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Making A Case For Extreme Ownership In Nollywood

[FILES] A movie producer behind the camera lens. PHOTO : AFP

Of all creative artforms, there are few which require collaboration like filmmaking, the reliance on others.

With today’s technology a singer can record a track alone in their room with the right software, an illustrator just needs a canvas or an Adobe programme. With film, even a multi-hyphenate writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor at the very least needs people in front of the camera.

In our filmmaking environment a large percentage of the cast and crew have no formal film education/training as many came in from different career backgrounds, some put in the work and develop into professionals. Others had different motivations for entering filmmaking, as a result they won’t have a professional commitment or pride in their work, each project is a closer step to fame or solely a credit alert which needs to be over quickly.

Can ‘Extreme Ownership’ be a solution to this? What exactly is Extreme Ownership?


“Extreme Ownership” is a term coined by Jocko Willink a former US Navy Seal who co-authored “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win” He shares the lessons he learned as a Team Leader in Iraq, responsible for the lives of his team and the mission. Under his leadership, Task Unit Bruiser became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit of the entire war in Iraq and helped bring stability to Ramadi.

In his words :
“On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win”

No sane person goes on a film set looking to make a dud but things happen which are beyond a single person’s control. People are trusted to do the job without being micro-managed and some of them mess up leading to a domino effect.

It may be a goof only discovered in post production but as a team leader/head of whatever department it came from, you hired or approved their hiring. Your investors won’t look to that person they look to you, such is the weight of leadership. Blame and distancing ourselves from it won’t allow us to learn the lessons to improve.

It’s easy to bask in praise and accept the credit for a job well done; people love the film, it gets great reviews and makes money. It’s much harder to take the bullets which come with failure. In both cases you didn’t do it alone you worked with an army of people.


JW: When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard.”

Unfortunately Nollywood gained a reputation for substandard output in technical and other aspects of production, sound, lighting, camera work etc For a long while it was accepted as the norm to have these things in a home video. Some didn’t know how to fix it, some saw it as part of the trade mark and others felt if the story was engaging enough and actors likable, poor sound and lighting didn’t matter.

Some cast and crew protest at directors or producers who try to raise the bar. They operate with the Manage it Like That (MILT) mindset because they want to get it over and done with whether it’s right or not. Once you hire people with such a mindset, there is no rousing “BraveHeart” speech which would make them deliver excellence. Once you tolerate them delivering substandard work, you’re done for.

Nollywood in the last decade has improved in the technical aspect because some directors and producers insisted on raising the bar. They set a standard and their crew had to fall in line showing everyone else what was possible, inspiring others to do the same.

Nothing here is easy to adapt, most are counter intuitive, it could take a long time of unlearning and de-programming to operate in Extreme Ownership but the industry would be better off. It could lead to a ripple effect in society as that same discipline and sense of responsibility is applied in the home, social and other circles.

Go forth and be awesome.

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