How to Film in Nigeria and still be human by Niyi Akinmolayan

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HOW TO MAKE MONEY FROM NOLLYWOOD WITHOUT MAKING FILMS

Hello people and hope you all are having a great time transitioning into this new year. I know the frequency of posts reduced for the last half of 2017. The Wedding Party 2 took a lot of my time and energy. I’m happy it was all worth it. I’m going to be sharing a lot from that experience in upcoming posts but today I have decided to touch on something I think about a lot. The industry is getting bigger but just like many things in Nigeria; we forget that different cogs make a clock turn. We all shouldn’t be making films because filmmaking is hot. We all should be thinking about the bigger picture. Building an industry that’s complete on all ends.

I turn down a lot of investors who just want to make films. They keep mentioning Mo Abudu and The Wedding Party but forget that before she made that Film, She had made “Fifty” and her TV station had commissioned lots of TV films and series. The success wasn’t overnight. There’s a curve and you really don’t need to go that far to cash in on the industry. Filmmaking is very stressful in Nigeria but this doesn’t necessarily have to be. The stress is usually because we tend to repeat processes and we don’t have service companies working with us on set. Its tedious and isn’t smart. I want to make a list of great business ideas that can help you make money in nollywood without knowing anything or much about films.

1. BASE CAMP TENTS (SALES/RENTALS)e9e6f1390327654ad4b1584180b512a8

THE PROBLEM: A base camp basically is a holding area for cast and crew. This is always necessary because most locations like Hotels won’t allow you loiter around their area. As basic as this sounds, 90% of nollywood sets don’t have base camps. Its always messy and time wasting. Actors also don’t have places they can change costume or just hang around and be divas.

THE SOLUTION: Design custom made tents and rent/sell. From experience, you will need like 3 different types.

An actors tent; This one should be confortable enough to keep them in. you can add fans as part of the package. Make it feel private maybe with zipper doors so our fine actors won’t have to be disturbed by razz people lol. This also gives space for them to rehearse and have meetings with director.

A Costume/Props tent: This tent would be enclosed and you can build it to support hangers. Costume people can quickly arrange their costumes and actors can go in to change without fear.

A Crew Tent/Video village: This would be the largest of the three tents. It’s best as an open tent but should come with long tables and chairs as part of the package. It can be used as a small office for production and can also have video monitors there for the Executive producers to see how the director is using their money…lol.

THE CHALLENGE: There are lots of designs online on building collapsible sets. It makes sense that you figure out the designs and build from locally sourced materials. It should be easy to set up and collapsible. This way you don’t need to send a team to always set it up. The production should be able to rent from you, follow a manual that you provide and set it up them selves. It might not make sense if they have to rent extra hands from you to do that. I’m not sure it makes sense to buy abroad as this might not allow you customize well and of course forex wahala. Also you get to employ people, which is always a good thing.

Sometimes you have to show people what they didn’t even think they needed. Do your math; once the rental is cheap and it should be, you will be in big money.

party.line.tents

  1. TROLLEYS (SALES/RENTALS)film-trolley

THE PROBLEM: We look ridiculous when moving equipment from location buses into sets. Most locations prefer you to be discrete and not draw attention to the fact that there’s filming going on. Nollywood is very clumsy with this. We were chased out of a hotel once because the guests were uncomfortable. I mean, people paid big money to hide their girlfriends away from their wives and you people want to spoil market abi.

THE SOLUTION: In Dubai, I noticed they actually built custom trolleys from basic hotel type trolleys for different purposes. It was so well made; they created slots in the trolleys to accommodate different types of lights and grips. So you know where to fit what. They also added something I consider really cool. The trolleys had fabric coverings from top to bottom with zippers. So no one ever knew we were carrying camera and light equipment around. Luckily for us, the location trucks had hydraulic landers so the crew just rolled the trolleys from the truck to the set. Nollywood really needs this because we usually rent equipment from different places and people. Good and efficient trolleys will keep us organized, keep our equipment well and speed up production.

