Uploaded by Jeremy Weate on July 26, 2012
US publisher Random House has announced the creation of Random House Television, a new division that will develop scripted programs based on its books for television. The publisher has already been working for several years to create movie adaptations of its books.
This got me thinking: why haven’t more publishers – especially in Africa - entered into the film game? Film adaptations of books can be massive boosts to the sales of the books – just look at what happened to the sales of series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Nigeria, in particular, is in a unique position to benefit from greater partnerships between publishers and filmmakers.
Nigerians often bemoan the country’s poor reading culture and many have blamed the massive popularity of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, as a prime reason for this. However, Nollywood should not be considered an obstacle, rather African publishers should look to it as an opportunity.
If more African books were adapted into Nollywood films, it would benefit both the filmmakers and the publishers. It would inject fresh and original storylines and characters into the industry while boosting sales of books on the continent.
This idea is not new. In the 1970s Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was adapted into a seminal television series by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and more recently, Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine was adapted into a Nollywood movie. And Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is currently being adapted into a movie directed by author Biyi Bamidele.
However, there are obstacles. Veteran filmmaker Eddie Ugbomah explains that books often need to be very popular already before they inspire adaptation into commercial movies. Other uniquely Nigerian stumbling blocks include the fact that most filmmakers “don’t read” and so aren’t inspired to turn to literature for their ideas. There is also the murky issue of copyrights in Nigeria. As Ugbomah points out:
...who pays royalty for movies here in Nigeria? All the television stations play Nigerian films from morning to night and if you tell them they say when they bought it from the producer there was nothing about paying royalty to the actors, scriptwriters and so on.
However, I am positive about the potential for successful Nollywood adaptations of African books. Nollywood is the third-largest film industry in the world (after Hollywood in the US and Bollywood in India) and it's growing. The potential for revenue for both filmmakers and publishers is enormous and when it comes to opportunities for making money in any industry it’s really a matter of time.