• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

How film schools, BBNaija bridge talent gap

Film school

Hakeem Onilogbo, a Nollywood special effects (SFX) makeup artist, has been in Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, since 2012 and has worked on some of the biggest projects like ‘The Milkmaid’, ‘King of Boys’ franchise, ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’, and most recently Kunle Afolayan’s ‘Anikulapo’. As one of the most sought-after SFX talents in the country, one may assume he learned his craft from a special film school but Onilogbo insists that his ability is self-thought.

While film schools are becoming popular, a handful of practitioners are getting recruited for top jobs just by participating in reality TV shows like Big Brother Nigeria or experience in the industry.

However, experts say recruiting talents through film schools remains the most sustainable way to build the future of Nollywood.

Film schools play primary 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.

Joseph Umoibom, general manager and associate producer at Terra Kulture, said: “There’s a ton of people who want to get into the entertainment space, especially the younger generation.

“They are extremely talented and need a little push in the form of proper training by professionals, to make them experts at their craft. Institutions that can give basic practical knowledge and experience are therefore needed.”

There are over 20 films schools in Lagos, and some of the best film academies, based on popular reviews, include Del-York Creative Academy, Royal Art Academy, PEFTI film academy, Magnus Film Academy, and High Definition Film Academy. The courses they offer include acting and presentation, costume and makeup, digital film-making: cinematography (camera + light + sound), editing, digital photography, directing, screenwriting, VFX, and drone technology, for a duration of three to five months of training, with fees ranging from N30,000 to N200,000.

Umoibom said having an academy that can pass on this knowledge and help build the manpower with the needed and relevant skills to improve the industry and help these youths gain dignified and rewarding employment or start up their own small business. He said just like Terra Kulture Creative Academy, institutions should not only make them professionals but also teach them to be able to monetise their skills.

In recent times, there has been a rise in investment in film schools and the industry in general as it strives for global attention. There has also been a surge in investment from both local and international investors.

The Lagos State Government recently partnered with Del-York International Group in building a film city, which would see the academy develop into a four-year university. Silverbird has partnered with Afreximbank for a film and studio complex; KAP Academy and Mastercard are empowering over 300,000 young Nigerians, while Netflix and Prime Videos have partnered with local studio house to produce original content.

Ikechukwu Obiaya, dean of the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, commented on why there is a surge in investments in studios and film school.

“Many people have said there is a need for new stories, stories from this part of the world are largely untapped and Nollywood filmmakers have shown themselves to be good storytellers, this is why in spite of the poor quality in the technicality in the early Nollywood films, they were able to travel widely,” he said.

Obiaya said another reason is that investors are noticing the increase in Nollywood viewership and audience. Although he mentioned that the industry lacked a good distribution system, he said with proper cinema coverage across the country, Nigerian filmmakers will not worry about going to other places to sell their films.

“They will make enough by distributing them in the country alone. Despite the fact that we have few cinemas, there are films grossing over N400 million; now imagine if we had enough cinemas and distributors across the country,” Obiaya said.

He said some of the investors are not only coming to invest in Nigerian films but to promote their content. “Some of them are not only partnering with local studios but also bringing in their own products. Amazon Prime, on coming to Nigeria, the first movie promoted was the “Lord of the Rings” movie. The market is not only for Nigeria as Nollywood has created an audience across Africa, and in the Caribbean.”

The Big Brother Naija pipeline

The reality TV show Big Brother Naija is one of the most popular in Africa and has over time acted as a path to fame. The platform inevitably draws attention to housemates during and after their run on the show, boosting their status and public image and getting companies and firms to quickly snap up the most popular of them for endorsement deals.

The call-up for BBNaija housemates by movie producers to take on movie roles is mostly commercial, thus marketing the film project to a large number of younger audiences who follow these celebrities on social media, a sizable market these producers are pleased to tap into. Sometimes this strategy works out, and these celebrities turn out to make their characters more believable.

Tobi Bakare, Erica Nlewedim, Bisola Aiyeola, Dorathy Bachor, and Venita Akpofure are examples of BBNaija housemates who have starred in feature films after their run in the Big Brother house. Bisola however has become one of the most successful of them as she has starred in more than 20 movies and has won awards such as AMVCA’s Trail Blazer Award and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (English) at the Best of Nollywood Awards for her role in the Jade Oshiberu’s ‘Sugar Rush’.

“Going to school alone is not the only way one acquires knowledge in film. Whether you go (to film school) or not, Nollywood filmmakers love working with talent regardless. There are many Nollywood talents that didn’t go to school but they are great in their field,” Onilogbo said.

Read also: A day in a Nigerian film school

The Apprenticeship pipeline

Many people who aspire to be filmmakers wonder whether it’s necessary to attend a film school. While some think it’s a waste of money, some others think it’s crucial if you want to be more skilled in the ropes of being an actor or a filmmaker.

Onilogbo also spoke on the need for informal apprenticeship for talented people who don’t have the means to go to a film school, saying talented or not, one must learn from experts who have been there.

Nevertheless, the quality of movie production in Nollywood has evolved, thanks to the imagination of a handful of cinematographers and directors of photography who have been able to create clear pictures with what they can afford. As filmmakers try to bridge the gap between what they can afford and the kind of production seen in the western world, there is a need for more funding and investment in the movie industry.

“The only thing we need to improve on in Nollywood is funding. The industry needs investors to move production to an excellent standard. We are given a token but we use what we have to produce excellent work,” Onilogbo said.

He said to be on par with Nollywood, the use of high-tech gear like CGI and VFX in movies should be the next step to make Nigeria’s modern-day movies more watchable to accommodate more audiences in the action and horror genres.

Onilogbo added: “We’ve got guys in the sound and light that can compete with experts abroad. In terms of VFX and CGI, we are not there yet and we can’t compare them to Hollywood and Bollywood, which have been doing that for decades now; so before we can get there, we have to fasten our belts.

“But if we have good funding, then it will be necessary to fly the younger ones to attend film schools and training abroad to gain knowledge on the craft, so we can compete in genres where we lack.”