Issues in Nollywood – Suggestions for Unity and Moving the Industry Forward
(Being Part 2 of “Sustaining the Integrity of Nollywood and African Entertainment...”)
All players in Nollywood and the African Entertainment Industry in Diaspora whether organizers, promoters, producers, artists or crew have a responsibility to maintain a level of integrity and genuineness that will invite and encourage the growth of the industry.
If the public loses its confidence in Nollywood the African entertainment industry, it will eventually affect their willingness to participate or support ventures and content from the African entertainment industry. If members of the public are treated to much less than what they have paid to attend an African entertainment event such as a movie premiere, stage performance, fashion show, beauty pageant, or an award show, they are unlikely to return the next time such organizers put up a show. Incidentally, the stigma could dampen the enthusiasm of the public and reduce their confidence in the industry which would in turn systematically hamper turn out and support for other industry activities and content.
Our Invitation to Other Industries like Hollywood:
Since most outsiders such as producers from Hollywood and other industries interested in the African entertainment industry may not be familiar with the relevant players and achievers within the African entertainment industry, they may be faced with the option of considering and relying on such factors as recognition-lists, award-recipients, and industry-compilations of leading artists and personalities within the industry. Recognizing or giving awards to the best in the industry based on merit and achievement means that such outsiders will obtain the services of the best the industry offers, which means that the industry would be well represented, which in turn ensures that the industry’s integrity is maintained and the growth of the industry is encouraged.
Division and infighting:
Every growing industry has its challenges and there are bound to be disagreements and differences in opinion and the manner of going about things. It is okay to speak up or write about it when issues come up which affect the rudiments of the industry. Yet, we must draw some lines and observe some limits in our expressions so that we do not end up taking away from the unity and focus needed to nudge the industry forward. I need not repeat the known axiom about “united we stand” but I have to reiterate that quite a lot can be achieved in an industry like the African entertainment Industry in Diaspora if the players work together. This is more so as we are still in the formative years of the industry. All hands must be on deck to ensure that a strong foundation is laid for the industry so it does not crumble too soon.
Disagreements could be quite healthy for growth so long as participants are open minded to suggestions and friendly in the manner they voice their objections. There is no need for name bashing or character assassination. However, where a player in the industry has been cautioned in private to amend his or her approach towards a project that affects the integrity and image of the industry as a whole, such player has to listen and make such amends or else it would be difficult to stop others from crying out in public.
Enough to Go Round:
Industry players have to understand that the reach and audience of the industry is so vast that no single artist, producer, or other player can prevent the other from reaching an avowed audience. If the work is good the public will consume it, and by that, the public remains the final judge of the performance of any artist, producer, or promoter. So why fight each other? Let us concentrate on our works and let our works speak for us. Rather than begrudging others, let us wish them well, or humble ourselves to ask them how they made it or how we can join them to make it together.
What is Our Footprints in the Sand of Time?
If we do not have the wisdom and humility to ask for guidance from those who have traveled the path before us, then the loss is ours. And if we are ahead but do not have the humility to share our opportunities with those coming along, then we have learned very little and may therefore soon find ourselves in the rear so that life may teach us better. The entertainment industry is one sure place where everyone has to pay his or her dues to move forward. There is no escaping it. Detractors may reign for a while, but the industry has a way of weaning itself off of bad elements and bad influence. It is usually a question of time before the true worth and intention of every player becomes known. We can not all be at the top at the same time – people come and people go. That is the nature of life. At each point in time some people have to be the focus of the limelight and then with time the status quo changes, for change is constant and inevitable. Our concern should be - what footprints do we leave behind after we have traveled the path and our time is gone?
Need For Regional Unifying Associations (and Guilds):
It cannot be overemphasized that Nollywood and African Entertainment Industries in Diaspora across the globe need unifying associations that would help in coordinating and maintaining entertainment standards and discipline that would augur well for all players. Such associations would set standards to be met by players wishing to engage in certain activities that affect the general members of the industry in the region. In line with this, the need for guilds such as Actors Guild, Director’s Guild, Writer’s Guild and Producer’s Guild becomes relevant. It would be reasonable to start with a unifying association that would help set the standard for the guilds. Where such is not feasible, players in different departments of the industry, may start with relevant guilds and then work towards uniting all guilds under one broader association of entertainers.
To avoid certain problems that could hinder the successful formation of any such guild or association, all players already in the game have to be invited to be aboard from the start while room is made for upcoming ones to join once they meet the criteria for such guild or association. The initial members or the founders of such an association should not hijack the leadership and direction of the association. On the other hand, the fear of some players or sub-organizations that such a guild or association may eclipse what they already have, should be an issue for discussion rather than one reserved in the pocket of fear and dichotomy. There is enough room for all to thrive and exist side by side if all intentions are for the good of the industry and the objectives are clearly delineated. At the same time, we have to avoid duplication of associations which could end up causing associations to work against each other or lead to many feeble associations running all over the place and distracting from the unified effort and management needed to have formidable overall guilds or associations.
Remembering Who We Are and Protecting Our Heritage through Our Works:
For some of us, African creativity whether through films, stage-theater, music, song, dance, etc goes beyond entertainment. It is a cultural brand that signifies a people and their background, their origin and who they are, as well as the rudiments to sustain their future generations. The artist should be encouraged and compensated rather than exploited whether directly or indirectly. Direct exploitation includes pirating of artistic works, or using artistic works without permission or compensation to the artist. Indirect exploitation includes – buying or consuming pirated works, patronizing the consumption of artistic works that are not paid for such as free unauthorized streaming of African films or songs online, and using artistic works or Artist presence to procure money from the public without providing a worthy and valuable return to either the public (for money paid) or the artist (for content used).
Having Our Priorities Right:
African Diaspora Entertainment Industries are reeling with exploitation issues such as bootleg and copyright violation issues. Consequently, filmmakers and other artists like musicians are not getting valuable returns from their content once released on DVD or CD. The African film (and song) audience is gradually switching over to African movies being streamed for free online although some are gradually cultivating the habit to attend African film screenings and cinemas. To cause any sort of public disaffection that would give the audience reason not to attend our live shows, events, or film screenings is something that has to be avoided if we must salvage the industry from annihilation. Piracy (whether by unauthorized DVD duplication or unauthorized streaming online) remains the biggest threat to the industry followed by lack of viable funding and sponsors to invest the needed fund that would help bring about bigger and higher quality productions. Such are the more important issues facing Nollywood. We should put our houses in order to enable us devote more time on how to deal with the more important issues. That is having our priorities right.
We can do it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver O. Mbamara is an Admin. Judge of New York State. He is also a filmmaker and a published writer, poet, and playwright. For more on Oliver Mbamara, please visit www.OliverMbamara.com