Nollywood is in trouble people. Yes, sound the alarm. BIG trouble. Why? Not because consumers have finally caught to the fact that they are watching the same story over and over in different incarnations (you know: you can't marry that boy!), or because of the overdramatic acting (heheheh), or poor production quality (we know how to manage am), or any other such related factor. Nope. Nollywood is in trouble because of Piracy. Yes o. Piracy is the unfortunate parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the industry. Its funny, but tonight I was watching 60 Minutes, and they were crying about the way piracy is hitting Hollywood really hard. I just had to laugh. Dem neva see anything (They don't have any idea what having a piracy problem really is). In this article, we will identify some of the factors that are responsible for this scourge in Nollywood. Be rest assured, there is plenty of blame to go around.
I)Producers and marketers:
I begin by blaming the victim: I could write an entire dissertation on the (failure of) marketing of Nollywood movies in Nigeria. It's a complicated and depressing issue which is costing the industry bundles of cash, as evidenced by articles like this and this. However, there are attempts to do something about it , even if they are not working out as well as hoped. I however do not feel qualified to do that analysis, and I choose to leave it in hands more capable and knowledgeable than mine. Instead, I choose to focus on Nollywood in the diaspora, especially in the good old US of A.
It is obvious that Nollywood movie makers have no idea how large their "abroad" audience is. The sudden explosion in taste for African movies in general and Nigerian movies in particular seems to have caught them unawares, and 5 years and counting down the line, they still have no idea how to respond to their good fortune. There is in most instances, no real plan to make these movies available to audiences outside Nigeria.
In this post, I write about the three main legal movie distributors in the US. From what I have been told by reliable sources, those three started out as pirates – filling in the gaps when the real producers wouldn't. However, with time, they turned (semi) legit. Now, they buy rights from the producers/directors/marketers for cheap (and I have been told that their terms are cheap enough to be downright exploitative – but at least they pay something abi?), then they sell in the US. This process, flawed though it is, only takes place for English language movies o. I have searched far and wide, and I am yet to find any legit seller of Yoruba movies in the entire US. NOT ONE!
So, here is the question I have to ask the crying movie producers (I ask it all the time, and am yet to get a coherent answer from anybody) – WHY IS DISTRIBUTION AND MARKETING OF AFRICAN MOVIES IN THE US AND EUROPE ROCKET SCIENCE? I really want to know. The pirates are doing it – why can't you? You were smart enough to make a movie that people want to watch – why can't you sell it? Even if you cannot set up a physical shop, what stops you from selling on ebay or Amazon.com? There are now a plethora of African musicians selling their music on Amazon – from Lara George to P-Square; you can find their stuff on Amazon and itunes. Why not movies? Several rogues have been making a fortune streaming movies online for free and collecting ad revenue, or collecting a token amount from consumers (y'all patronize them, so you know who I am talking about!). What stops producers from streaming their movies on their own legitimate websites? Why? Set it up and advertise the site address. Those of us who love Nollywood will make noise in support. At least you can begin to get back some of the money and customers that are currently leaking from the system.
Every other person making money of Nollywood without contributing anything to the system are blood sucking parasites. Yes! However, the first real problem occurs with the movie makers. When people want a product, and it is not readily available, they will find other ways of getting it (remember prohibition? Na so o!).
II)The blood sucking pirates: When I first started watching Nigerian movies in this oyinboland, I did not know where to get them. So I googled Nigerian movies, and bought a whole bunch of movies from the first site I found. Meen, let me tell you what these pirates do. Once a movie comes out, they buy one original copy. They keep that copy in their shop, scan the cover and put it on their website. When a mugu like me places an order, they just burn a copy for me, put it in a cheap packet and mail it out. They sell these movies for between $4-$6 a pop. They have zero overheads, except for the blank dvds which cost $35 for a pack of 100.
Can you imagine that kind of sweet business? Na real monkey dey work, baboon dey chop o. And they are very difficult to trace. The most famous culprit, who streams the movies for free for ad revenue, I hear is based somewhere in Europe and is virtually untraceable. Some of those movies get hundreds of thousands of views. Can you imagine what would happen if even just a little of that revenue went to movie makers? Na real wah !
III)Then there are idiots who want to destroy the industry just so that somebody may say thank you to them. Yes, I am talking about the youtubers. A little anecdote just for fun: I was doing some research on a movie I wanted to review for my site , so I searched the movie on youtube. I was shocked to find out that a movie that had barely been available in the US for 3 weeks and had not yet been released in Nigeria was on youtube in FULL! What kind of an idiot does a thing like that?? Are you telling me that people are so stupid, that they do not realize – that perhaps the producer would like to make some money off the movie? Its not like the movie was not available o – I was able to get an original copy, and I live in the boonies. The producers were informed, they complained to youtube, and the movie was yanked off.
Update: It's a week later, I checked again, and someone else has put it up. The movie already has over a thousand views too. Just fabulous!
When Daniel Ademinokan, one of the hottest directors in the Yoruba Movie genre and director of Omo Iya Kan, found his new movie on full blast on youtube, this is what he had to say:
Dis is DANIEL ADEMINOKAN d director of OMO IYA KAN.
I am very unhappy & dissapointed at d fact dat dis movie is barely 2 weeks in d market & 1 phsyco just uploaded it here!
You're all happy the film is of high quality & has raised d bar in d movie industry but do you think it came cheap? How do we make money when you all are watching it here free of charge!
May God have mercy on you for running down the? lives of hundreds of producers who hav made these films with sweat & blood!
Dude was annoyed! And who can blame him? So, you have heard from the horses mouth: Stop putting new movies on youtube. It's stupid, it's subversive, and it's destructive. What does anyone gain by doing that? Some cheap consumer will thank you? Blah!
(Of course you could ask – where can you find the movie? Heeheheheh – see point number I above!).
To be continued.
About moviemadam : An African movie fanatic who knows more about Nollywood than she probably should. Her website is http://afrikcinepedia.