Quite a number of perks come with being a movie star in this part of the world. They include designer clothes, luxury cars and posh apartments. Apart from their penchant for such status symbols, today’s Nollywood actors and actresses are also seen as role models, especially to the young and impressionable who dream of becoming stars some day.
But, judging by the results of a recent investigation conducted by Saturday Beats, it appears all that glitters is not gold, after all.
Contrary to popular opinion, the life of the average Yoruba movie star is that of constant ‘suffering and smiling’.
In spite of the fabulous profiles and immense goodwill enjoyed by some of these celebrated screen gods and goddesses, the contents of their bank accounts are really nothing to be cheerful about.
Even the ‘alarming’ increase in the volume of home video films produced in Yoruba language ought to be sufficient to improve the bank balances of such celebrities. To make matters worse, many of them suffer from a financial disease known as ‘Withdrawal Symptom.’ In fact, it is no longer news that a good number are regular visitors to ATMs.
“As soon as money is paid into their bank accounts, you will see them rushing to the nearest ATM to withdraw almost all the cash,” an amused banker told Saturday Beats recently.
Certainly it is difficult to believe that no reasonably successful Yoruba actor or actress has ever been paid up to N500, 000 for a lead role in any movie. Half a million seems a fantastic sum by all indications. Instead, the maximum fee payable to the best actor or actress has remained between N150k and N250k.
Even many of the ‘veterans’ receive as low as N10k to appear in a film feature.
While those that are constantly in demand or have won awards in the industry, such as the likes of Funke Akindele and Odunlade Adekola, earn a maximum of N250k per feature film, the rest are left with peanuts. Interestingly, an exception to this ‘golden rule’ is Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. Saturday Beats investigation shows that she earns between N250k and N400k.
Another ‘big earning’ actor is Adebayo Salami, aka Oga Bello. It is said that he hardly receives part payment from any producer. Usually on location, he would demand his fee of not more that N150,000 before going into action.
The same is said about Omotola who does not budge until she or her manager has confirmed that a certain amount of money has been deposited in her bank account.
However, the so-called big budget film productions have never exceeded the N3m mark despite the fact that a lot of money goes into paying the crew and cast. Money is also spent on production equipment, lights, costumes, makeups, transport, food, accommodation, generating plant sets, and other logistics/incidental expenses. That is also why most of the cast and crew are grateful when the filmmaker or marketer, who bankrolls the production, is able to hand them paltry sums of money.
“You can count on your fingers the number of individuals involved in the production who respectively got paid less than N50,000,” a production hand says.
Also included in the budget are the editing suite staff, copies of empty VCDs to be dubbed, posters and film jackets to be printed, marketing and distribution.
Now we know why most of the highly paid or underpaid actors/ actresses are writing their own movie scripts and directing or producing their own movie projects, as well as saturating the market with volumes of half-baked home videos every week.
Bukky Wright was the highest paid actress in the Yoruba language genre before Funke Akindele broke her N150,000 per featured film record with Jenifa.
Omilade Babatunde, aka Baba Suwe, used to be the highest paid aactor until the much younger Odunlade Adekola, aka Cause Trouble, began to earn up to N250k per feature film. The other notable figures? Well, they are trying hard to catch up with Omotola, Funke and Odunlade.
Omotola, Adebayo Salami, Funke Akindele, Bukky Wright and Odunlade Adekola were unavailable for comment.
But prolific film producer, Kunle Afolayan, said, “I really don’t know how much they earn now because I’ve since moved on to other major things.”
Top actress, Lizzy Anjorin, found it hard to answer the question.
“Ha! That’s a tough question that I don’t have a ready answer for. Fees vary from one filmmaker to another. As for me, I bill per script and I don’t appear in just about any film.”
Saturday Beats sought the view of scriptwriter/actor/filmmaker, Femi Davies.
He responded, “You can’t really get any top actor/actress that will proudly and honestly tell you this is how much he or she earns per film. But for my years in the industry, I don’t know anyone that collects half a million naira per film he or she featured in that’s not a film produced by him or her. Things can only get better.”
The story is not different in the Igbo or the Hausa language-speaking movie sector. We gathered that the actors/actresses who in real life drive fancy cars, live in their own houses, dress in the latest designer clothes, are the privileged ones who have been able to sustain and maintain their celebrity/star status by engaging in private business outside movies like car dealership, party/event planning, boutiques, supermarkets, hair dressing saloons, voice-over on radio/TV adverts, comperes at private and public functions, corporate brand endorsements.