THE CHALLENGE: I think this can be made locally. Either build from scratch or convert already existing ones. Keep the daily rent cost small and you will have business

 

  1. VIDEO MONITORING (RENTALS)niyi-n-mo

THE PROBLEM: Most filmmakers will agree with me that the ability to watch scenes remotely makes their lives better. Having a separate area for viewing can also keep producers away from interfering directly on set. One other great use is that an Executive producer might want to bring their friend, business partner or sponsor on set and would love them to watch the process. Remote viewing solves all that problem. The only time I have been able to use a video monitor was on the wedding party and I know a lot of big productions that don’t have. Also the few that have use wired monitors. They take a lot of time to set up, cables all over the place and are difficult to move around.

THE SOLUTION: Buy a pair of HD/SDI video monitors and wireless SDI transmitters. Most films are two camera shoots so you will need a pair to max out the rental possibilities. They will come with cables or you can buy. This way, you can make the wireless one a more expensive rental option. Here are some BH links

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Wireless-A-V-Transmitters-Receivers/ci/16427/N/3907816634

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1248684-REG/lilliput_bm150_4k_15_6_carry_on_rackable_4k_broadcast.html

THE CHALLENGE: Crew can be careless so for this you will need to attach at least one person to the set to keep an eye on your equipment.

 

  1. CAMERA ACCESSORIES (RENTAL)2

THE PROBLEM: I’m still shocked at this problem. You can hardly find basic things like matte boxes, Filters and worst of all, lenses to rent. Everywhere else in the world, those things come standard with camera rentals. Nigerian equipment owners just buy fancy cameras and forget the rest. There is a huge gap here. We couldn’t find polarizers in the whole Lagos for my recent TV shoot. Lack of polarizers is why you see crew showing on reflective surfaces…lol

THE SOLUTION: Buy these things (Lenses, Matteboxes, filters). Once the word is out there that you have them, you will constantly be in business.

THE CHALLENGE: Cinema Lenses are a bit expensive and we have very careless crew so think about that. You can buy a range. The cheaper ones (rokinons, canons) you can rent without attaching someone but the expensive ones (Cooke, Fujinon, Zeiss) must come with that as part of the rental package

 

  1. STEADICAM RENTAL (OR OTHER MOTION RIGS)7

THE PROBLEM: This one is a plague. There are no steadicams/steadicam operators anywhere. It’s a disaster and it’s the main reasons most of our films look visually unmotivated. What a lot of people don’t know is how effective and time saving steadicams are. There are now cheaper options like the RONINs but they are terrible with heavy camera setups. I know this one for free that anyone renting a steadicam can never go out of business.

THE SOLUTION: Buy at least two big ones if you have the money. I swear you will always be in business. There’s an entire society of steadicam operators in places like the UK and US. Check www.tiffen.com/steadicam for options and prices

THE CHALLENGE: a steadicam needs a good operator and that’s usually a challenge. What you can do is to find a DOP to partner with. Let him/her be comfortable in using your steadicam and only recommend them whenever someone wants to rent it. That way you make money for yourself and the DOP. You can also get someone to train for this or you can do it yourself. It takes a while to learn but its not rocket science.

 

  1. FOLLOW FOCUS SYSTEMS (RENTAL)follow focus

THE PROBLEM: Do you also want to know why we always have static shots even when we have tracks and sliders and all? Because we don’t have follow focus systems on set. Its crazy. This is 2018 and you can hardly find good focus pulling systems or focus pullers. A focus pulling system ensures that no matter how your camera moves, your characters are still in focus. It’s a major reason you like oyinbo films. It’s also why it’s hard for us to do great action sequences.

