Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Call For Legislation...

Why We Must Unite –Clarion Chukwurah

By Al-Amin Ciroma (Published in Leadership September 11, 2010)

A call for unity among Nigerian movie practitioners, started by a veteran star of the picture industry, Clarion Chukwurah, who has represented Nigeria internationally as a dramatist, has received the support of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora. The actress, who has won gold for Nigeria in South America, says that movie practitioners should unite so as to restructure the industry. She said, "I intend to bring all the representative bodies under one umbrella that will represent our industry to the world and place us in a position of strength in law as a private sector industry."
In a world press conference held recently in Lagos, the Nollywood star made it clear that this call for unity is for practitioners from Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt. "The retreat, which is going to be a one-week event, will request all representative bodies of workers and owners of the industry across the nation to interact and brainstorm, so as to work out the modalities for great achievement. It will also cut across two unions: The Nigerian Movie Workers Union and the Nigerian Movie Owners Union," she said.
She added that the present home video industry, being a child of circumstance funded by non-professionals, which has propelled itself to a gigantic industry, began showcasing only Nigerian dramatic film content produced for commerce by independent Nigerian film-makers working in Nigeria.
She said that for 20 years, the industry had defied every attempt at structurisation that will properly reposition it.
The statement further expatiates that each of these unions would be empowered to seek legislation to protect its work and members by paying tax to government. A movie workers union backed by legislation will ensure that no non-union member works on any Nigerian film set, the union will ensure that only professionals work in the industry. It will also ensure that movie workers are paid nothing below the agreed fees, and provide a platform to look at. It will discuss and agree on the issues of royalties and provide a platform for workers to pay tax to the Nigerian government.
With all these in place, a movie owner will need to have the right budget to pay for the right equipment that a professional filmmaker requires to produce the right quality of content, a movie owner will need to have the right budget to pay practitioners and the Nigerian film industry will no longer be an all-comers affair where anybody can just jump into the fray and decide to produce a movie.
To produce a movie you will now need to belong to the movie owners union, or employ a producer from the workers union and produce by both the set rules of the workers union on the one side and the owners union on the other side.
Chukwurah, who has featured in no fewer than hundred Nigerian movies that won awards in international arena said the quality of content of the great summit would mirror the true quality of talents that this country has. Workers will take their time to produce the right content by virtue of the investment in each film and have the proper publicity and marketing network/budget that every film company should have to input into the distribution of each film in order to exhaustively tap profit from the sprawling market available in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
Asked why the need for sudden union, the ever smiling screen goddess said, “‘Before Hollywood, there was Fort Lee…’ which is to say that before sophisticated structural organisation, there would always be the years of seeming ‘un-organisation’ which are those years every industry spend in cutting her teeth.
Unionisation will correct the un-organised image of the Nigerian film industry, the present impression to corporate bodies, the ordinary Nigerian, the Nigerian government and interested foreign partners.” She said the pinnacle would open the door that foreign film industries have been waiting to walk through to interact with Nigerian film workers and owners based on merit, choice, not reference. Unionisation will enable the Nigerian movie workers to request their right at any time through dialogue or necessary pressure from the Nigerian movie owners without any government interference because these are two market forces dependent on each other for production.
She also said that twice in the past, the Actors and Directors Guilds of Nigeria had called for strikes because members wanted improved working terms. The strikes failed because they are registered only as associations, and not representative of all movie actors and directors in Nigeria. The present coalition of guilds is still not representative of all movie makers in Nigeria, neither can any umbrella body represent workers and owners i.e. employees and employers without creating constant conflicts of interest.
The statement highlights that what is operational in the industry are poorly produced content, poorly paid practitioners, low budget, non-existent product publicity, limited distribution. A Ghana Union influenced market strategy to take over Nigerian Actors’ jobs in Nigeria by Ghanaian actors due to lack of a legislation backed structure that protects Nigerian actors. Equally operational, is the bane of movie owners and their hired producers being given the job of professionals in the face of the guild who are powerless to stop this trend for lack of any legislative backing.
Conclusively, Clarion Chukwurah's call for unity will go a long way in defining the original owners of the business, who are the employers, and all persons or companies who input financially into the production process that results in the end product that is the film content.

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