BY ALESSANDRO JEDLOWSKI, University of Liège
[This is a prepublication draft, for the final version please refer to the forthcoming article in Cultural Entrepreneurship in Africa. Eds. U. Röschenthaler and D. Schulz. New York: Routledge]
In the academic debate about the southern Nigerian video industry (Nollywood), the role of women has generally been underestimated. Articles that focus on the connection between women and the video industry tend to analyse the discourse about gender that videos produce and circulate and see the videos as propagator of sexist and patriarchal stereotypes about women and their place in society. Some analysts have nuanced these criticisms by showing the variety and complexity of the gender discourse that videos circulate, and by emphasizing that the video stories make new forms of female social mobility visible. However, almost no attention has been given to the analysis of how the industry, as a form of business, has opened new spaces for women’s economic and social mobility. In this chapter I make an attempt at addressing this gap by focusing on the experience of a number of women who have successfully established themselves as entrepreneurs in the southern Nigerian video industry. Thanks to their specific business strategies, they have created new spaces for female economic and social mobility in this sector, and have gained pronounced social visibility, thus contributing to the construction of the collective imagination of women’s social and economic success.
The producers of the Nigerian video film industry are generally perceived to be males. However, as this chapter will highlight, a good number of women have successfully established themselves as entrepreneurs in the southern Nigerian video business. They have created new spaces for female economic and social mobility in this sector. As my research shows, these successful female video producers all belong to the same generation; they were born in the 1970s and early 1980s. Most of their families are from the southern Nigerian high-middle class with hometowns in the south-eastern part of the country. They were university graduates before they entered the industry, spent time studying abroad, and built up important transnational business connections. They initially followed the professional paths (in the university, the banking, or commercial business sectors) their parents had suggested, but later moved on to a self-confidently chosen alternative. They have a rather independent private life and manage to keep their private affairs beyond the reach of public attention. Although they belong to a group of influential elites, their biographies comprise autonomous choices and reflect headstrong determination, which makes them representatives of an ideal-type of the ‘self-made women’. These women were able to accomplish their achievements due to their persistence and entrepreneurial skills, rather than inherited economic and social privileges, even though their association with the Nigerian elite facilitated their affirmation of autonomy and the respect it accompanies.
In order to understand the specific economic and political context in which these women video producers have emerged as successful entrepreneurs, it will first be helpful to provide information about the history of the Nigerian video industry and the economic transformations that the Structural Adjustment Policies of the 1980s provoked as well as the professional opportunities that women have envisaged for themselves in the Nigerian social fabric. I will then outline the professional careers of three celebrated female video entrepreneurs and conclude by presenting them as new entrepreneurial figures of success. As the Nigerian video phenomenon is highly diversified, including profound ethnic and regional differences, my focus in this chapter is on the section of the video film industry that produces videos in English and operates in southern Nigeria.
The analysis of these women’s life histories draws on a wide range of both ethnographic and secondary sources collected during a research project conducted between 2009 and 2012. The ethnographic materials were collected during fieldwork in Lagos, Nigeria, between early 2010 and mid-2011. In Lagos, information was gathered during numerous informal conversations and guided interviews with industry practitioners and members of the audiences as well as through participant observation on film sets, at screening venues, and distribution hubs. The secondary sources include newspapers, blog articles, documentary films, and television programs, and were collected in archives and libraries in both Nigeria and the United Kingdom and through online research.
Entrepreneurship in Nigeria’s economic history.
The female video entrepreneurs have created new spaces for economic and social mobility in present-day Nigeria, a country in which entrepreneurial activities remain ‘engendered in terms of access, control, and remuneration, [and] more men than women tend to be in the lucrative enterprises, especially in the formal sector, as owners and managers of large firms and small industries. Many (but not all) women tend to be in the smallest informal sector microenterprises’ (Spring and McDade 1998: 15). Contrary to widespread opinions, however, entrepreneurial women are not unusual, particularly in precolonial times, as a number of scholars have documented.
Among the entrepreneurial individuals who established wide-ranging networks for the collection and distribution of trade goods at the coast and in the hinterland (Lovejoy 1980; Dike and Ekejiuba 1990; Inikori 2002), were a number of influential women. Among the outstanding figures was the merchant queen Omu Okwei of Ossumari (Olukoju 2002), Madam Efunporoye Tinubu of Abeokuta, Iyolade Efunsetan Aniwura, and Madam Omosa of Ibadan (Denzer 1994). The Yoruba social and political setting acknowledged women’s economic importance by granting them prestigious titles and privileges. They became famous as large-scale entrepreneurs owning numerous slaves and often their own army to protect their trade caravans on journeys from the hinterland to the coast. Madam Tinubu also successfully fought wars with her army to support the king of Abeokuta. Yoruba women monopolized important industries and trades such as the production of adire textiles, indigo-dying, and pottery, industries that all women had an active role in at the time (Denzer 1994). Women in south-eastern Nigeria were more involved in farm work but also had the opportunity to fill privileged economic positions and were successful traders and entrepreneurs (Chuku 1999; Coquery-Vidrovitch 2002). Particular institutions provided women with powerful means to oppose male politics (Ifeka-Moller 1975; Dike 1995).
