The leadership of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), last week, met at its Suru-Lere office in Lagos to chart a way forward for the Nigerian movie industry, generally referred to as Nollywood.
Speaking on the myriad of issues facing the creative industry, AMP president, Ralph Nwadike disclosed that Nollywood could be self-sustaining if governments at all levels put the right policies in place and mandate relevant agencies to enforce them.
According to him, the Nigerian creative industry is not expecting government to spoon feed it because it has all it takes to make money to sustain itself and even give loans for members to produce new films. He, however, noted that with the current situation where uncensored foreign films flood the market, aside piracy and cable pay stations showing Nigerian films for free to the public, filmmakers and marketers have been denied their main source of livelihood, making government to lose several millions of Naira that would have come in inform of taxes and other payment.
He urged Censors Board to initiate a meeting where marketers importing foreign films into the country, the cinema houses showing them, non-members of association, who have now becomes emergency producers, as well as other stakeholders would meet and discuss ways of checkmating pirates and also banning uncensored foreign films.
Highlighting measures that could currently save the situation, the AMP headman called on the Federal Government to adequately fund Censors’ Board to carry out continuous raids on pirates’ replicating plants every month, adding that empowering the board with task force comprising armed soldiers would make their efforts fruitful. To this, he urged Copyrights Commission and the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission to be part of the team.
“Foreign films coming into the country must be censored by the Censors’ Board before exhibition or broadcast as the case may be. Also, foreign adverts must be censored by the Censors’ Board before they are broadcast. Nollywood can sustain itself if government can minimise all forms of piracy. It can do this by sanitising and registering replicating plants scattered all over the country,” he noted.
Commenting on the negative impact of cable stations such as MNET, StarTimes and other pay television stations on the Nigerian economy and the Nigerian movie industry, he said some of the stations have about seven to eight channels through which they show Nollywood films 24 hours, seven days of the week, adding that this has not allowed Nigerians to buy CDs, as they now view Nigerian films for almost for free in the various stations and this is negatively telling on the movie producers and the various agencies that depend on them for revenue.
On way out of this imbroglio, Nwadike said the cable stations should not show Nollywood films in more than one channel in the country, but can show them in as many channels as possible outside Nigeria. He added that to give this order the right impetus, no film that is less than two years old should be shown on any of the cable station’s single channel with three runs a year.
“This is not done anywhere in the world. Our airspace has been saturated with Nollywood films and this has effectively killed the VCD and DVD markets, which are our main source of distribution. We stand as one and say MNET and other cable stations should not have more than one channel in Nigeria, showing Nollywood films, but they can show these films in as many channels as possible outside Nigeria. Also, no film that is less than two years old should come on that single channel with three runs a year.
“A simple analogy is when the British FA matches are being played with about six matches at once. They are not televised, but if any would; it will be only one and that would be about 30 minutes into the start of play. This is why all the stadia are full on match days. They protect their money-spinner, but we have allowed ours to be in the hand of MNET alone. We advocate a review of the agreement with them by the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC),” he said.
On how to generate fund for the industry without necessary depending on government, AMP president disclosed that if the foreign cable stations pay N200 for the lowest bouquet and N2000 for the highest every month from the subscriber’s subscription there will be plenty of money for moviemakers in the industry to carry out their productions.
According to him, these deductions would be used to open a film endowment fund, where registered producers can access funds at very minimal interest rate.
“There is no level playing ground for accessing film fund and when government attempts to inter face with Nollywood, person’s who are not guild members or our representatives are selected. For instance after the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) MoU with the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, we discovered that people who do not represent the guild or associations of producers were selected into a committee to speak on behalf of members they do not represent. How can this error be made at this time?
“TEF is requesting for protection of their funds by making sure government protect the industry, so, they can get their return on investment. This can only be guaranteed if some of the points enumerated are seriously executed,” he noted.
Commending Lagos State government for passing a law that banned street trading, Nwadike said such laws if properly enforced would reduce the sale of Nollywood and foreign video or DVD films on the streets. According to him, banning street hawking would cut down piracy by at least 50 per cent. He called for filmmakers to be given tax exemption until the movie industry begins to make money, adding that film distribution in the country is still at its lowest ebb, which is the reason those who have distribution license have not been able to expand their networks.