AFRINOLLY: A winning journey to reinvent Nollywood

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From Mobile Application services to Short Film competitions and now an endearing Film Studio, Afrinolly, the brainchild of Chike Maduegbuna and wife, Jane, is taking the Nigerian entertainment industry on a unique journey of untapped film returns, new talent discoveries and diverse digital realism. VICTOR AKANDE who visited the giant edifice housing the outfit’s brains and equipment at Oregun, Lagos, reports.

THERE have been several ideas on how to advance Nollywood in terms of quality and returns, but they had always ended up as mere discourse at film fora.

When also, the idea of a Mobile Application for Nollywood films began, those who attempted them soon knew that they were not ready; because apart from the task of having to change the psyche of the Nigerian youth who constitute greater percentage of mobile phone users, to add Nollywood films to their repertoire of foreign videos, they soon learnt that Mobile Application for local films in Nigeria is an enduring and strategic process.

Chike and Jane Maduegbuna dabbled into this idea, perhaps as a starting point for a bigger vision. They continue to nurse their big ideas as a business, while at the same time seeing themselves as agents of change. That way, they earned the confidence of Corporate Nigeria, Cultural organisations and other Creative Support agencies.

To date, the brand has moved from Afrinolly Film App to Short Film Competition; exceptional Google rating and prizing; partnership with Durban Film Mart, a co-production and finance arm of Durban International Film Festival (DIFF); talent partnership with Ford Foundation; approved studio for BoI’s Nollyfund project and potential Secretariat and foreign business contact for Nollywood.

“I would say that our target from the get go has always been multifaceted, the only thing is that we showcase one feature at a time,” said Jane.

“First of all, what we did was that we started with the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) platform; helping people to publicise African content. Because even as the narrative is that Nigeria produces huge contents, we realised that people hardly know where to go to see them or even to see the trailers of these films. So we created this platform where there is a pivoted platform where people can see the trailers and decide to buy the DVDs.”

Flashback to July 18, 2014, at the Durban International Film Festival, Chike had described the digital application as something more than just a digital migration: “It is more of the number of people who can be reached through mobile devices. We are looking at more of the people on the demography, so it is not just a migration. Look at our population now, which is about 70% demography of 15 and 35 years old. That demography is the fastest of communication on their mobile devices. So if you want to connect with their devices, you have to look at that medium. I know we have cinemas, but it is not everybody that has access to them. Those who can’t can have access to those contents through their devices. It makes it easier to connect and make people see and know what is going on in the world.”

At that time, he put the download of Afrinolly at three million, but recent reports say the brand has four million patronage.

Michael Chima Ekenyerengozi, in his June 8 report in IndieWire, described the brand as “using mobile technology to connect African filmmakers and audiences in ways previously impossible.”

Ekenyerengozi’s report, like several others, reflected the dedication of Afrinolly to Nollywood, so much so that it earned Google’s recognition as one of the technological innovations that have aided the growth of the Nigerian motion picture industry.

It will be recalled that Afrinolly App, in 2011, won the Google Android Developers Challenge – Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Entertainment category, with a $25,000 cash prize.

Perhaps the second leg of that journey, in the words of Jane, is the Afrinolly Short Film competition, which on February 22, 2014, showcased 11 top talents from across Africa, and encouraged them with cash prizes, at a glamorous event which held at the MUSON Center, Lagos.

With the works of the winners being showcased in Durban last year, more young filmmakers appear endeared to the project, such that beyond the competition and the prize money, young Africans are beginning to see the importance of short films as a good start for their burgeoning career.

This also is a win-win for Chike, whose vision for the Mobile App has suddenly become overwhelming.

“The competition was actually meant to drive the production of short films,” he said.

“You see, when we looked at mobile devices, we felt that short forms of contents are best suitable for mobile devices. So we are looking at things that are 30 minutes or less. That was the reason we decided to stage a competition that will attract interest in that area. And then, we started having a lot of entries for the competitions. But more importantly, we also found out that more filmmakers are digitally inclined, especially those who schooled in U.S. and Europe, all coming back to Africa, Nigeria. Every year we have like a hundred of them arriving. And these guys want to make content as well, so they need a platform to show what they are capable of doing. That is the reason for the set-up of the competition.”

