What are the challenges in Nollywood and how are you dealing with them?
One of the ways the Lagos State Government has intervened in Nollywood is in the area of funding. A committee was set up by the governor, Mr. Babajide Olu- sola Sanwo-Olu, to assist the industry with funding for filmmakers. Also, the creation of 5 theatres/ cine- mas in different divisions of the state is a testament to the State Government’s support for the distribution network in the state. In terms of infrastructure, a film city is coming up in Ejinrin, Epe. The city has 100 hectares of land that with top-notch facilities and technolo- gies made available for the creative peo- ple to perform their craft without disturbances. This is a welcome development. The governor is passionate about the development of the entertainment industry in Lagos State. He is very much aware and invested in assisting the industry to get visibility for their talents. The regular stakeholders meetings and other engagements with stakehold- ers and the Lagos Film and Video Censors Board have always been an avenue for the practitioners to bear their hearts on issues hindering the progress of the industry. The Lagos State Government also created a special Film fund where Filmmakers can access loans which they can pay back with a zero interest to enable them to compete favorably with their counterparts in other parts of the world. The committee disbursed funds to the first batch of 48 film makers, who are eligible beneficiaries in April, 2022. This year, February 14th, on Valentine’s Day, 2023, in the atmosphere of love, our Governor approved grants as delivered by the Honorable Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Akinbile – Yussuf. The focus for this year was more on young creative students of the different academy that the state partnered with. Many of the successful applicants had received free training sponsored by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration. We partnered with four Film Academy to train the youths in the various genre of filming. Many of them have graduated and are doing very well. We have seen them on screen. They are doing productions, and different genre of film activities.
Why have you focused on the young people instead of the veterans?
We focused on young creative people because we believe the youth is our future, they need to be empowered to be able to make the dif- ference that we seek. We need to invest heavily in our young creative, we have been spon- soring various training and em- powerment pro- grammes for the youth. We don’t want a situation whereby, they go through all this training, and af- ter graduating, they don’t have the fund to practice all they’ve learnt, hence, the funding.
We all thought they were getting a zero interest loan, the Governor surprised us all by making it a grant, and many of them benefit- ed from the grant.
What have you noticed since they collected the grants?
We have seen a lot of collaborations that are going on among the beneficia- ries and I am really impressed. They are all coming together to form a company, coming together to do productions. We are following up on them to ensure that the money is actually used for the purpose that it was given. In the couple of months we will be seeing their works in the market. It is really encouraging to see young people doing something worthwhile with their talents and training.
They are really very happy and they are not thinking of leaving the country.
In what other areas has the governor made an impact in Nollywood?
I hope you are aware of the film city, the 100-acre Lagos State Film City. What it means is that our filmmakers have an entire city to themselves to do their film- ing. You can do your pro- duction without unnecessary interference or disturbances. It’s like a city within a city specially built for the creative. You can actually get everything you need to do a film of the highest inter- national standard at Lagos Film City. We would have hotels and resorts. It’s going to be a mixed development anyway, so you have all the comfort you need to do a great movie.
What about the required technology to produce the movies that can compete in the global film arena? Do we have that?
This is why we are not building it alone. This un- der a PPP arrangement. We are partnering with companies who have done it before. You will also note that the quality of productions we are getting these days is better than before, so you will agree that these technologies are evolving every day. Which are factors that will be considered as well.
So, what is the planned festival about and when will it take place?
Yes, we will have our festival, where we will showcase all the works that the beneficiaries of the various programs have produced as well as submissions from interested producers. We want the world to see our content and have access to it. This is the aim of the Lagos Film Festival. We will announce a date soon. Our beneficiaries from the Film Fund would be finishing their productions soon based on timeline and we would love for all of them to participate in it in order to show- case their works, so the festival will happen when a majority have concluded and are open for submission of entries of those productions.
Is this fund a one-time intervention?
No, we still have a fund available to the creative sector and can be accessed through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. Creative people that need funding in their creative arts can actually go there and apply.
How has it been since you took over the board’s activities?
When I came on board, I noticed that a lot of the problems facing most filmmakers is not just the funding or distribution but also the lack of structure for the business. It is not really being treated like business. So we engaged with established filmmakers and we began to provide the necessary capacity building that is needed. And to let them know that if your business is properly structured, you can actu- ally access the necessary funds to do your film productions without hassle. Many of them are properly co- ordinated and are doing well, but a majority don’t even have a registered company. So, we had to assist in checking their documentation and share knowledge. So, we do a lot of training for them, such as the business of film, scriptwriting, and content conceptualization. I pray we help our tourism sector through the content, which might be our first pitch to any tourist or prospective investor. The world is watching our movies and listening to our music. We have to be more deliberate in the type of content that we push out. We will be focusing more on distribution this year.