THE SOLUTION: Buy a wired/wireless focus pulling system. There are lots of options online. The wireless one is the best and you can rent it at a premium price. You also wont need to attach anyone to it because the production can usually find a focus puller and most assistant cameramen are learning how to use them. Here is a BH link

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/wireless-lens-control-systems/ci/23192/N/3989452947?origSearch=wireless+follow+focus

THE CHALLENGE. Just like the steadicam problem, because we have few focus pulling systems, we have very few good focus pullers. But the more this is available the better their skills can be.

 

  1. A REAL PRIVATE FILM SCHOOLnyc-acting-1

THE PROBLEM: Since I started my blog, a lot of people have asked me to start a film school but I don’t think too much about it. Why? A Film school should be a serious investment. I’m not talking about all the houses people convert and call film schools. I’m talking about a facility with a lot of land and space to practice. We are expanding as an industry but the human capacity isn’t. Eventually, more big films will be made with South African or UK crew. Olorunmaje!!

THE SOLUTION: the obvious one is to start with a land mass and build from there but that’s overthinking it. A lot of our “useless” tertiary institutions already have that, why not build a film school within an already existing tertiary institution. It’s a partnership that can be beneficial to both the school and the investor. Acting classes can happen in regular lecture rooms. Open fields will solve the problem of practical location training for cinematographers and the likes. You can think about it as an education franchise in select schools. I know this one is a no brainer. A lot of these young folks want to act and make film. Lets empower them early in places they are familiar with.

THE CHALLENGE: Money!! But like I said, if this is done in partnership with schools, it might work. The other challenge would be teachers because all the good filmmakers are busy making films but I guess this might not be a challenge if the remuneration is good.

 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this post. We cant just all be making films. That’s not how you build an industry. there are other things from renting our real estate to building cranes and selling effects make up but my fingers hurt. If you are thinking about some of the ideas in this post but want to understand more. Drop a comment and I’ll explain better. Also share with people you know might be interested.

 

 

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Comments

  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:07

    Adeyinka

    Beautiful, I keep saying it...You are a blessing to this generation.
    • Posted: January 11, 2018 01:19

      Soma

      EVERYTHING - Everything mentioned in the post (except for the REAL PRIVATE FILM SCHOOL) You can get from us... rentals.fountainpix.com
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:09

    Waliu

    👌 👌 👌
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:25

    Emeka

    Very insightful. Thanks for this. Happy new year
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:26

    Maryam Edmond

    Wow, Such a nice Idea. Thinking of making a change.
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:27

    Chychy

    This is very APT and important. Thank you, Mr. Niyi.
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:30

    Femi Gabriel

    Double thumbs up to you for hitting the nail on the head once again.
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:33

    Chisom ifeakandu

    You took the thoughts right out of my head. I just recently concluded a cinematography workshop in France courtesy of afriff and different ideas popped in my head. There were equipment I personally have not seen on any of the productions I have interned with. I personally thought of a private film school.. but I'm still 21 I gotta cut my cloth according to my size. I have big dreams for the Nigerian film industry. Not everybody must answer producer and director. I hope the likes of Tonye Princewill and other biggies see this post
    • Posted: January 1, 2018 20:53

      admin

      Show them
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 21:57

    Marline

    O wow! This is enlightening. Thank you. Happy New Year
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 22:03

    pete

    Well pieced together,its always a moment reading your writing...keep it up boss. SOAR!
  • Posted: January 1, 2018 22:24

    Yemisi

    All great and practical ideas. Thanks boss. Have a lovely yearm
  • Posted: January 2, 2018 00:34

    Faraja

    Good morning Chief. I have followed you with a keen eye for two years now. I am a Kenyan who lived and worked in Lagos for three years. Now in China. Most of what you have mentioned is simply genius. Africa's filmmaking industry has a lot of potential not in the films but also in the Equipment and services part. Please, I beg you need to expand your knowledge and experience to East Africa. I want to invest in the film industry at home for so long but ignorance will kill us EA one day. Or else, can the Naija industry accept investment from a son from East Africa? Have a fruitful 2018
    • Posted: January 2, 2018 07:00

      admin

      Nigeria is very friendly to other countries
  • Posted: January 2, 2018 01:04

    Tune Raphael

    Oh Incredible Egbon. There is never a wasted knowledge here.
  • Posted: January 2, 2018 06:42

