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Stimulating Intellectual Knob Of Showbiz

By Chuks Nwanne   |   03 May 2015   |   3:33 am
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DJ Jimmy Jatt, Mo Abudu, Mark Redguard, and Buki Sawyerr during one of the sessions.

Indeed, the Nigerian entertainment industry has exploded in recent times. The hyper activity on the scene has, no doubt, upstaged the days of yore when local TV and radio stations feed the public with foreign contents, especially from the United States.

You recall days when the craze for foreign songs, which most of us barely understood the lyrics or even make any sense out of them, were in vogue?

Those days when Indian and Chinese movies, even without subtitles, kept many on the edge of their seats? Days are gone when you went to night clubs and danced to American beats from dusk till dawn without complaining; the era when Shaba Ranks, Patra, Buster Rhymes, Chakademus & Pliers, 2Pac, Shagy and the likes ruled the country’s music industry.

Then, it was like a taboo to play a Nigerian song or video on air; Nigerian movies were ‘no, no.’ In fact, a radio station was even so audacious that time, as to decree that no Nigerian music, except Fela, would grace its air.

Today, things have changed; Nigerian songs are making waves all over the world, with the artistes winning international awards for their works. Nollywood, on the other hand, has become a phenomenon across the globe, to the extent that American superstars have seen reasons to collaborate with our people.

Today, comedy has become a major part of events, with hundreds of young Nigerians earning a living from just making people laugh. Unlike in the past, the youths are proud to introduce themselves in public as professional dancers today.

Don’t forget the cinematographers, sound engineers, producers, directors, make-up artistes, set designers and others on the fringes, making a living from the industry; that’s how far the entertainment industry has gone. But critically studied, the industry is yet to go full circle in terms of achieving its full potential.

Largely, lack of proper structure and funding has remained a stumbling block to the sector that has the capacity of impacting the economy positively.

Up till date, piracy remains a menace for practitioners and stakeholders, who struggle daily to break even, while the pirates smile to the bank. Even with the litany of challenges on hand, the industry seems to have paid more attention to the ‘show’ side of the industry, while still scratching the surface of the ‘business’ angle.

As the entertainment business all over the world continues to see rapid, shocking changes, with the future of the industry increasingly relying on information technology and new ideas, there was need to create a platform for intellectual engagement among players on how to move the industry beyond ‘red carpet and paparazzi.’

The aim is to get the stakeholders, practitioners and players in the sectors to put the house in order, while taking concrete steps to study global trends, understand them, master them, and put them to use for the benefit of practitioners, consumers, cooperates and society at large.

Cover-photo

Yetunde Babaeko during her practical session, The Power Of Photography, at the conference

SO, in 2013, when the CEO of Black House Media and publisher of Nigerian Entertainment Today (NET) Ayeni Adekule came up with the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC), industry watcher saw it as an answer to the needed change everyone was yearning for.

With the caliber of speakers and panelists featured at the second edition held on April 24, 2014, at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, it became obvious that the much-needed revival in the industry had taken off on a sound footing.

Held under the theme, Buying And Selling Nigerian Entertainment… And Everything In-Between, this year’s conference has once again opened the eyes of practitioners and stakeholder to the potentials in the showbiz industry, if the right steps are taken.

The one-day event, which also created an opportunity for players to interrogate activities in the sector in last one year, attracted guests from different sections of the industry.

Aside for intellectual engagements, the event, which has expanded to accommodate exhibitors, was a sort of reunion for the practitioners; it was a perfect opportunity for networking.

Divided into different sessions of investment, distribution, music, government laws and policies to mention a few, the 2015 conference, which lasted into the late hours of the day, had speakers such as actress Joke Silva, young and talented musician David Adeleke (Davido), CEO Ebony Life TV Mosunmola Abudu, hip-hop artiste Jude Abaga (M.I), CEO Iroko TV Jason Njoku, George Thorpe, Uba Pacific and others. Anchored by comedian Tee A, some of the panelists are Oreka Godis, Chike Maduegbuna, Shina Pellar, Osagie Alonge, Mai Atafo, Shizzi and others.

In his welcome address, the founder of the conference Ayeni Adekule rued the current situation in the industry where once thriving professionals, can no longer make ends meet, even after dedicating their entire lives to their work. “A once thriving element of what should be an industry now nearing comatose.

