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Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood, and All Other “-woods”

An American musician named Jim Morrison once said that whoever controls the media, controls the mind. Such is the tremendous influence that media can have on mass populations.

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Movie Industry; Photo: Adobe Stock Photography

An American musician named Jim Morrison once said that whoever controls the media, controls the mind. Such is the tremendous influence that media can have on mass populations. Little wonder why the West has been so useful and successful in making other parts of the world adopt their way of life as the most ideal. The world listens to their music, watch their film, and wear their fashion because, on a subconscious level, the world has bought into the ideas that they have been selling to everyone for decades. Of all the areas where the West in general, and the United States of America has been most effective in selling their dream, one industry has shone the brightest—its film industry, Hollywood.

Hollywood is originally a place in Los Angeles, California in the United States of America. It is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles. Today though, at the mention of the name, everyone has a common idea of what it means—not just a place but the famous film producing hub of the United States of America, home of dreams for many thespians and even anyone. Hollywood has become the destination holly-land of everyone who aspires to make it big in the motion picture industry—all roads lead to Hollywood for all aspiring actors, actresses, and other celebrities in the entertainment world. The success of Hollywood has inspired other film industries in other countries to adopt the suffix, “-wood,” as an indicator of their ambition to match its greatness.

Welcome to Hollywood! HOLLYWOOD, Los Angeles – September 11, 2015: Views of the Lake Hollywood Park and the Hollywood sign in the background . The Park is popular by tourist for taking pictures of the sign.

“Hollywood is a special place; a place filled with creative geniuses—actors, screenwriters, directors, sound engineers, computer graphics specialists, lighting experts and so on. Working together, great art happens. But in the end, all artists depend on diverse audiences who can enjoy, be inspired by and support their work.” — Ryan Kavanaugh

Bollywood, India’s movie production engine, is an example of this shift to match the greatness of Hollywood. There is also Nigeria’s fast-growing movie industry, Nollywood. Add to this some other lesser known industries like Ghollywood in Ghana, Lollywood in Pakistan, Hallyuwood in South Korea, Wakaliwood in Uganda and Hillywood in Rwanda, and you can see just how much Hollywood has influenced film industries the world over. These industries have their peculiarities regarding plots and themes, budget, language and the revenue they generate. Generally, the film industry is one to be taken seriously by its government as it returns much revenue and could add to the GDP of a country’s economy.

Hollywood is known to make films cutting across genres and even creating sub-genres with well-defined plots, strong characters that the audience come to idolize, which could move into other cinema works, predominantly in English, astute film technology with production spanning through an extended period and are allotted huge budgets. The distribution system is also well structured with support from the government that establishes laws that fight against copyright infringement that could ensue from movie piracy. This directly influences the financial returns made and the reason why Hollywood cannot accurately be said to be the most significant film producing industry in the world—but it still is because of the structure in the system that supports it and the immense amount of funding available to the industry. The industry compared to the other two, Bollywood and Nollywood, produces 500 films on the average yearly with an average film budget of $13 million. Worthy of note is the point that two-thirds of Hollywood’s profits come from outside the American frontiers.

Bollywood Style!

“The true treasure lies within. It is the underlying theme of the songs we sing, the shows we watch and the books we read. It is woven into the Psalms of the Bible, the ballads of the Beatles and practically every Bollywood film ever made. What is that treasure? Love. Love is the nature of the Divine.” — Radhanath Swami

Bollywood is built around stories of estranged lovers, corrupt politicians, and so on, with a portrayal of the Indian culture. The films are always laced with an extended dance sequence, music, made in the local language, features beautiful places, actors, and actresses. Indian films have a long duration above the typical feature film standard length. The use of the local language with only a tiny percentage made in English is a limiting factor with just a one-fifth of the profit coming from the international market. However, this doesn’t demean the demand and quality of Indian films as an average of 1000 films are produced yearly on a $1.3million average budget, and there is the apparent advancement in film technology as seen in these films. Bollywood continues to advance in the quality of movies that the industry churns out.

With not as much technology and budget level as her two counterparts, the Nigerian film industry doesn’t make as much money yet is responsible for about 1.4% of the nation’s GDP making it a valuable resource. Shooting films within a space of days and releasing them into the market in months on a meager budget (average of $15,000), the industry can churn out over 2000 films in a year causing it to be the most extensive film producing industry in the world. The possibilities of Nollywood are immense and endless. If the enabling environment is provided that supports the movie industry in Nigeria, as it relates to the rule of law concerning the variation of movie piracy, which cuts into the profits of those in the Nollywood movie industry—there is hope for Nollywood. There is a possibility that Nollywood could overtake Hollywood in the future in the amount of revenue it generates—mark the word “could,” although it will be an uphill battle.   