    Goldenson

    Bro you make so much sense and I just look up to u now as a role model... God bless u
  • Posted: January 2, 2018 07:05

    O’Fresh

    Thanks boss... eye opening
  • Posted: January 2, 2018 07:24

    May Baykar

    Thanks D. Very insightful.
  • Posted: January 2, 2018 12:51

    Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

    Wow! Niyi, see market everywhere! This is what I and a few others have been advocating. lack of service providers is a major problem this side. That said, we do have SteadyCam operators and Byron who worked me on Shuga is about the best. one company approached me with unit services, but what they offered was bloody expansive (again, this thing of wanting to make us money back immediately is a farce!) guess what? I ended up investing in unit equipment (tents, chairs, gens, monitors) on focus pullers and gear, didn't have any wahala with this as we had two amazing guys who delivered spot on!! However, gen truck, gaffer and grip gear were pretty challenging. so I am going to LA to sort this out. it's almost as if you need to provide this services urself to achieve the production value and scale you want. why not? Happy New year!!
    • Posted: January 2, 2018 13:18

      admin

      Eventually nothing says smat media can’t start off a proper film services business. Na only Byron sabi steadicam well and there are so many productions needing the service . The one that drives me nuts is filters. The focus pullers on shuga are probably the only good ones around. You guys had taking all d good folks before we started filming castle and castle lol. We need more film service business. Even catering
  • Posted: January 3, 2018 06:24

    Yungwizzzy

    Welcome back sir. Very insightful piece. Concerning follow focus system the ones used in music videos can't it be useful in movies?
    • Posted: January 3, 2018 07:18

      admin

      They can
  • Posted: January 3, 2018 10:23

    Shokanbi Idris

    This is very insightful. Thanks for sharing the ideas and having the bigger picture. I was part of the grip team that worked on 'Fifty' and presently working as a key grip but quite challenging that very few filmmakers like you appreciate the importance of grip on a production. I've invested in trolleys/magliners and other rigs but it's quite unfortunate that most of our Nigeria Producers don't know the value of the trolleys/magliners and often scrap it when budgeting for equipment. Also, I intend to be a steadicam operator but I've not been able to meet a steadicam operator to learn from. Byron is the only good Steadicam Operator in Nigeria and i'm looking forward to meet him and learn from him. Thanks to YouTube for the knowledge to kick off the training. Looking forward to working with you.
  • Posted: January 3, 2018 15:44

    Tunji Akinsehinwa

    Very good points here and they are issues I have noticed since filming in Nigeria. I'm actually buying up filters myself bcos I couldn't find any in Lagos. Focus pullers are a premium as in there are hardly any properly trained. I know about 4. I've even had a producers and directors asking why I (I'm a cinematographer) need a focus puller. I ve met others who think being a camera asst makes them a focus puller and then when you ask them to focus pull they can't do it. This all boils down to film production education and you hit the nail on the head when noting the poor quality of it. I lecture in cinematography in a film school in the UK (Northern Film School) and it is one of the best equipped and foremost undergraduate film schools in the UK. We shoot on Alexas and in TV studios. Film training is taken seriously and we let students know there are no shortcuts to acquiring their education. Not so in Nigeria. I have done several master classes and students who have attended have asked if I have a film school bcos they learnt more from that one masterclass than their previous film school in Lagos. We have a growing and amazing industry but there is much to do to make it one that meets international standards.
    • Posted: January 3, 2018 21:19

      admin

      You should find time to share some tips on this blog. Lots of film people are here
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  • Posted: January 6, 2018 12:54

    Mfoniso

    These ideas are amazing! I love what you're doing Sir
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  • Posted: January 9, 2018 23:27

    damilola

    Thank you sir for this piece