Film and Media Finance Workshop, Lagos, Nigeria

Left London on 1stDecember, BA flight to Abuja. My first experience of flying from Terminal 5. It was so very smooth, unlike the chaos of when it first opened.

The flying time to Abuja is just 5.5 hours and the night leaves at 10.15 and arrives at 5.30 am local time. By the time you take, eat and settle down to sleep its time to get up!

First thing that hits you is the heat – after leaving freezing London it is a welcome relief. I have read that for a small fee you can fast track the immigration queues! As the guest of National Film Video Censors Board, I was to be met off the plain, cleared through immigration and into the luggage where another official was waiting to take me to my car. We collected my suitcase and escorted by an armed guard into the waiting gleaming black BMW. I asked my host if this was really necessary, given the laid back city of Abuja. I was not sure if it was to impress me.

I would later learn that one of the staff had been killed, they think by an irate distributor who was raised by NFVCB for piracy.

The DG now has a permanent body guard and he is locked in his office with a safety button!

We drove into the city of Abuja which I learned is only 20 years old, the current capital of Nigeria. It feels a bit like being in Delhi, wide streets, clean, very green and very laid back. All the commercial buildings, the roads and many of the residential have been building by one company – Julius Burger who has a monopoly on the building contracts. But they are well build, durable and made to last. Clean straight lines, subdued colours are his hallmark.

Portea Hotel is a South African chain and builds small, clean, efficient hotels across Nigeria. It’s a brilliant chain and I am surprised that have not expensed into India. I stayed at Portea Hotel in Abuja. Slept for a few hours.

NFVCB is in an old sprawling building, rooms full of people watching tapes, checking every scene before being given certificate.

These are all local films, made by for small budgets and yet generating over $US350 million.

This is both good and bad – good because everyone can see the commercial value of the Nollywood film industry and bad because a lot of the money is lost in piracy due to lack of structures and infrastructure. NFVCB has been attempting to create both. They have been fighting the pirates, giving the distribution industry a recognised status, putting in place classification system. They have gone beyond their duty to Censor to lay the foundations for professionalising Nollywood film industry. Last year they organised a road show and bought over 150 Nigerian filmmakers to UK for Nollywood Business Forum. The programme content was produced by me.

Fly to Calabar with DG. Coty located on two huge rivers crossing. It’s a beautiful place, even more laid back than Abuja and very green. I am told up the rivers you can find crocodiles, water buffalos. The city stops working for the whole month of December to celebrate Cross Rivers Carnival – music, food, cultural festival. I have been invited to speak at the 2nd annual Film Forum being held in Tinapa, a new commercial zone build outside of Calabar city. I was invited to speak about the Role of Government in supporting film and creative industries.

My presentation covered the following areas and themes:

  • Government Agencies such UKFC Board/Arts Council
  • Government Department DCMS as NED
  • Government Business Development – UKIBC
  • Role of Government in supporting the Film and Creative Industries
  • Strategy and Policy – big picture around quality, sustainability, value, holistic approach
  • Funds for Production, Development and Distribution
  • Digital Screen Network, P&A Fund
  • Tax Mechanisms – tax credits, co-production treaties for cultural and economic value, VCT, EIS schemes
  • Training and Education including Technical Skills, Screen Academies, Business Management, Talent Development.
  • Inward investment through Facilities – Studios, Post Production.
  • Festivals and Markets – Supporting London Film Festival, British Independent Film Festival, Regional Festivals, Production Market.
  • Regional Screen Agencies – 9 across the UK.
  • Financial Institutions such as Banks, Private Investors and Institutions.

Key questions emerging from the discussion:

  • How do you regulate creativity in the digital age ?
  • What is the role of government agencies
  • What can we learn from other countries such as UK, India ?
  • Value of art and culture.
  • Is economic translation the only criteria of success?
  • Classification issues and challenges – Independence, transparency
  • Sustainability, value, quality versus quantity.
  • Market research report.

Intervention by government has to be strategic:

  • Infrastructure
  • Regulation and certification of distribution sector is first step.
  • Move Nollywood out of “subsistence” and into an industry.
  • Skills development including technical, production, creative, management.
  • Use film as diplomacy tool – look at India, China, and Mid East.
  • Consumer is King
  • Collection agents
  • Film is an “Oil Well”. It is a business.
  • Piracy
  • Structure for film industry which is largely digital production and digital distribution.

Other issues for Nollywood:

  • Industry is fragmented and informal
  • lack of professional ism
  • lack of Corporate governance
  • lack of business development
  • Leadership
  • Developing Storytelling
  • South-South dialogue is vital.
  • Use the Nollywood Star system and tap the large and wealthy Nigerian Diaspora.
  • Location – such as Calabar as way of attracting inward investment.

Key issues from morning presentations:

  • Leveraging the Diaspora
  • Educating the banks
  • UK Film financing model
  • Infrastructure – Build Digital Cinemas
  • Professionalise, corporatize, and put in place governance and regulation.