WHEN Del-York International, a specialized media company run by Linus Idahosa was established few years ago, its mission was clear: to enhance human capital development of Nigeria's movie sector. As part of strategies to actualize this objective, the company's Chief Executive Officer, Idahosa recently brought one of the most prestigious film training schools in the world - the New York Film Academy (NYFA) to Nigeria to horn the skills of aspiring movie makers in the country. Over 400 participants, Idahosa revealed, registered for the programme. And a total of 36 lecturers drawn from the various faculties of the prestigious film academy will train them at the Nigerian outreach centre of the NYFA. "They will be put through a one-month intensive hands-on training programme in world-class fashion," Idahosa enthused even as he assured in this interview that Del-York is committed to bringing profound change to the way movies are produced in the country. Excerpts:
WHAT difference does Del-York intend to make in the industry?
Del-York International is a creative industries development company. We are precisely involved in providing cost effective solutions to the human capital problems plaguing the creative industries, with special focus on the film industry. We believe that Nigeria deserves a world-class movie industry and advises that nothing should be spared to provide the country a befitting movie sector.
Why the movie sector, why not any other sector?
Well the film industry is a very powerful sector that is capable of multi-dimensional transformations in any economy. It possesses enormous potentials for rapid and realistic national development for any country that understands the fundamentals of cultural and psychological capital to genuine and sustainable development. Del-York International has a special bias for film industry development in Nigeria based on a variety of very important reasons, one of which is the fact that we need to begin to properly orientate ourselves; particularly our children, in the beauty, virility and indispensability of our cultural heritage to the actual progress of our country.
His impression of creative sector generally?
The creative industries are the range of intellectual endeavours that centre on the production and sale of ideas in usable forms that connect with the needs, hopes and aspirations of society. Film, theatre, music and their likes constitute the creative industries. In Nigeria, these endeavours are in various degrees of destitution and this has adverse effect on our development. Where the people of a society cannot impact creatively on their collective with the use of indigenous muse, such a community losses its ability to reach deep inside its soul for inspiration, answers and solutions that tally with its unique physical and spiritual composition. And of course, we should know that there is such a thing as the spiritual capital for development. Without it, we cannot make progress either as individuals or as a country. Where creativity is encouraged, spirituality is activated. And the outcomes of that are always glorious.
On Nigerian movie sector
Well, Nigeria's movie sector is a fledgling turf. And as a toddler operational ground, all sorts of imperfections are naturally expected to be widespread. However, within the context of existing infrastructural availability, institutional backing and legal protection in the country as far as movie production and sale are concerned, Nigerians deserve some real good praise. I mean, it is not common for an industry to lack basic infrastructure, policy and institutional protection and still be able to achieve positive global recognition. We are presently recognized as the second largest producer of movies in the world after the US and India! That to me is an achievement that is worth praising. But we should not stop at that. Quantity is different from quality. Our present rating is in relation to quantity, not quality. It is quality that we need to be able to reap the real benefits of owning a movie sector.
Is that an indirect indictment of government or Nollywood?
There is no room for indictment where you understand the history and dynamics of a people's inability to soar to profound heights. The colonial cloak is yet to be pulled off our face as a country. The state that we find ourselves in Nigeria and in the entire black world is a function of wrong compromises made by some of our forebears hundreds of years ago. We can at best strive to correct the long-exiting wrongs and not waste precious time indicting. For example, it is on the premise of the philosophy of correction that Del-York took it upon itself to facilitate human capital transformation in our country's movie sector by inviting one of the most respected film schools in the world to train our people. And I am talking about the New York Film Academy which is one of the most prestigious hands-on training grounds for film producers, actors, actresses, script-writers, cinematographers and all other film sector professionals in the world. It is based in the City of New York in the United States of America and has campuses in other parts of the US. The school conducts international training tours as part of its international outreach programme and it is within the ambit of that programme that we are able to bring the school to Africa for the first time on Nigerian soil. And here in Nigeria, the Academy will be responsible for interacting with 400 Nigerians drawn largely from the Niger-Delta region with vital skills in world-class movie-making. Its well-structured training programme will be an intensive hands-on experience that will widely expose trainees to the essential creative and technical aspects of movie production, featuring the use of high-tech equipment and the shooting of short demonstrational reels by participants at the twilight period of the scheduled exercise.
