Over the years I have been a player in Nigeria Film Industry also known as Nollywood. I have studied the market and I can authoritatively tell you that the dynamism of the market ten to twenty years ago has drastically changed.Of course it is expected because a child born is expected to pass through all the developmental stage and come to maturity.
Nollywood hasn’t matured to its biggest potentials but it has risen to an enviable height among its African peers. We keep growing and many more new players are changing the narratives daily.
There are many people obviously stuck with the old ways of doing things and they have noticed how the industry has over-grown them. Some others are quite perplexed by how the industry is growing and they wish to get along. In this article I will share three key factors every investor should consider before staking his or her money in Nollywood.
The sad story about Nollywood is that many investors who wish to truly do this business get scared away because they are often met at first instance by moonlighters and half-baked producers or should I say inexperienced filmmakers who just want money to make films but never thought of how the money will be made back. They end up losing the money and the investors end up not wanting to hear about Nollywood again. I am also sure that myself four to five years ago couldn’t have written this article because I was just like these inexperienced filmmakers I mentioned above. Lucky me, today I know better. Now let’s talk about the 3 key factors to consider:
The very first thing to consider before investing in any movie in Nollywood is the SCRIPT. You see the script is the foundation of all successful films. The story has to fit into what market the producer wishes to pursue. I recalled some years ago, I had a partner that truly wanted to invest in Nollywood, and had the money to do so. Being that I was inexperienced, I hired the services of one of my older colleague to help me direct the film. Our intention was to get a cinema distribution. When I asked the said director that he should look at the script I had in my hands and to tell me if it is cinema worthy, he said “every story is meant for the cinema, it all depends on how it is shot”
The above statement couldn’t be more wrong. It is important you decide from the word go – which of the medium of distribution you wish to serve. If you hope to get a theatre deal, or even Netflix or any other big stream platforms, you must make sure that your story or script is written in the best way possible. The movie I mentioned above ended up on straight to VCD/DVD and then Youtube. We couldn’t even get TV deal because we lost some rushes and it affected the story. I can’t emphasis it more. Get a fantastic script. Obviously as an investor you can’t judge right which script could or could not make it, it is important you involve another person. It may bring about clash between the creatives but it will help you hear two arguments and decipher with your business mindset who has a better opinion.
Ensure the filmmaker who is presenting the proposal knows the market. Ask for proves. Ask for numbers and figures and not just assumptions. The fact is that we have less than seven production companies in Nigeria doing well in the cinema, and a few others doing well with cable TV and other sources of distribution. Forget the high numbers you hear EbonyLife, AY or a few others make in the cinema, the question you should ask is does the person showing you these numbers have access to these distributors? Does he or she have the capacity to make good film that will attract attention of the distributors?
Does the filmmaker proposing a film production know the MARKET? You see film business is like every other business and it requires a business plan and clear cut strategy otherwise you are just going to lose money. Making a good film is one thing, making sales is another.
Whether we like it on not, the “star actors” effect is important, the names behind the film are crucial. If you are shooting for Television, know what sells. Study it and make sure that even if you are breaking the rules you already taken care of the basics. If you are shooting for theatre distribution make sure you understand the politics of distribution. You can’t invest money in the hands of those who can barely answer basic questions about distribution. The approach for films for straight to VCD/DVD is quite different for those going to the cinema. Don’t let nobody take a budget worth theatre distribution off you to make a film that will end up only on Youtube. Know your market and spend accordingly, else you will lose money. For instance Africa Magic buys films as low as Five Hundred Thousand to as much as Three Million Naira – so if you are making films meant to be sold to them and them alone, you should be careful how much you invest to avoid had I known. This applies to every other channels of distribution. Your producer should be able to make realistic projections – it will help you.
You don’t start selling after production, you start selling from pre-production. Don’t invest on those who will say “don’t worry, we go rugged am”. They know no jack! My point is simple. Invest on producers or filmmakers who understand the market, who have business plan and clear cut strategy. Your producer must be knowledgeable on how sales are made and not some sort of moonlighter, otherwise you have lost your money.
The cast and crew list are very important. Don’t be deceived “the star syndrome” still works. At least for a starter, don’t make a film you hope to sell in today’s Nollywood without some known faces for commercial reasons. If you are hoping to make films for arts sake, that’s fine but I don’t think any investor throws in money just to make artistic films. My belief is that every investor wants some sort of profit. If you want profit, make sure you are investing in films that have at least notable cast and crew. You can deal with creative but not so popular crew but you should have some star actors in your movie. It is very important.
Also note that different platforms require different set of actors. Sadly, but it’s true. In fact I was once handed over a list by a cable TV as list of actors that enjoy patronage with their fans on the cable TV and that I should include them. Also, many theatre distributors in Nigeria must look at your cast list first before even touching your film. It is just important that you ensure that the cast and crew being pitched to you have the clout to make your film sell. It’s that simple.
Well, the above are key factors to consider among other things before investing that money so you don’t lose it and then shut doors on other genuine filmmakers. If you need more consultation you can reach me vial email with email@example.com but my consultancy costs money, although not so much to save you the headache of losing money.