Why I Want To Be President Of Movie Producers – Aluko | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Why I Want To Be President Of Movie Producers – Aluko

Posted: Oct 6, 2015 at 5:24 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Veteran actress and movie producer, Lillian Amah Aluko has indicated interest to run for the president of Association of Movie Producers.  She speaks with a select journalist on her plans for AMP. Sam Anokam was there.

Could You tell us why you want to run for the president of AMP?

I was primarily an actor, then I veered into movie production and I served as the vice president of the association of movie producers for two tenures. President Emeritus, Paul Obazele’s last tenure and President Zik Zulu’s first tenure. So I was vice president for two terms of two years each.  And in the course of those four years, being actively in the guild’s politics, I came to realize that there is disconnect in the industry. I just came back with some of my colleagues from the university of California where we went for training, and while there, we discovered that they have very active guilds.

Lillian Amah Aluko

Lillian Amah Aluko

You cannot go into America and start carrying camera and doing anything, you must contact the guild in charge, their practitioners. The script writer is protected by the Screen Writers Guild, producers are protected by Producers Guild. They have very strong unions, they have rules and regulations. But what we have in Nollywood as I discovered in my years as vice president is an all comers affair. People come in, do whatever they want. There is little or no professionalism because of that and of course the piracy situation, you find that practitioners are suffering. Every other day, you Journalists help us to announce that one practitioner is dying with some ailment or another  and you are calling on some kind spirited individuals and government to come to our rescue whereas the profession we hold is such that we should not be begging for food or health care. All of those things got me thinking and I said to myself and others, that what we really need is for the guilds to take their rightful place. I’m speaking from the perspective of Association of Movie Producers which I belong to. It is time to take our rightful place. You know that the producers are the employers of labour in this industry. We employ every other person, the directors, actors, scriptwriters, etc. Being the employers of labour in this industry, we should actually be the guild at the forefront, setting the standards for the industry. I then decided because I have a lot to contribute administratively that you need to be able to plan.

When you are a producer, you are actually supposed to be an administrator. The producer is one who controls the production, you determine the pace of the production, you do the study, you do the budget. A producer must be an organizer but because we are artistes, a lot of us face the art and forget the business of it.

My venturing into guild politics is to help with the help of the other members of the executive because it is not a one man job, it’s a team thing. Every member of the executive when elected, will join hands together to chart a course. I personally feel that the decline in the industry is due to our own fault.

We have not done the right things. We have not engaged the private sector and government the way we should do. Basically, what I want to do in the next two years is set structures in place. Again, I am saying it with all sense of responsibility, with the assistance of my colleagues because no tree can make a forest. I can’t do it alone. I have the plan, I have the vision, mission but I need the assistance of others to realize it. The next two years, we want to set structures in place in such a way that, one, we have a lot of estranged members. There has been so much up and down in the industry, a lot of our esteemed colleagues have decided to stay away from the guild. You have to beg people to pay their dues. People don’t pay dues because they don’t think they benefit anything from the association but when the association is functional and actually fulfilling its rightful place, nobody will tell members to come and pay dues. They would want to belong because they can see what is in it for them. What we need to do is to reconcile past and present members of the association, bring people together and together map a way forward for our industry.

The government of the day in Lagos has decided that they want to use entertainment to push their agenda, to drive employment, tourism, etc. If we will do our home work and structure ourselves properly, then the government will be able to engage with us to drive that process. Those are the things I and my colleagues are looking forward to doing when we take office. We will make sure our members are well taken care of, reconcile the shattered fragments of our industry, bring people together so that we can speak with one voice, not everybody singing discordant tunes.

We also want to engage the international community. We need to have treatise with other movie producing countries. South Africa, even Ghana have signed so many treatise. We need to start doing that. Those are some of the things we have in store.

You have been the vice president of the guild, what are the things you think inwards, hampered your reconciliations?

The constitution of AMP as it is presently, gives all powers to the president. The only unit that the vice president can control is disciplinary. The vice president is constitutionally the head of the disciplinary panel; all other powers are reposed with the president. As vice president, you can only do what your principal directs you to do.

It is obvious that the situation of the industry can be attributed to lack of structures. What do you think, you could have done to instill disciple to errant members?

What I could have done then again would be limited to what I am allowed to do. You are right in saying that it is lack of structures that has left the industry the way it is. You cannot discipline somebody who is not beholding to you. AMP as it is presently is a toothless bulldog. There are so many powerful producers in the industry who don’t pay dues. They don’t even consider themselves members of AMP. That shouldn’t be if AMP is the way it should be and you don t blame those people. Their attitude is –‘why am I spending money paying dues? You don’t do anything for me!’ and they go about doing their businesses and they are doing it very well. I applaud them but I know that no matter how powerful an individual producer is, if the industry in which you operate is not structured, there is a limit to what you can achieve which is the reason why as big as good as some of them are, we really have talented people in this industry, they have not achieved their potentials, because the industry which you back, push and support, is not doing its rightful task.

From what you just explained it seems the constitution is faulty, if you win, would you fix it?

Actually before I left, the process of reviewing the constitution had started. Constitution review committee had been set up and I know that they had actually done a good job but that constitution has not been presented to the house for ratification.

Obviously that is one of the things if my colleagues give me their mandate, I will tackle. We need to have a constitution that addresses the challenges we have in the industry.

You talked about reconciliation of members who don’t pay their dues and all that. There is another faction, Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOP, How do you hope to reconcile ANCOP back to AMP?

