Nollywood - The Nigerian Movie Industry
Some Nollywood Stars
So I keep going on and on about Hollywood and British movies, but I’m yet to really talk about the Nigerian movies, or the Nigerian movie industry called Nollywood. I know, silly name. India comes up with Bollywood, Nigeria comes up with Nollywood; I wonder if they have Jollywood in Japan! Lol.
No matter, how much of a joke you and I might think the name is, the industry in my country isn’t anything of a joke. For starters, Nollywood is the second largest film industry in the world, in terms of the number of films produced per year. We’re ahead of the United States (Hollywood), who’s third. India (Bollywood) is number one.
The Nigerian movie industry is still considered a nascent industry, though; with a life span of only about two decades. Of course, movies have been made in Nigeria as far back as in the 1960s, but these were without digital filming. Now the case is different. Over 200 home videos are produced every month! CNN once did a report that estimated the worth of Nollywood to be in the neighbourhood of $250 Million dollars.
Ola Balogun and Hubert Ogunde are considered the pioneers of the industry. They made the first films in the 1960s, but because they couldn’t recover their expenses, being that the industry was still fresh and all, they had to bail out. A decision I’m sure they might regret now.
So even though films weren’t popular back then, and Nigeria had just gotten her independence and all, structures were still being put in place; structures which included broadcasting stations. A lot of smart people went into small-film and theatre production, broadcasting their videos through these stations. This is how an informal market for home video films began to develop. Before then, it was mainly Clark Gable movies on black and white (Glad I wasn’t born then).
In 1992 Nek Video Links – an outfit owned by Kenneth Nnebue from the Eastern part of Nigeria (where I’m from), in a city called Onitsha, in Anambra took the opportunity in this era and released a box-office smash movie titled, Living in Bondage. This is the movie that finally gave the Nigerian movie industry the definition that it sought for decades.
After Living in Bondage, all of a sudden, everybody wanted to be a film producer. If Kenneth Nnebue could do it, anybody can! And so the movies piled up. There was Evil Passion, Taboo, Nneka the Pretty Serpent, and Rattlesnake. All classics in my book. However, the industry was owned exclusively by the Igbos (my tribe); my people, as they are renowned for took it as a business, which it is, and turned it into a money maker. Most of the movies of the time were made in Igbo language with English subtitles. The industry exploded, and today Nigerian movies are marketed all across Africa and to the rest of the world.
As time went by, lesser movies were made with Igbo (a thing I hate) and more with English. It helped to expand the market further, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it was the primary reason for the market’s expansion. Look at India for instance, they have practically all their movies made in Hindi, and no one took notice of them then. Now, we can’t get enough of them. And they still make their movies in Hindi. This isn’t the case with Nollywood, when they expanded, they sold out, and now you can hardly see a movie made in Igbo, but you can see a lot of Yoruba movies now. Though, they’re not as main-stream as Igbo produced movies. It is mainly watched by just the Yorubas. The Northerners as well, also make their movies primarily in Hausa.
In 2003, a film titled Osuofia in London, produced and directed by Kingsley Ogoro was among the first Nigerian films to attain international recognition. The film was a spin off from an old Nollywood movie called, Ikuku where a comedic character called Osuofia, played by the famous Nigerian actor-comedian Nkem Owoh is adapted from. Ogoro got Owoh to play the role in his movie, and it went berserk!
Another guy who made a name for himself in Nollywood is Chico Ejiro, who once bragged that he can complete a film production in three days! They guy actually directed over 80 movies in an 8 year period. That ought to be a record! Chico Ejiro also has his brother, Zeb Ejiro doing the directing thing, and they’re both forces to reckon with, in the industry. They are like Tony and Ridley Scott in Nigeria. Ha!
Back in the day, Nigerian movies were made using analog video, like betacam SP, but nowadays all home videos are produced with digital video technology. Nigeria is quick to adapt; HD filming is taking over pretty quickly.
The Guardian in a popular article (March 2006) reports Nollywood to be the third largest in the world in terms in earnings. The paper estimates the industry’s annual earnings to be in the neighbourhood of $200 million.
What do you think? Hollywood and Bollywood, of course! Lol. But seriously, Nigeria’s biggest and closest competition in Africa is Ghana. Over the past few years both film industries have had to resolve this by doing tons of collaborative work. You’ll find a lot of films featuring a big actor from Ghana, like Van Vicker and a big actress in Nigeria, like Genevieve Nnaji in a romance movie. Collaborations such as these have sometimes made outsiders to refer to Ghanaian movies as Nigerian movies. The Ghanaians are loving the collaborations, though. No kidding!
That’s where I got a problem with the name ‘Nollywood’. It isn’t like Hollywood where there’s actually a place with studios in it and all. There’s really no place called Nollywood. It’s nowhere! And the movies are shot in real locations – homes, offices, hotels, etc mainly in the top three movie cities of Abuja, Lagos and Enugu. In the end of each Nigeria film you’ll see in the credits where names of people who probably own homes, hotels, hospitals, etc used in the movies area appreciated.
Primarily there are two main distribution markets – The Idumota Market on Lagos Island, and 51 Iweka Road in Onitsha, Anambra States.
At present, the Nollywood owns the movie market in Africa, selling more than any other movies from any other African movie industry. Nollywood has over 300 producers churning out movies at the rate of about 1,000 – 2,000 a year! Which is pretty phenomenal! There isn’t any formal box office, though there are theatres – so most movies go straight to DVD and Video Discs (VCD). An average film sells about 50,000 copies. A blockbuster sells several hundred thousand copies. A disc could go for about $2 or less each. So basically, anyone can buy a movie, and it is always constantly in demand, so the producers keep churning them out like crazy. Who cares about quality when you have loads of cash, right!
There aren’t really any big money film studios like Warner Bros, or Universal or anything like that. Almost all Nigerian movies are independent. We make 100% indie movies here! So basically, an average film costs is somewhere between US$15,000 and $25,000. Unbelievable, right? And it takes about a week to shoot these movies. Yeah, you read right – 7 days, on average. After post-production, the movie goes straight to video; this reduces marketing cost, since there is always an on-demand structure for new movies. The movies can sell up to 200,000 copies in a week. This yields a massive profit for the producers! Imagine if you made a movie with $25,000 which in Nigerian currency is about N3 Million, and you sold 200,000 copies for $2 or N300 per copy. Do the math, you would be making $400,000 or N60,000,000 per movie. That’s 2000% over of what the movie cost! Now, imagine if you’re making like one of those every month. Now you get it.
Recent reports place the industry at a worth of half a billion dollars, and it just keeps growing.
Nollywood movies are mostly all moral-like. With a lesson to learn from and all. Some are religious, even preachy like mad, others deal with social issues and ills, corruption, AIDS, Supernatural, epics and just stuff that concern the everyday Nigerian. They try to portray everyday life as real as possible. Not really, anyway. They exaggerate a lot. And almost all Nigerian movies have sequels. But sequels are actually a whole movie split into parts, not like different movies with different plots or anything.
It’s an open market – a free for all market. Anyone, and I mean anyone can dig in. Producers are coming out from everywhere. The demand keeps growing. In all of Africa it is the most watched movies. The distribution is going crazy, even Nigerians in Diaspora can walk into video outlets and get a home video. Even on satellite you have channels that show Nollywood movies exclusively!
You just wait till I get my ish
together, and I’m making my first horror blockbuster! Ha!