‘We need a Nigerian Film Festival not owned or run by individuals’

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Shan George is one of the most cerebral and highly talented Nollywood idols. Her new movie titled “Grey Shadows” recently premiered in Lagos.

In this interview with IretoTemofeh, the icon of the Nigerian movie industry explains the importance for governments at both national and state levels to create Nigerian Film Villages in each of the six geo-political zones, establish solid marketing platforms for movies to eliminate piracy, and help fund movies that teach rather than only entertain.

She is also sad that there are no children’s content/movies at all coming out of Nollywood, and believes that more children’s movies should be produced. However, on the idea of a Nigerian Film Festival, she insists that government must get involved if they really realize that Nollywood is a money-spinning machine. Enjoy it!

As one of the celebrated Nigerian actresses and founders of Nollywood, can you give us an insight into the way Nollywood operated in those early days when you first started acting and compare it with Nollywood of today?

In the years back, Nollywood shot with Betacam, then Dvcam, now we are shooting with cameras like Red, Blackmagic, 35mm, etc. Same goes with editing equipment. We have advanced a lot.

What do you consider as your most challenging movie or character and why?

All movies are great and all characters are challenging. The most challenging character I’ve ever played is a Mermaid. Because this is not human and I’ve never seen a Mermaid in my life. How do I talk and act like something I’ve never seen? It was in a movie titled HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN by Helen Ukpabio.

Now why did you decide to take a break from acting for some time now, and what have you been doing during your absence from the big screen?

I didn’t decided to take a break, My mother fell ill, I had to leave work to go take care of my mom. I didn’t envisage she will be ill for so long. It’s been almost seven years now. Although she’s much better now and I’m back to work.

You have been part of the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood) for over a decade now; do you see any improvement in Nollywood now compared to the way it was many years ago, or are the same low quality movies still being produced with only a few films of good quality?

I’ve been in Nollywood for over a decade and the improvement is much, from the kind of equipment to the kind of stories, to the level of acting and dynamism of the producers and directors; everything has improved for the better. There are still a few wishy-washy movies being produced now, but we now have more good well produced movies than a decade ago.

Who are your favorite actors or actresses in Nollywood of today and why?

My favourite actors are anybody who carries their role and play the character in a movie to the letter. I have favourite actors based on each movie I see because some actors are good in one movie and not so good in another movie.

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Nollywood today and how do you think those challenges can be overcome?

One of the most pressing challenges facing Nollywood is FINANCING. like the saying goes BETTER SOUP NA MONEY KILL AM. To do a good movie cost loads of money, millions. Another major challenge is MARKET, we don’t have a good film market in Nigeria. Even in America there’s a film market.

We finish making a good movie in Nigeria and there’s no solid base market to sell the products well enough to reach the people. That’s why piracy thrives. When you can’t get your products to a certain place and there is demand for that product there, anyone would device a means to get that product to those demanding for it.

There’s also the challenge of security, since there’s no film village in Nigeria, producers have to sort their filming locations themselves and sometimes it’s at places not safe enough, so we face a lot of physical attacks from hoodlums and miscreants. It’s a long list of challenges.

An actor, John Okafor (Mr.Ibu), recently reportedly recommended the establishment of an Anti-Piracy Board to deal squarely with issues of piracy in Nigeria. What is your opinion on the best or most effective way to tackle piracy in the Nigerian movie industry?

Government needs to make policies and provisions for the industry to grow.

I believe one of the ways to tackle piracy is to create good movie marketing platforms. If people know how to get original copies from known markets, the pirated copies would suffer. Also good pronounced punishment for piracy that can be implemented.So as to discourage the act of piracy. John okafor (Mr Ibu) has a good point too.

What else can the government of President MuhammaduBuhari do to improve Nollywood?

The government like I said earlier should provide us a film village and a good film market in the six zones of Nigeria, and also help fund movies that can make impact for correction of societal ills and norms. Fund stories that are mostly about teaching, not only entertaining.

Concerning content coming out of Nollywood, some feel that there is little or no content being produced specifically for children. For example, Tales By Moonlight was a storytelling TV series produced for children by the NTA many years ago. Do you think more children’s programs and even children’s films/movies should be produced?

I think more children’s movies should be produced. But this kind of movies don’t make money for the producers in Nigeria, so government needs to put out more funds for making children’s movies, to teach, inspire and groom the young minds. As it is right now, there are no children’s movies at all. That’s very sad.

Very sad indeed that there are no children’s movies at all. Is there a way to partner with the private sector, for example, Indomie, to produce more content for children?

It all begins with the script writers. I believe that many producers will be willing, and sponsors would also key in, if presented with a good children’s movie script.

Tell us more about your plans or projects which you’re seriously working on right now?

Currently I’ve just finished producing a movie titled GREY SHADOWS. Premiering in lagos on the 24th of November. It’s a story that showcases the condition of health facilities and its staff. The sham that the health sector in Nigeria has become and how it affects the average Nigerian. It is a movie that I believe every Nigerian can relate to.

What do you think about the idea of a Nigerian Film Festival?

We really need to have a Nigerian film festival. The film festivals we currently have are ones owned and run by individuals and those won’t do. Seriously the government need to realise that Nollywood is a money spinning machine once well operated.

Don’t you think Nollywood should have a school for actors, especially as a way for actors to improve their skills by embarking on training and re-training?

I’ve been working in Nollywood for 20 years. I read Mass Communications in University of Lagos and majored in broadcasting. Plus I read online on my own to improve my work. There are many film academies currently running, like Wale Adenuga’s PEFTI, EmemIsong’s Royal Arts Academy, StephnieOkereke’s DELYORK Academy, etc.

As a mass communications graduate, why did you ditch the journalism profession instead of becoming a journalist? And how do you rate Nigerian journalists and journalism in Nigeria today?

I majored in broadcasting which has to do with TV. So I won’t call it a ditch to be in Nollywood.
Nigerian journalism is doing well but a lot of half baked quacks are publishing fake unconfirmed contents, making the real journalist look lazy and not good enough.

Quote

“One of the most pressing challenges facing Nollywood is FINANCING. As the saying goes, BETTER SOUP NA MONEY KILL AM. To do a good movie costs loads of money, millions. Another major challenge is MARKET; we don’t have a good film market in Nigeria. Even in America, there’s a film market. We finish making a good movie in Nigeria and there’s no solid base market to sell the products well enough to reach the people. That’s why piracy thrives.”

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