Producers Are the Voice of Change in the Nigerian Society
The Nigerian movie industry has been blessed with a host of talented people on-screen and off-screen. Whether it is delivering gripping stories spun from the tales of old or coming up with new, eye-catching scripts, Nollywood has successfully placed itself on the radar of many Nigerians and has proved that indeed change is the driver of transformation.
Nollywood back then is definitely not the same as Nollywood now; however, the one thing the eras have in common is that the lessons that they teach have an impact on society. That impact can only be felt when producers, through their insight and expertise, tell stories that are raw, honest, and truthful to the Nigerian experience.
Remi Ogunpitan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IBTS Media certainly agrees when he says, “Television can be used to change the perspectives of Nigerians to things and values that can influence them positively.”
Positive influence. Are there really programs on the television screens of Nigerians that are remotely positive? Twitter fingers would answer in the negative. As a result, Ogunpitan’s sentiment is not an isolated one when he expresses his frustrations at the quality of programming on television.
“I don’t watch television anymore because I get so upset when I watch Nigerian television programs. Occasionally, I watch Arise and Channels. The rest of them I don’t bother because there’s nothing there.”
In the past, there were programs like The Village Headmaster, Mind-Bending, Mirror in the Sun, and Checkmate that did educate, enlighten, and inculcate lessons, but these days Nigerian television is bereft of these. The top dog that has infiltrated screens nowadays is reality television. Shows such as Big Brother Naija have found steady success for years unending because of its appeal to the younger generation and the controversial hype it receives on social media.
Reality television is not always a bad thing. Looking past the buzz, sometimes overly sexualized individuals and petty catfights would reveal an unexplored layer that can be harvested properly by producers.
“Again, it is all about the mindset. You could sit down from the beginning of defining the content from a particular series and focus on the values, what’s right and what’s wrong, the positive and the negative. You could also focus on mindset changing of Nigerians, or promoting our culture, food, fashion, how we dance, our togetherness, and so on. All these can be done in BBN since it all boils down to content,” says Ogunpitan.
Nigerian producers have a lot of work to do if they want to be the voice of change in a country rattled by various political, social, and ethical issues. Through advanced technology and Herculean determination, the mainstream media can play the unique role of consolidating and amplifying a vibrant democracy. The task is arduous, but it is certainly not impossible.
“Nowadays, everyone can send a vibrant message via social media. Individuals are creating content that can send a powerful message to viewers via Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok and they are pretty good at it. In terms of video production, everyone’s a producer now and it has been democratized. You are a producer with your device as it makes you handle things on your own. Reference to TikTok is paramount as a broadcast channel because people are becoming millionaires via the app. Thus, everyone can tell a story,” says Ogunpitan.
Everyone does have a story to tell which is why they should be encouraged to do that. But how can they be encouraged when the Nigerian educational system has a problem? Students at federal universities have been out of school for more than five months due to the ongoing ASUU Strike that seems to have no resolution. Strike aside, how many federal universities can successfully boast of having the necessary broadcast facilities to educate people, especially the youths, who have enrolled in courses such as Mass Communication? Do they have a functioning studio? Stage equipment? Lighting equipment? Cameras? What is the budget for creating and curating content? What of the personnel? Are they exceptionally qualified? Does their pay match up to the standard of their qualifications?
These are the issues.
Be that as it may, there is still hope. Nollywood has transitioned, positively and for the better. It may not be where it wants to be right now, but the baby steps are always more important than the big ones.
“There is no reason why Nollywood cannot produce a global movie beyond Netflix,” contends Ogunpitan. And, he adds: “They are beginning to do better than before. We can produce a blockbuster film in Nigeria. Nigerians will be part of the team and will bring resources from other parts of the world that could make it happen.”
For Nigeria to create a blockbuster like Star Wars, Titanic, and Black Panther, “There is a need for a better understanding of how the industry works. The industry needs a new business model and they need to get it right. Right now, broadcasting studios source for sponsorship and do not go after a sustainable business model,” Ogunpitan points out.
Not having a sustainable business model leads to poor-quality, poor-quality leads to poor content and poor content brings the points stated here back full circle. Producers have the power in their hands; they also have the means to make Nollywood greater than its Hollywood and Bollywood counterparts.
For change to happen in the movie and television industry, producers must be that change that they want to see.
Listen to the full conversation with Remi Ogunpitan in the audio below.