Reports say over 500 submissions were received from African filmmakers from 14 different countries in the first year – the rate of interest now is better imagined. So is the traffic to the Afrinolly website, especially with an additional icing on the cake called Afrinolly MarketPlace, another initiative that is expected to let people buy full-length movies within the Afrinolly App and create a new revenue stream for filmmakers.

Interestingly too, Jane feels that after showcasing at, and partnering with the Durban Film Mart for a while, the time is now, for the festival to connect with Nigeria in the best forms of collaborations that will be beneficial to both countries.

“You see… our involvement with Durban Film Festival started two years ago. In our first year, one of the things we noticed was that we hardly have Nigerians films here. So we decided that Afrinolly should get involved with Durban Film Festival, which they liked. And they created a lounge for us, where we screen films of people who have either been part of our short film competition or been in some sorts of relationship with us. This helps to expose their movies beyond the festival. And then we are also building a bridge between South Africa and Nigeria, so our filmmakers can benefit from what is happening here. That way, they too can have a way of connecting back to our people, using the opportunity available for filmmakers, while we are there.”

One of the springboards to this creative business idea is that cultural agencies that crave initiatives that can change the world positively through emerging talents found Afrinolly as a dependable ally. One of them is Ford Foundation, which provided a grant to Afrinolly to train and mentor young filmmakers through the Cinema4Change project. The beneficiaries, who have been engaged in a stiff competition, have made a series of films, designed to drive Social Change in West Africa. Not only are these films trending via the Afrinolly App, seven creatives from that process have been selected for this year’s edition of Durban International Film Festival which kicks off on July 16.

They are products of a screen writers’ workshop which held in April. And after days of pitch sessions for over 150 filmmakers who were overseen by judges such as Tunde Kelani, Femi Odugbemi and Jane Maduegbuna, the seven young filmmakers to direct the first set of Cinema4Change short films were discovered. They include Tolu Fagbure – My Brother’s Keeper; Ishaya Bako – Henna; Jay-Franklyn Jituboh – Once; Soji Ogunaike – The Dutiful Wife; Victor Sanchez Aghahowa – The Road; Chioma Onyenwe – The Scheme of Things and Ejiro Onobrakpor – Timothy.

Another department of government, the Bank of Industry (BoI),  which is disposing an initial Program Limit of N1.0billion and a single obligor limit of N50million for individual loans under the Nollyfund project, has also accredited Afrinolly’s Fans Connect Online Nigeria Limited among the reputable studio operators around in support of the initiative.

A visit to the company’s studio reveals more of the great potentials which are in the making. One of them is the disposition of the Afrinolly Management to the plight of the industry, especially in areas that government agencies saddled with the entertainment sector appear to have failed to provide a common ground for filmmakers.

There is no doubt that Afrinolly Space, a planned creative centre in Lagos where filmmakers can go to have talks, use computer editing equipment with high-bandwidth internet connections and meet other colleagues might just become what could be called the new Nollywood Secretariat.

Afrinolly Space consists of production spaces and equipment, post-production resources, industry events space to brainstorm your next ambitious video. The studio prides itself with Green Screen, Studio/Hot Sets, Private Screening Room, Training Rooms, Hot Desks, Lounge and Cafe, and state of the art equipment such as Cameras, Lights and Sound Gear, Editing Suites and Colour Grading Facility, Sound Post Production Facility, Voice-over Recording Booths, VFX, Design and Animation Suites and High Speed Internet. It also has a physical studio space for filming TV shows and music videos.

The platform, according to Jane, will also be used to teach a coding class for high school students, including filmmaking, visual effects, screenwriting and cinematography.

She noted that the company’s ultimate goal is “getting involved in how filmmakers can connect with digital platform, and how we make production possible for younger filmmakers. But more importantly, we are involved in the transition of the industry. It’s over 20 years now that we have been doing Nollywood, so the industry needs the transition, which needs different people with different skills to make it smooth. We are only trying to play our own role.”

For all the accolades that may have greeted Afrinolly, Chike and Jane Maduegbuna are joined by 10 skilled and highly focused young men and women, and together, they have made all the technical, creative and managerial ‘magic’.

CREDIT : The Nation

1 Comment

  1. Nuhu Dalyop

    July 7, 2015 at 12:27 PM

    good day sir, please are submissions still on

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