The ventures of these early entrepreneurs were risky, they invested means or worked on credit to achieve their goals and had to cope with high losses of means and prestige (or even their freedom) when their goods were captured or damaged. The activities of these well-to-do pre-colonial entrepreneurs were disrupted by British colonization, which perceived most entrepreneurs to be rivals to its economic and civilizing projects and led to the establishment of policies that contributed to the decline of local businesses (Nwabughuogu 1982). Women’s roles in particular were reduced in the colonial setting and they were deprived of political influence (Amadiume 1987). This situation provided new opportunities for alternative individual success in the frame of state employment both during colonial times and following independence. Such figures of success included the bureaucrat, the civil servant, the government official, the intellectual, and the university graduate. In most sub-Saharan African countries throughout the 1960s and 1970s, these figures constituted the main models of economic and social achievement. Richard Banégas and Jean-Pierre Warnier emphasize (2001: 5-6) that the Structural Adjustment Policies of the 1980s effectively devaluated the political and economic importance of these social figures. In Nigeria, the application of Structural Adjustment Policies also led to the collapse of national television infrastructures and public entertainment facilities.
As Brian Larkin underscores, during the decades that preceded the introduction of Structural Adjustment Policies in Nigeria, ‘the state’s role as employer was supplemented by its continual intervention in the economy’ (2008: 179). The economic transformations that occurred  throughout the 1980s, however, weakened the state’s capacity to exercise this form of control. Public spending was radically reduced and the private sector privileged. Stability was replaced by ever increasing forms of risk. The progressive affirmation of an ‘atomized capitalism’ (Mbembe 2006), together with the devaluation of national currencies, the marginalization of the state in the administration of social services and economic infrastructures, the growing informalization of national economies, the worsening of national education systems, and the multiplication of armed conflicts, generated new itineraries of capital accumulation, and, consequentially, a set of new models of social achievement and economic success (Ellis and Fauré 1995; Banegas and Warnier 2001).
This is the context in which the southern Nigerian video industry emerged (see Barrot 2005; Haynes 2000; Larkin 2008). Critics and scholars commonly date the birth of the video industry to 1992, the year when Living in Bondage, the first straight-to-video movie to achieve remarkable commercial success, was released (cf. Haynes and Okome 1998). The birth, growth, and progressive consolidation of the video business brought to the fore a number of new professional figures connected to the world of filmmaking, which have assumed a particular social relevance over the past twenty years. The video industry’s economy produces, according to some – rather unreliable but at least indicative – figures, between USD 200 and 300 million of annual revenues (The Economist 2006) and is the second largest employer in the country after the government (The Economist 2010). It created a large number of employment opportunities, ranging from the producer to the marketer, the director to the cinematographer, the make-up artist to the stunt double, and the video rental shop owner to the video bootlegger.
 ‘Marketer’ is the term people normally use in Nigeria to refer to the video distributor.
As a result, the video business established itself as a highly popular and viable form of ‘entrepreneurship’ for Nigerian youths, a platform within which social models of success and achievement have since been shaped and exposed to the public through the videos themselves as well as the large amount of ‘metacultural’ products (news, blogs, fan magazines, etc; cf. Urban 2001) that were produced and circulated in relation to the video industry. The Nigerian video business emerged as a form of entrepreneurship that is not only defined, as Janet MacGaffey would suggest, by ‘innovation and bold decision making’ (1988: 38), but is also characterized by a specific capacity to ‘recycle’ and ‘reassemble’ already existing materials in order to ‘multiply the uses that can be made of documents, automobiles, houses, wood, or whatever, and [develop] the ability to put together different kinds of combinations of people with different skills, perspectives, linkages, identities, and aspirations’ (Simone 2004: 214; see also Sundaram 1999).
The decline of the ‘administrative apparatus of the state and the expansion of the [informal] economy weakened the mechanism of male control over women’ (MacGaffey 1987: 166; see also Coquery-Vidrovitch 1997: 5). As the list of women entrepreneurs mentioned by Nnamdi Madichie (2009) in his review of women’s entrepreneurship in Nigeria over the past decades attests, a number of successful figures of female entrepreneurs have once again emerged. In general terms, however, Nigerian women still have to cope with an atmosphere of strong gender discrimination in professional contexts. As Woldie and Adersua’s quantitative research underlines, ‘the percentage of firms owned by women in Nigeria is [still] very low compared to their male counterparts (2004: 85, 90). There are, nevertheless, examples of success.