I did say that part of the things we want to tackle is to bring together the fractured arms of our association. It is not something that is going to be easy to achieve because the damage was not done in one day. But I know that we intend to reach out to the elders in the industry. The elders will just call the younger ones together. We are all brothers and sisters. I know where the ANCORP problem started from. The head of ANCORP was a secretary general of AMP and for whatever reasons, when he was aggrieved with the industry, he set up ANCOP. I don’t want to go into what led to what and all of that but I know that when the elders reach out to them, we will be able to come together as one family.

When is the election?

The president has not called for elections but we believe it should be in the next couple of months.

There is a trend in Nollywood, that is actors turning producers without enlisting their membership with AMP, how do you hope to change that development?

As I said before, when AMP takes it’s rightful place and set the structures in place, producers will come asking. I remember when I was vice president, Robert Peters who I’m sure most of you know, he was an actor, today, he is a big time director in America. When he came to Nigeria to do a job, he came to my office. He said he would want to join AMP because he produces in America would want to join our association here, so that he can also do jobs here. I then sent him to the secretary general so that he could enlist.

I know that when the AMP is doing what it is supposed to do, nobody will beg people to come. People will enlist because they will immediately be able to see the benefits of belonging to the association. Nobody begs any lawyer to join the bar association, its mandatory. No medical doctor practices in this country without being a member of NMA, its mandatory. When we start doing what we are supposed to do, it will become mandatory for everybody who intends to produce in this country to be a member of AMP.

It seems as if you are aggrieved with the current head of the association?

President Zik Zulu was my president, I was his vice president in his first tenure, that was my last tenure as VP. Our constitution gives you two terms. I’m not aggrieved at all. The president before him, Paul Obazele took the association a long way and Zik picked the mantle from where Paul stopped and has taken us further. Paul gave us a base, the first office of Amp, Zik came in and gave us a better office, so, each of the presidents have taken the association one step forward. I am vying because I can pick up the mantle from Zik. I worked with him for two years, so I know the dreams he has for the industry and I believe I can take it from where he stopped to where he aspired.

Do you have his support?

As my president, I informed him that I was contesting and as the father of the AMP, he will support everybody who aspires to the office but it’s a democratic setting. Democracy welcomes everybody. Zik can only be neutral as a father and tell all of you, ‘I give you my blessing,’ go to the electorate.

Is there a particular project that the outgoing executive is doing that you want to consolidate on and bring into your government?

Way back as Paul Obazele’s tenure, there was something he used to call AMP week which he then metamorphosed into the AMP Eko International Film Festival.

I think it was a very good initiative because it brought together producers and it gave the younger ones a platform to interact with other people. That is an initiative that I would want to continue. The outgoing administration is one that organized and arranged with the aid of the grant given to us by the federal government to train producers in America.

I was a beneficiary of that grant. That is something we want to continue. We want to ensure that we have trainings with or without government support. Part of my dream is at least twice a year, we will train producers. It doesn’t have to be abroad if we can’t afford it but we will train producers. We have branches of this guild in at least 13 states in Nigeria, we intend to engage them, it should not be only about Lagos. When you speak to some the producers outside, they tell you no one remembers them. Everything seems to be concentrated in Lagos.

Part of the plans we have is to have bi- annual or even quarterly training sessions, if we can afford it. We will bring producers from all the arms of our guild to come to Lagos or we may take it to other parts of the country at different times and train them because we need to train and re-train ourselves. The business is fast changing, fast moving, so we need to keep informed. We need to be updating ourselves otherwise we will be outdated.

Being the first woman to contest this position, do you think your gender will be an advantage or disadvantage?

As far as the presidency of AMP is concerned, I think all that matters is that I am a producer. I believe that the men in the industry are forward looking enough to forget your gender when it comes to our business. They just see you as a producer. Are you a good producer or not? Whether you are a woman or not, if you are a good producer, they would want to associate and listen to you.

At the same time, I also want to say that being a woman has an edge, women are mothers, we know how to nurture. When a man would be hard and say it will be done this way, a woman would probably know how to call her children together. In that line, I think being a woman would be an advantage.

It seem as if the present federal government may not likely support Nollywood the way the past administration did?

I beg to disagree. President Buhari has made very strong statements about piracy and I know that the APC government realizes the power of Nollywood.

They realize what entertainment can be used for in terms of tourism and employment. The Lagos State governor has been harping on it and I know with the help of the Lagos State governor and Fashola, the immediate past Lagos State governor, who I hear is on the ministerial list, we will make a head way. Fashola was a big support to Nollywood especially AMP. Even if the president is not looking at our direction but I know he is because of the pronouncements he has made on piracy, through people like Governor Ambode and Fashola, we would reach him. What we want from government is not handouts, we want them to create an enabling environment.

The government of president Jonathan really tried for the industry. They first gave us $200m which we found difficult to access but the N3b they gave which the ministry of finance is handling, people have been accessing it. People are building cinemas, they’ve given money for marketing,  distribution, production, capacity building, among others. Money had been given, what we now need is enabling environment. Once the structures are in place, the private sector will come in because they want to make money. We were told in Hollywood when we went for training that we are the emerging industry. That is where they are looking. This is the next big place mainly because of our population. We would be able to make the money we want once the right structures are there, it won’t be the government giving us money. The private sector will invest money as long as they know they will get their money back.