The 5th Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC 5), has come and gone but the lessons learned are still very much with us. The event, which was organised by Ayeni Adekunle was held at the Landmark Event Centre, Oniru Lagos on April 26th 2017. The theme for this year’s conference was “It’s time for Africa”. Creditable to the organisers of the event, the conference saw the participation of notable and successful persons from the Nigeria entertainment landscape including Toyin Abraham, Alibaba, Ade Bantu, Basket mouth, Frank Donga, Patrick Doyle, Adesua Etomi, Chichi Nwoko, John Ugbe, Opa Williams, amongst others. These people shared insights into the challenges, triumphs and opportunities of the industry in Nigeria and Africa in general.
Though the conference focused on entertainment in general, this piece highlights some of the points raised with regard to the quality of content produced in Nollywood.
Here are some of what the panellists had to say.
“For the first time in a long time, Africa content is being appreciated around the world.”- Alex Okosi
“With over 20 million Nigerians in Diaspora, there’s a wide market ready to consume Nigerian stories.” – John Ugbe
“Movies that are doing well have great content, good publicity team, marketing strategy” – Adesua Etomi
“If you have the Content be consistent with it.” – Alex Okosi
“Great story, Good casting, Marketing / PR made The Wedding Party movie a success.” – Adesua Etomi
“You need to put depth into your content for it to go further over time” – Id Cabbasa
“Let’s stop the petty way of creating content and infuse depth and energy to stand the test of time. ”- Id Cabbasa
Quality Content is Key
There is no gainsaying the fact that with so many movies being churned out weekly in Nollywood that content is not lacking in the industry, though the quality of the content has dwindled over the years. Take a look at the Table below on the Nollywood performance at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMA-Award) from 2006 to 2016. We can clearly see the dwindling performance of Nollywood movies in the awards over the years, a situation that can be attributed to falling standard in the industry. AMA-Award prides itself on recognition of excellence and the best of the best in the African Film industry.
Nollywood performance at the African Movie Academy Awards
|Year of AMAA||Number of Award categories||Number of Awards won by Nollywood||% of Awards won by Nollywood|
Source: Stanislaus Iyorza, 2016. Journal of Arts & Humanities Volume 05, Issue 09, 2016, 75-83. Journal of Arts & Humanities Volume 05, Issue 09, 2016, 75-83
What, however, separates the wheat from the chaff is the quality of the content or what some may prefer to call great content. However, it is very easy to tout out that word – quality. But, what does it actually mean?
A succinct definition given by the International Standard Organisation, ISO 9000 is: “Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils the requirement.” Some have argued that the definition is restrictive but we are not going into that. However, note the keywords in that definition.
- Inherent defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as: “Essential character of something: belonging by nature or habit”
- Characteristics, which ISO defined as “A distinguished feature” or according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “A distinguishing trait, quality, or property”.
- Requirement meaning “Something wanted or needed: necessity,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
In other words, based on ISO’s definition, quality is essential, it is uncommon – it can be singled out as it’s different from the norm- and it satisfies a need.
Another common definition of quality given by PRINCE2 2009, a project management methodology is “Fit for Purpose.”
For what purpose one might ask? As a starter, think of ISO’s “fulfils a requirement.” Fit for fulfilling a need, whether real or perceived, I’ll say.
Before we delve further, it is instructive to note that the above definitions are to some extent broad, the idea being that organisations and individuals are given the freedom to describe, or if you like, characterise what quality means for them. Nonetheless, within the context of the Nollywood industry that freedom cannot be exercised in isolation of the dictates of the demands of Nollywood consumers. Since whatever is being produced, in this case, content, are expected to satisfy some predetermined criteria or need. Now that’s a bit intricate, human wants are complex with expectations and demands that are as varied as the number of people on earth. Add to the mix the fact that human wants are also fluid, changing with time, circumstances and expectations amongst other things. And people are who Nollywood seeks to satisfy – far from a trifling matter!
Nonetheless, as the Igbos (of eastern Nigeria) say, ‘A ga e ji mgbagbu ghara ogu?’ In other words, would the task be abandoned because it is challenging? The answer, of course, is a resounding no. What it means is that Nollywood and practitioners in the industry must set a minimum quality standard for content churned out in the industry. This, in the writer’s opinion, is a prerequisite for answering that question, “To what purpose?” Several suggestions come to mind:
- To satisfy an audience that is becoming increasingly selective of what they consume
- To satisfy an audience that is becoming increasingly critical of content offered to them
- To attract a broad (or niche) – depending on one’s objective – audience to what is being produced
- To gain international recognition and awards for production
- To gain access to the international film market, taking advantage of the awakening interest in African work as Alex Okosi pointed out
- To keep fans yearning for more and to attract new fans to Nollywood
- To produce work that will stand the test of time – as Id Cabbasa urged us
You see, the quality objective has a role to play in defining what quality means to Nollywood, or at least to the production company in question.
Having set the objectives, the next question, naturally, is how do we achieve them? Here are a few pointers that can help.
- An original/compelling screenplay. Id Cabassa mentioned stories with depth
- A good cast that can interpret the intended meaning of the screenplay
- Good equipment especially cameras, that can provide sharp images, better resolution
- Adequate lighting
- Optimal sound technology
- Standard post-production editing suite
- Suitable locations filming
Bringing these together is not insurmountable. I am not saying that it is easy but it can be done. We are seeing good movies recently in the industry that have attracted international recognition. Movies like Alter Ego, the Wedding Party, 76, just to mention the more recent ones. The creators of these movies invested resources and time to create works that are outstanding; works that can serve as future reference material, not just the now. We are still talking about Living in Bondage, Nneka the Pretty Serpent, Evil Passion; why? Though they may not meet all the criteria listed above, they were quality movies by the then Nigerian home movie standard. They met the three keywords found in ISO 9000 quality definition. They certainly were not the first movies produced in Nigeria, but unarguably they became the precursors to today’s Nollywood.
In concluding, I must commend the organisers of the NEC 5 conference, for the opportunity to remind us of these things. Because in the euphoria of successes recorded so far, we could forget, a sure passport to Nollywood demise and dwindling profits. Let’s be honest here, the bottom line is profit, no matter how one may profess to love creativity, or passion for the industry, if they cannot make a living from it, it’s only a matter of time before they pursue other more profitable endeavours. My guess is that Nollywood wouldn’t be where it is today if not for the money. But it can only survive if attention is refocused on creating quality content that resounds with consumers. Let no one deceive or tell us otherwise.
Updated 17 July 2017 to include statistics for 2017 win.