+ ‘Why we’re going back to publishing’
WALE Adenuga (MFR) is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Wale Adenuga Productions. In this one-on-one encounter with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Thursday, November 26, 2015, at his Ajao Estate, Lagos office, the successful entertainment promoter cum media practitioner revealed the company’s new baby, Nnenna and Friends magazine and why he rested the famous Ikebe Super magazine.
He also opened up on other issues revolving around the industry, including piracy, 15 years of Super Story television drama and much more…
It’s quite a while we had a chat with you, can you tell us what’s happening at the moment from the stable of Wale Adenuga Productions?
We’re still into television productions. Papa Ajasco is on, This Life and Nnenna and Friends are still on as well. Right now, we’re preparing for the December edition of our Christmas show for children at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, which is coming up on Sunday, December 20, 2015. Apart from that, we’re working hard to launch our cartoon magazine by the first quarter of next year, it’s called Nnenna and Friends Cartoon Magazine for the whole family. It’s going to be a very big one. We want to entertain our fans with juicy cartoons and stories. That’s slated for the first quarter of next year.
The way it sounds now, it’s like the magazine is going to be like the rested Ikebe Super which was the hottest entertainment magazine.
(Cuts in) This one is different in the sense that it has more bias for children. Ikebe Super was an adult magazine, but this one was deliberately fashioned for children and youth. We call it clean fun for the whole family. So, it’s for all ages. There’s nothing like nude picture there. It’s consumable for all. It’s going to be a bumper edition, very beautiful one.
The last time we interviewed you, you said you used to print about 600,000 copies of Ikebe Super and all the copies sold out, why did you stop the publication?
Yes, we had to rest Ikebe Super and Super Story magazines when the nation’s economy was crumbling and naira was greatly devalued and cost of products, including magazines went up sporadically and beyond the pockets of our readers. You can imagine the magazine selling for N100 had to go to N500 because the naira had been devalued. That’s in the 80s. So, we had to drop publishing and then we had to seek an alternative way of reaching out to our fans. And so there was a sort of paradigm shift from print to electronic. So, we embraced television as the new medium for reaching out to our fans with good stories. That’s why we left publishing. But we’re coming back now, not that the climate is better but then we have done our research and we discovered we would be able to weather the storm.
We found out that we would be able to survive. It’s a very difficult terrain because publishing is facing harsh times now, especially no thanks to social media thing. But then, we’re going to embrace the two, we would be selling hard copies and we would also go online. We have confidence in providence that we would survive.
Super Story is about 15 on television, could you still recall how it all started and all the products from the popular TV serial?
Super Story was an offshoot of the Super Story magazine that was selling very well. In fact, the first story, Suara, was taken from the Super Story magazine. Even before we went on television, we already had a ready market that was conversant with our magazines. Ikebe Super too got transformed into Papa Ajasco and Company on television. So, that’s why the take-off was very fast. And up till now, the two programmes are still riding the waves as the best TV drama in Nigeria.
Can you still recall those that were made by Super Story on television, not the magazine?
I would not say we have our own actors, but virtually every known actor or actress in Nigeria today passed through Super Story and then Super Story has a sort of added value to them. Super Story turns stars into super stars. If you say you’re already popular but when you’re featured in Super Story, you would become more popular. We make stars every week and we sort of transform stars to super stars every week. We give God the glory.
15 years of Super Story on television is not a joke, was there any challenge of running it for the whole of the period?
I won’t say there was any notable challenge. Things have stabilized. We still source good stories. That’s not a challenge. It’s the duty of a producer to source very good stories. The story that would keep the viewers on edge of their seats. So, it’s part of our work to look for the best stories and best cinematographers. If you watch Super Story, you would discover that things keep changing and improving. It’s impossible to remain static in this world of technology. You’ve to keep moving. Even, if you’re not being pursued, you have to force yourself out of a particular spot. You have to move from good to better and better to best. So, we’re on top of the challenges. We have tons and tons of very good stories awaiting recording. We’re making use of the best hands in the industry, the best writers, the best cinematographers and the best actors to project our stories. And to God be the glory, we’re still on top. And business like they say, getting to the top is not the major problem but retaining your top position. And by the glory of God, we’re able to retain our top position.
Apart from Super Story, Papa Ajasco too has remained on top of all comedy programmes in Nigeria and beyond. We thank God for everything.
What are the things required to package a good TV serial?
Like I said, to come out with a very good TV drama production, first, you need a very good story. A kind of story people will love and relate to. A story that would touch their lives. After looking for a very good story, you still need to look for the right script writer. The right in the sense that a script writer may not be able to script different kind of stories. There are some scripts that you may not be good at. For instance, some are good in comedy stories, some are good in scripting serious drama while some are good in adventurous drama. So, you have to identify the right script writer for your story. And after that, you need to carry out a perfect casting because bad casting can mar a very good story or good script. If you have the best script in this world but you cast the wrong artistes for these roles in the scripts, it would mess up the production for you. So, as a producer, you need right casting without sentiment. You don’t cast because of favouritism. Everything has to be on merit for your production to be good. You don’t use an actress because she is your girlfriend or an actor because he’s a member of your family.
