Nigeria’s Nollywood is the third largest film industry worldwide right behind Hollywood in the US and India’s Bollywood. Its filmmakers have mastered the art of producing entertaining popular media with low production costs and high revenue gains. According to Black Enterprise, Nollywood produces more than 2000 moves each year and brings in $250 million in profit. But exactly how does Nollywood work?
As with Tyler Perry’s films, Nollywood filmmakers can produce a film for around $15,000. In return, they often see 10 times that amount in profit. Nollywood started in the late 1980s, and has since been producing movies that display the everyday life and dilemmas of Africans covering religious to moral, romantic and political themes.
With an increasing number of African American actors jumping on board, Nollywood has been able to reach an even greater audience, and has fans from across Africa, the Caribbean and the United States. But Nollywood offers the black community more than just a means of entertainment.
“Nollywood films allow Black people to shine,” Ebbe Bassey, the Bronx-born, Nigeria-raised actress said to Black Enterprise. “[Unlike in Hollywood], we’re not being killed at the end of the first scene. We’re not gangbanging or on drugs,” she says. “We can be doctors, lawyers and whatever else we want to be. Nollywood films allow Black people to choose roles that fully express their humanity.”
Bassey recently played in the award winning Ghanaian film “Ties That Bind,” starring African American actress Kimberly Elise.
Nollywood also offers less bureaucracy than Hollywood.
“You don’t have to worry about filing much paperwork here,” Bassey said. “If you’re [a producer] shooting in the States, you’re using union actors and directors so you have to file with the Screen Actors Guild, and that’s a nightmare,” she continues. “As a filmmaker, you also spend far less money on licenses and have a lot less input [from the government] on how to run your company. If you wanted to pull out your camera and start shooting in the street, it’d be okay.”
Bassey also relates that actor Danny Glover has visited Nigeria several times to discuss potential projects. But producing films in Nollywood also has its negative aspects. Equipment can be hard to find, as well as quality technicians to work the equipment, which leaves room for poorer film quality. In addition, Nigeria is plagued with power outages.
“[In Nigeria], you can be shooting and the lights will go off and suddenly you’re dealing with a blackout. Now you have to go get a generator, which is not cheap, and then deal with the noise of a generator, which can ruin your sound quality,” she said to Black Enterprise.
For Nigerian actors, making a lucrative business from acting can be difficult. Those that are not in unions face minimal pay with no additional incentive for overtime. In addition there are often no food carts and they also find they must do their own stunts with no insurance to cover accidents.
But many Nollywood supporters find that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. “We’re telling stories that have purpose,” Osas Ighodaro, actress and Miss Black USA 2010 said. Ighodaro is set to play in the upcoming documentary film “Black November,” which tells the story of the destruction of Nigeria’s oil spills.
The oil spills [across Nigeria] have been much more damaging than the 2010 [BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexíco], yet no one’s talking about them,” she said to Black Enterprise. “We’re educating people about what’s happening in our homeland; what we’re dealing with here.”