Making Film Make Sense

The demand for African film in foreign circles is no doubt growing at a significant rate. Both consumers and foreign filmmakers are eying the continent as an alternative for unique and new produce.
With such lucrative opportunities presenting themselves, filmmakers in countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, with the help of their governments, are visibly making major marks in the industry.
While other governments are reaping some notable reimbursements that continue to attract even more investment and attention, other governments are still rigid in creating more opportunities for a passionate storytelling citizenry.
The Nigerian film industry has undoubtedly become a feasible option for employment in a country with an economy that relies mainly on oil and agriculture.
Although its revenues are not at the same level with Bollywood and Hollywood, “Nollywood”- (Nigerian Cinema) still generates more than US$590 million annually.
The Nigerian federal government recently commenced the process of implementing the US$1.87 million capacity-building fund, an initiative encapsulated under its Project Act-Nollywood to bolster capacity in the Nigerian film industry.
A recent South Africa Film Industry Economic Baseline study concluded that as at April 2013 the South African Film Industry contributed R3.5 billion to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (both direct and indirect).
The study also concluded that it had also created 25 175 fulltime equivalent jobs.
The South African government, through the National and Film and Video Foundation, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is the chief investor in the local film production industry.
This DTI also offers industry-specific incentives to encourage local content production and attract global productions.
One common aspect among these countries is that they have provided opportunities for the film industry to be more productive.
While in some cases talent presents itself as a viable option for investment, governments can also create opportunities in order to attract talent that will inevitably contribute to economic growth.  
However, most governments have not seriously considered the concerns of the sector and have devalued it as one of the key economic drivers.
“Other problems include lack of a proper broadcasting channel that airs local programs … failure by government to use film as a marketing strategy for our country like how Americans do,” says one aspirant filmmaker from Zimbabwe. 
One of the ways that a profession or trade becomes socially acceptable is when it becomes available in tertiary education. 
This mainly emanates from the belief that if it exists in tertiary education it carries with it a form of assurance for a better future. In other words, a profession can only becomes one if it has some form of academic schooling.
Thus, it is important for there to be film-learning institutions for the genuine acquisition of enabling knowledge as well to bring about social acceptability.  
Bringing in affordable education in order to cultivate the film industry sector is also very essential in equipping budding filmmakers. While some practitioners in the field learn the basics from fellow artistes or travel to other countries just to enrol for shoddy courses that last a few months, others have to learn from their costly mistakes.    
It is, therefore, important for governments to provide training and skills acquisition for practitioners in all competencies along the entire value chain of the movie industry.
These include scriptwriting, directing, production and production design, special effects, lighting, sound, HD techniques, acting, cinematography, make-up, and editing, among others.
Teaching entrepreneurial skills within such learning institutions would also be important, as it would encourage more business-minded film practitioners.  
It is also crucial to make available capacity development funding designed to give grants to existing local private institutes that offer training courses, programmes and technical certification in the movie industry.
Bond student grants and scholarships should also be made available for those exceptional students who might be facing financial challenges.
Thus, it is important for film commissions to facilitate those economic and social benefits by working with governments and other relevant stakeholders.
August 2013
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