After casting the artistes that would project your story, you now get the right production crew. I mean, good camera men, good sound recorders, good set designers and all that. And of course, it doesn’t end there. At the end of the production, you still need a good post production service. That means, you need to employ the service of the best editor that would make sure the pictures are well edited and the sound too. He would ensure that the music in the film is right for the story. Then, put everything together. So, all these put together make a good film production. But any human error in any of these stages could mar the whole thing.
Apart from piracy which is the industry’s common enemy, what’s the other major problem of the entertainment industry generally?
Apart from piracy, there is no other major problem facing the industry. Piracy demoralizes you as a producer, because when you know that this film you’re about to produce would be pirated, there are some people who want to reap where they didn’t sow. For you to even go ahead to produce such a film, you must be a man of exceptional courage, I must say. So, apart from piracy, no other major problem in the industry. Remove piracy, the film and entertainment industry as a whole would change for the better overnight. Film producers are people that their only desire is to produce movies or films for the enjoyment of the public. So, the need for achievement, the urge and passion for that are there already to do that business. So, remove piracy, I think everything would fall in place.
The other thing people may be thinking of is the capital to do the business which is normal. Looking for the capital is a natural thing which is common with every business. To me, piracy is just the problem. It’s like when you have a huge meat of an elephant and everybody is happy waiting to enjoy the meat and suddenly somebody now throws that little bitter part of the meat (bile) into the whole meat, it’s definitely going to scare everybody away from the meat. And unfortunately, government has not really done anything reasonable. I am indicting the government for the first time on it. The government and it’s parastatals in charge of film production in Nigeria have not tried at all.
Piracy is a small thing to fight by the government if they are sincere about it. You know where these pirates are. All you need is to come out with a very strong law, not the old ones that’s not sincere enough in recommending stiff penalty for the culprits. So, apart from legislation, make a physical raid. Get a lorry load of soldiers and police, go to where they’re located, raid them on the streets and all that. By the time you raid them two or three times, put them in jail, I believe piracy would stop and producers would begin to make money from their efforts. I don’t know what’s stopping the government from embarking on this because we have been shouting about this for more than five years. There is no day we don’t talk about it. So, tell me why the government is finding it difficult to fight these pirates?
Are they so big? Are they untouchables or what’s really happening? I think, it’s only government that can answer these questions. But I believe with this new administration, there is hope. I believe and have confidence that this new government would eradicate piracy for us. It would be too early indicting the administration. We call it sin of the past. But if we wait for one year or thereabout, pirates are yet to be subdued, I can now come out and indict the new government. But now, I believe the new Minister of Information and Culture, under whose jurisdiction film production comes under would do something.
A lot of entrepreneurs out there believe there is a recession at the moment, does it affect your business as well?
Recession is like saying heaven is falling. And you know, when it’s falling, it doesn’t pick who to fall on. So, there is no business in the country right now that’s not affected by recession. But I am a very good optimist. I believe tough times don’t last forever. And serious-minded businessmen should remain steadfast in whatever they’re doing because the bad times will soon pass over and the good one will come again. I am so optimistic that in six months the economy would pick up.
What’s the development concerning WAP TV?
WAP TV is an investment that’s bidding it’s time. At the time we established it, we were sort of encouraged to move on with the business because we were sure digitalization would soon come then. And without digitalization, all these cable platforms will not flourish. So, we thought let’s just start and after six months, Nigeria will digitalize and then we could start reaping the fruits of our labour. But to our disappointment, digitalization has become a tantalizing mirage that the closer you get to it, the farther it moves from you. And that’s not good for business. We spend heavily on this station, good content every day and digitalization keeps moving forward away from us.
Now, they’re talking of 2017, to me that’s too far. But I will not blame the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) much because the body is also crying, citing lack of fund as the cause of the delayed digitalization that the former administration refused to release fund to that effect. And we all know without funding, we can’t digitalize because it’s a capital intensive thing. And it’s not a Nigerian issue. That’s the mistake some people are making. It’s an agreement by the whole world. The whole world agreed to digitalize by June this year which Nigeria has failed to do. Two years, to me, is too far. I think the new government should come to the aid of NBC and ensure that we digitalize in one year so that we can start enjoying the committee of nations that have digitalized before we start suffering the bad sides of non-digitalization because if neighbouring countries digitalize before you and you refuse to digitalize, they will be jamming your reception. That’s one of the biggest repercussions. And Nigeria is the giant of Africa. In fact, we should be the first to digitalize. It’s not too late yet but channels like ours will be happy if we can achieve digitalization in one year so that business can really start because business has not really started. It’s only through digitalization that the business can become profitable with all threes digital platforms. So, we’re just watching our expenditure for now. It’s after digitalization that we come out in our true colours because we have a lot of juicy contents that are yet to be released.
- TADE ASIFAT