Young filmmakers struggle to get content on major streaming platforms

As Nollywood continues to grow, young filmmakers are struggling to come to the limelight with their movies or have them distributed on major platforms due to various requirements that do not align with the big streaming services.

These requirements include digital technology, better storylines, and use of popular actors among others. For an upcoming film producer, these requirements can be a tall order due to the cost implications.

Precious Asuai, director and editor of the movie ‘Something special’ shared with BusinessDay the challenges he faced as a young filmmaker in the industry.

“The challenges we faced with making ‘Something Special’ was funding and distribution. For funding, it is hard to get investors especially when it’s your first film. Because we really wanted to make a feature film without giving in to financial difficulties and procrastination, we had to consider funding the film ourselves.

“Eighty percent of the funding was from personal savings while the remaining 20 percent was from friends and family. We learned that this is the only feasible way to fund your film as a beginner,” Asuai said.

‘Something Special’ according to Asuai has benefited from the digital revolution. Without the possibilities that digital platforms offer, the crew would not have been able to get the film across to the audience it has currently.

But the affordability of digital equipment remains a big challenge for young filmmakers. Asuai said there was no option, it was either using digital technology or nothing.

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“We knew before making ‘Something Special’, that distribution had to be considered if we wanted to make money, but getting the film made was more important. If we thought more about distribution first, we would have stalled because that would require more funds and we probably wouldn’t have made the film. Many of the distribution decisions from the outdoor screening at Terra Culture to host the film at Fruitful Studios were made after production,” Asuai said.

Also, collaborations with a web developer saved Asuai and his crew more cost to have their film on a platform like Fruitful Studios where people can pay to watch Something Special. This option was chosen as a result of the difficulties faced with getting the movie on major platforms.

Peace Oni, another filmmaker told BusinessDay that the biggest challenge has been getting funds. The majority of her films have been crowdfunded by friends and family. Even after the film is finished, she still needs to know someone who can help her get it on major streaming services.

Experts say the major requirement for top streaming platforms is casting. If the cast is unknown in the region to influence the marketing of the firm, it is difficult for the top streaming platform to distribute.

Read also: Streaming vs cinemas: How Nollywood can thrive

Asuai noted that this is understandable because the focus is often on making money however the talents are not readily available. Filmmakers who don’t have enough money to cast those popular actors stand no chance and actors who aren’t popular also don’t stand a chance, no matter talented and hard-working they are. Asuai said he is a firm believer that talent and not popularity should come first.

Streaming services have in recent times, provided the platform for telling unique stories , and audiences across different stratification are taking notice. These have also been rewarded with higher investment in content. Netflix, Amazon, and Showmax have all increased their budgets for local content in Africa.

“Streaming platforms onboarding any kind of content on their platform is based on some quality and the standards they set for any content they put on whether it is a feature film, documentary, or reality show, everything is based on quality, and there is a lot of quality demand,” said Obinna Okerekeocha, creative director at REDTV.

He further noted that due to their zealousness and eagerness to show the world what they are made of, there is no shortage of creativity among young filmmakers. Some of them go the extra mile by teaching themselves, while others would go to art or film schools to learn the necessary skills, as well as online sites like Udemy to learn what it takes to make a film.

“There are many aspects to not only making your film, but also having high standards in terms of what camera is used for shooting, the quality of your audio post-production, or the quality of your video post-production, as well as having the translation text and subtitle text in place,” he added.

Furthermore, he stated that audio must adhere to certain standards, whether it is Dolby Atmos, 5.1, or 2.1 surround sound. All of this is significant because the technology used to deliver this content is quite advanced. This will result in the streamers preferring to work with people who have prior experience.

The uniqueness including video and audio quality, storyline, quality of cast, production, design, and directing, will require young filmmakers to work with production houses, and people who previously had successful content either in distribution, production, or metrical release.

“Film is a product, and a product must have a certain level of quality. It has to be a good product so that when it is out there, they know it’s a good product and it’s all-encompassing because the film is an amalgamation of various things and if one thing is bad, it affects the rest of your design.

“If the film looks good in 4k video, it has good HDR, good colors, and a great color palette but there is a problem with the sound, people will not like the film likewise if the sound is great, but the images are not, there is also a problem,” Okerekeocha said.

While young filmmakers may struggle to try and get their work accepted by big streamers because quality is very important, there is a need to work with good production designers and actors who will also help filmmakers to get their films on big streaming platforms.

Okerekeocha added that consistency is key, young filmmakers should use the opportunity to improve their craft across the board and make sure they are excellent in what they are doing. They create products that are for the mass market and people should be able to appreciate that product because if one part of it is bad, it affects everything else.

Many young creatives are unaware of the entire process of getting their content commissioned or licensed. They don’t know who to approach, how to approach them, or what fees these platforms will offer. The platforms themselves haven’t done a particularly good job of making the entire process transparent and seamless, said Eric Kafui, Media enterprise in Africa’s Filmtech.

“Secondly, although many young filmmakers are super talented and have what it takes to create meaningful and exciting content, they are often challenged with accessing funding to create content that streaming platforms would want,” he added.

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