You've heard of Hollywood, you've heard of Bollywood, but what's Nollywood? Nollywood is a multi-billion dollar business centered on African movies, and with producers and directors like Koby Maxwell, Wendy Bangura, and John Uche, it's poised to break out big time, to the Big Time!
This Thursday, February 13, at the Library of Congress's Madison Building, Pickford Theater, Noon-2pm, Director "Black Magic" Tim Wilson, of RVI Motion Media, is putting on the "Nollywood Film & Political Film Alliance".
Tim answered my questions about Nollywood and Thursday's event:
Q - What has to happen to make Nollywood into a multi-billion dollar industry?
First, continued technical proficient execution of the filmmaking process. Once films are created at a standard that is technically acceptable via multiple global outlets, this will be the first step. More universally appealing story lines, not just encapsulated closed stories that appeal to a small market of viewers. This is fine later once the global viewership has accepted the films' unique story lines. A convergence of stories must happen first to open global eyes.
Next, a serious global marketing and promotional platform. Currently Nollywood films have no formal distribution platform and the ones that turn huge profits (American) would not be able to market Nollywood films to the 35 or more territories due to the fact that currently 80% of them don't care to see these films or their stars. Hence the need for more universal stories and actors first. Let people grow into liking these films and talents, then use that new fan base to sell the rest.
Black Hollywood has the same issues. Black Hollywood also often had to go to White Hollywood for the funding and cross-over actors which means they are more susceptible to having to follow the rules to get a green light. Nollywood has been self-funded for 20 years. Although the budgets have been substantially smaller, the fan base is huge and this makes for sustainability. But as the films are now entering a new era of quality and global appeal, so must the structure and execution.
A union of Hollywood ethics, talent and distribution must be used now to propel this to a billion-dollar industry with the initial seed money still coming from Africa. This means following some of these same rules Black Hollywood had to follow, but at least we have that as a model to examine this time. As Hollywood films become more MEGA, this makes indie films more acceptable too. Not everyone likes blockbusters and fx / profit driven films, and a lot of good Hollywood black talent are hungry for films that allow them in. Nollywood is one such avenue when the Hollywood dollars start to dry up.
Q - Do you see Nollywood creating a TV network similar to Telemundo or the Oxygen Channel?
This has been tried and there are plans for more underway. In fact Akon has been at the forefront of this for a while now. There are still many challenges that must be met before this is a complete success. Technical excellence must be continued to be achieved in every film. There was a Comcast channel for a while that had Nollywood films on demand, but most of the films were still not appealing enough to warrant a "National Station". With the new Renaissance of young bold filmmakers who want to make better films, this is a real possibility in the near future. Funding would help this. There is no shortage of ideas and idea makers.
Q - What will attendees take away from the Nollywood Film & Political Strategic Alliance event?
The biggest goal of this is to connect big business and private interests with the abundance of wealth and "new" buying power of Africa via film. Film can be used as a platform to shape opinion and market ideas. Despite the negative images depicted by western media as Africa being a poor continent, it is rich in wealth and resources. Nollywood films can be a conduit to bridge resources for many countries. Much like films in the USA have influence of pop culture on America's children, so it has on Africa, which is three times larger than the USA. The end goal of this is to get films made, tell stories and move agendas with private or corporate funding that is mutually beneficial as is using the films as a marketing tool.
Q - Who will be speaking?
Visual Effects Veteran Audrea Topps Harjo (The Avengers, The Hobbit), Nigerian Director John Uche, one of Nollywood's finest producers Koby Maxwell and myself Black Magic Tim. I consider myself a filter between the two worlds of Nollywood and Hollywood, having worked on both sides.
Q - How did you get those speakers?
Relationship. We are growing as a team.
Q - How did you get the Library of Congress as a venue?
I have dots; I connect the dots. Working in this city via film for 24 yrs, you meet a lot of people. It's all about connecting the dots.
Q - What's next?
A pitch for an African, 300-style period piece using Audrea as producer and tapping into American funding.