After a phenomenal rise to global fame, Nollywood celebrated its 20th anniversary recently. At other times, the occasion would have been marked with much partying, probably round the year. But things are far from being rosy for the industry at present.
Many challenges, including piracy, absence of structured distribution networks and a string of scandals trailing some of its star players, are threatening to rob the industry of its glory. While these issues are not new, they have taken a toll on the fortunes of some actors and actresses
Over the last few years, the effect of the dip in Nollywood’s fortunes on some practitioners, especially the pioneers, has become a subject of debate and concern for stakeholders.
Before now, a good number of the screen stars found consolation in endorsements by corporate organisations, especially telecommunication companies like Globacom and MTN. But the business world is fast shifting its love to musicians.
Although some of their fans have come to realise that Nollywood movies ‘no longer sell’, a number of these stars, who themselves are obviously experiencing hard times, cover up by constantly hyping themselves.
But Nollywood star, Ramsey Noah, has burst their bubble.
Noah, whose acting career kicked off when he starred in the Nigerian TV soap opera Fortunes in the 1990s, is saying it as it is for the first time.
The actor was one of the panelists at the recently held Nigerian Entertainment Conference. He did not mince words when painting the true picture of the situation in Nollywood.
He says, “Many Nigerian actors live on their past glory. The truth is that many of us (actors) don’t make money from film-making or movies any longer. There is the show part, but there is actually no business side to Nollywood any longer.
“Many of these actors depend on and make their money from acquaintances. So, they simply depend on those who appreciate their works and then introduce them to other sources of income aside acting.”
The actor whose Globacom endorsement deal was terminated in 2013, alongside that of Rita Dominic, Uche Jombo, Mike Ezuruonye, Monalisa Chinda, Nonso Diobi and Odunlade Adekola, adds, “Some people who appreciate you for who you are and for your talent will then try to establish business links that can sustain you and your family.”
Judging by the number of factions that currently exist in Nollywood and the current leadership tussle within the Actors Guild of Nigeria, it is not difficult to tell that the actors are somewhat divided amongst each other.
Noah appears to confirm this when he notes, “The truth about creative people is that they lack unity. It is very hard to find unity among them. It has nothing to do with Nollywood, in particular.
“In Nollywood all you have is the show part but not the business. We lack structure. There is no balance. It is almost as if we sold our birthrights to the wrong people. Nollywood is capital — intensive and we are aware that improvements are needed, but we lack the structure to make this happen.”
Even as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has approved a 12-man committee of Nollywood stakeholders (this will pave the way for Nigerian entries to be considered for the Oscars in 2015), Nouah is optimistic that the future is not entirely bleak for Nollywood.
He says, “Hopefully this digital era will bring about positive changes in the outlook and technology of some of our movies. I would love the situation where creative minds put the right structures in place for the industry and then things will get better.
“I suggest that the Federal Government should impose heavy taxes on DVDs/VCDs producers so as to curb piracy. There is a need for the right structure, in addition to marketing and promotions, to propel Nollywood.”