assessment of a body like that and how effective is it?

SA: Eagle Productions, as far as I know, is not part of that yet. We have been approached and we told them we are thinking about whether we want to be a part of that organisation or not. I think it is not a bad idea to have an organisation like that because there has to be somebody who sees to the interest of producers and filmmakers in Ghana, because as individuals we have problems, and it is difficult to listen to each individual.

However, if there is an organisation that you can go to and make a complaint, or if you need something to be done in the industry, then it is good that they represent all the producers, that they represent all the filmmakers and they can go ahead and lay a petition or whatever we are asking for in front of whoever is supposed to listen. All in all, it is not a bad idea that there is an organisation like that.

FO: What do you know of the organisation right now? Are they effective? Is it an organisation that all the filmmakers consider effective in terms of representation of filmmakers here?

SA: I understand it is a collection of appointees from the guilds. I haven’t really seen any major influence from them yet. I don’t know, I don’t think they’ve been in existence for very long, but as for doing something major for us to see that they are really representing us…no.

FO: How long have they been in existence?

SA: I think 2 years, about or close to 2 years.

FO: The bill that you say is in parliament, GAFTA, is supposed to be championing the bill.

SA: That is how it should be, yes.

FO: In the absence of a fund, if GAFTA were to be put in charge of administering a fund for filmmakers for instance, what would be your reaction to that?

SA: That would be nice. It would be great because the main challenge of filmmakers in Ghana is funding.

Making movies is very expensive nowadays.You realise that the reason most of the movies that don’t come out well is due to lack of funding. Some films come out and the quality is not very good and the acting is below average because they are cutting costs. They want to do a low budget movie so they cut cost in every way and then they end up not getting a very good movie.

Most of the good movies that are in the industry now are here because there is funding. They are funded so they get the best actors, and the best locations. Everything is the best and so they come up with very good movies.



Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d’Ivoire on the east. Liberia’s coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open to a plateau of drier grasslands. The country possesses 40% of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest. Liberia has a hot equatorial climate, with significant rainfall during the May to October rainy season and harsh harmattan winds the remainder of the year. Liberia covers an area of 111,369 km2 (43,000 sq mi) and is home to about 3.7 million people. English is the official language, while over 30 indigenous languages are spoken within the country.

Along with Ethiopia, Liberia is one of the two modern countries in Sub-Saharan Africa without roots in the European colonization of Africa. Beginning in 1820, the region was colonized by freed American slaves with the help of the American Colonization Society, a private organisation that believed ex-slaves would have greater freedom and equality in Africa.



Filmmaking in Liberia is still at its infancy. Frankly, there is no known evidence of a robust effort to establish a local film industry. Much of the early efforts were those of government, which commissioned specific films on a needs basis on presidential visits or other occasions considered of national importance. Many of the early documentaries were commissioned by the government and made by foreigners. Others were commissioned by private sector players like the large rubber plantation companies such as Firestone and B. F. Goodridge, or the mining companies such as Liberia Mining Company, Bong Mining Company or Liberia American Swedish Mining Company.

Later during the 60’s, the government of Liberia established the Audio-visual Division of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs & Tourism (now the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Culture). The early documentary makers were Stanley Blay and Frank Forti. However, the subjects of these documentaries were overwhelmingly biased towards promoting government image and economic development, and so there was a heavy dose of footage on trade, commerce, political state events, and the international travels of the president.

The documentaries commissioned by government were often used in support of its international relations, as they were distributed through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its embassies worldwide. The private sector commissioned documentaries were stored in their headquarters with little exposure in Liberia, and no public access to them.

The result is that the power of the documentary medium has never been fully exploited in Liberia. Proper storage was always a problem, especially with the space requirements of the old reel-to-reel. Even the small u-matic formats required significant space and temperature conditions.

The 14-year civil war wreaked havoc on the development of the film industry in Liberia. The entire film library of the Liberia Broadcasting Service, custodian of the government-produced documentaries, was abandoned and left in the blazing sun and rain- drenched destroyed building of the LBS. It is rumored that many or all of the reel-to-reel and the videotapes were burned for lack of space. Fortunately, about 500 u-matic one-hour tapes were rescued by the Blamadon Center for the Arts (BCA) and funding for restoration and preservation of these tapes is being explored. When completed, the tapes will be stored in the digital archive section of the BCA and used as core material for weekly film/discussion series for students, teachers, researchers and the public.

Excerpt provided by James Emmanuel Roberts, former Deputy Minister of Education, Monrovia and documentary filmmaker.




Liberia, like its neighboring country, Sierra Leone, has been through a civil war that left the country devastated and many of its historical artifacts destroyed.

The film industry is relatively young, but Liberian feature films are a common sight in capital city. Documentaries, however, do not seem to share the same platform. It is still a relatively unexplored area.

According to Elizabeth Hoff, the Deputy Minister of Technical Services, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, the civil war destroyed most of the country’s audio-visual archives.

James Emmanuel Roberts, former deputy minister of education and a documentary filmmaker, points out however, that some audio-visual tapes were reclaimed and are now archived at the Balmadon Center for the Arts in Monrovia.

Professional and Developmental Support:

There is little or no structure in the film industry in Liberia. There are no funds available for filmmakers from the government or private organisations and there are no film schools, government or private.

The film industry in Liberia is said to be regulated by the technical arm of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism — the Ministry of Technical Services Department. There is only one reported advocacy group in Liberia, called the Movie Union of Liberia. They do not have a website but media presence suggests that they have been active for the past 3 years. There are no film festivals in Liberia. There is mention of a copyright board that was appointed by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2008. However they do not seem to be active.

The government-owned broadcasting station, Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), does not commission content. Filmmakers have to pay for their work to be aired.

Distribution and audience cultivation:

Feature length films are distributed in the form of DVDs via street hawkers who are a common sight in Monrovia. There is only one functional cinema in the Capital city Monrovia: the Rivoli cinema.

Audience cultivation is through posters, banners, radio, TV adverts and bill boards. Documentary films are distributed via the internet (Facebook, My Space, YouTube). This is the primary means of distribution of documentaries as there are no film festivals in Liberia.

Legal Framework and regulatory environment

A representative from the Ministry of Information insists the government will have no objections if funding were to be brought in for filmmakers as long as it goes through proper government processing.


There are no film festivals in Liberia.



Purpose and Overview of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism hereafter referenced as “MICAT” was created by an Act of Legislature in 1965 and subsequently reorganised under Decrees 46 and 47 of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC).

MICAT is statutorily charged with the responsibility to develop and disseminate factual information about Liberia’s culture and tourism at home and abroad. The MICAT is also tasked to promote Cultural and Tourism activities through various cultural and traditional dances, artistic and historic exhibitions on display at the National Museum, as well as through the development of tourism or touristic sites such as the Providence Islam and many more.

MICAT is comprised of five main programmes which are:

  • Technical Services,
  • Information Services,
  • Cultural Affairs and Tourism,
  • Administration/Management and Foreign Mission

These various programmes have bureaus or divisions that coherently coordinate the day-to-day running of the entire MICAT.

In fulfilling its mandate, the MICAT disseminates government policies and programmes through its regular Thursday Press Briefing, Press Releases, Radio and Television Talk Shows, Community Outreach, Audio and Television, Graphics and Billboards, the Internet, the New Liberia Newspaper (the official publication that comes out of the MICAT), and many other non- conventional means of reaching the general public.

The Technical Services Department is the technical arm of the ministry headed by the Deputy Minister for Technical Services, Mr. Robert W. Kpadeh.

Deputy Minister of Technical Services Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Hon. Rixck Barsigiah.

This department is divided into several main pro- grammes that are named below:

  • Liberia News Agency (LINA)
  • Central Printing Incorporated (CPI)
  • Technical Services/Utilization
  • Motion pictures Review Division
  • National Communication Bureau
About the Liberia Broadcasting System

The Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) is a state- owned radio network in Liberia. Founded as the Eternal Love Broadcasting Corporation in 1960, the network was owned and operated by Rediffusion, London until 1968, when management passed to the Government of Liberia. The network began broadcasting television as the Liberia Broadcasting Corporation in 1964.

Following the 1980 coup, the newly formed People’s Redemption Council gave the network its current name. As a result of the First Liberian Civil War, the company ceased broadcasting in 1990, and the network’s premises were heavily damaged by war and looters over the next seven years.

Following the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, the network began providing radio broadcasts, though the lack of proper equipment limited the broadcasts to a sixty-mile radius around Monrovia.

In 2008, the Chinese government installed a new 10kW FM transmitter, along with several secondary transmitters throughout the country, which extended the network nationwide. Additionally, there are plans to reestablish a television service for the Monrovia area.



19th November 2008


Monrovia, Liberia — The Government of the People’s Republic of China has turned over to the Liberian Government newly renovated and expanded facilities of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS). Wednesday’s ceremony also marked the formal launch of the China/LBS Radio Project, under which the Chinese Government has provided a 10-thousand kilowatt FM transmitter to boost the station’s radio transmission throughout the country. A second transmitter has also been provided by the Chinese to relay English programmes produced by China Radio International throughout Liberia. The transmission will also provide three hours of radio programming in Chinese.

Speaking at the turning over programme, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lauded the growing partnership between the Governments of China and Liberia. The President acknowledged the constructive role China continues to play in all areas of Government’s development under the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, otherwise known as ‘Lift Liberia’. China’s decision to expand the broadcast facilities of the country, said the President, could not have come at a better time given the ever increasing need to adequately inform Liberians of the progress taking place in the country. The President also lauded the management of LBS for its leadership role and partnership with Chinese experts in ensuring the completion of the project.

Source: id=950 


4 October 2011

Free speech, underpinned by free, unhindered access to information, advocates of pluralistic democracy say, is the foundation of a free, progressive society. Postwar Liberia’s political dispensation promises just this, but with the current limitation placed on the nation’s radio and television services, some say Liberia has a long way to go towards achieving a “progressive society status”. Now, it seems the Liberian adage, “Every disappointment is a blessing”, seems to hold true for the nation’s communication sector, given what is unfolding at the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS). The Analyst, reports.

Barely a week after “rescuing” the Liberian Broadcasting System (LBS), amidst controversy, the system’s acting managing director, Professor Alhaji G. V. Kromah, has reportedly embarked upon a process that will extend and improve radio signals to rural Liberia. The Analyst learned yesterday that the management, under Mr. Kromah, has begun reactivating the system’s rural transmitters to begin broadcasting to parts of rural Liberia that were hitherto off-limit to radio signals. According to LBS Acting Director-General, Professor Alhaji Kromah, the management, by last weekend, completed the reactivation of one of the three inactive transmitters, which is situated in the provincial city of Zwedru in southeastern Grand Gedeh County.

The reactivation of the Zwedru transmitter, he said, prepared the system to cover most of the Southeast, which includes Maryland, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, River Gee, and Sinoe counties. The new LBS boss, who returned to the capital from inspection of LBS facilities in Bong and Lofa counties yesterday, disclosed that management was also considering reactivating the Maryland County transmitter to boost radio signals to the Southeast.

He disclosed that the Lofa County transmitter, now near completion, would begin full relay of LBS broadcasts by this weekend, all things working according to plan. Professor Kromah said thereactivation of these facilities was part of the priorities that the LBS Board of Directors approved since he took over as acting director-general a week ago. He said the activities would  enable the radio service of the Liberian Broadcasting System, ELBC, to reach out to voters and non-voters in rural Liberia.




Information provided by the Deputy Minister of Technical Services, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Elizabeth Hoff
  • Liberia has no film/documentary archive or a body that details the volume of films/documentaries produced within a five-year The Ministry of Information previously had such information, but all of that was damaged during the war years and has not been restored.
  • There are no government or private film schools in
  • The regulatory body for films/documentaries in Liberia is the Ministry of Information.
  • The Movie Union of Liberia is the advocacy group for films/documentaries. Any individual or group seeking to produce a documentary or film in Liberia must first seek permission from the Ministry of Information and work in collaboration with the Movie

There are no structures in place for funding film in Liberia, governmental or non-governmental.


This organisation does not have a website but publications on the media suggest they have been active for the past 3 years.


LIMU was established April 17, 2004, accredited by the Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism, Ministry of Labor & Ministry of Commerce & Industry to help government regulate movies and its related activities.…/Liberia-Movie- Union/299188486843521



Before Liberia’s civil war, James Emmanuel Roberts worked in theatre, dance and television for more than 10 years. He earned an Ed.M. in administration, planning and social policy analysis from Harvard University. He returned to Liberia in 1999, establishing an NGO that designed training programmes for educators. In 2006, he was named Deputy Minister for Planning, Research and Development for the Ministry of Education, where he had direct responsibility for planning and implementing a national education recovery programme. He is currently the Founder and Artistic Director of the Blamadon Center for the Arts.He is the executive director of the documentary film, No More Selection, We Want Elections (2005).

Deputy Minister of Technical Services Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Hon. Rixck Barsigiah.

Members from the Liberian Movie Union

Sylvanus Mohamed Turay is a key figure in the establishment of the Liberian Movie industry, a founding member of the Liberian Movie Union (LIMU) and its first elected Executive President. He was appointed a member of the Copyright Board of Liberia by the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, where he served for three years. As an independent film producer, director, editor, writer, and an award winning actor; he has produced films like: Tears of Marriage, Complex Decision 1&2, Guided Destiny 1&2, Home Again and 10 video documentaries for the UN and other Non Governmental Organisations.

Kadiatu Kaba has a BA in mass communications. She has served in various roles over the years including as a broadcaster for Ducor Broadcasting, a Public Relations Officer for Amnesty International, an Investigative Journalist for the election process. She is currently Vice President, Liberia Movie Union.



Taking into consideration that I have not yet conducted an on the ground assessment on the state of the film industry and documentary filmmaking in Liberia, this assessment is based on correspondence with filmmakers there.

Liberia seems to share many attributes of Sierra Leone, they are neighboring countries, they have both been through a civil war that devastated lives, destroyed historical data and left countless stories untold. The film industry in both countries is very young and underdeveloped.

From this perspective, I would say the development of skills of filmmakers is crucial. There has to be some kind of investment in Media training. I would recommend critical support for a media school with a curriculum that not only deals with the technical understanding of production, but also deals with the creative side of production and the interrogation of content.

As in all the other West African countries I have visited, the broadcast industry in Liberia does not commission content, therefore Media training also needs to familiarize these filmmakers with the use and power of the internet as a platform for the promotion and exhibition of their work. They need to have a familiarity with promotion strategies using the social media channels so that they can aggregate an audience for their work and also potentially use these channels for distribution until better options evolve.

I would suggest as well that the government of Liberia be a partner in the establishment of this training structure and infrastructure – including assisting with making equipment available, another factor that is critical. However, the learning/training environment needs to be open enough for these young filmmakers to be able to express themselves.

The government also owns a major broadcast structure that could open its schedule to permit documentary filmmakers cost-free access to broadcast their works.

Funding for documentary filmmaking is necessary to nurture the growth of documentary filmmaking in Liberia. There are Non-governmental organisations on the ground in Liberia doing post-war rehabilitation work. My suggestion would be for funds to be administered through one of these NGOs until an alternative funding structure is implemented.

What really needs to be built immediately is the capacity of these vibrant filmmakers to emerge as strong, viable and creative voices in documentary.

— Femi Odugbemi


Nigeria is situated in the West African region and is bordered to the north by the Republics of Niger and Chad. There are two basic seasons — the wet season which lasts from April to October, and the dry season which lasts from November till March.

Nigeria is famous for her huge population of about 150 million people — the largest national population on the African continent.

Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba are the major ethnic groups and constitute over 40 per cent of the population.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria consists of thirty-six states, and the administrative headquarters and capital city is Abuja, located in the Federal Capital Territory, which is geographically situated in the middle of the country.

Lagos is a port city and the most populous city in Nigeria. The UN estimated the city’s population at 11.2 million in 2011. The New York Times estimates that it is now at least twenty-one million, surpassing Cairo as Africa’s largest city. It is clear that whatever the size, and however the city is defined, Lagos is the center of one of the largest urban areas in the world.




According to previous research and findings, Nigeria’s first contact with cinema was in 1903. Herbert Macaulay, a Nigerian nationalist, invited Balboa and Company — who were then doing an exhibition tour of silent films on the West African Coast — to Nigeria. The films were shown at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos in August 1903.

The first film shot in Nigeria was in Jos, Plateau State, in 1904. The film was titled PALAVER. Film production, distribution and exhibition was restricted to Lagos where it competed with concerts and drama shows. Gradually, however, it fanned out to towns in the immediate hinterland of Lagos and beyond it. As the country became more industrialised and urbanised, there was a need to establish distribution/exhibition centers in these new areas and in no time, the branches of the distribution and exhibition companies had spread all over the country (Nweke, 1995).

The Colonial Film Unit (CFU) was the main producer of films in the colony and was funded through the Colonial Development Welfare Act. The CFU made propaganda films. All the films were to help the spread of British imperialism (Rosaleen, 1981:5 in Ekwueme, 2000).

There were two main approaches to production at this time — the affirmation of the coloniser’s culture as better and the negation or mockery of the colonised culture. Films like A NEW FIRE BOMB and THE BRITISH ARMY reflected the mighty power of the colonialists while films such as TARZAN OF THE APES showed Africans as inferiors who needed to be led around by the colonialists.

With the attainment of independence, the Colonial Film Unit (CFU) became the Federal Film Unit (FFU). The primary function of the Federal Film Unit was the production of documentaries. These documentaries were funded by the government and sometimes international organisations like UNICEF. Foreign film distributors and exhibitors succeeded in turning attention from the documentaries to themselves. However, the searchlight had shifted from colonialism and the need for independence to the need to restrict neo-colonialism. Black became beautiful, a thing to be explored and enjoyed and the colonialists came to be seen as rapists of the rich culture of Nigeria and indeed, Africa. Novelists like Chinua Achebe emerged and used creative writing to show the colonialists as disrupters of a noble and pure indigenous culture.

Meanwhile, Nigerians became involved in the produc- tion of films and by 1970, the first indigenous feature film was KONGI’S HARVEST written by Wole Soyinka.

In 1979, the Nigerian Film Corporation was established to provide structural backbone for the development of the industry in terms of manpower, training, marketing assistance and infrastructure. A decree validating its existence was released by the government and a facility was allotted to it in Jos, Plateau State, but it did not help the industry much.

By the mid 1980s it was nearly impossible for films to be made on celluloid. Film stocks were expensive to import, and celluloid was expensive to process. Rushes had to be taken abroad for development and other processing and coupled with it was the harsh economic scenario in the country. Thus many filmmakers opted for the use of videotape as it was more economical, easily accessible and inexpensive to edit, unlike the celluloid.


The release of the box-office movie LIVING IN BONDAGE in 1992 by NEK Video Links, owned by Kenneth Nnebue in the eastern city of Onitsha, set the stage for Nollywood as it is known today. The story goes that Kenneth Nnebue had an excess number of imported video cassettes which he then used to shoot the first film. The huge success of this film set the pace for others to produce other films or home videos. The first Nollywood films were produced with traditional analog video, such as Betacam SP, but today almost all Nollywood movies are produced using digital video technology.

The primary distribution centers are Idumota Market on Lagos Island, and 51 Iweka Road in Onitsha in Anambra State. Currently, Nigerian films outsell Hollywood films in Nigeria and many other African countries. Some 300 producers turn out movies at an astonishing rate — somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 a year. Thirty new titles are delivered to Nigerian shops and market stalls every week, where an average film sells 50,000 copies.

A hit may sell several hundred thousand. Discs sell for two dollars each, making them affordable for most Nigerians and providing astounding returns for the producers.

Most of the films are produced by independent companies and businessmen. However, the big money for films in Nigeria is made in the direct-to-video market. A typical Nollywood film has a budget of $20,000-$40,000, the largest producers make 20 to 40 titles a year and an average movie sells 50,000 copies, according to iROKO Partners, which distributes DVDs in Africa and streams videos for international subscribers online using a similar model to Netflix. With this type of return, more and more are getting into the film business there.

By most reports, Nollywood is a $500-million industry and it keeps growing. According to Frank Ikegwuonu, author of “Who’s Who in Nollywood”, about 1,200 films are produced in Nigeria annually.

In 2009, UNESCO described Nollywood as being the second-biggest film industry in the world behind India. The ratio of feature length films produced to documentaries is approximately 10:3 annually.




Filmmaking in Nigeria is highly concentrated in the Lagos area and there is a thriving market for feature length films. Documentaries however are not as popular as feature length films. Most documentaries made are corporate documentaries as funding is provided upfront.

Filmmakers in Nigeria

Need funding for the production of documentaries, training and development of skills for young filmmakers, access to archives and research related materials and government intervention in the broadcasting of documentary works via the Nigerian Broadcasting Cooperation (NBC). This will help with distribution of documentaries and also assist in creating a wider market in Nigeria.

In terms of Professional Developmental Support, there is a 200 million dollar fund from the Federal Government of Nigeria for filmmakers, but the general consensus is that it is almost impossible to access these funds. There is a basic structure in the film industry in Nigeria, served by the presence of film regulatory bodies — Nigerian Film Corporation and The National Film and Video Censors Board. There is a government film school, The National Film Institute (NFI) that offers documentary filmmaking as a full course and there are several private film institutions.

There are advocacy groups for filmmakers like the Independent Television Producers Association (ITPAN) an advocacy group for documentary filmmakers, called the International Documentary Film Forum (iREP), several guilds and organisations.

Several film festivals take place yearly in Nigeria, including The Zuma Film Festival, Real Life Documentary Film Festival, and iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival.

There is a Government broadcasting house, National Television Authority NTA, with over 72 channels broadcasting throughout the whole of Nigeria.

Distribution and audience cultivation

The Nollywood industry is a big one and it is thriving. Feature length movies can be found in DVD format and they are sold by street hawkers everywhere. There are several cinema houses throughout Nigeria, the most popular and widespread being Silverbird Cinema and it has become the custom for films to be premiered before being released in a DVD format. Audience cultivation is through TV and radio adverts, billboards, posters, Blackberry phones and the internet. Documentary films do not have a DVD market and are primarily distributed via the internet (Facebook, YouTube, My Space) and film festivals.

Structure and focus of funding

Funding should be focused on building the skills of filmmakers, especially in documentary filmmaking, equipment and funding for the production of documentaries, as most filmmakers find it hard to source funds. The general consensus of filmmakers is that funding should be structured in such a way as to avoid it going through government, preferably by a private organisation or NGO. Eligibility for funds will be based on previous works and the track record of a filmmaker. A committee will handle any issues that may arise.



About NFC

The film industry as a tool for national mobilisation towards nation building is enormous as it serves as a means of communicating, informing, enlightening, educating the populace. It also serves as a vehicle for projecting the richness of the nation’s art and culture as well as natural endowments to the outside world. Film is not only an art but also an industry serving as a source of wealth creation and employment generation.

It was in recognition of the potential of film as a tool for nation development that the Federal Government in 1979 established the Nigerian Film Corporation through Decree (Act) No. 61 of 1979, as a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Information.

The Act empowers the Corporation to lay a solid foundation for the development of a virile and sustainable film industry and cinema culture in Nigeria. The Corporation has the responsibility of planning, promoting and organising an integrated and efficient film industry in Nigeria, in accordance with the broad socio-economic policies and objectives laid down by the Federal Government from time to time.

NFC serves as an umbrella body for the quartet: Nigerian Copyright Commission, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, National Film and Video Censors Board. The NFC is in charge of the archives and a lot of the documentaries of pre-colonial Nigeria with the BBC can be found here. They are also in charge of the National Film Institute, which is the only main government film school in Nigeria


The Vision of the Corporation is to drive the development of a vibrant motion picture industry that promotes Nigerian cinema heritage globally.


Creating an enabling environment for the sustainability, development and promotion of the Motion Picture Industry in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Film Corporation is the sole film agency charged with the responsibility of creating the enabling environment that promotes creativity, development and opportunity in the Nigerian Motion Picture Industry.


Decree No. 61 of 1970 was the first indigenous legal instrument regulating issues relating to copyright in Nigeria. This Decree was promulgated just after the Nigerian civil war ended but salient provisions in the law did not foresee the rapid socio-economic development, as well as influx of products of advanced technology into the country, which made illegal reproduction of works protected by copyright much easier. The consequence of the inadequacy of Decree 61 to protecting creativity and scholarship was high scale piracy that robbed creators, organisations and individuals who helped produce or disseminate creative works, as well as the society, of potential income.

As a result of increased pressure from artists, authors and creators who are originally the copyright owners, the then Federal Military Government promulgated into law the Copyright Decree No. 47 of 1988, which now exists as Copyright Act Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The Act, which has been aptly described as one of the best of its kind, not only created most favorable conditions for actualization of authors’ potentials through comprehensive protection of creative works, but also incorporated the establishment for the first time, of a machinery for the administration of copyright and neighboring rights matters in Nigeria, i.e. Nigerian Copyright Commission.

In 1988, the then President and Commander-in- Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, approved the establishment of the Nigerian Copyright Council which was inaugurated in August 1989 with a Governing Board. It had the sole mandate for the administration, protection and enforcement of all matters on copyright in Nigeria.

