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The business of filmmaking – Part 2 

film-directorI am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! In my last article, I started writing about the business of filmmaking in Nollywood, and I discussed the role of the producer. Today, I write on the role of the actor.

The actors are the ones who will be the faces of the movie; the ones the public will identify with the movie, the advertisers. This they do with the quality of their art and the way they sell their work to their ever-growing audience on their various social media platforms and appearances. They are the creative ones, whose personalities shine in the movies to draw many to the screens or drive them away. Their work starts with the principal photography, but in essence, should start when they first get the final scripts for the movie and have signed the dotted lines. They get into character, while a good producer must try to manage their emotions for best results.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster for the producer to manage the large crowd of people within a period of time just to end up with a product that’s negatively criticised. As much as many producers have learned to put up a facade of not caring about what critics say, they do. There’s no excuse to put up a bad work. The onus is on the producer to study hard and understand the business of filmmaking before putting his work before an audience who are also paying money for the product.

Yes, you’ve spent a lot of money to produce the movie, and you hoped for a little bit more appreciation of the efforts you put in, but that’s life. That said, there’s something admirable about someone who has contributed to employing labour, albeit for a good or bad movie. I always give an ‘A’ for the effort, because it isn’t easy to produce even a bad movie.

For the actors, this is their curriculum vitae (CV), and the subsequent success or failure of the movie is more of an indictment on their bankability rather than a failure on the part of the producer. How often do we hear that a producer failed from the audience? Not often! We hear things like, “so and so actor’s movie was great or bad.” We seldom hear that about the producer or crew. The actor’s pride is (or should be) the final outcome of the production. If the actor constantly features in box office failures, other producers don’t initially believe it’s the producer’s fault, they put the blame on the actor whom they check their timeline to see how they pushed the product. Don’t get me wrong, the producer is the one who needs to do his own publicity, but when he reaches out to the actors and they are unwilling to voluntarily project the movie, it says a lot about the actor and not the producer.

Actors often demand for higher pay as well as marketing fees. Why? An actor’s fee is directly proportional to their marketing value. Nollywood today is at it’s developmental stages, and every player today is a builder at this foundational level. Before we can hope to stand tall as a skyscraper we must put all hands on deck to help build it up, then we can start making those demands that hollywood actors are enjoying today that their counterparts didn’t enjoy back in the day. Hollywood actors are reaping the fruits of the foundational builders who worked so hard to lay the right foundation.

I happen to wear two hats (or more) as an actor and also a producer. I have been on both sides of the fence, and I know the efforts I put in to make the movies I have featured in to make them household names. Today, I am being identified alongside my movies, so that those movies are constantly being referenced whenever I step out. For many, the are simply known for just being actors, and that says a lot about your passion for the art. We see hollywood actors and we immediately identify them by their movies; Angelina Jolie of Salt, Lupita Nyong’o of 12 Years A Slave, David Oyelowo of Selma, John Boyega of Star Wars and the list goes on, but how many in Nollywood today are brands of their movies? There are many brilliant actors out there, but no one will pay an unknown school play actor who is brilliant the same as a known, less brilliant, bankable star. Mba nu!

Understand this, that while the actor is being paid to be in other productions, the producer is working without earning any money to begin his preproduction, the production (the principal photography, and paying the actor), the postproduction, and finally the release of the movie. This process often spans a long period of time, and in all this time, the actor earns, while the producer spends until the movie is released. Many do not recoup their money at the cinemas. Then begins another cycle of negotiations on other distribution platforms; VODs, cable TV, airline inflight videos, etc.

The driving force is the passion for the art, but even passion needs a helping hand to grow. Many producers, unfortunately, get burnt by so many factors, and in my opinion, the most limiting factor is the arrogance of believing you have all the answers and don’t need any ‘Nollywood’ (in a derogatory manner) person telling you what to do. The next factor is the miopic vision of many who choose to exploit new producers rather than help to keep them in the game. The more the merrier!

The producer is not the enemy, but the one who has come to spend his money to help build an industry that he was led to believe was quite viable, and it is viable, but only for those who understand the business aspect and are willing to put in the work and invest in the knowledge needed. Many actors today are constantly being fed the idea that they are separate from the finished product, and that they do not need to do anything more than their acting. That’s not how you want to build an industry to the hollywood or Bollywood standard. There’s no entity out there going to make Nollywood what you wish it to be but you! till next week, keep smiling!

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