“Oya!” shouts the director in Nigerian Pidgin English. Actors take their marks. Lighting blinks on. The film crew snaps into action after the order to hurry up.
It’s another day in Nollywood, the affectionate nickname for Nigeria’s film industry – the world’s second most prolific after India’s Bollywood, producing hundreds of films and TV episodes each month.
For decades it was a factory churning out visual pulp fiction destined for the market stalls of DVD pirates. But Nollywood is increasingly grabbing the attention – and financing – of global entertainment brands.
Some, like French group Vivendi’s Canal+, seek to harness Nigerian hustle and know-how to extend the lifespan of the traditional pay-TV model, which is bleeding customers in developed markets but still has a future in Africa.
Others, including South Africa’s MultiChoice, are using Nigeria as a testing ground for introducing streaming platforms in African markets with poor communications infrastructure and low income levels.
In both cases, it’s local production that’s benefiting.
“Ten years ago Nollywood was very different,” Mary Njoku, whose ROK studios was acquired by Canal+ in July, told Reuters as the film crew worked in an abandoned hotel in Nigeria’s megacity Lagos. “Today we shoot with better cameras… We do things differently.”
A room on the hotel’s top floor was standing in for a college dorm on “What Are Friends For?”, an ROK comedy series that will be among new shows aired by Canal+ in coming months.
The company first dipped its toe into Africa’s most populous country six years ago, buying up local films, dubbing them and airing them on a dedicated channel, Nollywood TV, to viewers in French-speaking Africa.
That success led to the creation of a second channel.