There is extraordinarily little doubt, even among the most demanding assessors, that the African film industry has grown. However, while its contributions to the economies of individual countries were eye-catching enough to warrant recognition of its potential, the growth anticipated has not exactly materialised as it generates about US$5billion per annum as against a projected US$20billion.
Major hindrances to its growth, according to experts, are wide gaps in skill and education which speak to the possible inability of professionals to match the pace of technological advancement found in developed societies.
Noticing these gaps, MultiChoice – Africa’s leading video entertainment company, established the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF). Launched in May 2018 as part of MultiChoice’s ground-breaking Corporate Shared Value (CSV) initiative, the MTF was created to equip the next generation of television and film creators across Africa with the acumen to not only produce high-quality content, but also with the business education to support their craft.
The initiative, which is spread across Africa with Nigeria representing West Africa; Kenya, representing East Africa; and Zambia representing Southern Africa, is divided into three components: MTF Academy, MTF Masterclasses and the MTF Portal. Each component is intentionally created to impact different segments of the industry, from aspiring filmmakers to professionals, to ensure the even development of filmmakers in the African film industry.
From the onset, MultiChoice’s vision for the MTF has always been to deliver world-class film training to filmmakers. This vision fueled the collaborations with reputable institutions such as the Pan-Atlantic University (PAU), New York Film Academy (NYFA) Dolby, Henley Business School (HBS), Canon, and Jasco Broadcast Solutions, to enable students to gain a combination of both theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills.
The academy is designed for an intensive 1-year training in the business and art of filmmaking, and takes on 60 aspiring filmmakers (20 from each academy) each year at no cost to the students. Rather, MultiChoice pays each student a monthly stipend, provides accommodation for them, as well as networking opportunities both during and after their training.
At the MTF West Africa Academy in Lagos, 20 aspiring filmmakers from Ghana and Nigeria are selected from an entry pool of over 3,000 applicants through a rigorous interview process by a jury, comprising film and television experts. The academy has graduated three cohorts since inception, and is currently on the next set of students who will graduate by September.
The second component of the MTF programme, the MTF Masterclass, aims at up-skilling industry professionals and emerging creatives alike by offering exclusive access to practical, expert-led industry workshops across the continent. Since 2019, several MasterClasses have been organised in areas such as Directing, Cinematography, Sound Engineering, Scriptwriting, among others, in different states and regions across Africa – impacting over 2000 professionals across the continent.
The MTF Portal, which is the third component, is a pan-African digital marketplace for filmmakers designed to bring film talent and opportunities together on one place, and to make collaborations among African filmmakers easy. Today, over 40,000 people are registered as users of the portal, gaining access to networking and potential commissioning opportunities, free online masterclasses and regular updates on happenings in the industry.
Now in its fourth year, it is critical to ask, has the MTF been successful at what it set out to do, which is bridging the knowledge gap in the film industry through quality training on the art and business of filmmaking? There are reasons to believe that it has.
A survey conducted by MultiChoice to ascertain how the MTF academies are impacting the industry revealed that 92 percent of the inaugural class of 2019 are economically active. Some of the graduates get the opportunity to work on live sets of local TV productions, and now create original content that airs on local M-Net channels across the MultiChoice platforms – DStv, GOtv and Showmax.
Furthermore, two movies produced by the inaugural MTF Academy West Africa class – Life of Bim and DreamChaser – were nominated for the ‘Best MultiChoice Talent Factory’ award at the 2020 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA). Gilbert Bassey, a 26-year-old Nigerian who finished as the best graduating student for the Class of 2019 and won a scholarship to the renowned NYFA, has gone on to shoot films Ananze and The Zipman.
Also, Ghanaian filmmaker and TV producer Godfred Dela Duvi’s film Aku Kε Akuetteh, won first place at the European Film Festival 2021 in the Student Film Category. Dela, a product of the MTF programme, is currently a producer for one of Ghana’s most-loved shows, Showbiz 360, on TV3. There are many other examples of MTF graduates utilising the knowledge gained from the academy to positively impact the creative industry.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck while the Class of 2020 were in session; and to ensure the safety of the students, MultiChoice temporarily closed the academies across Africa. This pandemic, though sad, provided an opportunity for the students to practice what they had been taught as 20 of them each shot and edited three-minute films with their mobile phones.
The short films, dubbed: ‘Isolation Diaries’, portrayed their fears, hopes and the realities of living in COVID times and is hosted on the MTF portal – www.multichoicetalentfactory.com. This would mark the beginning of their contribution to shaping Africa’s narrative as in conjunction with their colleagues from East and Southern Africa, they went on to produce seven public service announcements (PSAs) for the United Nations’ Pause Campaign.
The PSAs were targeted at combating the COVID-19 misinformation that was rife in Africa, and utilised the power of humour and local slangs to effectively pass on the message. The PSAs are still airing to date.
As a brand born in Africa, MTF Africa Month is a big deal as it is dedicated to celebrating Africans and people of African descent all over the world. To commemorate the month, the Class of 2020 from the East, West and Southern Africa produced 16 short films celebrating the history and cultures of Africa. The series, aptly titled: ‘Colours of Africa‘, focused on connecting generations through storytelling, and aired on DStv, GOtv and Showmax. In an impact report carried out to assess how the Alumni of the MTF have fared over the years, it showed the following:
- Alumni collaborations that led to the set-up of 12 production companies.
- Produced over 250 content including series, movies, short films, documentaries, music videos, commercials, among others. Examples are Elenini, a 120-episode Yoruba drama series which aired on Africa Magic; documentaries like Sunset at Makoko, produced by Allen Onyige, and King of Highlife by Metong Minwon, among others.
- Pan-African collaboration with filmmakers through the MTF portal.
- Up-skilling of over 2000 film professionals across Africa through the MTF MasterClass
Through the MultiChoice Talent Factory, Africa’s creative industry has been ignited, and the ripple-effects will be felt for a very long time to come. For more information on the MultiChoice Talent Factory, visit www.multichoicetalentfactory.com