‘’We can only move the Nigeria Film Industry forward f there is Unity”
Veteran film maker Wale Adenuga
Wale Adenuga, is a Nigerian former cartoonist/publisher, and currently a series producer, best known for the publications Ikebe Super, Binta and Super story, and their televised versions. A seasoned practitioner in the Nigerian film Industry with an experience that spans over 3 decades in TV production, Wale Adenuga who has been honoured with Member Federal Republic has not only made his mark with his award winning productions but also trained a lot of talents through his film institute PEFTI.HE started his career as a publisher in the 70s,after he graduated from the University of Lagos in 1971 where he studied Business Administration, publishing great works like Ikebe, Papa Ajasco and later Super Story. The desire to bring these exciting characters alive inspired his transition into Film/Television Production and he made his debut with the release of the celluloid movie Papa Ajasco, which was based on the main character in Ikebe Super, in 1983 which has till date remained one of the most popular TV Series in Nigeria, among his other series like Super Story, THisLife and others. He also owns Binta International School in Lagos and a prestigious film school, Pencil Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) in 2002, Adenuga won five awards at the Nigeria Film Festival for Best Producer, Best Script Writer, Best Director, Best Television Drama and Best Socially Relevant Television Production. In 2009, he was conferred with the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria honour (MFR) as acknowledgement of his immense contribution to the growth and development of Nigeria. As a veteran who has been in the industry since inception, he is one practitioner who is irked about the current state of the industry hence his desire to initiate the call for unity among all practitioners which he revealed In a media parley which held at the Protea Hotel ,Ikeja.In his words “as someone who has been in this industry for close to four decades, I want to use this platform to share my opinion on how to make the best of our industry and lay a solid foundation for unborn generations who may be interested in the business of film making.”City people VIVIAN ONUORAH had an exclusive interview with multiple award winning thespian who bared his mind on the problems eating the industry and how best to move the industry forward. He also took us spoke on how his journey into the Nigerian film industry over 3 decades ago. Excerpts.
How did the journey start several years ago?
It started after left University of Lagos in 1974 and went straight into publishing, Super story, Binta magazines and that was in 1976, the magazines became popular and by early 80s, I started thinking of making films out of the popular characters and so in 1983, I produced Papa Ajasco on celluloid, screened it throughout Nigeria, West Africa, London in 1984 and then continued with publishing. In 1995, I produced a home video, Binta My Daughter, it was the era of home video then, in 1997, we started TV series Papa Ajasco on AIT, and in 2000, we started Super Story on NTA network.3 years later we added This LIFE and about 10 years ago, we started Nnenna &Friends for Children. That has been my foray into the film and television sector.
What inspired this line of profession in the first place?
What inspired me into TV was the fact that our magazines became very popular in the late 70s and early 80s, and we have been doing all these cartoon characters, I felt it would be excitingly different if we add flesh and blood to these characters and bring them alive on TV or in movies, that was what prompted the papa ajasco movies in 1983.From print to electronics.
Why are you specifically into TV productions, what about doing movies?
That’s the problems am talking about, under the present situation, it’s not viable to do a film because you can’t make your money, the few people who have succeeded with films, the likes of Kunle Afolayan, Emem Isongs and co, and they have big sponsors. Without these sponsors you can’t do films. It’s not a kind of business you go to the bank for loan and then you hope to break even and pay the bank back, you can’t make it because of the myriads of problems in Nollywood. Piracy has bastardized the industry and there’s no structure to check piracy, low quality and all that .This is the reason why I have kept my distance. We have over 50 scripts in our office but it’s not viable for us to make these films so we contend ourselves with TV productions because it can’t be pirated. SO in future when the environment becomes that enabling and friendly, we go back to film making.
What about the 3billion naira grant, didn’t it make any impact?
Yes I truly endorse Good luck Jonathan on that, the ProjectNollywood was processed and executed in a very democratic way. People applied section by section and they were all given money accordingly to do films. Even those of us who own film schools, they gave us money, and they gave PEFTI and all other film schools money. Those in distribution, they have started giving them money too. SO that project is the first time in Nigeria where film makers really enjoyed something substantial from government and I hope they could institutionalise it, I wouldn’t want it to be a one off thing. I want the new government to institutionalise it but then the problem is they can’t do that without having an umbrella body of film makers. For instance the president wants to meet president of film makers, who will represent us? Nobody.SO we need to get our house in order, its then we can access great things from the government. Not the way some people go behind others to take funds under fictitious names, we need to get a body that will accommodate everybody and that is why am preaching unity among all practitioners and I believe God will give us divine intervention and crown our efforts with success. It’s not going to be easy but something in me tells me that God will make it possible.AM just appealing to everyone to come together, bury their hatchets and forget the things that divided us and let us form a body for the development and upliftment of this industry.
How would you describe Nollywood of yester years compared to what we have now?
Well can we say Nigeria Film Industry of yester years, because by definition. Nollywood started In 1992, so anything before that time wasn’t Nollywood. But then if you are comparing the film industry of those days and the current one, there is a whole lot difference because then, our products were targeted towards the cinema but now, this advent of home video, like people will say, the warders are more than the prisoners, the products are too much and no quality control.Occassionally we get good films like October 1 and co, but we need more of such standard films and that’s why we need these guilds to sanitise the industry.
What are those major problems of the industry?
