We'll dig into these, and many other scintillating statistics in today's post. So grab your wheelie suitcase and climb aboard, because today on the blog, we're headed to the heart of the Nigerian film industry, aka Nollywood.
First, an overview of the Nigerian film industry:
- On an annual basis there are between 1000 and 2000 new productions, with as many as 200 new productions per month
- Average budget of a Nollywood film: US$17,000 - US$23,000
- Average number of copies sold (on DVD): 50,000
- Average price per DVD: $3 - $6
- Average Nollywood shoot is one week, with all shooting done on video, all on location (no sets, no studios)
- Movies considered to be hits sell a few hundred thousand copies and can sell up to 150,000–200,000 units nationwide in one day.
- Value of Nigerian film industry in 2013: $590M, up from $250M in 2010
- Over 500 languages are spoken in Nigeria, but the dominant language is English and the majority of productions are in English
Much of what I'm reporting here was gleaned from a presentation I attended a few weeks ago by the Berkman Center's Colin Maclay and Aimee Corrigan, a writer and producer who splits her time between Boston and Nigeria, where she runs a program called Nollywood workshops. Aimee's program provides technical training and aims to build a community among the approximately one million people involved in film production in Nigeria (it's the second largest employer in the country, after the oil industry). The idea of a film industry is a new concept to the locals, as the system of filmmaking in Nigeria basically created itself, from the bottom up. There are no studios. There are no film schools. Everyone is self-taught. People use online tutorials or figure out how to use programs such as Avid and Final Cut Pro themselves. The industry started digital and remains digital. Everything is shot on video, and edited on desktops or laptops. The films are generally narrative/fictional films (vs. documentaries or non-fiction) and it is a truly national cinema, with Nigerians telling Nigerian stories. The environment is one in which the independent, self-financed spirit has been key to the growth of the sector, and where the prevailing idea is that anybody can do it. This is, perhaps, the ultimate creative democracy. And though barriers to entry are low and supply is high, the economics seem to be working. This is largely because rather than thinking of filmmaking as an activity carried out by an elite group of artists and producers, it is something that people believe can be done by anyone, financed with modest funds from personal contacts, and completed in the space of one week.
|Market stalls as distribution & retail outlets|
In terms of budgets and box office (if the term can be used, seeing that these films generally do not receive a theatrical release), as mentioned above the average budget for a Nollywood film is ~$20,000. By comparison, the average Hollywood film budget is $100 - $150 million. And realize that a marketing budget of tens of millions is not unusual for a Hollywood production. An example of a high budget Nollywood film is Last Flight to Abuja, which cost approximately $500,000 to make, or 20x the average budget. Atypically, this film received a theatrical release in England, -- with its sizable Nigerian community -- in the hope of recouping the larger outlay for production.
Of the approximately 1,000 films produced in Nigeria annually there may be about 20 made at this budget level. Though a budget of $500,000 sounds small, if not miniscule, to Western audiences, bear in mind that no Nollywood movie has yet generated revenues of $1 million. Also worth noting is that the average middle class Nigerian income is generally about $500 per month, so an expenditure of $3 to $6 on a non-pirated DVD is proportionately much higher than that of a U.S. consumer, where the average income hovers around $40,000 per annum.
And though there is no centralized industry or studio system there is a star system at work. Actors such as Desmond Elliott and Genevieve Nnaji are prominent personalities, and generally appear in the films with the larger budgets in the low six figures. Genevieve's national stardom is such that multinational consumer goods company Unilever made her the face of their popular Lux soap product and Range Rover selected her as a celebrity endorser. Western culture may have its own foothold, but large brands are said to prefer to use Nollywood spokespeople whenever possible.
And for the extremely interested in this topic: An in depth look at the Nigerian film industry can be found in the full length documentary Nollywood Babylon, which can be seen in its entirety here.
Related Post: YouTube as a new platform for film & filmmakers