If you’ve been going to the cinema regularly this year to watch Nollywood movies, you would easily realise that our stories are getting better. Save for a few near disaster movies that made me want to demand a full refund of my N1500, most of the time, I’ve been happy with my decision. I have watched films that have dealt with all manner of issues from surrogacy to sexuality. Filmmakers both new and old alike are trying new things and giving us the variety we so desire. While I can go on to list films, I would like to share my experience so far of what makes a good story line.
Firstly, all writers know that there are ‘rules’ (that are meant to be followed most times and broken occasionally) for every genre. Just like Mathematics, there are set formulae for every script. Whenever we buy a copy of an action movie, we expect action. If we watch a thriller, we want to be thrilled. My point is that there is an expectation from your audience and it is up to you as a storyteller to meet it. One trend I’ve observed in Nollywood is the mad rush to make movies about current affairs and news worthy stories. So when the ‘Oga at the top’ scandal happened, in no time, there was a Nollywood movie. Now that we have been winning football trophies like it our birth right (I know it is only two but it feels like five), I am waiting for a movie to be done about that. The truth is many Nigerians like to hear our own stories in an entertaining manner. Yes, we know the story but we want its comedic and dramatic values heightened for viewing pleasure. And we are not the only ones; other countries also make films based on historic and political events.
Secondly, we love our celebrities and for once, the international world is taking notice. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde did not get on the TIME 100 list this year without the massive support she has received from her fans over the years. You see having a good story which follows the rules of the genres is never enough; you need capable and trusted faces to deliver a good story. It also helps when those faces are popular. I can now understand the dilemma the producers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun faced. Do you go for new (to the international scene) faces or Hollywood names? They chose the latter because they know that many people will only watch a film because of who is in it. What is the point of having a good story and not many people get to see it.
Thirdly, filmmakers need to keep tabs on what is going on to remain relevant in the long run. There are some movies you watch and you can relate to them because the screenwriter paid attention to the details. Including trending slangs in a movie that reflects present realities will hit the spot better than putting big language because you think it would make your work look intelligent. And then one cannot stress how important it is to have real and consistent characters that can be easily recognised.
Finally, there is no point talking about how great our stories are becoming if we don’t recognise the people behind this magic. I would end on this note, our stories have improved and can definitely get much better but our screenwriters need to be better paid so they can focus on their craft rather than spreading themselves too thin in multiple jobs. One day, I too would like to try hand at that kind of writing.
The Nollywood Review is a weekly column by Isabella Akinseye published in Saturday Newswatch newspaper.