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Towards a better Film Industry

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The crème-de-la-crème of directors in the Nigerian film industry, and in the Diaspora, gathered to chart new course for the future of the money-spinning vocation.

BY

Sesan Awobiye

 

Sometimes, the history and development of the Nigerian motion picture industry which dates back to as early  as the late 19th century and into the colonial era in the early 20th century is generally classified in four main eras: the Colonial era, Golden Age era, Video file era, and the emerging New Nigerian cinema  or contemporary film-making.  Through-out these era even till present days, the names of legendary thespians  and historical filmmakers such as Hubert Ogunde, who pioneered Nigerian folk opera, Jab Adu, Ola Balogun, Akin Ogungbe, Moses Olaiya, a.k.a Baba Sala,  Eddie Ugboma, Duro Ladipo, Wale Adenuga, of Papa Ajasco, Sunday Omobolanle known as Aluwe, Ishola Ogunshola,  I-Show-Pepper , among other motion picture icons, will continue to ring bell and attract commendation whenever they are mentioned. Why ? Because in their time, it was the passion for the profession that kept driving them and not money or fame as we have it in Nollywood today, a sobriquet of the Nigerian film industry. The zeal to advance culture, values, tradition, professionalism, creativity, innovation, originality  and morality and decency that characterized the works of like-minded film legends stated above seem to be dwindling by the day among most the new generation of filmmakers.

 

 

Over the years, different professionals in the filmmaking industry have formed variety of groups, established institutions like film academies, in a bid to upgrade and restore the lost glory of the Nigerian film industry. One of such group is the Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria ,TAMPAN, a body which comprises range of subsets of other associations, such as the TAMPAN Guild of Directors, TAMPAN Guild of Producers, TAMPAN Guild of Cinematographers, TAMPAN Guild of Actors and so on. TAMPAN is headed by Nollywood veteran, Otunba Bolaji Amusan popularly known as Mr. Latin.

 

However, it was not too surprising that a retreat held by the TAMPAN Guild of Directors, TGD, was themed, ” Restructuring, Rebranding & Repositioning’. The industry indeed, is in serious need of rejuvenation in a bid to correct the variety of anomalies plaguing it , especially in the southwest and beyond.

 

The maiden retreat recorded a large turn-out of movie directors, who came from different states across Nigeria, and in the Diaspora,  to discuss the challenges facing the industry, TGD, and  find way out as well as learn new skills that will promote professionalism. The three-day event was held at the Hermitage Garden &Resort, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, from 25th to 27th August.

 

Speaking on the essence of the gathering, Damola Olatunji, renowned actor, director and chairman of TGD, said it was to open up on what ” we are doing right and what we are doing wrong, and how we can make the association better and make the industry a better place for all. Before now, we used to be a very porous industry, but now we are trying to restructure it all, and for us to restructure and rebuild there must be little destruction, so we have to destroy certain things for us to rebuild that is what we are working on.”, he said. Another reason for the chosen theme,  according to Foluke Daramole-Salako, actor, director  and chairperson of the TGD 2021 Retreat, is to redeem the image of TAMPAN.  “We found that there is a lot of negativity going around about TAMPAN and our members, so we feel there is a need to change the narrative. Also , we believe that in every gathering, even in the family, we have some bad eggs, but it doesn’t mean that all the eggs are bad. So we feel there is a need for us to make the people look at the positive perspective and how we are impacting through lives and society, so we feel a need to for us to have this retreat, and tell ourselves the truth.” The award-winning actress said they seek to have a  a rebranded TAMPAN, a rebranded TGD  that wil l come out with better qualitative content, in terms of our movies and also, a more disciplinedactors and in terms of using our social media for more constructive things. “, she explained.  Daramola-Salako however appealed to viewers and fans not to hesitate to report or send messages if they notice any anomaly on their side. “I will say, we are all human, we TAMPAN members, actors, actresses, directors, producers, are all human, so we are bound to make mistakes,  and it is for us to learn from our mistakes and move on. And to our fans  and loved ones out there, send us messages, and we will correct it and put it into fusion and reality, we are all striving towards perfection,  we will not relent to give you fantastic contents.”.

