Posted By: VICTOR AKANDEon: In: Entertainment, Victor Akande

Why are they calling us now?” Kunle Afolayan asked during an Access Bank’s breakfast session with filmmakers last Thursday.  The bank is planning to replicate the Bank of Industry (BOI)’s NollyFund, a ‘friendly’ loan scheme for the film industry. Without pretence, they call their own Access NollyFund; but whether or not theirs will stand the test of time, is a matter of time.

However, the fact is that, like Afolayan further stated at the forum: “It only shows that Nollywood filmmakers are getting it right.” Because gone are the days when no bank wants to touch Nollywood because it does not have the kind of business structures that endear it to investors. Today, even though the structures are still ‘in the works’, especially in the area of distribution and exhibition, there appears to be signs of greater times ahead.

Another issue which has locked filmmakers in a very interesting debate in the last two weeks is the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) bill. With a review committee about to be inaugurated by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, this comes across as the beginning of another defining moment for the film industry which, for years has been yearning for a common front.

Going forward, the fears about the bill being another regulatory agency of government may soon disappear, because from the composition of the review committee, it is obvious that this is simply a practitioners’ council that merely needs government’s legislation for enablement. Yes, MOPICON needs to be enabled to function as a front in the face of the numerous guilds and associations that have robbed the collective of some orderliness and respect.

It is hoped that with the seriousness of the current regime regarding economic diversification, the industry will articulate its demands through MOPICON. Nollywood still needs so much support from government and, not to speak with one respectable voice is to lower those esteem needs with the usual dissonances.

While this issue of MOPICON is ongoing, another concern for filmmakers is the Audio-Visual Rights Society (AVRS) which is one of the surest revenue streams for the film industry.

One only needed to be at the last AVRS Annual General Meeting and election of new Board of Directors to see how stakeholders have decided to take their destiny in their hands.  ‘Everyone’ was present. And I can tell that the membership of AVRS will shoot up in no time.

Indeed, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the musicians’ version of the AVRS has opened the eyes of entertainers to some monies that have been wasting away, having distributed about N400million within the last five years of its existence.

It is hoped that the Bond Emeruwa led new leadership of AVRS will continue to pursue the dreams of its founders and predecessors, perhaps with more vigour.

I keep remembering November 20, 2014 when the D.G of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. Afam Ezekude, handed over the certificate of registration to the interim chairman of AVRS, because that date was my birthday. I was glad that an initiative of that nature was so dated, and prayed it continues to be a part of my positive reportage of the film industry.

Going by Ezekude’s advice during the AGM of AVRS, “the industry must speak in one voice in order to persuade all users of film works to pay royalty for such usage to AVRS,” adding that “for AVRS to earn the support of all stakeholders, it must ensure that its operation is carried out with a high level of integrity.” I cannot agree less.

No doubt, the industry is sitting on a gold mine, but the fortunes may remain a dangling carrot if members refuse to bond for their common good. Suffice to say that apart from the popular commercial users of audio visual content, such as transmitting and re-transmitting companies, advertising agencies, telecoms companies, hospitals, relaxation spots, luxury bus operators, airlines, banks, super markets and chain retail outlets, and barbing/hairdressing salons, as enumerated by the erstwhile Chairman of AVRS, Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun, there exist other channels of revenue that are pending. One of such is the Private Copy Levy, which experts say is capable of generating about N200 million for members monthly, if and when the private copy levy is implemented in Nigeria.

The levy is compensation for creators and investors in music, movies and literary works for the loss of revenue through free download of works via gadgets such as MP3s, MP4s, Cell phones, memory cards and flash drives, among others.

Welcome to the world of new opportunities for Nollywood!

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