Awaiting Their Magic

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MTF Students on set of their new production

In October 2018, MultiChoice Nigeria opened its doors to 20 aspiring filmmakers to the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, an arm of its empowerment initiative that focuses on grooming the next generation of storytellers. Vanessa Obioha captures the students’ experiences so far

The mood that Thursday afternoon at the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy in Lagos was boisterous. Hearty laughter and chatter could be heard from the break room where the students were having their recess. Some in groups of twos and threes, cracking jokes and engaging in cheerful conversations. Once in a while they strolled into the reception to pick on the receptionist who have somewhat become their favourite pal. The spirit of camaraderie is so palpable that it is hard to believe that a few months ago, they barely knew each other.

For some of them, it still feels surreal that it was only last October that they began this journey of innovation. They were aptly called the lucky 20 by Steve Ayorinde who served as the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture in Lagos state at the time during a ceremony held in their honour. That gathering also had the likes of prolific chronicler of Nollywood, Jonathan Haynes and the Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture Dr. Iddi Ziblim.

Indeed, they are the lucky 20. Out of the over 3000 applications received, they were the chosen ones. A total number of 60 students were enrolled into the project that spread across the East and Southern Africa regions where MultiChoice Africa operates. The initiative which has three touch points is specifically geared to stimulate not only the growth of African filmmakers but institutions as well.

The academy serves as a learning hub where aspirants will go through a 12-month intensive training that focuses on the art and business of filmmaking. Other touch points of the initiative include Masterclasses for film practitioners and a portal for the filmmakers to network and market their ideas.

In Nigeria, which is the academy hub for the West Africa region, the students are mainly from Nigeria and Ghana.

Despite the huge publicity of the initiative, quite a few of the students applied at the last minute. For instance, one of the students Blessing Bulus revealed that she applied on the last day of application.

“Someone in my church called me to tell me about MTF. He didn’t really know much about it but asked me to check the internet for more information. I did and to my surprise there has been a call of application for almost three months and that day was the last day. So I had to gather my documents immediately and applied.”

It was the same for Ghanaian student Dumevi Yaamoakoa who only applied a day before the call of entry closed.

In her own case, taking some time off the internet was responsible for her late application. Yet it was not an easy decision for her. Being selected meant that she would have to relocate to Nigeria. With the moral support from her family, she took a leap of faith and applied.

Kemi Adeyemi whose eyes are focused on production needed three signs before she could make up her mind. First it was her father who mentioned MTF to her, then her friends. By the time she saw the advert on TV, her mind was made up. Prior to that, she was contemplating whether to go to Canada to study filmmaking or not.

More interesting is Moses Akerele’s experience. He admitted that he was quite reluctant to apply in the first place.

“I was on training in France when a couple of friends told me about MTF. I had done some other trainings in filmmaking and I was always eager to learn but at that point, I felt training wasn’t for me. They all applied and kept asking me if I had. Coming back home, I read up on it and it looks like something I would love to be part of so I registered, only to realise that I didn’t complete my registration. I got a mail that I should complete my registration which I did. I was called for an interview and the rest is history.”

He turned out to be the only one among his friends who made it to the Academy.

Studying at MTF has expanded their views on filmmaking. From the theoretical aspect — which Akereke finds more tasking — to the immersion programme where they were on set of some of Africa Magic productions such as ‘Battleground’ and ‘Ajoche’

“Ajoche set was the memorable,” enthused Yaamoakoa. “It was the most exciting. I was just taking pictures and then sending it to my dad, my mum and my friends. I was so excited. Everything was overwhelming.”

The students were also opportuned to be mentored by veterans in the creative industry like Tunde Kelani and Michelle Matthews whose teaching touched Adeyemi the most.

“She made me understand what it takes to have a proactive dream and not just pipe dreaming”.

What is most striking for them is the depth of knowledge they have acquired. They all admitted as we sat in the library hall that it was more than a film school.

“It exceeded my expectations,” said Adeyemi. “I didn’t realize that it would be all that it was or the opportunities that it would come with or the connection and the direction that it took.”

“In a regular film school, you are usually taught how to handle the camera. But coming here, you are taught the business of filmmaking. It has broadened my knowledge on how to tell stories not only for African audience but also on a global scale,” added Yaamoakoa.

But more importantly is that it has enlightened them on how to tell stories that matter. It is a major problem which Bulus has identified in most Nollywood stories today.

“One thing that is lacking in our industry is its story itself. Most times we concentrate more on the camera angle and then the narrative is missing. I think we should focus on the story more.”

Her thoughts resonated with Akerele who is looking forward to telling stories in the most appropriate way.

“Telling stories that would ignite something different. We say it a lot that people relate to a story but there is more to relating to a story. Understanding the audience is key. I might not make a story that will appeal to the world but I want to tell a story that will serve a purpose.”

Now in the last lap of their training, the lucky students can’t wait to show their magic.

“Some of my friends have been asking me to come back and create magic with them,” gushed Yaamoakoa.

Perhaps the most chuffed about their journey so far is the Academy Director, Femi Odugbemi who posted a picture of the students on set as they wrapped up their first production on Instagram with the caption: “The game has changed. Generation-next want more and will do more to take it to the next level. The countdown has begun… tick..tock…tick.”