Nollywood: Film distribution gets lion share of N3bn

nollywood film industryAlthough the blueprint for the disbursement of the N3bn fresh Federal Government intervention for the film industry is not yet out, indications emerged at the weekend that distribution will take the largest chunk of the grant that President Goodluck Jonathan announced for the industry recently.

The ‘good news’ was broken and gleefully received during a presidential dinner organised to mark the 20th Nollywood anniversary of Nollywood in Lagos. But the applause had hardly died down when stakeholders began to argue over how the money should be disbursed and who should get what. It was as if the grant was created to give leaders of some of the guilds and associations in the sector another opportunity to fight one another.

But sanity and common sense appear to have prevailed. This is the outcome of a meeting that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and her counterpart in Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, held with the stakeholders in Lagos on Saturday. The President had mandated both ministers to oversee the initiative tagged Project Nollywood.

Although journalists were not allowed into the venue of the meeting, which took place at the Eko Hotel Suites and Towers, the ministers, alongside the industry chiefs, noted at the end of it that they had substantially agreed on how the money will be used.

“We held the meeting to continue to further the initiative of Mr. President to support Nollywood,” Okonjo Iweala said. “We recognise that talents abound in the industry. It is one sector that has generated up to 200,000 direct jobs and about a million indirect ones.”

She added that the meeting acknowledged that major bottlenecks were affecting the progress of the industry, with piracy being a major factor, while there is need for capacity building. The biggest bottleneck is, however, said to be distribution. According to her, fund will be channelled through four major areas. It will be aimed at getting distribution right, capacity building, ‘encouraging creativity’ and promoting competition on script writing.

Okonjo-Iweala promised that the pattern would be soon finalised and added that when the blueprint was finally out, people would apply for relevant aspects of the grant through what she called an independent panel of judges.

Also relating it to the $200m loan scheme first introduced by the government, which many film practitioners have criticised due to difficulty in accessing it, the minister said both would exist side by side.

“The grant does not override the $200m facility. Rather, it should be a catalyst to realising its goals. It should help the objects of the $200m loan,” she said.

Duke also noted that the Federal Government was taking the industry seriously, based on the roles it now plays in diplomatic development.

He said, “Government’s realisation of the importance of the sector is to the effect that it has become a major pillar in government diplomacy. Nollywood has become a major factor of self esteem for Africans in the Diaspora.”

He added that the National Copyright Commission would be strengthened so that the fight against piracy would be more meaningful.

The industry chiefs that spoke at the conference, including Chief Gab Okoye, Zik-Zulu Okafor and Andy Amenechi, thanked the ministers for the intervention and assured the practitioners that the interest of all was being taken care of. And for some people who might have also been wondering if the grant would apply to all sections of the industry, Okonjo-Iweala cleared the air on this. According to her, it will accommodate the English, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and other indigenous sub-sectors.

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