Nollywood: I saw the Netflix invasion coming – Osezuah Elimihe
The American film distributor, Netflix, has presently pitched its tents in the Nigerian film industry and its entry is being viewed with ambivalent lenses. The Difference reached out to Elimihe Osezuah, a long-standing player in the Nigerian film sector, and one who has very deep and penetrating analytical lenses in relation to film and movie trends in Nigeria and beyond, to find out the significance of this entry for the local industry.
Is the coming of Netflix what you saw in 2016 when you warned the local movie industry to expect an imminent influx of foreign interests into the market or are we to expect some other wave?
I am glad you recall my prediction from that presentation that The Difference newspaper had graciously invited me to make on Africa’s Day. What is happening now is natural. Nature doesn’t allow vacuum, in fact, nature abhors a vacuum. Any creative with innovative ideas should be pleased with this new development if Netflix is not emasculated by the same local mentality that denies the industry of the need for highly competitive global growth. If Netflix Nigeria will allow the standards it has in America to be the same standards here in Nigeria, but with a local soul, it would mean a major good for this industry.
What I saw, and I still see coming the way of Nollywood is simple. In nature wherever talents abound but are either neglected or not groomed to their maximum so that they contribute immensely to the furtherance of the calls of nature, management and control resources from other parts of the realm of nature would migrate to this region and take over. The marvel of Nigeria has been why Nigeria a society of so many billionaires and millionaires can afford to leave Nollywood the way it is. What I have heard local investors complain about since 2012 is that they do not understand the industry! For how long! How long would take a human being with the right mentality to study an industry? How about the simple option of forming a consortium to take over the industry and then structure it to suit your expectation, knowing that this industry is first and foremost about the immediate environment, Nigeria!
What exactly is it about the Nigerian environment and Nollywood that makes you so upbeat about its potential?
Nigeria has the population to turn around any investment thrown into Nollywood. Unlike Brazil with a large population that doesn’t like watching their own local content, Nigeria’s population is in love with Nollywood, so that before the pandemic, Nigerian movies like Shuga Rush, His Excellency, Living in Bondage had already begin to outstrip the blockbuster contents from Hollywood and Bollywood in our cinemas. Why is Netflix in Nigeria if not because they saw and see that Nigeria’s is a Nigerian content rewarding audience? Foreign millionaires and billionaires will eventually profit perpetually off the products of Nigerian content. How excellent!
Is Netflix all of it? Are we to expect others?
There is more to come. I see foreign production companies with resources to spare coming into Nigeria to harness what our investors couldn’t afford out of myopia. I was in a Hotel in Santa Monica, Los Angeles some years ago and I got talking about Nigeria’s movie industry with a Caucasian gentleman in his 70’s, he told me contrary to ours, in the US, financial institutions were very involved in funding Hollywood. He said this was so because after the 2008 global slump and many people lost their shares in the stock market, the only stable industry was Hollywood and its ancillary businesses. He said he had good money behind him from financial institutions for Hollywood. I asked him if he could spare some, just a fraction, of such money on a Nigerian content. He said only if it was to be wholly owned by America. To me that was patriotic commercialism. And this is lacking in Nigeria.
Why do you think this is the case?
Our billionaires and millionaires don’t care; neither do their banks. I was friend to a Nigerian billionaire with two private jets, and I kept helping him shoot some of his products TVCs when his Italian director was being difficult. Then he told me he wanted to help me get really rich, because he felt I was smart, hardworking and honest. Guess what he was selling to me, “Abeg, my broda, troway this movie, movie, mumu thing and face real business. I give you money to import slippers from China in less than two weeks you offload them you make profit of minimum 40 million naira. Wetin dis film wan do for you? You go think, shout, run around, a beg forget!”
As rich as this man was, all he still saw was how to make more money, not to build a legacy making it.
So what is the panacea? What should we be doing? Where should we be going?
I will tell you. I am for:
- Doing what I LOVE DOING, so I build a business around my love, not around what would make me really rich. If I get rich in the process, all well and good
- I am for businesses with almost 100% reward to Nigeria, a business which employs a lot of Nigerian while doing it, and giving Nigerians the opportunity to express themselves in ways they may not have imagined.
- I am interested in a business which paints Nigeria and Africa well. Something that makes my country stands toe to toe with its counterparts worldwide. Enough of Nigerian beggarliness. There is no saviour for Nigeria outside Nigerians
So I am happy, but not so pleased that foreign concerns are coming in, because it advertises the paucity of thought in the Nigerian space, but then I am grateful to these foreigners who are making bold to come here having seen what our own people have refused to see with their eyes wide open.
Many more will come and Nigerian masses would be the losers, because the same funding supports denied us now by the local banks, would be advanced to these same foreigners and the profits would sail away.