7th Abuja International Film Festival in Progress

“As we celebrate Nigeria at 50 through Cinema, we are reminded of the tremendous impact and contributions of cinema to the growth and development of our great nation.”
~ Mr. Afolabi Adesanya, Managing Director/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Film Corporation at the 7th Abuja International Film Festival, October 26-29, 2010.

ABUJA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

The 7th Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF) is in progress at the prestigious Silverbird Cinemas in Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria.

“For the first time, films will be screening at multi purpose built cinema halls to create the cinematic experience,” said the festival founder and director Mr. Fidelis Duker. The theme of the 2010 edition is “Celebrating Naija @ 50 Through Cinema.”

18 films from 64 entries have been nominated for the awards in seven different categories.
Three films from Taiwan, China and Germany are competing for the best foreign feature film award and three films from Nigeria are competing for the best Nigerian feature film award. The competition for the best Nigerian feature is between Mak Kusare’s award winning “Champioins of our Time” and Ikechukwu Onyeka’s two features “Intimidation” and “Corporate Maid”.

The four day film festival ends this weekend.

ADFF Announces Winners of 2010 Black Pearl Awards

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ADFF Announces Winners of 2010 Black Pearl Awards

Narrative Feature Competition 2010

The jury for the Narrative Feature Competition awarded the following Black Pearl Awards:

Best Narrative Film ($100,000)
SILENT SOULS (Ovsyanki), directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko (Russia), “for its poetic depiction of the echoes of a cultural heritage for the people of today and for the excellence of its cinematic language”.

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Best Narrative Film from the Arab World ($100,000)
HERE COMES THE RAIN (Shatti Ya Dini), directed by Bahij Hojeij (Lebanon)

Best Actor ($25,000)
ANDREW GARFIELD
in Never Let Me Go, directed by Mark Romanek (United Kingdom/USA)

Best Actress ($25,000)
LUBNA AZABAL
in Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Canada/France)

Jury Special Mention
CARLOS
, directed by Olivier Assayas (France/Germany), “for rendering the complex portrait of an era, a region, and a controversial character”.

The Jury
Luis Puenzo,
Director/Writer (President)
Faouzi Bensaidi, Director/Actor
Sulaf Fawakherji, Actress
Siddiq Barmak, Director/Producer
Karim Aïnouz, Director/Visual Artist

Documentary Feature Competition 2010

The jury for the Documentary Feature Competition awarded the following Black Pearl Awards:

Best Documentary ($100,000), shared by
NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (Nostalgia de la Luz), directed by Patricio Guzmán (Chile/Germany/France), “for the originality of its dramatic and cinematic vision, where image and sound are like traces of the mystery of the past present, the secrets of the big bang and the remains of Pinochet’s victims”.

and

PINK SARIS, directed by Kim Longinotto (United Kingdom/India), “for bringing cinema and real life together to reinforce one another, and for breaking the illusory boundary between documentary and fiction”.

Best Documentary by an Arab Director or Related to Arab Culture ($100,000), shared by

HOMELAND, directed by George Sluizer (Netherlands), “for its dramatic treatment of the lived and cinematic experience of time and cinematic time, the camera’s journey into its memory from 36 years ago until the present, and for drawing a tragic portrait of the Palestinian dispersal”.

and

WE WERE COMMUNISTS (Sheoeyin Kenna), directed by Maher Abi Samra (Lebanon/France/United Arab Emirates), “for its attempt to unlock time and its multiplicity, exploring past and present to uncover meaning and intention”.

Jury Special Mentions
TEARS OF GAZA (Gazas Tårer), directed by Vibeke Løkkeberg (Norway), and

HOW BITTER MY SWEET! (Bahebbak Ya Wahsh!), directed by Mohamed Soueid (Lebanon)

The Jury
Ossama Mohammed, Director (President)
Louie Psihoyos, Director
Samir, Director/Producer
Salah Marei, Art Director
Behrooz Hashemian, Producer

New Horizons / Afaq Jadida Competition 2010

Held for the first time this year, New Horizons / Afaq Jadida focuses on the work of first- and second-time directors.

The jury for the New Horizons / Afaq Jadida Competition awarded the following Black Pearl Awards:

Best Narrative Film by a New Director ($100,000)
GESHER, directed by Vahid Vakilifar (Iran), “for his universal cinematic vision and unique direction, transforming a cruel reality into sensual, visually choreographed, unforgettable tableaux”.

Best Narrative Film by a New Director from the Arab World ($100,000)
OK, ENOUGH, GOODBYE (Tayeb, Khalas, Yalla), directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia (Lebanon/United Arab Emirates), “for its metamorphosis of the banality of the everyday into a realm of poetic depth and a most welcome discovery of two brilliant new talents”.

Best Documentary by a New Director ($100,000), shared by
EL AMBULANTE, directed by Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano and Adriana Yurcovich (Argentina), “for its honest and humanist approach, documenting a rare story of a man who turns his back on commercial filmmaking for profit, and travels inland to marginalized communities to make films reminding us why, and for whom, films are made”.

and

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, directed by Richard Press (USA), “for a graceful, exuberant and beautifully constructed portrait of a visionary, which shows us the humanity and integrity of a unique and sensitive man whose work takes us beyond the seemingly superficial gloss of fashion to reveal the joy of individual style”.