 

One of the major worries of the directors was influx of quacks  and inadequate professional touch in most of the movies. They said most of the shoddy productions in the industry are handiworks of these charlatans who parade themselves as directors, actors, producer and so on. Olatunji  admitted that the industry is indeed very porous, and this can be attributed to lack of proper structuring, monitoring, and supervision.  “Like I said earlier, the industry used to be very porous, and it is still porous because overnight anybody can just come and say I am a director, I am an actor, now that we have directors, skills that  we ought to learn, I want to make sure that every director has the qualities and what it takes to be  a director, so we want to take it from the angle of director taking their movies serious from inception, that is, from the idea to scripting, to production proper,  and post-production, and you must make sure you vet every scene and every word in the movie, and that makes it a better job for all.”

 

For Kehinde Lawal, a.k.a. Baba Ondo-Egin, actor and member TGD, Most of the new entrants, especially the young ladies  in the industry today are not coming because they have passion for the job or the industry, “but just want to showcase their chests, and some other things. They want rich people to spot them. That is why you see some of them deliberately flaunting their chests saying, “If I put these things in your mouth, you can’t stand it,” please is that acting,  These are bad eggs that want to destroy our dear industry, and we know God will help us chase them out very soon.” Lawal added that It was good stories and good acting that promoted the like of Idowu Philips, known as Mama Rainbow,Taiwan Hassan, Ogogo,Jide Kosoko,and so on,  “until  those quacks found their way in. He however expressed relief that TAMPAN and the TGD are embarking on screening programmers that will sieve out the chaffs in the industry.   Wale Ilebiyi, director secretary, TGD, also lamented on the unrestrained incursion of ‘anybody’ in the industry. “We really no longer want to make it an all-comers affair. It is  not a profession that is free for everybody. We are making  it in such a way that you have to go through the training and understand the rudiments of this job before you really can practice”

 

He said if somebody that has been trained as a continuity manager, working with him for the first and second time will see himself  as a director, and will say I know it all, I know how he calls his shots, I know how he plans his shots, “but it goes beyond that. It goes beyond just calling the shots, that is what we want people to understand. That you have to go through that training, achieve it and understand it, and be well schooled in the art of directing, before you can be called a director. “Even the Bible says at the appropriate time, the chaff will be sieved from the wheat, those are the bad ones in our midst and we are still going to make sure that we weed them out. That is exactly what we are going  to do.

We have discipline, if you cannot shape in, then you will have to ship out. If you are not going to follow the laid-down principles ,policies, rules and regulations, you are not going to keep to it, then we will ease you out. So, we are putting everything in place, to make sure that only the disciplined ones are left in the association.”

 

The directors also agree that there is need to tell more  of  true African stories, developmental stories, issue-based stories that will bring positive change to the Nigerian society.  Lawal believe the industry is failing so much in the area of promotion of African languages and culture. He believes Nollywood directors across the country have over injected civilization, or modernization into Yoruba movies.

He stressed that not that the actors in the Indian movies don’t understand English, but they want to show that their language is very important and they must promote it. “Most of our fans in Canada, America, would call and criticize us, stressing that if we want to do English movie, we should do English movie, and if it is Yoruba ,we do Yoruba and speak Yoruba all through. Our identity is Yoruba. We are gradually deflecting from Yoruba.

 

‘During this retreat emphasis have been made on sticking to one’s profession, that no more jack of all trades. And sometimes, most of the actors and actresses speaking English language in Yoruba movies make blunders. I am sorry to say that. I want to urge my colleagues to do more in promoting our language ”

 

