Much Ado About MOPICON | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Much Ado About MOPICON

Posted: May 14, 2016 at 6:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Hazeez Balogun

Perhaps the most trending topic in the movie industry at the moment is that of the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) bill being proposed. Already the bill has split the industry into two, the supporters and those who wants it to die before it even sees the light of day.

Despite many calls for the stoppage of the bill, The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, some weeks ago formally inaugurated a Ministerial Review Committee of MOPICON, in an effort to fast track the passage into law of the MOPICON bill.

He inaugurated a 29-member committee at a ceremony in Lagos, the Minister said contrary to insinuations that the government is setting up the Council in order to control the movie industry, the government’s effort is to enable Nollywood to play a meaningful role in national development. That however is not believed by many others who see the bill as a noose around the neck of the still evolving industry.

The bill according to the draft seeks to determine who are Motion Picture Practitioners, determining what standards of knowledge and skills are to be attained by persons seeking to become registered Motion Picture Practitioners and reviewing those standards from time to time and also to regulate and control professional practice in the motion picture industry.

The bill also seeks to segment the industry into Guilds and Associations including writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, editors, creative designers and sound and lighting technicians. All these will have their own guild, while distributors/marketers and producers will belong to associations. Each of these guilds must seek accreditation from the Council before operations.

The aim of the bill seems noble, but there are a lot of loopholes which many are frowning upon. Firstly is the composition of the committee set up by the minister. Many in the industry believes the members are not all encompassing as some people are left on the sideline while some who represent themselves and a few others only are part of the group.

Going by the bill, a candidate for fellowship must be someone who has been in continuous active practice as a motion picture practitioner for 15 years. ‘Continous active’ as the key word cuts out movie practitioners who leave to go and study for any period. It also cuts out those who stop work to chase funds to proceed on their work. The bill also says one can’t be a member until they are 18 years old. If non members cannot work and children cannot be members, then child actors are alienated automatically.

It goes further to say that you cannot take anyone to court to recover your fees unless you’re either a member or a fellow of the Council, in respect of any work you’ve done as a motion picture practitioner.

There are production houses that are not industry based but provide production services to agencies shooting adverts, events and even some movie makers use their services once in a while. If a movie maker owes such production house money, he has the right not to pay the money since the production house is not a member of MOPICON.

Additionally, if you’re not registered as a member with the Council, you are prohibited from producing or making projects for either the Cinema or Home Video Market. These leaves out amateur film makers. Forgetting that amateur are part of those who built the industry in the first place.

In the end, MOPICON is just a body that license those who are to practice an art. You get a license to be an actor, license to be a script-writer, license to direct how scripts are interpreted onto film, license to hold a boom microphone and work the sounds and lighting, license to collect one’s fees for one’s work. The big question is, should creativity be licensed?

What is playing out is so similar to the business tactics called ‘First movers advantage’. Those who are behind creating the bill and council are those who have been in the industry for a while and are trying to put a lid to ward off competition and to also keep a seat of relevance for themselves even when they do not make films anymore. This may not be their intentions but that is how it looks.

Eric Enomamien Aghimien taught himself how to make movies. He gathered up a group of up and coming actors and he made the movie, ‘A Mile from home’ in 2013. The movie, the actors and the director, all amateurs won numerous awards for the work including AMAA and AMVCA. With MOPICON, A Mile from home would not see the light of day. In fact, Aghimien would have been slapped with a N100,000 fine for his effort.

We are yet to reach Bolly or Nollywood standard, we are far from there. We need to allow the industry ripen some more. Let people make more mistakes, let mediocre actors fool themselves more. Let the youth pick up a 5d Canon and shoot what they have in their head and put it on Cd. It hurts nobody, but the movie maker when a bad movie is made. Let’s allow the market judge a good work or not. Movie making is an art and nobody is asking a painter to join a body before painting. If he paints badly, he goes hungry. Whose business is that?

There are however some who believes MOPICON is the way to go. Movie and Tv producer, Wale Adenuga says the bill if passed will enable the industry sanitise and regulate itself. “If you look at other professions they have their national bodies, doctors, lawyers, advertisers among others, they have their regulating bodies that are able to check the excesses of the practitioners and make sure that the best come out of them, that is what the MOPICON bill is about. It is magical bill that is going to turn around the film industry.”

Also supporting the bill is popular director, Lancelot Imasuen, in a chat with Box office, he said, “It is high time for the industry to have an industry status that is recognised by the laws of the land. People that are not very vast in the way the industries are run worldwide. We know that art cannot be controlled but that is for people who see the law as a means of control of creativity. The idea is to open up a new vista and not annihilation.”

Those however against the bill are mostly young movie makers. Uduak Isong, believes the bill seeks to gag Nollywood, and said that a bill like MOPICON, will prohibit non-members from producing and making projects for both the cinema and home video market and television stations for gains. She urged the government to address other major challenges, like piracy, poor distribution, needed tax rebates, waiver fees from LASAA for better marketing and more support for filmmakers to ensure they thrive in Nigeria.

“Some years ago, I watched  ‘Uyai’, an Ibibio film produced by Emem Isong. Ime Bishop played a security man. He was the funniest character I had seen in a while. I knew immediately that the industry would embrace him. We made Okon comes to Lagos with less than N2million, shot it in five days. In less than a year, we’d sold 200 thousand copies. Following its success, we made ‘Okon Goes To School’ and sold out the first 20,000 copies we printed on the first day of release. All that will not be possible with MOPICOM,” she said.