Owing to the need to align the Council with the emerging trend in global copyright administration and enforcement, its status was changed to a Commission in 1996. Subsequently, the Nigerian Copyright Act was amended twice by the Copyright (Amendment) Decree (No. 98) of 1992 and Copyright (Amendment) Decree (No. 42) of 1999.

The justification for the establishment and later upgrading of the status of the Commission, as well as the amendments of the Copyright Act, was to adequately cater to the rising national and international responsibilities within the copyright industry and emerging challenges in the sphere of copyright globally.

Before the 1992 Amendment of the Copyright Act (Decree No. 47 of 1998), the Nigerian Copyright Council as it then was, functioned largely as an administrative agency for copyright matters in Nigeria. It had no statutory powers of enforcement or of apprehending offenders of the provisions of the Act. Most activities of the then Council were centered on public enlightenment workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. as a way of creating the necessary awareness on the new Act and its implications for the copyright community in the country.

The Commission, in that scenario, prompted the teeth to bite and this mitigated the barrage of criticisms by right holders who felt that what was needed was a more potent law to deal with the problems of piracy and other copyright violations. It was the ensuing agitation by authors and other interest groups in the industry that led to the amendment of the principal Act in 1992.

One unique outcome of the 1992 Amendment of the Act was the provision in Section 32A (now Section 38 of Cap C28 Laws Federation of Nigeria, 2004) of the said Act for the appointment of Copyright Inspectors with specific powers to enforce the law. By virtue of the said section of the Act, a Copyright Inspector is vested with powers of enforcement of the Copyright Act, similar to the powers of the Police under the Police Act. Thus, the initial statutory mandate of the Commission as an administrative agency was extended to cover enforcement and regulatory functions. This threw up challenges of the structural status of the agency. The first structure was the constitution and establishment of the then National Anti-Piracy Committee made up of representatives of authors’ associations and other interest groups with the mandate to reduce the scourge of piracy in the country. Similar structures were put in place at the state levels through the assistance of the Councils for Arts and Culture in the states.

Retrospectively, copyright, under the 1970 Act, was supervised by the Ministry of Trade alongside trademarks, patents and designs, which was not administered by any government agency. At inauguration, however, the Commission became a parastatal of the then Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

In implementation of the Federal Government White Paper of Year 2000 on Harmonization of Government Agencies and Parastatal, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at a Federal Executive Council meeting in February 2006, ordered the transfer of the responsibility for the supervision of Nigerian Copyright Commission from the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Federal Ministry of Justice. The objective of the transfer was to properly align the mandate of the Commission with the overall administration of justice in Nigeria as well as ensure conformity with international best practices in the copyright system.

For administrative, enforcement and regulatory purposes, the Commission has its Headquarters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, with nine (9) Zonal Offices and five (5) Liaison Offices spread across the six (6) geopolitical regions of Nigeria.


To harness the potential of creativity for national development.


To advance the growth of the creative industry in Nigeria through the dissemination of copyright

knowledge, efficient administration and protection of rights.

  • Strengthen the policy and legislative framework for a more effective copyright protection;
  • Increase the level of copyright awareness;
  • Promote effective and proactive enforcement of rights;
  • Strengthen human resource and institutional capacity for better service delivery;
  • Maintain a policy of strategic engagement with

The Commission is guided by the following core values:

C – COMMITMENT: Commitment to the mandate.

O – OPENNESS: Openness and transparency.

R – RESPONSIVENESS: Responsiveness to stakeholder needs.

E – EFFICIENCY: Efficiency in service delivery


Under the supervision of the Director–General, the Director-General’s Office performs the following duties:

  • Directs action on the day-to-day administration of the Commission;
  • Co-ordinates and supervises activities of all Departments and Zonal Offices of the

The Regulatory Department which co-ordinates the commission’ schemes was created in 2008 out of theLegal Department. It has a statuary duty to carry out all regulatory functions in the implementation of the hologram, video, optical discs, copyright notification, video rental and collection management organisations schemes.


The Legal Unit/Legal Adviser is directly under the office of the Director General. The Unit is headed by a Director who must be a legal practitioner by profession. The head unit advises the Director-General on all legal matters in the Commission.


The Administrative Department was created in 1989 when the Commission was established. There are six units under the department. They are: Appointment Promotion and Discipline, Staff Welfare and Training. Establishment and Records, Transport and Maintenance, Store and Supplies and General Administration.


The department is responsible for the management of the commission’s account. It also keeps the financial records as well as maintaining relations within government agencies with statuary responsibilities, disbursement of funds and remittances.


The department is responsible for planning, making necessary research and provides useful statistics for the day running of commission.


Nigerian Copyright Institute (NCI) is an arm of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) with primary responsibility for specialised copyright training, teaching, research and capacity building. To this end, the NCI offers various training and learning platforms to members of staff; stakeholders, administrators and policy makers in the copyright industries, IP teachers and researchers, and members of the Bar and Bench as well as the general public. It is also responsible for the dissemination of intellectual property knowledge to children and the development of curricula and appropriate text materials for use in schools.


The Enforcement Department was created out of the Enforcement and Public Enlightment Department in 1996. It is responsible for surveillance, inspection of suspected piracy outfits and arrest, investigation and general enforcement of copyright infringers.

Source: departments-units-functions



The Role of the NFVCB in the Nigerian Film Industry

The National Film Video Censors Board is the regulatory body set up by Act No.85 of 1993 to regulate the film and video industry in Nigeria. The Board is empowered by law to classify all films and videos whether imported or produced locally. It is also the duty of the Board to register all films and video outlets across the country.

The functions of the Board are:
  • To license a person to exhibit film and video works;
  • To license a premises for the purposes of exhibiting film and video works;
  • To censor and classify films and video works;
  • To regulate and prescribe safety precautions to be observed in licensed premises;
  • To regulate and control cinematographic exhibitions; and
  • To perform such other functions as are necessary or expedient for the full discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on it by this Decree. The establishment of the Board therefore empowers it to assess, classify and register films and video works and monitor film outlets across the country.

This policy is the outcome of an effort which began in 1991, when the Nigerian Film Corporation empaneled a body to harmonise the existing sectoral policies and laws relating to film.

The panel produced a draft National Film Policy which was presented to the National Council on Information at its meeting held in Jos in May 1991, While commending the effort, the Council directed that a National Workshop on Film Policy be convened, involving every sector of the film industry including relevant Governmental and Non- governmental organisations.

Consequently, a National Film Policy Workshop was organised by the Nigerian Film Corporation from the 25th to 29th of May 1992, at the Hill Station Hotel, Jos.

Participants were drawn from private film producers, distributors and exhibitors, film consumers, film critics, film societies, academia, media practitioners and relevant Governmental and Non-Governmental organisations.

The workshop considered several papers on all the relevant sub-themes at both plenary and committee levels, the reports of which formed the basis for this policy.

Film, in the context of this policy is used on all- inclusive sense of all media projected images, notwithstanding the medium or projection: whether it is small screen (of television) or the large screen (of television) or the large screen (of the cinema).

The objectives of the Film Policy shall be:
  • To establish a virile, self-sustaining profit oriented film industry;
  • To serve as a vital instrument for international image building;
  • To protect our rich cultural heritage and our national aspirations in the process of industrialisation and integration;
  • To serve as a tool of national cohesion;
  • To serve as a vehicle for public enlightenment, education, entertainment and mobilisation;
  • To encourage the production and exportation of films; and
  • To mobilise and motivate the people by propagating ideas which promote national pride, solidarity and consciousness
Film Production

Film Production relates to the whole process of producing a film and the content of the film itself.

Film Distribution

Film distribution, a process of making available to the exhibitor the film after production, is a very important sub-sector of the film industry.

Film Exhibition

Exhibition is the end point of a film process in terms of articulation and delivery. It is a process that facilitates the essence of film in social, economic, political, moral and cultural development of the society.

Film Festivals

The state shall recognise film festivals as potent means of promoting excellence as well as a strategy for marketing indigenous films.


Film technology throughout the world has changed considerably over the years, particularly with regards to infrastructure and facilities. The increasing quest for the use of film as a medium to tackle the complex and pressing developmental problems in Nigeria and the world at large, calls for the establishment of such infrastructures and acquisition of necessary facilities which are capital intensive.

Training, Research and Development

Training and research play a strategic role in attainment and sustenance of the political, social and economic development of any nation.

Administration of the film Industry

The film industry in order to function effectively requires a well organised administration.




There is only one government film school in Nigeria, The National Film Institute based in Jos.


The National Film Institute located in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria was established in accordance with the provision of the National Film Policy (1992) and the Decree No. 61 of 1979 setting up the Nigerian Film Corporation. It is designed and equipped to provide training of the highly specialised needs of the film industry. The choice of Jos was based on

its friendly weather, (very close to temperate), film friendly waters (for film laboratory use) and the abundance of beautiful scenery for film shooting locations, as well as natural talents.

The National Film Institute, the only one of its kind in the country, is accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and is affiliated to the University of Jos.

Mr. George Lawal is currently the Acting Director at the National Film Institute (NFI) Jos. He has served in several roles at the NFI including the Chief Resource Officer, and the Assistant Director/Registrar. He holds a bachelor of Arts (Hons) English /Drama and a certificate in documentary filmmaking.


Bachelor of Film Art (BFA): This offers an in-depth training in film art and this programme lasts for 3 years after which students have the option of specialization in any area of their choice in the final year of project.

Professional Diploma in Motion Picture: This is a two year programme in film art with a specialization option in any area of motion picture production in the final year project.

Certificate Course: This 6 week certificate programme is an ad hoc training programme that covers virtually all areas of motion picture production. It offers professionals and non professionals a practical experience in motion picture production.

In-Plant Programme: This is a skills enhancement programme in motion picture production targeted at media organisations especially television houses and advertising agencies. This programme provides custom-made training to suit the specific needs of subscribing organisations.

Outreach Programme: This is a programme aimed at complementing the efforts of tertiary institutions (Department of Theater Arts and Mass Communication) by giving students access to the much needed hands on equipment training skills which the universities on their own may not be able to provide

Workshop, seminars & conferences: A 3-4 day hands-on-equipment based workshop, seminars and conferences are usually organised by the institution and are facilitated by seasoned professionals locally and internationally (and sometimes sponsored by the same). This affords the professional and the student the opportunity for quick immersion training on skills enhancement and exposure to new technologies.

Research and Documentation: Research and documentation are undertaken in all aspects of motion picture, human and economic development issues, specific areas include indigenous cultures, African (Nigerian) folklore, conflict management, film induced tourism, film for community development, gender and girl child issues, environment, education and health.

NFI does offer documentary filmmaking and it is a compulsory course.

  • Types and categories of documentaries
  • Why shoot/make a documentary film
  • Subject areas for the documentary film
  • Approaches and procedures for shooting the documentary film
  • Critical analyses of selected documentary films
  • Production of short documentary film on myriad subjects

The school offers both Degree and Diploma programmes along with other programmes. Their estimated yearly intake is about 80 students, i.e. 40 students per programme.

The institute has a library for research purposes for the students; however research privilege does not extend to the Government activities as they often employ the “Classified Information Rule” and this can affect or hamper documentary filmmaking as it is mostly based on research.

The Acting director, Mr. Lawal says the students are interested in documentary filmmaking and that NFI has graduated over 250 documentary filmmakers — but that not all are practicing primarily due to lack of funds.

The students in the school organised their own film festival, but this experience was not repeated and the school currently does not have any standing festival partners. Mr. Lawal believes funding should be directed towards research and training facilities.




PEFTI Film Institute Limited was established in 2004 by WALE ADENUGA PRODUCTIONS, Nigeria’s Foremost Private Film and Television Production Company, to create opportunities for both green-horn aspirants and practitioners, to acquire a proficient Professional training in the diverse disciplines of Film, Television and Music Production.

At PEFTI we met Miss Abiola Adenuga the Managing Director. 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.

Miss Adenuga was kind enough to grant us a personal interview and to talk about PEFTI.

PEFTI opened its doors to students for the first time on October 4, 2004.


The National Innovation Diploma (NID) is a Federal Government designed and Approved Diploma programme which is run through a Public-Private- Partnership (P.P.P) between the Federal Ministry of Education through the National Board for Technical Education (N.B.T.E.), and Innovation Enterprise Institutes (I.E.I).

The NID programme runs for 2 years on a full-time basis or for a maximum of 5 years on a part-time basis. During this period, the participants acquire Relevant, Innovative, Industry-Specific Technical knowledge, Skills, Attitudes and Experiences, based on a minimum of 70% Practical Learning Content.

Diplomas are offered in the following areas:

  • Film and Television Production
  • Performing and Media Arts
  • Music Technology
  • Bead Making
  • Producing and Production Management
  • Directing
  • Cinematography
  • Music
  • Costume and make-up
  • Set design
  • Editing
  • Script-writing
  • Acting
  • Presentation
  • Choreography

All NID Students will also learn the following:

  1. Communication in English: (includes)
    • How to write Proposals
    • How to make Business Presentations (Present Your Ideas and Projects).
  1. Entrepreneurship: (includes)
    • How to Start & Manage a Business
    • How to write Business Plans
Entry Qualifications for NID Programmes:
  • 5 O/Level Credits including English
  • Mathematics
  • UTME

Documentary filmmaking is not offered as a full course, but as part of various programmes.

Miss Adenuga announced however that PEFTI will begin offering documentary filmmaking as a full course in October 2012.

The school accepts about 900-1000 students every academic year for their professional courses and diploma programmes. The school has an extensive library that students use for research and a well equipped studio.

Miss Adenuga believes the students are interested in documentary filmmaking and will go in for it if offered at the school. Speaking on the current status of funding for filmmakers, Miss Adenuga says that she is aware that some companies and associations like the visual arts department of the French Embassy do fund artist and filmmakers as a form of encouragement to them.

She believes that the students are interested in studying documentary filmmaking but that structures need to be in place wherein they can make their films and get good money for it.

She believes that funding for documentary filmmaking is important, but that in her opinion it would be a good thing if filmmakers, not just documentary filmmakers would also be able to access these funds and get to experience the documentary making process themselves.


The NTA Television College, a baby of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) was established in 1980, three years after the NTA itself was formed following a 1977 merger of the regional stations that existed at the time, including Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service, Ibadan; Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria, Kaduna; Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.

The NTA Television College has trained thousands of broadcasters from within and outside Nigeria. Situated in one of Jos city’s most elite areas and institutional neighbour of the Plateau State Government House in Rayfield, the NTA Television College has a radio equivalent, the FRCN Training School, an offspring of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), situated in Lagos and charged with offering training in radio broadcasting for government, private broadcast stations, as well as individuals. But unlike the FRCN Training School, the NTA Television College, or NTA tvc as it is otherwise more simply identified, has long expanded its scope and opened its doors to students from diverse backgrounds to benefit from its short-duration proficiency courses, 2-year diploma courses, and more recently, a first degree programme.

When the NTA Television College was set up 33 years ago, its immediate objective was to streamline regular training to cope with growing staff training needs of the fast expanding television network of the NTA. Since then, the College has widened its service to not only the mother organization, the NTA, but also state and private television stations, media units of federal and state agencies, and individuals who wish to acquire skills in different areas of television broadcasting. The College has thrived as a centre of excellence in the provision of specialized training in the core areas of television, namely TV Journalism, TV Production, and TV Engineering.

The College began with short-term proficiency courses in all the core areas of television broadcasting in 1985. It followed up such short courses, usually lasting for a couple of weeks, with the introduction of two-year professional diploma programmes.

To further raise the profile and reach of the College, a committee that its management constituted in 2003 suggested that the College be transformed into a degree-awarding institution, still to specialise in the core professional areas of television broadcasting. This led, in 2006, to its affiliation to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. This affiliation makes it possible for the College to award the degree of BSc Mass Communication (Television) to students admitted to study at the College under close supervision of the university which awards the degrees in its name.

The College now offers training in these three different areas: short courses, diploma programmes and degree programmes and aims to become a full- fledged university, as articulated in the course brochure of the College where it is stated: “As the only existing institution devoted solely to television manpower development in the whole of Africa, our goal is to elevate the academic and professional profile of the College, to make it unique and industry-driven by transforming it into a first-class television university in Africa to sensitize, project and promote the African perspective in our television programming content.”


Located in Lagos, Nigeria and directed by Victor Okhai, IFBA course offerings include workshops in:

  • Digital Cinematography
  • Directing for the Screen
  • Digital Editing
  • Screen Writing
  • Producing
  • Acting
  • Digital Photography
  • Motion Graphics
  • 2D Animation and Graphics
  • 3D Animation and Graphics
  • Radio Production
  • Audio Engineering
  • Documentary Film Making
  • Music Video Production
  • Radio/Television Presentation
  • Production Design
  • Production Management
  • Costume Design
  • Make Up Design

Diploma Courses are offered in:

  • Film and Television Production
  • Broadcast Journalism B
  • roadcast Management
  • Online Journalism
  • Film Festival Management

The International Film and Broadcast Academy also designs and offers in-plant courses for TV stations and production houses across the continent, and provides consultancy services for broadcast stations in the areas of staff recruitment, equipment sales and management. FILM-AND-BROADCAST-ACADEMY- LAGOS/115506958476935


There are no archives dedicated to documentary films in Nigeria. Some video and sound achives may be found at the organisations mentioned below:



The NFC is in charge of the archives and a lot of the documentaries of pre-colonial Nigeria with the BBC can be found here.

PA one-day National Conference on Audiovisual Archiving in Nigeria held in May 2012, resolved that government on all levels should pay more attention to audiovisual archiving and preservation.

A communiqué from the event, titled, ‘Audiovisual Archiving in Nigeria – the Challenges and Prospects’ stated that this call was made by audiovisual professionals in Nigeria who also have been canvassing adequate funding.

Participants at the event Abuja discussed extensively issues militating against the establishment, funding and promotion of audiovisual archiving in Nigeria. “All hands should be on deck, along with appropriate legislations and funding, for the operations of audiovisual archiving in Nigeria to thrive, in line with global practices.”

The statement also urged government to urgently give speedy approval to the National Policy on Preservation and Conservation, adding that government should make the National Film Video and Sound Archive a legal depository for all audio- visual materials produced in Nigeria, about Nigeria and on Nigeria.

The communiqué, according to the Head, National Film Video and Sound Archive (NFVSA) Mrs. Nwanneka Oliwe, sums up the renewed commitment of audiovisual professionals in Nigeria to address all issues inhibiting the effective policy takeoff of audiovisual archiving. This assures that Nigeria’s audiovisual heritage will not be lost.

The most recent report of the NFVSA can be found here:

Brief background on NTA

In May 1977 the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was born. The decree took effect from April 1976 and brought all the ten existing television stations under the control of the Federal Government of Nigeria. These included Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) established in 1959 which later became NTA Ibadan, Eastern Nigerian Television (ENTV) 1960 later to be known as NTA Enugu and Radio Kaduna Television (RKTV) in 1962 which later split to become NTA Kaduna and FRCN Kaduna. These were established by their various regional governments.

Television stations were later established in the remaining state capitals where none existed.

NTA became the only body empowered to undertake television broadcasting in Nigeria, therefore all the ten existing state television stations were incorporated into NTA.

They have had no competition in broadcast in Nigeria until 10 years ago. It’s the main dissemination platform for government information management.

They broadcast documentary based information in areas like health, transportation, voting information, etc. and they have the widest reach in Nigeria.

They do not commission independent producers. As of this moment, independent producers have to pay for their content to be put on air as is the case in a lot of African countries.




The Bank of Industry (BOI) Nigeria administers a $200m USD Special Entertainment Fund, dedicated to supporting the film industry. The $200M was earmarked by BOI from an exepcted $500m grant from the African Development Bank to revamp and enhance the nation’s industrial and entertainment sectors.


The Bank of Industry Limited (BOI) is Nigeria’s oldest, largest and most successful development financing institution. It was reconstructed in 2001 out of the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) Limited, which was incorporated in 1964. The bank took off in 1964 with an authorised share capital of 2 million (GBP).

The International Finance Corporation which produced its pioneer Chief Executive held 75% of its equity along with a number of domestic and foreign private investors. Although the bank’s authorised share capital was initially set at N50 billion, in the wake of NIDB’s reconstruction into BOI in 2001, it has been increased to 250 billion in order to put the bank in a better position to address the nation’s rising economic profile in line with its mandate.

Following a successful institutional, operational and financial restructuring programme embarked upon in 2002, the bank has transformed into an efficient,

focused and profitable institution that is well placed to effectively carry out its primary mandate of providing long term financing to the industrial sector of the Nigerian economy.


To tackle the challenge of effectively getting into the hands of consumers of the output of the Nigerian movie industry worldwide, the BOI has moved to tackle the problem of distribution, which is the major setback to the nation’s movie industry. To deal with the issue, BoI is funding the country’s first credible, verifiable and controlled channel of distribution, referred to as G-Media.

According to BoI, tackling the issue of distribution besides having a multiplier effect on the industry also guarantees that the whole production process is not jeopardised by market uncertainties.

Speaking at the pre-launch press briefing of G-media, Senior Manager, BoI, Ibrahim Ahmed, disclosed that over N2.5 billion has been approved and set aside for the entertainment sector and about N1 billion has been distributed so far.

“The BoI decided to partner Gabosky because we see the entertainment industry as a business and we are ready to deal with all that are ready to approach us in that light. Our mission is to transform Nigerian industrial sector and integrate it into the global economy by providing financial and business support services to existing and new industries to attain modern capabilities,” he said.

He however, noted that the stakeholders themselves were not churning out enough bankable projects to encourage the development bank release funds to them even as most of the ideas being presented to the bank lacked in-depth research and the requisite structure to be profitably sustained.

He disclosed that the issue of distribution has often been identified as the major problem of Nollywood, as enthusiastic audiences across the world are unable to get their hands on the movies that they love to watch due to inadequate channels, which allowed piracy to thrive at a globally unprecedented 82 per cent.

“One of the results of the distribution problems of Nollywood has been the withdrawal of some of the best hands that gave the industry its early success from movie productions. When sales dropped drastically and less capable hands became the leaders of the industry, the major producers and directors thought it best to stay away from the rot,” he said.

He appealed to the professionals to come back to the sector and join hands together in order to rebuild Nollywood into a dynamic industry once again with the promise that G-Media will get their films to buyers on its new real-time auditable and sales verifiable platform.

“The first phase of the G-Media distribution project is set to commence in January 2014 with 25 ultra- modern stores spread across the country, 30 regional distributors as well as 4,000 community distribution stores,” Okoye disclosed.

Breaking down the technological make-up of the innovative project, George Nnanwubar Consultant, Technology Team G-Media MDMS Web-Portal, explained that Gabosky Films Media Distribution and Management Software is a cross-platform web based database application designed for the Nigerian movie industry, where content owners, licensed content manager, content distributors and consumers can connect in a controlled environment and have controlled access to stored information on the industry and its content distribution.



There are no specific groups or organisations that specifically fund documentary films but the French Cultural Centres and the Goethe Institut allocate grants to artists and filmmakers as part of intercultural development.


The Goethe Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural exchange. It promotes the study of German abroad and encourages international cultural exchange. It also fosters knowledge about Germany by providing information on its culture, society and politics.

Goethe Institut Nigeria has been promoting the Nigerian-German cultural relationship since 1962. The focus of its work has always been a close and active collaboration with Nigerian partners in order to realise numerous joint projects in many fields of culture.

Goethe-Institut Nigeria is active in three major sectors:
  • The Cultural Programme department, organising cultural events, exhibitions, workshops, screenings, festivals, etc.
  • The language department, offering various German language classes and exams for different
  • The Library and information department, providing information on Germany.

The institute was a partner to the first and second edition of the iREP Documentary Film Festival, the first and only documentary film festival in Nigeria.



There are several associations in Nigeria that claim to be advocates for filmmakers, writers, producers and other relevant factions that make up the film industry in Nigeria.

The Independent Television and Producers Association Nigeria (ITPAN) is an established advocacy group that has been functioning for 19 years in Nigeria.

Brief history of ITPAN

The Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria was founded in 1992 and registered in 1993 by a group of independent television producers. At the time it was registered, there was just one television station, which was The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

The Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) serves as an umbrella body for private producers, non-NTA producers as well as a mediator between the producers and the regulatory bodies of the film industry. ITPAN snagged prime time on Nigerian Television when it was in danger of being overrun with Brazilian soaps. Now, prime time on Nigerian Television is for Nigerian Productions.

ITPAN has a training school that awards recognised certificates and has taken it one step further by taking its training model into universities and polytechnics.

