JOS, NIGERIA – Nigerian comedy siblings the Ikorudu Boiz went viral in June for their online parody the Hollywood action thriller “Extraction,” using household items and toys as props and their environment in Ikorodu, Lagos for sets.
The video has so far been viewed more than 11 million times on Twitter.
Nigeria’s own film industry — Nollywood — has also had to get creative with staying productive and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Actor Bashir Datti rehearses his lines as 10 others, including a camera crew, set up a scene in an open field on the outskirts of Jos, Nigeria.
Datti said the coronavirus has cost him a lot of work.
“This is my first set since this corona of a thing started and what I experienced today is that it is not an easy task,” Datti said. “We’ll just learn to live with the virus, life goes on, we need to adjust ourselves and keep on going, because if you say that because of the fear of the virus, you will not come on set, you have nothing to do apart from film making.”
Nollywood produces the second largest number of films in the world each year, after India’s Bollywood, and employs over one million people.
But the coronavirus shut down cinemas globally and forced many filmmakers to delay productions.
Award winning Nollywood filmmaker, Kenneth Gyang says the pandemic is creating new challenges.
“Recently there has been this whole conversation about what is going to happen. What are filmmakers supposed to do?” Gyang said. “And we have been having the conversation that right now before you get on set, you have to test your cast and crew, you have to isolate them in a particular place, for maybe 14 days, before you get on set. So, there has been a lot of spike in the budget that filmmakers will normally spend.”
The added costs have forced some Nollywood directors to cut back on the quantity of films.
But aspiring filmmaker William Chidube said he sees it as an opportunity to work smarter.
“We can always all multitask,“ Chidube said. “You know we can do a lot of things! Especially now you don’t have the luxury to deal with a large crew, you can begin to do more than one thing, that you know you are strong in and are good at. You are good at editing and good at shooting, so you do the both of them.”
Creatively scripting scenes for social distancing is key to coping with the realities of COVID-19, says writer-director Umar Turaki.
“So, what is it to stop a group of young people writing a story maybe around a particular piece of scenery, around a particular hill, around a particular tree and producing that,” Turaki said. “But really I feel like the most important thing is to be able to challenge ourselves in terms of the writing and conceptualization in a way that allow us to produce work that doesn’t expose us to the dangers of COVID-19.”
While Nollywood has taken a hit from the pandemic, Nigerian filmmakers are confident that if they use their creative energies, the industry will recover and thrive.