Women in the southern Nigerian video industry
The three female entrepreneurs whose professional trajectories I will analyze below inhabit this context, which is characterized by both the emergence of new professional possibilities for women and the persistence of stereotypes and forms of discrimination. Compared to the success of other female entrepreneurs who have emerged in the past few years, these women’s  professional achievements have a particular socio-cultural value because they take place within the entertainment sector, a sector of the economy that while being particularly visible because of the place it occupies in national media and the public sphere, has always been treated with moral suspect in Nigeria as elsewhere in Africa. As the work of Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi highlights, for instance, women involved in theatre and television were often looked at by men with concern, and ‘families objected strongly to their daughters or wards having anything to do with such a “wayward profession”’ (1997: 126). The success of the video industry as a business enterprise in general, and the work of these women in particular, do not only counter-balance these stereotypes, they also transform the entertainment sector into ‘an avenue for women to achieve independence, wealth, and fame’ (Bryce 2012: 72).
In the academic debate about the Nigerian video industry, the role of women has generally been underestimated. Articles that focus on the connection between women and the video industry tend to analyse the discourse about gender that videos produce and circulate. They see these videos generally as propagator of the worst sexist and patriarchal stereotypes about women and their place in society (cf. Abah 2008; Evwierhoma 2008; see also Okome 2010). Some analysts have nuanced these criticisms by showing the variety and complexity of the gender discourse that videos circulate (Garritano 2000), by emphasizing that the video stories make new forms of female social mobility visible (even if often in a condemnatory tone, see Okome 2004) and by highlighting that through the representation of social injustices, videos have opened up a space for the elaboration of critical discourses about gender issues and the structure of Nigerian society in general (Oloruntoba‐Oju 2006; Bryce 2012). However, almost no attention has been given to the analysis of how the industry, as a form of business, has opened new spaces for women’s economic and social mobility. Apart from the recently published introduction to the volume Global Nollywood (2013: 15-16) in which Matthias Krings and Onookome Okome emphasise the role women producers play in Nollywood, the industry has been generally portrayed as a primarily male-run business in which women occupy a rather marginal position. But, as I intend to emphasize in this chapter, this is only partially true; throughout the industry’s history, and particularly over the course of the last few years, women have played an influential role.
4 For an analysis and interpretation of the specific forms of social political criticism of Nigerian videos see also Haynes (2006), Larkin (2008, chapter 6), and McCall (2007). The debate about ‘gender’ in Africa and the way African women have been represented in literature, popular culture, and academic research is extremely vast. For an introduction see Cornwall (2005), and for an analysis of the representation of gender in West African popular culture see Newell (1997).
5 While the names of a number of Nigerian female entrepreneurs, such as Amaka Igwe and Emem Isong, and female stars, such as Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, appear in numerous academic articles about the Nigerian video industry, the only articles that discuss the roles of women behind the camera directly are, to my knowledge, Okome’s transcriptions of his interviews with the controversial Pentecostal video producer Helene Ukpabio (2007b) and with the successful video businesswoman, Emem Isong (2000), whose experience I discuss below. As they are primarily based on interview transcriptions, however, these articles do not produce any substantial attempt to interpret the way the industry, as a form of business, has created new models of social and economic mobility for Nigerian women. Whenever this issue is discussed, it takes the form of a discussion of video contents rather than an analysis of the video industry’s economic environment (cf. Okome 2004; Künzler 2009).
In the past five to ten years, the southern Nigerian video industry has traversed a deep production crisis that activated important processes of transformation that are progressively transnationalizing and formalizing the industry’s economy (Jedlowski 2012a, 2013a). Within this framework, the female entrepreneurs (Emem Isong, Stephanie Okereke, and Peace Anyiam-Osigwe) whose work I intend to analyse in these pages have a pivotal position. I have chosen these three individuals because of their involvement in transforming the economy of the industry in recent times, a role that has given them pronounced visibility in national and international media. It is important to note, as Haynes and Okome (1998: 117) have indeed pointed out, that female producers and directors, such as Amaka Igwe, Lola Fani-Kayode Macaulay, Idowu Phillips, Franca Brown, Uche Osotule, Ameze Imarhiagbe, and Christyn Michaels, have been active in the industry since its early days.
Acknowledging their fundamental role as forerunners of female entrepreneurship in this field, I will now analyse the work of three successful women whose work I consider representative of successful female entrepreneurship within the video industry in recent times. Thanks to their specific business strategies, they gained pronounced social visibility and contributed to the construction of the collective imagination of women’s social and economic success.