Aims and objectives of ITPAN:
  • To develop and improve TV production, and to encourage the closer study of production methods and opportunities and to increase the efficiency of those engaged in its pursuit;
  • To further the interests of Independent Professional Television Producers in Nigeria;
  • To establish a resource tool for members on all matters appertaining to independent Television Production and Broadcasting;
  • To adopt uniform rules of conduct and professionalism in Independent Television Production;
  • To maintain internationally acceptable standards on Television Production;
  • To make provision for the establishment of professional guilds within the association;
  • To cooperate with other relevant bodies to create a viable Television Industry;
  • To develop and maintain high standards in production by organizing training for practitioners and prospective entrants into the profession in all aspects of Television Production.
  • To prescribe examinations for such practitioners or entrants, either independently or in association with educational institutions and to issue diplomas/ certificates to successful candidates;
  • To maintain a register of members. The list is to be updated and published as and when directed by the Executive committee;
  • To print, publish, issue and circulate reports, leaflets and other literary matter as may seem conducive to any of the objectives of the association;
  • To do all such other lawful things that are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the

The Actor’s Guild was formally registered in 1998 as Actors Guild of Nigeria. Its survival, constituency and focus inspired the resurgence, formation and struc- turing of other guilds and associations in the motion picture industry in Nigeria. They include:

  • Directors Guild of Nigeria
  • Association of Movie Producers {AMP}
  • Creative Designers Guild of Nigeria {CDGN}
  • Nigerian Society of Cinematographers {NSC}
  • Nigeria Society of Editors {NSE}
  • Screen Writers Guild Nigeria {SWGN}

The marketing and distributors formed into an association as well as a professional umbrella body for the industry is in the offing. Together all the above groups constitute what is known today locally and internationally as Nollywood.


Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, has a number of registered members since inception and still growing. The registered members are spread across 27 states in Nigeria. The State chapters are divided into six geo political zones of the country, namely, (North West, North East, North Central, South South, South East and South West.) The State chapters are:-

FCT Abuja, Abia, Anambra, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Borno, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Kwara, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Lagos, Niger, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Zamfara.

The Chapters are led by the State Executive committee headed by the chairman while the zones are supervised by a Vice President representing each zone respectfully. The six zonal vice presidents are members of the National Executive Council headed by the National President.

  • Actors’ Guild of Nigeria shall maintain a non- religious/political posture at all
  • Members are free to pursue their own political learning without prejudice to the existence of the
  • The Guild shall promote fraternal unity and love among Nigerian
  • The Guild shall create professional awareness and protect the interest and welfare of her
  • The Guild shall entertain and educate our society and the world as to our social cultural heritage and essence through the acting
  • The Guild shall serve as a collective bargainer for her
  • The Guild shall ensure maintenance of standards and establish a code of conduct for her
  • The Guild shall create an enabling environment for the growth and sustenance of the Acting
  • The guild shall establish pay scale to avoid exploitation of members on issues of
  • The Guild shall establish or encourage training/ education for her
  • The guild shall establish relationship/affiliation with relevant guilds and associations within and outside
  • The Guild shall perform and encourage members to partake in humanitarian functions especially by helping the less privileged in the society and the world at 


What is today known as Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) was a product of positive protest by six angry young men ( Jeff Vwede Obahor, Fidelis Duker, Madu Chikwendu, Sam Azubuike, Lancelot Imasuen, Victor Okhai). These men spottED a vacuum within the motion picture practice of professionalism and initiated the establishment of a Guild for Directors.

With the determination to initiate a success story, history was made as the first DGN meeting took place under a tree at the former AMP secretariat at Besaam, Oshodi, Lagos State, Nigeria. Credit must be given to Mr. Zeb Ejiro who was magnanimous enough to offer the infant guild a secretariat at his former Oyekan office in Surulere where the Guild used for 5 years. It is worthy of note to mention also that Mr. Mathias Obahiagbon was the first elected President of the Guild who brought his camaraderie to bear by attracting quality membership for the Guild. During the tenure of Obahiagbon, the guild witnessed the first Investiture at Niteshift Coliseum, a couple of Workshops and seminars. Equally of importance is the role played by Obahiagbon executive in facilitating the merger of CMP directors with DGN, this led to a united DIRECTORS GUILD OF NIGERIA.



There are multiple film festivals in Nigeria, including the The Africa International Film Festival, Calabar ( and the The Eko International Film Festival in Lagos (http://www. Many film festivals take place in Abuja, as well.


The sixth edition of the Zuma Film Festival, which last took place in 2012 was themed: “the Human Story, Connecting People.” Conceptualised to widen the opportunities in the Nigerian film industry, the Zuma Film Festival provides a rendezvous for film practitioners, stakeholders and enthusiasts to network, broaden the spectrum of global audio-visual business and encourage better market access.

As part of the activities for the 2012 edition of the film festival, prominent stakeholders were nominated for life achievement awards. Among these were Oba Sanya Dosunmu, the Olu of Owo Kingdom, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Professor Jonathan Haynes and Mane Cisneros Manrique.

According to the Nigerian Film Corporation and other organisers, the objective of the awards is to recognise, appreciate and celebrate the untiring efforts of veterans and others, who are contributing immensely towards the growth of the Nigerian motion picture industry.

Past recipients of the award in the last three editions of the festival include, Ambassador Segun Olusola (2008), Mr. Adewale Olanrewaju Fanu (2010), Aliyu Garuba Kankara (2011) and Chief Ita Okon (2011).

The Director/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya explained that the recipients deserve the honours bestowed them because they have demonstrated in practical terms, that the Nigerian motion picture industry deserves collaboration between the regulatory body, government agencies, stakeholders, individuals and other private/ corporate organisations who have the resources to support the film sector.

Adesanya maintains that such interventions/ collaborations and direct investments by individuals, agencies, private or public are necessary ingredients to oil the wheel of sustainable progress for the Nigerian motion picture industry.

Over 80 films competed in the film festival.


The Abuja International Film Festival is an initiative of the NAFIFO VENTURES an organisation registered under the corporate affairs commission of 17th march 2004.

The Festival is affiliated to four major international festivals; Durban International Film Festival, Dahlegona International Film Festival Georgia, Zimbabwe International Film Festival and Commonwealth International Film Festival.

The 10th edition of the Abuja film festival was held in September 2013, with the theme “The Role of Film in National Security”.

At the festival, Nollywood stakeholders echoed in unison for the setting up of a special task force to curb “the menace” of film piracy and road side trading of creative works militating against the growth and development of the industry. Over 85 foreign and Nigerian films were screened during the festival.



There is only one film festival dedicated to documentary films in Nigeria, the iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival (iREP). iREP held its first festival 20- 23rd of January 2011 in Lagos, Nigeria.


The Conceptual framework of iREPRESENT (iREP) is “Africa in Self Conversation”, and is designed to promote awareness about the power of the documentary format to serve as a means of deepening and sharing social and cultural education as well as encouraging participatory democracy in our societies

iREP was conceptualised to create a platform of awareness and expression for aspiring and practicing filmmakers who are creating socially relevant documentary films to positively impact our world.

To fully engage an array of trans-cultural creativity, iREP provides a forum for everyone’s ingenuity to be showcased without prejudice to style or subject.

It recognises that in spite of the high rate of first- time filmmakers, many of whom lack appropriate knowledge in relevant departments of filmmaking, there are still quite a good number of well-trained, talented and serious filmmakers in Nigeria who are willing and ready to work hard to reclaim the lost glory of the industry. This is a goal that the iREP desires to pursue in its operation, especially through its annual iREP International Touring Docu- Festival.

iREP partners with organisations such as Goethe Institut, The Association of the Independent Producers of Cameroon (APIC) , The German Documentary Association (AG DOK) and Documentary Network Africa (DNA).

At the 2011 edition of the festival, themed “Africa in Self-Conversation”. The Documentary Film Intervention. Femi Odugbemi (iREP 2011 Executive Director) explained, “For Africa, the global information order presents a narrative of wars, death, corruption and diseases. Who is telling the story of Africa and its realities from what perspective? Can African filmmakers bring better understanding within and outside the continent with documentaries that give a more rounded definition of the African experience?”

Prof. Manthia Diawara (NYU) addressed this issue of ownership and representation in his keynote address: “The documentary has become the most important area for us in Africa today to make interventions that could go beyond the nation-state. Documentary is archival material that you can still go through…and define your own history”.

The 2012 edition of the festival was themed “Democracy and Culture – The Documentary Film Intervention”. As would be deduced from the unprecedented and sporadic people’s mass action that attended the January 1, 2012 removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government, a new sense of participation in governance is evolving on the African continent. It is thus increasingly becoming important to explore opportunities open to African filmmakers to bring better understanding and approaches to participatory democracy as a part of African political culture through the medium of documentary films. A key subtheme in the 2012 iREP Documentary Film Festival is: Is Nollywood Documentary? This will feature a conversation among filmmakers and the public on the potentials of Nollywood films to embrace the documentary ethics in its operation and outputs. A key area of discourse will be the need to explore the production and distribution potentials and schemes of Nollywood towards achieving documentary objectives.

Source: blog/2012/03/21/foreign-filmmakers-for-i-rep-festival- the-nation/


Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo studied Theatre Arts with a specialty in Directing, Dramatic Theories and Criticisms at the University of Ibadan (1983 -86). He has been an Arts and Culture Journalist for over two decades, writing mostly on the Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Literature and Cultural Affairs. He worked as the Arts and Media Editor of The Guardian (Daily) between 1992 and 2003. He is currently the Editor of The Guardian on Sunday.

He also operates as a Culture Activist and Programmist with input into some notable ideas and projects, private and public, that have helped define the character as well as shape the development of Nigeria’s Arts and Culture scene.

He has worked extensively on the Cultural Policy of Nigeria since 1988 when the first workshop towards its implementation was held. He has served in various UNESCO committees, particularly the series held under the aegis of the World Decade for Culture and Development (1988-1997) and others. He served in the Culture Sub-Committee of the Tony Blair Commission for Africa.

He was one of the resource persons towards the establishment of the Creative Industries of Nigeria, CIN, designed to serve as a platform for mapping and harnessing the economic potentials of the culture producing communities. He was also a resource person at the “Untapped Resources: Culture in Economy” conference that was organised and promoted by the Ford Foundation. He was a citizen-curator of the Gwanju Biennale in 2004.

In the last decade and a half, especially since the 1992 launch of the Nigeria Film Policy by the Nigeria Film Corporation, in which he was a key participant, he has been very active in the various movements that led to the resuscitation of the Nigeria film industry after near two decades of being comatose. He coordinated the yearly Lagos Cinema Carnival of the Committee for Relevant Art. He is on the board of the West Africa Documentary Film Forum, conveners of the yearly Real Life Film Festival in Ghana. He is part of the Traveling Seminars on African Film on the platform of the AFRICAN SCREENS, which has held sessions in Portugal, Germany, Belgium, and New York. He has presented Nigerian films at the Milan African Film Festival and French African Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, where he also served on the International Jury. He is on the faculty of the CNN/Multichoice Training for African Journalists.

Jahman’s recent assignments internationally include serving as Resource Person at the European Union’s African, Caribbean and the Pacific Convention on the Creative Industries held in Brussels, Belgium in March 2009; the African Screen Conference on Cinema in Lisbon, Portugal; the Global Art Museum (GAM) Conference in Hong Kong, May 2009; and the Nigeria Cameroon Dialogue on Film Production and Distribution (NIGEROON-CAMERIA) in Bamenda, Cameroon, November 2009.

He is currently an executive director of iREP International Documentary Film Forum; and Programme Director, Culture Advocates Caucus, CAC.


Makin Soyinka is the Media and Publicity Director of Caterina de’ Medici Africa. Makin got his University degree from University of Ife, graduating in 1991 with a B.A. Literature in English.

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. Before this he had served as associate producer with Auric Goldman on projects such as a documentary on Nigeria’s natural resources (1992).

His TV documentaries include:
  • Technological Exposition; Nigerian’s Potential (Asst. Producer) (1992)
  • The Courier is a Killer (producer) (1993)
  • Stolen Heritage, trade in antiquities, BBC2 ;( story researcher) (1997)
  • Stolen Goods: National Treasures, BBC2 (researcher, location manager) (2001)
  • The Murder of Damilola Taylor, BBC1 (consultant) (2001)
  • Car Wars, BBC (consultant, location manager) (2001)

He served as programme consultant to Africa Express, Channel 4 London (1996-1999) and CBCTV, London (1996-1999). He produced the highly successful “An Evening with Wole Soyinka”, in association with Globacom.

He’s produced several music concerts and music segments of various shows for This Day Newspaper Group in Lagos, Abuja, Washington DC, London, Johannesburg, Cape Town over the years and is a Consultant/Producer for the This Day Group, working directly with the Publisher/Chairman of the Group. 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.


Femi Odugbemi is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and photographer.

Trained in Film & TV Production at Montana State University, Bozeman, United States, he worked initially at KUSM Channel 9 TV station in Bozeman, Montana. Upon his return to Nigeria, he worked as Film & Radio Producer at Lintas Advertising and later as Associate Creative Director at STB-McCann, Lagos. In these places, he wrote, directed and produced several notable documentaries, dramas and commercials. Since 1999, he has worked as an Independent Producer/Director.

His screen credits include Like Father, Like Son, a TV sitcom; Who Do You Love?, the SFH talk show; Who wants to be a Millionaire?, Nigeria’s most popular game show; the recent Lagos Lottery TV Game Show; the international documentary Life in Lagos, for CFI in France; Oui Voodoo, a cultural documentary; Metamorphosis, a musical documentary on the life of the legendary Nigerian conductor Steve Rhodes; Bar Beach Blues, a multiple-award winning film; and Maroko, a political full-length feature.

In the last few years he has also produced Mama Put, a New Direction short film and the critically-acclaimed documentary, Ibadan – Cradle of Literati.

He was the founding Content Producer of Tinsel, MNET’s acclaimed soap-opera. His recent work includes the multiple award-winning documentaries Bariga Boy and the culture expose Oriki.

Between 2002 and 2006, Odugbemi was the President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN). In that capacity he also chaired the Lagos International Forum on Cinema, Motion Picture and Video in Africa, an international film festival that attracted participants and professionals from across the world. He served as well on the Steering Committee of the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria, (MOPICON) appointed by the Honorable Minister of Information and Communication.

He is a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Media and Communications (SMC), Pan African University, Lagos, Nigeria. He is on the Board of Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts (LAPA) and he is International Advisor/Consultant of the Orange Academy, Lagos.

Femi Odugbemi is Managing Director/CEO of DVWORX Studios Lagos.



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.


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.




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?

BH: No.

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.



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: 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.



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.




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?

BO: (pause)

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 ? 

AO: Yes.

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.



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


Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the northeast, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests.

Freetown, located in the Western Area of the country, is the capital and largest city, as well as its economic, commercial and political centre. Bo, located in the Southern Province of the country, is the country’s second largest city and the second major economic and commercial centre.

The population of Sierra Leone comprises about sixteen ethnic groups, each with its own language and costume. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende.

Although English is the language of instruction in schools and the official language in government administration, the Krio language (derived from English and several indigenous African languages) is the primary language of communication among Sierra Leone’s different ethnic groups, and is spoken by 90% of the country’s population.

Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the largest producers of titanium, bauxite and is a major producer of gold. The country has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile. Sierra Leone is also home to the third largest natural harbor in the world, where shipping from all over the globe berth at Freetown’s famous Queen Elizabeth II Quay. Despite this natural wealth, 70% of the country’s people live in poverty.

Between 1991 and 2002 the Sierra Leone Civil War devastated the country, leaving more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced in neighboring countries as refugees; mainly to Guinea, which was home to over 600,000 Sierra Leonean refugees.



Due to the 10 year civil war that ravaged the country, Sierra Leone has lost all of its archives. Filmmaking in Sierra Leone started after the war ended in 2000, thus it is a fairly young industry.




The film industry in Sierra Leone is relatively very young, filmmaking took off about 5 years ago and the country is still struggling to put structures together as those that used to exist were destroyed by the 10 year civil war. The idea or concept of documentary films is still in infancy. There have been a few attempts with NGOs commissioning documentaries, but it is still a relatively unexplored area.

The major challenge faced by filmmakers in Sierra Leone is a lack of basic knowledge. Young filmmakers there teach themselves to make films. Other challenges include funding for productions, availability of equipment and training facilities.

Professional Developmental Support

There is little or no structure in the film industry in Sierra Leone. There are no funds available from the government for filmmakers in Sierra Leone, there are no film schools, government or private, and there are no regulatory bodies for film. There are two guilds in Sierra Leone: The Sierra Leone Film Industry Labor and Marketing Guild and the Sun Valley Guild. Their contribution to the industry is limited to their understanding and experiences.

Film festivals started recently in Sierra Leone. There are only two that include documentary so far, We One Human Rights Film Festival and The Sierra Leone International Film Festival. Government archives are said to have been burnt down during the war. Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) formerly government owned is the only nationwide TV service and they do not broadcast throughout the country. The broadcast media do not commission works from filmmakers. You have to pay air time. The government recently passed a copyright law in Sierra Leone, its effectiveness however is yet to be seen.

Distribution and audience cultivation:

Feature length films are distributed in the form of DVDs, via street hawkers. Cinema houses have long ceased to operate and so films do not premiere, they go straight to DVD. Audience cultivation is through posters, banners, radio, TV adverts and billboards. Documentary films are not popular in Sierra Leone, but those made are distributed through the internet (Facebook, My Space, YouTube) and film festivals.


The Sierra Leone Film Network (SLFilm.Net) is the country’s first dedicated online resource for Sierra Leone film. It hosts a national film database (in progress) and social networking and collaborative tools designed specifically for the benefit of all those with an interest in Sierra Leone films; filmmakers and industry professionals, investors, researchers and academics, as well as audiences world wide. The first iteration started in 2008 and has been improving ever since. (N.B. It is currently off-line and being completely rebuilt for a planned relaunch in early 2014.)


SLFilm TV grew from an early project (XTV-SL) and the first of its kind to provide an online production and broadcasting platform for young Sierra Leone filmmakers. This became SLFilmTV, an online platform that serves to deliver Sierra Leone films to a global internet audience. It is used to screen works from the Sierra Leone Film Foundation and will also screen works from the Sierra Leone Film Archive Project.

Structure and Focus of funding

Funding as suggested by filmmakers on the ground should be focused on training, skills development of filmmakers, acquiring equipment and setting up recognised organisations like a censorship board and advocacy groups for filmmakers. Filmmakers believe that any funds coming in should not be passed through the government. It should be administered through NGOs or an organisation specifically set up to administer the funds.

Legal Framework and regulatory environment

A representative from the Ministry of Information insists the government would have no objection if funding were to be brought in for filmmakers as long as it went through proper government processing.




Volume of film produced in Sierra Leone in a 5 year period: There are no statistics available. Numbers provided are speculations made available by filmmakers on the ground

The film industry in Sierra Leone is very young. Sierra Leonean feature length movies became popular only about 3 years ago. Estimating volume of films produced annually is difficult as most records were destroyed during the 10 year civil war. Filmmakers in the country estimate the number of feature length films produced annually to be about 50.

There are no statistics for documentaries produced in Sierra Leone, but a general estimate given by experienced filmmakers is one documentary for every ten films produced.


There are no regulatory organisations for film in Sierra Leone.




There are no Government Film Schools in Sierra Leone.


There are no well organised film schools in Sierra Leone, but there are some organisations that purport to teach film.



About We Own TV

We Own TV debuted in Sierra Leone in January 2009 as a continuation of seven years of collaboration between the founders with artists and humanitarian organisations in the region.

In 2002, the founders of We Own TV began their work in Sierra Leone as the filmmaking team behind the documentary film Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars (2006) which won more than a dozen international film festival awards and has been viewed by millions via broadcast television in North America, Latin America, Europe, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Uganda. Experiencing the inspiration this story has brought to the people of Sierra Leone and war-torn communities around the world has been life-changing for the filmmakers and fueled the fire for launching We Own TV.

The intention of the organisation is to continually reinforce the idea that no one is more qualified to help Sierra Leone than Sierra Leoneans themselves. We Own TV aims to build on this spirit of self-reliance as community members, specifically young men and women affected by more than a decade of war, are given the opportunity to create their own stories in their own words. Project participants areencouraged to look within to find their voice. In Sierra Leone there are incredible oral traditions that exist within the culture and it is this tradition that informs the storytelling enabled by newly acquired skills of film and video production.

We Own TV launched in Sierra Leone by facilitating a month-long filmmaking workshop for 18 young men and women just outside the capital city Freetown. Leveraging a community-engaged curriculum in which project participants collaboratively create and produce their own independent media, We Own TV aims to engage a wide-range of participants-from young media professionals and students, to ex-combatant, street kids and former prostitutes.

The inaugural class of We Own TV participants was selected not based on technical skills or prior experience, but on the enthusiasm, eloquence and sense of purpose each of them exhibited during the interview process. Many participants had never held a camera or touched a computer and many have not finished school, but they each demonstrated an incredible strength and resolve in overcoming tragic circumstances. The aspiring filmmakers came from all areas of the country: the diamond mining district of Kono, the dusty small town of Makeni (a rebel stronghold during the war) and from the hardscrabble slums of the country’s capital city, Freetown. The group also includes physically disabled individuals, all of whom showed they have a remarkable gift to give in their creativity.

Through its educational programmes, the establishment of a Media Center in Freetown and exhibition support through its website and licensing agreements, We Own TV will provide the continued technical support, encouragement and training that will allow these young adults to produce their own media, enabling them to share their stories and creative voices with the world and reawaken their imaginations to the possibility of positive change.



Some audio-visual archives may be found at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation.



The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Services (SLBS) was created by the government in 1934 making it the earliest English language radio broadcast service in West Africa.

SLBS recently became SLBC when they became independent from the Sierra Leone Government.



There are no governmental funding bodies for film in Sierra Leone.



There are no organisations that fund filmmaking/ documentary filmmaking in Sierra Leone. Though this may change if the Sierra Leone Film Foundation is successful in its efforts to create a fund for this purpose.




Background History

Recognising the need for the attainment and maintenance of professional standards of practice in the Sierra Leone film industry, the Sierra Leone Film Guild is the first initiative to develop an internationally recognised national membership organisation for professionals working in all aspects of the Sierra Leone film industry.

Working with leading organisations in the UK and Africa, an internationally recognised constitutional framework has been developed. Using this framework, and through member-led democratic processes a credible professional body hopes to create international recognition of Sierra Leone’s filmmaking professionals.

The Guild’s primary purpose is to promote the interests of those working in the film-making sector by organising professionals and using our collective influence to persuade employers to treat their staff fairly, be they employed or freelance. Improvements to pay, conditions of employment and the proper protection of the workforce through a commitment to improving health and safety, equality and training define the SLFILM Guild.

In summary, the SLFILM Guild aims to:

  • bring Sierra Leone’s film professionals – individuals and groups – together to define and pursue common and mutually beneficial policies
  • to lobby the Government to implement policies that will benefit all people at work, especially those in the film, media and other related sectors
  • campaign on economic and social issues
  • represent working professionals on public bodies
  • represent Sierra Leone workers in international bodies
  • carry out research on film industry employment- related issues
  • collaborate with training and education programmes for Guild representatives
  • help develop new services for members
  • arbitrate disputes between film professionals or organisations
  • build links with other professional and trade union bodies worldwide

The formation of the Guild is the product of the dedication of its founding members and other supportive individuals and organisations who have worked long and hard over a period of five years to finally realise this dream for the future benefit of all present and future in the Sierra Leone film industry. As the country’s first internationally recognised organisation of its kind, the formation of the Guild has also now established Sierra Leone’s embryonic film industry’s credentials as a serious and legitimate player amongst the wider international filmmaking industry.

In accordance with international policy agreements, Sierra Leone legislation gives everyone the right to belong to a trade union.

The SL Film Guild is administrated by its members and exists solely to support and promote the interests of Sierra Leone’s film professionals.


A brief history

After summarising the need for a strong and formidable film union, we the members of the “SIERRA LEONE NATIONAL FILM UNION” shall bring all filmmakers, actors and actresses together for the betterment and progress of members regardless of their category of literacy, social, race, religion, ethnicity, cultural and political backgrounds. Also recognising the rate at which people are developing interest in filming and other forces trying to frustrate the efforts of filmmakers and actors through piracy, it was ultimately purposeful to facilitate a process to build a strong union to ensure that the vision of filmmaking and acting is actualised. Filmmaking in the country is becoming a stepping stone in addressing the unemployment among youth and young adults. The film union shall therefore encourage and protect all the rights and welfare of the film houses and their members. It is therefore necessary for the founders to establish the “SIERRA LEONE NATIONAL FILM UNION” to serve as a national body comprising of representatives of all categories of persons and film houses.


The Sierra Leone Film Foundation is a Sierra Leone non-profit organization founded to support the long-term sustainable development and promotion of a Sierra Leone filmmaking industry.

As the first organisation of its kind in Sierra Leone, founded by Sierra Leone film industry professionals, and supported by international groups and individuals, the Foundation aims to work collaboratively with national and international industry stakeholders including government and civic agencies, non-profit organisations, corporate institutions as well as film industry professionals, academics and general audiences. With the support of all stakeholders, it aims to further support for Sierra Leone national and international productions, co-productions, events, programmes and related campaigns and projects that will provide mutual benefit for filmmakers and audiences in Sierra Leone as well as in countries around the world.

