Photo: Femi Odugbemi’s speaking after the panel session on film scriptwriting in Nollywood, celebrating his 60th birthday anniversary
…you can change the trajectory of the light by the way you place the mirror. I don’t think our mirror should keep showing our society for what it is. We can’t keep doing the same thing and think we are moving forward. It’s time for us to change the story. It’s very important that we write scripts that foreshadow the future of Nigeria
I teach people how to pitch. A pitching document is what people put hundreds of millions of dollars on, not scripts. If you have a great pitching document, you don’t have to be the writer of the story. The story will still be yours, and you get paid for it, not crafting a hundred pages of nothingness which Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do. I was in Uganda and I asked them to give me a synopsis, and AI wrote the script in 17 minutes. It’s not the words on the pages; it’s the story. The AI does not own the story, but it can aggregate algorithms with the best writers in the world. Storytelling is no longer something done on a whim. At the end of the day, no writer should be blamed for anything. There is a team that should be blamed if a film goes wrong.
We need to consider the importance of team building and collaboration. If we continue to run our creative industry based on the strength of individual capacities, we will fail. We have to institutionalise our production, ideation, and distribution, and when we build those institutions, we can have an industry.
I’m hoping that by prioritising discussions on storytelling at this event, we are also demonstrating that we’re ready to do that. The streaming platforms in Nigeria create stories every day, because they have a virtual writing room, and each of those rooms has specialisations with Nigerian writers. Now, we have people who are specialised as script editors, story editors, and story researchers, and each room has five to six people who are crafting, and that’s what is done in an institutionalised process, so nobody is blamed.
There is always something to be created, and our way here is also to know that our first draft is never the best draft of anything. I met Ogun in Surulere where he used to write and read poems to us at a bar; then he proceeded to telling stories on the radio. He hadn’t written a single script when I met him, but he was a great storyteller. I hope he’s able to train people along that trajectory where we are not just writing but telling powerful stories.
Stories are important and I want our stories not judged only on whether they entertain, but whether they create a different kind of future. It’s very important that we write scripts that foreshadow the future of Nigeria. It’s the way it is because we keep reflecting what we already know, and it’s not going to take us anywhere, because film is also a refraction. So, you can change the trajectory of the light by the way you place the mirror. I don’t think our mirror should keep showing our society for what it is. We can’t keep doing the same thing and think we are moving forward. It’s time for us to change the story. It’s very important that we write scripts that foreshadow the future of Nigeria.