With Hausa films becoming massively popular, it became clear that some form of organized marketing strategy was needed to either negotiate the best deals or undercut a rival. It was thus that a group of senior producers, temporarily setting aside their differences (and hatred for each other) decided to form the Kano State Filmmakers Association (KSFMA) in 1996 to provide a common platform for the video film industry, regulate entry into the system and most importantly provide some form of input into the marketing of the video films.
The KSFMA was principally a marketing advocacy group created by Hausa filmmakers that sought ways to ensure the video films of its members were efficiently marketed. Its main innovation was the introduction of a queuing system (“layin sakin kaset”) for releasing new video films into the market almost from its formation. All Hausa video film producers, whether based in Kano or not, must subscribe to this system in a special deal negotiated between the KSFMA and the marketers.
This became necessary because it was clear from the tide of Hausa video films being released into the market towards the end of the 1990s that some form of control had to be instituted into the system. This was more so because the success of the video films from 1996 to 1999 had attracted other, younger, producers intent to making their mark in the “industiri” as the industry was labeled. These younger elements had money for films, were star-struck by the older producers and directors and were ready to invest. Soon enough the Bata market in Kano became flooded by about five to ten new video films per week from 1998 to 1999. The idea behind the queuing system of releasing Hausa video films therefore was to ensure that customers were not confused over which video film to watch within a short period of time.
However, right from its formation the KSFMA was doomed to failure because of the personality clashes among its members, and the utter contempt for the leadership of the association by emergent producers. As noted by one of the founding members,
“The association took up very well and made great impact. Gradually, sanity in production and marketing began to creep in, and at the same time, the industry began to witness more and more influx of producers most of whom did so because it was the vogue and also because of apparent lucrative nature of the business. Unfortunately, many of the producers were not serious and unprepared. Soon selfish interests, domination phobia, conspiracy and jealousy started to show their ugly faces. The noble aims and objectives of the association were put into jeopardy. Unethical practices, lawlessness and dislike for control coupled with the blind desire to make money at all cost (because others have done so) became the order of the day (Sango 2003 p. 74).”
Further, despite their large combined years of theater and TV production experience, there were no attempts by the KSFMA to professionalize the industry in terms of either training, focus of the industry, expanding the market beyond Hausa speaking areas or post-production processes. There were also no quality assurance mechanisms to regulate not only production ethics but also storylines.
Their main focus was on how each of them as an individual producer, not as a group, would gain fame and stardom. Even the studios that emerged from the fragmentation of the earlier drama groups and societies revolved around a single individual. Additionally, in each of the video films produced by the new independents, the studio head was almost always the starring lead, producer, scriptwriter and director, whether in the video films of the studio, or in contract video films. They established the central genre of Hausa video film industry—romantic stories either between married or unmarried couples, albeit cast in a mode traditional matrix of Hausa society—and subsequently encouraged Executive Producers to provide them with contracts to produce more video films along the same line.
Most of the early Hausa video film Executive Producers (financiers) were women with tales of the heart to tell and this fitted perfectly into the production values of the individual production units of KSFMA. For ironically where the KSFMA existed as an umbrella organization, it was made up of disparate and mutually distrusting individual film companies that continued their intense rivalry for production contracts, which only made the notion of organizational control merely nominal. This indeed was reflected in the fact that the queuing system collapsed almost from its inception. Addressing a press conference in September 1999, the then Chairman of the KSFMA, Alhaji Auwalu Isma’il Marshal announced the abolishing of the queuing system
“When we introduced the queuing system of releasing cassettes in the market some few months ago, some selfish and thoughtless people hated the system right away. They claimed it was introduced to suppress up-and-coming producers. No one questioned our logic in instituting the system—was it to suppress or to empower? The KSFMA ignored these comments and was happy that most of our members agreed with the system. Unfortunately, it came to our notice that some of our unpatriotic members had gone behind our backs and negotiated special deals with cassette marketers to jump the queue and get their own films released. This is very disappointing to the KSFMA, and in order to work out a more efficient system for our members, from today the queuing system for releasing Hausa video films weekly into the market has been abolished. Let every producer release his film as he sees fit into the market.” Press release on abolishing the queuing system of releasing Hausa video films into Kano markets, (Tauraruwa, August 1999 p. 39; translated by the author from Hausa).
To further illustrate the market-driven nature of the Hausa video film industry, similar fate awaited any subsequent attempt to form any filmmakers’ associations in other production centers of Jos, Kaduna (see reports in Fim, July 2001 pp. 41-43; Fim, September, 2001 pp. 37-39), Bauchi and Sokoto (Fim, September, 2001 pp. 44-45, Fim, December 2001, p. 40).
In each of these cities’ filmmakers’ associations were formed, disbanded and often left in a limbo after bitter acrimony between the constituent production studios that decided to form a state-wide association. The reason for their lack of cohesion was the same as in Kano—personality clashes and desire by the head of each studio to be the leader of the pack either in getting contracts to produce video films, or in ensuring maximum success for own video film in an increasingly crowded market. The establishment of a pan-northern Nigerian Arewa Film Producers Association of Nigeria curated by Abdu Haro Mashi, CEO Damaga Motion Pictures, Katsina, did not fare well either.
Sango, Muhammad Balarabe II (2003) “The Role of Non Governmental Organisations in the Development of Hausa Film Industry in Kano” in Adamu, A.U., Jibril, U.F., and Adamu, Y.M. )(2003)(eds) Hausa Home Videos: Technology, Economy and Society. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Hausa Films, Organized by the Center for Hausa Cultural Studies, Kano, Nigeria, from 4-7th August, 2003 at the Murtala Mohammed Library Complex, Kano State, Nigeria, pp. 60-65.