Before you shoot… Where do you want to sell?
Filmmaking is a serious business. Many negate the place of business in filmmaking and end up paying the ultimate price. Many don’t even think about the market, all they want to do is to shoot and shoot again, and shoot again, until there is no money to shoot. They will pack up, join the police force or join a ministry and blame our old man in their village as the cause of their woes.
So you must answer the above poser… Where do you want to sell the film you are about to produce?
Just like every other kind of business what should derive a “commercial filmmaker” is profit. You must take into cognizance the dynamism in Nollywood, otherwise you are going to hit the rock. Nollywood has its peculiar challenges amongst which include piracy, lack of proper marketing structure, and many more. It is indeed the survival of the fittest. You are either evolving with the system or the system will ship you out. Now, I am not talking about those who feed off the gullibility of most new entrants, through the use of guilds and all what not, I am concerned about the working practitioners.
There are about five channels (markets) of sales in the film industry globally, and these markets should determine two things in the process of making your choice. These are: What kind of Story/Script to produce? How much you will be investing? These markets are basically, Film Festivals, Theatre (Cinema) distributions, Television (Cable/Terrestrial) distribution, Online Streaming, DVD/VCD Sales.
If you are aiming to start from the pinnacle of the market, like being accepted in both International and Local Film Festivals, get a cinema/theatre distribution, and go all the way down to DVD/VCD sales, packing all the millions like AY, you must commit to understanding what works. Currently there is a trend that Comedy sells, and people are cueing into it, making great buck. It doesn’t mean you cannot throw in surprises by making serious movies and running to the bank with great amount, but one doesn’t test the depth of the ocean with ones two legs into it. So my advice is to start with what is working at the time you are entering, you have all the time in this work to experiment and do all the legacy projects you want. I know you want to do African Avatar, you want to create Nigerian sci-fiction, that’s okay. But you need money to do that. Why don’t you face what works and do it better. When you have enough bucks you can try all your crazy ideas.
Budgeting well is also a sells strategy. You have to decide which market you want from the onset, it will help you to pick a script for such. This will help you in costing right. If you just want to start from Television distribution, why spend too much millions when it’s not a series and you are not going for theatre distributions to recoup. Don’t get me wrong, strive to make good and quality movie, whether for cinema/theatre, online, television, DVD/VCD, and ensure your film has good picture, good sound, and quality story. Film is Film regardless of market. But don’t spend beyond certain amount that you can’t recoup.
So before you shoot, how about asking people in the field already what films are sold for; which market gives return on investment and what are the time frame. I know it’s not a straight forward thing but when you inquire from five people you could work with the average figure. Don’t jump into production without having fair knowledge of where you will sell; it will even help you decide which equipment to use. There are many things that want of time and space will not allow me write here but the bottom line is that a filmmaker is a business person. You must think like one, act like one, and be one.
You may have heard that to make a good film that can attract cinema or theatrical distributions that you will need lots of millions. I want you to know that it’s not entirely false and it’s not entirely true. It’s all about the relationship you have with people involved in the project. But you can choose to start with the Television market, or online streaming and build from there until you hit it big enough through savings, angel investors or even loans (although you should have become a pro before taking loans, otherwise you will die of heart attack), to make a film for the big screen. There are many online streaming channels and they have different interests and packages. The two biggest players for now is IROKOTV and IBAKATV, the two are doing great, but IrokoTv is more liberal, showing more English Language films while IbakaTv has more interest in good quality Yoruba language films with a mixture of English language films. There is much dynamism one needs to learn before one can venture but in all you are learning, make sure you know where to sell before you shoot. To know where to sell isn’t about the place as in physical structure only, but knowing what they want and how to give it too them. For god’s sake they “gat” the money and you have to give them what they want to get the money off their hands. Period!
In a nutshell, as a filmmaker, if you aren’t thinking business as much as you are thinking arts, you are thinking nonsense. QED.