Why are your trainees mostly from the Niger-Delta?
We initially threw it open to the whole country. We ran a media campaign inviting interested individuals, governments and organizations across the country to be part of the programme. Responses flowed in, but it was the Rivers State Government and the Niger-Delta Development Commission that expressed the most compelling interest. They demonstrated a highly convincing willingness to work with us in the interest of meaningful youth development and went ahead to mobilise to fill virtually all the slots available. So, though we have a huge Niger-Delta presence in the programme, other Nigerians are still part of it. Honestly, you need to see the kind of people that besieged our centres and hear the kind of things they said about their desire to be registered for the programme. Among the lot of interested applicants were ex-militants who insisted on being part of the project's family of trainees. They made tireless visits to our designated offices in the region, narrating their ordeals in the creeks as victims of neglect and as armed fighters in the rag-tag armies of the principal agitators for development in the Niger-Delta. They expressed the resolve to seek the good life away from the bitter wilderness of lack and the sanguinary guerrilla war being executed against government. We also had unemployed university graduates seeking to be registered. But of all the different shades of people that visited our offices, the most intriguing was the visit of a six months pregnant woman who walked into one of our offices in Port-Harcourt to apply, looking strained and fatigued. We advised her to concentrate on the safe delivery of her baby, but she turned-down the advice. She put up a very dramatic insistence to be part of the programme. She told us that faith has taken her past worst situations and that nothing can be compared to empowering herself for a lifetime away from poverty and squalor for her unborn baby with priceless knowledge acquired from the visiting lecturers of the New York Film Academy! She identified herself as an ardent lover of American and Nigerian movies who will not take no for an answer. She simply left us at loss as to how to accommodate her heavy pregnancy in our programme. The sight of physically challenged youngsters 'crawling' their way towards our agents' offices with various expressions of determination boldly written on emaciated faces was heart-melting. You could easily tell that the past of these young men and women has been very tough as they appeared in tawdry and tattered clothes. They said that a place before the visiting American film-training instructors is their big hope for a better tomorrow! Dealing with the scenarios in the Niger-Delta was indeed an eye-opening experience.
Who are those behind Del-York International?
Experienced hands in domestic and international media operations are running del-York. I have been involved with CNN for some years and I am as such not unfamiliar with the terrain. We also have on our board, a frontline Nigerian actress and graduate of New York Film Academy in the person of Stephanie Okereke. Our staff line is composed of competent writers and broadcast media functionaries. So, we are not involved in this as strangers or as greenhorns. We are equipped for our task.
How do you think film can help the current national branding project?
Film is actually indispensable to national branding. You cannot successfully brand a country by isolating such a powerful medium as film. As regards the current branding campaign, the use of film needs to be preceded by some essentials such as harmonising the national vision of our leaders with the hopes and aspirations of the rest of the citizenry and condensing all into a copious and clear-cut ideology that should be used to bedrock our development process. Subsequently, to achieve the indispensible connect between where the leadership envisions us to arrive at gloriously and the general public spirit of commitment, such influential media as film are necessary. It is with the use of film that you can sway the emotions and perceptions of the citizenry most effectively in favour of the successful actualization of the national vision.
With the use of film, we can influence how the world should see and receive or regard us. Take for example, in Ghana, a few years ago, there was a costly uproar against Nigerians after the news of a mutilated body made the rounds. Ghanaians were of the view that Nigerians must have committed the evil based on their belief that ritual killing is a way of life in our society. Where do you think they got that from? Our home-videos of course! So you see how film can affect perception. And of course, branding is basically about perception. This means with the appropriate use of film we can make the current national branding campaign a big success, that is, with all other vital elements in-place.
Any future plans for participants?
The programme ran for one month from March 8 to April 9. And as for the graduates, we will be engaging graduates of our programmes in the various commercial productions that Del-York will be contracted to handle by clients. The purpose of this approach is to as much as possible guarantee them a source of livelihood after training and to properly nurture their professional orientation acquired from world-class training away from non-professional influences. We also plan to sustain our human capital development drive by networking with other reputable movie sector organizations in the US and Europe.