Whichever way we look at it, cut and action is the core of film making and most definitely not all of it. That’s probably why the director commands the most respect and carries the most burdens in the film making chain, though sadly enough he/she doesn’t command the most money almost everywhere in the world and particularly Nigeria or should I say nollywood. However that is not my concern for today, I’d like to look at the cut and action guys’ i.e oga director. The director carries the most burdens because of the way film making evolved, after all we are seeing the film through his eyes. He interprets the vague picture of words the disillusioned writer tries to so poorly paint and as the messiah he adds, subtracts, multiply, divide, arrange, re-arrange and sometimes mis-arranges the whole script while manipulating puppets to get what he wants and goes to congregate in any of the many same cleavage assemblies to beat his own drums or blow his trumpets and chest whichever one he is most proficient with as oga director (oops I did it again). Just kidding anyway, not all directors belong to that category. The director that knows his onions harnesses’ all the other factors of film making light, sound, cameras, scripts, talents e.t.c to paint a concise picture of the imaginary world the brilliant writer conceives, the question of how much of a finished film work is a writer’s work and why should his writing abilities be or not be judged by that work is one for another day.
The chain as far as my honest opinion is concerned is fair enough for the rule dictates that the taste of the food is the chef’s doing, good or bad. I like to now narrow down to nollywood and the quality of directing. Now that I’m writing about it, I remember a good piece on this subject I read a few months ago written by onyeka nwelue and in that article he sang the praises of Nigerian directors and defended the quality of directing in the country. It’s a good thing to celebrate our own. He mentioned some names too like amaka igwe, kunkle afolayan and a few others and he didn’t take it easy with the critics of our films (especially the consumers) but I’d like for him to explain to me why the same names keep coming up every time as if they are the only film makers in the country. Once in a blue moon a strange name comes up, I agree. However if in a country that we can quantitatively boast of film makers then qualitatively we are found wanting is it not indicative of an unresolved problem? We produce about one thousand four hundred to two thousand (1400-2000) movies per year and we can only boast of a few notably directors that can compete on the international front? So who and who directs the bulk of the movies? Why must it always be a kunle or an ojukwu or a patience or a TK? How many movies do they direct in a year? Not like I have anything against them but I’m interested in knowing the quality of those that do the bulk of the one thousand four hundred to two thousand movies that find their way to the market yearly, what’s up with the others? Nothing but the ceiling cos’ its definitely ain’t the sky.
The argument has never been that we don’t have some good guys in the field, the problem have always been why so few good guys and many loud mouthed “na me carry nollywood for head oga directors”. Shall we look into the regulatory body of directors as far as nollywood is concerned DGN. The guild has over a hundred members registered as qualified directors good to go into the field to “cut and action”. To distinguish themselves, they add the almighty (DGN) title after their name. I think they have done a good job to an extent, the likes of andy amenechi, fidelis duker, mamood ali balogun, teco benson, bond emerua and a few others have done some good movies. However I bet there are a lot of things left undone that deal heavy blows on their reputation as a guild and require more attention than trying to so hard to extend their influence and territory by imposing sanctions on practitioners that are not plying their trade from the platform of the guild. I hope not to be understood so I will take the pain to explain what I mean.
By their terms the qualification for a director is to be DGN member which entails that one must subject himself/herself to their scrutiny, assessment and understudy a member amongst other things. Not like it is wrong but understudying a director could be an issue. First I will like to ask how many DGN directors have at one time in their careers gone for a refresher course? How many have ever gone for a course on directing at all? How many know the science which can only be achieved by a teacher – student setting as well as they claim to know the technology which they learnt on the field? How many understand and use the film language? Or will instead of saying give me a rack focus shot will say "blur jim ike first then when I give you sign you go come put the blur on top genevieve". Technology without science can only go thus far and for DGN I believe this is one area they should give priority attention.
Secondly, in my honest opinion I believe the guild system is a very good way to drive any film industry and I wholeheartedly support it. However we must be mindful that if we must practice a guild system, governance is imperative and hence politics is inevitable. Still using DGN as a focal point of reference, it is noteworthy to decry the political machinations that often come to the fore front. Besides the usual brouhaha, godfatherism imbroglio and stone throwing that occasions its elections, the sudden appearance of members that have otherwise gone extinct is of particular concern. Once a man that runs a chemist store in ogun state showed up as a registered member of the guild. As much as I relish taunting “oga directors”, directing is an intellectual job and the skill gets better with practice. The furiously fast changing technology and mechanics of film making does not accommodate the idle director in anyway. Consequently I question the competence of a director that has not in any way in the last five to seven years contributed to the intellectual commonwealth of the industry and the guild that does not sanction or compel or have a program to continually ensure that its members are up to date and on point with global trends.
Thirdly because of my bias for the guild (I have a lot of acquiatance, friends e.t.c there) i did and to an extent still look at the DGN title that trails any of the guilds member names as the credit rolls with some reverence and I believe that’s the idea of adding that title. It is a commendable trick but without a quality control department that vets and endorses the works of its members before it gets to the public, what a beautiful mess and rubbishing of the title has gone unbridled, unnoticed, unchecked and unpunished by the guild to the detriment of the guild and its reputable members. I will not be nice enough to spare you some gory details. Seen the market copy of the movie Midnight Confessions directed by a DGN member? It was released in early 2011. There was this scene that was shot in retrospect; what we would call a flash back. Into the scene, a wide shot without any A-listers set in a fairly quiet urban neighborhood of the late 80’s or 90’s. A Youngman of about 16-17years strolls in miming the song of 50 cent featuring neyo hit song baby by me released in 2009 (which I’m sure he doesn’t have permission for). I wanted to call it “mad oga director disease” until my 15year old cousin saw through it and simply called it stupidity. I was moved! In the movie Shericoco which featured A-listers like talented comedy actor Mr.ibu (I confess a part of me compels me to call him buffoonery legend but I won’t ) and award winning funke akindele popularly known as Jenifa. If you have seen the movie, there is a scene where hijack (Mr. ibu) wanted the gate open but his wife (jenifa) preferred it closed. To fool him she asked him to go get her clothes he had washed earlier as a prerequisite for opening the gate. He agreed, got up and went out through the door by her right; she quickly got up and locked the door by her left without making any movement to her right. Next, hijack (mr.ibu) came back knocking on the door to the right through he went out asking her to open the door for him. How? Why? What? When? You add to the list but she didn’t go close to that door. “Oga director” who locked it?
I could go on and on singing a litany of the flaws of many of these “oga directors” but I’d rather we first of all admit we have a serious problem as far as cut and action is concerned and stop playing “monkey no fine but im mama like am like dat”. There’s a game called circling and I don’t know how. Until we come to terms with the true nature and extent of our problem in this area, solutions will continue to elude us. To all them followers of what I am tempted to call the onyeka’s philosophy, I say we fix it not paint it. I say we admit it not disguise it, I say we rework it not repackage it. Once, a big player in our film industry asked this question. How do you package rotten tomato? I should have ended my career in this industry that day after severely manhandling him for referring to nollywood as such (why did I not? Simple, he’s much bigger than me). A clue, he is a DGN member, not a good thing to say about our dear industry some people say is rated second best only after Hollywood (e ma tan ara yin, it means fool yourselves).
Finally, on the DGN matter I wish to go no further. I sincerely hope I will not be misunderstood by you, highly esteemed readers and mostly the DGN executives and members. As for the “oga directors” I couldn’t careless. It is possible that I may have offended some people with this article I mean not to and I have no problems dashing out apologies. You can email me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any reservations or comments on this article and please don’t take it personal for this is just my honest opinion on the true state of cut and action in nollywood.