The business of filmmaking
I am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! Nollywood has come a long way since its big leap into commercial filmmaking with the release of Living In Bondage. Since then, the business of movie making has been growing into a more globally acceptable standard. The producers in the industry have invested in the right knowledge, and gained expertise in areas they had erstwhile displayed downright ignorance in how they promote their movies locally and globally. With the announcement of the officially selection of the 8 movies in their City to City program, TIFF has opened the eyes of those of us who have been positively affected by this massive exposure, so that if we continue doing business as usual, we are entirely to blame for our lack of progress.
It’s not easy to be a producer, and this is not applicable to just Nollywood. It is a global fact! Many tend to look at the producers as the cash cows of the movies they churn out, and the sole recipients of the dividends of the movies. I believe it’s time to educate people on how it works, because I’ve seen so many new investors come and go because they believed they would make money from jumping on the bandwagon of producers, only to have their hands burned from the bad advices they got and also being used by those they worked with and actors’ lack of cooperation. They file in with high hopes and never return to invest in the movie industry that so badly needs repeat investors.
Who is the producer? The producer is the one running the show. He (and I’m going to use the masculine pronoun to depict mankind, and not to demean females) is the one who invests money into the movie production, or puts time, expertise and effort for an investor, the executive producer. Either way, the producer is the one who puts everything together and has a direct stake in the success of the movie. The success can mean different things to different producers; some would consider it successful to just finish the movies and show it to the targeted audience for education, enlightenment or self-satisfaction, while others do it for the business of making profit (this is where most producers fall into).
The producer’s work starts before the first person is hired. He procures the script, which he is excited about, and then proceeds to raise the money to shoot the movie (which often takes time). After he gets the funds (often inadequate, I might add), he starts the hiring process, beginning with the crew, then later the cast, and finally the marketing team that would help sell the products. He then looks for a cinema distributor, who he hopes would like his product well enough to accept it and help get the cinema houses to give the best show times for the final cinema release of the movie. When the cinema run of the movie is complete, the final sales are collated, and the producer gets about a third of the cinema takings. This is the final total, minus the tax, which is taken from source, the cinema house percentage taken and the cinema distributor percentage taken. This is for the cinema release.
The producers who shoot straight-to-DVD movies shoot their movies and release them into the aggressive and often unforgiving open market, where they hope to get something out for themselves, battling for profit with the many ‘landlords’, the pirates! He goes through a period of sleepless nights, and for many, prayer and fasting, hoping the evil eyes of the pirates ‘jump and pass’ his own DVDs to feast their eyes on other products or travel out of the continent and not show up till the end of the decade! Hehehe! He suddenly finds himself in fear, listening for any news of someone purchasing his movies and enjoying his products purchased from nefarious sources. He hopes to go through traffic without being confronted by street hawkers with the ‘alternative’ copies of his own movie.
With the cinema run done, the producer looks to alternative distribution channels to make a sale, and the Video on Demand (VOD) platforms online have presented themselves, as a worthy cushion for the fall they may have in their investment. They negotiate deals that would ensure he could make another movie. Understand this! Many producers come into this industry purely based on the passion they have for the movies, but unfortunately, they run into workers (cast, crew and ‘well wishers’) who have often proven to exploit their naivety rather than see the need to encourage another possible investor. I will talk about that next week.
Many of the producers then begin to count the cost of their first run into the movie industry; a third of the cinema takings, sale of their movies on various VOD platforms, his share of the DVD sales (after the pirates) and the television rights to various cable networks. He then looks at the final results to see if he has made a profit in the the last 1 year, 2 years, or 5 years, depending on how long your pre-production to final release is. He reflects on the value of employing so much labour, expending his time and efforts, as well as the emotional toll it has on him through all the negotiations with distributors of movies, actors to help market the movies they believed had a professional stake in it and fears of loss, just to see if it was well worth the effort to try and do it again. Many never come back! Many, like relegated teams in division one football clubs, decide to cut down their investments to smaller movie projects that they believe would yield profit faster. Those who come back have to be given an award just for showing up after such a rough season.
There are many factors that help to make movies successful, and the monetary success of any movie is necessary for its continued growth, and all hands must be on deck, understanding how things work before making uninformed demands of it. Next week I will continue in this series of the Business of Filmmaking. Keep smiling!