SHE needs no introduction in Nollywood. Lilian Amah Aluko has had her fair share of success and pain in the movie industry. 'Sweet Revenge' with Emem Isong, 'She Devil', 'The Triangle' and 'Jungle Ride' (yet to be released) are movies Aluko has produced till date. And, apparently not satisfied with the mediocrity in the movie industry that has snowballed into a deep recession, she has seen it fit to join the industry's guild politics. Now, she is the vice-president, the first female so elected, of Association of Movie Producers from where she dreams to leverage the industry to great heights. A novelist and movie producer with several movies to her credit, her passion for the industry is infesting in this interview she granted Anote Ajeluorou
CONGRATULATIONS on your recent election as Association of Movie Producers (AMP) Vice-President!
Thank you very much.
So, what new energy, what new vision are you bringing into the association?
As an individual, I think there is a lot I can do for the association. A lot of people do not take moviemakers seriously. It's probably due to our own fault, the way we present ourselves and the seeming lack of seriousness we attach to the things we do.
But my president Paul Obazele and members of the newly elected executive are all determined to see that change. We believe that filmmakers are professionals, and we should be seen as serious businessmen and women. We want to project a different image; we want to begin to do things properly and hope that it will rub off on the rest of Nollywood.
There is a lull or what some might call recession in the English movie producing side of Nollywood. How will your association tackle the issues that led to it?
On Monday there was anti-piracy workshop at the National Theatre. We believe that the reason why there is a lull in the production of movies is because financiers are not getting their money back. AMP members are ones who put money in movies.
What we want to try and do is to join hands with the copyright commission, join hands with the censor board to create a viable market place. If there's a viable market place, movies will do well. And if movies do well, producers will get their money back and if they get their money back, they will invest more and the industry will start booming again.
So, it's going to be a synergy between several bodies, and not just AMP. We can't do it alone. We need to work in collaboration with censor board; we need to work with government; we need to work with the organised private sector to be able to change things.
But it would seem that practitioners in Nollywood are waking up late in the day to the realisation of threats to the industry. Why weren't these measures taken long before now?
As human being you only learn when things hit you in the face. When Nollywood took off it was a novelty. So even without structures being put in place, people were making money. People made a lot of money from Nigeria movies a whole lot of money. And that was why there was such a boom. Everybody rushed in. It's typical of Nigeria. If pure water is selling and somebody makes money from it, everybody dives in, with or without expertise.
So that was what happened to Nollywood; it was a booming industry and everybody dived in. People, who didn't have a passion, people who saw it as just another way to make quick-turn-around on their money dived in.
And then we all muddied the pool, we had to sit back and ask ourselves, where do we go from here? That's how the need for structures is coming 14 years late. But we have realised that the industry is dead, and that we must sit up and begin to do things properly.
Guilds in the industry are known for internal bickering and power struggle and acquisition for the sake of power while the industry totters. How will the new AMP executive be different?
Well, I'll start by saying that we pray for the grace of God because wherever people are, you can't tell what will happen. People want position for their own end. I want to believe that every member of the new AMP executive has the interest of the association at heart.
I've been a member of the association for several years but noting was happening. It was a whole lot of grammar at meetings and nothing gets done. I don't know where to point finger as it was not the fault of past executives but the entire members. But if the electorate doesn't ask questions of their leaders, the leaders will do what they want.
After a while, I wanted to pull out. But Paul Obazele in his last administration started reaching out to a lot of us who were no longer coming to meetings. He told us that if we don't come together there was no way things will move forward. And I sat back and thought that no matter how successful you are in your own individual company you are only as successful as your industry is.
So, if Nollywood is dead and as a producer you're making money, where do you fit in? There is no sense of place or belonging. Yes, you're making money but as what? So I realised that we can't stand aloof; we have to come in and help build things. And then I saw that Obazele has great dreams for the industry. In the last two years, he brought a lot if innovations. May be a lot them didn't go through but he had proposals. I also understand the limitations he was operating under. He had a divided executive. There was a lot of bickering in it. So I came to realise why Obazele was not making as much impact with his dreams and visions as he should have made.
And then when he said he was coming for a second term, I said, good. Maybe this time he'll have a better executive and be able to achieve what he set out to achieve.
What are those dreams that also charmed you into running alongside Mr. Obazele for the new AMP?
As for me, I'm concerned with the welfare of our members. We have a lot of young producers, who had done one or two movies in the past but because of the recession have not been able to get access to funds to make movies.
And if they don't make movies they can't eat. These young people are desperately stranded; they are hustling. If they fall ill, they can't go to hospital. So we should have a sort of welfare package for members to take care of small, small needs.
Obazele's last administration talked about an insurance scheme. That's something I want us to revisit. Every fee-paying member of AMP should have an insurance scheme. Also, health insurance for members.
Then we need a film fund, which the last administration also talked about. Obazele actually made efforts and we saw it. UBA and Union Bank were almost in some form of agreement with AMP to provide a revolving funds, which moviemakers can delve into, take money out, do their movies, sell with the aid of the banks; UBA was talking to marketers that will be tied to the products to make the money back, and then pay the money back into the fund for further use.
