There are many screenwriters in Nollywood. There are few GOOD screenwriters in Nollywood. And there are fewer GREAT screenwriters in Nollywood. If you must get to the third category, there are key things you must know. Today, we will discuss four of them.
#1. Know the Genre of the Script/Movie
This is an important area that a lot of Nollywood screenwriters take for granted. Most of them are all weather and the result is both funny and annoying. A genre of a screenplay is the type, category or area of concentration a screenplay focuses on. It could be drama, comedy, epic, cultural/traditional, fantasy, religious, horror, etc. A screenwriter should be able to identify where a screenplay is focusing on. It is sad to see some of our Nollywood movies that should be comedy showing us depressing actions and some of our drama or horror movies turning out to be comedy. I’ve watched an Igbo epic movie where a character said, “hell no!” and another said, “I sure will!” In an epic Igbo traditional society, when our ancestors lived? Who does that? Some movies even Americanize our traditional and cultural settings. These could have been avoided if the screenwriters understood the concept of genre. Know the genre of your screenplay so you don’t make such embarrassing blunders.
#2. Know your Audience
As a screenwriter, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for an audience. Your screenplay hasn’t completed its purpose if it doesn’t reach an audience. Hence, when writing, have your audience in mind. Questions like, “who is my audience?”, “what does my audience like?”, “why does my audience like it?”, “how does my audience like it?”, “where does my audience like it?” and “when does my audience like it?” are very necessary. This is why our low budget movies are thriving till today. Substandard or not, the producers know their audience. They know that the middle and lower class in the Nigerian society form the majority of their audience. And these majority want movies that they can relate with. The cinema audience, which are mostly those from the upper and middle class, want something a little different. You should know your target audience and write a screenplay that appeals to them. This brings us to the next point.
#3. Know the Trend
Ok, we screenwriters are often tempted to write our hearts out regardless of what anybody wants. While it’s advisable to follow your heart, it’s also true that somebody has to produce your screenplay otherwise it will just be gathering unnecessary dust or e-dust. Therefore, you must know the trend. Years ago, it was romance which brought the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Noah, Omotala Jalade Ekeinde, Jim Iyke, Rita Dominic, Desmond Elliot and so on, into the limelight. Then there were the epic movies like Igodo, Egg of Life, Ijele, Festival of Fire. The action movies came like Isakaba, War Front, Bless the Child etc. They were the ritual movies, the cultural/traditional movies that mostly have royal titles and all things royal. Now, comedy is the trend, specifically romantic comedy. The cinemas and other distribution platforms are flooded with movies that deal on marriage and romantic relationships. However, while it’s a very good idea to stick to one genre and become an expert in it, our movie environment dictates otherwise. Trends keep changing as we’ve witnessed over the years. So if you want to remain relevant in the Nigerian movie industry as a screenwriter, you must have a basic knowledge of the genres and how to keep up with the trends so you won’t be left behind.
#4. Know the Budget
I can’t emphasize this enough. Budget rules movie production in Nigeria. Unlike Hollywood and Bollywood, Nollywood movie productions come from private pockets with little or no sponsorship from government and corporate organizations. The Goodluck Jonathan administration showed some interest but it wasn’t enough. Filmmakers rely on their very limited resources. If you want your screenplay to materialize into a movie, think of the budget. The best advice is the fewer characters and locations, the better.
These are the four things you must know before going into the screenwriting world in Nollywood. Screenwriting is an interesting subject. It takes time, patience, mental energy and creativity to write something that is worth the screen. Genre, audience, trend and budget must be considered as you begin to write a successful screenplay.
PS: Please if you know more, let us know in the comment section. Thanks!