According to UNESCO, Africa’s film and audiovisual sector is estimated to account for roughly US$5billion in revenue on the African continent, and employs millions in various capacities and skills.
Stories on the continent are abundant and over the years, perceptions of Africa’s creative film industry have changed. There’s now an even hungrier market for films made in Africa and about the continent, home-grown film academies all over the continent have stepped forward to train the next generation of African filmmakers in response.
Access to the very best while learning behind the scenes
For Zambian filmmaker and producer Masuzyo Mwale, the idea of making films started in 2014 while in India, hospital-bound after heart surgery. It was in the birth country of Bollywood that the spark to become a filmmaker was ignited. He quickly faced an obvious challenge he had no idea of how and where to begin.
Despite Zambia’s established film industry, film and training academies are few, and the pipeline that should be channeling trained film graduates toward local film and TV opportunities isn’t working as well as it should be. So, it was by chance that Masuzyo came across the pan-African MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) film training programme’s call in 2020. He was then accepted to join 19 other young filmmakers at the programme’s Lusaka hub for the full-year and all-expenses-paid training programme.
Founded in 2018, the MTF shared-value initiative was born to provide world-class training to young creative professionals in Africa’s film and TV space. To date, the initiative, through its MTF Academies in Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lagos & Nairobi, has trained over 200 filmmakers, and to date they have produced 30 movies for M-Net local channels and Showmax. Its three MTF Academy hubs in Lusaka, Nairobi and Lagos can altogether accommodate 60 emerging film and TV creatives each year from Southern, East and West Africa.
With zero skin in the game, Masuzyo had an opportunity to work at SuperSport, the continent’s top sports channel during the MTF Class of 2020’s immersions, and additionally shot TV commercials, music videos and short films. This kind of access to world-class industry producers and technicians is extremely rare, and the additional experience gained is unparalleled.
As part of the Class of 2020, Masuzyo and his classmates have now been absorbed into their local film and TV industry and work as technically-skilled filmmakers. This is thanks to MTF’s focus on empowering students with the necessary skills to be economically active in the industry once they graduate.
“The world of film saved my life. As I kept watching TV from my hospital bed, I longed to get better to one day make a movie or a documentary that people would watch. I began to have hope in my healing so that I could become a filmmaker,” says Masuzyo.
Establishing a multidisciplinary spirit
Like Masuzyo, Ugandan filmmaker Cissy Nalumansi’s career in film and TV was also a result of MTF’s empowerment of students to be economically active in the industry. She won a paid internship experience at Africa Magic studios in Nigeria after graduating from the MTF Academy in 2019. Cissy has taken her skills even further as an MTF alumnus by establishing her own film production company -Jungle Rains Productions.
She now sits front and centre when it comes to telling home-grown stories, and her skills as a multidisciplinary have been paying off since graduation: her documentary – Creatives Under Quarantine, which she shot during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, has received international funding and was nominated at the Uganda Film Festival, and her other film – Namuddu, currently airs on DStv’s Maisha Magic Movies. Her short film – Kela, which she also wrote and directed, is currently competing at several international film festivals and is backed by Hollywood executive producers.
The funding, international film festival mileage and hefty backing are part of the major head start that the MTF initiative provides through its Academy partnerships, which include the New York Film Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (NYFA), the Henley Business School, Dolby, Canon, among others.
Moreover, Cissy is one of many African women filmmakers who received their big break from MultiChoice, the biggest commissioner and licensor of local content. Advancing the agenda of women has always been at the heart of what we do as MultiChoice and we are proud that the MTF initiative has ushered in a new era of filmmakers who are eager to sway the narrative and engage in a dialogue that tells original African stories. Women have a harder time breaking into the industry as a result of the film and TV industry’s significant gender divide, where men outnumber women 2 to 1 in films, according to a 2021 report by the San Diego State’s Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film in America.
The gender divide is also why the MTF initiative always aims for 50% and above split in favour of women.
From the start, the MTF Academy’s curriculum makes a point of equipping students toward becoming multidisciplinary creatives through its tailored masterclasses, which are a core part of the MTF Academy’s tailored curriculum.
All MTF Academy alumni have since been exposed to the initiative’s industry masterclasses in Documentary, Lighting, Sound, Casting, Acting, Production Management and the Business of Film, among others.
These masterclasses have been taught by some of the best in the industry, including celebrated Nigerian film, TV and storytelling multidisciplinary Tunde Kelani, Kenyan film and TV producer Appie Matere, and Christian Epps, international lighting expert for productions like the 2014 American film Selma, and American TV series Lovecraft Country.
It’s no wonder, then, that during the graduation, multidisciplinary visual creatives like Cissy can hit the ground running with connections already formed during their training at the academy, due to MTF’s curriculum partnerships. All MTF alumni can therefore begin their careers as highly-skilled creatives who can keep up with the production demands of world-class film and TV storytelling.
Africa’s film future is safe in skilled hands
In a mere three years, the MTF Academy’s alumni have collectively produced 30 full-length films, 16 short films for broadcast, and eight public service announcements for the United Nation’s Verified #PledgetoPause and #OnlyTogether campaigns.
Many alumni are still rooted in producing local content. Ghanaian filmmaker and TV producer Godfred Dela Duvi, for example, is pulling the strings as a producer for one of Ghana’s most-loved shows Showbiz 360.
In Tanzania, alumni from the inaugural MTF Academy year, Wilson Nkya and Jane Moshi produced the 2021 Maisha Magic Movies film FRIDA, under their digital media production company – Four Creations Entertainment.
As time goes by, the MTF Academy alumni will be the fuel behind the continent’s ability to take Africa’s films to the world stage.
The alumni are young, vibrant and have sharp talent and expertise that will continue to sustain authentic African stories through video entertainment.