Gather round my children, let me tell you, no, instead let me show you how exactly to navigate the perilous waters called Nollywood, a sea so vast and expansive that years after many an experienced crew have sailed across its waters, they are yet those who are consumed by the unforgiving waves, investments lost and barely make it back to shore with their clothes on their back.
And I'm not kidding, from a friend who's slept in a jail cell over debt he owed that went into financing a movie to someone I barely knew losing his Range Rover to the micro finance bank that loaned him money, there are quite a lot of stories of losing money in Nollywood.
This same Nollywood where actors are paid six figures, sometimes seven even (of course in naira) pre recession, pre naira devaluation. So who's paying them those sums, and how can such executive producers afford to pay them that much and still get a return on investment?
It has come to my knowledge that the answer is very simple. This bit of knowledge did not come by way but by a good amount of being slapped humble pie, along with the pie carrying pan mind you, so hard on my face I felt my nose flatten against the rest of my face in a manner akin to what would have been obtainable in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The humble pie notwithstanding, I have come out of the other side a different man, armed with knowledge that will make me a successful Nollywood filmmaker, This knowledge I intend to share, at great personal cost have I received it, but freely I give, because "pirate bay."
What makes a successful movie if the question is to be asked? In these parts the answer is not a great story, and if a great story is not a pre requisite, then you can be rest assured that things like great cinematography, editing or production design are even less likely to be considered germane. Like you I had it all wrong, thanks be to the gods for knowledge graciously bequeathed to me as I contemplated what would have been my next filming misadventure. Your story needs not to be good, all it needs is to be relatable to a prevalent or recently popularized event or phenomenon and have some sort of moral lesson that like a millstone around the neck of a man about to be tossed overboard and into the sea hanging over your story so perceptibly.
But that is not all, so you’ve gotten a story that is largely based on realities (and equal parts fable) in a certain part of the country or some most recent happening that caught the public eye, how do you intend to tell this story of yours? Well the sages were not wrong when they said “Laughter is the best medicine.” To paraphrase the elders the Nigerian who will watch your movie is either unemployed or underemployed, they are not looking for any other content besides the one that will bring smiles to their faces and laughter to their hearts, no matter how contrived and exaggerated. Who wants to sit in this hot sun and contemplate their place in the universe because you made a film that mirrors or god forbid, amplifies the conditions in which they live? Who will sit through ninety minutes of depression they paid for, or at least paid for the data to be able to download it for free? So your genre of choice is comedy, the type of “olorun maje” (translated as god forbid), I-personally-would-not-be-stupid-or-careless-enough-to-have-this-happen-to-me because somewhere, even if it’s in a fictionalized land we want to believe that someone else has it worse than us, is dumber than us.
Having sorted this hurdle your next step is pretty simple, who are your cast? Well pretty easy, they are all the popular faces that majority of the populace can identify with, so bring in your Instagram models, comedians and socialites, your most popular actors and even if they act like they are in different movies, who cares? The people are laughing are they not? What is it you say about typecasting a particular character relentlessly? Do you hear him or her complaining?
Away with your artistic sensibilities and your '99 moel Honda Civic! Oh, you didn't bring it to this meeting? you entered Danfo and hopped on an okada? an you expect me to now fund your poor man's Wes Anderson? You shoul not be allowing your village people do you like this and mess up your destiny so easily now, tsk tsk.
Now go forth and make that movie! No not the one you’re thinking of please no, unless you’ve got a trust fund you desperately want to see exhausted before your offspring are brought into the world.
If you feel that you have greater knowledge than the sages, or that you represent the paradigm shift in the industry, kindly note that the sages once made this same declaration to their forbears as they ran headlong and defiant, railing as they went against the grain only to be humbled by experience. An experience, young filmmaker that you will be thankfully spared of if you follow the words I bring to you from the sages.
P.S I hope you’re not going to listen sha