CHAINED ELEPHANTS AND FILM MAKING IN NAIJA

 
There is a story told by life coaches and motivational speakers.
 
It’s about the Baby elephant in the circus.
Now a baby elephant is cute and pretty “harmless” but the circus owners have to think about when it’s fully grown, so to break it, and make it controllable. They tie it down , pin it to the ground with the strongest shackles they can get.
 
No matter how long it struggles and trashes about unable to move or break free. It remains this way for however long it takes for that elephant to stop struggling and resign its self to its fate, losses hope .
 
The chains that restrained it have gone, but psychologically that elephant is never the same. Even as an adult the trainer can tie it to stick with a rope and it wont struggle. It wont attempt to break free.
 
Psychologically that rope NOW, and the chains from THEN are the same thing.
 
Due to how things were in the early days of Nollywood, the struggles,the challenges , the technological and financial limitations , there were a lot of things that were impossible to do. There were places we could not see ourselves going, so resigned to those limitations, creatively, technologically and otherwise.
 
However in 2017 with availability of ANYTHING you want to know about film : screenwriting, directing, cinematography, editing, VFX etc available on YouTube. With the same technology available to us that has won indie filmMakers with $7,000 budgets prizes at Sundance etc .
 
We still use, “this is Nigeria, it’s not possible because of….(insert reasons)
 
Granted, Nigeria has its own unique set of challenges, nobody is denying any of that . There are unique frustrations in Nigeria (area boys, generator noise etc) other countries don’t have .
 
Our problems wont go away anytime soon.  But we want to make great films within our limitations and challenges.
 
But they will never be as great as they could be if we continue with the default of “it’s not possible”, “because of Naija”, “Stop comparing”
 
Actually, each time an audience member has to decide to how to spend their N5,000-N10,000
(Tickets for 2,Parking,Pop Corn& Drinks (Hotdog&Shawrma),Petrol+their TIME) on a Nollywood film or a Hollywood film, during that one free day in a week/month they are able go to the cinema, comparisons would be made 90% of the time it Hollywood film they choose.
 
WE have to break the psychological trap which has us defaulting to;
 
–They tried acknowledge their effort( Will you apply this next time your Bank,Telco messes up or Restaurant served you bad food?)
 
-Film is not easy in Nigeria( it isn’t easy anywhere, even with $m budget, ask
 
Josh Trank about Fan4stic($125m)  
David Ayer about Suicide Squad ($175m)
Joss Whedon about Avengers AoU($316m)
All problematic, stressful and frustrating productions with mostly underwhelming results ,despite abundance of finance .
These weren’t as a result of incompetent directors, if you know their earlier films you know ability was not the issue.
Resources and infrastructure are not a guarantee of a film turning out well or being a pleasant production experience.
 
On the other hand
Barry Jenkins whose $1.5m budget film competed with and beat films with budgets of $30m and above to win Best Picture.
Damien Chazelle’s $3m  budget WHIPLASH which took home two Oscars a few years back.
 
They made the best of those budgets and still beat films who probably spent their entire budget on feeding cast& crew  for a few weeks.
Some reading this is getting annoyed and thinking:
“$1.5m!!!  DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THAT IS IN NAIRA!!!!”
Converting their budgets to Naira does not change in THEIR country,those are small budgets for the type of films they were making and the rules that apply on work hours,work , safety, insurance, minimum pay etc
With the SAG minimum pay requirements and the rules of  other Unions they have to work with, $1.5m wont go as far as you think in the U.S .
The scale the scale of what they could do. BUT they still made fantastic films  WITHIN what the finance they could raise.
 
This is NOT about encouraging bashing or criticism of our films,
This is NOT about dismissing the difficulties of filmmaking in an environment like Nigeria
 
but discouraging getting defensive or upset when anyone says.
 
-We need to do better
-We CAN do better
 
If you tell a student they can and should do better in their grades, is that a bad thing?
 
If you tell a man he can and should do better in his role as a husband and father is it a bad thing?
 
If they start to list reasons why Nigeria makes it difficult/impossible being a good student or a good husband/father what will you think?
 
Not the same thing but, you catch my drift.
 
FILM IS HARDDDDD
 
But we make it harder when we let our minds work against us to the point that even with opportunity our subconscious is wired in impossibility.
 
Please feel free to :
-Mssscheewwww and dismiss this as just talk
 
Feel free to Say or Think:
-All this one na theory
-Na America be that, stop comparing us
-Go and make your own let’s see.
-Sharrapp. Which one have you made?
-He has come again oh.
 
Or we can think
 
despite all our issues/challenges
 
financing (not unique to Nollywood alone)
 
distribution(again, not Nollywood alone)
 
lack of Infrastructure (French New Wave& Italian Renaissance sprung out of these)
 
piracy (come on!, how are you watching Netflix &  HBO shows)
training
Hostile Environment
 
How can we , despite all this, make fantastic content?
 
THEN ,our minds will collaborate with us to think our way around these issues and maybe even make them work for out stories/Productions . Instead of it providing confirmation for why we cant meet certain levels of storytelling and production we want.
 
I don’t have a dog in this fight(yet) , im just a fan, who thinks there is greatness waiting release.
 
Ciao
 
This video is LONG  but worth it. (If you can binge watch a whole season of a TV series you can watch this).  Here you can listen to indie filmmaker in the U.S speak frankly about the challenges they face in financing, making and getting distribution for their films.
You’d be surprised how similar our challenges are.

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