By BENJAMIN NJOKU
“Filmmaking is a passion; I give it all. It is sad because I compromise on everything, even family. That’s why it’s sad.” Kunle Afolayan said while speaking at the last edition of the Nollywood Studies Centre’s Filmmakers Forum.
But the award winning filmmaker went on to add that filmmaking has to be more than passion. “We have to feed,” Afolayan stated, “and that is where the business comes in. If money doesn’t come in after the film comes out, then the business will close.” Hence the need for a sense of business.
Speaking on the topic, “Successful filmmaking: The art of combining creativity and a good business sense,” Afolayan shared with the audience the various business approaches he had taken in the production of his films. He drew out key lessons from his experience with each film. Beginning with his first film, “Irapada”, he narrated that the idea for the film was not originally his; he was invited to take part in the production after the original producer found he could not continue on his own. However, disagreements due to distrust from the other party involved led to the eventual dissolution of the partnership, and he purchased the full rights to the film. This experience, he said, taught him the importance of documenting the entire process, especially the agreements.
The Figurine, Afolayan said, was the most difficult film he has ever worked on. One of the challenges was that of raising funds. The original budget for the film was N50 million. To obtain this sum, he sought to get product placements as well as interested private investors. However, he ended up taking personal loans because banks and private investors were not ready at that time to give loans for films since the guarantees they required were not there.
From the production of this film, Afolayan said, he understood the importance of pre-production publicity. Holding a press conference at the beginning of production is a means not just of creating general awareness but, more importantly, of generating interest on the part of investors.
In the case of The Figurine, as a result of the pre-release publicity, MTN offered to sponsor the premiere of the film. The film went on to make a gross of over 20 million Naira in the cinema. But Afolayan stressed that the gain from The Figurine was not the money; rather it was the fact that it served to establish his production company, Golden Effects, obtaining international recognition for it. Afolayan’s third film, Phone Swap, presented a challenge of a different sort – the challenge of having to compromise artistic integrity for money.
On Phone Swap, he said the film had its genesis when a telephone company approached him to make a ‘bright’ film that would appeal to those between the ages of 25 and 35 years. However, the company eventually decided that the budget was too high and backed off. Eight months later, Afolayan decided to go ahead with the production of the film and went shopping for sponsors. He made presentations to various telephone companies, but none of them accepted to sponsor it. However, he was made an ambassador of Glo at about this time, and the company agreed to put in fifteen million Naira. But when the film was finished, and just before its premiere, a disagreement arose over one of the actors. The company insisted that the actor be removed and replaced with someone else. Afolayan refused to do this because he saw the actor as the right person for the part and, besides, this would have damaged the professional opportunities of the actor. In the face of his refusal, the company withdrew its support.
‘October 1″, Afolayan’s latest film, also had its beginning when he was approached by a company that wanted to have a film made for fifty million Naira. Afolayan agreed that it would be a ‘small film’. He called for scripts but did not get anything worthwhile. He reached out to Tunde Babalola who came up with a treatment for October 1. The Filmmakers’ Forum is a monthly activity of the Nollywood Studies Centre of the School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University.