Nollywood filmmakers have historically struggled to raise funding for their films. The first major Nollywood film, Living in Bondage (1992), was singlehandedly produced by a businessman named Kenneth Nnebue. Since then, Nollywood has evolved and gone on to global success. However, this means the cost of production and distribution of films have also become expensive. Yet, financing films has not become as lucid as the industry’s growth. This is due to several factors, including the lack of access to traditional financing sources, the high cost of production, and the perceived risk of investing in films. This leaves a gap between the demand and supply of funding for Nollywood films. “said Adam Isiakpona, the co-founder of Capital Film Production.
Capital Film Productions (CFP) is a film investment firm committed to investing in African films. They have been in operation for 3.5 years. Their model is simple: aggregate investments from individuals and organizations, and then invest that money in films with clear communication on when and how investors can expect to see returns. In over three years of existence, CFP has raised and invested approximately $800,000, invested in approximately seven films to date, and aggregated over 350 investors. This is part of CFP’s mission to democratize film investing and empower African storytellers.
In addition to providing funding, CFP works with filmmakers throughout the filmmaking process. “We want to be careful because in my 17 years working in marketing and working with creatives, I’ve learned that it’s very unstructured, and decentralized in its way of operation. Anyone who is going into it and investing needs to be very cautious, and patient, to learn the ropes and figure it out they go along. That is why we’ve essentially just taken the route that we have,” said Isiakpona.
Co-founders, Adim Isiakpona and Hamza Kazim are very passionate about Nollywood and filmmaking. They always have. Isiakpona had worked with the creative space for a lot of the tech brands for a long time. When he was not working his 9 to 5, he was consulting on marketing and brand campaigns where he would shoot ads or work on film sets. “I’ve always just been in the heart of creative work,” he said. “I find my most fulfilling moments when building a story or producing a film or shooting on set,” said Isiakpona.
Moreover, Isiakpona’s fundraising trait can be linked to his experience working in tech. He previously worked at HP for five years, before moving on to Intel, the microprocessor company, where he led Intel’s marketing strategy and brand for Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey for six years. He later joined Google, where he headed the sales strategy and the sales business. This led him to co-own Wikis Africa, and Du Du Libra, which he describes as experiential and digital marketing agencies. “If I had to define myself very quickly, I would say that I am creative. but I’m also very focused on solution-providing at the core of it. That’s how I found myself here,” he said.
The first film that they invested in was a scrappy project. It was our fun experiment. “I said, let’s pool our money and do this. We didn’t care much about the profits. We just really believed in the story and the filmmaker. We wanted to support them,” Isiakpona said. Then they started to see some interesting yields.
Nollywood is a cultural phenomenon that has captivated millions of viewers across Africa and beyond. Behind the industry are a thousand and one-one storytellers and filmmakers with a million more coming up. “When you look at the growth the industry has seen and achieved over the last, 5, 10 years, one thing that is very clear to me is the fact that there’s a lot more that we can do and then there are hurdles and challenges that we must essentially strive to solve.”
The average budget for a Nollywood film is believed to be around $20,000 to $75,000. Most films are funded by private investors, who expect quick returns on their investments. This often leads to low-quality films, poor marketing, and piracy problems. Only a few films receive institutional funding from banks, government agencies, or international organizations. The economic climate further makes it harder to fund films. “Funding is not always a big issue, but it can be a challenge for independent filmmakers who have great stories to tell, but lack the collateral to secure a bank loan. Or they don’t have friends who can invest in their projects. That was the gap that I noticed and decided to fill. I thought, what if I could lend my 5000 naira to support any filmmaker out there?” he said.
Some filmmakers have found creative ways to raise funds for their projects, such as crowdfunding, co-production deals, and most recently, partnerships with tech investors. The Black Book was directed by Editi Effiong, (who is a former software engineer himself) and was financed by African startup founders and investors like Nadayer Enegesi (Eden Life), Olumide Soyombo (Voltron Capital), and Ezra Olubi (Paystack). Such films tend to have bigger budgets, better production values, and wider distribution channels.
Funding movies is an opportunity for innovation and collaboration. Capital Film is launching its third fund, which will finance six movies in 2024, with a target of $50 million. “In a way, CFP is a dream come true for us. It all started as a scrappy idea with ‘Our First Act,’ raising funds from our finances to support film projects, to a ‘Second Act’ that saw us managing Liquidity Provider’s funds. From these experiences, we’ve seen firsthand how access to adequate funding and support can uplift the entire production of a film and potentially the industry,” Isiakpona said.