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To MOPICON Or Not To MOPICON. That Is The Question

BY OJOMA OCHAI

So I have been following the MOPICON brouhaha with a sort of ‘siddon look’ attitude these past few weeks because I am not one to paint a target on my back for people who are looking for who to ‘abuse’ that day.

The more I’ve read the arguments for and against (the majority) the bill though, the more I’ve thought about what the rationale is and what the outcome will be if the bill is passed in anything resembling its current formation.

So it is a bill to help the industry right? So it must be solving an existing (or for the sake of argument potential) problem or challenge that the ‘motion picture’ industry faces.

 So what are the problems that the industry faces? I’ve attempted to write about these before and you can find one such previous article on LinkedIn  but I will summarise them again because, why not?

So some of the main industry challenges in my view are that:

There is a paucity (haha funny word paucity) of specialised (technical, marketing, business) skills in the industry and linked to that, very weak accreditation frameworks, occupational standards and almost non-existent academia–industry linkages that are necessary for product sophistication and business innovation.

I feel also that there is very little issue-based interaction and collaboration between the public and private sector which prevents evidence-based decision /policy making. This results in for example in not very well thought-through policies and procedures that cause unnecessary inefficiencies in the system and therefore means firms are less profitable blah blah blah. I’m thinking about things like inefficiencies / bureaucracy linked to things like film classification, licences and permissions, taxation etc.

And then there are the infrastructure limitations for education, production and distribution / exhibition that undermine the capacity of the sector to produce higher quality, diverse products for diverse audience segments and distribution channels.

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If you are still reading, I’d like to thank you for your perseverance and fortitude … there are also other issues to do with information sharing and collaboration occurring often through either extremely informal networks or overly bureaucratic and acrimonious formal associationsstructures, limiting the potential gains, economies of scale and efficiencies  that accrue from shared information and collaborative working.

Also a weakness of the sector is that in many cases the value chain is unsophisticated / undeveloped and there is a linear value chain with an inordinate dependence (or expectation?) on DVD sales. If you are waiting for me to talk about piracy, you can read my 2014 post that reflects on whether we have a piracy problem or a distribution one. My views remain unchanged – although of course I’d put it a lot more eloquently if I had to write the article again. Hehe.

Finally, there are also issues of firm sizes being too small to offer growth, return or solutions to scale thus limiting investment to the sector etc etc etc.

So when I think of MOPICON, the question I’m asking myself is, which of these problems is MOPICON trying to solve? So I looked at the functions of the council according to the draft of the bill I found online.

First of all the council will be ‘charged with determining who Motion Picture Practitioners are’.

Edakun, I am sorry but I would have thought that a person who makes ‘motion pictures’ just by virtue of making a motion picture is a motion picture practitioner? So this confused me. There are good ‘motion picture practitioners’ and there are ‘bad motion picture practitioners’ and there are too many factors that distinguish one from the other including those pesky audiences that watch a ‘motion picture’ and decide to love it or hate it. So for me this objective is redundant; kind of like when people say ‘revert back’ but I digress.  If ‘peradventure’ (haha – I love that word.not) this function though is about setting standards that people can aspire to as motion picture practitioners (as the next function seems to do) then I’d view this function in a different light.

The next function is about determining what standards of knowledge and skills are to be attained by persons seeking to become registered as Motion Picture Practitioners and periodic reviews. Sounds good. We do need occupational standards in this industry as they are the basis on which accreditation frameworks can be built and a way to standardise skills and capacity. Yes please. So is MOPICON is sector skills council? This is actually helpful to have. In the UK for example – sector skills councils support employers in developing and managing apprenticeship standards to reduce skills gaps and shortages and improve productivity and boost supply of skilled workers to the industry. So if this is about ensuring that there are set and consistent standards across the industry vocations, yes I am all for it. My one proviso is that the standards when designed will be implemented not by ramming them down people’s throats ( as one does) but by ensuring that the market on its own recognises (or is incentivised to recognise) the value that the standards bring and therefore embed them as a market factor / requirement for higher quality output and therefore higher value product and higher revenue etc etc.

The next function is about registration of ‘persons entitled to practice’ which I have to admit, stuck in my craw and not just because I’m an anti-establishment (almost) millennial.  It was more because reading the bill further and the mechanisms through which this registration will occur and seeing words like regulate and control practice – alarm bells immediately started to ring and I started to see visions of cartels which is not a good image to invoke during a fuel scarcity. So naturally, everything beyond this point I viewed through a slightly (ok! Very) jaundiced eye.

My jaundicity (yes jaundicity. After all, laughable did not exist as a word until Shakespeare used it in in Merchant of Venice. So there) Ehen, so according to the bill, to be MOPICONned, ‘motion picture practitioners’ must be 18 years or over. This provision means for example that Zuriel Oduwole (of ‘Nigerian origins’) who at age 12, became the world’s youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced work screened commercially, after her film showed in two movie chains would not qualify to be a ‘motion picture practitioner’ in Nigeria. Absurd. Yes laughable. Thanks William.

The bill also requires that to be MOPICONned you would need to have a diploma or certificate or degree in filmmaking so Quentin Tarrantino and all those other ne’er do well famous directors who never went to film school; If you want to come and ‘motion picture practition’ in Nigeria, in the words of the great sage Lagbaja, ‘nothing for you’.

MOPICON also wants to licence training, licence qualification, licence distribution, exhibition, marketing and advertisement of motion picture! Ah ah! When we are talking of unbundling (of NNPC) we are here talking about absolute discretion to do something or the other.  I’m sorry but all these didn’t werk for me.

Then they talk about jail terms for unMOPICONned practitioners and I thought at that point – we are veering dangerously close to lala land territory here.

So for all those who are still wondering what my view of the MOPICON bill is, I will paraphrase what Prof Ian Hargreaves said when he was chair of a panel to review the IP framework in the UK in 2010 to make it more supportive (yes I know right?). Ultimately, success should be achieved by the creativity of the people and innovation by businesses, not by government or regulatory action. Government (regulation) should simply create the best conditions to encourage innovation and growth.

So on that note brethren and sistren, my two cents. On record. Let it never be said that I sat there MOPing while they CONned us.

We are nothing but pencil in the hand of the creator

To God Be The Glory

 Credits

Produced, Directed, Scripted, Cast, Starring

Ojoma Ochai (BC, WB GEM, DEVOS, UNESCO, ETC. ETC.)

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