• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nollywood rides digital adoption to get world’s attention

Nollywood: Striking a balance between content quality and marketing genius

Omo Ghetto, directed and produced by Funke Akindele Bello, stretched the limits in technology adoption and reaped a windfall of N640 million, the highest revenue by any Nollywood movie ever.

That is just another indication of an industry stakeholders say has been thrust into the global limelight.

To its credit, it is not every day one finds a Nollywood movie made with a budget of N200 million and setting a Box Office record, much less one that took a dead car and refurbished it to life, or one in which an actor plays two opposing characters in one movie to perfection.

King of Boys: Return of the King by Kemi Adetiba, ranked seventh on the global top TV shows on Netflix in 2021, behind Hollywood hit shows like Vincenzo, Squid Game, Bridgerton, Sex/Life, Cocomelon, and The Good Doctor. Attracting such global attention would never have been possible without a streaming service the size of Netflix.

Amazon Prime Video has also inked an exclusive multi-year deal with Anthill Studios, a Lagos-based film production, post-production firm behind cinema features such as Prophetess, Day of Destiny, and ElevatorBaby.

Ramsey Noah’s Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, a sequel to the 1992 classic Living in Bondage, made with N10 million and went on to gross N168.7 million, is also reputed by some movie experts as the movie that raised the bar on movie making in Nigeria with superior storytelling, technical execution, and digital tools at play. Breaking Free was the first major remake of a classic Nollywood movie and went on to be successful as it was able to perfectly link the old generation with the new and the realities of today.

Read also: The remodelling of Africa’s largest film industry

Omo Ghetto and Living in Bondage: Breaking Free benefitted from an improvement investment in cinema infrastructure and a wider distribution network developed by investors and players such as FilmOne and IMax Corporation.

The new emphasis on the use of technology in movie making means the Nollywood industry can still lead Africa in terms of the number of movies produced but also in terms of the quality of movies. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2021, noted that the industry produced 1051 movies in the first half of 2021 compared with 1033 recorded in the same period in 2020, making it the largest in Africa and the second highest producer in the world after Bollywood.

In the past few years, the Nollywood industry has not only caught the eyes of the world with quality movies, but investors have also taken notice and are taking positions in the market. In 2019, the industry saw its largest retinue of foreign investors including Netflix, France’s Canal+, and China’s StarTimes.

Chijioke Uwaegbute, an industry expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), attributes the influx of investors to growth in movie revenue over the years. Nollywood movie revenue from the Box Office rose by 36 percent between 2017 and 2018, from $17.3 million to $23.6 million.

The investors have increased their investments in the market since then. Between 2020 and 2021, the global streaming giant Netflix has added an average of five to six Nollywood films onto their platform monthly, ensuring that the reach of Nigerian content goes beyond the shores of Africa. This growth in investment is mainly responsible for the record haul of Omo Ghetto in Nigerian cinemas.

In 2020, the country also saw its first successfully submitted entry to the Academy Awards (the Oscars), Desmond Obviagele’s The Milkmaid. Although the submission did not get nominated, it is, however, an indication of an industry racing towards maturity.

Richard Omos Iboyi, a movie producer/CEO of LionHills, says a lot of Nigerian filmmakers have gradually been improving their skills using technology over the past ten years.

According to Iboyi, filmmaking has become quite easy with the introduction of affordable cinema cameras with high-resolution images, which makes it possible for low-budget movies to still meet up with global standards.

“Before now there were certain aerial shots you couldn’t take without the use of helicopters and high cranes, but now you can toss your mini drone in the air and fly to a good height and shoot 4k footage without stress,” he tells BusinessDay. “(It is the) same thing with other units of the film production. Technology has made creative shots achievable without having to do the old analogue thing that would stress your physical energy and finance.”

Kunle Afolayan, producer and director of the 2020 hit movie Citation, is also one of the modern Nollywood practitioners that prioritises high-level production. The movie Citation was shot with Canon EOS C5OO Mark, one of the latest cameras produced by Canon.

“Normally it’s not a director’s place to say to a DoP (Director of Photography) what kit to use, but I’ve always wanted to shoot with a 4K full-frame camera, and I knew that this one would make it to the Netflix approved list – which was important for this production,” Afolayan said in an interview.

Citation rose to the sixth-most popular film on Netflix shortly after its release and was most-watched on Netflix in Nigeria.

Streaming adoption is perhaps the biggest thing that happened to the Nollywood movie industry in 2021 and is likely to define how movies are distributed going forward.

Damilola Alaje, an independent creative director, says the growth in streaming services has taken the industry to the universal stage.

“Compared to previous years, I can say technology has made Nollywood a lot bigger in the year 2021,” says Alaje, noting, “We’re now more technologically inclined; there is more emphasis on camera quality, unlike previous years when the camera quality was really nothing to write home about.”

Netflix quality specifications have become the gold standard for many Nigerian movie directors. Some of the basic specifications include a camera with a 4K sensor that is equal to or greater than 3840 photosites wide. Secondary cameras can be used for capturing any type of B-roll or additional footage for the scene. Some examples include aerials, crash cams, drones, and underwater cameras.

Iboyi, who says he began shooting with 4K sensor cameras a few years ago, now shoots mostly on 5K to 6K sensors. There are very few digital projectors that can play movies shot on 5K and 6k sensors. But Iboyi says he knows the future of film resolution will soon grow bigger and does not want to be caught unawares.

“So I shoot on 6K and finish post-production on two levels, 4K and 6K for future purposes. Some other new technologies include editing applications such as DaVinci Resolve which makes colour grading more interesting,” he says. Apart from colour grading, DaVinci Resolve is also a non-linear video editing application for macOS, Windows, and Linux.

Other technologies that have helped movie production include drones, track and dolly, gimbals, sliders, and more. Adopting these technologies in production is a survival strategy for many directors and producers.

“You cannot do a movie the old way and expect a viewer who just finished a good movie on Netflix another foreign movie to watch your drama. Something must be exceptional about it and this can only be, most likely when you tell your stories with new technologies. Bottomline is, the more good movies you make using new technologies accurately, the more people you are able to thrill with your stories, and the more people that get to love your movies the more income you’re unarguably going to make,” Iboyi states.

Many stakeholders now see a future where streaming becomes the primary distribution channel but cinemas would continue to be relevant. But Kunle Afolayan says a healthy market is one in which streaming and cinema can operate side by side. Even though streaming and cinema have different purposes, Afolayan says they can support each other.

Alaje, however, says the lack of interconnectivity in the cinema industry in Africa is a limitation. In essence, a movie produced in Nigeria may be able to make it around cinemas across the country but not round cinemas on the continent.

However, streaming services are the quickest way to reach global audiences. With the introduction of Amazon Prime Video and Showmax, experts say it is only a matter of time before major revenue begins to flow from these platforms.