Nollywood, Take Two
When we return, the Nollywood crew is setting up in the living room. This larger set is more Ladybug friendly. I chose to place the camera with the scene in one direction and the crew in the other direction. The idea behind the shot is that the viewer will start out looking forward at the action, similar to how they would watch a traditional film. If they look behind them, they’ll see that they are sitting with the crew. And if they wait without looking around, they will hear the director speaking in a subliminal prompt to turn their heads.
What I’m most excited about is that I’m finally able to set up a rig where I’m not huddled under the camera, unable to see the computer screen. Instead we run the cable out the door to another room, where I sit in the corner, out of the way of the rest of the production. It’s our fastest set up yet. And Nollywood still puts us to shame.
These guys kick ass. The flow and rhythm of Nollywood is unreal. I sit and stare at my screen and watch as Ike, the director, fires off two wide shots with two cameras. A dozen or so actors are sobbing and holding each other in an emotionally-wrenching scene. Within seconds of yelling “cut!”, he has both cameras moving into close-up positions. Ike rolls on one camera while he looks to set up the other one. The actors framed the two-shot close-up start sobbing for the camera as Ike is talking to the Assistant Director about building a dolly and simultaneously motioning to the grip to move a light over to the other camera set-up. All on the same set in the same room at the same time.
The Ladybug setup is plugged in so I can roll and roll and roll as they rock through dozens of set ups, while building an entire dolly set up. The reality is that in order for these films to be profitable, they have to move fast and keep their shooting days down. I think we should send some US filmmakers over here like bootcamp.
Most of our day is done, but nearby there is a mall. A private mall with security that we’re told we can’t film in. We decide to try anyway. This side of Africa is one I hadn’t realized existed. Brand new construction with crystal clear glass and home-comfort stores like Lego, Tommy Hilfiger, and Cold Stone Creamery, we might as well have been in any mall in America. Walking past the well-lit, manicured windows of each store, I mug to the camera to justify Aaron snapping off a couple of shots of the interior. We are quickly admonished by a police officer that no pictures are allowed and all four of us proceed to move on and immediately pull out our iPhones to take some supplemental footage.
One of the main shots we want to get is of the escalator. The escalator is apparently a big deal in Lagos. It’s an anomaly. Eke’s assistant refused to go up to down the escalator because she thought it was haunted. And then we saw the grocery store. Put aisles and aisles of pre-packaged foods and canned deliciousness in front of four people who haven’t eaten properly for days – you’re done. 100% Juice, pasteurized, with no sugar added? Boom. Fresh fruit. Packaged snacks. We fill up. too bad we don’t have time to catch a movie. Minions is playing in the mall theater.
On the way back to the hotel, Dan and Aaron want to grab some Lagos skyline footage as the sun sets. We’re getting used to the lawlessness and don’t hesitate to stop the van in the middle of the highway to get out with a camera and full tripod set up and fire off some shots. The cars just go around us like another decommissioned vehicle.
Saying goodbye to Lagos
It’s our last night in Nigeria. Even though we’re exhausted, smelly, and apprehensive of what’s ahead of us, we rally to go out with Eke for a wrap drink. All week we’ve been talking about going to a Nigerian night club, but apparently those are like clubs in New York – they don’t get pumping until midnight. Instead, we end up at a high-design bar with a shot list including a “blowjob,” “liquid cocaine”, and “F.U.” We make it through one drink & beg forgiveness to bail on the rest of the party night.
In the morning we will be leaving for Rwanda. No one’s visas have come through yet.