Writing the recent history of the Nigerian video industry through the experiences of three female entrepreneurs
As outlined above, the video industry has flourished since the 1990s and has indeed become one of the most important branches of the Nigerian economy. Around the mid-2000s, however, the southern Nigerian video industry entered a period of production crisis, which imposed a number of profound economic transformations (as the Nigerian press has repeatedly emphasized over the past few years, cf. Husseini 2009; Njoku 2009; Ekunno 2011). The crisis principally affected the section of the video industry that produces English-language movies and was largely the result of the lack of a formal production and distribution system, the consequential incidence of piracy on the economy of the industry, and the impact of the introduction of new technologies (VCDs and DVDs to replace VHS tapes, internet, and satellite television) on the sustainability of the straight-to-video system of distribution that characterized the early years of the industry. Within this framework, the women whose experiences I depict below emerged as key figures due to the solutions they proposed and actuated in terms of the challenges imposed by the production crisis.
The first figure I want to present is Emem Isong, a scriptwriter, video producer, and distributor active in the industry since the mid-1990s, who is considered one of the most successful producers in Nollywood today. Precisely because of her success, of the three women discussed in this chapter, she is probably the one whose achievements had the strongest influence on the social conception of female success. Coming from a south-eastern Nigerian upper-middle class family (her parents were civil servants), Isong studied theatre arts at Calabar University and, before realizing that filmmaking was her true passion, she started a career in the banking sector. A few years later, she moved to Lagos in order to begin her experience in the video business. As she evidenced in her interview with me (Isong 2011), and in numerous interviews with local newspapers and fanzines (cf. Aduwo 2010; City People Extra 2011a), the beginning of her career as a producer was difficult; she faced numerous failures, had to borrow money from her family and friends, and waited years before being able to produce the film she had in mind. Nonetheless, by the end of the 1990s she had managed to create a name for herself, and over the course of the early 2000s, she became one of the most appreciated scriptwriters and producers in the industry. Her main contribution to the video industry’s development, however, became evident, at least in my opinion, during the production crisis period (from 2005/2006 onward), as mentioned earlier. Some of the entrepreneurial strategies she applied during this period revealed themselves to be extremely successful, making her production company one of the few that were only marginally affected by the crisis.
 In this chapter, I rely on Charles Taylor’s definition of social and collective imaginaries as “the ways in which people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations” (2002: 106; see also Strauss 2006).
First of all, as she understood that the production crisis had primarily affected the section of the industry producing English-language videos, she began to diversify her productions and target local-language film markets, particularly in her home-region, the Ibibio-speaking Akwa Ibom State in south-eastern Nigeria. Furthermore, in order to reduce film budgets, she conceived an original production practice that developed a system where films were shot in two different languages (English and Ibibio) at the same time, that is, on the same set, with the same script, the same crew, and, at least partly, the same actors. During my fieldwork, I shadowed the shooting of one of the first videos Isong produced using this technique (Midnight Whisper/Idomo, 2012) and I discussed the economic advantages of such a strategy with Isong. Although the budget for a straight-to-video film before the crisis was 5 million Naira (around 32,000 USD), during my research it had fallen to around 2.5 million Naira (16,000 USD). According to Isong, before the crisis, a film of this kind could reasonably expect to produce 50% profit, but such results had become much harder to achieve, as the average number of copies sold per film had fallen dramatically during the crisis. Accordingly, Isong maintained that by using the dual-language production strategy she could double the revenues of her releases, and thus counterbalance the effects of the production crisis. With only a minimal increase in production costs, she could almost double the number of official copies sold by addressing two different sections of the market: on the one hand, the rather multi-ethnic and urban English-speaking section of the Nigerian audience, and, on the other, a linguistically-specific, culturally identifiable Ibibio section, which was eager to consume entertainment products in their own language that had been commercially unexploited by mainstream Nigerian entertainment entrepreneurs. If, as she emphasized during her interview (Isong 2011), an average film normally sold a maximum of 20,000 original copies during the production crisis, by applying the double-language strategy, she hoped to sell around 40,000 copies. As I mentioned earlier, Isong was already producing local language films as early as the beginning of the crisis (Mfana Ibagha in 2006; Ekaete in 2008; and Uyai in 2009) and thus had a clear perception of the economic potential of film releases that targeted small, linguistically-specific segments of the audience. With the elaboration of the double-language production strategy, she further developed her company’s production-diversification, confirming it as one of the most viable solutions to the economic impasse the industry had fallen into.
