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Profiting From Nigerian Film (Nollywood) & Movie Industry

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Last week, we discussed Building Visibility for Your Small Business Via Social Media. Today we have Rita Onwurah (Screenwriter, Actor, Content Creator, and Aspiring Producer) to discuss Profiting from the Nigerian Film Industry (Nollywood).

What to know about Nollywood

According to a CNN report by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry:

  • Currently employs over 1 million people
  • Is the second largest employer in Nigeria after agriculture and the Federal Government
  • Generates approximately $600m/annum for the Nigerian economy
  • Releases an average of 50 movies/week which show in cinemas, online and on cable, etc.
  • Has the second largest revenue in the world after Bollywood

Viability of Nollywood

Nollywood is a very viable industry. It is a place where people come and succeed in various behind-the-scene roles, not just in acting. These people include screenwriters, directors, DOPs, assistant directors, costumiers, makeup hands, etc. Their entrance into the industry is very likely from the lower cadres and with determination and time climb up to become producers or investors.

How I joined Nollywood

I joined Nollywood in 2009 after leaving my 4-year work experience in the publishing industry. I came in through Emem Isong (was star struck upon meeting her) as I went to her and told her I was interested in being a screenwriter in the industry and she agreed. She gave me an opportunity to join Nollywood whilst shooting her series Catwalk. From then on, I have written for various producers and these movies have been shown on many platforms (EbonyLife, Iroko, Ibaka, cinemas) and across the world. Anyone can get into Nollywood without thinking that one needs to be a genius first or acquire many educational degrees. Nollywood is open to everyone. Determination is needed to rise through the ranks. There are cases of people starting out as production assistants, screenwriters and costumiers who become directors, producers and movie funders who make returns on their investments.

The scope and growth of Nollywood

In Nigeria and globally, people are beginning to take interest in Nollywood due to the viability and profitability of the industry. The corporate sector is taking a lot of interest in filmmaking. International outfits and individuals are coming these days to research and study Nollywood. This is because they have seen the growth potential of the industry – how far it has come and how far it can go.

Nollywood has experienced an exponential growth from the very first day Kenneth Nnebue produced Living in Bondage. Then we have had people like Amaka Igwe, Emem Isong, and Lancelot Imasuen who have kept us glued to our TVs. Over time, Nollywood has evolved. We also have had young people coming in as actors, actresses, film makers, and directors and they are profiting from Nollywood.

My experience in Nollywood

The success one achieves in the industry is not an overnight one. People see the finished product when they see an Uche Jumbo, Ini Edo or Ramsey Noah clinching Glo endorsements and think the success came easy. There is a lot of work and grit involved. Personally as a writer, I have constant pressure to deliver and have had my patience stretched thin.

The saying “No pains no gain. No guts no glory” applies here. On set, we have directors screaming at people to get the work done, so one has to put in as much effort or more as you put in a 9 to 5 job. The only difference is that it is not an everyday resumption at 9 am and closing at 5 pm. Sometimes people shoot till 3 am in the morning. This is not to deter you but to prepare you for the work required. It is a viable industry. People come in and make it. I have made it. Yes!

I joined as a starry eyed young person who wanted to make it in the industry. Now I google my name and I see my works all over the place. I get very proud and happy when EbonyLife produces my script and airs it on their channel. In times like that, I give myself a pat at the back and I am thankful to God. If I can make it, then anyone can make it.

Can I join Nollywood?

If a 9 to 5 job is not working for you or you are unable to get one, then the Nollywood movie industry is where you can always come in to:

  • Hone your skills
  • Find a path
  • Build a career for yourself

Training for a career in Nollywood

There are institutions where you can train as a screenwriter, actor, actress, director or any other desired role in the industry. Royal Arts Academy in Surulere has been doing this since 2009 and in 2 years will be celebrating 10 years of operation. They have been consistently and steadily training people in screenwriting, directing, and acting; they have been churning out a lot of young stars. One can go through formal training as well as learn on the job.

