US to invest in Nollywood
Production companies in the United States are looking forward to investing in the Nigerian film industry, foremost US actor Isaiah Washington has said.
Washington, who is currently working on many developmental projects across ECOWAS states, says he is working with some members of the US parliament on passing bills that will make it easier for top Hollywood film makers to invest in Nigeria’s Nollywood.
“I am keen that the 21st century is ripe for us to get into the creative structure outside of the US,” says Washington in an exclusive interview at Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. “Everyone outside the US wants to create their own Hollywood. Currently, Hollywood is in trouble because of the economic crisis. Now filmmakers and actors in Hollywood will not be opposed to the idea of exporting their knowledge and exploiting other business opportunities outside America.”
He explains that one of the bills waiting to be passed in the US House of Representatives is the HR 656 bill, a Diaspora Act that will encourage investments in Africa. The second, the HR4221 bill, Increasing American Jobs through Greater Export to Africa Act 2012, will increase American jobs outside America. “What the bills mean,” he adds, “is that actors like me can export their talents from America to other parts of the world.
The head of the US chamber of commerce has been looking at how to create jobs outside the US. It will be mutual benefits for Nigeria and America because films produced in Nigeria will create employment opportunities for people in Nigeria. If president Obama signs the bills, it will allow America to export her creativity.”
Lending a voice to Washington’s position, Tony Abulu, a Nigerian filmmaker based in the US and director of the yet to be shot film, “Doctor Bello”, says there are many American production companies waiting for the bill to be passed, and there is hope that there will be more platforms opening up in Nigeria very soon. “We have a great opportunity here. One of the mistakes we make in Africa is that we rely so much on natural resources.
We must begin to diversify the economy. American Congress is beginning to realise that Africa is like a wasteland where despots siphon funds, but Nigerians must begin to build now. It is for this reason NEXIM Bank is critical to provide the funding. I was once told at a festival that President Jonathan was not serious about the intervention fund, but my acquiring a loan to shoot my new film, ‘Doctor Bello’, has proved them wrong.”
The managing director of NEXIM Bank, Roberts Orya, says part of the steps the bank is taking to expand Nollywood and to key into the opportunity the bills will offer, is to see how NEXIM can finance exhibition platforms for films to be showcased in cinemas and to see how to create export for Nigerian talents. “We are looking at how to build these platforms.
The success of the film, ‘Ije’, at the cinemas shows how successful Nigerian films can be if they are taken to the cinemas. NEXIM believes if we have more cinemas, Nigerians will appreciate more local contents.”