- Title: NIGERIA: Movie piracy threatens Nigeria's Nollywood
- Date: 15th May 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF SHOP STEWARDS WAITING FOR BUYERS AT THE OFFICIAL NIGERIAN FILMS MARKET EXTERIOR OF THE NIGERIAN FILM MARKET
- Embargoed: 30th May 2009 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVA4UHXPMYSWY3EGR2QH221Q2CXT
- Story Text: Nigeria's Nollywood video-movie industry is being hamstrung by piracy and dishonest traders, says the industry's founder.
Nigeria's Nollywood faces a bleak future as movie pirates and crafty tradesmen take over business, the industry's pioneer has said.
Okechukwu Ogunjiofor founded Nollywood in 1992 with the release of his hit movie on the occult, "Living in Bondage".
The movie, shot on video sold hundreds of thousands of copies within a few weeks.
It was this success that marked the birth of present-day Nollywood - the Nigerian film industry.
Approximately 30 new movies are released every week.
Experts estimate that Nollywood brings in about 250 million US dollars per year and employs tens of thousands of people.
But the irony of Nollywood is that even after so many sales, Ogunjiofor says he has not made much money.
To earn a living Ogunjiofor produces three television drama series simultaneously for local television channels.
"This one you see is out of my blood, I am just eking it out by force to remain relevant, it is not because it is rosy, I have not made anything from film. Piracy has made it impossible for us to do so," said Ogunjiofor, pointing at his threadbare office in the suburb of Ikeja in the sprawling commercial capital, Lagos.
Ogunjiofor blames the Nigerian government for not doing enough to curb piracy, despite numerous appeals from industry stakeholders.
"I don't really feel anything at all, all I know is that I am happy when anywhere I go people recognise me and say: 'This is the man who started it.' Papers wILL publish and write and say 'This is the man who did it.' I just look at myself and say, can it be true, but, when I look at what has happened, where we are in terms of growth and picture quality and the fact that our government have refused to play along with us, I get sad," he said.
After releasing successive award-winning films, Ogunjiofor was still not able to repay loans he had taken to finance the productions.
"Assuming someone gives you two million naira or five million naira and gives you 30 days to return the money, what do you do within that short span of time? You will write your script in one week, produced it on the seventh day, edit it under 14 days, put it in the market before 21 days, so that before 30 days elapse, you have your money to give back to the person.
Otherwise, he's not only going to clean you out, but might even kill you. So that is the type of environment we are working in," Ogunjiofor said.
Embittered by the experience, he packed up his equipment and abandoned film-making.
Ogunjiofor says the pirates operate with impunity in Lagos and produce hundreds of thousands of copies of the latest releases from Nollywood.
The movies are also repackaged under different but catchy titles and shipped off in containers to neighbouring countries.
Every week, in Lagos alone, millions of pirated Nollywood copies, and others from Hollywood and Bollywood, compete for customers with the originals.
They are sold on sidewalks, street corners, under bridges and even on top of wheelbarrows for just one US dollar per disc, undercutting Nollywood's price two US dollars per disc.
Most Nollywood directors will shoot a movie in a week, spending only 15,000 US dollars, and compromising on sound and picture quality.
As a way of encouraging Nollywood film makers to improve the quality of audio and pictures in their productions, Ogunjiofor and business partners have put together plans to host Africa Audio Visuals Awards in July this year.
"African Audio Visual Awards have nothing but sound and picture, perfect sound, perfect picture, because when we get our pictures and sound right, then our productions will have come to take its place on the world stage. Why am I doing this? Over the years, all the awards have concentrated on giving to those who are the face of everything, the actors, but those who make them behind have been neglected," said Ogunjiofor.
Nollywood's success is also attributed to the insecurity experienced in major cities during the 1980s. People were reluctant to venture outside their homes after dark, so many cinema halls were forced to shut down. Home video's stepped in to fill the gap. And now, crime threatens their existence as well.
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