Nollywood has undergone fundamental changes over the last 10 years. Many things have happened. The way movies are done has changed. The way movies are marketed has also changed. Even the old faces have yielded space to a new set. All the popular names that we are used to no longer feature in today’s movies. All thanks to the internet, to Youtube. There are now new faces, new names. There are those who feature in cinema movies. They are new Big boys and Babes. All of these changes have taken its toll on the sale of movies.
It has nosedived. Because many of the new movies get shown on Youtube for free, people are not buying anymore. There is also a big clamour for the old faces to be featured more in movies.
Someone who has watched this transformation evolve over time is popular Film Maker, Christopher Ozoemena. He is the MD of De-Kross Movie. He has been in the movie making business and marketing for over a decade and in this interview with City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, he revealed why movie marketing business is no longer attractive and profitable. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Please share with us your experience in the movie-making business
Ok. Let me tell you about Christopher Ozoemena. He is a Filmmaker by profession. I have produced so many great movies, with super stories, with great story lines in the past. I produced The Kingdom. I produced The Power. I featured Omotola, Francis Duru and Uche Jombo. I also produced Caught In The Act. I featured Genevieve, Clarion Chukwura, Uche Jombo and many more in those days.
Those movies I mentioned now were shot as far back as 2006, 2007, and 2008. Its only The Kingdom that I shot in 2011. It starred Clems Ohameze, Van Vicker, Eucharia Anunobi, Jibola Dabo, Tana Adelana, Chelsea Eze and Annie Idibia. Those were my earlier films. I also did Brides War starring Ini Edo, Tonto Dikeh, Chika Ike, Yvonne Okoro, Annie Idibia, Nonso Diobi, John Dumelo, Emeka Amakaze, Frank Arthus.
Then, there is The Maidens starring Rita Dominic, Mercy Johnson, Angela Okorie, Biola Ige, John Dumelo, Emeka Amakaze and Chiwetalu Agu.
In those days, once you are done from the location, when you are still in the studio editing, the marketers will be calling you, when is your film coming out. It doesn’t happen again. That era in gone.
Why is this so?
I will attribute it to the way the social media has taken over with Youtube. Yes, the Privates have been there, but even the Youtube has taken over the whole thing. Before the films come out or even if you don’t want to put it on Youtube, if you release it into the market, somebody else, who didn’t know how you suffered to shoot the film, will pick one DVD and go to studio and re-edit and upload it and that’s it. So it is really affecting the marketing aspects. Film makers hardly get their money back. They can’t make profit. They can’t even cover their cost. Its affecting the industry as a whole. It’s affecting the upcoming artistes too.
In those days when we release films people get to see the artistes. When you have an audition and you cast a new artiste and you bring out the movie and the movie did well and families buy it, and watch it together, the persons name will be on the lips of every family member. These days it does not happen like that. That is why after Tonto Dike, I tell you that Nollywood has not made any artiste.
Even the ones that parade themselves as the new Nollywood, nobody knows them. I have worked with virtually the big and small in the industry.
Those days when we are on location I used to remember the crowd, the followers, that they used to have. So, these new guys, nobody knows them. Those who know them, know them on the internet and it does not make an artiste popular. I always tell the upcoming artistes that they have not won the Market Award. What I mean by that is a situation whereby if you are passing and the woman that sells Boli or Crayfish recognizes that this is Genevieve.
That makes you a famous person. But this new people, nobody knows them. The only people who know them are people who go to the Cinemas to watch them. The days of Stephanie Okereke, Genevieve and co are passing. I used to experience what happens then. Even when we take them to a place to shoot, every body gathers round them. For instance, the last film I shot with Genevieve, there was this location that was difficult to get.
For example, the last film I shot with Genevieve there was this location that was difficult to get when we mentioned the name of Genevieve, the man said you mean she is going to be in this movie? You mean Genevieve is coming to my house? We said Yes, if you are sure she is coming I will throw the gate open to you guys. And he did. We came and his wife cooked for us and we were received with open arms. We shot our film and left.
The industry has gone so bad that everybody in it is suffering. Its just suffering and smiling.
What can be done to salvage the situation?
I don’t’ know because we are there when this thing started. We were there capitalizing on our CD/DVD sales. We were contented with what we were seeing then. When this internet thing came, it shattered and hijacked everything.
In those day, when we shoot films we would sell in Ghana, Liberia, US, UK, Germany. These are the areas I make my money before we even distribute it here in Nigeria.
But these days, we hardly cover our cost. It doesn’t happen like that any more.