Complementary to this strategy, which targets small-scale, local sections of the video market as a solution to the industry’s problems, Isong initiated a commercial strategy that was decisively oriented toward transnational audiences. When she realized – as many others in the industry had – that the lack of a structured distribution system was profoundly affecting the video economy and opening the gate for the circulation of illicit copies, she developed what could be defined as an informal windowing strategy.10 In the most structured film industries, windowing systems are normally highly structured and formalized: films are released first in cinemas, then on the internet and satellite televisions, and finally on DVD. Within this framework, the geography of their circulation is precisely planned ahead of time. Because of the lack of such a structured  system, Nigerian producers tend to lose much of their potential revenues to illicit networks of circulation. Often, a Nigerian video was (and still is) illegally duplicated in the days that follow its release on the Nigerian market, and then quickly sent (via internet and bootleg copies) to other African countries as well as to Europe, the US, and the Caribbean. Acknowledging this evidence, Isong decided to plan a diversified release calendar for her new films, focusing first on the more formalized markets (such as the US and Ghana) and leaving Nigeria at the bottom of the release calendar. By doing so, she managed to protect what she considers her best market (the US) from the interference of Nigerian bootleggers and thereby facilitated the rationalization of the transnational circulation of videos, which is likely to have important consequences for the economy of Nigerian video production.
The application of these strategies pushed Isong to the forefront of the industry’s scene, making her face ubiquitous to the Nigerian entertainment press and TV programs. Thanks to its success, her production company continued to produce films regularly throughout the production crisis period and managed to attract the most well-known Nigerian actors (i.e. Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Nouah, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Ini Edo, etc) to star in its productions. In an industry that many believed was destined to fail, Isong’s work became the synonym of success, defining the industry’s new trends in terms of both economic strategies, aesthetic, and narrative choices, becoming a model of achievement both within and beyond the industry’s environment.
Stephanie Okereke, the second female entrepreneur I want to focus on, can be introduced in relation to the tendency toward transnational audiences and formalized economic strategies I just emphasized. Okereke started her career in the video industry as an actor in 1997 and, over the first part of the 2000s, became one of the most appreciated Nollywood stars. However, as she revealed in her interview (Okereke 2010), she did not feel fully satisfied as an actor and therefore decided to study to be a filmmaker. As numerous other Nigerian directors have done in the recent past, she decided to study abroad and attended the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. As soon as she completed her degree in 2008, she released her first feature film, Through the Glass. Bringing about a set of original distribution strategies, the film was released only in movie theatres, no straight-to-video distribution took place, and the DVD release was launched only two years later. To Okereke’s and most industry practitioners’ surprise, the film was a sensational commercial success, marking a fundamental step in the recent history of the video industry. As I have emphasized elsewhere (Jedlowski 2012a), since the mid-2000s movie theatres have started to reappear in southern Nigeria. While they had initially focused on foreign film distribution (mainly Hollywood), around the mid-2000s they began to screen Nigerian films with acceptable technical standards as well. Within this context, Okereke’s film  The Filmmakers Association of Nigeria (FAN) comprises Nigerian filmmakers and distributors based in the US. After its intervention, the American market has become one of the more structured and reliable environments for the distribution of Nigerian videos in recent years. Currently, it accounts for up to a third of the revenues of an average Nigerian video release (Isong 2011; see also Jedlowski 2013a). Nigerian distributors equally consider Ghana with its (at least partially) formalized video market a reliable source of revenues (Ejike 2010; see also Meyer 2010).
Similar to Isong, Vivian Ejike, another successful female entrepreneur, started her career in the video industry after working a few years in the banking sector and obtaining a university degree (in French Studies at the University of Port Harcourt). She also worked with Isong for several years. In 2009, she released the video Silent Scandal, which, thanks to Ejike’s specific production and distribution strategies (higher budget, use of both Ghanaian and Nigerian stars, earlier release in Ghana in order to beat the competition of Nigerian bootleggers), became the most successful straight-to-video release in English since Osuofia in London (2003), selling 100,000 copies in its first week of release (Ejike 2010), a considerable success in 2009 when the industry was still in crisis. 
Cinema-going culture had almost disappeared in the southern region of the country as a result of the wave of privatization that followed the application of the Structural Adjustment Policies and the increase of social insecurity in large Nigerian cities. The first new multiplex cinema opened in Victoria Island, Lagos, in 2004  was the first to achieve real economic success, and thus clearly underscored the relevance of theatrical distribution strategies for the resurrection of the video film industry’s economy. The success of Through the Glass indicated that a viable formal distribution channel was emerging at a time when many industry practitioners felt that the crisis was a consequence of the lack of a formalized distribution system.
