Not too long ago, I used to say that Nollywood will shape up the day Clarence Peters and the new edition music video guys get into producing feature films for Nollywood. The conviction was strong. In my head, it made sense. Nollywood, after the days of Living In Bondage (the very beginning) has lost it’s way a little bit – hundreds of low quality movies are churned out every year, mostly lacking in depth and plot, but that really is a story for another day. Let’s stay on Clarence Peters. After seeing a few Capital music video productions, I believed there were a few people who could actually make decent productions in country, and it was a good day, when I finally met Clarence.
The meeting itself was nothing major – a friend was shooting his label artiste’s video with Banky W and Ice Prince featuring, so I stopped by. It turned out to be a Clarence Peters production, so I thought I might as well wait around to see how he does it. Judging from the productions I have seen on TV, I expected to see top quality equipment, all rigged up to fire. I was a little disappointed. Aside from a small hand operated crane, all that I saw was a mid-level DSLR camera and a big boom box. The studio was set up on three corners to shoot different scenes, and that was all.
Three hours later, with the shoot going decently well, I had completely gave up hope of seeing the big camera make an entrance. It did not. Three weeks later, the music video was delivered in a hard drive to the label – a full HD video, ready to go anywhere.
Over christmas 2012, I started experimenting with video on my DSLR. By tweaking my settings – the same settings I use to shoot photographs – for video, and setting the camera to shoot up to 30 minutes, I was ready to make short films on my casual pro camera. Of course moving from still photography to shooting video is not the easiest pivot to make, but what mattered at the moment was that I could shoot good looking HD videos just like Clarence Peters. All I needed was a high capacity memory card, which I already had. Joy.
Of course my original love for still photography meant that I wasn’t running out into the street shooting videos everyday, but it was good to know that I could, if I really wanted to. Fast forward to February, 2012 and we were expecting this film crew for an interview in the office. Again, I expected big video cameras, but again was surprised by a crew that showed up with a tripod, basic lights, microphone and a DSLR. After the interview, I had a conversation with with the head of the crew, who told me as a matter of fact, that he shoots everything with his Canon 7D. Everything including films, music videos, and weddings.
I have since met three film makers who shoot everything with their DSLRs. One of them, is a lady I met during social media week, who has a film shortlisted in the finals of Afrinolly short film competition. Yes, films shot on a DSLR could go that far.
So why am I spending all this time talking about people shooting films on DSLR cameras? Well, because Nollywood keeps disappointing, and has barely grown form where it was 10 years ago.
The major problem with Nollywood, has always been depth. There is a shortage of depth in the stories told via film. This is surprising because there are too many Nigerian stories waiting to be told. There is a story waiting to be told at every street corner in every Nigerian city, town or village. Yet, we have consistently been fed with the same tired lines, which do not seem ready to change. Many moreissues exist in the movie industry, which have limited the growth of Nollywood, but none of those should prevent us from telling real Nigerian stories.
The stagnation of mainstream Nollywood is an opportunity though; an opportunity to disrupt (yes, it’s that word again). I started with examples of films made on DSLR cameras for a reason. I thought it would be good to know that it is possible to make decent films using these simple pieces of equipment, which are becoming (relatively) cheaper. A standard $500 DSLR camera can shoot 30 minute HD films! So equipment can’t stop small independent film makers anymore. DSLRs can shoot in HD, and any decent laptop computer should help with some editing, however crude that may be.
There are tons of stories to be told, literally. No, we’re not talking big budget films – small films are a good place to start. Short films, 5-15 minutes could tell powerful stories. That’s why there’s a category for them in the Academy Awards. There are are entire awards dedicated to short films.
There is even better news for indie film makers – YouTube; it is there to get eyeballs and recognition. Better still, it’s all free. So if you ever dreamed of making films but have very little budget, this note is for you. Go out and get a DSLR camera.
At this point, I guess I should toast Nigeria’s indie film makers of the future. May your stories be great, and may the folks at Iweka Road put your name on a hit list. Trust me, that’s a good thing.