A gifted community of people with so much talents and promise, yet so much uncertainty and want, so much poverty. Since we started NEC LIVE in 2013, I have taken time to find out more about the structure of the many businesses that make up what we call an industry.

I have researched extensively on living conditions of those, who work within the creative sector, while trying to understand what the sustainable revenue options are.

What I’ve found, from Nollywood to media and music, is that the system is full of plenty, bright young men and women, drawn in by the perceived potentials and successes they see from afar.”

Though the industry has gifted men and women, who want to make a change and write their names in gold, the reality is that the system is dominated by this set of people and their enthusiasm on the one hand, and another set of people – much older and frustrated, on the other. “They know why it can’t be done; some have given up and moved to other industries. Some remain here, hanging on to whatever is left.

They’ve seen it all. And they’ll tell you for free, that this circle will never end. There’ll never be an industry if… Usually, the distance from set A to set B is just a couple of years. And the circle goes on and on.”

He continued: “Why is celebrity, glorified prostitution, government patronage and corporate hustling suddenly more profitable and desirable than the actual business of entertainment? Why is our music dominating the continent, our movies blowing up around the world yet the people who work to make it happen cannot build a sustainable career and feed themselves and their families? I’ve determined that the problem is that we deceive ourselves.

We like to be deceived. We know the truth but refuse to face it because there’s something more appealing: the lie,” he said. The reality, according to Adekunle, is that the industry is working so hard for others, who do not have a stake or interest of the practitioners at heart. “We are creating products and services we have no plan, or resources to exploit.

We are the proverbial monkeys, working for the baboons. Let me tell you something, corporate Nigeria, pirates, have built better systems to reap from the work you’re doing.

And if we do not understand what is to be done, they will end up creating a structure that makes it impossible for you to stand up to them.” He noted that lack of distribution channels for entertainment content, remains a stumbling block for practitioners to break even. “We’re making so many films from Asaba to Kano, Badagry and Ikorodu.

But we have no means of getting them to consumers via TV or cinema or DVD. We’re creating hit songs by the day, yet we have no industrial system of reproducing and distributing the works.”

But all hope is not lost for the industry, as current events show that some practitioners have taken things a notch higher with quality works and great thinking.

“From Gabosky, to Jason Njoku, Chike Maduegbuna and Kene Mpkaru, we’re seeing great moves in terms of cinema planting and movie distribution.

Looking at what’s happening in the music sector, some of which will be announced here at NEC LIVE, I see an opportunity to create a system that helps our music get round better and faster.

Today, there are at least five big announcements – all of them tested projects that’ll change the way we work; the way we earn. I’m committed to spending my entire career working to make sure we move from complaining to doing; so we can quickly fix the issues holding us back,” he pledged.

LArgely, the conference did not just throw up challenges facing the industry; it also made effort to proffer solutions. Most of the practitioners, who unanimously agreed that the sector is facing tough times, also came up with means of arresting the situation. Speaking during one of the sessions, veteran actress, Joke Silva noted that proper and regular training is the only factor that can guarantee longevity in the business of acting.

Silva who handled the Teaching And Training Tomorrow’s Talent session with a very practical speech, affirmed that training is as important as performance itself. To further corroborate her point, she cited an example of when she had a problem understanding a character she played in the stage play, For Coloured Girls and had to resort to help from popular director, Ifeoma Fafunwa for some direction. According to her, this training can take the informal form as in the case of Yoruba Traveling Theatre or a formal, like University courses or at institutes such as Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts, which she co-founded with her husband, Olu Jacobs.

“I have spent about 34 years as an actor, I have trained several people but I realized that for me to properly understand the character, I needed some extra training.

So, I went to someone I was sure understood exactly what that character needed. It is very important for actors to get the right education and not only once but throughout their career. If we don’t do this, what we will get is nothing but mediocrity,” she said.

On her part, the CEO of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), Chioma Ude, while speaking as a panelist alongside Wunmi Obe, Femi Falodun and Theo Lawson, revealed that lack local language content as required to enter the Foreign Film categories at most of the world’s biggest award shows, is responsible for the inability of Nigerian movies to get much recognition from global film awards and festivals.

