Anja Merret
Anja Merret

What can we learn from Nollywood?

Ever heard of Nollywood? Sure you will have heard of Hollywood and more recently have been introduced to Bollywood, India’s film industry. Nollywood? That’s Nigeria’s film industry, which boasts an annual production of about 2 000 films making this a rather respectable $500-million industry.

What’s even more fascinating is the fact that these films are made at an average cost of $20 000 and are shot in regular locations, not studios, within a week. New technology is adopted as soon as it becomes affordable, which means most movies are shot on HD cameras now. For more info view this excellent TED video.

Most of the people working in this industry earn a living, no more. At budgets this low it puts pressure on the industry to produce films quickly in order to ensure a constant stream of revenue. Needless to say, it also means actors don’t exactly wallow in huge pay-outs either.

Yet this industry works. The thousands of workers from cameramen to lighting crew, scriptwriters to clappers, make a reasonable living. Nigeria seems a most unlikely candidate to host the glamour of a film industry and at such grassroots level.

It works because stories are being told that appeal to the local communities. Its reach is further than just Nigeria and extends to include other African countries. Films made by Hollywood and Bollywood do not portray lives of ordinary Africans in Africa. Sure there is the odd African story but it is told from the perspective of white or Indian audiences.

With budgets this low for a film there is obviously no money for fancy computer graphic images and special effects. Nor could one rent out expensive studios. It requires directors and producers to be incredibly creative and it presupposes that the audience will find the essence of the story more important than the flamboyant telling of it.

One could of course speculate that in time to come the African audiences possibly become jaded and will ask for films with a more Hollywood flavour. When that time comes the Nigerian film industry will adapt.

What this does teach us is the point that we have a tendency in the developed world of trying to be too sophisticated, too image conscious and in general overcomplicating our product offering. And of course we treat all markets in the same way, even less sophisticated ones.

Entrepreneurs could take a hint from the Nigerian film industry and focus on finding creative solutions rather than throwing buckets of money at their product in the hope that some of it will stick. Let’s rather consider making a product or offering a service with honesty and integrity.

It would also mean passing on the smoke and mirrors that so often accompanies the marketing road show. Strip all the for-show items away and offer a product at an affordable price that ensures all participants earn an honest living rather than the millions raked in by overpaid executives or actors as in the Hollywood industry.

If one takes the Nigerian film industry as an example, it seems it can be done. It certainly provides great hope for the small business person who just doesn’t have the funds for over-the-top product presentation and packaging, operates from a small office at home and answers the phone himself.

If his product is honest, great value for money and accessible to his clients he could just be able to win after all. Maybe the recession might just be presenting that opportunity. I reckon the consumer is ready for some honest trading.

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/sarahbritten Sarah Britten

    I love the way that Africans are so creative with technology often regarded as the province of elites (witness the phenomenal popularity of cellphones, and the way that airtime has become de facto currency in some countries). If only we could harness more of this adaptability and openness to the possibilities offered by technology, and have less of the political baggage that drags this continent back.

  • Zakhele

    If only our film makers would stop looking for recognition from across the waters and concentrate on getting South African Film indutry up and running we would not need once in alife time inclusion in international film awrds, but we would be working on improving our industry and making sure that the world comes to us and not us going to the world, that is what the film makers in Nigeria did!!

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/sarahbritten Sarah Britten

    If we followed the argument that film makers should be making movies that people want to see, then, sadly, I can only conclude that we need more Leon Schusters.