Filmmaking in Nigeria, alongside the music scene, saw considerable growth over the last decade alone. Cinema revenue is projected to grow to $12 million by 2026 from the $6.6 million recorded in 2021, while Nigeria’s OTT video streaming ecosystem including players like Netflix, Showmax, and Prime Video is expected to spiral up from $14 million in 2021 to $26 million by the year 2026.


Netflix alone invested over $23 million to either license local titles or commission original Nigerian content between 2016 and 2022, marking the country as being among its three priority markets for film in Sub-Saharan Africa, alongside South Africa and Kenya. But the burning question among creative sector bigwigs has remained whether Nigeria can or is exploiting Nollywood’s increased international visibility for potential tourism gains.

In this independently published interview short for a 4000-word article exploring the topic, the filmmaker Niyi Akinmolayan shares his opinion on how state governments in Nigeria can rethink Nollywood and local tourism.

What are your thoughts on what’s possible for Nollywood in tourism? And how far along would you say the industry is on that trajectory?


I think what’s happening is that there’s a disconnect between what’s actually happening in the industry and government stakeholders. In a way, they all still think that our film industry is the Nollywood of the 90s. And that’s where they are missing out on what’s really going on. A lot of the financing that is coming into Nollywood is from the private sector but people are now beginning to land deals worth millions of dollars with Netflix, Amazon, and the like. The government is not paying attention. These films are getting seen worldwide. You could make a film for a million dollars five to six years ago and it’s only in Nigeria that people would see it. That is a waste. Now, you can make the same film for $100,000 and someone from Brazil is going to be excited. A professor in America could use it as a topic for discussion in one of their classrooms. So it goes without saying that the government should be looking at the potential opportunities that this brings in tourism. But it doesn’t even need to be that complex.

It doesn’t need to be the federal government. The states can do it. It’s not a hard thing. Different countries around the world lure filmmakers to their states, give them tax incentives, and provide security just for them to come and shoot. Sometimes, it almost feels like it’s propaganda because you’re getting a filmmaker to show all the beauty in a state. When we did ‘King of Thieves’ in 2021, we shot in Oyo state. Because of the film’s success, we now have close to like five different Yoruba epics shot in Oyo Town. It means the hotels will get busy, the local community get work, and a lot of activities would start happening. But Oyo is not the only state in Nigeria that has the potential for filming and all that. What should be happening is that states need to find a liaison and start lobbying filmmakers.

They could go, “Hey, we’re from Ondo state where we have Idanre Hills. It’s beautiful. Do you have anything on your slate that you can come and shoot here?” Usually, what a lot of filmmakers want is security. “We’ll provide security, access to land, and all that.” Within a short time, people will see the turnaround. On the other hand, it’s going to really help our stories. To be honest, we’re all tired of filming in Lagos.


Is that so?

The very idea and surrounding of Lagos limit the kinds of stories that we can tell. At Anthill Studios, we went to shoot ‘Prophetess’ in Ibadan. We shot at Liberty Stadium. It was a big deal. There was already a ‘King of Thieves’ in Oyo Town. Now, we’re releasing a film later this year that was shot around all the mountains in Ondo state. And we’ve never gotten a single support from the government. Other states should be able to say, “Oh, we have a grand festival every June.” They could reach out to all the filmmakers and have them bid creatively to film along with the festival. That way, the world sees the festival when they’re watching the film. These things are not really complicated. It’s just the will to do it. All these aren’t happening because when state authorities think about Nollywood, they still picture all those old films they used to watch on African Magic. Meanwhile, they’re missing out on the fact that the international community is now paying attention. Film value and quality have increased.

What do you make of the recurring talks about building that Hollywood-like district?