“We need to understand what this category is about and the criteria for entry. Movies in this category are expected to have rich cultural elements, which must reflect in the language, story, music and all other elements present in the film. Though things are getting better now, as Nollywood got an invitation from the Oscars last year, and hopefully will get a slot soon.

The right film must have at least 51% local language content to be accepted into the Foreign Language Film category,” she hinted. Speaking for the music industry, recording artiste Wunmi Obe explained that the same reason is why only the likes of Sunny Ade, Femi Kuti, Angelique Kidjo are the ones who usually get nominated for the Grammys.

“These people are very African in their sounds and lyrics, and that is what is required for that category,” she said. But Femi Falodun, COO of ID Africa, advocated for the use of the digital space, which he says guarantees a wider reach as the world presently lives on the Internet.

He cited the cases of how the Internet has changed music distribution in the country and how it is beginning to do same for the movies. “The Internet has for a while now, proven to be a dependable platform for distribution, one that content providers can harness for their benefit,” he said.

While responding to questions from the audience during one of the sessions on copyright, recording artiste and Director at the Copyright Society of Nigeria stated emphatically that the society is out to protect all forms of intellectual property including those from the dance and architectural design industries.

“Music and movies are not the only ones protected by law; the same protection extends to dance performances, architectural designs and other intellectual property.

All that is needed is for practitioners to come together, organize and make their demands known. It saddens me that a lot of artistes and designers still get ripped off their intellectual properties.

COSON has started a war against this and it can only get better,” she said. Earlier at the conference, the CEO of Total Consult Theo Lawson, one of the panelists at the How To Sell Nigerian Content session, highlighted the need for architectural designs to be regarded as intellectual properties and protected as such.

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Ifeoma Williams, CEO of Ebonylife TV, Mo Abudu and Audu Maikori of Chocolate City.

“These designs are also works of art and need as much protection as the songs and movies do,” he said. Meanwhile, choreographer Kaffy made a plea for COSON to protect the dance industry, advising her colleagues to look beyond dancing for shows and put out diverse forms of content.

“I understand there is a need for more content from my industry and that is why I am going out of my way to create for example my work-out instructional videos and others, but then there has to be an assurance that COSON will protect these material which are our own intellectual property too,” she said.

In his presentation, Lanre Dabiri, popularly known as Eldee said that it was high time content producers begun to reap the benefits of their labour.

The rapper and producer, who spoke on the topic: Future of Music and Fans (the science of tracking and monetizing airplay) observed that the progress of content producers in the industry is hindered by all sorts of regularities that plague the trade.

“We should align with the scope of NEC and seek to achieve meaningful purpose that will advance the industry and life in general.” Eldee said that the level of mediocrity in the entertainment industry and pirating of intellectual works, was threatening the growth the sector.

“If the practitioners in the entertainment sector were not able to reap from their creative output, then the growth of the industry would be seriously retarded.” The NEC 2015 also took time to specially recognise some prominent Nigerian entertainment personalities, who have passed on over the past five years.

Among those remembered are Muna Obiekwe, Nollywood actor; Susan Filani aka Goldie, singer and TV star; Amaka Igwe, renowned movie producer; Olaitan Olaonipekun aka Dagrin, rapper; Dan Ibro, Kannywood actor and Justus Esiri, acting legend, and others. Apart from honouring departed colleagues, living Nigerian entertainers were awarded NET Honours in recognition of their contribution to the Nigerian Entertainment Industry.

The recipients include former editor, The Guardian on Sunday and culture activist/advocate Jahman Anikulapo; music critic and broadcaster, Benson Idonije; award winning music producer, Cobhams Asuquo; MTV Base Chief, Alex Okosi, and OAP, Jacob Akinyemi Johnson (J.A.J).

Others honoured are Director General Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Emeka Mba; legendary actor and musician, Moses Olaiya aka Baba Sala; renowned poet and actor, Adebayo Faleti; Yoruba actor, Tajudeen Oyewole popularly known as Abija; Corporate Pictures chief executive officer, Razak Abdullahi; actor cum film-maker, Lere Paimo; Galaxy TV CEO, Steve Ojo; COSON Board chairman Tony Okoroji and singer, Lagbaja. Chris Ihidero, chairman of the NET Editorial Board describes the NET Honours as a small token of appreciation for the immense contributions made by the awardees to the evolution of Nigerian entertainment as a business and as a culture.




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