Hooray for Nollywood: Behind the Scenes of the Nigerian Film Industry

As the Oscars dust settles in Tinseltown, we turn our attention to one of the largest film industries in the world: Nigeria

Nigerian actress and former Miss Black USA, Osas Ighodaro (Courtesy of subject)

On the other side, however, the logistical obstacles—even on basic things like sound and light—are many.

“In the United States, the lights run 24 hours a day,” Bassey explains. “There are no power issues. [In Nigeria], you can be shooting and the lights will go off and suddenly you’re dealing with a blackout. That blackout could last for two weeks, or a month. Now you have to go get a generator, which is not cheap, and then deal with the noise of a generator, which can ruin your sound quality.”

“Plus, if you’re shooting in NY or L.A. you can snap your fingers and get equipment,” she continues. “You have access to state-of-the-art cameras and trailers and a solid film crew—talented people who are always look for work. Although [Nollywood] is a big industry, it’s not easy to find everything you need when you need it. The talent pool (cameramen, grips, sound personnel) is limited, so often the quality of the film suffers.”

And many local Nigerian actors find that the pay—if they’re not unionized—is minimal. “Back home, people are enamored by the industry, so you can get people to star in your films for relatively nothing,’ she says. “There’s no pay for overtime hours worked and there are often no food carts on set,” Bassey says. “You often do your own stunts and there is no insurance plan in case you get hurt.”

Even with all its challenges, actress and Miss Black USA 2010 Osas Ighodaro—who appeared in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, starring Jeffrey Wright—is rooting for Nollywood. “We’re not just telling ‘traditional’ Nollywood [stories],” says Ighodaro, who recently filmed Delta Fires, a documentary shot alongside the soon-to-be- released film,Black November featuring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke, and Vivica A. Fox. The documentary focuses on devastating series of oil spills in Nigeria. “We’re telling stories that have purpose. We’re educating people about what’s happening in our homeland; what we’re dealing with here. The oil spills [across Nigeria] have been much more damaging than the 2010 [BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexíco], yet no one’s talking about them.” Black November is scheduled for release in the coming months.

Oji Idakwoji, film producer and co-founder of a New York-based networking organization called Nollywood NYC, says he’s confident that as the industry gets a better handle on piracy, which runs rampant, and takes more of a cinematic route than its current straight-to-DVD model, it will grow even bigger. “We’re looking to attract a different class of investors and stakeholders in order to achieve this,” says Idakwoji. “We are positioning ourselves to bring even more of our stories to the entire world.”



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  • Dellam

    Tomika, thank you for writing this article and for shedding the light on the industry. As a consumer and addicted viewer of Nollywood films, I was not completely aware of all the challenges. Yes, I will admit that I have complained about the sound quality of the movies and wondered why it had not been improved. So often as Americans, we are accustomed to everything being “perfectly done” and fail to appreciate even the most minute things in life. I wish to see the expansion of Nollywood and all other African film industries and pray that our community continues to support them.

  • Ani O

    As a Nigerian, I will say that Nollywood has come a long way, and I am very proud of what they have become. I am sure that with the right investors, the industry will be taken to a higher level.
    We wish all the actors and actresses best wishes.

  • David Boaz

    Nollywood was a project which has worked out great. The crowning glory will be LANTAWOOD, an industry growing in Atlanta Georgia and focused on taking Nollywood to higher grounds. By the way, Nollywood is the 2nd largest industry not 3rd. Ant it will one day be the #1.

  • Ms Catwalq/ Bani Productions

    The Nigerian film industry is an untapped avenue for investment for all people in the diaspora. The narratives connect with all communities and the projects could be the answer and competition the African Americans have been looking for to make Hollywood take notice. One can start by investing in up and coming filmmakers accessible to you on the internet.
    Instead of buying that hot new gadget, get four of your friends and combine the price of an Ipad as an investment in an independent African/African American filmmaker in your local. Screen the project n your neigbourhood to recoup your investment and you will see that you have your own film-hood industry at your beck and call

  • Naveah

    This is a great write up, thanks Blackenterprise for bringing relevant, quality news. Ebbe Bassey was recently nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a feature for Ties that Bind at the 2012 African Movie Academy Awards.

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