I realized that a lot of people in the upper and middle class in Nigeria don’t watch Nigerian movies. This could be due to the fact that their only thinking of Nigerian movies comes from what they used to see years ago when they last saw one, without realizing a lot has changed. They prefer to watch American series and movies and wonder why we can’t make it like they do. You have to realize that the American film industry is over 100 years old and they also had a time when they made movies that people felt were not that good. Lets me also say that the average amount it takes a studio just to market a movie in Hollywood is about $40 million, without production cost So it’s not right to expect that a house built with that amount and the one built with $20,000 would look alike. The reason why we can’t spend beyond what we spend now is also because we know how much return it would make. Isn’t it unwise to make a movie for $100,000 when the average amount a Nigerian movie makes in returns is less than $40,000? Americans did not start that industry by spending millions on a movie. They grew to where they are. So today, Americans can afford to spend 100 million to make a movie because they know the movie would open in over 100,000 screens with different slots per day and about 200 seats per screen you do the math, compared to about 20 cinemas here. We know we have a passion for filmmaking but it’s also what we use to feed our families, send our kids to good schools and pay the bills. That we don’t knot a tie in the morning and go to an office by 8am does not mean it’s not a business that should make a profit.
As they ask why we can’t be like Hollywood, what they fail to realize is that I don’t plan to be like Hollywood. It makes no sense for us to try and copy Hollywood. If there’s anything we want to be like that resembles Hollywood, it’s their distribution network and how they have been able to get their movies to all ends of the earth, which is responsible for how much money they earn each time they make a movie. Nothing else! So why don’t I want us to be like Hollywood? Because we can never be as good as they are in their game, talk less of being better. Why should we try to play in a game we can never win? Imagine the Super Eagles (Nigeria’s football national team) about to play a match and we already know they have lost before the blast of the first whistle.
You have to understand what Nollywood is to understand my reasoning. Nollywood
is not a product but a system. The word ‘Nollywood’ was coined by a foreign journalist
who came to Nigeria and saw a group of people who were telling their stories in a unique way, who used little resources and a short time to make a movie that was been consumed by a large part of their population and in other parts of the continent. He was amazed at the turn around time of investment in our movies and saw how these ingenious people were able to make something out of nothing. So the ’Nolly’ came from the word ‘nothing’ and ‘wood’ to have a semblance with the popular film industry, Hollywood. That’s how the name ‘Nollywood’ came about. What makes us unique is how we have been able to tell our stories in a distinctive way and have gotten the attention of the whole world. If an American made a feature movie with $5000 in 4 days, he would have been on the front pages of their newspapers and magazines but because Nigerians did it, we don’t see anything special about it. Hence the skewed way they world see things. In this space, we would beat Hollywood any day and twice on Sundays.
By the way, it is vey important to note that with these ‘rubbish’ and ‘low quality’ films, we have been able to get Africa and the rest of the world watching our movies. With this ‘lackluster’ way of making movies, we have been able to build a film industry that has grown to become the second largest film industry in the world currently. For the first time, about two years ago, it was captured in our GDP, the entertainment industry generating close to 1% of it. It generated 1.47% the first quarter of 2016. I was in South Africa for a workshop a few days ago. I stayed with a family in a village called Makuleke. It’s beside Kruger National Park, just by South Africa’s border with Mozambique. I was amazed that when I returned by 8pm everyday till about midnightthat they went to bed, they only watched Nigerian movies. I was in a plane to Nairobi from Johannesburg and as I walked down the aisle from the toilet to my seat during the flight, I was surprised that most of the passengers including some white people, were watching Nigerian movies. My experience in Nairobi was amazing because at a time I felt I was in Nigeria. While we we’re here despising our movies, a Nigerian based in the UK came with a white partner to just deal with Nigerian movies. Based on his experience with Youtube and the lots of views, he started buying rights to them and started an online TV platform and within months was worth lots of millions of dollars. Our Nigerian actors are amazed at how they are treated as demigods when they visit other countries especially other African countries. Some can hardly walk on the streets as everyone wants to catch a glimpse of them. Our films have penetrated into different parts of the world despite its poor distribution network. We see foreigners buying our movies at Alaba in bulk to take back with them when they come to Nigeria.