Best Documentary by a New Director from the Arab World
Jury Special Mention ($25,000)

LIVING SKIN (Jeld Hayy), directed by Fawzi Saleh (Egypt), “for a promising, uninhibited and passionate director, who took us on a poignant journey into the dire living and working conditions of laboring children”.

The Jury would like to note that the work of such funding initiatives as SANAD Film Fund and AFAC (The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture) is nurturing talent, which will bear fruit for the future of Arab filmmaking. So we are recommending that part of the award money in this category be allocated into the SANAD fund to continue its work supporting New Arab documentary filmmakers.

The Jury
Elia Suleiman, Director (President)
Khaled Abol Naga, Actor/Producer
Nandana Sen, Actress
Lita Stantic, Producer
Debra Zimmerman, Distributor

Abu Dhabi Film Festival Audience Choice Award 2010

The Jury

The audience votes for its choice of films in this non-juried competition, which is open to all films in the Showcase section, as well as the Opening Night film.

The Award

ADFF Audience Choice Award ($30,000)
WEST IS WEST, directed by Andy De Emmony (United Kingdom)

Other top vote-getters included:

2
SECRETARIAT, directed by Randall Wallace (USA)

3
WOMEN ARE HEROES, directed by JR (France)

4
KINGS OF PASTRY, directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (France/Netherlands/United Kingdom/USA)

5
FAIR GAME, directed by Doug Liman (USA/United Arab Emirates)

ADFF NETPAC Award 2010

Founded in 1990, NETPAC has established itself as a leading platform for the discovery and promotion of Asian cinema. The NETPAC Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival goes to the best Asian film chosen from across all the festival’s sections, chosen by a jury of NETPAC members.

The Jury
Alberto Elena Díaz, Director of Granada Film Festival “Cines del Sur” (President)
Do Kyung Kim, Director
Cuneyt Cebenoyan, Film Critic

The Award
ADFF NETPAC Award
ZEPHYR (Zefir), directed by Belma Baş, (Turkey), “for its very sensitive and restrained telling of a story of loss and growing up, with stunning cinematography“.

ABOUT THE FESTIVAL

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival (formerly the Middle East International Film Festival) was established in 2007, with the aim of helping to create a vibrant film culture throughout the region. The event, presented each October by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) under the patronage of its chairman H.E. Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, is committed to curating exceptional programs to engage and educate the local community, inspire filmmakers and nurture the growth of the regional film industry.

As the only Festival in the region where works by Arab filmmakers are represented equally in competition with those by major talents of world cinema, the Festival offers Abu Dhabi’s diverse and enthusiastic audiences a means of engaging with their own and others’ cultures through the art of cinema. At the same time, a strong focus on the bold new voices of Arab cinema connects with Abu Dhabi’s role as a burgeoning cultural capital in the region and marks the Festival as a place for the world to discover and gauge the pulse of recent Arab film.

With the generous support of our sponsors: L’Oréal (Official Beauty Partner); Emirates Palace and InterContinental Hotels (Hospitality Partners); Abu Dhabi Airports Company and Abu Dhabi Media Company (Contributing Sponsors); Robert WAN and CineStar (Official Suppliers); Zee Network, Zee Television, MUBI, Radio 1 and Radio 2 (Media Partners).

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival Press Office is at your disposal for any questions and further information. Email press@adff.aeorcall +971 2 690 8339 / +971 2 690 8340 to find out more.

See official press release.

Uti of Nigeria Wins $200, 000 Big Brother All Stars Top Prize

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Nigeria’s Uti was chosen by Africa as the winner of M-Net’s Big Brother All Stars during Sunday night’s spectacular live Finale Show (17 October at 19:00 CAT on DStv Channel 198) after 91 gruelling days. He beat Zimbabwe ’s Munya by 8 countries to 7 to scoop the massive US$200 000 prize, outlasting the 13 other All Star Housemates over three months.

When the evening began, there were 5 housemates in with a chance of claiming the continent’s biggest reality show prize – Lerato, Munya, Mwisho, Sheila and Uti but they were evicted one-by-one, leaving Uti alone in the House.

Presenter IK kicked off the show by joining the remaining Housemates in the lounge and quizzing them about their feelings about having made it this far in the game.

Nigeria’s Maye Hunta then took to the stage and blew the continent away with a high-energy performance of the official Big Brother All Stars Anthem, African Star.

IK then brought the 9 previously evicted housemates up on stage one by one, sharing a quick joke with each. He quizzed Yacob about how life had been outside the house, since he had asked to leave. “Freedom!” exclaimed the Ethiopian. ”You can do whatever you want, go wherever you want. The support and the love you get from the people!”

IK then asked Meryl to make a choice. “You didn’t win the money, but you got yourself a man. If you had to choose, US$200 00 or the man – what would it be? Be honest!” “As much as I love paper, I love my man!” she replied.

Then it was time to get down to business as the Alexander Forbes representative delivered the verified results to the stage, to evict the first Housemate of the evening. “Welcome to All Stars News – Big Brother has decided to give US$200 000 to charity, and all housemates will be evicted,” joked IK as he took viewers inside the House. “The first Housemate of our final 5 leaving the All Stars house is…Sheila, you’ve been evicted,” he said. “See you just now,” said the Kenyan as she departed for the final time.

She joined IK on stage and he quizzed her about how it felt to have stayed in the game for so long.

