Versatile film maker, Ifeanyi Igbenyi popularly known as Mr Hollywood may be just another name to movie lovers. But, to the practitioners, it is a … name that carries authority. In this chat with Chidima Miriam Okonkwo, he speaks about the boom in the Nigerian movie industry, and the challenges of the filmakers.
Ifeanyi Igbeny hails from Umureri in Anambra State. A graduate of Philosophy from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), he describes himself as “a film maker, a producer, a director, script-writer, actor, in fact everything that has to do with entertainment, I ‘m there.”
He speaks further: “The name Mr. Hollywood is a title given to me in this industry and the title has formed a part of my name. So I ‘m now using it as my professional name. I never chose it for myself. It was given to me by my colleagues because I am a meticulous film maker. I take my time to make films. I don’t rush into productions. If it is a film that will take another film maker or director five days, it will take me ten days.”
Doing a good movie
In Nollywood, before you go into anything like production, the first thing is to seek out a good script. You then look for somebody who is a professional script-writer to screen the story. You then call in actors and share the roles among them. After that, you enter the next stage which is going to the location to shoot. After recording and editing, the movie is ready to be released into the market. The point I ‘m trying to make is, there is a procedure. Even if I want to make 200 films in a year, I plan myself, I know how to start and end. Because we know how these things are laid. If you follow it that way, you may be able to line up to 10, 20 films a year and at the end of the day you will still achieve them without mixing them.
The state of Nollywood
The current Nollywood is just like every other industry. Nollywood has its own challenges. Even the Hollywood in America, they started like us, they had their own challenges too. Bollywood, the same thing, and other industries that have everything to do with entertainment. So right now, Nollywood as an industry is passing through the toughest time since inception. That we are passing through this is not because it is a peculiar problem that people like us cannot solve. But we are passing through this because when we started, there was no structure on the ground.
The Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili is working seriously towards the success of this industry, because this industry goes a long way in giving this country a good image abroad. And since we are talking about re-branding Nigeria, the woman has decided to re-brand Nigeria through Nollywood.
Before you re-brand, you will first of all look at the problems we are facing. Firstly, we need enough equipment to make the films. Secondly, we don’t have enough money to produce good films. The little ones you see today are made possible by the little efforts being put together by people like us in the industry. So, by the time government pumps in enough money to the industry, that’s when people will begin to see that this Nollywood can equally produce those high quality films you see in Hollywood. Anybody who wants to solve the problems of the industry will first of all come and hear what the stakeholders are going through.
Piracy is everywhere even in America and India. Without piracy, I don’t think that this our business will even move. But what we are saying is, if there is a way this piracy could be reduced, I ‘m not talking about removing it totally from the industry, we will appreciate it.
Even in America, they are trying to see if they can totally to wipe it away from America. They have not achieved that feat, and I wonder how Nigeria, a Third World country, would be able to wipe it out. It is not possible.
Low times in Nollywood
I think it started two-three years ago. This industry started in 1992 and we were experiencing a boom. And the boom stayed and took us into 2005-2006. Since 2007 up till today, the industry has been declining. As I am talking to you at the moment, Nollywood may crash if care is not taken. If the right things are not done at this point in time, the industry will just crash. But some of us are holding on to it, and I believe God will hear our cry.
How can you pay well when you are not even sure if you are keeping your investment at the end of the day? We are spending close to N5 million and you are not sure of the money at the end of the day. Let’s use yourself as an example, have you gone to a market or any shop with your money from January up till today and asked them, ‘please I want to buy one Nollywood film?’ You don’t buy it all the time and you don’t buy all the films. Imagine a scenario where we have about 10 new films from 10 different persons in the market, and you go there to buy just one. What about the other nine?
So anybody who is making film in Nollywood today is making it at his own risk. If I ‘m investing N5 into a film, I ‘m investing that money at my own risk. If at the end of the day I pay an actor N1 million and after the film I will make N50,000, will the actor refund me?
So what I think would be the best for me is to find a way to reduce the cost of the production so that the production that will take me N1 million, I can equally do it for N50,000. So that even if I am going to lose at the end of the day, I wouldn’t lose much.
The thin line between producing and directing
Yes, in production there is something we call hierarchy. If you want to follow it, you will first of all call the director, because the director is a person who is interpreting the story or script. If a film becomes a flick tomorrow in the market, it is the director that made it so. If a film becomes successful, it is the director. Whatever it is that happens to the film is the director. So the director is number one. Now, the producer is a business man in film making. What he does? He looks for good stories, calls in a good script-writer, a director. He employs everybody, from the least person to the highest person. But after employing people, discussing with them and paying them, he now hands them over to the director. And once the production starts, the producer becomes irrelevant. The only time you need a director is if there is any need for money. You rehearse with the production manager, then the production manager will now tell the producer. Then, if the producer is not with the finance ,he will now go and tell the executive producer, it doesn’t concern the director. The director is only there to make the film.