The success of the film, however, is not only related to the adoption of theatrical distribution strategies. A number of other Nigerian films had already been released in cinemas since the mid-2000s but none had managed to achieve a real commercial breakthrough. Hence, Through the Glass’s success was also the result of a number of specific choices that Okereke had adopted in relation to the construction of the film narrative and the definition of the production strategies. The film’s plot and location are deeply connected to her experience at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles; it is a light comedy shot in LA, with a primarily American cast and crew; the only Nigerian character is Okereke herself. It basically reproduces the plot and narrative construction of an average Hollywood film, with a bit of added Nigerian flavour. In many ways, its commercial success in Nigerian theatres is related to this aspect: the film meets the tastes of the upper-middle-class audience that has access to the new multiplexes and is generally critical of mainstream Nollywood film styles while enthusiastically supporting Hollywood films and American-style television. More than any previous Nigerian theatrical release, Okereke’s film offered a Nigerian version of Hollywood that could attract the wealthiest section of the Nigerian audience to the video industry, thereby creating new economic possibilities for the films’ circulation. As most analysts have emphasized, Nollywood’s video audience has been socially transversal since the beginning of the video phenomenon, but the larger percentage of video consumers belonged to the lowest segments of Nigerian society (see Haynes 2000; Okome 2007a). The production crisis created an impasse in the economic relations between the industry and its audiences and, as I emphasized earlier, the straight-to-video distribution model that had made Nollywood videos accessible for the lower sections of the Nigerian population ceased to be economically viable. Okereke’s film offered a solution to this problem by displacing the films targeted audience: from the lowest segments to the highest, from the poorer to the wealthier, that is, from those that could afford to buy a VCD copy of a new release to those that have the means to go to movie theatres a few times a month. The adoption of this strategy marks a dramatic shift in the history of the Nigerian video industry, which has often been praised precisely for its capacity to create a local popular followership, but numerous critics and practitioners believe that this trend is only a short-term phase in the video industry’s development, which might find new avenues for popular distribution in the future through the introduction of neighborhood movie theatres and increased internet circulation (see Jedlowski 2013a).
However, beyond these debates, it is important to note Okereke’s capacity to challenge social assumptions about her position as a woman within the video industry’s environment, which has allowed her to acquire increased independence. Her dissatisfaction with her position in front of the camera as an actor, and her decision to become engaged in film direction and production can be read as part of a move to assume direct responsibility over the film production process and, with it, over the film’s narrative and aesthetic choices. The success she obtained made her choice  Interestingly enough, the two films that have bettered the box-office records set by Through the Glass in the years that followed its release were also produced by female producers. Ije, the Journey (2010), produced and directed by Chyneze Anyaene, became the most successful Nigerian film released by grossing almost 60 million Naira (around USD 380,000) in the first three weeks of screening in Nigerian cinemas. The following year, The Return of Jenifa (2011), produced by the Yoruba star Funke Akindele, created a new record by grossing 10 million Naira (USD 65,000) in just one week of screening, becoming one of the fastest grossing Nollywood release of all time. 
The price for an original copy of a Nollywood film is around 200 Naira (USD 1.50), while tickets for the cinema are sold for around 1,500 Naira (almost USD 10). See also Jedlowski (2012a).  visible and socially recognizable, and it subsequently imposed itself as model that confirmed that the role of the ‘woman behind the camera’ can be a successful and rewarding one.
If Okereke’s work and the production of Through the Glass ultimately put the emphasis on the viability of making the video industry migrate from straight-to-video distribution strategies to theatrical circulation, the work of the third female entrepreneur I will discuss here played an important role in transforming the international image of the Nigerian video industry by creating a globally visible platform for its celebration. Peace Anyiam-Osigwe is part of an extremely wealthy and influential Nigerian family. Her father, Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe, was a businessman and an influential figure in the development of the Nigerian oil industry. During his life, he accumulated an immense fortune, which his sons inherited after his death in the late 1990s. Peace – as did her seven brothers – studied abroad; she began her career in the financial business, before getting involved in the video industry as a producer and television programmer. Her name, however, became internationally known when, supported by her family’s foundation (the Aniyam-Osigwe Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that manages a percentage of the fortunes her father had left to his descendants), she created the African Movie Academy Awards in 2005. The annual award ceremony was modelled on the American Academy Awards (The Oscars), and provides the best African productions (in both digital and celluloid format) with the chance to compete for different categories of prizes (including best film, make-up, soundtrack, cinematography, and so on). Since its creation in 2005, the AMA Awards ceremony, which is held in Nigeria every year around April, has grown exponentially, and the 2012 edition was attended by Hollywood stars such as Morris Chestnut, Lynn Whitfield, Maya Gilbert, and Rockmond Dumbar. It was screened throughout the African continent by numerous regional and continental media and was covered by international television stations such as CNN and Al-Jazeera.
