Beyond Nollywood

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Beyond Nollywood

Postby Richard Akindele » Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:29 pm

Nollywood has quickly swooped past India's Bollywood, to become the World's second largest film producer. The king of the hill remains Hollywood, the ultimate pacesetter for all film-making.

Hats off to Nigeria for this amazing achievement. The sole criteria for Nollywood becoming "second in the world", is the number of movies it puts out annually. It speaks nothing to the quality, or eventual financial success of the movies.

Wherever you find the phrase "high quality", the word "expensive" is never far behind. It therefore logically follows, that if Nollywood is to improve the quality of its movies, it has to invest more money into the making of those movies. However, in reality, that statement may not be true. In a modern age of computers, great movies can be made without spending a lot of physical cash. This is possible thanks to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), which is available to all at no charge.

To elucidate what FOSS is, it is software developed by volunteer computer programmers around the world, and made available to everybody free or charge. An example of FOSS is OpenOffice (which is free), vs Microsoft Office (which costs money). Almost every software that costs money today has a FOSS alternative.

One downside of movie-making is that it's often very expensive. However, that downside could also serve as its upside, since it means that competition is minimal in the arena of making good movies. As an entrepreneur, you want a niche area for your goods and services.

Examples of FOSS used in making movies are as follows: Linux, Cinelerra, Blender, VirtualDub, Kino, Avidemux, Super, Lives, Kdenlive, ffmpeg, Rosegarden, FilmGimp, CinePaint, Gimp, Devede, WAX, and many more.

These sophisticated programs are free for the taking. No piracy involved. Similar for-pay alternatives, would set you back hundreds of thousands of Dollars. Nollywood could take advantage of this.

When it comes to video processing, very powerful computers are inevitable. Of course, very powerful is synonymous to very expensive. Luckily for us, computers are dirt cheap nowadays. It has become easy to build movie render-farms on even a shoe string budget today.

I recently gave a presentation to Linux professionals in Nevada on how to build a powerful inexpensive supercomputer from commodity computers running FOSS. A country like Nigeria would benefit immensely from adopting FOSS, since it offers the poor the same opportunities to do what the big boys like Hollywood are doing. We are no longer constrained by money, but by our own imagination.

If FOSS programs are good enough for multi-Billion dollar Hollywood, Disney Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, etc, they certainly are good enough for Nigeria's Nollywood.

Nollywood needs to begin awarding scholarships to talented students to study film-making. The scholarship recipients would then mentor others afterwards, soon leading to a cottage industry of film-makers.

While such scholarships is peanuts to an entity like the Nollywood film industry, its impact would revolutionize Nigerian movies, moving them closer to 21st century standards.

Not only Nollywood feature films stand to be beneficiaries of FOSS. The video game industry, the advertising, and TV graphics industry, etc, could also be transformed. Case in point, watch the following two videos:

The second video demonstrates how the first commercial was made using FOSS. After watching the first video, don't you get a warm feeling inside about going out to try that product? That's the whole idea - to make videos that would make people want to buy what you're selling.

Nollywood needs the ability to create videos such as this:

Here are other stunning examples of movies made with free software: Elephants Dream, Big Buck Bunny, Avatar, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Shrek 3, X-Men The Last Stand, King Kong, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, The Matrix, Titanic, Gladiator, In-Between Ends, Lighthouse, Sintel.

As you watch these movies, keep in mind that they were made using free programs that you too can download and use anyday, anytime. What is Nollywood's excuse for not also reaching such standards of movie-making excellence?

Beyond Nollywood, great movies could help the Nigerian economy, similar to how Hollywood helps the US economy. For instance, DreamWorks Animation employs about 1,200 people. So, with an R&D arm of Nollywood, we would have created a place for many talented Nigerian University graduates to go, away from 419, menial jobs, or even outright joblessness and crime. Furthermore, good movies could also find a market outside of the typical Nigerian audience, potentially reaching critical mass.

A journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step. They say you must learn to crawl before you walk. However, I say you don't have to crawl into walking. Metaphorically speaking, Nollywood can walk and chew gum at the same time. Meaning that while we're making movies today within the confines of our knowledge, ability and resources, we also need to have a research arm that is simultaneously working on better ways of doing things, so that each successive movie we make, is a bit better than previous ones.

The door is open. Is Nollywood prepared to walk through it?
Richard Akindele
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