Recently our Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed informed us, that a ban would be placed on production of Nigerian films and music videos abroad. He queried why content made for Nigeria should be recorded abroad with the attendant capital flight that comes with such moves. Then days later, he spoke about the setup of a 1m USD venture fund to support movie makers in our country, stating that already there are 5 contributors offering 50000 USD to the takeoff of the initiative.
Also, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, in a recent event where she represented the Acting President mentioned that tax waivers would be offered to investors in that sector of the Nigerian economy. Both ministers spoke with passion, bringing forth the real problem, the underdevelopment of our creative industry to the public fore.
However, the solution- especially that proffered by the Minister of Information and Culture, comes across as knee jerk and totally not thought out. It is important to carefully understand the issues in this industry, as it would help a great deal in designing solutions and policies to engender the desired growth.
The biggest issue in our creative space (and I mean with respect to making visual content) is that of power. Quite frankly, every single music video, reality show, TV series programme requires power to be recorded. This, the show producers rely on mobile generators to do so. This has numerous add-on effects.
Aside from its massive pollution, cost implications and restrictions it places on producers who have to resort to lower quality lighting for their projects, as high quality lights with enormous wattage demands require more power, it presents another massive problem peculiar to the industry – unwanted background noise.
This noise can only be dampened at best in eventual post-production but not entirely eliminated. When you compare that to productions abroad, one realizes that the output is clearer and of better quality.
Let’s delve deeper. Power also is a major challenge for post-production. In post-production, quite simply one can’t be switching power sources on the go. Worse still, if it is an animation production, which takes hours to render graphically, you would likely end up with a bad or corrupted data drive and horrible output.
Another massive challenge in shooting visual content here is with getting approvals for locations. It is particularly worse when the scene is set in a local area or populated area. The menace of ‘Area boys’ and street ‘principalities and powers’ have given many a producer/director migraines.
You plan to shoot a scene at a beach, arrive there with your equipment and one dude and his team show up demanding for money to allow you shoot or threaten to damage equipment -expensive ones that were already imported at huge costs to the sponsor/director/producer.
Now juxtapose that with a scene abroad. Power is a given, getting permits is easy, post production facilities are on ground with excellent facilities, well paid staff etc. Why would an artiste, producer or director who has the funds to, decide to choose a flawed system as ours over a foreign one where the system works well?
This is why our solutions should be systemic and not by fiat. One quick solution is to look at already built in country infrastructure like Tinapa in Cross-River, Nigeria which is massively underused. Efforts should be made to look at why such an edifice isn’t attracting the visual industry to use its facilities. It certainly should be cheaper to go Cross-River to shoot a video than going to abroad.
Also, concrete efforts should be made to ensure permits for locations to be obtained easily. This can be done by having a Film and Censors Board Liaison office in every local council or even taking it online.
The Ease of Doing business drive by this administration should also extend to this sector too. Concrete efforts should be made to remove gridlocks like human problems, as aforementioned. This could be achieved by working with local governments to muzzle these characters.
There are other extant and cogent problems which apply to the entire creative industry. The biggest one is copyright infringement. Nothing wrecks hard earned investment as our Alaba brothers. The worst part is that the locations are well known! Thankfully COSON, a copyrights protection body is doing a yeo-man’s job in this regards helping content creators, artistes etc. get royalties from users of their products/outputs.
Government can take it a notch higher and actively police these remittances and prosecute defaulters. It is not just the Alaba boys. Radio and TV stations are massively guilty of this. Making COSON’s work easier by giving them firm government backing, will go a long way to helping investors in recouping their investments.
Policies such as the one mentioned by the Minister of Finance is more than welcome. Government backed waivers can be offered to industry players to bring in equipment and invest in infrastructure in-country.
Concrete skilling up and refresher trainings can and should be part of technical school curricula nationwide in partnership with renowned film schools worldwide, complete with exchange programmes for course participants.
All in all, we must realise that the creative industry is global by nature. Major budget movies are shot in numerous locations around the world, irrespective of the originating countries. This is usually used as a global marketing draw for the eventual consumers of the final product or maybe simply because the script requires a scene be shot in such locations.
Thus, there isn’t a silver bullet, all-in-a-box, automatic fiat-like solution. There are however solutions we can and should copy. We are ranked third in the world by volume out of the sheer hardwork of our practitioners. It is time government took the bull by the horns and gave these practitioners a leg up.