2016 has been an interesting year, with many curveballs thrown, a few homeruns and many strike outs. As we enter 2017, there are some things we should let go in order to evolve and have some diversity and a more exciting industry. An industry moving, growing in skillset, craft, momentum and market share.
WHICH ONE HAVE YOU MADE(WOHYM)?
This is the most common retorts in response to negative reviews. Closely followed by “Go and make your own let’s see” . It basically means, as you haven’t made a movie, you aren’t qualified to critique mine. Its a reflex action based on years of attack Nollywood has received without acknowledgment of the challenges of making films in Nigeria, its a natural knee jerk reaction.
However , lets apply that logic being said by people from other industries.
You havent owned or run a restaurant so you are unqualified to comment about the food or service being poor .
You have never built a house, you dont know how hard/expensive it is so you have no right to complain about the bad plumbing, faulty electrical wiring and cracking walls in the one you are renting.
You havent operated a telco, so as you have no knowledge or experience in telecommunications, you arent qualified to complain about performance of the network which you pay to use.
You have never played football professionally nor managed a club worth millions,so you have no right to comment on the team’s purchases,their terrible performances or how well the manager does his job regardless of your years of loyalty to the team.
You havent served in a high office in government and experienced how hard it is to get things done, so you have no experience or qualification to criticize the performance of those in government.
If you are fine with being asked similar questions when a product or service you pay for is less than satisfying, then go ahead and keep asking Which one have you made.
Its tough to have someone who has never made a film telling you HOW you should have made yours. That one you can get annoyed at (thats a different matter entirely)
It’s tough to be told your movie sucks, doesn’t work or someone didn’t like it.BUT WOHYM kind of belittles the industry, and the skillset of ; screenwriting, directing, producing etc The question suggests that anyone should go off and make their own film. The film business is for professionals and while digital tools available to civilains(non filmMakers) have democratized it, there should always be a distinction between hobbyists and professionals who expect a paying audience.
As a professional you have the right to be upset about negative reviews(and option not to read them), but uttering those words publicly blinds you from seeing even a 1% validity in the review which may prove valuable feedback. It’s very tough especially with those who seem vindictive, on a rant or nitpicky, but it’s actually better to either say,“Yeah,but thats just your opinion”, tell them to F*** off(at least they’d know how u really feel) or just ignore what they have to say,rather than utter any of those sentences demeaning your own profession.
Critics and Reviewers have their function in every film industry around the world, a simple glance at Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic,Roger Ebert shows how they asses films from their own country. Its not always pretty and its not beef, or hate. While some of ours are yet to get to that cinematic analytical level, we have to accept that its not going away anytime soon, so we figure out how to give them films they cant help but champion.
Let’s be grateful we dont have the Razzies over here, na war and assasinations that one go start.
NB: I do believe anyone who positions themselves as a critic/reviewer; their writing should reflect a strong knowledge of film form/language,objective analysis and an understanding of cinematic storytelling.
Can we quit typecasting? Can we stop typecasting actors and actually allow them to grow, be challenged, takes risk, surprise us and even themselves? We want to be shocked at someone we underestimated before. See some take the polar opposite we’ve known them. See the person who has always played upper middle class eloquent characters,disappear into the role of someone who can barely speak english and is struggling to survive that we have to wipe our eyes to make sure we arent dreaming.
Ok, let’s try a little game.
Who do you think of for a middle aged, beautiful, well-spoken and upper middle class or wealthy woman, who is a bit of a snob?
Who do you think of when you think of a cocky 30 something year old playboy who charms, and then does chop and clean mouth?
You need someone to play a young, good & faithful wife who overcomes a bad/rocky relationship?
You need an attractive IJGB,stuck up young female as an ex girlfriend/the competition/temptation. Who comes to mind?
You need a thug, leader of a gang or cult. Who comes to mind?
Need a funny fat friend or goofball to bring some humour?
The fact that you can think of specific people who’ve played these roles enough times that they come to mind is something which needs to change. No matter how much you like an actor by the time you see them for the 7th time playing the same character under a different name and show, it becomes tiresome. They want the challenge. They want to show you their range. They want a great character which would make them pull out resources they forgot they had, work acting muscles which have athrophied due to phoning it in. THEY WANT THAT CHALLENGE. Give them the opportunity.
LIMITING VIEWING OPTIONS TO COMEDY
Amongst the significantly financially successful Nollywood films in the last 5 years most have been comedy, this has created the perception that Nigerians only respond to comedies. This sometimes leads to other genres being neglected or dismissed. Non comedy films from Hollywood have made upwards of N100m with less screen than we have in 2016, this means there are audiences for these genres. While distributors have a right to reject some films, it should be about lack of quality rather than on genre.
There is the saying that “Nigerians want to laugh” and as the country is hard, comedy is what people look for as a means of escape. TRUE, from the results thats a valid point. But how about the Nigerians who watch non comedy genres at home faithfully like Game of Thrones, Scandal, How to get away with Murder,House of Cards etc. Dont they also want to escape? Take their minds off their worries for that period they’re watching?
While film is film and television is televison(very different story forms). Engagement is what is KEY. Engagement is what stops them from changing the channel or walking out of the cinema.
Can the story engage the audience. Captivate them and make them feel it was worth the distance travelled and time/money spent?
While comedy has the upper hand so far, i dont believe its all people go looking for while visiting the cinema.
This is not to say a level of humour shouldnt be presen in a film; in the right proportion (and if it fits in tonally) it helps.
Give them something thrilling and engaging, mayb even frightening and by the time the word spreads they will go see it. As the late great Amaka Igwe used to say, “People go to the movies to FEEL”
US vs THEM
The first quarter of the year unveiled the scheming of a few, trying to pass a bill which would affect the entire industry in what was described as draconian. It revealed a few things, the contempt some of the earlier filmmakers of Nollywood have for the current generation of active filmmakers, and also the lack of unity in the industry, a Young vs Old battle.
At this stage of the industry, you’d expect some of the earlier filmmakers to mentor and encourage the current filmmakers, they instead dismiss, mock and try to stifle them. Very similar to the political arena where the youth are meant to stay quiet and invisible and accept whatever happens.
Can we stop this? If we can’t/don’t want to work together can we at least stay in our lanes and let others do their thing?
Even if you think their work is absolute shite/rubbish/hot mess/trash, let them be, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. But this active intent of trying to kill the career of a whole generation must stop. How will the industry grow if people in their 20s to late 30s are considered children who should be quiet? It makes no sense.
There needs to be a paradigm shift for there to be real growth, we need a new way of thinking and working.
I know this is wishful thinking, maybe even delusion. But hey,as William Goldman once said “Nobody knows anything”
Let’s go forth and kick ass in 2017 .