The African movie industry will experience an exhilarating transformation when scores of filmmakers breakout of the Multichoice Talent Factory (MTF), located in three hubs- Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia -a few years from now. The Director of the MultiChoice Academy in Nigeria, Femi Odugbemi, a renowned filmmaker says it is an intervention in the creative industry designed to empower a new generation of film makers. Bennett Oghifo reports
The Multichoice Talent Factory (MTF) will no doubt open a lot of possibilities in the creative industry, judging by the concept presented by Femi Odugbemi, who is the Director of the Nigerian hub of the MTF.
He talked about the MTF with so much excitement because he sees a clear vision that the academy could produce sturdy film makers in a year, just as a similar project called New Direction honed his skills, and positively guided the hands of Mammud Balogun, Amaka Igwe, and Joke Silver's about 20 years ago.
The multiplier effect can be seen in the excellent works and mentoring programmes that these creative giants engage in presently. "The Multichoice tradition is to grow talents and watch them grow bigger in the movie and film industry. It is their contribution to the industry and they are very proud of that. Besides, it will help the company in content; they are a content creation company. They are going to have wide range of content on their channels, as well as content that feeds into every other part of entertainment hub around the world. It's not just Multichoice, because the competition can harness from there."
The MTF aims to train and produce highly skilled filmmakers, who will also be empowered to understand the business-end of film making. "It combines the creative and the business in one curriculum and in one module," said Odugbemi, who talked excitedly about the expected outcomes of the Academy, during the week.
The students will learn how to produce Tv film or movie. The Academy is a dedicated institution where 20 students learn in a special curriculum the creativity, the business and the technology of film, which are the three touch points. The 20 student would be in a class for a year.
Odugbemi emphasised that "the 20 students will be in a film school, combined with a business school, combined with a passion school and they get to network with the 20 students in each of the two other MTF hubs in Kenya, which covers East Africa and Zambia, which covers Southern Africa. "Hopefully, in a year's time the Academy would have created 60 highly skilled film Makers, in cinematography, in lighting etc, and also people who understand how to pitch, how to crowd-fund, how to create a business plan, a distribution plan."
He described this as the first leg of intervention, stating that the second leg would entail master-classes through which they would connect with existing filmmakers, "who are already working, who benefit from an encounter with someone who is superior in the industry, who has current knowledge, who has future technology knowledge in different spheres."
This, according to him, would enable them do a master-class in acting, bringing "an actor who will be able to go through the three hubs and help other actors' want-to-be-like and he or she can talk about their experiences. We will also bring actors from different African countries to meet each other; we might do class online and look at how our lighting can improve."
The master-class will take more people, up to 50 or 60 practitioners, and this will be a regular feature over the next year. So, the Academy can be viewed as a place for different sets of people, such as new film makers, the master-class as something for practicing film makers. "There is a third plain, a technology driven platform, a portal, something like IMDB, LINKEDIN, like Facebook that uses technology as a platform for all of us to network. It attempts to exchange knowledge because film makers can talk to film makers, not just from Nigeria but from across Africa. I think it is, perhaps one of the greatest investments that we can make, because how many times have I wanted to know if the way we marry in Nigeria is the way they marry in South Africa- can I write that into a story? Because if I could find something that is common between South Africa and Nigeria or between Zambia and Nigeria or between Tanzania and Nigeria, then it means I want to make a story or film. My film would find an audience in those places as well, and the greatest way to empower a film maker is to increase his audience."
For instance, Nollywood has do so well because it has traveled across borders and people have discovered in Nigerian stories things about themselves that they may like the world to know, Odugbemi said.
"We feel confident that at the end of the year, all things being equal, we will have been able to empower 20 champions. We hope that the Academy creates the kind of students who are not only knowledgeable but also passionate, who are not only passionate but motivated and not only to work as individual script writer or lighting person but who has the ambition that in five years, in 10 years, they would form production companies that can then employ others," he said.
The idea has its strength in the hope that the Academy would create champions who have big ambitions and who want to, in 10 years' time, become the brand name of the industry and employ others.
