Which Matters More?

As the dust settles from the uproar created by the entrance of uber-productions; Ije, Bursting Out, and Kajola, an uneasy calm rests over the Nigerian movie industry. Quiet and uneventful, the months following their release have left movie buffs and critics alike wondering- is this the calm before the storm or is there nothing else?

Starved of fancy movie premiers to either get all dolled up for or scour the internet and magazines for pictures, I imagine that the ‘adoring fans’ of Nollywood find themselves facing a withdrawal syndrome of sorts. “They must feel as let down as I do” I muse as I continue to wrack my brain for some interesting hot topic in the world of Nollywood, ably encouraged by the ‘gentle’ prod from my editor, ‘Dammie’ and I fail to hide my exasperation at the lack of activity in the movie industry as I come up short. I find myself wondering every other passing minute- are our fresh blood producers and directors employing a strategic method to make us hungry for more, or are they all out of ideas? To get some answers, I do what every 21st century, technology savvy human would, I hit the internet… hard, to find if anything noteworthy has happened but managed to fly under my radar, but further compounding my issue, I find nothing. At this point my editor’s prodding is not so gentle, and so I add agitation to my increasing pile of writing blocking issues.

With no new movies on the horizon, no Nollywood/Ghollywood battles, and no confused actors to focus on, I finally stumble on a question- “what makes a movie, the actors, storyline or the producers/directors?” An odd question you may think, don’t they all contribute one way or another to the final output? But as I continue to mull it over, I come to the conclusion that one of these elements has a more powerful effect on the essence of a movie. Never one to force my opinions on others, I will go down the list and highlight salient points.

The Actors

These are the faces that sell a movie. More often than not while looking for a movie to watch, your eyes go first to the cast list before moving on to the ever so short description of the story. Other than the fact that their performances give life to a director’s vision, actors also lends a certain amount of credibility to the movies they feature in (established actors that is). Depending on the movie industry, an actor is graded either by the amount of movies they’ve been featured in, their performing dexterity, or how many awards they have received. From these grading, they gain the acclaim with which they in turn lend to the movie they are linked with. Let me explain with an example: you are walking or driving down the street, and you glimpse a movie poster, the title is forgettable, but then you see Genevieve Nnaji’s face and you think “this should be interesting to see”. More often than not, the actors pull in the crowd over and above all the hypes, so you make the decision to see the movie because the actor is ‘good’. But an actor’s contribution goes beyond looking pretty, they still have to act. Their interpretations of the characters they are portraying and the way in which they bring them to life on screen is a huge part of a movie.

The Story Line

I love a good story; romance, comedies, even thrillers. For me, a good movie is one that moves at a reasonable pace, not too fast, not too slow. It should have a clear story line and should be decked with intrigue that will keep me glued to my seat till the very last minute. In my past ranting, I have complained of the lack of stimulating storylines in the Nigerian movie industry. The story line is also an important ingredient in the total package of a movie; it satisfies the less visually gratified movie watchers like me. Seeing as the storyline would only be fully discovered after the attention of the movie watcher has been grabbed, I think it plays second fiddle to the cast. However, the superstar actor can only hold your attention for so long, check out movies like Gigli, neither Jennifer Lopez’s or Ben Affleck’s A list status could help the movie because its storyline or execution was poor. It then goes without saying that when a movie has no focus, the audience will tell, and you can’t fool them for long with those faces they love to hate or love (depending on the side of the fence you fall).

The Director/Producer

Faced with the task of interpreting a script and making it real, the director is a key player in the making of a movie. Often the most important person (with the least airs) on any movie set, he is the person that even the actors aim to please. He controls the movie’s artistic and dramatic aspects, while guiding the cast and the crew. The movies we watch are the visions and interpretation of the particular director. He determines the pace, tone and setting of the movie, he also determines camera angles, lighting and effects. He basically breathes life into a production.

Now that we’ve gone through each of these important components of a movie production, your guess is as good as mine which one is the most important. But just to make sure, it’s THE DIRECTOR, in my estimation anyway. Even though each play an important role in the making of a movie, the director’s input is all encompassing. So, this not so startling revelation can only mean one thing, our directors need some directing. Even as some of our crossover actors/actresses have begun to dabble into directing, it is clear that a gap exists in this area and it needs to be filled.

As I wind down my musing, I am greeted with the news that finally Nollywood has stirred, though I am a bit puzzled as to how to classify it, good or bad. Ini Edo, yes Ini Edo will be releasing her first try at producing, as I try hard not to pass judgement, I can only hope that it is a step in the right direction for the industry in general.