Managing Director of MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe

Raheem Akingbolu, who witnessed the inauguration of a youth-focused creative training academy, powered by Multichoice Nigeria, surmises that it can provide the platform for stakeholders in the African advertising and film industry who are clamouring for local content

Regulatory bodies and other stakeholders in the African creative industry had over the years, expressed dissatisfaction with the non-promotion of local content in creative works emanating from local advertising agencies and film makers.

Advocates of the campaign for increase local content in creative works meant for exposure in Nigeria media and television commercials often wonder why the setting, cast and even voice over in some commercials have been entirely foreign – a situation, which they argue, has denied Nigerian talents from being engaged by local practitioners.

By extension, it is also believed that highest percentage of what is accruing to ad spending go to foreign hands.
On the other hand, ad practitioners have argued that shortage of required technology and at times manpower forced agencies to look elsewhere for shooting of commercials.

In the last few years, South Africa, Dubai and the United Kingdom were reported to be the most visited sites for shooting of television commercial (TVC)

Few years ago, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), through its Committee on Advertising Practice Reforms (ACARP) reeled out a new guideline for advertising practice in Nigeria.

Top on the new reform was the resolute use of local production of commercial films intended for the Nigerian market. The council based this on the need to ensure stricter professionalism within the advertising industry and practice.

The council had emphasised the need for all corporate firms to be licensed and that all practitioners, whether individual or corporate, should consider Nigerian content as an important element of their overall business management, project development and execution. It went further to state that qualified Nigerian practitioners shall be given first consideration in any advertising project.

Multichoice intervention
Despite consistent moves for the promotion of local content, a major factor militating against it was the lack of adequate manpower and technology to support the local industry. Aside the fact that the industry relies mostly on obsolete technology, there is also limited training for film makers.

However, what looked like a solution to the perennial challenge happened last week, when Multichoice unveiled its Talent Factory in Lagos with the promise that it would enhance the actualisation of local content in the country.
According to the company, the MTF, a continent-wide programme, was conceived to create a conveyor belt of young and highly skilled professionals in television and filmmaking. This was with a view to equipping the next generation of creative industry people across Africa with acumen to make them create wealth and jobs by being entrepreneurs as well.

Speaking at the programme’s launch in Lagos, Managing Director, Multichoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said the MTF will help mould young people in television and filmmaking into accomplished professionals via professional training in all the aspects of their craft.

“It is great to have passionate and young self-taught individuals, but we need to connect them to opportunities to acquire skills and experience to make it big in the industry. Others may have relevant qualifications but lack the practical experience and work readiness.

“Those with the skills and experience are hard to find, yet there are passionate and talented young people who cannot access skills
“The MTF, therefore, aims to make sure that those with the right skills and practical experience are easily accessible by the industry,” he said.

Ugbe also explained that the MTF is an opportunity for African filmmakers to take advantage of the MultiChoice brand to tell the story of Africa to Africans and the world from an African perspective.

“The MTF is an opportunity to leverage the MultiChoice brand to create a platform for African film creatives to showcase their talent, access skills development opportunities and stay current with industry trends and developments.

“We need to tell African stories, made by Africans for Africa”, he said.
The multi-level programme, which runs for two semesters, is open to applicants between the ages of 18 and 25 and kicks off on 1 October in three countries in three different African regions. Nigeria is the West African hub, while Kenya is for East Africa and Zambia for Southern Africa. Each academy will have 20 students and be headed by an accomplished local industry expert. It will also operate in partnership with recognized institutions to ensure credibility.

The academy for the West African region will be located in Nigeria and will feature 16 Nigerian students and four Ghanaians. It will have as director, Femi Odugbemi, an accomplished filmmaker and cinematographer.

Curriculum
At the unveiling of the factory, film producers and critics who attended the event were curious about the curriculum and they sought to know the package. The organisers however explained that the curriculum was being developed, adding that it would combine theoretical knowledge of production skills and management with practical experience. It also stated that the academies will also function in partnership with local channels, studios and content providers, who are placed to directly impact beneficiaries’ career development.

In addition to the academies, the MTF Portal is another component of the project. The portal was said to have been designed to provide a platform for beneficiaries to showcase their works, access opportunities available and network in the industry. Among its functionalities are MTF Call to Entry (CTE), which kicked off on 30 May; individual/company profiles, skill-specific profiles, social media sign-on with Twitter and Facebook for sharing content and ‘refer a peer’ invitations, opportunities notice boards, regulatory profiles, industry news and new releases.

The third leg of the initiative, according to the company, is the MTF Master classes. On this note, the Managing Director stated that the workshops were designed to equip established film and television personnel with advanced skills in cinematography, audio and storytelling. He stated that the MTF Master classes, as with the academies, would feature local and international producers, scriptwriters, directors, audio experts, MTF Academy Directors and MultiChoice staff.

Ugbe also pointed out that they were designed to remedy the age-long challenge of accessibility and opportunity for under-represented communities on DStv and GOtv platforms.

“We are excited and inspired by the many stories yet to be told. As we prepare to welcome the most deserving, young emerging, passionate filmmakers into these academies are assured that MultiChoice Africa remains committed to ensuring that quality storytelling and story making, contributes positively to the economies we serve. This is long overdue in Africa and MultiChoice Africa is proud to champion this movement,” said Ugbe.

The MTF, explained MultiChoice, is part of the its new strategy of furthering its investments through creating shared value by using its core business resources, people, skills and networks to bring about positive societal changes that yield both ways-for the business and society.

Other interventions
For over two decades, MultiChoice has continued to invest in the development of original African programming and showcasing such on its DStv and GOtv platforms across 49 sub-Saharan African countries. It pioneered and popularised the African Magic channels in Nigeria and across Africa as well as making it known around the world. The company has facilitated the creation of stories into hit shows across the continent. These include Tinsel, Battleground, Hotel Majestic and Hush.

Aside from ensuring that African stories are told with fidelity and by Africans, MultiChoice’s investments in local content, as evidenced with the 2015 rebasing of the Nigerian economy, formed part of the 13 per cent contribution to the GDP by the entertainment industry.

To deepen competition that would enhance originality and quality production, the Pay TV company, had in 2013, launched the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCAs), a premium awards for filmmakers in Africa, to recognise outstanding achievements in the African film and TV industry. This was in addition to the company’s periodical workshops and foreign exposure for practitioners to share the best content production practice around the continent.

With the new academy, it is believed that film makers and other professionals, have again gotten a better platform to raise their stakes and horn their creative skills.