NFC: UK, Nigeria signal partnership for enhanced film production 

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From Kenneth Udeh, Abuja

With a view of boosting financial returns and economic growth, the United Kingdom and Nigeria have identified strongly the need and importance for countries  to collaborate in the production of film contents.

They both agreed that such a move aside from increasing returns on investment will also improve film production, provide access to equipment, expertise, and promote the cultural identities, common heritage, values, and ethics across the globe.

According to their submissions such move can be achieved with the signing of Co production treaties through different financing models including Independent film studio films and SVOO platform films, types of financing including gap financing, pre sale lending, tax credit lending, completion bonds, collection arrangements, sales and distribution agreements.

The presentations were made on Thursday during a One day film seminar on the business of film; finance, distribution and co-production,organised by  G.0. Sodipo & Co in partnership with the British Film Institute, the Nigerian Film Corporation,  Bank of Industry and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Speakers at the conference which was set up virtually include;Hon. Minister of Information & Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe; Headgear, UK film financier,Phil Hunt;Director of Legal and Business Affairs, British Film Institute (BFI), Clare Coulter; Head of Industry and International film policy BFI,Agnieszka Moody ; Partner film TV at lawyers Movie Producers, Anwen Griffith Lee & Thompson; Chris Curling, Producer, Zephyr Films (leader in international co-productions) ; Jonathan Olsberg, Olsberg SPi International creative industry consultant and distribution agent and BFI’s Head of Certification,Anna Mansi.

Other speakers include; President, Association of Movie Producers, AMP, Peace Anyim-Osigwe; Tax Rebates in international Films work,Moses Nyachae, Saffery Champness; Former President, Association of Movie Producers, Madu Chiwendu; leading film producer and critic/analyst, Prince Tonye Princewill ; Mr Abba Bello, MD Nigerian Export-Import Bank and Chijioke Uwaegbute.

In his opening remarks moderator of the event Professor Bankole Sodipo thanked the speakers for their participation while also harping on the importances of the Seminar.

Speaking shortly after the introduction was the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed who highlighted the Federal Government’s efforts in strengthening the movie industry in Nigeria, he urged the participants to brainstorm on avenues through which co-film production between countries can be facilitated, reassuring that the Federal government is willing on its part remove bottlenecks that might hinder valuable international partnerships in film production.

On the part of the UK ,  Clare Coulter the Director of Legal and Business Affairs who is responsible for all British Film Institute  productions gave account of her extensive experience and insight into independent film financing. In her discourse Clare explained how producers could work out how to close film financing. She added that the size of the film project determines the film financing. She noted that although international film co-production has numerous advantages, it is important for countries involved to negotiate and figure out details such as who will recoup their money first.

Phil Hunt, founder and managing director of London-based managing director of financier Head Gear Films, who has more than 300 films to his name across 25 years in the business.  Head Gear said that Nigeria has a lot to offer to the globe with it’s movie industry, however he said that more can be achieved through the signing of Co production treaties. 

Anna Mansi, BF Head Of Certification Moses Nyachae Saffery Champness, spoke on Tax Rebates in international Films work.

Saffery Champness, one of the first firms to be involved in creating the UK film tax credit relief having  done significant work on co-production treaties, they outlined how tax incentives work in a number of foreign jurisdictions. 

Sharing his views, renowned Nigerian film producer , critic and analyst spoke on the viability of adapting foreign finance models in Africa. On her part Peace Anyiam-Osigwe President, Association of Movie Producers, AMP and Founder of the Africa Film Academy and the Curators of the Africa Movie Academy Awards, spoke on the challenges on funding in the Nigerian movie industry while also urging the need for international co-production. 

MD of NFC, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe canvassed the need for co production treaties between countries. He stated that Aside from the inherent boost to domestic investment and economic impact on GDP, co-production treaties provide a robust diplomatic relationship window that connects its people, through culture and entertainment.

“Within the film business circle, co-production treaties globally bridge gaps between film producers from different countries. These, lately, are being achieved through impressive innovative processes and technologies. Not only are these being explored, governments are pushing for the development of co-production treaties because of the great opportunities, monetary, diplomatic etc, there in”.

Giving an explicit overview of the co-production treaty legal framework, Maduekwe explained that most international co-production treaties provide a legal framework that accommodates collaborative experience, opportunities that depict universal appeal, financing, distribution and exhibition templates as well as other protection, privileges and waivers. 

He said “Mostly they are often derived from existing diplomatic and bilateral relations between sovereign countries. The developed co-production agreement is usually agreed on, and signed. 

“Parties to the co-production agreement must bring content to stakeholders and at the same time ensure compliance and protection of rights and privileges. The successful push and implementation of the benefits of any co-production treaty is key to achieving its objectives. 

He explained further that though there may be implementation styles, each film co-production treaty has more of or the following as traits; General context and specifications – it gives the general direction of the co-production treaty, Main rules – it spells out the regulations and guiding principles of the co-production treaty,Co-production status – provides the status, tenure of the co-production treaty, participation – stipulates who, by way of nationals who may participate as provided in the co-production treaty,Co – contributions – spells out the contributory requirements of participants/stakeholders, Ownership – it spells out ownership of film product, exhibition provisions and issues of residual value,Training – it spells out skills, training and capacity building derivable or contributions and Tax breaks, rebates, allowances – aside these, it stipulates among others the conditions facility support, local content and domestic talent utilization.  

On the efforts of Nigeria in securing co-production treaties , Chidia said countless cultural bilateral and multilateral treaties have been entered into by Nigeria under the platform of its membership of the African Union, United Nation and its systems, ECOWAS and similar other bodies. 

In his words; “Government agencies initiate, secures and signs sectoral cooperative agreements under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture which provides oversight for relevant Agencies of Government pursuant to their mandates.

He lamented that much more of such cooperation agreements are yet to be tied up due to bureaucratic bottlenecks. Where they even exist, stakeholders are yet to take full advantage of the opportunities therein.     

However, Maduekwe said despite the challenges the present administration of President Mohammadu Buhari  has stimulated the development of cooperation agreements that hitherto laid dormant.

He said ” An opportunity was  presented to Nigeria and France when President Macron visited Nigeria in 2018. His visit, engagements and other takeaways provided the fulcrum for Nigeria to have the first film co-production treaty/agreement with any country. 

“The Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), Nigeria’s film agency signed the first film co- production agreement on behalf of Nigeria, with its French counterpart the CNC. Arising from this feat, NFC has continued to pursue, develop and ensure that Nigeria signs as many as possible of such treaties/agreements. However, that of Morocco is yet to be consummated despite advanced conclusion reached since 2018 

“efforts are being driven through direct conversation with Foreign Embassies/High Commissions in Nigeria, and Film Commissions of nations abroad. In the shortest possible time there should be a film co-production treaty/agreement between Nigeria and Brazil, Spain, India, South Africa, South Korea and the British Film Institute (BFI) among several others once the bureaucratic bottlenecks are surmounted.

The NFC Boss concluded that treaties/cooperation will definitely escalate the level of film production activities in Nigeria, with its attendant positive impact on job creation, wealth creation, content creation, boost for domestic and offshore distribution and exhibition, as well as cultural, tourism promotion.