Nollywood Film Director, Tola Balogun narrates ordeal of film makers under Covid-19, Suggests way forward

Nollywood Film Director, Tola Balogun narrates ordeal of film makers under Covid-19, Suggests way forward
July 12 10:55 2020 Print This Article

By Martin Odiete, Abuja

The chairman of the FCT chapter of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Tola Balogun has been narrating the ordeal film makers in the country went through during the long period of the lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic stressing that the industry suffered more than any other industry in Nigerian.

In a no hold back chart with, Balogun lamented greatly how their members have been thrown out of job because of their inability to go to locations to shoot films which he maintained is the only source of their livelihood.

Speaking further, he said “I will say that this Covid-19 era really affected the Nollywood industry more than any other sector you can think of. The creative industry, especially in the Nollywood, we went through a lot this period, and the reason it hit us so much is because we are not on anybody’s pay roll. The Nollywood industry is a venture that you do your job, you go to the market and you sell to retailers. The viewers are our customers, our content procurer and in a situation where the content procurer are not there to buy your content, and we cannot even go to location to film, it’s a very pathetic one. Especially for the actors and the Directors who naturally wait on the producers to give them jobs.

“So, it is an era that has been very very tedious. You see the people who are on government pay-roll, whether there is Covid or 19 they still get their salary, they have their take-home. But the man who has to go to location, film, package his films, edit and go to the market is not possible because of the social distancing thing. It is not like the market where you are allowed to go twice or thrice a week and practice social distancing.  When you are filming you cannot do social distancing, there is every tendency that there must be contact. So, it’s been so tedious, and it’s been so difficult. Since February, March we have not gone to the location, we have not worked and we are on nobody’s Pa-roll. So, it has been terrible,”

Tola Balogun lamented further that while the situation was biting hard they never received any support from the Nigerian Government to help cushion the effect of the lockdown on them, “Looking at the government and what they are doing about it. The government of course knows very well that the creative sector that helps to fill the economy so to speak needs help at this moment. Nollyhood itself contributes some quota to the GDP of Nigeria, and that is an industry that is not funded by the government, and it is an industry that does not have a bill that enhances the lifespan of that industry itself. In a situation where you don’t have certain bills that can protect that industry, it is like everybody is just playing to the gallery. So it is whatever things you can get from here and here that is what you put together and live your life.

“So, right now it’s just like everybody is unemployed in the creative industry, especially in the Nollywood where we’re not doing anything. Of course musicians are still getting endorsements here and there. They can just stay at home, with their camera; they do one stuff and their endorsements are still going on. Their pictures alone can be used. But the actors, if you don’t go on set, if you don’t go to location you cannot shoot your films. If you talk about even the stars in the industry, the crops of the upcoming actors and even the once you will call the upcoming or no coming, you cannot compare them with the number of stars who have certain endorsement or one little endorsement here and there. The crop of the people is even those crowd that you see in the movies, because without those entire crowd there cannot be a movie. You cannot keep on filming one cast, two cast, three cast movies. Sometimes you have crowd. But these low class actors, who are low income earners they are suffering, they have turned to be beggars on the street,”

While the Government never did anything to help their plights during this era, he however showered encomium on the efforts of certain individuals in the Industry who he maintained assisted so much in alleviating the effect of the lockdown on their members, “During this era, the National President of the actors Guild of Nigeria, Emeka Rolax Ajezie provided monies to all states chapters of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. So we got some monies that we used in getting palliatives for our members in Abuja. Another person who really tried again for our members, she is also an actor, a Barrister and a pastor, a very wonderful Lady, her name is Bar. Esther Kareem Dawaki. She really tried for our members. Every now and then she asked people to send their account numbers and she gave out lots of monies. That act really helped our members. If not for that it would have been very very terrible for members. I really want to thank these two personalities for their generosity to our members during this period”

Looking ahead to the future of the industry after the pandemic, the popular film Director maintained that the effect of the lockdown will definitely tell on the industry, “Looking ahead to the post Covid-19 era, the fact is that if the scourge has not been eradicated completely, we are still going to have issues. You cannot stay at home and do the video of your script, and another person does his own thing and you now merge it, it will be very very difficult. You cannot exclusively do your own production and send it out, especially if it is going to be a film. But we are hopeful that the Covid-19 will go completely, we are praying because it is only prayer now, because sometime, you hear some people come out to tell us that there are fictitious figures, some people don’t even want this thing to end, while some say, no we should not say it that way, the Covid thing is real. Well, whichever way it is, since the government says there is Covid, I believe there is Covid. But it is going to be really really tough. For a man who has not been employed for months and suddenly he just want to make films. And even the buyers, the buyers of these films, they too need to re-organize themselves. The monies they have how are we sure they still have those monies?

“How are we sure there is monies are readily available to buy our product when we are ready to shoot?  Mind you some producers have used their monies to feed during this period, they’ve used their capital to feed because it’s only somebody who is alive that can think of his profession. So, most of them have dipped hands into their project capital. I was telling somebody that post Covi-19 is going to be very difficult in our industry because it will take a lot of time for people to gather their peaces again, except we are able to get external funding from the Government or from some NGOs, I just hope such can come up. But we are looking up to that to see how we can appeal to the public or even to the International Communities to ensure that this industry that has stood for a very long time should begin to gather Government support so that we can have our footing. As it is today we don’t have any footing right now,” he concluded.

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