Through our various projects, the Foundation aims to bring together the skills, talents, experiences and resources, as well as the interest and enthusiasm for Sierra Leone filmmaking that abounds in Sierra Leone and beyond. By channeling these energies in the support of the development of a sustainable Sierra Leone filmmaking practice, its aim is to ensure that Sierra Leone filmmaking is developed, established and sustained as a permanent and positive contribution to the continued social, cultural and economic development of Sierra Leone.

The SL Film Foundation develops and maintains a variety of projects that are designed to help in the formulation and implementation of a viable strategic infrastructure for the development of a national filmmaking sector; one that will help support and shape the positive development of Sierra Leone filmmaking.


As the first national film organisation of its kind, the Foundation has contributed to the establishment and development of the following sectors:-


  • Professional Training & Education
  • Film Festivals & Events
  • Industry Standards and Regulations
  • National Research & Development
Research and Development

Other projects that are currently underway include:

  • Film Archives: Compiling the country’s first national archive and online database of Sierra Leone
  • Film Distribution: Exploring international commercial distribution opportunities to provide increased reach for Sierra Leone filmmakers to bigger audiences and international revenues to further support their filmmaking
  • Film Funding: Identifying sources of funding through traditional sources as well as developing a film finance programme for Sierra Leone
  • Film Council: Supporting initiatives to develop a national film council to co-ordinate and lead the development of the film
  • Film Institute: Researching the acquisition of a building to provide a central hub and focus for national filmmaking activities and resources, including training, production/editing facilities, screenings, etc.




Visual storytelling, through film, has significant power to convey messages, promote public engagement and policy change. As Sierra Leone continues to rebuild and reconcile following years of extensive human rights violations, this first Human Rights Film Festival intends to play a role in cultivating knowledge and commitment to human rights principles amongst all Sierra Leoneans, particularly young people. We hope to empower and inspire individuals to support and defend human rights principles by opening their eyes.


The festival is aimed at students, civil society and policy makers as well as the general public. Many people do not have access to films with such powerful messages due to lack of distribution and available venues in Sierra Leone.

The films featured include internationally acclaimed documentary and feature films with human rights themes as well as short advocacy films, features and documentaries made by Sierra Leonean filmmakers and civil society.


Idriss Kpange is a Sierra Leonean filmmaker, video journalist for Reuters and founder of multimedia studio, Concept Multimedia. He has worked on several projects with human rights themes, such as Lost Freetown, Without Borders and Leh Wi Learn Buk.

Sabrina Mahtani is a human rights lawyer who has worked in Sierra Leone for over six years. She is co- founder and Executive Director of AdvocAid, a civil society organisation which works with girls and women in conflict with the law.

Organising Partner

Our organising partner is Concept Multimedia, a Sierra Leonean multimedia studio whose aim is to use multimedia to document the voices, stories and creativity of Sierra Leone as well as raise awareness, create conversation and generate change.



About Sierra Leone International Film Festival

The Sierra Leone International Film Festival (SLIFF) is a year-round collaborative film exploration featuring ongoing education programmes and an annual six day film festival. Through its programmes SLIFF aims to create a platform for audiences to rejoice in the culture and communities of Sierra Leone as they experience cinema from around the world.

The annual festival takes place in the capital city of Freetown, with additional screenings and education programmes in Kenema, Bo, Kono and Makeni. This allows the festival to reach across tribal and political lines unifying the country in a positive, creative, educational experience while hosting international visitors and sharing in the world of cinema together. Whether festival goers are screening international documentary and feature films, participating in workshops, hand rowing a tree canoe to Bunce Island slave port, taking in an evening screening on the beach or discussing film at a panel in a remote village, the Sierra Leone International Film Festival is an experience like no other.



Idriss Kpange is a young and upcoming filmmaker/TV correspondent in Sierra Leone. He has a diploma in Reporting and Documentary Making from the Deutsche Welle TV academy Accra Ghana. He is the director of Lost Freetown a documentary of environmental degradation. He is the founder and General Manger of Concept Multimedia -Studios.

Dr. Julius Spencer is a former Minister of information and communications in Sierra Leone and a veteran in the film industry. He has a PhD in Theatre Arts and has taught Mass Communications as a Senior Lecturer at the Fuorabay College Sierra Leone. Dr. Spencer has produced and directed several films such as CRACK (2008), and BUILDING BRIDGES (1997).He is currently the Managing Director of Premier Media Consultancy and has been active in the movie industry.

Pastor Aiah Momoh, is the President of the Sierra Leone National Film Union (SunValley). He is a graduate of the school of Evangelism and Mission, and a pastor and a filmmaker. He is the C.E.O and Director of The Ushers Film Company.


Filmmaker and Managing Director of Premier Media Group
FO: I have read a lot about you, I have read about your work, your contributions, and the investments you have made in the industry yourself, so you are an obvious choice in Sierra Leone to talk about. Idriss, I am sure he is a young filmmaker you know, Velma is also a young creative who I am sure you must be familiar with. To me, the energy of what they are doing is what I have also tried to immerse myself in — to talk to the young people and ask them what they are doing, what do they wish, would happen. However, all of that is immaterial if I don’t get the background on where the industry has come from, what structures were put in place and how you see the industry in terms of how it can be stabilised. I want to break my conversation into three parts:
Part one would be in film and education building, the kind of structures that are on ground and the type that you think should be on the ground.
Secondly, in terms of funding for emerging filmmakers, after they get skills, they have to make films. How do they make those film, what should the structure of the funding be, who should administer the funding?
The third part is in terms of government regulations. Are there guilds, should there be guilds, are those guilds effective, will those guilds interfere with any intervention that is progressive in financial terms? And then government also along those lines, are there laws that need to be enacted, are there laws against outside intervention in terms of bringing in funding?
If you could introduce yourself and just give us a bit of a background: your contribution, your time in government, what you are doing now in the private sector, your media property and then give me a background of the film industry in Sierra Leone, where it came from and how you see what’s going on in the tribe now?

JS: I am Julius Spencer, currently Managing Director of Premier Media Group Limited as it is now called, it is used to be called Premier Media Consultancy Limited. My background is originally in theatre. I studied theatre arts at the University of Ibadan, I did a Masters and PhD there, taught in the school there, did some work on television in Nigeria as a means of survival, wrote some scripts, acted on television dramas in Ibadan and then came back home. I taught at the Njala University College for about three years and then transferred to Fuorabay College, taught English, taught Drama, then set up a small theatre company called Spence Productions and started doing live theatre. After a while I moved into radio drama, TV drama, documentaries and so on. Then I went on sabbatical to Boston University and sat in on some film and television production courses. Then the coup happened in Sierra Leone. I came back and set up a radio station for the government in exile called RADIO DEMOCRACY. After the government was restored, I became the Minister of Information, Communication, Tourism and Culture for about a year and after the signing of the peace agreement, the ministry was broken up and I became Minister of Information and Broadcasting. I left government in 2001 and I set up Premier Media Consultancy as a corporate profit making body. We started in a small space somewhere else and started doing the same kind of things that Spence Production was doing — the theatre, the radio drama, TV drama and so on and then we moved into public relations and events management. Then we set up a newspaper and a radio station. Now we are in the process of restructuring, so we now have Premier Media Group and we are going to have subsidiaries, premier PR and events, premier films, premier news corporation which should be the radio, the newspaper, the internet maybe at some point and the television hopefully. In the area of film production, my first effort was in 1994, and prior to that there had been a couple of attempts by others. There had been one in the late ‘80s directed by Pat Madi, in fact I think it was some Nigerians who came and wanted to do production linked up with a playwright who had done this play and they tried to convert it to a film but it didn’t work — but that was the first attempt, it was in 1988 or 1989. Around the same time, we did our first film, it was 94awa and there was also another one which was done by another group, it was called wan bone and pikin by the Bell brothers. Those were the earliest efforts. After we did that one in 1994, we then did another one in 1995, Off to America and after that we stopped because we had huge challenges with marketing. We could not recover investments. We did another one in 2008, it was shot in 2005 but released in 2008, it is called Crack and it did better than the earlier ones. In fact, by that time obviously, I had acquired more skills as a director. The other person who I believe has done a lot of work in film is Jimmy Bangura (jimmy b), who I hope you will be talking to because he has done a number of movies, worked with Nigerians, Ghanaians and his movies are screened on DSTV and so on. Generally I will say in a way that catalogues the history of filmmaking here,I think in the past a year or two years, there has been some kind of massive interest in filmmaking in Sierra Leone. A lot of movies are being produced now. We have about one every two weeks being released, most of them are of very poor quality because the filmmakers don’t know anything about film production, but they are enthusiastic.

There is also a huge interest from the public. Right now there has been such an interest in Sierra Leonean movies that people are no longer buying Nigerian movies. They want to buy Sierra Leone movies. So if you look around the streets, you will see all these posters of movies all over the place. There’s also a new copyright law which was established early last year. It is a much better legal regime for copyright issues such as penalties and so forth. That has helped in terms of marketing movies. On the side of training, there is very little or nothing. I know Balanta Academy at some point was trying to do something but I don’t know if they are still doing it, and there is nothing at the university. There is really nowhere you can go to study film production. Fuorabay College has a mass communication programme, they do some TV production, but it is a weak programme. In fact, I taught in it for a couple of years after I left government but I didn’t have enough time so I gave up teaching. So, training, I think it’s critical. We need a lot of training. In the area of documentary film production, I think there is a bit more competence because of television but even that is very limited. The quality of local documentary production you see on television is rather weak. I think there are a few people who are trying to produce documentaries. We have done a few but we only do documentaries if somebody hires us to do them and we have done quite a few for companies, government departments and so on. In a nutshell, I think that there is a great need for training.

I am not aware of any legal regime that prohibits funding coming in or assistance of any form. We do not have a censorship board or film classification board, it doesn’t exist. We used to have one long ago but it’s moribund. In fact, I had a discussion with the minister a couple of weeks ago and raised the issue that we need to establish film classification because some of the movies that some people are trying to produce now… some people are moving into quite a bit of explicit sex in the movies. I don’t have anything against that but it needs to be classified so that people will know that this kind of movie, kids are not allow to watch it etc. The minister liked the idea. I am suppose to send him some proposals which I have not yet gotten around to doing. They have training also and I have proposed some short time training courses which I am prepared to lead. I also spoke to the university vice chancellor about the university getting involved and partnering so that whatever training we organise can be certificated by the university and he liked the idea and he was going to pass it on to the Dean of Arts. Again, I haven’t followed up, so basically that’s where we are.

FO: Thank you very much. I want to just ask a few questions because really you are like an elder statesman. Strangely enough, I did a documentary once and it’s amazing how many of the African cultural intelligentia had spent time in Ibadan. I wanted to ask… why you think African stories, the experience of Africans, remains so untold in their own voice. Why is the global information order as of today so disadvantageous to the experiences of Africans as a whole?

JS: I think it is a combination of factors. First of all, maybe because we live in it, we do not always see it and we do not recognise the need to tell the story. We sit around ourselves and tell the story and at times we turn it into jokes, especially in Sierra Leone. We tell the stories to ourselves but we do not recognise the importance of telling the story to others.

Secondly, there is a lack of skill sets. In a way, we do not have enough people with the skills to be able to tell the story effectively and to be able to get into the international media. You have to be able to achieve a certain quality and format which not many Africans are competent with.

Then there are the bread and butter issues, many of us are so engaged with just making a living, just being able to get the basics, we do not have time… For example, I have ideas to do documentaries that I have been toying with for years. I will not be able to get down to doing it because I just do not have the time, even to write my own memoirs. I have lived a very interesting life — I have been to prison, I have been in the war front, I have carried a weapon myself, I have done all kinds of things. I have not been able to sit down and write it because my days are taken up with just being able to make a living in this part of the world. If I were to have maybe three months where I didn’t have to worry about where I am going to make my next whatever. I’d write. I would have written long ago — it’s been more than ten years and I haven’t written anything. I haven’t even been able to sit down and read for leisure. I don’t have the time because I am working. I come here in the morning and at times I am in this office till 9 or 10 at night. I think that also is a factor.

The knowledge and the ability to access funding is also an issue. Most of us either do not know where to go to get the funds or do not have the skills to be able to do the proposals that will attract the funding to be able to do the work that needs to be done. I think it’s a combination of factors. Also, non-Africans come into Africa and some of the things we take for granted, they see. I’ll give you an example. I grew up in Sierra Leone, all my schooling was in Sierra Leone, my first degree was in Sierra Leone, and then I went to Nigeria. It was while I was in Nigeria doing research for my PhD that I discovered publications about Sierra Leoneans. That was when I came home on vacation and I heard for the first time about somebody who is famous in America. He is not quite famous in Sierra Leone. He was a guy called Sengbe Pieh who staged a mutiny on a slave ship and that group of Sierra Leoneans eventually landed in America. They are credited with having inspired the abolitionist movement and helping to end slavery. I knew nothing about him and it took an American lecturing at Fuorabay College…A friend of mine was in that course and fortunately he recorded the lecture and he gave it to me and he said, “Go listen to this”, and I went home that night and I decided to listen to it. It was on cassette then and I couldn’t believe my ears. I couldn’t sleep and was spellbound listening to the story of this Sierra Leonean that I had never heard about. Another famous Sierra Leonean Bai Bureh, whom we grew up singing derogatory songs about staged a revolt against colonialism called the Hut Tax War (1898) and eventually he was sent into exile. We had these derogatory songs we learned as children and it was when I was in Nigeria doing my research that

I came across some of the dispatches from the British governor about him and I came to understand what had really happened to him and I ended up writing a play about him later. I eventually wrote an article that led me to travel and lecture in different countries. While I was doing my research for my PhD, I was of the impression that as far as theatre in Sierra Leone is concerned, it emerged during the colonial period with peasant African gatherings, but while I was in Nigeria I discovered an article written by a German about a Mende story teller in Sierra Leone which was pure theatre. I came back home and I searched for the man, I found him. I observed some of his performances and I wrote this article called the Mende story telling theatre which became quite widely circulated. It was published in Theatre Quarterly, a major theatre magazine. The amazing thing for me was that I had lived all my life here, yet I did not know about these things because they were not taught in schools. Our education was tailored in the white man’s image so the history we were taught was from the white man’s perspective. It is only recently that Africans have been writing history books that tell it from our perspective.

There are all of these factors ,which is why I think that we have not yet been able to tell our own stories effectively. Some of those problems are disappearing with the histories being almost re-written and more people are understanding the issue but the other challenges still remain.

FO: I need to ask about the civil war and the impact on the cultural landscape. I see all these young people who are now creating and trying to express themselves. The accessibility of digital media is empowering younger people, they don’t need big equipment to create things anymore. Their laptops, their software and DSLR cameras liberate them to tell a story. As someone who has lived through several stages of Sierra Leonean history, what do you think the impact of that period is on this new generation? As someone who was in government before, what are your feelings about how this whole cultural industry is beginning to emerge and what do you see going into the future with this particular generation?

JS: I think that the generation that were either very young or grown up during the war, particularly those who directly experienced the war have a different kind of attitude towards life than those of us who knew Sierra Leone before the war. There is quite a bit more aggression, there is a propensity to violence but also there is quite a bit of anger largely because we have not been able to, in a way, provide for them. Many young people missed out on their childhood. They missed out on education at a certain stage so they are disadvantaged in many ways. In terms of the creative industries, I think that what has been happening in Sierra Leone has been happening without any real support from government. Music blossomed in Sierra Leone in early 2000 and there was a time when you could go to parties, you could go to night clubs and Sierra Leone music was being played. Then there was a reversal. But it is better now than it was before and you have a lot of young people who want to get involved in the performing arts. When the music industry blossomed, everybody wanted to be a musician but now everybody wants to be an actor or an actress. If I were to call an audition here now, this whole building would not be big enough. We have auditioned for a month and the place was full everyday and people were paying to go register to audition but I never knew that it would be like that. Every day, I receive calls about the movies that will be released and everyday, I receive several calls with people asking, “How can I join your industry?” I tell them to come to the office with their picture or leave their contact details and I tell them that if we have anything, we will call you.

So interestingly, it is the females that seem to be desperate to go on screen. I think they have this idea of glamour and so on, so there is a huge enthusiasm among young people to get involved in the performing arts. Unfortunately, successive governments have not yet recognised the importance of the creative industry and what they can do for this country. I have had discussions with the last government and this government. We developed a cultural policy with help from UNESCO. It’s been sitting now for about five years and nothing has happened with it and in fact, they did another validation workshop conference and the cabinet of the last government in their last few weeks approved it. It was supposed to go for legislation to create a council or commission for arts and culture but nothing happened. This government came in, and I raised the matter with them. They said they were going to do something but nothing happened and after a while, they said they need to revalidate it. They did another validation conference, and then nothing happened again.

Without a cultural policy in place, without an institution that has a responsibility to harness the power of the cultural industry, to be able to help them develop we are not really going to make much headway. All that has been happening has been happening by individual efforts without any support from government, without even a frame of being in place. I think some of these things need to be put in place for things to really happen. Any time I talk to anybody in government, I raise the issue about the work we should be doing with the cultural industry. We could create jobs for young people. Young people will not only be able to make a living, they will become wealthy. Look at what Hollywood has done for America, look at what Bollywood has done for India, look at what Nollywood is doing for Nigeria, look at the music industry in Nigeria, look at Ghana. Somehow, people don’t seem to see the importance of that. So you have all these young people who have some talents. They need some training, they need support, they need guidance, which they are not getting, so some of them who have talent try, they start and then they get frustrated and move on to doing something else. We have lot of people who want to do something in the performing arts but they don’t have the opportunity, they don’t have the support, they don’t have access to training opportunities, so after a while, it fizzles out. They have a few who make it even without any of that kind of support but if the support were available, they would do even better than they are doing. I am not quite sure of what the future holds. I think until and unless we can establish a council or commission for arts and culture, and task it with helping this sector develop, nothing much will happen. Some of us will do what we can as individuals, some of us have been trying, and quite a number of people have been doing the best they can but it gets to a point where without some kind of support, without some kind of establishment that can help structure things, nothing happens.

Then there is the copyright law. For the copyright law to be effective, there has to be a collection society. It has not been established because really left to ourselves, we don’t seem to be able to get together and organise things. This is partly because the majority of us do not have the technical or intellectual background to be able to structure these things properly and to set up what needs to be set up and do it right. Everybody has their own ideas. The vast majority of Sierra Leonean artists have had no exposure, no training, and everybody believes he or she is an expert, and so there we are.

FO: If there is going to be intervention, how do you suggest that it be structured? What strategies, in your opinion, will be imperative for the intervention to have the widest impact and the most positive outcomes?

JS: I think that some organisation needs to be set up or needs to get together, maybe like a guild of producers. Maybe that will be the first thing that we need to get together — a guild of producers that could get together and have a proper structure and whatever support could then come through that guild. There has to be some training component and there has to be some equipment support. I think those would be the two main things that need to be in place . There is some in terms of copyright. We also need to probably encourage and maybe support government to establish the censorship or film classification board. I think that if we have the film classification board in place and we have the guild of producers in place, we can then provide the leadership for whatever organisation needs to be put in place and then the training could probably be linked up with the university.

I think that kind of coordinated triumvirate — film classification board, guild of producers, university should be able to make things move. If you have that in place and then technical support for the training for some period, maybe even somebody coming to administer the guild for a while… also for the film classification because as far as I know, I don’t think anybody is still alive who served on the film censorship board in those days but in terms of people who have had some experience of running that kind of institution, I don’t think there are many people in this country. When it comes to appointments which are done by government, you can almost be sure that the right people are unlikely to get appointed. So we may have an institution set up which doesn’t have the capacity to do what it needs to do, because the right people are not there, and it does not have the support.

If we have a new set-up and appointments are made, there must be at least one technical person who has the skills and knowledge, and who can provide the guidance to the institution. Then it could work, and for the producer’s guild as well. Part of the problem is that we are all too busy to do the kind of administrative work that is necessary. So we need a structure with the right people.

FO: I just want to ask you a final question about your work as an entrepreneur. Where do you think the opportunities lie? You clearly have the resources, the business plan, the structure… how is business?

JS: Bad (laughs), we don’t have the resources. I think because of public relations we are able to create the impression that we have the resources. Our major problem is financing. In the area of film production, I believe that we have a great future both in documentary production and feature film, etc., so I am working on raising finances to be able to do that. In fact, my idea is to basically be almost like a production company, but first of all we need to have enough people who know what to do. I used the models that I used for Spence Productions which was a theatre company. We had a small team. In fact, I only had one full time employee at a time and when we wanted to do a production, we’d hire people then.

In the area of film production, to hire people, you have to have people who know what to do — cameramen, directors, actors and actresses, lighting technicians, etc. Scriptwriters are the major area where we have a problem. Premier Media cannot produce enough movies on its own to satisfy the market. Julius Spencer can only direct so many movies, so we need so many people who can direct properly, we need more people who can write good scripts etc. We could be producing five movies at the same time, but we need qualified crew and actors and actresses who can act for movies rather than the stage.

Financing is a major issue. I have been talking to banks, even investment funds and they are not yet convinced that a movie is what they should invest in. They think there is too much risk attached to it. I keep telling them there is no risk for producing movies in Sierra Leone now. I can produce a movie in Sierra Leone for five thousand dollars. A big budget here for a movie would be ten to fifteen thousand dollars. I can produce that movie if I have set up the marketing properly, and then I can get it on TV right here, I can get it screened in the UK, I can get it on to other channels in Africa, I can sell DVDs in Sierra Leone, ten thousand copies, fifteen thousand copies, I can get it into Nigeria, I can sell copies in the UK and in America. Fifteen thousand dollars, a big budget movie for Sierra Leone, and I can make the money back in three months — but they do not yet see that. So access to financing is still a challenge.

To be able to set up distribution properly, one needs to have the financing to set up the distribution network and so on. There are marketers now and some of them are doing a fairly good job. To make the DVDs costs four thousand Leones, you sell it at six thousand or six thousand five hundred to the marketers, they sell it to somebody else and by the time it gets in to the market, the streets, it is ten thousand. So you who have invested in the movie only get two thousand, or two thousand five hundred Leones off of it.. Those who duplicate films get four thousand and well, they have costs, of course, for the material and those who sell probably get more than you do. If you can sell large volumes, you make your money back, but it would be better if we can establish a distribution network which is not dictated by the marketers. In Nigeria at some point, and I don’t know if it has changed, the marketers were determining what sort of movies were being made. They thought they knew what people would buy, so they told producers who they wanted in the movies. I don’t want us to get to that point here. In fact, we have already started that here because there are one or two marketers who have started financing movies. Thank God they have not started producing good quality yet. Professional filmmakers need to be in control. If we do not take control quickly enough, we stand the risk of having the people with the money taking over and telling us what to do.

I think that the professionals need to get together at some point, but right now there is some unpleasantness. For example, jimmy B — and I keep saying he is the most successful Sierra Leonean filmmaker to date because his movies have gotten released, and he has produced more than anybody else in terms of numbers — started using “Sollywood” for Sierra Leone movies. I don’t like the name because it sounds like soil to me. Then a group of young people from the eastern part of the city got together and they have set up what they call SunValley films. Now they are trying to get everybody to start using “SunValley”.

I keep insisting that we should produce quality movies, let people see them and let them name what is coming out of Sierra Leone. We have no business arguing who we should be or whether we should call ourselves SunValley or Sollywood, etc. So there is some kind of divide. Some of us are trying to bridge the divide but some people have their own ideas. Some of it is being fuelled by marketers as well. That’s why I think that we need to get a proper structure in place pretty soon and be able to do things properly.

FO: Are you positive about the future…what hope do you have? 

JS: I am very positive and I think that Premier Media has the potential to influence things in a positive way. As I said, I have been talking to government officials and the response has been positive. I just need to find a time to put things on paper and take it further. They said that the film classification board, training and even a movie that we want to produce was getting support from the military and that everything is positive. There is a lot of enthusiasm among young people to do movies, both to produce and to act in movies, so I think we are at a watershed now where we have many positive things in place. We need to be able to harness them now or pretty soon so that we can move things in the right direction. I think that there is a lot of potential here and I am positive that things will work out. I think we have learned some lessons from the music industry and some of us are determined that things should move in the right direction. I think we would be able to achieve a lot in the next few months but it may take a little longer than that. Maybe after the elections, we will be able to have certain structure in place.

FO: Thank you so much Dr. Spencer. I really appreciate it. 

JS: You are welcome.



Events Manager

FO: Thank you very much sir for accepting to see me. The main reason I asked to see you is to find out:

  1. What are the statutory pillars of the film industry and I hate to say film industry, I am more interested in the creative industry e. the things driving the new generation — What are the statutory or legal frameworks around which they operate?
  1. Are there any laws or legal protections for intellectual property?
  1. What is the government currently doing to encourage this incredibly interesting lucrative industry that is going on across Africa and across the same generation?
  1. I also want to know if there are any any legal restrictions to funding coming into the country to support the filmmaking community? So basically, what are the things that government has put down as the rules of the game for those in the creative industry? That is really what I need to know from you

ST: From the point of view of government, we encourage freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and we almost let them go unhindered. We have the Ministry of Information. The film industry or the creative industry falls under the arm of the Ministry of Information. The film industry is growing but it has not developed yet and what we try to ensure is that films are morally acceptable for kids, school children, who watch them. We are not really censoring them, but we are trying to ensure that the films are good, that the films have no immoral aspect, and if they have, they should be rated for adults. We do not prevent any company, any industry from getting funding from outside. It is free, you can fund them directly or you can fund them through the government.

