By Simeon Mpamugoh
A chieftain of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Mr. Foster Ojehonmon, has stressed the need for the National Assembly to urgently pass into law the draft bill establishing the Motion Pictures Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON).
Sequel to a recent visit to the new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Films Corporation (NFC), Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, he said AMP proffered a number of positives it would like to happen in the industry, including the issue of MOPICON bill, yet to be passed into law.
Ojehonmon, who is a filmmaker, screen playwright and the General Secretary, AMP, told Daily Sun, “The bill has been ‘dancing’ around within the industry, and there are different copies of it, but the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, came saying we should do something about it by setting up a 28-member committee to review the proposed bill into law, after an interactive session with stakeholders in the industry, with a view to fast-tracking it.
“The committee came up with recommendations, and I think it is now lying on his desk, hence there is nothing anyone can do about it. It is not only MOPICON bill; there are other things we needed tackled in the industry such as treaties with foreign countries.”
He was in Toronto International Films Festival last year where his delegation discussed with some producers at the festival about co-production. Surprisingly, the Canadians couldn’t work with the Nigerian producers either individually or collectively because of the nonexistence of co-production treaty with Canada.
He recalled that it was a similar case when the president of AMP, Mr. Ralph Nwadike, wanted to carry out a project with China, but, when it got to signing the bilateral deal, they told him they couldn’t release money from China, because Nigeria had no co-production treaty with Chinese government.
“Equally, Nigeria does not have co-production treaty with America and many other countries and, if we do not have treaties with them, we would just be local players in the industry,” he informed, reiterating, “Nigeria Filmmakers have done films that were supposed to be seen in box offices all over the world, but unable to do so, because we do not have treaties; and this is where the new helmsman of NFC has to urgently intervene so that we can have these treaties with other countries.”
Ojehonmon encouraged the government to create the enabling environment, for there was no foreign production investment the industry would attract into the country which wouldn’t be routed through the bank that must collect their dues besides its multiplier effects in terms of employment generation.
Lamenting that the Nigerian film industry is no longer as vibrant as it used to be, he said, “It seems to be growing at a very low rate. There were some high points; when we say our movies are going international, especially at the Toronto International Films Festival held September last year where some of our films did very well, including the cinema; the cinema just started, and we need more cinemas. The DVD market has gone down; there are relatively no market there, especially for the independent producers, AMP members, marketers and other producers.”
On piracy, he said it was growing out of proportion, “The pay TV firms, which are not officially pirates but legally broadcasting Nollywood films, are doing worse things than pirates, though some of them pay peanuts to broadcast Nigerian movies to about 50 African countries. What it does, of course, is that it advertises Nollywood all over the world, but the pecuniary benefits to producers are nonexistent.”
Speaking on the level of infrastructure for teaching young actors and actresses about filmmaking, the theatre graduate of University of Benin said teenagers interested in studying film production had limited opportunities in Nigeria. The only option available, he said was to go to film school in Jos. However, there are some constraints. He said, “We do not have schools teaching animation which is another specialised part of the information technology (IT) course.”
Thus, he enjoined the Nigeria University Commission (NUC) to ensure that we have film production courses in the universities in Nigeria, which animation should form part of it. “It is very important to create such courses because the world is moving forward and IT holds the ace,” Ojehonmon said.