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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Improving Nollywood 2

Nollywood-Improving the film industry by creating an efficient film market-part 2.

In my last post i showed how a volume based business model would improve the quality of films made and at the same time  deter piracy.In this post,i would like to show how intelligent regulation aimed at helping consumers make informed choices will lead to differentiation and branding in the industry,two desirable traits that Nollywood needs to grow.

The thinking that Nollywood produces too many films is wrong.Nollywood appears to produce too many films only because the industry is undifferentiated and unspeciallised and everybody is doing the same thing as everybody else.Ideally,there should be a hierarchy of quality such that there would be films of different categories with category “A” films no more than ten percent of current output.We have to remember that elite films are positional goods:the desirability of the films will rise with increasing scarcity.If Nollywood were synonymous with these category “A” films(just like Hollywood) ,no one would complain about over-production.

To achieve this happy state,first of all,we need to understand that movies are information goods with the peculiar problem of uncertainty of utilities:unlike other material goods,the process of ascertaining the value of  these goods is bundled with the very  process of  consumption.In other words,unless you have watched a film you cannot know it’s value.But you can get a fair idea of the quality of a film through advertising,branding and third-party reviews/previews.

Having understood this,we should take advantage  by crafting regulations that take this knowledge on board.We should have a college of reviewers made up of our best newspaper,radio and television outlets(heck,we might even include the likes  BBC Africa,MTV,Channel O).This college would have access to the  censor’s board movie library.Each newspaper,radio or television house would rate every film before release according to a set of agreed criteria drawn up by the great and good of the theater and film fraternity.The censor’s board would then take an average of these scores for each film and rate the film on a scale of 1 to 5, according to which 4 and 5 would denote category “A”  films and anything less is mere “video”.These scores should be displayed at the front of the film covers prominently.

Care should be taken to ensure not more than ten percent of the films fall into category “A” so that there is scarcity value.Also,the bigger the college of reviewers the better so that no one newspaper,radio or television outlet has critical mass:it should be made  obvious to a justifiably cynical public,and to the corrupt film maker who might be thinking to co-opt anyone on the college,that no one outlet or two can change a low rating to a high rating given the size of the college.Obviously you cannot have a hundred outlets on the college,but you get the point.

To ensure that reviewers representing these outlets are kept honest,the scores given by the individual outlets should be displayed at the back of the films prominently.The public would have to be educated as to the significance of these ratings.Equipped with this information,i believe the public would respond by rewarding excellence  while penalising mediocrity.As the mediocre is thus chased out of the business,there would be fewer players , with larger market shares,and thus the necessary resources to make the investment in talent and technology that will take Nollywood up there.Make no mistake about it,this is sorely needed investment.

Investment,in any industry,is an act of self-fulfiling prophecy:Prospective investors will invest only if they believe the returns will justify their investments.An efficient film market that richly rewards excellence will send a clear signal to these people  that they will find irresistible in a way that preaching to them,in whatever shape or form,cannot ever  hope to achieve.For example holding seminars for banks here or abroad that are intended to encourage them to invest under  current  market conditions will not have the desired effect.Nigerian investors are not going to throw their money away out of patriotism and,of course,foreign ones  are clearly going to be even more commercial.We should grow up.

Improving Nollywood

Nollywood-Improving the film industry by creating an efficient film market.Market is here defined as a mechanism for allocating resources.An efficient market would reward excellence while penalising mediocrity.

An efficient market can be created by combining intelligent regulation with robust enforcement.Instead of preaching to film makers to improve the quality of their works,regulators should focus on making laws that prohibit certain business models.For example,the practice of splitting a given movie into seperate parts which are then sold sperately and most of the time under different names should be outlawed.Now why is it important to stop this practice?

First,this practice turns the film business into a high margin rather than a volume based one.When one movie is sold in four parts,you get one movie for the price of four, and of course, this encourages piracy as people are going to be reluctant to buy.

Second,and more importantly,the volume based model would improve quality. Unlike the high margin based model(where for example,the film maker gets paid four times four one film),under the volume model a film maker would have to sell a lot of copies of any film to turn a profit.This is not likely to happen unless the film is of good quality.

This would concentrate minds in the industry.Because when it becomes clear that only good movies will be profitable,talented and trained directors,producers,script writers and performers will become ascendant.The quacks dominating the industry today will be thrown out of the industry,simply because their mediocre offerings  will not sell enough copies to be profitable.Thus unable to turn a profit,they would have to turn to a new line of business.

Nollywood-Scraps At The Bottom Of The Pyramid.

No doubt about it,Nigerian videos are hugely popular,but only with a certain segment of the populace.Nollywood seems to be catering to the  uncritical masses.The challenge for  Nollywood is to achieve a similar level of enthusiasm and following with a more critical and discerning audience.This critical audience is also the moneyed one.If  Nollywood wants to move to the “next level”,it must earn the approbation, and of course, the patronage of this audience.Given that most members  of the critical audience  were weaned on  Hollywood movies,it is understandable that they are unlikely to be enthused by much of Nollywood’s fare.Nollywood must greatly improve the quality of it’s productions to attract the patronage of this “audience”.

Unfortunately,Nollywood’s  fate is not entirely in its hands.The making of good movies will only become the norm with the existence of a film market that penalises  mediocrity while rewarding excellence.No one will make the kind of investment necessary for the production of good movies unless they are  sure of the existence of an efficient film market that will richly reward them.The creation of  such an efficient film market is to a great extent the duty of the regulatory authorities, and the regulators have shown themselves not up to the job.Until the regulatory environment changes,Nollywood will continue to fight for the scraps at the bottom of the pyramid.

Nollywood-Nigeria writ small

Nollywood(The Nigerian film industry) is an apt metaphor for Nigeria in that,like Nigeria,it fails to provide it’s great talents the stage on which to perform and flourish to  the best of their considerable abilities and, ofcourse to the benefit of it’s audience.As a result,quality performers end up making movies that are far inferior to their considerable  individual talents.

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