“I must say, it was hectic, especially in the last week, because you get closer to the money and as you can see I’m out here, but we had so much fun! I’m going to savour every one of the 91 days,” she told him.

“What are you going to do next?” he asked. “A lot! A whole lot. Travelling to most of the countries and having a lot of fun,” the Kenyan replied before joining the other 9 evicted Housemates.

Wasting no time, IK immediately set about evicting another Housemate. “The second Housemate leaving the Big Brother All Stars House tonight is… Mwisho you’ve been evicted!” He said goodbye to Munya, Lerato and Uti and joined IK on stage.

“We’re curious about your plans – forgive me, we’re going to pry a bit here. Is she (Meryl) going to move to your country or are you going to move to her country?” asked IK of the newly-engaged Tanzanian. “We’re gonna be the continent!” said Mwisho, glancing over at a teary Meryl.

“You’re one of those who made it to the end of the game without anyone discovering your secret, so you don’t leave empty handed. Are you ready to tell your housemates your secret?” asked IK. “I’ve forgotten it!” said the distracted Tanzanian, anxious to get across to his bride-to-be. Eventually IK had to reveal Mwisho’s secret for him. “His secret was he was two-timing, dating two popular Tanzanian women at the same time. Your girl’s waiting – why don’t you go hug her!”

Superstar Nigerian rapper MI took to the stage next to perform “Anotyi” before IK reminded viewers of some of the highlights which had taken place in the House – with so much money up for grabs and a group of competitive contestants, things were bound to get hairy from time to time!

Next up – another eviction…

After accepting the envelope from the Alexander Forbes representative, it was time to go back into the House. “Lerato, how do you feel right now?” asked IK “I’m shaken up IK, it’s a very scary position. My heart is beating at super speed – I’m a little nauseous,” she said.

“Munya how do you feel?” he asked. “My man, inside I’m going like this (shaking) all the time, it’s nerve-wracking, my man,” said the Zimbabwean. “Uti?” asked IK. “So many, things, I’m just thinking,” he told his fellow Nigerian.

“It’s time to tell you what the people have decided. The third Housemate leaving the final five on Big Brother All Stars is… My girl Lerato, you have been evicted,” he told them.

As the South African emerged on stage, he asked her about her relationship with Yacob. “I didn’t ask you this the last time because we weren’t sure about this, but let me jump right into your business Lerato. In the Barn you and a certain someone had fights and interesting conversations and happenings. One minute you were fighting, the next… What’s going on between you and Yacob?” “I see him over there and he’s looking mighty mighty mighty fine,” she said. “How good is the friendship? Anything like the Mwisho and Meryl thing?” asked IK.

“No, no, no, we’re very good friends, nothing but love. Love all the time,” the South African assured him. “Now that you’re out of the House, do you think there’s anything you would have changed or are you just happy with how you played the game?” “No there’s nothing I could have done differently,” she said. “I had nothing but fun, firstly to make it to the Top 3 is insane, to be the first South African to make it that far. To be the last woman!”

While the continent digested the news that Uti and Munya were just one step away from the US$200 000 grand prize, three quickfire performances brought the audience to fever pitch – first, Kenyan star Wyre took to the stage and performed his smash hit “She Said That”, before Nigeria’s 2Face performed “Implication” and DJ Black Coffee and Tumelo rocked the stage with “Release Your Soul”.

With the continent waiting with bated breath, IK took viewers into the house to reveal the winner of Big Brother All Stars. “This season has been just about the closest season ever – and the biggest season ever. Just last week alone, we had more votes than we’ve ever had on the show before. Last year was around 700 000, this year, over a million people have voted. People must really love you guys in the house!” he told Uti and Munya.

“The margin between the winner and the first runner up was so slim. In the end, it was 8 countries to 7 countries, but alas there can be only one.

The winner of Big Brother All Stars, with 8 countries behind him, is…Uti you’re the winner, Munya you’ve been evicted!” Uti leapt from the couch while Munya sat stunned with his hands behind his head, before congratulating his Housemate.

When he emerged on stage to a raucous reception, IK tackled him on the method behind his longevity in the House: “Dude, you are a survivor. If there was ever a story of survival, it’s definitely yours. You were up just about every week for eviction! What was your strategy?”

“My strategy was just to do better than I did the last time and I succeeded in that, and I’m really happy,” said the Zimbabwean.

“I know this is not the last we’ll be seeing of you – what are you going to be doing next?” asked IK. “I’ve just shot my movie, so I’m trying to get my movie onto the big screen so that people can see more of me. I belong on TV, I live here, you know?” said Munya with that ever-present smile.

Then it was Uti’s turn to emerge…

Dancing his way through the fireworks in the garden and jiving onto stage, he was greeted by a wall of sound as the continent paid tribute to the ultimate All Star. He wasn’t going to get off without revealing his secret, though, as every evicted Housemate has to let the other Housemates know their secret.

“You managed to keep your secret til the very end, so you keep your US$1000 as well – tell us what it was,” said IK. “My secret is, when I was a teenager, I had a teenage crush on Britney Spears,” he revealed.

“Being the winner of Big Brother All Stars and having kept your secret, you leave with US$201 000, which probably makes you the richest guy in this room!” said IK. “I’m going to ask you to shut down the Big Brother House. Count down from 10 to 0…”

As Uti counted, the lights in the house switched off and the cameras faded to grey, signalling the end of the continent’s popular show and hailing the latest Big Brother winner.

