I was in my neighbourhood departmental store just the other day to restock some household essentials when I stumbled on Ovaltine! That good old cocoa beverage! I was suddenly hit with nostalgia.
I recall the days when breakfast was not complete for us as children without certain products. Whatever happened to them? I started recalling so many other products that we knew and loved as kids that are no more on the shelves. Many of them had fantastic jingles and television commercials a few of which I still quite vividly can remember. It got me thinking about life and how easy it is be forgotten after being popular for a while. It also brought to my mind our darling Nollywood and it’s stars. Ten, fifteen years from now, where would they all be? Would we have an industry or just the nostalgic memories of one like the Chinese and Indian films of yore?
The Nollywood brand has come to stay whether some like it or not. Like every product it also must pass through a life cycle. To date it has passed through the introduction phase in the early ‘90s where it was instantly popular because of its novelty. Then quality did not matter. What was important was that we were telling our own stories by ourselves and we were seeing our own local stars on the screen speaking our own languages or English the Nigerian way as the case may be. It was enough! We consumed a lot of it.
Then came the boom era in the year 2000s when the industry expanded well beyond our borders and far into the diaspora and other black and African countries. Those were the growth years. It became the cornerstone for the birth and success of many a TV channel. It provided high ratings and remained number one in the bouquet of some of the largest satellite and cable channels on continent. Of course it was symbiotic like in the case of African magic which has consistently been rated the number one channel on the DSTV bouquet for years. In turn, it has driven the popularity and demand for the movies to insatiable levels across Africa and beyond. Consequently piracy has become a huge and thriving enterprise for many as a result of the demand/supply gap.
The industry has provided jobs for hundreds of thousands of people all over. Today, according to recent UNESCO statistics Nollywood has overtaken Hollywood as the second largest film producing nation in the world with a turnover well in excess of $250 million! This has impacted not only in the area of employment generation, youth empowerment/employment but also in the area of crime reduction and a contribution to the nation’s GDP.
The industry has also made many professors and provided a means of lively hood to journalists from the west in search of stories for their channels back home. Countless papers have been delivered on the phenomenon and many Nollywood “Specialists” now parade the global stage earning a living from the little knowledge they brandish in the proverbial land of the blind. Commission editors find Nollywood sexy for as many different reasons.
Technologically, Nollywood taught the world that you can use what you have to get what you want by turning it’s weaknesses and threats to strengths and opportunities by using available digital video technology to make feature films because resources simply were not available. Until then, it was unthinkable! Today it’s success has caused a major paradigm shift and many major film makers and countries have followed along that line with great success.
What is its strength may after all become its undoing at the end of the day unless there is a deliberate effort to consolidate on these achievements. The current decade is seeing the industry enter its maturity stage. Many film makers in a bid to launch into the global stage and gain recognition have started attending film festivals. Unfortunately for most of them, the industry does not have two standards. It will not forgive sloppy production values. This has forced many to go back to schools locally and abroad to learn the art and craft properly and make films with higher production values.
The competition from other African countries with better technicians is also forcing the local industry to reassess itself. The glut and influx of all sorts of films into the market at a time forced the industry players to go on a production and marketing recess for a little while.
Fortunately the response in the last two years has been positive both from the industry practitioners who have ‘stepped up their game’ with better productions, some even on film and corporate Nigeria.
Recent productions like ‘Ije’, ‘Tango with Me’, and ‘The Figurine’ amongst others and their box office successes in the cinemas have pointed the direction for the new Nollywood. In the last year a major international production ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ produced by the producers of the Oscar winning ‘The Last King of Scotland’ were in Calabar to shoot the movie. It was directed by a Nigerian, Biyi Bandele and had a mix of local and international actors and technicians. This film along with Izu Ojukwus ‘76 shot on super 16 will be game changers in 2013.
The opening of new cinemas, many of which have been under construction will mean more revenue streams for the industry as well. Good local productions with high production values have demonstrated they can outsell Hollywood blockbusters any day and this is positive sign. Hopefully within the year dividends of the already disbursed part of the $200 million dollars the President assigned to the industry will begin to reflect in all aspects, ranging from training, infrastructural development, marketing, distribution to production amongst others. It is also expected that there will be more co-productions as the rest of the world is beginning to take us more seriously with more international production companies, actors and distributors taking an interest.
If we can consolidate on these gains, Nollywood which officially became 20 years old last year will have something to celebrate as the guilds roll out the drums in the coming months. As we prepare to eat and drink, I am jolted back to the present by a supermarket cart pushed by an absent minded shopper.
With nostalgia, I pick up the tin of Ovaltine to take home to my children who have never tasted it. I am not sure how they will find it, seeing their taste buds have been shaped by another cocoa beverage but I think it is worth the try. It just might give me an insight into consumer habits with regards to loyalty and preferences and hopefully what factors might influence a change. It just might be a golden key, who knows?