Nollywood turns to film schools as varsity graduates fail to impress
As the Nigerian movie industry, popularly known as Nollywood, evolves with more foreign investors putting Nigerian movies on a global scale through streaming platforms, the demand for globally skilled talents becomes critical, putting university graduates far below the pecking order in the employment chain in the industry.
Niyi Akinmolayan, CEO of Anthill Studios, in a Twitter Space in July this year, described the level of training given to theatre art students in tertiary institutions as mediocre regarding the skill standard employable by Nollywood.
There are 29 universities in Nigeria that offer Theatre or Performing Arts; however, because the courses are primarily theoretical, rather than practical, and because of a string of academically crippling strikes by lecturers, graduates from these universities are not well suited for roles in movies.
When people in Hollywood talk about the value of film schools, they emphasise their role in teaching students about acting and filmmaking, providing access to expensive film equipment, and most importantly, creating an environment that forces students to act in many films and introduces them to developing relationships with other actors and filmmakers.
For aspiring filmmakers, one way to get cinematography work is through creating relationships with directors and producers as they are the gatekeepers deciding which director of photography shoots a particular project. This makes attending film schools an advantage as it provides the opportunity of meeting and creating a network of bonds with collaborators and future employers.
Others, however, could build a career through on-set experience and combine it with online or school-based education, accumulating technical knowledge from working on set, philosophical knowledge from watching other works, and practical knowledge from shooting films themselves.
The majority of Nigeria’s film schools are located in Lagos, the heart of Nollywood. Popular schools like Del-York, EbonyLife, Royal Art, and PEFTI Film Institute offer courses like acting and presentation, costume and makeup, digital film-making: cinematography (camera + light + sound), editing, digital photography, directing, screenwriting, VFX, drone technology, and others for a duration of three to five months of training, with fees ranging from N30,000 to N200,000.
So as the sun revolves around the sun and 2+2= 4, filmmakers in Nigeria prefer to pay tens of millions to work with experienced and globally skilled personnel than work with graduates who just obtained a degree in Theatre and Performing Arts.
“Filmmakers don’t hire students who graduate from the department of theatre arts because they don’t possess the necessary skills to headline most films,” Akinmolayan said.
He said a lot of schools don’t have a film curriculum, and are not fully ready to invest in it, and make it part of what is taught in theatre arts lectures.
Ojie Imoloame of Filmrat Club Nigeria said that one of the big problems facing Nollywood is finding people with global-level skills either in acting or in cinematography and which therefore forces filmmakers to go for foreign crew members like DOPs.
Jonathan Kovel, a South African-based cinematographer, has worked with renowned filmmaker Kunle Afolayan on various projects like ‘Citation’, ‘Swallow’, ‘A Naija Christmas’, and recently released ‘Anikulapo’. Jérôme Weber from Luxembourg is, at the time of writing, filming Uche Jumbo’s ‘Onyeegwu’.
“The major issue is how to bridge that gap, so that local producers can start using and paying local workforce on par with that of the foreign crew. The quality of our education matches the amount of advancement that is evident in Nollywood,” Ojie added.
The advent of streaming services has significantly increased demand for high-calibre movies from producers who want to release their films on these platforms, movies that will appeal to audiences both locally and internationally.
There is also a need for talent to be employable in Nigeria and work on movies and TV abroad. Yinka Edwards, a graduate of the National Film Institute in Jos, Nigeria, has worked on some of Nollywood’s most popular works like Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The Figurine’ and ‘October 1’, Izu Ojukwu’s ‘Alero’s Symphony’, and ’76, and Genevieve Nnaji’s Netflix Original, ‘Lion Heart’.
The National Film and Television School Beaconsfield graduate has seen his talent take him to countries to shoot movies in Namibia and Kenya where he shot the movie ‘Something Necessary’, which later went on to be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013.
With more than 20 film institutes in Lagos State alone, young and coming actors and filmmakers have used the medium to become the next generation movie stars the evolving industry needs.
Olabode Izy, a young filmmaker who is a graduate of EbonyLife Creative Academy and Del-York Creative Academy, said, “Film school gives you more knowledge about films; it gives you more understanding of the business, components, and various sections of filmmaking.”
After graduating from the academy, Izy went on to direct short films like ‘The Samaritan’ and ‘Osa’. Some of these movies won him awards and others screened in film festivals in Nigeria and other parts of the world like India and Cameroon.
Other top filmmakers and actors like Kemi Adetiba, Omoni Oboli, and Chioma Akpocha took other courses in the university during their first degree programme before going to film schools to learn the ropes of being behind the camera.
Akinmolayan also suggests that making courses like Film Making, 3D Animations, Graphic Designs, Cinematography, Acting/Casting, and Photography compulsory electives in schools and working with experienced professionals in that field will give future film editors background knowledge of products and software.
Duru Beclay, a 400-level student of Afe Babalola University, suggested that schools should partner with film schools to help fresh talent grow and acquire more skills.
“The film schools can also create employment opportunities for young talents, knowing well that they have acquired the attainable skills to act in Nollywood.”
He said lecturers should be well grounded in their respective fields. “If you have a lecturer who teaches cinematography, he or she should be well groomed in digital skills such as 3D animations and CGI effects, not just the theory side of it,” he said.
As technology advances and Nollywood continues to innovate, there is a need for a growing workforce that would not only strengthen the ecosystem of the sector but also be in demand by global film studios.