I have a joke. A film critic walks into a film panel about film distribution and marketing. Before the panel starts she has written down five questions. During the panel she trims her list to three. At the end she has no questions left. Why? Because the panel had nothing to do with her and everything to do with movies.
Turns out I’m poor at jokes.
On the 3rd of March 2017, Sodas ‘N’ Popcorn hosted a panel as part of the Social Media Week. Titled, The New language of Technology, it addressed the critical issue of the film distribution and marketing future within Nigeria. The panel, a respectable selection of industry participants with considerable influence, came, saw and schooled the audience and themselves. A non-surprise given the combined profiles of all of them. On one stage there was a film director, a talent manager, a writer and communications specialist, a producer and distribution executive, a blog founder and fashion darling, a site developer, a site founder and digital marketing specialist. Together, these bunch could save Nollywood. All you’d need was adequate political influence.
It has been said according to unwritten rules that every movie requires marketing. If for nothing but first and foremost to give the financiers a good chance at recovering the money pumped into making a film. The blood and sweat is another matter entirely. Like the time when Noble Igwe stated the importance of the media to the film distribution ecosystem with the use of blogs and websites to circulate trailers, interviews and reviews. He also urged film directors not to be so petty when they refuse to send invites to people who wrote bad reviews. Play nice guys.
There were other discussions. Around shared contentions with the developmental pace of Nollywood. FilmHouse Chief Operating Officer, Moses Babatope continuously highlighted the developing nature of the cinema going culture in Nigeria. Barely over a decade, he reflected on which changes were happening with increasing rapidity but would nonetheless take considerable time to achieve the shift in the consciousness of the average Nigerian towards Nollywood.
To further their points, Isioma Osaje, powerhouse talent manager also commented on the very nature of Nigeria’s environment as a hindrance to the progress. Most Nigerian movies available for streaming are viewed outside Nigeria. Niyi Akinmolayan, the director of last year’s acclaimed “The Arbitration” also talked about the lack of distribution apps and kiosks which were available in countries outside Nigeria.
On the issue of piracy, there was a consensus. I particularly enjoyed the witty and realistic solutions provided by the members. One of which highlighted the advantage of convenience and speed that piracy had over movie going. Isioma Osaje capped it up nicely when she calculated the cost of the average movie going experience versus buying a DVD in traffic. “You guys say tickets are N1500, they aren’t really N1500 when you add feeding and traffic”. That one drew laughs. To fix these, there was a unanimous agreement on the need for film distributors to come up with faster and more accessible ways for the audience to get their films before those darned pirates.
Tech plays an important role here. Using the exemplary work of Joseph Iruafemi on Nowshowing.com.ng, indicates the extensive nature of the film industry development. Players are needed in all corners asking the right questions so they can proceed with implementing good solutions. The panel, more than just another avenue for airing grievances with all that was faulty with the Nigeria’s film business, shared and agreed upon mutually beneficial solutions that would not only make people money (yes they have to eat) but ease the experience of movies for makers and viewers. A tiny, holistic accomplishment for Nollywoodkind.
The panel was so riveting, the hour ran up and there was no time for questions from the audience but there was plenty of time between the end of the panel and the next event for panelists and the audience to mingle and chat. I closed my book and with this sentence.
For even the most disinterested individual – the one who visits the movies for pure entertainment and spares no thoughts to critical debates or carries an interest in how movies work – this panel was a refreshing introductory course into the realities of the Nollywood industrial complex. More than anything I was pleased to discover the singular love for film connecting audience and experts. More please.