FO: Are there any kinds of government regulations for guilds and foundations, to be sure they’re legitimate?

ST: I understand what you mean, because if safeguards are not put in place, and perhaps you deal with an institution directly, you don’t know much about their background, the money may not be used for the purpose which it is given. If monies come through the government, then it can be stated who the beneficiaries are, and the government will see to it that they go to the right place. If monies are to go through other institutions, we would have to look into it and try to come up with safeguard measures. As of now, we haven’t had any experience of somebody trying to support the film industry.

FO: One last question concerning film education. One of the things I have heard over and over again from everybody is the need for skills, education. I mean the guys who are making film are passionate in everything but they need education, they need some skills transferred, they need equipment, and I understand there is, as we speak, no university or institution that has a curriculum, even though I understand from Dr. Spencer that there have been conversations about creating one. Just specifically from government, do you have the details of any kind of plan already in development for this

ST: I think government is not averse to having a curriculum that deals with art, performing arts, acting and the like. That falls under the arm of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. From the point of view of Information, we will be very supportive of it, and the moment they hash out the ideas, do the research, get the details, write a cabinet paper, cabinet approves and it becomes a government policy — it will be followed through.

FO: If someone were to come with a fund, who do they talk to in government? 

DS: The structures that you are actually looking for, we cannot guarantee that those are well made. You have come at a point in time when the eggs have almost been hatched. All the enthusiasm that is spilling out is this new enigma that has just hatched up in the society, so you have pockets of people producing here, unions competing there, and all of that as far as I am concerned is because of a lot of ignorance about how the whole thing operates. So from your point of view, your interest in terms of safeguards, you are looking at something. At least yo safeguards: there should be a commission that is in charge, a body that will give you a guarantee that if we stamp this officially, then you know this company or that one is okay. It is only now that we are putting all of these things together. I happen to be a producer, actor, director in my own small corner. We have just completed the production of another movie. We had our director from Ghana and artists from Nigeria, Tanzania, Gambia, Ghana. You know that kind of collaboration, but as I said, the administrative angle of the film industry is yet to be consolidated. There are still misconceptions, and misunderstandings as to what we are doing.

It’s just like the music industry and how it started. Once one was successful, everybody jumped out of their house that day and we are all going to the studios and we are all rappers overnight. After a space of time, we came to realise that you can have a union registered with bargaining power and then the guilds come in, then the union, then the actor’s forum, then the board, and the censorship level.

Now, because this thing has become catchy, the bush fire is on in the harmattan. It’s now that we are realising these are structures we need to even control the quality of the production and to safeguard the interest of the buying public. We need to have a stamp of authority so we can feel confidence as buyers that this is a worthwhile home video, that it does not contain content that will shock our children, and so forth. Up til now it’s been the private sector dealing with all this, but because of the dimension it is taking now, the regulatory and administrative side ought to be looked after. But even before it gets to that point, we as practitioners and stake holders in the industry need to get our act together and make the necessary recommendations for government.

ST: I think that is the issue, it is a growing industry, iand perhaps government needs to start paying more attention to it and get it focused just like when these mobile companies started coming. It took time and when government realised that there needed to be a regulatory body, then we did set up the National Telecommunications Commission to regulate them. I think with time, within the shortest possible time, government should focus attention on it and perhaps your interview is a trigger in the right direction because I will inform my minister and we will start putting measures in place.

FO: Thank you both.



FO: I’m just going to ask you to identify yourself.

IK: My name is Idriss Kpange and I am a filmmaker and a TV journalist.

FO: So how do you operate here, you as a filmmaker, what are the things that you do?

IK: For me, I started this whole thing as a television journalist and during that time I was focused on doing a lot of documentaries, news pieces, documentary style for news, so it was over those years that I developed a passion to actually start doing my own stories which are not news based stories but human stories.

So that was how it started, but the platform for making those kinds of film is really not there so young and upcoming filmmakers like us have to struggle.Obviously there is no fund, there has never been any kind of funding from government or from any institution. So if you want to make your film, you have to fund it yourself or if you are lucky you can fund it with one of those overseas funding people. All of the good films that have been made, like documentaries in this country, have been made by foreign people. People who get funding from their country and then they come and they make films here. It’s been difficult. That’s the reason why people are really not interested in becoming documentary filmmakers here, because what’s the point?

FO: I understand the difficulty for filmmakers but in terms of audience are documentaries something they want to consume, do they have any understanding of how important documentaries may be for them? Even if only for entertainment, do they watch on television, how are documentaries distributed?

IK: Well, there is no network first of all in terms of distributing documentaries, but obviously people do watch documentaries that have been made over the years by different people. For instance, there is a film called Fambul Tok (Family Talk). You know, after the war they set up the truth and reconciliation commission but they didn’t really go down to the community level where people still hold grudges over the whole thing that happened. Some people were never forgiven because of what they did during the war, so these filmmakers came in and took the reconciliation process to the community level wherein people would come in and sit round the fire and then discuss and say, “This guy did this to me and I was never asked and he didn’t say he was sorry”.

It’s a very powerful film where people came together at the community level and said, “Sorry, I killed your mother, I killed your father”, but at the community level. It really had very good reviews internationally and people are watching that here like they really understand. So there is an audience obviously on TV and people understand the story once it relates to them. Recently we also started a film festival here. We showed a lot of documentaries that were made by some small filmmakers and some other international films. People were really interested. It was the first time we had a huge turn out and lot of people came.

FO: You need to talk to me about the festival in a second, but let me just try and locate the environment in which you are working. How many across Sierra Leone would you say are known filmmakers and documentary filmmakers? How many people are even trying to do any work in that genre?

IK: I don’t think there are up to ten really serious people who are interested in making documentary film, but for dramas and local films, there are a lot of people who are into those.

FO: Let us talk about the film industry as a whole. How big is it here, the local film industry itself? How are they distributing their work, because that’s also somewhere I want to go. I want to be able to visit a cinema here. If they sell it in the market, I want to see where they sell it, and to look at what the figures are in terms of general filmmaking here.

IK: The distribution is through marketers. I make my films and take it to a marketer and we negotiate a price and say ok, I want five thousand dollars for it and then the marketer gives me my five thousand dollars and takes the film, makes copies of it and sells them. Now people are becoming more interested in Sierra Leonean local films. It’s really growing now. Every single day four to five new films come out. Just like Nollywood.

I think that’s the trend. People are doing a lot of films every single day. If you go around town, you will see posters everywhere for new films coming out but the distribution is only done through the marketing stake — the people who sell the V-CDs or DVDs.

FO: So what happened to the cinemas?

IK: The cinemas all got run down, and there is no cinema culture anymore. For instance, one cinema was sold, the space was sold and used as a store and what they focus more on is showing the English Premier League and people come to pay and watch the Premier League. But now it’s shifting a bit. People go to movie premieres and the local movie cinemas to see the films that are out and sometimes they announce the movies that they are going to show. There is one cinema, Porsche cinema, but they mostly target expats who work in Sierra Leone and most of the films they show there are western films and not really our own local films that are produced here.

FO: In terms of the larger industry, do you think a marketer will buy a documentary? Do you think there is a chance that distributing a documentary through the same channel would work here?

IK: I think if the story relates to the people, if it is a story they are interested in, yes they will. You know, people are becoming more aware and interested in real issues, not just drama and other genres, especially young people coming from the university or young people from high school. There is also a surge in people becoming interested in becoming filmmakers because I think they see it — through local dramas that are being produced here — they see it as an art they want to be involved in. A lot of people are opting to becoming filmmakers so I think with time, things are really going to change. I think we are the last country that is really trying to catch up with the rest of West Africa in terms of film and cinema. No Sierra Leonean has ever made a big movie here that has gone out and made a lot of noise. For instance, Newton Aduka, he did Ezra, a Sierra Leonean story, he went to FESPACO and he won a lot of awards for that film, but Newton is not a Sierra Leonean. Blood Diamond is another classic example so I think there is a lot that needs to be done in the industry here.

FO: In terms of funding, if for instance there were to be a structured funding for filmmakers here, how do you see that operating?

IK: I think the first thing we need if there is ever going to be funding is to build capacity of filmmakers before you start dishing out money because right now, a lot of the people don’t understand how it works in terms of story telling. People may just become interested in becoming a filmmaker but they need to know the process, how it works, what the local and international markets are looking for, how you can match the standard of other people. So they need a lot of training in a lot of areas first of all.

FO: So are there any film training schools?

IK: No

FO: None at all?

IK: There is one that someone started a few months ago. He is trying to bring that kind of system into the education system and it has been very difficult because people don’t just get it.

FO: So you think in terms of intervention, you think the most important thing right now is film education and proper training?

IK: Yes, I think so. Some people have made very good films but they don’t understand how the business works. For instance, they go into the festivals with their movies or try to approach international distributors but they don’t know how, so I think they need a lot of education in that direction too — when you have your film, what to do, where to take it to and who to take it to.

FO: From the government angle, how focused is government on the film industry itself and what opportunities is government creating?

IK: Government has never been focused on filmmaking. They have never supported filmmaking. The government is more focused on the mining contracts, roads and other infrastructures, but film? No. A couple of years ago the universities started the mass communication departments wherein some students went to study television. The equipment that they were given almost ten years ago is the same equipment that they are still using and there are really no teachers to actually to teach TV. All they are given is theory. They just read about it and then they come out of college. Some people go and work in newspapers or the radio or they become public relations officers or work in an advertising company.

I think Sierra Leone needs a lot of help in that direction. I think people are putting a lot of money in different areas and are completely forgetting and ignoring this other part of the art. I have stayed in this country and I have travelled overseas. I have seen what other people are doing, and I have decided to come back. I can say that I want to really do this and I want to do it here. It is really difficult and challenging.

FO: Are the TV stations here not funded by government? How does it work if you make a film and you would like to broadcast it?

IK: There are no structures. The TV is government owned. They changed it into a corporation but it is still a 100% government controlled station and the content on TV is really not good. They prefer to play a lot of western movies and Nollywood films or some Chinese kung fu movies. The TV is terrible and there is only one TV station.

The broadcaster doesn’t pay for anything – but they just passed a new copyright law and it’s coming into existence now. Before I could take your work and do whatever I wanted to do with it and there was nothing that would really happen to me because there was no law.

I think the national TV needs to step up their game in terms of promoting the Sierra Leonean artists and filmmakers who are trying to do something. Then again, the TV is only interested in money. They only show something when you pay for it, even if it is your work. You can give them something and say, “Show this, educate the people”, and they will ask you, “Are you going to pay for it?” So that’s how it works.

FO: If you have to put a number to it, if someone should say, “I’m going to create a training programme for filmmakers, how many people do you estimate would attend such a programme, in terms of intakes, in terms of impact, how many people will such a programme impact immediately?

IK: I think a lot of people will come for the first few weeks, then some will leave because they maybe find it boring. But regardless, many people will be come and stay interested. They can give you the best training but it is up to you to decide what you want to do with that, how passionate you are and what you want to use it for. A couple of years ago, the British Council sponsored the project with Scriptnet. Scriptnet came here and they trained scriptwriters how to write short films and that workshop went on for a couple of months in different stages — the writing stage, the scripting, then production. These guys had no prior film education but all of them were very serious people who went to that workshop and they learned a lot and produced some of the films. Some films went into festivals and they won awards. Most of the people really interested in filmmaking left, everybody is gone.

FO: I’m sure Sierra Leone is not just Freetown. There must be several parts to Sierra Leone. Where are the cultural centers or the centers where film making is likely to thrive or where emerging filmmakers are very active?

IK: I think it’s Freetown, and once Freetown kicks off it will spill over to other parts of the country because this is a very small country. People up country are always interested in what people are doing in Freetown and then start copying what they do.

FO: To what extent does what is happening here influence what happens in Liberia? If something was being done here, is it likely to spill over to Liberia, for instance, or vice-versa? Can it be combined? If something is happening in one country, is the other country impacted in some way?

IK: Yes, definitely because these West African countries especially these five countries, they all share a lot of things in common. Liberia, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana, we all share a lot of culture. We have things in common. With the music, there has always been that kind of thing. They make music in Liberia and when it comes to Sierra Leone it has a very huge impact. Then it happens the same way with the Gambians and in other countries, even Nigerian music is hitting with videos and everything.

I think there is this artist who switched off to become a filmmaker named Jimmy B. What he has been doing is making Nollywood kind of movies. He goes to Nigeria, works with the artist there, takes the artist from Nigeria, brings them here and they make a film. So there is that collaborative kind of thing going on, even Desmond Elliot (Nigerian actor) is currently here doing a film with Sierra Leonean actors and producers.

FO: You guys have basically the same history as Nigeria in terms of what the British, the colonizer, did in regard to how they used cinema as a basic political tool. I wanted to ask you about archives. Did they leave a lot of films here in archive in terms of the history of Sierra Leone, in terms of perhaps what happened in the colonial days? Because we don’t have anything, we have an archive that has nothing in it.

IK: Well, unfortunately, no. The national broadcaster used to have all these archives during the colonial day. During the war the whole library was burned down and so I think that was the only the national archive in terms of images that we had on film and TV. That was completely destroyed, and so no, there is nothing. I once worked with the Commonwealth in London and I was going through the archives and I saw a lot of those materials. They still have them there but we don’t have any.

FO: Talking about the war, what was the impact of the say on filmmaking in Sierra Leone?

IK: I think during the war, people were really not interested in filmmaking. People were thinking maybe there was something the foreigners could do. The only Sierra Leonean that ever tried to make a film that I remember was Hilton Fyle. He did a documentary on the NPRC — the military guys that overthrew the former APC government back in the ‘90s. He did a film about Captain Valentine Strasser because he was the youngest president in the world. That film really had a huge impact. This was 20 years ago, but before the war? No. I think most of what was going on was just drama — stage plays. We have a professor Pat Madi who tried to make a film even before Hilton Fyle. He had gone to school with Wole Soyinka. They were in school together and he was the director of most plays that they wrote in school. He tried to make a film then but it didn’t work out because they didn’t have the technology. Later on Dr. Julius Spencer came in and tried to do a lot of films. They shot television series and that was really how things started to progress. It was when the war was ending that people were starting to go into films.

FO: How much structure was in place for film before the war and how much of that remained after the war?

IK: Nothing, there was no structure. There has not really been any education about film in the curriculum of the university or other institutions.

FO: I find that traumatic events like a war creates a lot of stories for filmmakers. People need to come to terms with what happened, people need to hear inspirational stories of how people survived the war and usually you need the artistic industry, you need dramas and documentaries to bring closure to those things for people emotionally. Are filmmakers here looking at that? And if there was a capacity, or a capability or the funding, what kind of stories do you think people would find interesting?

IK: I think with the war a lot of people have stories that they want to tell, but they don’t just have a platform. A lot of people went through hell and they have stories that they haven’t told anybody. Even filmmakers have stories because everybody was part of it, but some of those stories, you can’t really express. These small dramas that they do need to be a real life story. The only way you can tell that story is to probably use a documentary style of filmmaking.

FO: Where were you during the war?

IK: Here, in Freetown.

FO: And how did you survive the war? 

IK: I was hiding, place to place, going under bunkers, and like that…and sweet talk. People who knew how to talk better than me were killed.

FO: As a filmmaker, do you have memories of that era that you would like to commit to film?

IK: I wish I could re-enact some of those things that I saw during the war. I wish I could bring them back to life and then I would be able to tell those stories through film. For instance, I have a film that I am working on but I have been looking for two thousand dollars for five years and nobody will give me two thousand dollars. That’s how serious it is. I have cameras, and I want to do the film in Guinea. I have every other resource and it is just something to facilitate my movement. I have been asking everybody and nobody is giving me the money, so that’s just it. I think it’s frustrating for people like us to go through this. When you go to other countries, especially the Francophone countries, they have lots of arts and cultural centers and it might not be that much but at least there is something. Go to Ouagadougou. I have been to FESPACO and if you go you will see their institution and their film schools there. There is an international Film School in Ouagadougou and people from all over the world come there. There is this big festival, a lot of arts, a lot of cultural centers and there is money for filmmakers. I think we also need that kind of structure. Since the colonial masters didn’t do anything, we are trying to do it for ourselves now.

FO: What’s the government’s attitude (the current government in place) towards the industry itself?

IK: I really don’t know what their attitude is but I think to some extent they are supporting filmmakers. Some guys did a film a couple of months ago and when they needed some military hardware the government was able to give all the military hardware for the crew to use. That’s a plus, but if I wanted to tell a very critical story of the government in a film, I don’t really know how they would take it or whether they would say, “He is just trying to express himself through that kind medium”. We are also doing some legal education drama now for one NGO. We are using the police station and the police cells, the court and the police and the inspector general of police gave us everything and they have been supportive of the project. So I think to some extent they will support filmmaking and filmmakers?

FO: Are there legislations, laws, legal instruments that support the industry to grow? Is there any legislation against piracy, and is there any legislation that allocates a part of the budget into supporting the growth of the arts or cinema or documentary?

IK: In terms of budgeting, no. When they announce the national budget there is nothing about that that goes to the Ministry of Culture on film. There is nothing like that or maybe they have it and they are being corrupt. In terms of legislation for piracy, they just passed a new piracy act that has come into law now and at least to some extent they have reduced the piracy right now with the music and the films. That is why there is a surge now with the Sierra Leonean films competing with the Nollywood movies. Before, when it was purely Nollywood movies, it could take 2 to 3 years before one Sierra Leonean movie came out.

FO: So, right now you have a lot of Sierra Leonean filmmakers working with Nigerian filmmakers and vice-versa?

IK: Yes.

FO: I want to know the truth about the two guilds.

IK: Ian Noah is a Sierra Leonean but he was born in England. He grew up in England so he does not understand the culture. He speaks good English, so sometimes when he speaks, they don’t understand what he is saying because he rolls his tongue and he has that strong accent and it disturbs them. They think it is humiliating sometimes, or they just can’t get what he is saying but the guild actually started through his effort. Ian put together a very professional structure for the guild as it should be, so just because they were not too supportive of Ian’s vision they almost killed the dream of having the guild. Then they went and formed the union but they are not even like a proper government registered group. The guild has a trade union certificate, the guild has a proper constitution, the guild has a website and the guild has more skilful people. For the others, it’s just about marketing and they have a lot of people in the east, so they are using this to market their movies. That’s the idea, that’s the whole thing.

FO: What kinds of cameras do you use?

IK: I have a SONY FI, I have the SONY Z1 and Z7 and I have a CANON 5D MACH 2 and I also added a camera to them, the GOPRO It’s a really tiny camera, a study kind of camera for action.It’s water proof, full HD, full resolution, it’s good for doing time lapse and you can attach it to a car.

FO: And it will create it for you?

IK: Yes, I can show you some of the time lapse sequences I created with it — very good speed and it’s two hundred and fifty pounds.

FO: So you are basically kitted up to do your documentary?

IK: You know I have a production facility which I am trying to put together which over my last 7 years working as a TV journalist for Reuters I managed tosave some of that money and put into this facility but still, it is struggling. It’s growing little by little. We have mostly focused on doing commercial work at this stage because…

FO: How is that business?

IK: Well, it is moving but it’s difficult because other people are trying to do the same thing, but we are properly set up and it is good.

FO: How much business is here for somebody doing commercials for instance?

IK: You will have a lot if you know what you are doing and you will have contact, because here it is all about knowing people.It’s about who you know and how best you convince people in the company to do what you want.

FO: In terms of…obviously you have got a production company, in terms of training young people, how are the people that surround you? I assume that if you have put it together that there is room for training. But for you to find crew, how do you manage?

IK: Yes, a lot of people that I work with manage to get their training from me because we are trying to help build capacity for camera crew, editors, and sound people. All that is in the pipeline because recently I went to America, through the US embassy there and they have this multi-regional programme for film in the US. They take people from all over the world. I was part of the fifteen people that went from all over — even from Jordan, Latvia, Sudan, India, Palestine, and a lot of other countries. I was part of that group and we went across the US meeting different people in film.We went to Hollywood, met executive producers there, and went to film schools. We met people in the African Film Festival office, I went to a lot of festivals and I went to Texas to the SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival there.

I want to get support from those contacts. We need a little support to build capacity here in filmmaking and we have started something. If you can maybe help us get used equipment, whatever video production or film making equipment that you can support us with, you are free to do it through the US embassy here. I am sure if we get anybody to support any of our projects the US embassy will be willing to bring things over. I was also in touch with a professor in California who is willing to come and do training with filmmakers and mass communication classes.

FO: I know the difficulty of trying to run a production company in an African environment and trying to run your own project. You run a production company because you are desperate to get some money so you can do your own project and sometimes you find out that you end up in the reverse, leaving your own project to support the production company. Have you been to Nigeria? Have you collaborated with anybody?

IK: I haven’t. I was really supposed to be in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago but the deal didn’t work out. There is a guy named Ayo Johnson and he is on TV all the time, a Sierra Leonean/Nigerian based in the UK. He was in Nigeria doing some documentary on Boko Haram, Shell and all these crazy people, so I was supposed to go film for him, but then I was asking all these questions about insurance and security but the station couldn’t handle all of that. I thought that there was no story that was worth more than my life.

FO: You started out as a camera man for Reuters?

IK: Yes.

FO: You have worked in very stressful interventions, war zones and things like that?

IK: Yes, I’ve covered that kind of stuff

FO: … and usually when you cover, are you covering by yourself or …?

IK: It’s a one man thing. I go, I film, I return, I edit, I file, I sell the story, I write the script, and then I see it.

FO: Is Reuters still effective in that kind of set up?

IK: They are really not too active. Again, after I have done it for seven years they are only interested when it is a hot spot. Now they are becoming more interested because they have heard that some western companies want to start oil exploration here. They have these huge business section of Reuters and do news for this huge financial corporations. There is a company that wants to start investing in the possible oil deals and exploring if it is commercially viable, so they are looking into that kind of thing right now.



FO: Since yesterday, I have been talking to filmmakers, production company people, we have just come back from speaking to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry and we thought it would be important to talk also to the film guild, the unions and get a bit of your own perspective, to see whatever it is that you wish to say or to contribute to the conversation. So first and foremost, maybe you should introduce yourself and then give me a sense of history of this union, why was it formed, how was it formed, who are the executives, what are its goals, and what are its activities so far?

PA: Thank you. I am Pastor Aiah Momoh, I am the president for the Sierra Leonean National Film Union, the acronym is SUN VALLEY, that is the most common all over the country. I am also the CEO and director for THE  USHERS  FILM  COMPANY. I have been around doing film for a very long time, by the grace of God. We have established this union called Sun Valley because we see the need as filmmakers to operate under a union.

There was a need for unionism because before now, films were not selling in the country. People were doing films back in the ‘80s but Sierra Leonean films are not too popular. When we formed this union, we tried by to put certain things in place and now if you go to the streets of Freetown, you will see Sierra Leonean films all over. Before, it was Nigerian films, and Ghanaian films, but now we have Sierra Leonean films that are selling. The union started two years ago on November 17, so it’s not that old, but since then we have had positive strikes. We have been organizing workshops, we have ensured that we settle problems of distribution and marketing in the country and as I said, if you move around now, you will see Sierra Leonean films all over the place. We also trying to create awareness for people to know that there is an industry in this country. So far these are the things we have been doing.

FO: Before the Sun Valley, there was a guild. What happened to the guild and why did you feel there was a need to create another body?

PA: Before we started the Sun Valley, as you said, there was a guild indeed and I was also part of it. Most of us were part of it. I would not want to say it died down, but along the line it stopped functioning. The whole guild was not moving the way we expected and because of the passion some of us had, we decided to set up a new movement and so we came together as members of the industry in this country — people who are making films, some from the east and some from the west. Then we reasoned that since the guild was not moving the way it should, we should organise something else. In fact, we started this organisation two years after the guild was not functioning well and so we came together and started our meetings. Then we came up with a name, that’s how it happened.

FO: In terms of what you will consider the success of the union apart from distribution…and I will come to you helping me to define better how you solved what you called the distribution problem…what are other things that the union has achieved or aims to achieve in this journey that you have started?

PA: We have achieved a lot. First, we organised a film festival alongside We Own TV. We did it at the Miatta Garden here and it was a big success and a whole lot of people attended. We have also established a website that is popular for Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans to be informed about what is happening in the country regarding filming as far as the industry is concerned.

We’ve also been able to help filmmakers to produce their films because one of the problems we have been having is finding sponsors and people to come on board and serve as executive producers. It’s been a big problem. As a union we have been coming on board, helping people to produce their films. We are now working on setting up a censor board to make sure we begin to censor some of these films. We have worked with international organisations and with other NGOs that are based here as well.

