Discordant voices among members of the Nigerian film industry called Nollywood have assumed a fresh dimension. From opposition disparaging to exchange of unpleasant electronic messages, some members of the industry, who are not in the three billion naira grant committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Finance, are already biting their fingers to signify bitter threats.
President Goodluck Jonathan at a presidential dinner with filmmakers in Lagos, on March 2, 2013, promised a N3 billion package to help the movie industry.
The largesse was a consolation for the effort of the filmmakers whom he said, have developed the industry in 20 years; starting from the release of Living in Bondage, the acclaimed first direct-to-VHS film phenomenon in the country.
The package, to be launched as ‘Project Nollywood’, and managed by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is expected to include grants for the best film scripts; capacity building and infrastructure development.
Notable filmmaker, Amaka Igwe, who appeared to be more perceptible during the dinner with Jonathan, has been picked into the committee. Veteran Yoruba language film thespian, Jide Kosoko and actress turned producer, Stephanie Okereke-Idahosa are also on the committee, which has other professionals from the finance, judiciary and educational sectors.
But stakeholders under the auspices of Nollywood Monitors are vexed with the choice of three, querying the modalities for their selection. Although their message was conveyed through a communiqué sent by email to members and the general public by Mr. Chike Bryan, President of Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria (SWGN), it was suspected that other members of the Nollywood Monitors include Mr. Paul Obazele and Zack Orji. The group is demanding that only association heads, who were duly elected by members, should be co-opted into the committee.
Mrs. Igwe, recently invited some members of the film industry to a focus meeting, asking for their inputs on the best way to support distribution of film from whatever comes in from the N3 billion fund. She was going to collate participants’ view and present this as proposed guideline for the Federal Government Committee on the fund.
An important aspect of the focus discussion was also on the possibility of IP protection in Nollywood movies. The group had presented a pitiable situation of filmmakers, whom it said only makes 30 percent of gains coming from a movie, while pirates take 70 percent of their investment.
The committee which is being chaired by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is said to have a total of 12 members, which may also include the Senior Special Assistant (Communications) to the Minister, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu and Mr. Hope Yongo a director at Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank among others.
A filmmaker, Alex Eyengho, President of Association of Nollywood Core Producers, has condemned the agitation by members of the Nollywood Monitors, describing it as baseless: “My advice to this group is that, if they are really desirous of accessing this grant, they should immediately start to put proper personal corporate structures in place. The money will not be released to associations and guilds but to serious-minded companies based on the business plans and proposals submitted to managers of the fund.
“Once the guidelines for accessing the grant are made public, you don’t have to be a member of the committee to apply. Some members of the committees may even apply and fail to get the grant eventually! The grant is not and cannot be a dash to everybody in Nollywood. It is not Nollwood @ 20 jamboree. It is serious business for serious Nollywood stakeholders,” he stated.