Multichoice has opened a portal for entries for the MTF-www.multichoicetalentfactory.com- and prospective students would, among other things, provide a statement of motivation. The process is going to be rigorous, said Odugbemi, adding that they would engage the shortlisted people to feel their commitment. "One thing that is key is that the students should not be distracted and for the next one year, they are committed."
Prospective students are expected to have only post-secondary qualification with no more than two years in either industry experience or have done something on their own. I feel that almost every person in the world is a film maker at some level."
He said there was a possibility that those selected would have done something with camera and that they would have if they are passionate.
The curriculum is deep and they are partnering the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos. Regardless, it is a hands-on training and the students would be making film. "Any film school you attend, the only way you learn how to make film is to make film."
The students are expected to make four films by the end of the year. They would be split into four groups or five and they would be taught not only to make films - "we have what we thought to be the biggest advantage and that is Multichoice has a lot of ongoing productions, and we are going to enmesh them in those productions. We are going to make sure that the time-honoured principle of learning through apprenticeship is also embedded in our system."
As it is, the students will be made to go to different sets to help and in the process learn and would be given mentors, people would put them through. So, a prospective cameraman would be made to do the work in a project that has consequence, learning from an experienced cameraman. "They will touch and hold the camera and for three months, we are going to have a space where they go into these projects. We hope that when they are done, all of us who are senior practitioners would have shared in the burden of giving them something."
Once this happens, any passionate young person could run with it and do something good for his or herself.
On the choice of the three hubs, Nigeria and Kenya have vibrant film industry but Zambia is struggling. "Southern Africa may not be as active as Nigeria in terms of film making but they are quite active. Nollywood has empowered the vision of many industries. So, the idea of film makers pushing forward on the strength of their own personal enterprise has obviously percolated across Africa." Well, South Africa was not chosen as one of the hubs because it already has a similar project going on. Besides, the film industry there is well-developed. "They already have something called Magic In Motion that started about two years ago.
The three hubs, he said represent where the economy of cinema is in the three parts of Africa, adding that Kenya and Nigeria are good hubs. In Nigeria, "we consider ourselves the capital of film making in Africa."
The MTF project is simply awesome and the financial outlay must be huge, but Odugbemi insists that "it's not time to do that yet, because the cost is still on-going."
The best thing to understand about the project is the commitment, which is "so strong and so laudable, because if you take a portal; what it takes to do the back end of that, to create something like IMDB or LINKDIN or Facebook -just the technology import of that- is the investment that is quite commensurable."
The MTF project is a win-win for everybody involved in it, and even for the society at large, which is the reason it is not described as corporate social responsibility but core-share. "We don't call it CSR, we call it core-share value and here is why. It is not new for Multichoice to do this. Twenty years ago, there was something called New Direction when there was no African film on DSTv. They came to Nigeria, selected film makers and gave them a film project on celluloid to do and those film makers became like elites; I was one of those. "I didn't get to work at Multichoice, but has it empowered me in my career? Yes. The truth of the matter is that when you create those champions, you up the skill of the whole industry, and the quality of people you can reach for to work for you is high."
According to him, any truly big company can make this kind of investment but not as a gift and that is why it is not CSR. It has shared value; we share the need to have a better film industry across Africa. It's good for the film maker, it's good for the production company, it's good for Multichoice and it is also good for those who compete with Multichoice. It absolutely pays everybody. The focus is on excellence."
The MTF will undoubtedly improve the nation's and Africa's film industry. The judge of this would be a delightful outcome, according to Odugbemi, "that these kids do well, these kids do come out, these kids do show ambition, and they actually become champions."
Odugbemi has done very well for himself in the film industry. In fact, he is one of the few highly respected players in this sector of the nation's economy.
Odugbemi, a filmmaker, director, and photographer of repute, attended Montana State University where he studied film and television production.
He has scripted, directed and produced documentaries, short films and drama. He produced Tinsel, the hugely successful soap opera that began airing in 2008. He also scripted, directed and produced Bariga Boys, a multiple award-winning Nigerian documentary about street performers in Bariga, Lagos.
In 2013, he scripted, produced and directed a documentary titled, 'Literature, Language and Literalism', about the late Nigerian writer, Daniel O. Fagumwa, the author of 'Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmale'.
In 2002, he became the President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria, a tenure that ended in 2006. He is a member of the Advisory Board