For the final time, viewers stood a chance of winning one of 4 great prizes – just for voting for their favourite. The winners this week were: US$ 1000 – Anne Nwokoro (Nigeria), HD PVR Decoder – Tebogo Mangabi (Botswana), Nokia C3 Handset – Lijeng Ranwoe (Lesotho), Nokia N8 Handset – Keamogetswe Pitoli (Botswana).

Ends.

18th Raindance Film Festival Awards

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2010 Festival Awards

To recognise the outstanding achievements of the filmmakers showcased at the 18th Raindance Film Festival in 2010, a number of jury prizes will be awarded. The winners will be announced before the screening of the Closing Night Film on Sunday 10 October.

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BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

Donoma – FRANCE

Donoma

Son of Babylon – IRAQ [winner]

Symbol - JAPAN

Woman With A Broken Nose – SERBIA

BEST UK FEATURE

Five Daughters [winner]

Huge

Jackboots on Whitehall

Legacy

Rebels Without A Clue

BEST DEBUT FEATURE

Armless – USA

Cannibal- BELGIUM

Donoma – FRANCE

Huge – UK

Robert Mitchum Is Dead – FRANCE

The Story Of My Space [Vidrimasgor] – RUSSIA [winner]

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Camp Victory, Afghanistan USA

Rouge Ciel – FRANCE

Sounds Like A Revolution – CANADA [winner]

Stolen – AUSTRALIA

There Once Was An Island – USA/NZ [winner]

This Way of Life – NZ

BEST MICRO BUDGET FEATURE

Armless – USA

Flooding With Love For The Kid USA

Incredibly Small – USA

Lovers of Hate – USA

Macho – MEXICO [winner]

BEST UK SHORTS

Dust

The Golden Boy

Natural Selection

Storage

Stanley Pickle [winner]

Watching

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORTS

Fly GERMANY/POLAND

Happiness Is Hate Therapy CANADA

I Am A Fat Cat USA

LIN UK [winner]

Moustachette USA

Still CYPRUS

DISTRIBUTION AWARD

The feature selected for theatrical distribution in the UK in March 2010 courtesy of the Apollo Cinema chain.

FILM OF THE FESTIVAL [SHORT]

For the sixth year running we are very excited to announce the Film of the Festival Award. This year’s award is supported by the Independent Film Trust and the winner will make next year’s cinema advert.

I Am A Fat Cat USA

Raindance Film Festival Nominations 2010

Uniting Filmmakers from Across the World on African Soil

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As part of its core developmental activities that will have a tangible impact on young Nigerian talent in the film-making industry, the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), is organizing a Screen Writing Lab to develop great story ideas From Script to Screen. From the Lab, AFRIFF will select 10 to 20 Short scripts to put through an advisory board for detailed analysis and feedback sessions, enabling writers to gain intensive support in the techniques of developing a visual story. Ultimately, instructors will select 3 to 5 projects to be awarded with a monetary prize towards the production and realization of the film. The aim is to develop story ideas that can be realized into world standard productions.

The National Film School’s Head of Academic Planning, Mr. Edward Ossai, emphasized the need for a screen-writing lab to educate practicing scriptwriters and new entrants on the art and business of scriptwriting. He added that the lab is very timely because the script is the basis for any film production, affirming that some of the major challenges in Nollywood movies today include poor scripting and storytelling techniques.

Professor Femi Okiremuette Shaka, of the University of Port-Harcourt, described the forthcoming Screen-writing Lab as a laudable project in capacity building for aspiring screenwriters for Nollywood.
He applauded the project as yet another opportunity being offered to Nigerian youths, especially those of the Niger Delta, to shun crime and social unrest, and challenge their reservoir of creativity in order to become relevant to the flourishing entertainment industry and the job-creating machine known as Nollywood.

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The first Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), themed “Africa Unites” is a platform that will bring together both local and international film makers, celebrities, actors, irectors, film buyers, distributors, visual artists, film students, amateurs, film lovers and the media to showcase Africa’s motion picture achievements. It will hold from the 1st to the 5th of December, 2010, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital which is increasingly gaining status as a centre for arts and culture.

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Communications Consultant for AFRIFF, Celine Loader, said, “The heartbeat of youth culture is in Arts & Entertainment, with the film making industry as its driver. We have the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs in the industry if only we can close the huge skills gap that exist and build technical capacity, particularly among students and young graduates.”

Loader further disclosed that AFRIFF is gaining international awareness, including an advertorial in the influential Hollywood Reporter at the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival.

About AFRIFF:
Founded in 2009, the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) has a vision to create a platform for the world to zoom in on the diversity and creativity of Africa through motion pictures. Starting December 2010, in the tradition of the likes of the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, AFRIFF will unite film makers from across the world on the African soil. It will hold yearly in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria hosting both local and international film-makers, celebrities, actors, directors, film buyers, distributors, visual artists, film students, amateurs, film lovers and the media.

AFRIFF will launch the unique Film & Equipment Market, which will grow content and equipment trade out of Africa and foster partnerships.

The Future of Film Distribution in Nigeria

Nollywood Movie

The Future of Film Distribution in Nigeria_ a paper presented by Femi Odugbemi, Managing Director/CEO, Dvwork Studios, Lagos, and past president, Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) at the 4th Festival of Indigenous Language Films held at Owena Hotel, Akure in Ondo State on October 5, 2010.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with this distinguished gathering. More so, in a time that our industry is in need of creative intelligence to take us to the next level of growth.