According to Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the AMA Awards’ mission is to present a modern and dynamic image of sub-Saharan Africa, something different from the image produced and circulated by older African cinema festivals such as the FESPACO in Ouagadougou and the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage in Tunis. Since their establishment, these festivals have been influenced by Third Cinema theories and post-independence pan-African ideologies. They were sponsored by western funding agencies and had participated in circulating a mainly art-oriented, politically-engaged type of cinema that was targeted at festivals rather than commercial distribution (see Austen and Saul 2010). In contrast, the AMA Awards focus on locally-funded film productions that aim at commercial circulation. Similar to other African cinema festivals, the AMA Awards places particular emphasis on the technical, aesthetic, and narrative qualities of films. Nonetheless, its primary objective is to emphasize the existence of dynamic and autonomous African film industries, which are economically successful and fully capable of competing with the standards set by film industries located elsewhere in the world. In this sense, AMA Award’s organizers’ focus on glamour, media visibility, and advertising seeks to highlight the existence of an Afrocentric commercial entertainment culture, which is autonomous and self-centered and does not need to be sanctioned by any external authority to be successful (i.e. the western funding agencies, foreign film festivals, western film critics, etc) and whose capacity to achieve global visibility goes well beyond the position of marginality in which western exoticism has located African cultures since the colonial era (see Jedlowski 2013).
The success that the AMA Awards have managed to achieve over the past few years increased the international visibility of the Nigerian and African video production phenomenon (Tutton and Purefoy 2010; Wenner 2009) and it has given an important boost to the creation of a continental and pan-African popular film culture with a shared star system and an increasingly  interconnected economy. Furthermore, it has participated in the consolidation of the bridge that has over the course of the last few years increasingly linked the African corporate business sector (represented for instance by big telecommunication companies such as Airtel and MTN) and the entertainment industries. In this sense, the AMA Awards, and the work of Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, have created avenues for the Nigerian video industries’ future growth, which are destined to further influence the transformation of the media landscapes in Nigeria and in other regions of the continent.
Female entrepreneurship in the video film industry and the emergence of new figures of success
The personal success of these three women, together with that of other female entrepreneurs active in the industry whose names I have mentioned throughout these pages, played an important role in creating new models of economic and social mobility for Nigerian women. As Banégas and Warnier (2001: 9) argue, defining how success is measured and sanctioned in a specific society is a complex analytical task. They stress that one possible starting point is the observation of how it is translated into specific forms of material culture, namely in specific strategies that pertain to the accumulation of economic and symbolic capital. In most African societies – and Nigeria is no exception in this sense – success is measured and shown by the acquisition of a set of material goods (expensive cars, fancy and big houses, imported top-brand clothes, and gadgets), which, through their symbolic value, provide the individual that acquires them a particular social status (Banégas and Warnier 2001: 9-10). The individuals that I have portrayed in this chapter all fit this discourse; their economic success is made socially visible through explicit strategies of material accumulation and display. However, in my view, this aspect is secondary in the definition of their success. The female entrepreneurs I describe do indeed accumulate and expose their material wealth, but their success is of heightened visibility and significance, particularly for their female followers and admirers, because of the autonomy and independence these women display vis-à-vis their male counterparts.
As outlined at the beginning of this chapter, a brief overview of their biographies illustrates that they all belong to the same generation; they were born during or just after the Nigerian oil-boom, i.e. in the 1970s and early 1980s. Furthermore, they all belong to the southern Nigerian high-middle class (apart from Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, who, as I evidenced earlier, comes from a wealthy family) and graduated from university before entering the industry. They have all spent at least one year studying abroad (either in the UK or in the US) and have important transnational business connections. Their professional paths have taken a similar route, as they initially embarked on the careers their parents had envisioned for them (university, banking, and financial sectors) only to later move on to an independently chosen alternative. In their initial phase of entrepreneurship, they relied on social networks that provided access to credit and reassurance. Finally, most of them have a rather independent private life (at the time this article was written, they were either single, or divorced; some of them, like Isong, were single mothers by choice) and managed to keep their private affairs away from the limelight. They surely belong to the elite, but their biographies are characterised by autonomous choices and stubborn determination. They are indeed representatives of an ideal-type of ‘self-made woman’, who achieve success because of their own will and entrepreneurial skills rather than some inherited economic and social privilege (even if, of course, their belonging to the Nigerian elite helped them to affirm their autonomy and the respect associated with such a status).
