In an effort to bolster professionalism and industry standards, the presidents of various Nollywood guilds have joined forces to advocate for increased participation and engagement within the Nigerian film industry’s guild system. Emphasising the vital role of guilds in nurturing professionalism and addressing prevalent industry challenges, these leaders are actively promoting the significance of guild participation among practitioners in Nigeria’s burgeoning film sector.
The forum which was recently convened by The School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University Lagos focused on the myriad challenges faced by practitioners in the Nigerian film industry and the essential role of guilds in nurturing professionalism and fortifying the industry.
During the forum Victor Okhai, National President of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) mentioned some challenges faced among guild membership saying that there have been cases where film producers or people under the disguise of film producers receive funds from investors in the diaspora and either defraud them or produce subpar services.
Okhai said, “We’ve encountered numerous cases, including situations where some producers receive funds from people in the diaspora with the promise of producing films for them. Unfortunately, some of these individuals either defraud or provide subpar services to the investors. They report these cases to the directors’ guild, even though the responsible parties may belong to multiple guilds.
He said this problem stems from Hollywood practitioners not joining their respective Guilds, an issue echoed by other guild heads during the forum.
The forum which was hosted by the Nollywood Study Centre also featured other guild presidents such as Joy Osaruwa-Akinyemi, National President of the Creative Designers Guilds of Nigeria (CDGN); Aduloju John, National President of the Cinematographers Society of Nigeria (CSN); and Yinka Ogun, National President of the Screenwriters Guild of Nigeria (SWGN).
All the guild presidents present expressed concerns about practitioners who, despite benefiting from the industry, are reluctant to join the respective guilds and contribute to the industry’s growth. Okhai explained that, although there exists a regulation requiring practitioners to join guilds, they should not merely join out of compulsion but also engage actively, recognising the benefit of the guilds. “You cannot remain outside the guild and speculate about what the guilds can or cannot offer you. If you’re benefiting from the industry, it is your responsibility to select the appropriate guild and join it,” he said.
Okhai also said that processes will be more streamlined now that the guilds are under the Federation of Nollywood Guilds and associations (FRENGAN) because it will be easier to take decisive actions against erring members of the guild as part of the steps to ensure professionalism of practitioners in the industry. “With our current collaborative efforts, we can address these issues collectively. It is becoming increasingly clear to our members that there are repercussions for unethical behaviour.” Okhai said.
Osaruwa-Akinyemi emphasised that many professionals in makeup, costume, props, and set design are unaware of the guild’s existence and the advantages of joining. “We’ve reached out to production houses and studios employing costumiers, makeup artists, set designers, and props managers, inviting them to become familiar with our Guild. We are not currently mandating the employment or engagement of our existing registered members, as we acknowledge their established relationships with the individuals they are already employing. Our aim is to encourage these entities to encourage such individuals to register with the guilds, thus granting them access to the benefits available to guild members,” She said.
A common goal shared by all the guilds is to provide conflict resolution and mediation services in disputes involving industry practitioners. However, these services will primarily be available to registered guild members, emphasising a focus on registered members and their professional development. “Frequently, we have been called upon to mediate disputes that involve individuals who are not registered members of the CDGN. Moving forward, we are refraining from involvement in matters concerning non-registered guild members. This is why we are dedicating efforts to send out introductory letters, presenting our Guild and encouraging those working with them to register with the guild, enabling us to assist in resolving any issues as they arise,” Osaruwa-Akinyemi said.
Speaking on the implications of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) on practitioners in Nigeria Okhai emphasised the complex landscape, stating, “You might possess a wealth of knowledge, but when foreign practitioners enter the country under the free trade agreement, we cannot prohibit them from engaging in their craft. The doors have been opened by the president, and we have all committed to this agreement. Consequently, we are acutely aware of this situation and are diligently working to ensure that our members remain at the forefront of their profession, prepared to confront any challenges that may arise.”
The AfCFTA which is signed by 54 of the 55 African Union members, aims to create a continental marketplace for goods and services, permitting the free movement of people and capital while paving the way for a Customs Union. As the implementation of this agreement looms, the guilds are actively enlightening their members on how to leverage this opportunity and comprehend the potential challenges it may present.
The guild presidents also encouraged non-members to join and actively participate in guild activities to stay informed about initiatives aimed at improving the industry. They highlighted ongoing efforts to enhance member offerings, including capacity building, contract negotiations, partnerships with various organisations, and advocacy for members’ rights.
Ogun delved into the challenges encountered by the Screenwriters’ Guilds in Nigeria, with a notable issue being the substantial number of writers in the country who function independently of the guild structure. This situation has given rise to industry problems. Nevertheless, he highlighted the guild’s persistent efforts to uphold professionalism and establish member standards by implementing capacity-building programs and oversight of activities.
However, he spoke on the urgency of enacting legislation that would require practitioners from diverse sectors of the industry to mandatorily join the guilds. This step he says, is essential to elevate professionalism and enhance the overall quality of the Nigerian cinema.
In a related discussion, concerns were raised about the perception of the quality of stories emerging from practitioners, and Ogun explained that various factors contribute to the perceived issues. He emphasised the need for audiences to be discerning and consider other factors beyond the scriptwriter in the production chain.
“There is a common belief that anyone can write and this has led to a lack of appreciation for skill and experience, often relegating writers to the lowest rung of the industry. Writers are sometimes unfairly blamed for a film’s failure, but it’s essential to exercise caution in assigning blame because multiple factors contribute to a film’s outcome,” Ogun said.
Ogun asked audiences to discern and consider the various elements at play. Factors such as writing timelines, compensation, project budgets, and the decisions of directors or producers he said all play significant roles in shaping the final product. Nonetheless, Ogun said there has been a notable improvement in the industry, resulting in better storytelling than in the past.
Acknowledging that the challenges across the guilds are fairly consistent, Aduloju, President of CSN, also recognised the issue of practitioners’ reluctance to join and actively engage in guild activities.
Aduloju said, “We are dedicated to ensuring our members’ satisfaction regarding job opportunities and welfare, which, in turn, encourages their involvement in meetings, prompt payment of dues, and attendance at industry events. Our aim is to first enhance our internal organisation and industry before considering government involvement in the future.”
Aduloju also discussed the guild’s future plans, revealing CSN’s recent admission into the International Federation of Cinematographers (IMAGO), marking it as the second African guild to gain entry into this global organisation. This accomplishment, he says, has enabled him to recommend CSN’s members for international opportunities. Further information regarding these opportunities will be revealed in the near future. He strongly urged members to invest in enhancing their individual capacities, while assuring that the guild will remain steadfast in its support of its members.