Filmmaking: Turning My Passion to Profession

In January of 2017, I resigned my job at one of the leading banks in Nigeria to pursue my passion and dream of film making. I joined a film making company in Nigeria, working as a Production assistant. As is globally known, the Nigerian film industry; Nollywood is mostly informal, therefore most of the people in the industry do not have a formal education in film making. We learn by watching and on the job. I started working my way up from my position as a runner, worked on a number of productions and in various departments and soon I produced two short films and was on the production team of several others.

My passion for film making stemmed from from the fact that I wanted to tell stories through film; the urge to create something in my own way that communicates with the world. In the course of my career, I have leveraged my personal strength and leaned more towards producing. I have always been a planner with an attention to detail, hence, I have found myself doing more of producing and planning productions.

I enjoyed every part of it and I was gaining knowledge, however, I always felt something was missing. I felt a need for a formal, academic education and qualification in film making, to know how it is done in advanced climes where they are more formal and organised their style.

The decision to do a master’s degree especially abroad was a tough one to make because it meant I had to pause my growing career in a constantly evolving industry to go to pursue academics. ‘Should I just continue?’… ‘I hope I will not miss out on too many opportunities?’… ‘Will the master’s degree be worth the wait?’…These and many other questions ran through my mind as I embarked on this journey to get my masters degree in Film and Television production.

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I believe now, slightly over a year after, I can say I am grateful I made the decision to go for my master’s, not only did it broaden my knowledge regarding the new trends in the world of film making and content creation, especially as it involves new media and emerging technologies, the experience of learning filmmaking in an academic setting has helped me gain refined skill to be able to adapt to any clime and understand internationally accepted formats of film and television production.

I also gained a new respect for the Nollywood industry and how against all odds, and difficult physical, social and economic situations in our country, we are still able to churn out fantastic content and films that are now not only being seen, but respected in the global scenes.

There are a lot of struggles that Nigerian filmmakers go through no matter the budget and status of the production, that are non existent in more developed nations. Electricity, noise, security, hostile neighbours and even law enforcement officials, “omo oni le” to mention a few,

 Most importantly, I have learnt a work ethic that I believe is sorely lacking in the Nigerian film industry. This is mostly in regards to payment and treatment of workers in the industry Cast and crew alike, especially crew members. While I fully understand that there is a general problem of lack of funding for the Nigerian film industry, especially for independent and upcoming filmmakers, I am strongly of the opinion that employers; Production companies and producers can be fairer in their treatment and the payment of the crew members they employ.

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There is also a need to prioritise the welfare of crew members and not only the cast at the expense of the crew members. A lack of functional unions and regulations should not be an excuse, for inhumane and unfair treatment and payment of crew members.

I would also like to implore the government to make more loans, and grants available and accessible to the industry for studies and productions alike. Being the only Nigerian in my class of 10, I was the only student who did not get a loan or grant from their country in support of their education.

Nollywood is one of the most lucrative industries Nigeria and the industry is contributing greatly to the GDP of the nation, if more financial backing is given to the film making industry in Nigeria, there is so much more that film making professionals will be able to achieve and in turn the country’s economy will be all the better for it.   The government should also look in to making courses related to filmmaking and production part of the curriculum in higher institutions of learning rather than people having to travel abroad for proper academic learning and qualifications or leaving it only for private institutions that offer short term courses. With more properly trained professionals in the country, the industry will grow bigger and better, and would help to represent and present more accurate and positive academic data about Nollywood to the world.

When I started to look for sources for some of my essays and assignments while studying, first, I noticed that not a lot of academic research has been done on the Nigerian film industry and existing research talks about the old Nollywood.  Most of what I found on Nollywood were from long ago, the Era where mass production and straight to DVD sales was the order of the day. Very few have taken into account what I would like to call the new generation Nollywood: The cinema going generation.

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There is a new generation of Nollywood film makers that is more quality conscious rather than quantity focused. This new generation of film makers are trying harder to meet international standards while still telling true and original African stories.  This generation of Nollywood film makers are trying to change the narrative about Nollywood by getting quality productions out to the world. In recent times we have had more movies that have gone straight to the cinemas and world festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival, grossed really high in the box office and broken records. We have also had our movies make it to international online platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Record-breaking box office numbers is the the new normal for Nigerian films even over Hollywood films in our Nigerian cinemas. And this is a hopeful sign that an industry built on the back of its low-budget Nollywood film biz – famous for slapdash storylines and straight-to-DVD releases can mature into a cinematic powerhouse. All these new developments make me want more than ever to be one of those to put Nollywood on the global map with excellent productions that meet any world standard.

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