By MADU CHIKWENDU
Around the world online business experienced and is still enjoying an exponential growth spiked by the Covid 19 pandemic .Streaming giant Netflix is now top dog; the world’s most capitalized company at a princely USD$230b eclipsing Exon Mobil. Perhaps a subtle indication of the changing dynamics of global economics and vast riches of intellectual property .Netflix was already in the ultra exclusive FAANG club .A reference to stock of the five most popular technology companies; Facebook , Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google ( now Alphabet). Having received so much, Netflix “retaliated “by “giving back “a little.
On March 20, Netflix announced a $100m‘hardship fund with “ …$15m earmarked for third parties and nonprofits that offer emergency relief to casts and crew across the globe “ .This fund was later increased by 50% to $150m.The Netflix “ dollar rain “ has since been falling on selected countries. The ‘non Netflix crew ‘component of the fund is being shared around the world. The US film industry got about $3m with about $1m each to SAG-AFTRA Foundation (Hollywood equivalent of AGN), the Actors Fund and the Television Fund,
According to Variety;
1 million Canadian dollars to AFC, 1 million pounds to the British Film Institute with Film & TV Charity, 1 million euros to the Italian Film Commission, $1 million to the Producers Guild of India, 1 million euros to Audiens in France, and 25 million pesos to the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematograficas in Mexico.
On Tuesday April 14, 2020 Netflix ‘dashed ‘5 million Brazilian Reals equivalent to $1m to the audiovisual industry of that country. The fund is being distributed through Brazilian Institute of Audiovisual Content (ICAB), an arm of leading industry organization Brazil Audiovisual Independent (BRAVI). .
Nollywood is yet to get a piece of this ‘hardship’ fund despite the fact that the economic environment in Nigeria compared to say the US , Canada and other countries that have received the million dollar dole is far worse. True, a donor can choose the cause to support. Netflix is neither a government nor intergovernmental agency. But the world has changed a lot and continues to change. Corporations and even individuals are increasingly held accountable beyond even legal obligations.Nollywood after all matters. Definitions of discrimination have widened and greatly. Corporations must increasingly navigate a delicate line between fair play, moral obligation and the bottom line. Actually Netflix doled out a Valentine gift to Nollywood .On February 12, 2020 the company hosted a glitzy Soiree in Lagos and announced the commissioning of a six part series from a South Africa based Nigerian Producer. This has been followed by a recent announcement of a screen adaptation of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka’s Death and the Kings Horseman and a few other productions. Previously Netflix had acquired a handful of Nigerian productions; Sounds good.
But Netflix India launched in 2016 acquiring local productions and producing locally since 2018 with its first original production Sacred Games .Over twenty two films have been commissioned in India since 2018.There are also lots of series and even unscripted formats. As at April 2019 Netflix had over thirty films and series in various phases of production in Brazil. The company released about eleven of the series in 2019. Nollywood budgets are also far lower than the budgets being allocated to these other developing countries. There were recent grumblings about slashes in the budget. By the way, did the Nigerian team get a part of the ‘hardship fund ‘that was paid out in other countries? Why has it been difficult for Nollywood to get fair and equal treatment at the hands of Netflix? Could it be the consistent inability of the industry to present a common front? This should not be a reason. There are multiple ways to intervene; the money could be invested in training, it could be used to support the fight against piracy .It could even become the seed for a film fund .Efforts have been made to reach out to Netflix through Association of Nollywood Core Producers ANCOP, Nigeria’s representatives at the International Federation of Film Producers Association the global body representing producers. This has apparently not yielded fruit. Actors Guild of Nigeria is affiliated to International Federation of Actors FIA .Surely these affiliations count for something? O pu sa okpogh o le? What are these affiliations worth? The Abiriba / Ibo man would ask.
Sitting in a cozy room at The Marriot in New York City in the early 2000s’I recalled the early 90s’… Nollywood’s humble beginnings; trekking to locations and transporting heavy equipment on our bare scalp, starving for days on location. This incredible resilience has created a global brand and an industry remarkable for its staggering size. It is rated number two in volume globally. “Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe .Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surroundings; the sphere of external influences extends to infinite distance “said inventor Nikola Tesla who migrated to the US from Croatia.
Glocalization is now the way to go. External interventions can make the difference .Consider the pivotal role of Europeans during the American war of independence; Marquis de Lafayette, Juan de Miralles, Baron von Steuben of whom Erick Trickey of The Smithsonian wrote that ‘Every US soldier is indebted …he created America’s professional army ‘.Even the evolution and eventual global domination by Hollywood is also a tale of ‘Outsiders’ chipping in : Alfred Hitchcock ,Greta Garbo , Ridley Scot ,Jim Carrey , Salma Hayek, Arnold Swarznegger , Sylvester Stallone , Roman Polanski , Alfonso Cuaron , Nicole Kidman ,James Cameron , Ang Lee and so on.
The Dog said he will keep following a fat man because something must come out, either from the mouth or the bottom. Like the Chief Zebrudaya said in the iconic rested Nigerian sitcom Masquerade,
’What are good for the goose…are good for the Gizzard “ . It does matter .
Madu C Chikwendu
Filmmaker /Creative Industry Specialist / Public Policy Adviser (+2348023238203 firstname.lastname@example.org )