MMPR FOCUS: THE BUSINESS OF AFRICAN FILM: NOLLYWOOD

This year may have been the year of great visibility and dominance of the African film industry and for Africans in the film milieu in general. With African and diasporan actors taking on prestigious roles in award winning mainstream films the continent’s industry looks set to break out of its niche.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Barkhadi Abdi and Lupita Nyongo’o were all nominated for an Oscar with Lupita scooping the Best Supporting Actress prize and thereafter becoming Hollywood’s dahling fashionista and “It Girl” befriended by major fashion houses, music and acting legends.

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One of the more anticipated events this May 2014 has been the opening of “Half of a Yellow Sun” – a romantic drama set during Nigeria’s Biafran war – directed by Nigerian writer and playwright Biyi Bandele and based on the best-selling book of the same title by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The expectation is that it could be the African film industry’s breakout production, garnering global mainstream acclaim and revenues.

“We made this film for a global audience and global distribution channels. The financing, quality of production, and mix of cast and crew reflect that. So in that sense, it is not your traditional Nollywood production,” according to executive producer Yewande Sadiku. Ms Sadiku was involved in coordinating much of Half of a Yellow Sun’s financing. “A significant source of the equity funding was from the Nigerian Bank of Industry, which lent against the project. We also had over 30 investors, the bulk of them Nigerian, and some friends of Nigeria, including investors from South Africa, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and Ireland,” Ms Sadiku tells This Is Africa.

Challenges remain, however. “The Nigerian film industry is desperately in need of expert financial advice, which can help raise budgets, production values, and distribution,” she says. “But [it] will require better governance, accountability, and records across the industry of costs and financial performance.” Ms Yewande Sadiku. A chief executive with Stanbic IBTC Capital Ltd. in Nigeria.

What has fuelled this Nollywood fever even more?

The Nigerian government has taken some concrete steps toward creating a better Nollywood infrastructure:-

  •  Assigning its financial valuation priority in the historic GDP rebasing was one of them acknowledging Nollywood as a major sector contributing to economic growth.
  • Nigeria’s official regulatory agency for film, the National Film & Video Censors Board (NFVCB), has created a board for input from key Nigerian film associations and pressed better industry standards and copyright enforcement.
  • The Ministry of Finance’s $250m Project Act fund is another mechanism working to build capacity of Nollywood filmmakers and producers through grants.
  • Further supporting New Nollywood efforts are the multiplex theatres that have recently been built in Nigeria’s upscale shopping malls.
  • Nigeria’s growing tech movement could provide 21st century sales and distribution platforms for African films.
  • Startup iROKO Partners, could also play a significant role in formalizing revenue streams for Nollywood.

“The idea is to take this popular movie industry, digitise it, and wrap the right legal framework around it to capture the proper value,” Iroku founder Jason Njoku tells This Is Africa. “The revenue is already there, it’s just dispersed.”

 Nigeria’s Statistician General Yemi Kale stressed that new figures for Nollywood’s unofficial sales are approximations using many sources. “Quantifying this industry is quite challenging because substantial populations of people involved are operating informally,” he admits.

Well done to the government of Nigeria for seeing the potential of their industry and for backing progression. Not much can be said for those in Cameroon!

Courtesy of This Is Africa

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