BACKGROUND
Home video production in Nigeria grew out of what was a perfect storm of need and circumstance. A confluence of emerging technology, audience-need and out-of-the-box thinking. At the heart of Nollywood’s emergence was innovation. Pioneer producers found a need and invented a creative solution based on new technologies available to them at the time.

It should be said that the timing was also just right;
•economic downturn had played early generation of cinema producers out of business,
•the monopoly of public television was not catering for the diverse interests of its audience,
•socio-economic problems were on the rise, seriously affecting the cinema-going culture.
Yet there was a large audience with massive hunger for local content. The popularity of the video technology at about the same time set the stage for what is to be known as Nollywood. That the video technology simplified the process of filmmaking, coupled with the availability of video cassettes allowed many people to join the trade, creating a new army of storytellers – Writers, Producers, Directors, Production designers and technical support professionals behind the camera and actors and performers who will go on to become international stars.

here was a need, there was an enabling environment, there was a technology, there were people with creative ideas and an “industry” was born.

The pattern of production and distribution soon became overly driven by desperate moves for marginal profit, without a structured, systematic distribution framework that can be sustained and verified.

Two decades down the line, that pattern has not changed much, yet, there is so much expectation with regard to the economic potential of the industry. Worse still, the major players in the industry have become fairly comfortable with the “success” of the industry; BUT the technology that brought about the breakthrough has moved on and frankly everyone seems to have been largely caught unawares. This in my humble opinion, is the crux of Nollywood’s underdevelopment.

Understanding that it is in distribution that the craft of filmmaking becomes a business, it is imperative that this phase of film production be taken with utmost seriousness. That countries like South-Africa enjoy more returns with fewer titles than a nation like ours, with over 1,000 film titles credited to our industry annually, and a massive audience base within and outside the country, is an indication that something is fundamentally wrong with our approach. If we accept the foregoing premise, then, it is important that we broker a discourse on finding the right approach and entrenching it into our system.

The challenge of sustaining the industry now, like at its inception, is to find creative solutions and innovative ideas that can break new grounds to enable Nollywood be competitive internationally. Nollywood cannot afford to break ties with technology, particularly in this age of New Media and digital technology.

SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH DISTRIBUTION IN NIGERIA?
To understand the future, it is useful to interrogate the past. Therefore we should begin by asking the question: what is wrong with distribution in Nigeria?

In most other creative economies, a film’s commercial life span starts normally with a box office or cinema release, then it moves on to video release, broadcast on pay-television, broadcast on public television, and finally on other ancillary media (i.e. video games, cartoons etc.) and merchandising. This is the typical marketing chain of the major film studios in the UK, USA, India and even South Africa nearby. They normally also have the huge budgets to finance and distribute blockbusters. With the introduction of video technology came the glut – the proliferation of film titles in such quantity that was much more than the traditional distribution system could handle. Consequently, independent filmmakers started to explore new opportunities causing a major shift in Hollywood’s distribution chain.

The introduction of digital video technology and its attendant success and acceptance globally opened a new world of opportunities for filmmaking and its professionals alike. Currently, major studios in Hollywood are adjusting their distribution pattern to accommodate the video technology phenomenon – In 2004, studios’ revenue from DVD alone was put at $20.9 billion dollars compared to $7.4 billion dollars from theatres in the same year. Today, it is standard marketing strategy to use theatrical screening as a launching pad for DVD release. Infact theatrically successful films account for about 80% of video store rentals. Many independent filmmakers bypass the cinema all together with straight-to-DVD release, as is the case with Nollywood, and they have very high profit ratio.

The question then is this: Why is Nollywood which is entirely a pioneer offshoot of video technology, still fumbling with the economics of the industry some 20 years down the line?

Leke Alder of Alder Consulting estimates that the total market potential of Nollywood, relative to the size of the economy is about N522 billion. The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) designed a distribution framework that should also help to actualize this potential. But the NFVCB distribution policy will only work if taken as a challenge to content producers and not as a sales strategy. Why? Because current international market realities are proving to us that distribution is a holistic phenomenon and all its facets must be understood and applied appropriately. The audience does not buy a film just because it is available or well distributed.

In my view, there are 2 key variables that will drive the workings of a successful film distribution paradigm in the immediate future – they are CONTENT /AUDIENCE CONNECTION and NEW MEDIA DELIVERY PLATFORMS. I’d like to discuss both with a view to how our industry must reshape itself going forward.

1. CONTENT/AUDIENCE CONNECTION:
Over the years, the Nigerian film industry has witnessed enormous Audience-Content misfit, and the result has continuously frustrated marketing strategies and distribution policy. Content must connect with audience for distribution to have a chance of success.

How do you create content that connect with the audience? Two quick case-studies will help our understanding.

‘Jenifa’ a film written and produced by Funke Akindele with a total budget of roughly N6Million+ enjoyed widespread popularity among audience, despite its technical hitches and quality. The subject-matter is in no way extraordinary, and the themes explored in the movie are commonplace and well-known to the audience. The distribution pattern was a continuation of the status-quo, everything was just ‘business as usual’, yet, the movie was one of the most popular Nollywood productions in 2008/09. Funke Akindele enjoyed an unprecedented career lift, with notable awards to show for it.