FO: Do you have the power to censor? I mean when you say the union wants to censor, I’m concerned because this is a creative environment, an industry where people are doing their things. Isn’t the union about empowering filmmakers, whether they are part of your group or not?

PA: We are not saying that you come with your film to us and we decide whether this film goes or not. Within ourselves, within the union, we will look at your script, and say, “ Alright, there is a mistake at this point. The plotting is not good…etc.”, to help the films that are coming out. In a broader sense, we are looking at working with some other people who are not part of the union, who are yet to come on board to see how we can work together to establish a better censor board.

FO: Tell me about distribution; the model of distribution that you are running is almost like that of Nigeria…the open markets, street sales… How have you been able to structure it, is there any difference from the model in Nigeria or Ghana and what are the dangers for the filmmaker in terms of their intellectual property here?

PA: To be honest, the very first thing we were fighting for was to get the people to buy our films, so what we did was to make them available. We look out for people who we know are competent, people who we know can market the films, people who are ready to put their money into the whole thing. We spoke to them and they accepted the proposal and they began to produce the films with their own money. So that was how the whole thing started, because before now people did their films but they didn’t have money to produce, so now we talk to these people and they are ready to produce, they are ready to print our films and posters without paying upfront and so by the end of the day, we now have a lot of Sierra Leonean films flooding the market because we have settled the problem of raising a huge sum of money to take them to Nigeria. We used to send all of our printing to Nigeria but now the union has successfully organised a structure wherein you don’t need to raise ten thousand dollars. All you need to do is to make the film and when it comes to the post production we have people who can handle it and we begin to flood the market. We are working on some other things to see how we will get a better structure, but as of now we like the way things are going, because before now films were not selling. The whole thing is progressive. We have reached the first point which is the awareness that we have an industry in this country. They are doing well. Let us begin to buy their films — Nigerian films should not dominate our market, Ghanaian films should not dominate our market. This is the strategy.

Before now, the Nigerian films were selling heavily. Nobody looked at our films but now I can take you to places where people sell Nigerian films. We have the Sierra Leonean shops and we also have the Nigerian shops, but you will see people go to the Sierra Leonean shops to pick the Sierra Leonean movies. For now, we are successful and we are planning as a union to do something else.

FO: What other activities are you involved with as a union beyond distribution, what are you activities in term of training? What are your activities in term of creating funding structures, how are you collaborating with government to protect intellectual property?

PA: Let’s start with the intellectual property. The union is part of it. Since the whole thing started, we have been part of it. We’ve attended the meetings several times and we came up with the idea that there should be a workshop. Now that it has become a law, there should be a workshop wherein people will be trained and those people that have been trained will go out to train other people, so it’s like training the trainers. The union was part of that. We have been monitoring the system with regards to piracy. As I am talking to you, we also have our own team in the union that goes around from time to time because we know where the pirates are. The police don’t know but we know because we are in it. We know the holes. We have been catching some of them. Two weeks back, two of them were captured by the police and last month we caught some of them again. We have been making sure that we go the extra mile to protect our members and their rights, and we have been working with government.

For instance, we had a lady from Canada who was here when we organised the programme. It is called Faces of Sierra Leone Movie Stars. When you go to Nigeria or you go to Ghana, it is easy to identify their actors. If you are talking about movies, you can point at Genevieve, Omotola or Emeka but when you come to Sierra Leone, it’s difficult to find them, so what we did as a union was to advertise our actors so that it would be easy to identify them. We organised the programme and I can assure you it has not been done anywhere else in the world. People called from outside Sierra Leone when they heard about it and they wanted to know what the whole thing was about.

Somebody from Canada said if they had this kind of opportunity, the American actors would not overshadow them in Canada, so it is a plus for our actors. We organised that programme at the swimming pool and we collaborated with the Ministry of Tourism, Youth and Sport and also the Youth Commission and other government parastatals and it was a success. We presented thirty actors and categorized them into three: silver, gold and platinum and these people, as far as we are concerned as a union, are the best in the country. Now we have projects that are green lighted already for these thirty people — they are our movie stars. As a union we believe that because they went through a process and they succeeded the public learned about them. We had about two hundred people or so who applied for that but only thirty succeeded.

FO: They applied to be known as stars?

PA: No, to be known — to go through the process. They are actors, they were auditioned, we interviewed them, we asked them to do one or two things, just to get the best out of them because we want to showcase our actors, we want to add to their profile and at the end of the day, we had thirty who were able to make it so that programme was a big success in this country.

FO: In terms of documentary, how well is that sector of the film industry doing in your opinion?

PA: Well, you see the Nigerian films actually stole the attention of people with regards to documentary.

People were used to feature length films because of the Nigerian films that were flooding the country, but you have a particular group who love documentary films. They are glued to it but with We Own TV and some other groups around, they have been pressing. If you call them to your programme, they will show you short films and documentaries and gradually, people are getting fond of documentary in this country. I believe there is a market for it. The only problem is that it is not common. You have a specific set of people doing documentary like the young man behind you Mr Idriss. Mr Arthur here is well known for that, but it is not as rampant as the feature length films.

If you have good documentaries, people can go for it. For instance, the SLBC are looking for documentaries but they do not want to put money in it, they want you to do it and bring it to them.

FO: Why is the union not advocating for broadcasters, or for people who are using this content to commission creation of content? It is the same problem in Nigeria… you know where the broadcaster wants you to create the film, and then wants you to pay him to show the film. I was once president of the producers association in Nigeria so I faced the same thing. I just want to know what strategies are you using or is it something you have considered at all that you can be in front, trying to create that consciousness for TV stations to rethink their approach to this?

PA: Before now I could not tell you it was possible, but now I can confidently tell you it is possible. The union is getting stronger. When we knock on any door, the door remains open to us. Before this it was not so. You cannot build a house in a day and I have a lot on my desk, a lot to accomplish, so I am taking things one at a time. We have successfully done FACES and now I am into something else — a project. We are also working with the SLBC. We intend to have one hour on SLBC, and they have given us the one hour. It was not easy. We started the fight last year for this one hour and because they are beginning to see the strength of the union and what we have been doing, they have given us the one hour. We are yet to do the first production. When we start and they find the whole thing interesting, the next step is that we can broach the subject of documentaries. I remembered Arthur Pratt (WeOwnTV) and I visited them the other day and we told them we wanted to be doing soap operas and they said it was good and we could do it together.

FO: If there was an outside intervention in the industry, in your opinion what area should that support focus on?

PA: Some people are doing substandard films, but it is not because they want to do it. As I said and like you are also saying, the support is not there. We would want support in the area of equipment, because equipment is kind of expensive here. It takes people like some of us to hire a Mach 2 camera. We are working on it actually to see how we can solicit to get funding for equipment, I would want you to help me with some equipment for the union.

Money is important, yes, but if we have the equipment, then we can make money.

FO: Freetown is where maybe most of the activity is, but are there filmmaking activities in any other part of Sierra Leone? In Ghana there are different kinds of industries across the country that are sort of almost divided according to tribe. It is the same thing in Nigeria, where you’ve got Nollywood, but there is also the Hausa film industry which is totally different, then you’ve got the Yoruba film industry as well. I was wondering if…

PA: As you said, you asked whether there was another guild before the union started. I said yes, there was one before us, some of us were part of it and it is still functioning now. I am saying we have nothing against them.

We have filmmaking going on in the provinces and most of those people are part of the union. The union is established in Lungi, Makeni, Kenema, Bo and Port Loko. As I said, it is a gradual process. We do one thing at a time.

FO: Assuming that there is an intervention, how would you want it structured? You told me what you would like an intervention in but the question is what would the structure be? Is it the sort of thing that will be a collaborative thing with government, is it the sort of thing that the union wants to be the one organising, or is it something every individual filmmaker should have access to?

PA: For me I do not matters concerning the industry should be handled by the government. They have a lot of work to do. Let them concentrate on their work. However, if we as filmmakers are in control of our own situation, when the equipment comes, by God’s grace, we are in charge of it and we put the structures in place. As I said, the whole thing is progressive. You will never go to Hollywood and see every thing in place and you will never go to Nollywood and see everything in place. As the situation arises they create room for it. Wherever you go, as long you are a progressive person, as the situation arises you create room for it.

I know if the equipment comes we are going to establish a well structured body to run the affairs of that so that people, filmmakers, not only filmmakers of the union, when they are ready to shoot their films, they will not produce substandard quality films. People will not only get access to it but we will be able to establish something that we will be able to get other funds from to get some more equipment, so I know what to do when the equipment comes.

FO: What is the structure of the union right now, who are its officers, what is the constitutional structure?

PA: A union like this is responsible and there is no way we can function without a well structured body. I have been hearing some of the things people say like, “Don’t go to those guys, they are not structured”, but how can that be possible?

We have a structure. We have the President, that’s me, and then we have the Vice President. There is the Secretary General, Arthur Pratt, there is the CLC, the Cinematographic Liaison Coordinator, and he is in charge of everything. Now we were talking about equipment and when the equipment comes, he is the man in charge. Whatever pertains to filming, for instance, if there is a dispute between two groups, this is the man that is supposed to handle it. Whatever it is — the artistic side, the technical side — he is in charge of it.

For the guilds, we have the producer’s guild, the actor’s guild and the director’s guild. We are planning to establish the writer’s guild, because that is the beginning of the whole thing. If the script is not good, you can have a very good camera man with very good equipment, but if the script is not good then, at the end of the day, the whole thing will be a problem.

The union has a very good structure like I said. And in those places that I mentioned, we are trying to establish regional coodinators in charge of their own territory, but they are subject to the national executive. We do check in on them from time to time and they send in reports. That is how we operate. Now if you want to go to Bo, all I need to do is make a call, say I have someone coming, treat him with respect. Otherwise, when you go, you will spend all of your money in vain and no one will listen to you.

FO: When I was asking about structure, what I really need to know is the executive, is it elected, is it appointed, what are the terms of that executive, the offices, what are the chances other filmmakers are not excluded? That is really where I am heading. I understand very well the structures and I am really happy that you guys have got that in place but it is also important that the creative industry is democratic and that everybody has access to such a support.

PA: Yes it a democratic one, but since the whole thing was established we are yet to have an election, because you can’t talk about elections when things are not in place. The term should be 4 years and then we have another election, but according to the constitution, we elect our executive, we do not select them. For example, last year, we had one election for the actor’s guild.

FO: Who are the people in the other guild? 

PA: I didn’t want to say this, but I will. It is not that I am bragging, but I know some people belonging to film guilds and they have been coming to me asking

for help. I have been helping them with the printing of their posters and connected them to a marketer that I know will be able to market their films. When some of them are finished with their job, they still come with it and ask me to take a look at it. On the whole there is a cordial relationship. I know some people who are a part of SUNVALLEY, members who go to the film guild, members who lend equipment and some of our members are friends. The only problem we are having, and that is easy to settle, is the problem of the name. The guild has been there for some time and they are not prepared to dissolve. And the union is now in place and we are not prepared to dissolve. So we agree that there is more than one union and more than one functional body.

We will see what we can do, this is our country and we will settle it, but there is no way we are going to dissolve our structure and there is no way they will dissolve their own because the visions are not the same. I cannot force a man to dissolve or to merge when I know he has his own line of operation. They are not the same. If I try to do that then I am not being fair and there is no way it will work. It will create more problems at the end of the day.

FO: What is the registration process? For instance, how do I become a member of SUNVALLEY?

PA: If you come in as an individual, the registration is a bit different from the group registration. If you come in as a producer, then we send you to the producer’s guild, you register with them for a sum of Le100,000 and you will be given your ID card and other documents. If you are coming in with a group, you come straight to this office and register with Le 100,000 as well for your group, your group will be given a certificate.

FO: It is the same amount of money to register a group and an individual, why?

PA: When this whole thing started, I told you there was no money, so if you ask people to pay 1M you will not be able to gather a group. We looked at all of these things and decided. There will come a time, the money will shoot up, its obvious, so registration per group is Le 100,000.

FO: So a group comes, pays 100,000, a single person comes as well, pays 100,000?

PA: I am not finished. Let me explain. If you come with your group and then you pay 100,000, then the actors within your group are sent to the actor’s guild where they register as individuals. The director of that group will go into the director’s guild and registers with the director’s guild.

FO: For Le 100,000 each?

PA: No they have different…I can’t disclose that now, but they have different fees that they pay. If you are coming in with your group, your producer goes to the producer’s guild, the actors goes to the actor’s guild, and then the group pays Le100,000 and all these small, small amounts to the other…that is how we organise our own registration. If you are just coming in as an individual, then there is no need for you to pay the group registration fee, you will pay the individual registration fee, because we have some actors who do not belong to any group or company at all.

FO: Are you a real pastor or is it like a creative thing?

PA: I am an ordained reverend and an assistant pastor. I preach the gospel through movies. The name of my company is THE USHERS, which basically means showing the way, showing people what to do and where to go.

FO: Do you work in the Christian film genre?

PA: Yes I do, but as of now, we don’t have that kind of body. We are all the same. Yes, my films have Christian values, but the way I package them you will not know, because some people will never sit down and listen to “Jesus loves you”, so I do my own to entertain, but when you look at the films you will learn a lot of lessons and I can communicate my gospel to you in a very easy manner. The head for the producer’s guild is a pastor; we have more than one pastor with us.

FO: Thank you.



Idriss Kpange: Founder and General Manager

Valona Taylor: In-house Producer

Abu Bakarr Sallu: (AB4U): Sound Engineer

VT: My name is Valona Taylor and I work at Concept Multimedia as a producer. Concept Multimedia was set up about three years ago by Idriss Kpange, Emmanuel Hayes, AB4U and a few others. They were able to pull a few people together and they basically built Concept Multimedia by themselves. They had no one backing them at the time and I’m sure people living in Sierra Leone realise that the film industry is a difficult industry for a group of young men coming together to start something so unique and fresh. It was difficult at the time.

The place where they actually built this media house used to be a store room, so they really had to come up with a plan on how to set up the place to make it look like a studio. The intention was to have an audio studio along with a video studio at the same time and to make it a one stop shop where artists, or where anyone who is interested in media could come in, record their audio and at the same time do their video while getting quality at the same time.

Obviously in the first year it was difficult to set up and I think the guys spent the first year mainly going out and doing odd jobs. I joined them in early 2012 and when I came in as a producer I could see there was a lot of creativity in the team but they were kind of missing a producer who would come in and tie the whole project together.

When we get projects or people come in with jobs, I help with the writing, which then goes to Idriss who works as the chief editor and the camera operator. We then get the sound engineer AB4U and we all sit down together to discuss the idea and see how best we can work with it.

One thing they kind of lack in this town is a team of professionals that can come together. We use Concept Multimedia as a platform for people who want to come in and see how we set it up, because there is a lot of, I wouldn’t like to say expectation, but people expect so much from us. They believe that Concept Multimedia is laying the tracks.

We invite people to come in and see what we do and how we can help them, so we have a lot of people coming in just to find out how they can go about doing their projects. We get a range of people coming into this office asking for various things, from event coverage to videos. As I mentioned before, there is an audio studio, so we get a lot of artists who come in. AB4U and Sound Boy Ritchie work in the audio studio. We also get documentaries from NGOs, and international people coming in looking to make short films about projects that they are doing.

FO: How long have you been a producer?

VT: I have worked for the last three years as a producer. I studied at Brighton University for two years doing Broadcast Media and then I transferred over to Greenwich University London, where I studied Digital Media in the final year of my degree. I knew at the time that even though I was technically able to do the work, I was more inclined to produce because of the way I like to work, so I spent a year getting work experience in studios as a young producer.

I decided it was best that I was in Sierra Leone. I got in touch with Idriss and he told me about the studio and it was one of the perfect places to come and get some experience.

FO: How many you documentaries have you produced while working with Concept Media?

VT: We haven’t produced any documentaries per se but we have been called on to film documentaries. One thing that we are deeply involved in is the four-part series we are doing for Advocates in Sierra Leone about people’s rights — because information is lacking in the society. What Advocates is doing is using this documentary as a platform for people to know their rights in terms of themselves and the police. We are also doing a documentary for PLANN, an NGO in Sierra Leone and I believe the documentary is about Girls in the Media.

FO: How many jobs have you produced in your tenure as a producer here?

VT: We have produced three or four short programmes and then the short documentaries that we’re working on.

FO: Are you interested in documentaries and do you think there is a market for documentary filmmaking in Sierra Leone?

VT: Yes, my passion is documentaries. I believe there is a market for documentaries in Sierra Leone because, as you can see, there is a lot of talent here but they don’t have the platform to get those ideas and those stories out. In the last few years we’ve seen that people come from outside, to make award winning documentaries about the country while the people themselves don’t have the tools to make documentaries.

FO: Are there any film schools in Sierra Leone 

VT: Not that I know of.

FO: If an organization were to decide to allocate money to aid documentary filmmaking in Sierra Leone in which area do you think this money would be useful?

VT: I think most importantly it would be in education. Documentary filmmaking is different from filmmaking. The way you tell a story in documentary filmmaking is not the same way you tell a story in fiction filmmaking. If money is coming in, I believe it should be put into basic training. There is a desperate need for that.

FO: What are the challenges you face that are unique to your environment?

VT: The challenge is in the lack of respect for media. People don’t understand the importance of media and the weight if you have the media behind you. As a producer, what would make me great would be my contacts, which would lead to future investments and funding. The culture of investing in films and seeing it as a business is not clear to the people yet, so as a producer, that kind of limits me and makes me think of new ways to approach people and say, “I’ve got this brilliant idea and if you give me this amount of money I will be able to do this and several other things”

FO: Do you have challenges in terms of equipment?

VT: That is a huge challenge, but I must admit I feel lucky to be with Concept Multimedia because even though we don’t have all of the equipment we can make use of at the studio, we still have a wide range of equipment. So in that respect, for me personally, I feel quite blessed I’m with the team. I know as a wider picture, it is a struggle to get equipment. For example, if anything was to break here or if we hired out our equipment to someone and it broke, getting the same quality equipment would be almost impossible. There is a huge gap and a huge need for equipment and equipment management as well.

FO: Is it easy for you to get equipment in the country or do you have to go out of the country to get it?

VT: You have to go out of the country to get standard equipment. They have good enough equipment here but I haven’t seen any one push to get industry standard equipment.

FO: What are the goals of Concept Media? Let’s say five years down the road, what are you guys going to be doing?

VT: In five years time we probably will be looking into our first major film but until that time I see us doing a few music videos and I see us really getting into documentary filmmaking because it is the passion of the team. It’s just that at the moment, the right tools are not in place right now to do a documentary. So in five years I believe we would have made a few more documentaries and I also believe we would have made major extensions to the studio.

FO: Do you plan on having a teaching facility?

VT: Yes we do.

FO: What is your take on the Broadcast Media in Sierra Leone? Do they hinder or do they help with your work?

VT: They hinder the work we do majorly. The reason I say that is because of what I am seeing: professional channels being downgraded to the kind of student-level quality we did while learning in university. That’s my honest opinion…although they have made improvements!

FO: If you could change things in the industry what would you change?

VT: Information. Information is key. Although where I got my training, you learn every day through research and watching other people work. If you want to be a director, you have to know who your director is and what your style is. I believe that once you give people information, and then you give them a little basics, then they can then go on and do things. That is what filmmaking and documentary filmmaking is all about. Just knowing the basics, taking the cameras, taking equipment and doing what you need to do.

FO: Are you aware if there are any archives in Sierra Leone for documentary films?

AB4U: Idriss Kpange used to be a Reuters TV correspondent in Sierra Leone so there is a lot of footage that we at Concept Multimedia have that even SLBC the government station does not have.

FO: So what you are saying is that there is a documentary archive in this studio?

 AB4U/VT/IK: Yes.

FO: Do you share that information and why? 

IK: Not at this stage, no. We haven’t gotten a request to share it and also we haven’t properly catalogued it yet in digital files.

FO: Is there any government funding available for filmmakers in Sierra Leone?

AB4U/VT/IK: None at all.

FO: What about legal standards? Are there any laws in place that aid filmmakers?

IK: I think the government has gone so far as to introduce the new copyright law, which is why a lot of people are interested in filmmaking…just because of that one step. Imagine what would happen if the government did more? There are just 5 million people and maybe 200 people are interested in filmmaking. I’m sure the government could support filmmaking in this country if they were less corrupt and if only they would direct some of the funds that they put into their overall budget. Maybe the Ministry of Culture has a fund for filmmakers. I think the government can do it, I just think people are laid back. They don’t really understand. As I said, that education is lacking. Even the politicians don’t know how to market themselves.

AB4U: There is one point that I always see in Sierra Leone. It is the fact that people don’t actually know how to use media, just as Valona said. Watching SLBC is like watching some secondary school kids put together programmes. There is a lack of understanding of what broadcast should be. If you listen to the radio, a DJ will just play music for hours on end without trailing what radio station people are listening to. The culture is just not there. We have been to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. They talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk.

Education is key and general sensitization of what the media is and what it does.

IK: Let me give you a classic example. You were talking about archiving…. The National Electoral Commission is running after us right now to give them footage from last year’s election. We have a lot of this information on video, properly shot and well kept for the last 5 years. They came here and they have seen it. When we told them we had footage their response was, “Oh, lets film it on our mobile phones”.

So, you see even if I wanted to give them my footage, that makes me sit back and think that these people are not serious. The education needs to go beyond the filmmakers. It needs to actually teach people the essence of media. It has to be a general sensitization. The president, the ministers, all these people do not know how to market themselves.



A Focus Group meeting was held featuring representatives of the industry stakeholders.

Lansana Mansaray, aka Barmmy Boy: An accomplished musician and filmmaker, Lansana Mansaray, aka Barmmy Boy exemplifies the talent and potential of his generation. Gifted at engaging his peers in creative collaboration, he is a natural mentor and instructor. Barmmy Boy assists in coordinating the commissioned productions produced by We Own TV: Sierra Leone. He has participated in media projects with iEarn, War Child Canada, and has been honored by youth groups and the British Council for his film/video work.

Arthur Pratt: As a drama teacher, filmmaker, youth organiser and pastor living in Freetown, Arthur Pratt

leads the ongoing We Own TV efforts in Sierra Leone. A respected leader in his community, he has a longtime commitment to working with underprivileged youth. Arthur is a compassionate and deeply motivating mentor. He has toured throughout the country performing original productions of Shakespeare. His credits also include numerous short films and plays created in collaboration with the youth he serves.

Papa Shaw: An editor, producer and also a camera operator. He is an independent filmmaker in Sierra Leone.

Kadie Sesay: An actress and a producer. Benjamin Dominic: A writer and a producer. Brima Sheriff: A writer and director.

Ibrahim Sorie Samura: An actor and director.

Mohamed Foday Kamara: Owner of production company Bintumani Pictures.

Augustus O. Thomas: A director.



Interview with members of The Sierra Leone Film Industry Labor and Marketing Guild (S.L.F.L.M)

Papa Shaw: An editor, producer, camera operator and an independent filmmaker in Sierra Leone.

Kadie Sesay: An actress and a producer.

Benjamin Dominic: A writer and a producer.

Brima Sheriff: A writer and director.

Ibrahim Sorie Samura: An actor and director

Mohamed Foday Kamara: Owner of a production company, Bintumani Pictures.

PS: My name is Papa Shaw, commonly known as Edwin in the media world. I am an editor, producer and also a camera operator. I am an independent filmmaker in Sierra Leone. With my experience as a filmmaker, I can say that filmmaking in Sierra Leone is not that easy. There are a lot of things you have to go through to get your film done. Concerning the challenges I face in editing, I think we need a proper training facility so that we can get our films cut very well. We get our training from the experience we get from friends and international people that come to Sierra Leone make movies. The experience we get is the experience that we implement in making our own films. Also, as a camera operator, I got my experience from an international organisation called I RUN SIERRA LEONE, where I started camera operating and I was taught by a filmmaker from New York. He basically taught me how to use the camera. From there I decided to go into filmmaking. I started filmmaking because I believe it to be my career and I believe I can make a living as a filmmaker.

KS: My name is Kadie Baihe Sesay and I am an actress and a producer. I ventured once into producing a movie and until now I haven’t finished producin. It was not a good experience though because we funded that movie on our own. My friends and I went out and scouted for money and tried to produce the movie, but up to this point we haven’t produced it yet, so I cannot say I am a full producer. Acting, however, has been my passion since childhood. In Sierra Leone it is so sad, because even if they call you to act a movie, they cannot pay you because there are no funds or budgets for it. So you go and act freely and even after sales, they do not call you to give you something — not even a Coke for the role you played in the movie. It has been a series of ups and downs. There is no story to write home about the movie industry in Sierra Leone.

BD: My name is Benjamin Dominic; I am a writer and a producer. My experience as producer so far is that the film industry in Sierra Leone is very young. Some of the constraints that we have start with the actors. Most of them are not trained and there are no institutions to train them in Sierra Leone, so it is always a big effort for someone who wants to do a movie to take up that challenge.