I remember a film that I released with a million copies. It’s called The Maidens, within one week, we sold a million plus.
That was in 2010. That was the first movie that John Dumelo shot here in Nigeria. I shot it in 2009 and we released it in early 2010. Within one week, the VCD sold over a million. Those were the films that discovered actresses like Angela Okorie. It does not happen again, because people don’t buy films and take to their house. A lot of people watch films with their phones.
They watch it online and on Africa magic. It is also affecting Africa Magic. In those days after releasing a film in the market, you must have sold it all over the world. We will take it to them and decide on the amount you want to sell it and they will buy and pay us in dollar. Now, before the 2015 elections they stopped paying in dollars.
The question that you asked that is still hanging is what do I think that can be done to change the situation?
A lot of things have really changed in the industry. Its very tough. What we need to do is for all of us to upgrade. That is why I go for seminars and conferences abroad. We’ve changed the packaging of our movies. The way forward is to do a good film. Even me, people still remember me by the good stories I did in the past. The way forward I think is for government to come in and help. Everybody is now talking about Cinemas. The Cinema Mafia has taken over.
The Cinema Mafia will not allow the old Nollywood to bring their films there. They have divided the industry. That was what happened in those days when the market was also good.
The old Nollywood people did not allow the Independent Marketer to bring in their films to the marketer. These days I don’t know if they are retaliating. Its not supposed to be so. Its affecting the industry.
Its affecting everybody. My passion for the industry is to use a story and preach repentance, kind of. Those things are not working again.
Another thing that really hit us bad is the Telemundo series and Zee World series.
In as much as I am complaining that people are not buying DVD, I see them buying that Telemundo and Zee World series. And I asked then why people are buying it, they said because people like it. And that their story lines are strong, and that their picture quality is superb. But I keep telling them that what you guys are buying are the pirated copies. You are helping pirates. Nobody owns the right here.
These people simply download these series from the internet. And they then go and put it on DVD. They are making money.
They are selling. And the DVDs are moving for them to sell. They are selling all these pirated stuff why those doing the legit business are not selling. They also combine it with pirating our own work putting it together and selling them. They call it 20-in One or 40-in-one. And they are selling.
The bottom-line is that government does not recognise Nollywood. If they do the situation will change. Lets create Neighbourhood Cinemas all over the place or Community Cinemas like you have it in various communities. When I was in the North they used to create a place where they show films and people will come around and pay to watch those Indian films, in those days. We should try and create such opportunities now. Lets create Community Cinemas. It will save you from driving since its in your neighbourhood.
Government should come in and help Nollywood genuinely. The problem facing Nigeria is the attitude of Government. Government does not care for you or anybody. You have to struggle to make yourself what you are or what you want to be. Some of us are trying our best.
We employ people and keep thousands engaged. I am using my profession of film making to take people out of the street. The only thing is that government has not recognised us. I can not go to the bank with my film and get a loan.
This government sidelined the Project that the Jonathan Goodluck government introduced. What I am saying is that all of us individually, we have tried. We are doing it as a business. So, if government had come in to contribute to the business we would have gone far. We would have done better.
In other countries, it is a big thing to be a Producer. I got to know what it is to be a Producer back then in 2012 when I went to California for a Festival and a Conference. Many of the producers who care shared their experiences with us. Even in the U.S they still have home videos like we have here. Most of the people I met were local film makers.
But they are doing well. The testimonies they gave at the festival was a strong one. Government must come in and help. Government should create an enabling environment. Government is the way forward. We as individuals have tried.
As for the upcoming artistes, they have a lot of work to do. Right now nobody knows them, but they think that people know them. What our people buy is pictures (Photographs). For instance, you are here now, nobody could recognise you as you entered. But if it had been Jide Kosoko that came here now, there will be noise all over. People will stay outside. They want to see that Baba that acts. But this new generation actors come here but nobody knows them, nobody knows their face.
You can’t compare them to the likes of Nonso Diobi who started acting when Nigerians were still buying DVD and VCD. Can you imagine the effect of having the face of a Segun Arinze on a movie jacket? People know him. Or Ramsey Noah. Those are known faces.
But I know that market will not die because people are demanding for the old faces, the faces of the old actors and actresses. So the problem the industry is facing today is affecting not only the market but it is affecting the actors, Directors, Marketers.
Everybody in the industry is suffering. The Internet is one of it and there is nothing you can do about it.
That is the major cause of it, this YouTube platform on the Internet. The internet has dealt a great blow on the industry.