It’s a good idea largely because of the kinds of job opportunities it can create. When you look at what Kunle Afolayan is doing, I’m not in on all the details but I’m very sure all that is privately funded. What film cities do for movies is that it allows production to manage their resources effectively. You can put everyone in one space and build out all your sets in that place and create. But, of course, you can’t just go anywhere and take land. What are the incentives that make land very cheap? Security is a big deal as well. Like in other places around the world, the idea of a film city could also be more like a hub. You can designate an entire district for the purpose and call on filmmakers to come to buy land. As long as they make a film within that region, they could get perks, relief, and other things.


What’s your analysis of the state of Nollywood at this moment, be it about technical capacity, deals with streamers, or production standards?

There’s been a lot of success stories. It’s just not enough. The industry is not going to grow when it’s only two or three people that are able to cash out big. We still need more numbers; more people succeeding. But we can’t deny the fact that the inflow of the streamers like Netflix and Amazon has really helped. Take a look at recent films like ‘Brotherhood’, ‘Gangs of Lagos’, and Anikulapo’. The reason they look big is that filmmakers know the profit margin is going to be good. They already had some earnings planned ahead before they made the films. We need that to happen to a lot more people who probably don’t have that direct access to the streamers. And the streamers like Netflix and Amazon alone can’t solve our problems. If we have funding to make good films, we now know that there are people to buy those films. My own take is that there is success but we need more.

Netflix’s socio-economic impact report showed it invested up to $125 million in South African content and $23 million in Nigeria between 2016 and 2022. What do you make of this disparity?

First, there are a lot more South African original productions than Nigerian ones. From a production point of view, they’re going to be spending more to create in the South African market than they’re spending in Nigeria. So, naturally, it makes sense. They’ve also been in South Africa a little longer than they’ve been in Nigeria. That’s nothing to complain about. It’s a gradual process and I believe we’ll get there. In terms of the licensing deals, what we’re made to believe, even though nobody shows us the figures, is that the subscription numbers in Nigeria are nothing close to what you have in South Africa. And it’s a subscription-based business. They have to gradually and carefully plan their investment rather than just throw money. They need to be sure there’s an audience. A lot of times when these films come out on Netflix, they’re dubbed to pirate sites. If you’re a company, how do you resolve that? There aren’t as many originals here yet, and a lot of money is usually involved in those high-profile productions. So there’s more happening in South Africa than in Nigeria.


So what’s typical of the South African market that Nigeria lacks beyond a stronger subscriber base?

We don’t make films at the scale that makes it worth paying big money; films that are international in scope and scale. Hollywood goes to South Africa to shoot films. That’s how big that industry is. They’re well established, both technically and in a lot of other ways. So it’s natural to go to a market where a lot of their films are still small-scale and low-budget, then you use the same approach to come in. You’re not going to come and throw big money, hoping that they’d start making big films overnight. It has to be calculative. There’s also a lot of technical growth and support that we don’t have to do films in those capacities. If we want to pull off an action film, for example, we don’t have stunt training academies that are big enough. We don’t have special effects companies that can handle much of the work. But South Africa already has a growing industry around those technical aspects.

Is there more on these issues you’d like to chip in?

I’d love to add that we must learn to invest across the whole value chain. The mistake I’m beginning to see is that everybody wants to produce films but the really good cinematographers are probably three or four. The really good sound people are probably two or three. People should be investing in schools, partnering with established special effects & VFX studios abroad to come and open a branch in Nigeria, and talking to foreign companies to buy some equity from companies in Nigeria so we can do some exchange. We need training because there’s no technical capacity. We have the willpower and wish to do great things but, as long as everyone keeps investing in just production and buying equipment, what we will end up with are a lot of fancy ideas and gadgets but with nobody to execute them. Then, we end up hiring foreigners to do the job when we have millions of Nigerians ready to work but have no access to training. I think we’re being misguided in the way we invest. We must prioritise training.


What future do you see for Nigeria’s movie industry?

We’re going to be great. The speed at which we get there is likely going to depend on us and how much the government supports us. It also helps that Afrobeats has proven that Nigeria knows how to drive excitement about Africa across the world. We’re hoping that, if it can happen for the music industry, it’s going to happen for Nollywood very soon.

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