‘Max Escapes the Mind Lair’, a scene in the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’, became the most talked-about in the series not only because of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, which became a global hit after the episode aired. It was also because of the visual effects of Max, the character trapped in a make-believe alternate dimension, running to meet with her friends in the real world, and it is the kind of story interpretation Nollywood film industry constantly starves its audiences because of the lack of adequate investment in technical workforce to create such scenes.
Niyi Akinmolayan, a filmmaker and founder of Anthill Studios, speaking in a Twitter space early this week raised issues on building capacity in the Nollywood ecosystem in terms of the technical workforce.
Nollywood movies are mostly categorised under the drama genre and miss out on the bulk of revenue the action genre generates. Between 2018 and 2021, five out of the six Hollywood movies that made the top 10 in Nigeria’s top box office list are of the superhero genre and in 2021, Nigerians spent a total of N2.3 billion on action movies with Hollywood accounting for 67 percent of those movies.
“What is missing in Nollywood is our ability to tell our stories in a way that is powerful, that it communicates something really great and creates genuine experiences for the audience and you can only do this by building a solid technical workforce,” Akinmolayan said.
According to him, if Nollywood doesn’t have the right tools to complement the stories, the industry will be limited in the number of stories they can tell and it will not have that global reach that other industries boast of.
The Anthill Studio founder told the audience on the Twitter space that a lot of films are submitted to streaming platforms but are returned because of quality control issues.
“One of the reasons why we are largely under-priced is because of technical quality like lack of uniformity of pictures or bad audio,” Akinmolayan said.
The lack of adequate expertise for the technical workforce to serve all studios and producers in the Nollywood ecosystem, according to him, stalls the growth of the industry.
Some of the major issues he cited were the aspect of lack of good Automated Dialogue Replacement for sound, makeup for believable biopics, cinematography, and production design.
Lack of funding is also a factor slowing down the growth of the industry. Speaking with BusinessDay on the issue of funding in Nollywood, David Nnaji, a Nigerian filmmaker, actor, and writer, said that Nollywood is funded by private investors who are family or friends of the filmmakers.
He said a grant scheme to the industry by the previous government had not reached the potential it was set up for because the people that were put in charge of the funds had not done a creditable job.
In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan’s government created a grant scheme for filmmakers called Project Act, which saw the movie sector receive a $200 million government loan that was meant to improve distribution and production. An additional $18.9 million was donated to the industry in 2013 and $1.26 million in 2017.
Ibinabo Fiberesima, former president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, while speaking with newsmen, said the Project Act initiative benefitted 240 practitioners in skill enhancement training in the US, India, UK, South Africa, and Nigeria.
However, Nnaji said the grants from the government were well-intentioned but were sabotaged by people he claimed to be a cartel in the industry. He said instead of the fund trickling down to young filmmakers who have ideas to create growth in the industry, the money seemed to only be going to this cartel.
Proffering solutions on that, Akinmolayan stressed the need to train many people on these technical aspects of filmmaking. “People should have a diploma in the sound technical area of filmmaking.”
He said most of the funds coming into the industry either from outside or from within the industry are only used to make films and not used to train people on the technical side that will grow the industry.
Nollywood experts, in recent times, have been calling for major capacity building in the industry. Rimini Makama at the Afro culture convention last year spoke on the need to strengthen capacity in the Nollywood ecosystem.
“Associations like the American Business Council can partner with international organisations to establish training along with the US mission to bring in directors and film festivals that could lead to building capacity,” Makama said.
He said that Nollywood can position itself to grow technical hands that the country can export and make good money from just the way the UK has done through Pinewood Studios, a place where filmmakers can shoot films using all kinds of locations, from old English mansions to underwater scenes.
Akinmolayan spoke about the level of training in tertiary institutions, saying: “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.
“A lot of schools have not upgraded, a lot of schools don’t have a film curriculum, and you don’t even need to have one. If you’re not fully ready to invest in it, it can be part of what they are doing in theatre arts.”
He also suggests that making the course a compulsory elective in schools and working with experienced professionals in that field will give future film editors the background knowledge of products and software.
He also called on private investors and streaming platforms that have branches in Nigeria to also invest in scaling the technical workforce.
“Streamers should invest in Nollywood by identifying potential partners like rental companies, post-production companies, costume companies, and training programs that can help scale their businesses,” Akinmolayan said.