Furthermore, their exposure in local and transnational media allows these women to be extremely visible social figures, a factor that easily transforms them into a model for younger generations of Nigerian women. Their faces, voices, words, and thoughts appear on an almost daily basis on Nigerian television programs, internet sites, fanzine magazines, or newspapers. Contrary to female film stars, whose presence in the media is generally connected to gossip and sex scandals, the image of these women is always connected to representations of economic and entrepreneurial success. They therefore appear to be model women who did not need to use their bodies in order to achieve social recognition, and that managed to make it without – or rather beyond – the support of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. The informal discussions with audience members I conducted during my fieldwork as well as the web comments, the YouTube clips, and the printed interviews that circulate in abundance in the Nigerian public sphere confirm this point. These women’s autonomy, freedom, and economic success still provoke some anxiety in a mainly male-centred society like Nigeria. For instance, rumours about lesbianism, sterility, and hidden family issues (abandoned children, broken marriages, betrayals, and so on) do occasionally appear in relation to these and other female figures.16 But the fact that these women generally have a role behind rather than in front of the camera keeps them more protected than film actresses from the male chauvinism that characterizes popular discourses on female artists.
In fact, as Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, a famous Nigerian film star, attested during an interview reported in the documentary Nollywood Lady aka Peace Mission (2008), the video industry as a whole has progressively transformed and deconstructed these stereotypes, making the world of filmmaking an acceptable, and often highly desirable, professional environment for women. Kate Henshaw-Nuttal’s account of her experience makes this point perfectly clear:
When I told my dad I wanted to be a musician, he said: ‘No, you should go and study medicine’. [Thus] I’m a medical microbiologist by profession, I graduated and all that, but then I left my degree somewhere in a box and I started acting. Back then, parents couldn’t even conceive that their children wanted to act […] but now everyone says: ‘Oh, my daughter loves your film! She wants to act!’ Parents are actually coming and approaching me to ask: ‘Could you take my daughter, my niece through? We love your films, you guys are doing a lot for the image of the country!’ And then young girls look up to you and say: ‘I like the roles that you play, they teach me a thing or two! You are always nice!’ [and] I get a lot of text messages that say: ‘I want to be like you!’
The point Kate Henshaw-Nuttal underlines, i.e. the way opinions about the role of women in Nigerian entertainment industries has transformed over the past few years, drives this chapter to its conclusion. As I earlier emphasized, much of the literature that discusses the relationship between the Nigerian video industry and the position of women in the Nigerian society is based on content analysis of the videos it produces. Within this context, video representations of women (often stereotypical, sexist, and violent) have been condemned, and videos have been accused of exercising a bad influence on Nigerian society in general and on audiences’ behaviour in particular (see Okome 2010).
In this chapter, by focusing on successful examples of female entrepreneurship within the video industry, I have attempted to present a different  scenario in order to highlight the complexities that define the interaction between the video industry and the transformations of gender issues in Nigeria. While agreeing to some extent with concerns about the representations of women that some Nigerian videos have generated, I have tried to move the focus beyond the content of the video to the people who work behind the camera to produce them in order to analyze the way the industry, as an economic enterprise, proposes new models of social and economic achievement for Nigerian women.  An example of such rumours can be found in a report on Isong’s production company and the group of female actors she casts regularly in her films. The fanzine reports, and by reporting insinuates, that “it was rumoured sometime ago that there could be more than just mutual understanding among these stars since they are all females” (City People Extra 2011b: 4). The debate on the effect of media contents on audiences’ behaviour is vast and complex (see, for example, Moores 1993; Bryant and Oliver 2009). However, much of the literature on the representation of women in Nigerian videos tend to imply a rather linear (and, in my view, controversial) relationship between film contents and viewer’s behaviour 
 For an in-depth analysis and regional declinations of the Nigerian video phenomenon, see Barrot (2005), Haynes (2000), Krings and Okome (2013), and Larkin (2008).
 This research was conducted as part of my PhD project, which was sponsored by the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’. Warm thanks go to Jonathan Haynes and Sandro Triulzi for their supervision of my research, and to Ute Röschenthaler for her contributions to the final version of this article.
 As the figures released by the Nigerian Censors Board attest, during the production crisis local language film production remained stable, and in some cases increased, while English language film production progressively decreased as a result of the saturation of the video market and the economic collapse of numerous production companies active in this branch of the industry. For a comparative analysis of the impact of the production crisis on the different sections of the video industry see Jedlowski (2012b).
 A similar practice was also used in the early days of Hollywood, just after the introduction of sound recording technologies, but it lasted only for a few years because it was in the end more expensive than subtitling (see Vincendeau 1988).
 The average budgets for the new wave of Nigerian films that target theatrical distribution is significantly higher (between 300,000 and 500,000 USD; see also Jedlowski 2013a).
 Within the world of film distribution, the term ‘window’ and ‘windowing’ are normally used to indicate the way the circulation of a film is controlled in time and space in order to maximize the revenues.
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