The demand for content is high and continues to increase as there are many people watching Nigerian movies and demanding for more. People are shooting movies every week. The demand for content is high and still on the increase. As the biblical quote goes, “The harvest is plenty…but the labourers are few”. This is the case in Nollywood and we would like to increase the number of labourers in the market.

Nollywood is open. You do not need an interview. It is not a formal setting in need of a shirt and tie for a competency interview. Nollywood is an embracing industry if one is eager to work, eager to learn, and wants to come in and make something for themselves. Young people come into the industry as production assistants and costume assistants. I went on set for the first time behind the scenes as a props assistant thinking it would be easy. Contrarily, on instances we would work so late into the night that I would want to break down into tears when I got home. There are days you will be tired and want to quit feeling like you cannot do this anymore. However, going back is not an option. You need to stay resilient through the training and growing process.

Profiting in Nollywood

The movie industry is very profitable and the second highest employer after agriculture and the Federal Government. So many filmmakers, especially young people, such as Tope Oshin, Uduak Oguamanam, Judith Audu, Remi Biola and others are making films and profiting from it in the industry. People are out there working on sets, churning out content that inform, amuse, and entertain people. If we who are in the industry are telling you that you can profit from the industry, then you can. However you need patience. It is not an overnight success. It might take months or years.

Getting a screenwriting opportunity in Nollywood

Screenwriting is my forte and I can authoritatively tell you that people are always looking contents and scripts. The beginning of every content is a script. Producers out there are constantly looking for writers. Yesterday I submitted a ready script for sale to someone and asked if she still needed scripts. She answered in the affirmative.

An important step in scriptwriting is getting Final Draft (a professional screenwriting software). This is because filmmakers do not enjoy reading scripts in Microsoft Word.

The next step is to pitch your story to a producer/filmmaker. Filmmakers are always on the lookout for scripts. Iroko, Judith Audu, Royal Arts Academy, global producers and other independent film producers are some of the people that one can approach. In Abuja, a certain Emil Garber is always putting out scripts for sale on behalf of screenwriters. I just started a content creation company called Rainmaker Media Entertainment and I’m always in need of scripts. It is important, however, to first send a synopsis (due to copyright issues) and if the synopsis is liked, you will be contacted.

There is always an opportunity for script writing. However, if one hasn’t written a script before, a 3-month training at a place like Royal Arts Academy is advised before one starts. Learn the process and structure of screenwriting.

The other occupations in the industry

There are opportunities also to become a cinematographer, assistant director, continuity person, production assistant, costume assistant, props personnel, location manager, production manager, DOP (Director of Photography), editor, etc. There are many opportunities in the industry as can be seen on the end credits scrolling at the end of every movie.

The role of a director in a movie

The director simply directs the actors and the shots, telling them what to do and the emotions to elicit or portray. The director has the responsibility of bringing one’s script to life, such that one has to literally pray to secure a director who understands one’s script. Otherwise, the whole message is lost in the translation. Primarily a director directs the entire movie project from scene one to the final scene.

The Nigeria movie industry is not where it should be but it is making headway and has gone a very long away from where it used to be. We have come from the days of Living in Bondage, Rattle Snake and Taboo to today’s Wedding Party, Ayamma and 30 Days In Atlanta. These days we even shoot abroad. Lost In London, for example, was shot in the UK. We will keep improving.

In summary, there is an opportunity in the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood) for everyone. One does not need exams to get into the industry. There are young directors now open to talk to every aspiring Nollywood player about industry opportunities. Determination and hard work are very vital to succeed in the industry. Anyone interested in screenwriting should email a half page synopsis to me at rita.onwurah@gmail.com and we will proceed from there. Instagram and Twitter handles are both @ritaonwurah.

Join Us Next Week

This was live from Tango at ReDahlia Workspaces, 43B Emina Crescent, Off Toyin Street, Ikeja.

We are happy to give you a FREE tour of our facility anytime. Throughout the month of November, we will continue featuring guests on our Facebook live videos so if you run a successful business and want us to feature you on our platform, then send us an email on contact@redahlia.com or give us a call on 08188122223. See you next week (interactive edition) on https://www.facebook.com/redahliaworkspaces/ for another informative session.

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