Nollywood is evolving!

Within the past decades, it has evolved and keeps evolving even without a secure distribution channel. The rule of law is not as strong in Nigeria when compared to that of the United States or even India’s Bollywood. In the United States, movie piracy is a direct infringement on Intellectual Property Rights and attracts hefty penalties, fines that could run into the millions of dollars, or even imprisonment if found guilty of such crimes. The rule of law plays to the favor of Hollywood, making it the highest earning movie industry in the world. The same cannot be said about Nollywood. However, despite the lax rule of law which is not in favor of the movie industry in Nigeria, the successful evolution of Nollywood continues. This success can be attributed to the doggedly relentless talents ready to make films in Nigeria, and the demanding market.

However, with the developments in Digitization, Video-On-Demand platforms could serve as a ready avenue to side-step the perennial headaches of market access and piracy. Nollywood films are now going to festivals and getting respect for being unapologetically Nigerian.  For instance, with the likes of Genevieve Nnaji producing “Lionheart,” an outstanding work that marked her directorial debut, featured at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 8, 2018. It is also interesting to note that Netflix has bought the movie “Lionheart,” and this is an immense stride for Nollywood—thanks to Genevieve Nnaji. The movie “Lionheart,” is a catalyst for many things to come from Nollywood in the near and distant future. It may be an uphill climb, however, with persistence, they will keep breaking into the international circle.

“Lionheart provided an atmosphere where I could showcase the things that made me proud of my culture, talents, and values.” — Genevieve Nnaji

Lingering on “Lionheart,” on Richard Quest’s show, “Quest Means Business,” Genevieve Nnaji answered Richard’s question on why Netflix decided to buy the rights of the movie, making it the breakout movie for the Nollywood industry. In her words, she established that the movie, “Lionheart,” was authentic, as it was also qualitative. In her very own words as we can see in the CNN YouTube clip above, the movie “provided an atmosphere where she could showcase the things that made her proud of her culture, talents, and values.” Her emphasis was not quantity, but quality. However, she hit the nail on the head by positing that the variation that Nollywood faces is the issue of funding. Nollywood does not have the adequate funding for movies that they intend to see go global, and that is ball and chain on the ankle of the Nollywood industry.

“Nollywood must celebrate the things that make us Africans—our culture. In trying to emulate Hollywood, Nollywood must not forget its roots, its Africanism. Nollywood must celebrate its Nigerian-hood. It must celebrate its many ethnicities, languages, music, fashion, food, and the daily nuances that make Nollywood African, and Nigerians as a whole.” — Ogbonnaya Agom-Eze

What next for Nollywood? Nollywood and the other “-woods” should borrow a leaf from Bollywood first, and then from Hollywood next. How?  Bollywood is known for churning out movies that are opulent with culture-infused themes that are unique to them.  Watch Bollywood movies, they celebrate their culture and are unapologetic for it. Nollywood must celebrate the things that make us Africans—our culture. In trying to emulate Hollywood, Nollywood must not forget its roots, its Africanism. Nollywood must celebrate its Nigerian-hood. It must celebrate its many ethnicities, languages, music, fashion, food, and the daily nuances that make Nollywood African, and Nigerians as a whole. In borrowing a leaf from Hollywood, more stringent laws must be put in place by the government to protect the industry. Also, there needs to be more goodwill relating to funding for the industry to help boost the quality of movies produced. There will be more to come from its coffers in the future, all things being equal.

Generally, the film industry is one that continues to influence people widely, pushes for change socially, politically, and culturally. We have seen how Hollywood is motivating other cultures to explore the robust opportunities of expanding their own movie industries. The movie industry as we have also seen is of high relevance to the economy of a nation. Provided these movie industries continue to provide employment and livelihood for creatives and inspire with storylines—we can say that the more “-woods” there are, the better!

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  • Retro film production accessories placed on wooden planks. Concept of film-making. Smoke effect with spot light on background

  • HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 11: Views of the Lake Hollywood Park and the Hollywood sign in the background on September 11, 2015. The Park is popular by tourist for taking pictures of the sign.

  • Nigerian cinematography, film industry concept. 3D rendering isolated on white background

Ogbonnaya Agom-Eze is an entrepreneur and the Founder, CEO, Editor-In-Chief of Oaekpost, LLC, a U.S.-based online media company and the parent organization of www.oaekpost.com. He is a multi-niche writer with a wide range of interests in various genres. Agom-Eze is based in the Greater Seattle Area, Washington, and can be reached at ogb@oaekpost.com.

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