‘Kajola’ is an acclaimed outside-the-box Nollywood production, produced by Niyi Akinmolayan with a budget rumored to be over N100Million. It was a project that was aimed at changing the status-quo and giving our audiences a Hollywood-type experience of film production. The genre and execution were supposed to be first of its kind; Sci-fi, and loads of CGI. The packaging, hype and platform spoke volumes of the producers planning and ambition, yet, the movie didn’t do as well with the local audience.
Is ‘Jenifa’ a success? Yes! Would its audience have paid to see it in the cinema? Yes. Is ‘Jenifa’ of higher technical standard and execution than ‘Kajola’? NO!

The content that works in today’s age is one that is developed with the audience in mind and in conjunction with the audience. The success of content is heavily dependent on audience’s reaction to it, and creating content that is line with audience’s trends and expectations has become so difficult from any single location, and now requires producers directly engaging their potential audiences in environments where they can be found. As a result research becomes of utmost importance.

What a content producer knows or otherwise about his audience is very important to the success of distribution. It may as well be true to Nollywood that the mass market is dead. The Nollywood audience has over time been tremendously polarized into different segments, each with an expectation of its own and a quest for that expectation to be satisfied. Creating content without a clear understanding and definition of the segment of audience it is targeted at, is like deciding a destination without the faintest idea of how to get there. If your content is not connected to the lifestyle and ambitions of your audience, you lose.
Nollywood’s audience base is currently stratified into categories that may or may not be mutually exclusive. The primary audience consists of housewives, maids, the unemployed, etc. A secondary audience then evolved as a direct consequence of the MNET Africa Magic channel bringing the films into the living rooms of the educated and upwardly mobile. And of course there is the tertiary audience base which includes Nigerians and Africans across the continent and in the Diaspora. It is vital to understand that each of these audience segments have a thought pattern which are in most cases very different from one another. This thought pattern constitutes their worldviews (the biases, values, and mind-set that an individual audience brings to a viewing experience) and they affect the way the audience relates with the world around them, including your story.

Before your story gets to the audience, he or she already has an idea of what he or she wants to believe and if your story is framed to key into that worldview, such an individual believes and buys into it. If the story reaches a community of audience who share the same worldview, it enlarges its base; people pass the story on through word-of-mouth (which is still the most effective market strategy known to Man) and they make disciples of viewers for the films. No story succeeds if it cannot find an audience that already wants to believe in it – With over 1,000 titles averagely in Nollywood, our audiences cannot and will not see everything, they will pick and choose among the mass that compete for their attention. That choice will, however, be predicated on how well you fit your content into their worldviews.

Contents that are widely accepted are the ones that tell stories that are familiar to the worldview of the audience. This can be achieved through a variety of measures, most especially, foundational research that can help us to define the kind of story that we need to tell, the kind of characters that we need to help us live out that story, the type of audience that we need to be telling the story to, and the appropriate platforms to use in distributing the story. So why isJenifa a success? It arcs into the worldview of itsaudience and tells them a story they can believe and pass on.

Understanding your audience is one step in the process. Customizing your content to reflect their expectation is as important as understanding them. If you are unable to tack your content to somebody’s worldview, then, the content will be ignored. As a filmmaker, the first thing you have to reckon with in creating audience-centric content is, understanding that you maybe in charge BUT IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!
IT IS ABOUT THE AUDIENCE and THEIR STORIES!

With the plenitude of titles in distribution regularly, audience can readily indulge their worldviews; ignoring content that does not reflect them. Aligning your story to the taste of your audience – particularly understanding that audiences don’t want to change their worldviews, they want it to be reinforced – will help you to ignite debates about issues that are most important to your audience. The lifestyle and aspirations of your on-screen characters can equally be suited to your audience, so that your content comes across as authentic, and the story’s integrity is preserved.

Just as well, you have to align the technical quality of your film to fit the quality that your audience is used to. It is not business-savvy, for example, to offer low quality film to an audience that is used to watching foreign content, which as a result of a more mature industry is of high quality production standard.

2. NEW MEDIA DELIVERY PLATFORMS
It is not enough to just create great content; the delivery platform is important as well. It turns out that, these days, audiences care about platform as much as they care about content. This philosophy is just as important when dealing with audience-centric content. Content platform in contemporary film world is not just a distribution medium, it goes into the heart of what film marketing is today. The platform allows you to present ideas to people in a way that embraces their worldview, not fight it.

Effective delivery involves choosing the right medium; bringing the content to the audience in their own world. With the massive market potential of Nollywood (within and outside the African continent), inappropriate platform will easily edge a filmmaker out of the competition.

The future of film distribution and marketing in Nigeria lies with the youth audience, almost exclusively. Producers must consciously build this demography of audience and meet them in their world. That world flourishes on the virtual fleet of the digital technology

At this point it will good to also examine promotion and distribution solutions that has helped to restructure other industries and could, therefore, be replicated in the Nigerian film industry. Film is a brand, and like every other brand, promotion and distribution is of singular importance. The edge that will eventually stratify winners from losers is creativity and innovation. This almost entirely borders on smart execution of promotion, advertising and awareness campaigns.

Currently Nigeria has the highest internet population in Africa, with almost a third of its population connected to the internet. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) puts the total number of internet users in Nigeria at 43.9 million, accounting for 39.6% of internet traffic in Africa. That is, in no small measure, massive. The innovation that individual film producers can bring into this pool of internet population is what will set them apart.

