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Back in the days when Nollywood was all about quantity against quality, Charles Novia was one of the few filmmakers who insisted on seminal productions. His latest work, Alan Poza, though yet to be released, was nominated in two categories at the just concluded Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). He recently spoke with our senior correspondent, Hazeez Balogun, about his work and the future of Nollywood.
It was nominated in two categories and we thought we would win both but that did not happen. It was a good outing though. You could see that there were over 600 movies that were screened. For Alan Poza to be nominated out of that bunch, it is an honour, win or not.
Talking about the awards, do you think AMAA is making any impact in the Nigerian or African movie industries?
I will say it is. Go back to five or six years ago when Ghana and South Africa were the ones picking all the awards. Our movies were just more in quantity and not quality. Then Tunde Kelani won an award and he said that Nigeria was taking it up from there and that Nigeria was not going to lag behind from then. That made every producer sit up and work even harder at winning awards at AMAA. So, it is right if you say that AMAA has improved the quality of movies in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Everybody shooting movies now is trying to make them good enough to get an AMAA nomination. In fact, getting an AMAA is good publicity for any movie.
What is the idea behind Alan Poza?
It is a youths’ comedy. It is more like an experimental script. I was not using any conventional ways of writing a script. I was just playing with the thing and little by little, it started taking shape. By the time I put everything together, it turned out to be something out of this world in my own opinion. I myself was surprised at how good it came out. For it to earn a nomination for the best screenplay, there must be something in it that was very right. It is an out of the box concept which is not common, and it is tailored to a particular type of audience.
You are known for serious movies and topical stories. Why Alan Poza? Were you in a good mood when you were writing it?
Not really. In fact, I was going through a lot when I was writing it. I am glad that I did it. I wanted just to do something different but of international standard. It is paying off at the moment. The reviews and comments we are getting are fantastic. By the time we hit the cinemas, I know that there will be a lot of people out there willing to go and see it. There will be a series of premieres for it. We will be premiering in London, Abuja and Lagos.
Distribution is always a big problem with the industry. What are the plans for Alan Poza?
We will be going to the cinemas first. It should hit the cinemas by October, then it will go to DVDs and then online. We have a tight package for it. Already, those who have seen the preview or have seen it screened for awards are giving us good feedbacks. There is also a promo on Youtube, and the comments are very encouraging. We really do hope to break some box office records by the time the movie is finally released.
Charles Novia is becoming a strong voice online. You have written great articles that a lot of people read and comment on. Why are we seeing this side of Charles Novia now?
I have always been like that; it is just that people are just starting to see that side of me. I think that the social media platforms are what is making people notice that part of me now. Those close to me know that I am very vocal on issues but the social media, allows more people to see my views. Even within the industry I like to speak out, especially when I see things going in the wrong direction. I also like to comment generally on things that are worth commenting on. It is not something new for me. At the risk of sounding modest, I think we need a few more people to toe the same line with me. We need to tell each other the truth. If we are used to people pampering and telling us what we just want to hear, we will not move forward the way we should.
Alan Poza is your baby right now, what else are you working on?
I just released the book, Nollywood, last November and it was published in the United States. There is a lot of work still being done on it. There are still promotions to be done in that respect. I also have a speaking engagement in Europe this summer. I am even working on a new movie at the moment as well. Just like Alan Poza, it is targeted at the youth. I am targeting the youth because I feel that that is a sector that has been neglected. In the next three or four months, I will commence shooting on that one.
Back to the issue of distribution of movies in Nigeria, what do you think will work?
I think the structures are being built. We need to have at least 500 cinemas in the country for filmmakers to really smile and recoup some of their money. That is the first step; we should go to the cinemas before we go to DVD. You can see the good returns so far from the films that have gone to the cinemas. I will say that most of the funds going to the development of the industry should go into building solid structures for distribution. Let us get that aspect right first. Even the $200million loan that the government is promising; most of it should go to distribution. Once the structures are in place, movie makers can go and borrow money. I, for instance, can borrow $1million as long as I know that I will recoup my money.
Some movie producers say that some broadcasting houses are short-changing movie makers. How is that true?
I always ask people when they say this, were they blind when they were selling their films to these people? It is a contract, and you see all the terms and agreements on the documents before you sold your movie. Why then do you go back and say that you are short-changed. Those guys are in business too, so they will cut the best deals for themselves. It is a two-way thing. Some producers have these films on their shelves and if they see an avenue to sell their movie, they will. It also depends on the value you place on your movie. They know my film and I know the kind of value I will place on it. It is not by force.
So, can you sell your movies to stations?
Yes, but I don’t take what some people are getting for their movies because I place a lot of value on my works. I am not complaining. If what they offer is not good, I won’t sell it in the first place.