There is a need for “a proper balancing of certain critical factors in the process of structuring and designing the most suitable framework for film distribution with appropriate intermediaries and trained operatives to sell the film products in a socially responsible manner while pursuing profit motives.” This was stated by Ms. Patricia Bala, the Director General of the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), while speaking at the ‘Distribution in the Nigerian Film Industry’ conference. The conference was organised by the School of Media and Communication’s Nollywood Studies Centre and took place on the 26th and 27th of June, 2014.
Ms. Bala, who gave the keynote address on the first day of the conference, noted the vital role that distribution plays in “smoothening the flow of movies from filmmakers to consumers as it involves the process of making films/videos available for use or consumption by the final consumer.” Hence the importance of having in place “an efficient and effective distribution system.” This, she however went on to add, is lacking in the Nigerian film industry, which has a deficient distribution structure.
A good part of the problem, the NFVCB Director General indicated, can be traced to the informal character of much of the industry’s distribution system. She nevertheless added that it is more worrisome “that the noticeable weaknesses [of the system] are direct consequences of lack of experience, gaps in professional staffing, shortage of credible and legitimate outlets, which is a huge shortcoming that fans piracy, as well as the limited capacity to nurture relationships and the distribution footprints needed to reach audiences.” These weaknesses have led to huge financial losses for many of those that have ventured into the filmmaking business.
Ms. Bala went on to stress the need for greater synergy among all the stakeholders in the film/video distribution sector in Nigeria to promote a value-chain that takes into account the public interest…never sacrificing the greater good and societal wellbeing while keeping abreast of ever shifting dynamics of the operating environment.” She stressed the commitment of the NFVCB towards “creating the enabling environment for the industry to continue to flourish and blossom, contributing to the nation’s GDP to the benefit of all.”
The NFVCB Director General welcomed both the establishment of the Nollywood Studies Centre and the organisation of the conference itself. According to her, “the Nollywood Centre and this derivative conference on movie distribution are, no doubt, an unequivocal expression of a growing appreciation that movies matter and, in the specific context, this conference shows an awareness of the centrality of distribution in this dynamic industry.”
Earlier, in his introduction to the conference, the Director of the Nollywood Studies Centre (NSC), Dr. Ikechukwu Obiaya, explained that the decision to hold the conference was motivated by what the NSC was established to do. According to him, the NSC was set up to promote the study of the industry and to contribute to its development. Given the importance of distribution and the fact that it is key to the growth of the industry, it was only logical, he said, that the first conference of the NSC be centred on the topic. However, he noted that the goal of the conference was not merely to have another talk shop. Rather, it was hoped that the conference would serve to map the already existing solutions to the problems of distribution and to identify new possibilities. The mix of academics, industry practitioners, financiers and representatives of government agencies, Dr. Obiaya said, was indicative of what the conference organisers hoped to achieve.
Also speaking, the Dean of the School of Media and Communication, Prof. Emevwo Biakolo, in his welcome address, emphasised the importance of the conference. Everyone, Prof. Biakolo said, is aware that film production has escalated in the country, but one needs to question what has happened with distribution, which has not succeeded in getting off the ground. He went on to say that the conference would have to respond to questions such as whether the present distribution model was working and whether it is leading to consumer satisfaction. An additional importance of the conference, the Dean said, lay in the fact that it would facilitate the gathering of data and promote the further research.
The conference was then declared open by the Vice Chancellor of the Pan-Atlantic University, Prof. Juan Elegido. Prof. Elegido expressed his pleasure at the conference, noting that it fit into the tradition of the University, which strives to maintain a lively connection with industry. The subject matter of the conference, he said, was of special interest since distribution is a key concern for every industry. Distribution, he noted, is the real arena for competitive action.
Various papers from industry practitioners and academics were presented during the conference. The National Copyrights Commission (NCC) was also represented in the person of Barrister Chris Nkwocha, the Zonal Director of the NCC’s Lagos office. The event ended with a cocktail a raffle draw. The main prize for the raffle draw was donated by Microsoft, one of the main sponsors of the event.