I am not a Nollywood filmmaker

I am not a Nollywood filmmaker. I am a Nigerian who is a filmmaker.” That statement in its various incarnations has triggered many, who take offense to any differentiation from being tagged as a Nollywood filmmaker. Some perceive it as a slight. Who do you think you are? Do you think you are too good for Nollywood? It deserves accolades!!

But what defines a film/filmmaker as Nollywood, Hollywood or any Wood?
To unpack this we have to look how other film industries are defined.The name, Nollywood, was coined in 2002 by Norimitsu Onishi, a New York Times journalist, in an article titled Step aside, LA. and Bombay, for Nollywood. Prior to that between 1992 and the September 2002 publication, it was known as, Nigerian Home Video Industry, describing the, Direct to Video model of delivery.

Hollywood is the most notable film industry in the world, however, not all films from the United States are Hollywood films and not all American filmmakers are Hollywood filmmakers. Martin Scorsese (Dir-Wolf of Wallstreet) once said “I’m not a Hollywood filmmaker, I’m a filmmaker, in spite of Hollywood”. Hollywood is the studio system based in Los Angeles; films financed and created by the system are Hollywood films. There are Texas, Chicago, New York, Florida, Alabama based independent filmmakers, with no plans for LA.

In 1919 United Artists, was formed by creatively frustrated actors and directors who wanted more creative control and ownership over their work. They were the pioneers of Independent filmmaking (Indie) which allowed filmmakers make what they wanted to make, outside of studio influence. Independent films continued over the decades, the late 80s to late 90s particularly being strong, an era where Miramax, introduced the world to Steven Soderberg, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, the team of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and many others.

Their films were not products of the studio system but independent producers with private financing Thousands of Independent American filmmakers, attend Sundance, Telluride, Tribeca, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), South by South West (SXSW) and American Film Market(AFM) every year. These were created for independent filmmakers to have a platform because of Hollywood’s overwhelming shadow, Sundance by Robert Redford, Tribeca by Robert DeNiro, Hollywood A-list actors.

Indie filmmakers don’t have the resources of studio films so this makes them focus on low concept stories(The Florida Project, Lady Bird ) making them harder to market to global markets than Hollywood high concept (Transformers, Fast and Furious) or Romance (Mama Mia).

Aesthetically and tonally, Indies have their own identity and there is a different expectation because they often give a humanity and relatability tent pole, blockbusters and franchise films cant. They can take story risks and cast non star actors because they don’t have to recover the same amount of investment.

Bollywood is India’s biggest film industry but it is not all of Indian filmmaking. Bollywood is only Hindi filmmaking based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The trademarks of song and dance, musical numbers, love stories, dramatic editing etc are just one aspect of Indian Cinema. The beloved, Bahuballi (2015) is from India but is not a Bollywood film. Surprised, right! India has 3 film industries, Bollywood you know, Tamil and Telugu cinemas are the lesser known to most of the world.Some people have called Slumdog Millionaire (2008) a Bollywood film, because it was shot in India and starred Indians. But this is inaccurate.

The screenwriter (Simon Beaufoy) and Director (Danny Boyle) are British, Dev Patel the lead, though of Indian heritage was born and raised in England (where his career started).The financing was a British and the Producers are British. Though Bollywood actors (Anil Kapoor, Irrfhan Khan) starred, it is a British film.A film made in Nigeria by a Nigerian (or diaspora Nigerian) e.g. Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), B for Boy (2013) or Nigerian Prince(2018) doesn’t automatically make it a Nollywood film or them a Nollywood filmmaker. A filmmaker saying they are not Nollywood should not trigger anyone. Nigeria is big enough to have more than one section of filmmaking; we already do, Kannywood, which is very different in style and ideology from Asaba and theatrical Nollywood.
A “mahket”, ready to consume their work is all a filmmaker desires. Who they decide is their “mahket” is or how they choose to identify themselves and film, is up to them.

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