The core advantage that the internet provides for filmmaking is helping to create a community of followership, and therein lies, arguably, the most essential element of any awareness or promotional campaign. These communities are areas where visitors can find more information, take part in interactive activities, subscribe to newsletters, and chat with other like-minded individuals, with the eventual aim of creating greater audience loyalty. ‘New thinkers’ in the industry understand that if a film cannot command following, even before its official release, its chances are at best slim, and it may easily be broken under the massive burden of creative competition.

In the past few years, websites have become a cost effective promotion and marketing mix for independent filmmakers and studios alike. In some other film industries, it is rare not to have a website promoting a film long before it hits the theatres.

With Nigeria’s huge internet presence, exploring a social web promotion and awareness campaign is a powerful option for producers. A quick and effective way to build a community of followership through the web media is to create dedicated film websites that provide features such as, but not limited to, free trailer previews, downloads of images, music, soundtrack, wallpapers, and background materials. Giving fans the opportunity to have access to the story, the character biographies, and to contribute content and showcase their interest in the film will generally help to create buzz and spread for the film.

Apart from having a dedicated website, tacking your film onto existing internet social networks is another good way of raising a community of followership. That the social networks already have a following that may as well constitute your target audience is an added advantage, finding an astute edge towards engaging the ready-made community is all that remains to be done. In this vein hosting a webcast on websites such as Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Vimeo, etc, where members of cast and crew can have live interaction with subscribers would make for a good option. These days, the facebook-twitter-youtube equation is fast becoming a standard, creative producers must look to this end in extending their websites and expanding their spread.

An equally creative means of gathering community following is Pre-release previews. Here, the first cut of the film is put together for a select audience which importantly includes press members. The buzz here is created with the press review that spreads with the reach of the various newspapers present.

Paid advertisements on conventional media like television, radio, newspaper, magazines, and professional journals are also important depending on the creativity or innovation that is brought to bear. An option, by way of example, could be bringing a slice of online information sharing feature onto the pages of newspapers or magazines. A producer may have a page of the publication dedicated to the film, where various information on the film and its progress will be made available to readers over a period of time. Due to its ability to deliver audio visual signals to vast audience quickly, a compensated exposure of the film stars, clips, director’s interview, etc., may be placed on television talk shows, or entertainment news programmes. Advance trailers and behind-the-scene footages may also be placed on special documentary feature on television.

Previewing the film at popular film festivals is also a creative option that can help to generate buzz. Film festivals help to create buzz amongst film critics and reviewers, and can in turn pump up the popularity of the film with the mass audience if its reviews are impressive.

Direct publicity is an option that finds a ready community of potential audiences within an environment where they are most receptive to the hype of the film. This can particularly work with specialized films with a defined audience base i.e. religious films, advocacy films, educational films, etc. Bringing trailers of a religious film into pocket Christian meetings and house fellowships, and engendering a debate on issues raised in the film is a good way to create a following for the film, which might bring about a spread after all. In the case of advocacy and educational films, partnering with non-profit organizations can help to build awareness for the film among core audiences by hosting screenings at national conventions and local chapters, by co-sponsoring house parties, and by promoting films through their publications and websites.

Exploring the avalanche of opportunities that exists with new media is a veritable means that producers MUST employ to find their way into the core youth demography.

While we stay in our comfort zone of ‘small thinking’ the rest of the world is moving faster than we can grasp. Global shipments of Internet-Enabled TVs (IETVs) will reach 27.7 million units this year, 3D set shipments will also total 4.2 million, these are examples of the new media; these are the gizmos within which the world of the youth is constantly being built and through which the future of distribution in Nollywood could as well be built if it must remain relevant.

With an overwhelming increase in the number of internet and film downloads websites where sales and distribution of DVD’s and video-on-demand technology is constantly changing the stream of income, filmmakers can expand their distribution channels to a limitless pool of audiences, particularly the youths, who are overly excited by these technologies.

The new distribution system in some advanced film industries start with the cinema, serving no more than helping to create the initial buzz for the film, then it goes on to DVD release, internet rentals, Video-on-Demand downloads, pay Television, public televisions, mobile devices and ancillary media. The combination of all the media places an unprecedented opportunity in the hands of independent filmmakers, away from traditional distribution system. With creative planning, a filmmaker can self-distribute his film and make good returns.

In every other business endeavor, marketing is a battle-field, and the film business is no exception. Some creative and radical approaches can redefine the system and set a new standard if it works. For example, a film can be released to all the media simultaneously, allowing different audiences to choose the platform that best suits them.

IS THE NIGERIAN AUDIENCE READY??
Consider this: Currently, plans are afoot for the country to migrate from analog television broadcast to High-Definition broadcast – creating a huge demand for flat panel television sets; this provides an ample opportunity to tap into. By 2014 it is estimated that global IETV shipments will reach 148.3 million units, accounting for 54 percent of the total flat-panel TV market. With the introduction of IETV into the Nigerian market viewers can connect to the Internet at all times by using their TV’s built-in feature, bypassing the need for a bridge device such as a set-top box, game console or Internet media adapter.

Content producers that can bring their contents onto iPhones, IPods, MP4, and internet broadcast channels like Youtube, Vimeo, flikr, Netflix, etc, will immediately carve a niche for themselves in the future of Nollywood.