The first and the most important issue that we have to contend with in my opinion is the silent war that is going on amongst producers of the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups over the history of film making in Nigeria. I imagine that this is at the root of all other problems as a house divided against itself cannot stand much less make progress. A corollary to the foregoing is the unhealthy situation in which we now have Igbos, Yorubas and Hausas operating separately under the aegis of Nollywood, Yorubawood and Kannywood respectively. Even within these groups, we still have infightings and misunderstandings over leadership. In spite of lack of cohesion however, each of the woods has her own guilds where separatism is very apparent in their dealings especially casting. Another problem is the lack of Umbrella Association in the industry. Our industry is the only one in Nigeria where you do not have a national body or association. This country cannot speak of a national association of filmmakers, the way doctors talk about the Nigerian Medical Association, and Lawyers talk about Nigerian Bar Association and all that. It is true that we have all manners of guilds but these are all based on the sentiments that I described earlier. I am persuaded to believe that our inability to come together under an umbrella is one of the reasons we have some of the problems that detract from the development of the business in Nigeria. Another problem is Lack of quality control, the all comers nature of the business of film making in Nigeria is the reason for the low quality of a lot of our films. We do not have any quality control mechanism. This has resulted in loss of confidence by patrons over and over again. Then the major issue of Piracy, and the inability to fight the hydra-headed monster of piracy with one voice. A survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said that 9 out of 10 copies of Nigerian films are pirated. This has frustrated so many practitioners that many have jumped out of the boat to join politics or take up some other forms of employment. Real passion for acting is fast becoming a thing of the past as a lot of our actors move on to big spenders the moment they become popular. The truth is that less than 10% of practitioners make money from film making. Majority of the Lekki houses and posh cars that we see are acquired from other sources other than film making.Lastly,the long standing lack of governmental support, governments both national and state have done little or nothing to assist the Nigerian film industry until the administration of president Goodluck Jonathan initiated the N3billion intervention. It is true that some state governments have, over the years, supported individual practitioners but there is no widespread impact of such support on the industry.
Having identified some of these problems plaguing the industry, what are your recommendations on the way forward?
Let’s start with the history of film making in Nigeria, It is true that the Nigerian film industry has gone through a process of evolution over the past five decades but I don’t think the issue of who started what and when should be our priority currently, I think we should focus on harnessing all the resources available to us towards becoming the best that we can be as a people with a common destiny. I also suggest that practitioners should find a way to work together as one, no matter where we come from. This for me is the only way we can move our industry forward because there is power in unity.Thirdly, I think the urgent formation of a national body of film makers is one thing that we cannot avoid if we are serious about making the best out of the industry. My suggestion is that we start with the formation of truly national guilds for all the professions that form the industry. These include producers ,directors, makeup artistes ,editors,actors,production managers, set designers, location managers, camera men continuitymen,managers,costumiers,ligthmen,sound recordists,marketersa among others. All these guild will then elect their individual president and these presidents of guilds will come together to elect the president of the overall association of film makers. The association can then have a secretariat in Abuja where all the guilds will have offices. That way, the national executive of the association will be able to work with government at all levels and corporate bodies on issues affecting the industry like piracy and funding. Such a body would be in a position to lobby for the review of laws guiding piracy and ensure that government funding gets into the right hands through the state or zonal offices. The body would also take care of all the problems that I identified earlier. For example, it would also ensure that all guilds sanitize and organise themselves in such a way that the practitioners are of the highest possible qualifications. This would enhance the quality of our films and engender public confidence. This would also make it impossible for people who do not belong to the appropriate guilds to produce movies as no one would collaborate with them.
How do you think the government can help achieve this change in Nollywood?
I think that government needs to institutionalise any funding plan it may have for the industry. There should be a film fund where every legitimate film maker would be able to access loans, grants or other forms of financial aid the government makes available.
What about the issue of piracy?
I am of the opinion that a major reason for the level of piracy is the direct to home video format. Government should therefore ensure that the cinema culture is promoted by the three tiers of government all over the country. I suggest the establishment of cinemas in all the 774 local councils in the country. If producers have the opportunity to screen their films all over the country, before releasing on home video, piracy would be greatly reduced. It is also important we have a review of the copyright law in line with modern realities. This will ensure that pirates receive punishments commensurate with their crimes.
What inspired this your move for unity in the industry, lot of people in your shoes will rather enjoy their progress without being bothered about what is happening to others……
I have a feeling that am not the only one thinking about the urgent need for us to have a national body for film makers but this has not worked because of the interest of people who exploit the poorly constituted guilds for their personal needs. Such individuals nurse the fear that they will lose out in a democratic environment and will continue to do everything to resist change. Some people will also not support this initiative unless they are sure that they would emerge as leaders. They consider leadership of any such association their birthright and would not support its establishment unless they are assured of opportunity to lead. This is the time for everyone to put all their personal ambitions aside and let us all work together for an industry which would be a befitting legacy for our children. Let me also emphasize that I have no personal aspirations, I have only addressed this issue as a concerned practitioner who is convinced that we are only scratching the surface of the potential that the film making industry has in Nigeria. My hope is that we will work together to see that we attain the heights possible, take our rightful position in the comity of film makers globally and stop our beggary disposition when we have every opportunity to glow like princes and princesses. With the talents that God has endowed the industry and the inspiring population that Nigeria is blessed with, nothing will be able to hold us back from shaking the world if only we are able to harness our resources.