Friday 6 April 2012

Nollywood Is Sinking, Says Teco Benson

By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published in 2005)
One of the frontline home video directors, Teco Benson who in the early 1990's started as an actor speaks on what he calls 'The Real State' of the industry. The director of such works as State of Emergency and Blood Diamond, warns that the so much cherished emerging home-video industry may end up like a paper-castle if the demands of top actors and actresses are not cut to size to reflect the "real worth" of the industry. While these actors are daily smiling to the banks, producers are packing up and calling it quits, he claims. Excerpts:

In the beginning
My experience behind the camera dates back to my days as an actor when I newly came into the industry in 1994. Then as an actor/writer, I had my eyes on the director's boat and worked towards it. Through my various stages of improving my writing skill, I realised that a lot needed to be learnt more than I had thought.

After three years of acting and writing, I had the feeling it was time for me to go into directing. My debut as a director was in 1997 with the work titled Waterloo.

As a director, a major challenge to me is that, the success or failure of any work I am handling rests on my shoulder. And again, the subject matter of any work sometimes reflects on the background of the director. And when the producer or the financier of the work has chosen the subject, the treatment given the subject by the director says a lot about the person of the director. For example, some directors, no matter what, would always accept fetishness or occultism as a refuge for their characters while others would look at a positive divine solution to treat similar subjects.

Embargo on star actors
Basically, I do not make the kind of movies that require popular faces to attract audience. I make thrillers, action-packed movies, and my fans know me for that. Therefore, the embargo on some star actors is not in anyway affecting my ability to perform as I used to, though I cannot speak for other directors in the industry. But what I do know is that, the present situation should have no effect on any director, who knows his job.
Teco Benson

There are other actors that are already taking the place of the so-called known faces because the industry is rich enough to replace anybody. We have always known this, but the popularity of those actors under embargo had, over the years, loomed over others who are equally talented. The development, as unfortunate as it may be, is a challenge to the entire industry. It is my belief that before October this year, 2005, when the one year embargo expires, the industry would have discovered more talents; good looking actors and actresses.

Actors' fee
There is a lot of misinformation in circulation about the state of the industry. I was once an actor and I am in a position to tell you the truth on whether or not actors are actually getting the remuneration worth of the popularity of our movies within and outside the shores of this country.

The fact that we are said to be rated number three in the world does not translate to our actors earning as much money. In America, movies gross billions of dollars because piracy has been fought to almost a standstill in that country. In Nigeria, a country of over 150 million people, no movie, in recent times, has sold beyond 10,000 copies, quote me.

For example, you are shooting on a budget of say N2 million and one star actor collected N800, 000 leaving the rest of the cast, crew and other post-production workers with just, N1.2 million. And yet you want to tell me that Nigerian actors are under paid. I disagree with whoever says that...

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