Moreover, they also made case for poor subtitling. The issue of poor subtitling has also been another plague afflicting the industry. “We know that subtitling is a very, very big problem. We need to hire professionals to handle the area of subtitling.”, affirmed, Tola Bolaji, public relations officer, TGD. He added that the era of jack of all trade has gone.  If you are a producer, focus on producing, if you are a writer focus on writing, actor focus on acting, then director, focus on directing, so definitely, you now hire professionals that understand this language and can drive English to Yoruba, and Yoruba to English, definitely the era of speaking English and subtitling in English has gone, if you speak English, it is either you subtitle in Yoruba  and Yoruba will be well subtitled in English”  Corroborating Bolaji on the fact that issue of  jack of all trade in the industry is having a knock-on effect on professional subtitling.   Olatunji  said: Moving making is not what one person can do all alone, there is what we call division of labour. if my job is to act, your job is to direct, another person’s job is to edit, and the other person’s job is to handle the  subtitling, It is so sad that, there is a particular sector that we do with levity and that is the subtitling aspect of our movies. Now we are taking it very, very serious. It is a development that we are just getting used to, we are taking it beyond what it used to be. Now, as a director it is your duty to monitor your movie right from the start to the very end”.

 

 

Poor handling of social media by members has brought about negative image on the TAMPAN. “People think the industry is filled with people fighting on the social media, no, the few that are fighting on social media do not represent the whole. You find out when people, one or two people misbehave then you use it to judge the whole” Bolajii said. The TGD spokesperson added that the Guild and other TAMPAN members  need to get better in their handling of social media.

 

” The way we portray ourselves as practitioners knowingfully well that we are preachers, we are teachers, is not too good.   At the end of the retreat you are going to see a new set of directors, doing quality stories and you are going to see that the perspective in our story telling is going to change. And definitely you will see  more responsible filmmakers.”, he said.

 

However, for Yemi Amodu, a veteran director, and national director for Research and Documentation, TAMPAN, the first thing a film maker must learn is discipline, which is lacking in the industry today. “If you are not disciplined you cannot be an artist. it is not possible, because as artiste, you have a call-time, as an actor, director, you have a call-time to respect, to get to set, to start to work on set and we have a constitution that guides our members in the constitution, we have our dos and don’ts, whether anybody likes it or not, we respect the constitution, we respect the association, we have respect for our culture, we have respect for our people we have respect for our audience, and our society. ”

 

 

The thespian added that TAMPAN  is looking at is having a formidable distribution to make investment returns to investors, to make investment returns to producers, to make  investors begin to see profits from their capital invested, to make them see returns, “Because production is not our problem.

Members of TAMPAN are from one generation to the other. We were there at the pre-celluloid, using the stage medium to showcase our talents, when it came to  celluloid, we were there and after celluloid, BETACAM, Super VHS, DVD, to what we have in vogue now.

 

 

“So we are looking out at how those production we consider good will be well distributed. NETFLIX are looking at us now, some of  our members have had their works  acquired  by NETFLIX distribution, We are looking at those films done with Yoruba medium of dialogue  how it is going to be well distributed. We have more than 35 million Yorubas in Nigeria alone, yet how many are we selling now. We are really looking forward to where we can see a Yoruba movie selling over 40,50 million, that is our target. I pray God will make it a reality for us.

 

“Two, we are looking forward to working on other platform, aside the terrestrial television, the digital television carriers like Startimes, DSTV, we are working so that our members can get investments or money to do television series so that they can tap in to other platforms that are available. There is a revolution coming. TAMPAN is taking over, by this time next year, TAMPAN’s creative works, TAMPAN members films are going to be all over NETFLIX”, he assured.

 

The participants at the retreat commended the initiative, and promised to put into practice what they have learned at the programme. Some  of the lectures delivered at the retreat include,  Branding-Self packaging; Understanding  Film Process; Bank of Industry , BoI  and  the creative industry;  Ethics ( Art of acting) What are we doing wrong? Telling Stories through camera eye; Self Management  During Crisis.

 

 

However, the  TGD chairman emphasized that in the next one year TGD will become a force to reckon with. ” We are restructuring it, we are rebranding it and we are repositioning a whole lots of things, we not just building  individuals now, we are rebuilding structures that will work and that will favour everybody., he said.

The participants also appluaded the efforts of Rollicking Entertainment Limited, handler of the  event. The outfit is headed by ace event planner, Princess Kemi Egbeyode.

 

 

 

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