With MTF, MultiChoice Nigeria Beams Nollywood to Global Investors

Chigoziem Dike

In 2014, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was rebased from $270bn to $520bn, making it the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest in the world. This close to 90% increase was attributed to new sectors of the economy not previously captured, one of which was the creative industry. For the first time in Nigeria’s economic history, the value of this industry was captured and one of its subsets – Nollywood – was discovered to have contributed 1.42% to the GDP, an impressive $7.2bn in monetary value. Nollywood has grown to be globally recognized as the second largest film producer in the world, producing about 2500 films a year and generating $590million annually.

Nollywood’s leap in recent times has gone beyond the individual efforts of the players. It is the collaboration of many interventions dedicated to making the film industry home to authentic storytelling. Since the home video boom in the 90s that led to the coinage of ‘Nollywood’, Nigerian films have displayed an impressive capacity to travel beyond the shores to the amazement of many observers. Though films at the time were of low production quality, the stories they told resonated with Nigerians home and abroad as it reflected the culture and economic situation of the country.

It wasn’t long before Nollywood became the leader in African films where any film from Nigeria was almost seen as a representation of the continent.

This boom resulted in many individuals with little or no filmmaking experience associating themselves with the industry. The downside of this bandwagon effect resulted in a drop in production quality and a promotion of unprofessionalism since some practitioners were untrained.

In the late 90s, the industry witnessed a change through the intervention of MultiChoice Nigeria. The media entertainment company kicked off an initiative – New Directions – to stimulate the growth of emerging filmmakers in the continent with professional trainings of international repute. Renowned filmmakers like Tunde Kelani, the late quintessential Amaka Igwe, Mahmood Ali Balogun and Femi Odugbemi cut their teeth on that program and would not only become masters in the field of storytelling but also institutions. Through their eyes, other filmmakers were able to understand the craft and business of filmmaking.

MultiChoice has had a knack for investing in local content since it entered the Nigerian market in 1993. These investments are not limited to monetary value alone but extend to talent and capacity development as well. From sports to movies and even to music, the company has embarked on many interventions such as trainings, conferences and awards that empower and reward talents. One of such interventions is the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF), the company’s Creating Shared Value initiative.

Similar to New Directions, the ultimate objective of the initiative is to ignite Africa’s creative industries, notably the filmmaking business. MTF has three touchpoints: The Academy, Masterclasses and Portal. The Academy operates in three regions of the continent where the company thrives and is accessible to 13 countries. In West Africa, the Academy hub is in Nigeria while in Southern and Eastern Africa, Zambia and Kenya are the learning hubs. The Academy offers a unique opportunity to young, vibrant and passionate individuals who display an interest in film and television production. Twenty students are picked from each region and undergo a 12-month all-expense paid educational programme. The programme exposes the students to the nitty-gritty of filmmaking while expanding their views on the business of filmmaking. Through a comprehensive curriculum comprising theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling, the students scale up their learning curve, gaining first-hand knowledge from industry professionals and international institutions made possible by strategic partnerships with Pan-Atlantic University (PAU) Dolby, Henley Business School, Jasco Broadcast Solutions and Nihilent Technologies.

Three years after its launch, 40 young and vibrant talents have graduated from the Academy. The inaugural class had its graduation in 2019 amid fanfare. Students who performed exceptionally well were rewarded with internship scholarships. Examples are Edmund Asamoah who won the scholarship to intern on in Bollywood production in India through the Academy’s partnership with Nihilent and Gilbert Bassey, who emerged Best Overall student in the class. Bassey who recently produced a short film won an 8-week internship scholarship to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) College of Visual and Performing Arts in the US. To encourage and integrate them into the system, the class of 2019 had their project films competing at the 7th edition of the prestigious Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA).

The second set of students eagerly began classes in 2019 with hopes of graduating in 2020. Then the pandemic happened and physical classes became virtual, and like the rest of the world, they had to adjust to the new normal. Notwithstanding the challenges, the class of 2020 which recently had its graduation virtually, benefited more from the programme. Their academic year was extended by six months enabling them take a 3-week intensive New York Film Academy (NYFA) course on the production of micro-documentaries, Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and music videos, thereby earning them to two certificates, one from the Pan-Atlantic University and the other from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) giving them an edge over their contemporaries. They also worked with the United Nations on the global #PledgeToPause campaign, exposing them to global networks.

“The MultiChoice Talent Factory speaks to who we are as Nigerians, natural-born storytellers. Today we are here to celebrate the second cohort who were dealt a heavy blow by the COVID-19 pandemic but the challenge seems to have brought on even greater opportunities,” remarked Chief Executive Officer, MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, who spoke at the virtual graduation.

Reeling out the names of students who won prizes like Abisola Aboaba, the top graduate of his set who won an 8-week scholarship at NYFA, Ugbe noted that “it’s also been fulfilling to see just how in-tune this next generation of African storytellers are focused on being multi-skilled and intuitive creatives. All this would not have been possible without the collaboration and commitment of our fantastic partners.”

Other recipients of prizes include Julie Ako (Nihilent Technologies 8-week scriptwriting internship on an animation series); Gbenga Gomes (Jasco Broadcast Solutions AVID media composer licence); Igho Arusi Avuirovarie (Jasco Broadcast Solution AVID Pro Tools licence); Joshua Tsotso (4-week M-Net internship in South Africa) and Eric Kafui Okyerefo, Chioma Paul-Dike and Avuirovarie Igho Arusi share the CEO Award for innovation for building Ekho media, a streaming platform for short films and content creators. They also get $1000 each and a structured one-year mentoring session with the CEO, Ugbe.

Now part of the MTF alumni network, these graduates attest to MultiChoice’s commitment to investing in local talent and building a vibrant economy for the creative industry. With the skills acquired from the programme, there is hope that the graduates will not only become authentic African storytellers but ignite innovative storytelling and cinematography that will beam Nollywood to global investors.
––Dike a Public Affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.

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