In the area of actually making the films it is sometimes not easy for us to sort out our locations because most people here do not really understand what films are all about. They do shy away sometimes from giving us locations for our movies and even when we meet institutions that are already established, they sometimes find it difficult to give us some of the things we need in films, such as props. One of my friends had this experience. They wanted to use police uniforms, guns, and the like in making his film. It wasn’t easy. He had to go through a lot of protocols to do so. This at times derails your story. If you have a story that talks about police, the vans, the guns, etc., the actual process of shooting it becomes difficult because they do not understand why they should give you their materials to do your films.

Another constraint that we face in the industry is funding. To raise funds to make films in an environment where filmmaking is new it is not easy. Not everybody knows much about filmmaking, so they look at it as something that is not lucrative. So, funding has been a problem. With most of the films we do here, the actors who have a passion for filmmaking come together and raise funds to do films. When the actors themselves are raising funds to do their movies, that just tells you what the film is going to look like

Lastly, I just want to say that workshops would really help all of us in filmmaking but we are not getting workshops that will train the actors and filmmakers in totality. That includes cinematographers and cameramen, DOP, sound engineers and all the departments that come together to make a film. I want to believe that if all these things are put in place we would do better.

BS: My name is Brima Sheriff and I am a writer and director. I’ll tell you about my experience when I ventured into filmmaking in 2005. I did my first movie which primarily focused on female genital mutilation. I come from a very deprived community and as a result I used to write a lot of poems and songs as a way of consoling the soul. Then I became a member of an theater group and when I joined Amnesty International my capacity was further built by the human rights training that I got, so most of my movies are really tied to human rights issues. That’s how I ventured into the first movie.

The challenges were that the actors were not trained and I was not equally and adequately trained. So then the very first thing I had to do was most of my training online by going on to the internet, studying about how to direct a movie and learning what it entails to do a movie. So that’s how I did it. I was responsible for funding the movie and transportation for rehearsals. I worked with a location manager and gave him transport to find locations. I was responsible for paying the editor. I was responsible for producing the entire movie. It was a real challenge because by 2005 Sierra Leone was at its embryonic stage of movie making and people were not appreciative of Sierra Leone movies. I also faced challenges with sound. I didn’t know how to direct my cameraman and he was not an expert in doing that. He was a television producer and we used him for the very first film. These were the key challenges I faced in 2005.

After that, I ventured into a second movie and unfortunately I could not release it. It was supposed to be released on June 16, but my house got burned down in January this year and I lost all my equipment. Still, I think I gained a lot of experience with the first challenge.

First, I know that making a movie is a business. It is not anything that has to do with fun. Secondly, I noticed that with doing a movie, you need a certain capacity, so what I had to do was talk to other directors, look for other people who had experience and most times I’d call peer discussion meetings and I would share my ideas with colleagues. I got a lot of capacity out of that. Generally, making movies in Sierra Leone is very expensive. It is very difficult.

Another big challenge is that there is still a dissenting voice in Sierra Leone in terms of who is an expert in making movies and who is not an expert. I have noticed that we are divided along this line. There are a group of people who just believe that without them being involved, films are not good in this country. I think that’s the challenge. They have the expertise and we do recognise the expertise, but there is a very big block between them and most of us with not really very strong capacities who are interested in doing movies.

ISS: My name is Ibrahim Sorie Samura. I’m an actor and a DOP. My experience in the movie world in Sierra Leone is not that good because I have encountered a lot of problems. Initially, when I came into the industry, I wanted to be an actor but I found it so hard and it was difficult for me to make it acting, so I decided to go to the back of the camera and learn to be a camera operator. When I took that step, it was not an easy task for me again,and it was only through the help of God that I met a German who was a documentary filmmaker. He had come to do a film called Lost Identity and I spoke with him and told him that I wanted to learn from him because there was no film school in Sierra Leone. He said he would teach me how to operate the camera.

After that, we went on the first project which was Breaking the Rules. There I started gaining experience operating the camera. We did another which was Lost Identity where I served as the second cameraman, operating the second camera with him working side by side. He was teaching me to know the angles with which I should take my shot and which I should not take my shot.

I was of the opinion that there were no professionals in Sierra Leone, but then I got in touch with the Sierra Leone Film Guild. I met people in the movie world, got close to them and gained experience from them. I have learned a lot and now I can say I can do a movie on my own with all the experience I have from producers, writers, directors, actors and actresses in the guilds.

Initially we called on the government to aid with funding as there was no funding and then there was nobody responsible for film and so the government had no one they could entrust with funds. After forming this guild, and I believe it has all the experienced filmmakers in Sierra Leone, we went back to the government and they tried to award a certificate to the guild which was a good step. It was something that I appreciated because I believe it will help the industry in terms of providing funds and encouraging investors to come in and invest their resources in the movie world. I was very happy the day they awarded the certificate to us.

In filmmaking we are having problems with locations and using people’s houses. It is ridiculous for people in this country not to give their houses to people like us who are passionate about doing movies. Maybe it’s because we just came from the rebel war so no one trusts each other. I believe in this peaceful environment that we have known and they should be the ones helping us with locations and other things for us to climb up in the film industry.

To round up, I would like to call on investors to come in to help with film schools, to help the film guild so that we can groom more people and also so we can be trained to make more professional movies.


MFK: My name is Mohamed Foday Kamara, popularly known as Meddf. I am a proud member of the Sierra Leone Film Guild, co-founder and owner of production company Bintumani Pictures. I started my filming career some 8 years ago as an actor and over the years I have metamorphosed into different things in the making of films. Initially when I started as an actor, writing was on my mind and I had a passion for writing so I taught myself how to write a script from a template I got from the internet. Over the years I have been writing scripts that people have been looking forward to for productions, but unfortunately it is just a hobby, because after writing a script you hardly get a producer who will say I like this thing, let me make a movie out of it. I once had a guy tell me that he wanted to give me less than 100 USD for a script which I wrote, and I told him no because I know what it takes. That took me to another level. I decided to start producing.

Just like many filmmakers in this country the experience is a bitter one. The country is not open to filmmaking yet. People are not that interested. I’m not talking about those with the talent, I am talking about investors. It is hard to find someone who could be an executive producer or a company that will invest. They are not interested.

I co-wrote and produced Breaking the Rules. It was a hit in the country because it sold aver 20,000 copies, which is considered a big deal in Sierra Leone, but when you go to the internet and see how many copies are sold worldwide 20,000 copies is just too small.

Honestly being a producer…. It’s a shame I am saying this on tape but, the person who ended up doing the marketing for the film ended up giving me the producer, Le500 for a tape which is something like 0.1 dollars. I could not even pay my actors, but I spoke to them and some of them understood and some of them are still after me and honestly I have nothing to say to them. The shameful part of it is that my film is still selling but I’m not getting any royalties for it.

The marketing structure in this country is so poor, that people are not willing to invest, and the few who do come on board will do so only after the production. They will market your product and you get almost nothing for it. If you say you are not giving it to them, then you might as well just keep it in your cupboard for eternity because you are not a marketer and you do not have the knowhow to market your product in this country. The only option you have is them and they will use, misuse and abuse you because they are the only option.

However, we are not relenting. For some of us it is a hobby. We are doing it because we like what we do. Still, we are not getting anything.

Some of the constraints that I faced as a filmmaker, were that I had to teach myself how to write a script and how to direct. With directing you cannot read from the internet and go and direct just like that, but I have managed over the years. It has been successful locally even though I have not been able to break barriers outside Sierra Leone. At least I can walk the streets of Freetown and someone will recognise me as a filmmaker even though I am not known outside Sierra Leone.

To get a unifying voice that will speak for the film industry in Sierra Leone has been a major challenge. We see ourselves as rivals, not in a healthy atmosphere but as enemies. I remember very well, about 5 or 6 years ago when the Sierra Leone Film Guild started and it was promising, but people started looking at the guild like a production company, saying why must I join another production company when I already have one. We have seen people breaking from this guild and forming other groups with the same aims and ambitions as the one they broke from saying, “Why can’t we just come together for our own good?” Almost every day you will see people coming into this country doing documentaries, and feature length films and we are not benefiting from it. It is only recently, about 2 years ago, that I could proudly say that I was a filmmaker, but before then, filmmaking was looked at something only dropouts from school did.

If I was asked what I wanted to see in the Sierra Leonean film industry, I would say a structured body that would regulate the affairs of filmmakers in this country, beginning with those who are writers, producers and including all the key players in the industry. I would also like to see learning institutions in this country. I say this because many of us did not formally learn our craft except by reading about it on the internet.

FO: We have talked about the problems from personal perspectives. Can we now talk about the strategies for overcoming these problems? Money is hard to find everywhere. How much is the biggest amount that a film is made with here?

IK: The highest is I think 20,000 USD.

FO: If the highest is 20,000 USD, what is the average cost of making films?

IK: 5,000 USD/3,000 USD. Some people can even squeeze 1000 USD and they can make a film.

BS: That is because we have not been costing the amount of energy, the time we spend, the resources we put into it. We do not cost the human resources, the unplanned expenditures. That is why you say that.

FO: What is the average cost of a cast? Don’t you have actors, don’t you pay for locations, and don’t you have transport?

KS: When I was producing my own movie, the main actor was T.J.Cole and we paid him 2 million Leones. He told us that without that money he would not do the movie and we needed him, so we paid. In my production we paid all the cast members. Nobody will say that we didn’t, but then we ran out of money. Our editor and camera men…. (Sighing)

FO: What did they do?

KS: What did they do? Hmmm — it is a long story. Truly, it is not anything to write home about…we rent equipments, pay cast…there is no readily available amount that you can use to do a movie. We spent over 20million Leones producing that movie, that’s about 5,000USD and we have nothing to show for it.

FO: On average in terms of income, the audience pays about what Le10, 000 for a DVD?

PS: Well, the marketers sell it to the hawkers for about Le6,000 and the hawkers then sell it for about Le10,000 and most times the hawkers gain more than the producers. The producer gets Le2,000 in terms of royalty and the hawkers get Le4,000.

FO: So why are you not hawking and letting someone else make the movie?

BD: The marketers here are a big problem. As my colleague said, making some movies average 5,000 USD. This money is mainly provided by the cast, the director and the producer. By the time they finish producing the movie, they move to the next stage, where the movie has to be mass produced, posters have to be put up for advertisement and you realise that the cast and the producers have exhausted their pockets.

These people called marketers will now come in and offer to mass produce and print the movie and they offer you Le2,000 per copy. With this amount it will be very hard for you to get your investment back in 6 months, let alone pay your actors and this is the reason why we haven’t been paying our actors.

FO: If you don’t pay the actors, how will you get the actors to sign release forms, do you get their permission to use their image?

ISS: Frankly, Sierra Leone is very different from other countries. Filming is very embryonic here. It is more like a club thing, not a professional institute, not like the way big film companies operate. We reach an agreement that they receive x% if the movies is successful. If it isn’t, then we all bear the loss.

FO: So, it’s like Le 2,000 per DVD? How do you share Le2,000 per DVD amongst everybody? I am trying to understand the accounts here because one thing leads to another. If the hawkers make more than the person making the film then there is a structural problem.

ISS: It is very rare to see production companies paying their actors. They would rather say if the film is successful after production then we will give you a certain amount.

FO: You still haven’t answered the question, which is how you do get someone to sign a contract that releases them to use their image in a film if you don’t pay them?

PS: You reach an understanding, a gentleman’s agreement.

FO: How do the actors….because they are actually spending time to do this, a film, which means you are going to be there for a day or two. That means you are not elsewhere, you are working and leveraging your talent. How do they eat?

BS: Take my experience. When I was doing my movie, a village film, the entire crew moved to a village. What we did first was to pay our own cost for food, every cast member paid their own cost for food and for accommodation. I am explaining this because there are two things that are happening. First, there is enthusiasm, determination and there is willingness on the part of people to become movie stars, so they do not ask for costs. We took it as our own project, it is a project owned by us, including the determination of the people who wanted to be a part of the movie. No, there wasn’t a contract by 2005. By 2011 when I was doing another movie and I had that problem, I developed consent forms. Because of my human rights background I knew there had to be consent forms and so I developed a consent form that they signed. I was responsible for costumes and I was responsible for transportation to go to locations. We projected the contracts, saying this is the cost that you will pay me, as my colleague said, IF the movie is successful.

FO: How do you know the movie will be successful? 

BS: It is only a fool that will go to sleep when his ass is on fire. These people are a part of the entire production system. They know what it takes to print and how to distribute. They know the costs involved and sometimes they are even part of the public relations team.

FO: Can you tell me more about the actual filmmaking? When you say you made a film for a thousand dollars, describe it to me. Who knows anything about the equipment that you use.

PS: We are using HDV cameras, Z5, Z1 and then even the X-F 300 Canon. That is the recent camera as of now in town. We pay 100 USD to rent it for a day.

FO: Does the writer get paid? And, do they actually write out a proper script or is it something you explain to them?

PS: Not at all. Most times the writers are also the directors.

BD: In some cases the scripts are being purchased, but in the case of the producer or the director writing the script, he will have to explain everything to the actors and have rehearsals where they will rehearse with the script until he feels his actors are ready to shoot.

FO: How do you do your post-production?

BD: In post-production, the cameraman and editor do not compromise Even if they are part of your group, they will break out of your group if you do not pay them. In post-production, you take your movie to the editor and you have to pay him. Where we have the problem is with marketing, after post-production.

FO: Why do you not take this film to the theatres?

BD: We do take these films out to the theatre, but let me break it down for you. I have done two premieres and to be frank with you, it does not pay. For instance, if you want to take your movie to the cinemas, your group will have to write out invitation cards for patrons, chief patrons and your ordinary cards. There are also expenses at the cinema. The halls are not that cheap. You pay like a million plus in some cases….

FO: Do you promote these films?

BD: Promoting our films also lies in the hands of the people we call marketers because we do not have the money to promote the film.

FO: In Nigeria, the marketer will provide the budget for the film. You cannot get a free actor anywhere in Nigeria. You cannot get a free anything. You have to pay for everything. The marketer gives you money to make the film, the marketer promotes the film, and the marketer pays for the premiere. So is it a question of your marketers getting away with a lot here, because if you pay for the film and the marketer just sits and collects it and makes equal amounts of money because he just makes copies, and even the hawker makes more, is that not a structural problem?

PS: People like the ones you are describing are coming around. We have a marketer now. Let’s say for example, there’s a script, and I want to do a film. The marketer will ask, “What is the budget for the movie?” If it is low budget, then I will sponsor it and then I will do the marketing. So yes, I think we are starting to get those kinds of marketers and I think they are foreign. What they do in other countries is what they are trying to implement here.

FO: Is there anything the Television Company is doing to support the industry?

BD: I would like to say that the television people are not doing much to support the industry because when we do our movie trailers, with which we advertise, they charge us exorbitantly and they don’t compromise.

FO: Has the TV station ever commissioned a film? 

Everybody: In our own case we have never been commissioned to do a movie or a documentary.

FO: So what is the film guild doing? That’s where I am going. You have a guild and the purpose of this guild is to protect the individual filmmaker by creating environments interfacing with institutions to create a situation where you make films profitably and make films comfortably. What’s the film guild about?

PS: We just set up the film guild. In the past there was no guild, there was no structure.

FO: So why did someone say 5 years ago?

MFK: It came into existence around that time, but it was never active, simply because we filmmakers were not united. It was only recently that a few of us decided to give life to something that was dying. Now we have succeeded in getting government recognition. We have a certificate. Back then, we were just like a club.

FO: The film guild is recognised by government. Is the film union recognised by government?

MFK: They are registered to exist in the country, just like any group, but they do not have the license to act as a trade union for filmmakers.

FO: Why do you say that? 

MFK: It is because the trade union policy in this country is that the certificate is given to only one entity.

FO: What is the advantage of being registered in the government?

MFK: When you are known by the government, then the body becomes a legal one, which can sue and be sued when it goes against the laws of the country, or when someone infringes on the right of someone in the film industry that is registered in the guild.

FO: So what is the guild doing about this woman’s film that she says has not been completed?

MFK: : The guild became active again this year and this woman’s film was 2 years ago. The guild is still a baby and it’s still growing.

BD: The truth about this is we all have a passion to do film, but we do not have, nor know, the structure. With this guild, we are trying to see how we can use our knowledge and fight for its members. We are looking at the guilds also having workshops, training and the like to help filmmakers.

FO: So basically it is all about skills and structure in the industry?

EVERYBODY: Yes, skills and structure.

FO: Are any of you doing documentary films? Is there a market for documentary films?

PS: I do a documentary and I send it out there for competition in Europe and America. There are a few international filmmakers that I know and sometimes they ask me if I can do a documentary about certain topics.

AOT: Most filmmakers do not have an interest in documentary filmmaking. Very few do. Feature length is the concern, so I do not believe there is enough initiative for documentary films or short films. Only a few individuals are concentrating on making documentaries and feature length movies.

I don’t think we have any market for documentaries. Perhaps it’s hidden and we can’t see it, unless someone opens our eyes and says this is the market. (laughing)

MFK: Honestly I don’t know of any market in this country, it’s just a passion. Recently I was in the Koinadugu district and I went to the Loma Mountains, the second highest mountain in the country. This is all about passion and wanting to tell a story.

FO: Finally, can we talk about broadcasting — there is SLBC. Is there anyone making television programming, soap operas?

AOT: In the past couple of years, a few people have tried to make soap operas — Julius Spencer, Premier Media, Talking Drum Studios…

BD: The reason why people are not interested in this is, for instance, if I am taking a trailer to the SLBC to play it and they’re charging me for it, what would happen when it comes to soap operas and things like that?

BS: To give you an insight from an office perspective, we were doing work on Maternal Health in Sierra Leone and we wanted to collaborate with SLBC. We did a proposal and the director is a very close friend of mine. He worked as a journalist for Human Rights, while I am the Director for Amnesty International. Their operational plan was not able to accommodate what we wanted to do and they were not flexible, so we had a problem and the organisation had to take on everything. Even when we did the documentaries, we were asked to pay if we wanted to air them on SLBC.

FO: In a situation where you are not able to continue with the structure you have now, where everybody just chips in, do you still see a viable market? If a film starts to cost you 20,000 USD to make, which is what is going to happen by the time you start paying people, no matter how small, assume that an average cost comes out to 15/20,000 USD. Do you see the possibility of turning a profit? What’s important is not to bring an outside structure into the environment and then the environment cannot sustain it and everything collapses, because once you start paying people you can’t stop. What are your thoughts about that?

AS: Actually I believe we can sustain it because even though right now Sierra Leone is a virgin country, if we work as a team it can be done.

KS: Yes we can. In the first instance what the film guild or whatever organisation will try to do is to break the barrier between us and the government, because if we can get the government on board then without them sponsoring us financially, we can get them to sponsor us through contacts for SLBC. If we have SLBC on board and they air our trailers frequently, that can help sales of movies in this town.

When they shot Blood Diamond, that movie made a lot of money in this town. I was a part of that group that went around Bo, Kono and Makeni areas. I know the amount of money made at that time. So, if we start doing that, launching movies in different parts of the town, you will make twice what you spent making the movie.

FO: Why is the guild not organising forums and discussing strategies, exactly the same thing we are doing here now?

KS: The guild is now working. It has been together for the past 6 months, working on strategies, the acts, policies, regulations and all of that. It is a work in progress and we will get to that point.

Apart from that, as you rightly said, it is the legislation and if we have a legislation that says SLBC, you have to play a Sierra Leone movie trailer, free of charge, that will go a long way to advertise a movie. If there was a legislation that said that, then the marketers, and in fact the marketers right now are above the guilds, let me be frank with you. In fact, the last time I went there I was told, “Whether you like it or not, what we decide to pay you guys is what we are going to pay you”.

BS: Without a structure sustaining the film industry, it is going to haphazard, it is going to be uncoordinated, and people will continue to suffer from making films and not benefiting. Just listen to his experience – marketers who can turn to guilds and say “whether you like it or not.”

This goes a very long way to show that until we have a structure which regulates the activity of every player within the film sector, sustaining the film industry will still be a challenge. There are a lot of people forming groups. These groups are a very clear manifestation that people need to organise themselves to make a profit out of this entire process. Therefore, I am of the very strong opinion that until we have a structure, a formidable structure that protects the interests of every player within the film sector, it’s going to be difficult especially for the filmmakers. Meanwhile, the marketers are going to be waiting to take advantage of the very fragile situation.

FO: What do you see as a path to the structure, who’s responsible for creating this structure?

BS: I think that the Sierra Leone Film Guild has a very big responsibility, we have the legal background. What we lack to some extent are the skills and the capabilities to move this process forward. First are the skills and the capabilities and once we know how to run such a process, I am pretty sure we can access funding. By then we would be sure of what we want to do, how we want to do it and then we can move on from there.

I think that the Sierra Leone Film Guild and any other film organisation out there needs to be structured. We need to take responsibility and it needs to be something serious.

Sometimes we’ve called meetings and even the executive members have not come. I drafted a communications strategy that I shared with the team, and up until this moment that communications strategy has not taken effect.

So, that’s the problem, even within ourselves. Executives within the Film Guild do not take the work seriously. That is the problem. Until we move forward and we believe that the Film Guild has a responsibility to contribute to the success of filmmaking in this country, then it remains an illusion.

FO: Thank you.



LM: My name is Lansana Mansaray. That’s my real name, but most people know me as Bammy Boy. I am the production manager for We Own TV and I’m also a filmmaker. I used to do rap music a long time ago and I’m still interested in music, but for now I’m working with We Own TV. I have done a lot of work for youth groups, NGOs, TV stations and the rest.

AP: My name is Arthur Pratt; I am also working at We Own TV as the manager and I am in charge of education. I am a Pastor and a freelance journalist as well. I am 35 years old.

IK: My name is Idriss Kpange. I am a filmmaker and a TV journalist.

FO: What do you do for sound? Are you the main editor here?

LM: Yes I am the main editor here. For sound what we basically do is…you see this microphone here, this is what we use for voiceovers and other things just in case we have problems with the original sound, but with the cameras that we use the sound we get is pretty good. (taking out a camera and showing it) This is the online edit suite, where I do my work. It is the main editing facility, it has both Mac and PC for both Final Cut and Premiere.

FO: Wow! You are basically using the same kind of camera that we are using. What kind of work are you guys doing, where do you get funding?

AP: Basically we focus on producing.

LM: Most of the content we produce here is creative content for young people and our funding comes from donors around the world. We have a creative director who is based in San Francisco called Banker White. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars — it’s about a band of musicians, Sierra Leoneans. They formed a band in the refugee camp in Guinea and he followed them through their success. It was one of the biggest documentaries to come out of this country and it was done by Banker White and Zach Niles. When they did the documentary it was so successful that they thought that they could something with young filmmakers here in Sierra Leone. They decided to come up with an initiative to see how they could best empower young filmmakers. That’s basically a summary of how We Own TV came into being.

They did do some scouting before that, across the country in Kono, Makeni, and of course in Freetown, trying to spotlight interested filmmakers they could train and that had potential in the country. We were among the people they found, among a couple of other people in the east, six in Kono and two in Makeni.These young people include ex-combatants, unfortunate young people living on their own in the streets. Yes, this is the bunch that makes up We Own TV.

The center is available to them at any time. With the little equipment and know-how that we have, we are able to pass on ideas to them and in turn hope that they will go on in the world and do their creative work.

I personally am not involved in making Sierra Leone soap operas, or in making Sierra Leone movies. I am more focused on producing content for NGOs and documentaries. That is what I do, and of course, part of our own work also involves doing freelance work for other NGOS and international people.

FO: How much work did the NGOs actually bring in terms of the volume of work in the documentary genre? 

LM: Some of the work that groups like UNICEF and British Council used to hire expats to do, is now coming to us. It opens the door for us to make headway with various NGOs. As a Sierra Leonean it is not that easy and Idriss will attest to the fact. There is no funding here or encouragement for young filmmakers to make or produce their own films, or use their own ideas to make their own documentaries.

It really is difficult. There is no funding available here. For instance, if I have an idea and I want to produce a documentary, the state television will not commission it. There is nothing like that happening here. So we are just doing it out of love and passion. Some of us who are making headway with these local NGOs are starting to see a bit of light because of the work that we do.

FO: My question is, Can you say you are doing it for love if you are working with NGOs?

LM: (Overriding) I am properly paid if I’m working for people like The British Council and UNICEF. I am properly paid for it. That is why some of the equipment I have is not donor’s equipment. When I get paid I use it to upgrade myself. I don’t call that work, I just call that promotional stuff I do for NGOs.

FO: As a filmmaker what kind of films or documentaries do you guys want to be making?

AP: For most of us here at We Own TV, we do short films and also we are looking at films that express situations with topical themes such as corruption. Presently we are working on something called African Ninja. It’s a comedy that is looking at one man’s fight against corruption, which we know is very strong in Africa and in Sierra Leone.

