Efefiong Udo Akpan

“We cannot afford to continue neglecting relevant genres that should reflect our true identity and dignity, as major global studios and networks begin to hunt for unfamiliar stories other than Anglo-American cultured ones.”

These are the blistering opening shots of one of Nollywood’s best, but uncelebrated screenwriters. He belongs in that screenwriting creed that dot their ‘i’s and cross their ‘t’s, disturbs monotony, putting “Ys” and asking intelligent questions on everything about the film making process.

This creed hopes on helping to build a choice film industry with potentials to employ Nigerians and foreigners. This the creed believes film making should be developed by a collective of cultural curators, who will preserve and showcase our heritage to the world.  This will also be an industry with compelling stories to change the current single story of Anglo-American narration.

World famous Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe agrees, “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own…Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

This is a metaphor of how dominant groups inscribe power through historical narrative. About how Hollywood and America are using the ‘soft power’ to recolonize the world.

According to post-Cold War US political scientist Joseph Nye , who coined the term ‘soft power,’ nations wield cultural influence to gain allies more efficiently than by economic or military coercion alone. Such countries depend on “…culture… political values…’ and ‘…foreign policies….”

Our first official and close relation was, years back, when I celebrate Daddy Showkey’s birthday online. I asked why Nollywood hasn’t thought it worthwhile to do a biopic on Showkey. We got talking about this, the challenges, the subsistence film making environment and deepening lack of government support. I saw the soundness and storytelling depth. I wondered why he was not throwing his weight or wealth of experience around in our film making space.

His response was about usual directors deciding what a screenwriter should write, without any creative liberty. Producers giving unrealistic deadlines for writers to finish a screenplay, not minding the need for research by the writer to understand the story and context. Paying peanuts and getting monkey’s worth of creative jobs. He was fed up with the system; preferred customers abroad, people who had an idea of what the job entails and were ready to pay some if not all of that.

Accordingly, today as a Screenwriting trainer, Efefiong never fails to remind his students of how America’s strategic soft power program uses Western and Action film genres to paint a picture of their culture as the best in the world. He believes in the prospect of Nollywood doing the same thing; if only it can reduce individual differences and work together to build a better industry. He never gets tired of calling for a re-invention of Nollywood with new story directions. More so by strengthening critical organizations within the industry.   

The man, Efefiong, was born in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree, Communication Arts/Music from the University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.

He has 25 years plus combined experience in Research, Marketing, Creative Writing (broadcast commercial copies writing, screenplays), Journalism and Broadcast Production.

He worked at the defunct Minaj Broadcast International, Lagos, Nigeria Broadcast as Producer and Supervising Producer between 2001 and 2003. He developed and produced broadcast commercials, documentaries and voiced his productions. He also produced morning talk programming (AM Africa) added to other channel responsibilities.

He is passionate and optimistic about Nollywood; believing that the template has been created for us. All we need to do is get a sample from Hollywood and make sure we reformat it to fit our culture and ‘Bob’s your uncle’.

He believes subtexts, hidden or subterranean messaging in Nollywood storytelling should cause better audience orientation. Indeed, beyond the prevalent romantic comedy or comic productions that stir up laughter and ends there.

He thinks “We can do so by dramatizing work, industry, wisdom and political directions to move the next generation away from indolence and the illusion that life is all about fun without work.”

That is to say we cannot remain ignorant about the power of film as part of media influence. Therefore, we should not misuse such great potentials. Really so, because the Nollywood system is throwing up content makers for the sake of ‘content;’ instead of filmmakers, who are out to make statements.  In the process they are building porn in skits, porn in all other genres, all because ‘sex sells contents.’ 

Such lewd and sensual proliferation has portrayed us as a depraved people and a country with high rate of sexual crimes.

Efefiong advises, “We can be sensual or romantic, but should not expect that anything good will come out of vulgarity”.

He is currently the project coordinator of Storytelling and Screenwriting incubation laboratory, Filmlab Nigeria, We Entertainment Productions in Lekki, Lagos. He oversees story development and screenwriting geared at sourcing production funding through a quarterly Pitch Festival. It is an effort to help the local filmmaker create good stories to attract local and international investors.

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