That objective was truncated because of the bickering in the executive. One member of the executive wrote letters to the two banks. It was a very sad thing because those letters seriously indicted moviemakers as being fraudulent. We felt no matter the level of provocation, he should have kept it within the guild although he had his reasons for doing it. Fine, but you can't paint all of us black before the corporate world, which we have been trying to entice to the industry.
The censor board is campaigning to formalise and structure businesses in Nollywood. Is AMP queueing behind the New Distribution framework believed to be for the good of the industry?
AMP and other stakeholders believe the NDF is the way forward. I'm not saying that the framework is perfect; but it's a whole lot better than what we've had before now. And with that in place, we'll begin to see track records again. We'll begin to have figures; any industry that cannot provide figures of its business cannot expect any formal association with banks and insurance. And if you're not doing anything with banks and insurance, then you're not doing a sustainable business.
With the NDF, we will have the figures we need to prove to the world that we are doing structured business. So yes, in that light we are working with them. And we believe that Mr. Emeka Mba is on the right track, and he needs support.
As things go on and the framework takes effect, the legal problems people are envisaging will be straightened out. We need to have it working then we can see where the problems lie and then tinker with those problems.
Producers are owners of films. How are you tackling the problems of quality in films? People complain of two much witchcraft, too much blood and lack of depth in Nollywood films. Can AMP do anything to redress these?
Well, we're already started doing something. The last administration also headed by Obazele had several training programmes at which professionals from different fields talked to producers about best ways forward. UBA-AMAA coalition among others. That's another thing this administration will look at - train, train and retrain.
Like I said earlier, because there was a boom in the industry a lot of people crashed in, people who had absolutely no idea what moviemaking is about, people who did not have a passion for making movies. All they wanted was to make quick bucks. That led to a fall in standards, serious fall in standards. We are going to address this. Moviemakers have to learn to be creative. You have to first define who a moviemaker is.
Who is a producer? We need to ask ourselves that question. We have to live up to it.
We'll keep on looking for funding for training so our producers are exposed to modern trends of movie making. So they learn that they don't need all that blood and sex and whatever to sell films. You can tell your story, tell our story to the outside world. The outside media keep painting Africa black. We don't have to help them doing that. Let them see Africa they don't know exists.
We need to sell ourselves positively to the world; we need to show them the positive side of Africa. And we can't do this by dwelling so much on witchcraft and rituals and all that. Yes, these exist as part of us but are they so much part of our lives? I have never encountered a witch myself; I only hear or read. I have never seen anybody used for ritual. But the way they are portrayed in our movies, it's as if out of every ten of us eight are witches and the remaining two are ritualists. So, we have to change that concept.
If you were to quantify or evaluate the contributions of women in Nollywood, how will you put it?
I know that like every other facet our professional life in Nigeria, you don't have as many women as men playing in our industry. But the women playing significantly in our industry have actually done very well. You have the Lola Fani-Kayodes, the Amaka Igwe down to Emem Isong; we have had women who have made significant impact: Not enough, I'd say; we need more women.
Women tend to bring some kind of seriousness to whatever they do. I'm not saying that men are unserious. I'm saying that when women go into careers they usually take it a lot more seriously. They know they have to prove a point. If you say that a film is directed by a woman, people will say, oh, a woman?
So, she'll have to work extra hard. For a women to be noticed she's probably working three or four times as harder as a man in her position. It's the same thing in every industry; I used to be in the bank and I know that women who made it to the top worked maybe two or three harder.
For you what has been the downside in your industry?
The lack of structures has been a very sour point. I come from a very structured environment; I spent about ten years in banking. You call a meeting for 7p.m and people are there for 7pm. Then I come into an unstructured environment where when you call a meeting for 10am, people don't get there until 3pm. It really bothers me. People have to not see themselves as professionals or serious people. We have to change that attitude totally. This is serious business.
The second one is lack of funds, which is a reflection of the lack of structures in our industry. Yes, you have a dream; you know want you want to do but you don't have the funding to achieve it. I started shooting a movie in February this year and we're still editing in August/ September although I'll do cinema first before putting it on video. There are so many limitations when shooting. I sourced for my money myself. I couldn't get money from banks or any corporate funding except my father who helped me.
When it's your money you're using, it becomes really restricting because it's the much you have that you have access to. It tends to limit the quality of what you want to put out.
So many ratings have been made about the industry. Are you flattered by such ratings? Are they accurate descriptions of your industry?
When they say we're reacted second; second in what? We are rated second in quantity. After India's Bollywood, we produce the second largest number of films in the world. In a way I'd say its good for us, for the recognition; that we're even mentioned before Hollywood. That means we are working.
Now, after the accolades we have to sit back and ask ourselves, which Nollywood movie has won a major world award like Bollywood? None! We need to be rated for best quality, best sound, best technical output. Rating should not make us feel self-satisfied but work harder.
I have a dream of a Nigeria movie industry where the practitioners take pride in themselves and their achievement and approach their works very seriously. I have a dream of an industry that will take the world by storm not because of its size but because of the quality of its work. I have a dream of a movie industry that will change the image that the world has about Nigeria. That will happen when we as moviemakers start taking ourselves seriously.