In terms of documentaries, they cover all types of topics. I am doing a documentary on the elections now. Bammy is also covering the making of the African Ninja, and Michaela is doing a documentary on child labor. We are working on different things. We are also working on a documentary on disabled people and looking at how they live in Sierra Leone.

FO: How are you funding these documentaries?

LM: As you know it is not very easy. For instance, the production of the documentary Africa Ninja is being helped by Banker White who is the creative director of We Own TV, but most of the other work we do on our own because of the love and the passion we have for making films. It is part of what we do. The backbone of We Own TV is creative work.

FO: What is the structure of We Own TV? How did it come about?

AP: Basically We Own TV started in 2009 when Banker White and Zach Niles came to town. They were working Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars so they saw the aftermath of the war, they saw the situation and they decided to do something about it. When they met us, we had discussions with them and they decided to work on the aspect of self-expression, using video. We started in 2009 by taking 22 or so young people for a workshop in Lungi which lasted for a whole month. After the workshop, they left us with equipment — cameras and laptops. For a whole year we were working at our various houses. We were responsible for moving around the different towns conducting workshops — Kono, Makeni — trying to get them to do something until 2010 when we rented this place. We started this office 2011.

FO: Is there a market out there for documentaries?

AP/ LM: (Answer simultaneously) In Sierra Leone? No!


AP: There is basically no market for documentary films in Sierra Leone. The problem with us in Sierra Leone is that we somehow don’t value records. We don’t have respect for archives and so you find out that you are losing lots and lots of information that we are supposed to be storing. Take for example the 50th anniversary, nothing much was done about it. No strong documentary. Nothing came out about how Sierra Leone moved towards being 50 years old. Look at the political trend in Sierra Leone. Things are changing rapidly but nobody wants to sponsor documentaries. There is no market — absolutely none for documentaries in Sierra Leone.

This is the reason why the independent filmmakers we see around are releasing feature length films. They are following the Nigerian trend because that’s where the money is. They try to sell out to people who will buy their films in the street, but if I do a documentary now and take it out there, it won’t sell. Even with NGOs you hardly get NGOs that commission local people like us to do documentaries. It’s not easy. It all started with them calling on us to cover their workshops and we kept records for them, and seeing the quality of the work and the video, they took the risk and asked us to do some work for them.

FO: Let me ask you this. When you say there is no space for documentary or that the demand for documentary is low, what is happening with the TV stations? Why aren’t they showing documentaries?

LM: They are not interested, basically. What should I say? It’s difficult. As Arthur just said, there is no market for documentaries here, because documentary is not a day or a month’s job and for someone like us trying to develop ourselves to take up this job and say we have this idea or we want to follow this idea, we need something commissioned, even partially covered, so that we can go out there and do what we have to do. Here TV stations are not interested in commissioning young filmmakers to make documentaries.

AP: The thing is, the people running the television stations are only thinking about themselves and their pocket. They are thinking about how they make money for themselves every blessed day. That’s the whole idea. So, when they work within the station, they make sure that everything is confined within the station. For example, look at the quality of work SLBC is doing. The quality is poor. For instance, they insist that all musical videos should be of High Definition quality, and SLBC cannot even import — they cannot even broadcast it. So you understand the problem. The game is that they grab everything for themselves.

There was a time when we were doing a programme called In Focus, which mainly focused on our local folklore and storytelling. We started the programme with SLBC and before long we started having problems with them and later I found out that most of them wanted to grab programmes and do it themselves, within the SLBC. They didn’t have the technical know-how to go about doing these programmes and they ended up doing nothing. There was a time when I heard that the SLBC was given a grant by the United Nations to sponsor documentaries or short stories, culture and other things. I don’t remember the actual date but it was during the time of In Focus and nothing came out.We heard nothing about it again.

FO: How do you see your career panning out in this environment? What do you see as a way forward in the future and what are the kinds of things you think should happen to make a change?

LM: I think things will definitely take a u-turn and change. The industry is still growing and is still trying to take a strong stand here. I mean, before now, there was absolutely nothing. There was no Bammy, there was no Arthur, and there was no Idriss and that was 10 years ago. It’s just because of the civil war and when the civil war ended a lot of young people like me were desperate to do something, desperate to move on in life and we thought we could use filmmaking. Of course I was doing music at some point to express our ideas about things affecting us locally and globally in our own local communities.

That was basically what brought me into the industry (laughs) and as I started up, there was no help. The only way I could be a part of it was to follow people that had equipment, go along with them and watch what they did. That was the only way I could learn about this and from there I was mainly interested in whatever came up about film. I always made sure I would go there and be a part of it, because by then there was no school that you could go to that could teach you how to edit, teach you how to use a camera, or how to adjust this or that. There was nothing!

The only way was to go down there and learn it yourself by using VHS, so that is how I started. For the future of the industry I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I see that things are starting to develop. Before now, take for example, the market — the movies there were all Nigerian and Ghanaian movies, but now if you go round the streets of Sierra Leone, you see that Sierra Leonean movies are starting to be on top and that they are much more expensive than a Nigerian movie. You will see Sierra Leoneans now buying Sierra Leonean movies and you also notice former theatre groups are turning to movie making and also companies trying to produce movies because they are starting to see the light. For us at the other side of things, we are starting to see the same — not only from the government but also from private corporations, from the NGOs, not only locally but also internationally. We are doing it relentlessly, come rain or shine, pushing hard to make things happen for us.

Last year I went to the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in the UK to pitch a documentary called They Call Me Savior. It was not shot by me but I was the assistant producer. It was done by these guys called Nova Studios.

These are things that were not happening before and even for people like UNICEF, The British Council or CONCERN to give me a job — it wasn’t happening before. They would rather call expats to come in and do the jobs that we are doing now and then they’d pay them and they’d leave after finishing. Now you see them giving us the job and it is the same hope I have in the area of producing creative content like documentaries. For people like the TV stations, I don’t know, but I see things changing for the better. It is not that promising but we will see how it goes.

FO: What is your biggest need in terms of the industry as a young filmmaker? I spoke to Idriss and he was talking about the importance of education….Do you agree with him?

LM: I totally agree with him. That is one of our biggest problems here in the industry. The basics always lay the foundation. It is the stepping stone for whatever you want to do in life and I believe that what is lacking in this industry is — a big thing is equipment of course — but the main one is the skill. What we do here is out of simple common understanding, just basic things, common knowledge and the little training that we have.

Again, I totally agree with him. Until kow I’ve only heard of a school, I don’t know if you have heard of that school….

AP: It’s not even functioning now.

LM: There is nothing. If you go to other places you can learn. For most of us we have a passion to learn new things but the only way that we learn is by people coming here to teach or train, and maybe when we travel outside the country. I think there is much more we can do if we have more technical skills to do what we want to do, and equipment.

FO: What do you see as the biggest need to go from where you are to where you might want to be?

LM: If I could just say something, let me give you an example. You look at the movie industry and the way things are going and you will find out that most of what is being portrayed in the movies is Nigerian Culture. The problem with that is that we don’t even understand our own culture and how we can sell it. That knowledge is lacking. You can’t sell a computer if you do not know much about the computer and that is a big problem. That comes with knowledge and learning, which is is also responsible for the growth of the industry and the growth of a lot of filmmakers, like myself, in Sierra Leone.

FO: Let’s talk about the knowledge.

AP: Well, I don’t think it’s far from what Bammy (Lansana) has said. The basic problem that we have here in Sierra Leone is, first of all, our attitude toward learning. There are many times when we think we know and we really don’t know and we want to do something because we think we know and then what we end up doing ends up being not satisfactory.

As Bammy (Lansana) said, if you watch Nigerian Films and then you watch Sierra Leonean Films, most if not all are copy cats of what you will see in Nigerian films, Ghanaian films and even Western Movies, just because we are refusing to learn. We don’t have any film schools or film institutions here that will actually teach you the art of scriptwriting, or the art of storytelling, or the  art of using video to tell stories. We don’t have that here. Most of us learn from watching films and we have a little basic training from white guys who have come into the country and given us this basic training.

I wouldn’t say anyone is a “professional” only because they have gone through school and graduated. I think we should first of all desire to learn, which also means through experience. Learning is there it starts, and then something can happen. I think we need a school. We need people to teach us properly so that at the end of the day, the quality of production that will be coming out of Sierra Leone will be very good. Also again, we have a problem with our governmental system. The government seems to be neglecting developing industries such as the music industry, for exanple. When the music industry in Sierra Leone started developing, when it started showing a new face, it was completely neglected until it bounced back against the government and until it started releasing songs that were anti-government songs. Then the government began to take them seriously, but even when the government takes them seriously, we still saw very little education within that area. They are still not being trained properly in a way that will help them emerge as proper musicians. Also, even when it comes to sound engineers, there are very few professional sound engineers in Sierra Leone. I wonder if there more than 4 or 5. We have very few people who can sit down and do live music properly.

The same thing is reflected in the film industry. We have very few people who know how to do their work properly and the government does not seem to see this as a way of creating employment, which is very important.

Filmmaking, for me, is very important and creating employment is a way of preserving our traditions. They are not seeing it like that, so it is being neglected, and if they are neglecting it, then they are neglecting a whole industry which has the capability of selling the whole country to the rest of the world, as well as giving local youth work to do to put some money in their pocket.

So I think the government and even NGOs should begin to turn their attention to the talent industry. The government came out one day and said they were looking at re-branding Sierra Leone, but how can you re-brand Sierra Leone and forget about the youth? You forget about the films that are coming out of Sierra Leone with the ability to sell the country and you forget about the music? You cannot re-brand your country without this. Let us take a look at what is happening in the Indian film industry. Indian films are being encouraged to screen outside India and to be shot in places like Australia, just so that they can be used as a tool to bring tourists to these areas. Why are they neglecting us? Since after the war, tourists have not come to Sierra Leone. Still today, we are struggling with tourism. They are making a lot of noise, but the evidence is on the ground. Go out to the beaches, to the hotels and they will tell you that tourism has virtually fainted or has become unconscious. This is because there is nothing new to show. We are neglecting the talent industry, and if the talent industry is being neglected then you are neglecting the youths because for any country that lacks jobs, the youths begin to turn to their talent to provide for them with no help from the government. The government needs to come onboard and help the talent industry to grow.

Take for example what is happening now on SLBC. They are showing a programme, Second Chance, which is a foreign film that is aired over SLBC and that is sponsored by Airtel Telecommunications Company, but Airtel has refused to sponsor the very first film festival that was done in Sierra Leone.

They refused to sponsor it as well as efforts made by the Sierra Leone National Film Union. They did a programme called Faces of Sierra Leone to help the actors grow in Sierra Leone and they failed to sponsor it, but they are sponsoring foreign films over the national television even though we are the ones that are buying their recharge cards, that are pouring our money into their businesses.

Last year after we did the film festival, Idriss came up with another film festival on human health. Now these festivals are needed if we are to build this industry properly. For example, if we are to create a market for documentaries, we need to encourage the people to see the importance of documentaries and show them why they need to go out and buy these documentaries and why they need to have them. They need to understand that these documentaries are real stories. They are references that they can go back to at any time. It informs and helps them. We need to cajole the people and the only way we can do this is when we have the film festival and the national broadcaster SLBC encouraging these things, and when we have the private sector investing in some of these things. However, they are not. investing in them. They are going outside.

They do all their adverts outside. It was only early this year that we started seeing Airtel using our local faces on their billboards. They were going down to South Africa, to Ghana, and bringing pictures of people outside Sierra Leone to advertise here. So you see, at the end of the day, as Bammy said, “There is light at the end of the tunnel”, because this industry is going to go big. I know for sure that this industry is going to be big because since last year, the films that came out cannot be equated to what we have now. Their quality of these films may be questionable and they are not all that good, but you can see the effort and the talent. This shows that we just need to have help to groom ourselves and then we will reach the peak.

FO: Tell me about your film festival. Idriss, describe your own and then you guys after him. I want to know the name of the festival, when it’s held, the theme, why it was held, how many people were there and how many films did you show? Give me a rundown of what happened at the festival.

IK: My own festival that we created is called Opin Yu Yi (Open Your Eyes). It only focuses on Human Rights. The reason why we used the theme “open your eyes” is because we want to raise awareness on human rights issues. We see a lot of human rights abuses being conducted every single day in Sierra Leone and as filmmakers we thought that if we use film to communicate positive human rights messages then people would understand properly and really fast because the stories relate directly to them — such as the theme of domestic violence. It is global. If someone sits in China and watches a domestic violent film about a man beating a woman, it’s the same as if they go to Russia or they go to Japan — it’s global. Also, part of it was that we used some powerful international films to send out the messages on human rights, a lot of people came and we screened in different locations. We had an opening and then we moved to a different location, such as the slum, where a lot of abuses happen. I think there is a need for that. As Arthur was saying, we don’t really have a market for documentaries but if we start creating these kinds of platforms then people will start understanding that these films are also good and it’s not just about the drama they do.

The festival had its own impact on people, because the feedback we got after the festival was really good. So, we are doing it every March and we are doing another one next year. Now we are giving incentives to filmmakers because we are doing a film competition and because we want filmmakers to come up with their own ten minute short films on Human Rights and present them. There is a jury that will judge and we want to give them a prize. We want to give them an incentive so when other filmmakers see that, it will be an incentive for them to go out and do more.

FO: How do you sustain the energy of that festival? Are you online, do you have a website?

IK: Yes we do have a website. It is www.Opin Yu and Opin Yu Yi on Facebook. We got support from the British High Commission, The British Council and Christian Aid and then in partnership with my media house, Concept Multimedia, we managed to… The money that we got was basically for advertising, printing banners, paying for a lot of printed materials and doing adverts on TV and radio.

FO: How are these as marketing platforms for filmmakers your age? Obviously festivals are first and foremost promotional platforms.

IK: If I do a film and it is shown at this festival, then everybody knows I am a filmmaker. Everybody knows that this is what l do. If I do a story that touches people, then the next time they hear that I have a story that is coming out and that it is going to be on sale, before any festival I’m sure people will be willing to buy it because they know that the story is going to be good, the story will relate directly to them or to every day happenings in their society.

I think that it is good that these platforms are being created right now. This whole thing is like a revolution. We are trying to bring new ideas into people’s minds and we are trying to make them adapt to something new and that they have never really been used to.When we had the idea of a film festival, a lot of people were asking what a film festival was because, for them, when they say festival, it is to go to the stadium, eating a lot, dancing a lot, drinking a lot, and showing off with their girls. That is what a festival is to them. So actually bringing people into a cinema and showing them different films for 5 to 6 hours is a new kind of trend in this country.

AP: Our festival was the We Own National Film Festival, and the theme for that festival was artist power. We were looking at feature length films that had been done in Sierra Leone and about 54 feature length films came in. We had some documentaries, short films and music videos among them. We did the film festival at the Miatta Conference compound. The festival ended with an awards night, which was the very first film awards night that was ever done in Sierra Leone. We gave them awards for the best actors and the best films and also a satellite company, Medosat, came in at the last moment and they offered to give the winners of the awards digital satellite dishes.

The unfortunate part of it was that we never had any funding from anybody. What happened was that we had to pour in our own money because we actually wanted to do it. Bammy, Michaela, myself and other people came in with small amounts of personal cash and we were able to do it. We moved around, looking for funds and as I said, we went to Airtel for funding, we went to Comium, we went to Africell, and we went to other big companies in this country. None of them gave us a single cent. In fact, Airtel was with us. They were negotiating with us until the very day the festival started. That was when they pulled out, but it was a success. It was a huge success. It was a 2 week long festival.

FO: How was the attendance?

AP/LM: It was good, it was very good.

LM: It was done at the perimeter of the Miatta Conference Hall and we invited all, if not most, of the film groups to build booths around the perimeter and a lot showed interest. We had people from Ghana, Gambia and even Senegal.

AP: They came in for that film festival because it was not only films that were shown. We decided to bring in the textile/clothing industry because people were here to sell their things.

FO: Do you have images of this festival?

AP/LM: Yes we do.

FO: How come you didn’t approach the government to be a part of these festivals?

AP/LM: We didn’t invite them because they are not serious.

LM: It is a difficult situation and you wouldn’t understand the extent. We approached government and it was difficult to meet the right people and even when you did meet them, they would tell you one thing today and another thing tomorrow. At the end of the day we realised that if we kept running after them we wouldn’t succeed and we would just waste our time (laughing). We were able to get some support however, because the space was given by the Minister of Works. The tourism minister came in also at some point, helped to sign the certificate and then gave her blessing.

FO: There was a question if there was any market for documentary. You said no, but then if there is no market for documentary films in Sierra Leone, are you willing to put a lot of money into something and then not make anything out of it at the end of the day?

AP: It’s not that we are not going to make anything out of it. For us at We Own TV, I think we made do with the international market.

FO: So, you are thinking that if you make Sierra Leonean documentaries, you will have a better chance in the international market? Do you think that if you do your own films and take it to the international market, and people like it that it will inspire other Sierra Leonean filmmakers to do their own?

AP: Yes exactly. Sure. The only thing for now is the mad rush for money and the mad rush for money means that people are looking out for money every day, so we have very few filmmakers who are interested in doing documentary. However, when we begin to have people succeeding in the international market with their documentaries then we will begin to have lot of other filmmakers who will want to do documentary.

FO: What if someone came in saying, “We want to fund documentary filmmaking, We Own TV has a structure and we want to put money in to increase documentary filmmaking in Sierra Leone”. How would you put that money to good use?

AP: Most important is to get people to be able to understand documentary, to create a market for documentary film. We first have to get the national broadcaster involved in this. They have to show interest in this because if they have special programmes to show more of our documentaries, they will begin to get people interested. Remember Hilton Fyle who was working for BBC? He came to Sierra Leone and he did Sunrise in Paradise, about the NPRC government, and it was a hit. Also, when Sorious Samura came out with the documentary, Cry Freetown it was a hit. We need to be having documentaries released at a faster speed.

IK: I don’t think the people working in the national broadcast know what they are doing. They really don’t know anything. How can I do my work and then you ask me to pay you as a broadcaster to show my work?

FO: I get you, but what we are asking for is solution.

IK: It is education. I keep talking about education because if they know what they are doing, they would not do what they are doing. They need to travel to other countries and see what other people are doing and how they are doing it and they would understand if they were properly trained. You would know that you as a TV station are to commission my work.

You should pay me. If I have spent 2 years doing my documentary and I come with it and you ask me to pay you, you are doing the wrong thing.

AP: Let me give you a scenario. When we were doing the Real National Film Festival, we went to SLBC and asked them to partner with us. We said: “Ok, you partner with us for one hour of airtime for the duration of the film festival, and also you do advertising for the film festival, and what we are going to do is to give you all the films we show at the film festival for you to air them”. The first thing they did was ask us to pay them and I looked at them and I said, “Can you pay me for my film, do you know what it takes for me to make that film?” So they asked us to do a memorandum of understanding and we did a memorandum of understanding but they never signed it. After the film festival, even though they did not partner with us, I went there and gave them a few films and I asked them to play those films because they were our own films and we were just trying to get our people interested in our films.

After the film festival, we found out that these guys were now buying these films from the streets and then playing them. I am the cinematographic liaisoncoordinator for the union and somebody called me one night and said they are playing my film. It was Janeh, who did Dark Side of Life, so I watched it.

I protested to them angrily and then found out again that they were playing Sierra Leonean films. I gathered a few guys in the union and we went to their office and I gave them strict warning that the day they play one Sierra Leonean film again without our knowledge, or the knowledge of the producer of that particular film, we will take them to court and they will pay the sixty million the law says you should pay if you are caught pirating a film.



Sierra Leone for me seems to have a lot of bottled up creative energy. There are a lot of young people who want to be in the creative industry, who think that their talent can make a difference. They clearly understand documentary production because they have had a bit of practice with developmental messaging in terms of the documentaries that are commissioned by the NGOs in Freetown, but clearly, their industry is structured right now like that of Nollywood in Nigeria where films are made in a guerilla filmmaking mode. Basically it is video based, the cameras are very cheap, it is done and finished on a laptop, and it goes straight to a verydodgy distribution system which takes the film straight to DVD, to a distributor in the open market.

In terms of documentaries the outlet for broadcast is limited, because the broadcasting landscape is essentially is not very wide. But the big challenge there is the same as almost every one of the West African countries in this study: the broadcaster or the broadcasting structure, does not commission work. The broadcasters are not commissioning content, they are essentially monetizing airtime, so effectively the filmmaker has to make a film and pay for it to be broadcast. So for these young people, distribution is a problem, broadcast is a no go, the tools of trade are unaffordable to most of them and effectively they are working on the fly. In terms of training, there is not enough professional training, they are basically working on passion, they have basically trained themselves with the software and the cameras.

Structurally speaking, there is really no formal structure from what I can see. There are film guilds, there seems to be some tension there with two different film guilds and there seems to be some interest in different groups taking control of how to organise these associations, but clearly to me, the wind is at the back of the younger people.

The government I am not sure has a clear agenda for what the entertainment or film industry can do. What is clear is that the war years have left a profound impact on Sierra Leoneans, on their history and culture. And these are impacts that I think only creative industries and especially filmmakers can interrogate. Clearly the storytellers are going to be the ones who will mediate the impact of this period of their history. There is no country in my opinion that is in as dire a need of the creative industries to be alive and to be relevant to development as Sierra Leone.

In terms of what is needed there, first and foremost the intervention needs to focus on the young filmmakers. Clearly the ones who have been in the industry for a long time are not well trusted by the young, because there seems to be a feeling that when they had the opportunity they did not put the structures in place to transfer skill, they did not put the structures in place to inspire, they did not put the structures in place to encourage, they did not put the structures in place to provide a liftoff for generations of creative industry, for creatives to come after them. So there is that disconnect between the older generation and the younger generation and thus I think that any intervention for Sierra Leone must focus on capturing the energy and the passion of the young creatives out there.

I think there has to be some kind of investment in training. Training that is specific to the motion picture industry, training with a curriculum that is not a short two, three week training or one month, come in and go out kind of training. There has to be some critical support for a media school that not only deals with the technical understanding of production, but also deals with the creative side of production. It’s not very difficult to see that there is a sense of production being a way out of poverty, rather than production being an expression of creativity. I think that also has to be addressed in training, so that the filmmakers understand themselves as artists, as interrogators of history, as people who have a powerful voice to speak to issues, to speak to policy, to try to inspire people, to be interventionists themselves, whether it be in the documentary form or in the Docu –drama form. That, I think is going to be critical.

My proposal is that some kind of media programme, media school, of a long term variety that will be probably of a nine month to two year variety be created. A part of the curriculum it’s important to connect these filmmakers to the power of the internet. The government of Sierra Leone may not be in a position to open up the broadcasting landscape anytime soon, so the filmmakers will need to be able to understand distribution on platforms that are outside of the traditional cinema house or television industry. They need to have a familiarity with You Tube, they need to have a familiarity with social media like Facebook where they can aggregate an audience for some of the things that they are going to do or at least promote the works that they are doing while they prepare themselves to access to international media.

I think the school that I am suggesting should be one that is able to provide to a large extent a tuition free; because I don’t see the capacity of those who are passionate and want to work in that industry to really pay for the training. Effectively there has to be some kind of structure that is crafted perhaps in partnership with the government, rather than the guilds because

I think the guilds themselves are divisive enough to frustrate the opportunity if it is not carefully put together. The structure of the school, the curriculum itself, the programme has to be a turnkey that is simply brought in; however, it is important that government provides a part of the cost of it somehow, whether it be providing the location of the school, or it be simply in working together to create that curriculum so that it takes cognizance of what the scenario in Sierra Leone. Political support will also be needed to ensure that the school, the training programme is merely a beginning and that the environment is open enough for these young people to able to express themselves in a new way. Hopefully that would be as straightforward as asking the government — which owns the major broadcasting entity — to subsidize or create air time in their schedules to permit these young filmmakers to access an audience. What really needs to be built immediately is the capacity of one or two or three of these young people to emerge as a strong, viable and creative voice, whether it be in documentary or in docudrama.

Secondly, obviously, I look at those who are already working and who need some kind of project funding.

Project funding is needed across all African countries the question is in the design of the funding. In Sierra Leone, project funding related to the experience of the civil war, and the recovery process would make a powerful subject, for example, and also expose Sierra Leonean filmmakers to the rest of the world. The nation building or nation rebuilding seems to be both external and internal, and a lot of stories are personal, people trying to heal, to get rid of nightmares.

I would advise some kind of collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone to the effect of either seeking from them a contribution to a fund, or ensuring that they guarantee that any beneficiaries of a fund are able to complete their films, maintain their businesses, and remain in Sierra Leone to develop and strengthen the industry to create a level of sustenance.

For me, support for the television industry in terms of distribution is also a third key possibility in creating opportunity for filmmakers to access an audience. The whole idea of the filmmaker paying for that exposure seems to actually kill any instinct for these filmmakers to want to do anything. Those who do have training and do have equipment, and who wish to make films but may not have access to project funding, should be able to at least gain an audience through a TV broadcast.

These three elements, in order of importance, seem to me to be what is necessary to support filmmaking in Sierra Leone.

— Femi Odugbemi