Most importantly, New Media may be our God-sent answer against piracy of intellectual property in the Nigerian Film Industry. It is now evident that the so-called war against piracy in Nigeria is an inside joke, the punchline of which nobody has whispered to the filmmakers. Enforcement of anti-piracy laws is tepid at best and government’s involvement in the battle never goes beyond lips service. With that reality, it behooves on content producers to become more creative in areas of finding solution to this quagmire. It is time for a radical idea shift; from giving possession right to audience (to own the DVDs) to giving just rental or viewing rights on platforms that are mostly virtual i.e. internet, mobile devices etc., on a pay-per-view basis. This kind of thinking helps to bypass the pirates to a large extent. Since at no point will video Discs exchange hands, they will have no platform to ply their evil trade, yet, contents get to the target audience.

It is worthy to note here that, though the cinema space in world film distribution may be shrinking, it however still holds a great deal of revenue stream for film. The Silverbird Group have given a success model through the cinema, creating an astonishing out-of-the-home big screen experience that youths have come to identify with. In the United States, where annual cinema visit per head stands at about 4.97, cinemas account for huge movie income. In time, when creative entrepreneurial attention is massively turned to the cinema, a huge percentage of distribution problems in the Nigerian film industry would have been solved and return on investment guaranteed. The challenge, however, may be accessibility and immediacy – which are vital factors in virtual consumerism.

Finally, giving your audience a sense of ownership of the content helps to strengthen their attachment to the production. Creating audience-centric content is a two-way street. Generating conversations in key locations where the audience will be found is of prime importance, and the internet technology has made it easy for producers to do that. Interactivity is the new key to opening doors of opportunity and achieving a “blue sea” approach to understanding what the audience wants and identifying the channels of consumption that they prefer.

Content producers have to rely on feedback to identify those parts of generated content that are successful and should be kept, and the ones that should be discarded. Social networking media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Digg make it possible for producers to interact with audience. Producers MUST maintain an online presence where they keep their audiences abreast of new developments with the program in question, establish and monitor discussion forums about the generated content.

CONCLUSION
So in summary, What is the future path for successful distribution in the Nigerian film industry? It weaves through a road once trodden – the very path that brought the industry this far – that of innovation and creative solutions to producing and marketing our films with the audience and its worldview at the heart of our content. It is also the profitable route as we can see from developments in other markets. The economic potential is way beyond our imagination and the prospects of individual producers to continue to create content lies in this understanding.

~ By Femi Odugbemi

Tony Curtis (June 3, 1925 – September 29, 2010)

Some Like It Hot tells the story of two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry (Curtis and Lemmon), who are on the run from a Chicago gang after witnessing the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929. Spats Columbo (Raft), the gangster in charge, orders the execution of Jerry and Joe. They escape in the confusion and decide to leave town, but the only out-of-town job they can find is in an all-girl band. The two disguise themselves as women and call themselves Josephine and Geraldine (later Jerry changes it to Daphne). They join the band and go to Florida by train. Joe and Jerry both fall for “Sugar Kane” Kowalczyk (Monroe), the band’s sexy Polish-American vocalist and ukulele player, and fight for her affection while maintaining their disguises.

Director: Billy Wilder
Writer: Billy Wilder
Studio: MGM
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Release: March 29, 1959.

The Unforgettable Tony Curtis

TONY CURTIS
Tony Curtis (June 3, 1925 – September 29, 2010)

Most people in Nigeria knew Tony Curtis from the two romantic adventurers of 1970s British TV series “The Persuaders” he played alongside Roger Moore of the James Bond 007 fame. And I also remember him in the 1958 classic film “The Defiant Ones” as a bigoted escaped convict chained to Sidney Poitier the most celebrated African American actor and that got him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Acting with the legendary Hollywood sex symbol Marilyn Monroe made Tony Curtis one of the most sought after male sex symbols in Hollywood.

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, New York, to Hungarian Jewish immigrants from Mátészalka, Hungary. He joined the US Navy during World War 2 and served aboard USS Proteus.

His film career took off in 1949 when he acted the role of a rumba dancer in “Criss Cross”.
Curtis acted over 108 films and many TV roles. He was one of the shining icons of the silver screen in the Golden Age of Hollywood with Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen among other stars.

Curtis died of cardiac arrest on Thursday September 29, 2010, at his Home in Henderson, Nevada.

The Daily Mirror of UK called Tony Curtis the Elvis of Tinsel Town who brought “grease and danger of the new music to Hollywood” and “getting the girls to swoon and the boys to spend hours in front of the mirror, trying to get that peacock’s plume just so.”

“Yet Tony Curtis was always cool. Not just when he was a post-war sex symbol but even in middle age and beyond.
He had been there, done that, slept with Marilyn Monroe and got the T-shirt. He made it all look easy, and fun. Perhaps that is why the critics detested him.
Although he made some of the greatest films in history he made film seem like entertainment, rather than an art form. If there were agonies in him, and if he was riddled with self-doubt, he hid it well.
He was better than he was given credit for, and he was perhaps better than he knew. But he always seemed pleased – with life, with himself, with whatever phenomenal beauty happened to be hanging on his arms. He always looked as though he knew he could have got stuck in the Bronx for 85 years.
~ Daily Mirror, October 1, 2010.

“My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed.”
~ Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter