How movie producers tackle ‘area boys’ menace



Globally, filmmakers face challenges, some of which include a constant fear of piracy, huge production costs and stress so as to be able to recoup their expenses. However, for some Nigerian filmmakers, their ordeals often start at locations before acting is allowed to commence. While such haggling to ‘drop’ money for ‘Area Boys’ in order to make use streets and public areas for any purpose is no news, for filmmakers, it is perhaps assuming an unhealthy dimension.



And not too long ago, actor and film producer, Funke Akindele Bello posted a video on Instagram where she and her crew were being harassed by ‘Area Boys’ as they were on location.



“Filming now in Chancellor Street Iraboko, Awoyaya,” wrote Funke who is the producer of the successful Jenifa franchise and who also plays the role of Jenifa.



“And area boys are here fighting us. I’m so fed up with these boys. We work so hard. God help us.”



Earlier in the year, another Nollywood star and film producer, Omoni Oboli, found herself in a similar scenario while on location in Lagos.



Like Funke, she had also uploaded the video of ‘Area Boys’ harassing her film crew on location to her Instagram account. The thespian who produced, ‘Being Mrs Elliot’, ‘Wives on Strike’ and ‘Okafor’s Law’ could not resist venting.



“I am totally fed up,” she wrote, tagging Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in her post and imploring him to come to the assistance of filmmakers.



“Shooting in Lagos State is such a difficult experience. I’ve been settling area boys everyday yet they still fight us. The other day, they broke a bottle to stab my crew and seized my van key. You have to settle different factions. I’m a tax paying citizen of Lagos State. As filmmakers, we pay taxes even on a loss. Na beg we dey beg o @akinwunmiambode help us. We are fed up!!! So many people are getting paid on this set. We are bringing commerce and boosting the economy. Pls help!!! My money is not for area boys! They think it’s their birthright! It’s indeed very sad!”



And while actress and movie producer Fathia Balogun says her experience is not as awful as Funke or Omoni, she describes as ’embarrassing’ the disturbance by the street urchins.



“I’ve seen when they (Area Boys) come to you and ask you to give them this and when you tell them you don’t have, it’s like, ‘why won’t you have?’ said Fathia who is set to premiere her new movie, Connection.



“The harassment is huge. We just pray that as time goes on, they’ll help us clear some of that.”



And in what has become a norm, filmmakers have devised a means of addressing the issue of street urchins. Even though ace movie producer, Kunle Afolayan, acknowledged the menace of ‘Area Boys’ on filmmakers and their films, the filmmaker who in 2017 has already produced three movies -Omugwo, Roti and Tribunal however, is of the opinion that the manner of approach a filmmaker relates with the ‘Area Boys’ matters.



“Once they come, we’ll give roles to them, give them things to do,” the thespian said, sharing his tactics.



“Sometimes, we’ll make them our security. Sometimes, we use them as extras in the film. And they will get paid for it. So, that’s how I’ve always handled things.”



He however, said that from his own experience, the menace of ‘Area Boys’ is much more pronounced in other southwestern states than in Lagos.



“In fact, it’s not as bad in Lagos as in Abeokuta and Ibadan where area boys would hardly ever listen to you at all. But here in Lagos, I’m always able to control them. I just need to speak to them and we’ll now put them to use.”



While Afolayan’s solution depends on the individual producer to manage the ‘Area Boys’, another filmmaker, Dakore Egbuson considers another solution.



“We have to rehabilitate and educate the area boys,” said Egbuson who thinks the menace is a consequence of a society that breeds them.



“The reason why there are area boys is because there is an imbalance in the society. The government has a lot to do in terms of educating them and letting them understand the far reaching consequences of what they are doing. And then, on the other hand, also give us adequate security. Those are the kind of things we need to put in place. But until then, it’s a free fall and for a long time we have been dealing with it quietly but social media has actually helped to shine that spotlight on it. So, like I said, let’s not castigate the area boys too. Let’s take care of them. If they are busy, there is no need for them to be area boys.”



Peeved at the development, Omotunde David also known as Lolo 1 of Wazobia FM is incensed over the fact that she has to pay miscreants after obtaining permission from the state.



Relating an experience where a shoot of Jenifa’s Diary had to be called off, Lolo said, “we were afraid of the way they became aggressive and we were not shooting on any private turf. It was just a street that anybody can walk. So are you going to collect toll off people walking on the streets? These are the things that discourage us that are entrepreneurs. How many people do you pay? If you’ve taken permission from the right place these people still come through the back end and they even threaten violence.



“Sometimes we will rather save the camera than save ourselves because the cameras are very expensive but they don’t know these things and I wonder why. We really need to engage our youths more to know that it is very demeaning as a human being to stay out there and expect to earn from something you didn’t work for.



“When I was shooting Aunty Bose, as little as it was, in a gated estate after taking permission from the estate, yet the security operatives of the estate still came and said ‘ehn you didn’t see us.’ And that’s even something that is little. Imagine if I have a bigger budget working with more people.”



In many parts of the country, street urchins have held businesses, transporters and workers at construction sites to ransom, demanding money before they are allowed to conduct their businesses. And while the Lagos and Ogun state governments have addressed harassment by street urchins at construction sites, there is nothing in place for actors on locations. In many western countries, film villages exist to provide locations where films are shot. This is not the case in Nigeria.



In 2016, the President Muhammadu Buhari–led Federal Government had proposed the idea of a film village to be sited in Kano. But this was shot down by sections of Kano indigenes which vehemently kicked against the idea.
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