Marketers have played an important role in sustaining the brand called Nollywood.” This assertion was made by Mr. Azuka Odunukwe, the CEO of Ulzee Nigeria Ltd. while speaking at the October edition of the Filmmakers’ Forum of the GTBank Nollywood Studies Centre. The theme of the event was ‘The Marketer in the Landscape of the Nigerian Film Industry.’Mr. Odunukwe, a biochemistry graduate that established his marketing company in 1998, explained how the role of the marketer developed in the Nigerian video film industry. According to him, “There was nothing like the marketer at the beginning.” In other words, there were no established channels or persons specifically dedicated to the distribution of video films. The early sales of video films were carried out by electronic dealers that sold the films alongside their other products. These dealers, the Ulzee CEO noted, had already built a base of selling pirated foreign films. This group eventually focused solely on the sale of video films; thus the marketer arose. From merely serving as a conduit for films that were brought to them, the marketers began to commission filmmakers to produce films for them. However, Mr. Odunukwe stated, the marketers suffered various disappointments from filmmakers; their trust was abused by some filmmakers, and they lost a lot of money. The solution for the marketers was to take on the challenge of producing their own films, and thus was born the marketer-producer. The poor development of a distribution structure, Mr. Odunukwe stated, has its roots in this reality. According to him, by taking on the task of filmmaking, the role of the marketer was distorted. The dual role meant that funds that should have been dedicated to marketing were diverted into production. The lack of sufficient funds for establishing the relevant structures thus undermined the growth of a distribution network.

In response to the charge that marketers are only in filmmaking for the money, Mr. Odunukwe stated that the facts indicate that one cannot generalise on this point. Certainly, he agreed, there have been marketers whose sole interest was the money, but with the present condition of falling sales such people have long since moved on. Many of the marketers, he said, have a true passion for filmmaking; otherwise, one would not be able to explain why they continue to engage in the business in spite of the poor state of the industry and the fact that they have lost a lot of money.

Going on to speak about piracy, the Ulzee CEO said that it had led to a lot of losses for the marketer. He bemoaned the fact that the government agencies were not doing enough to deal with the problem. On this point, the intervention of the Director/Zonal Manager of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Barrister Chris Nkwocha, during the question and answer session, led to a very interesting discussion. Barrister Nkwocha noted that it was not accurate to say that government agencies were not doing much to combat piracy. He drew attention to the various initiatives that the NCC had put in place and pointed to its various achievements in recent times. One of these was the arrest of a suspected piracy kingpin, Anthony Onwujekwe. The NCC, Barrister Nkwocha affirmed, was determined to obtain convictions of those confirmed to be pirates, and he pointed to the 45 convictions that the Commission had obtained in the last two years as a proof of this. He also indicated that the forthcoming amendment of the Copyright Act would introduce more stringent penalties as a deterrent for piracy. Barrister Nkwocha however stressed that the filmmakers needed to cooperate more with the NCC by protecting their works with the security measures already introduced and reporting the pirating of their work.
The Forum ended with a cocktail that made for further interaction among the participants.