Journalism in the service of society

Mission to Luanda… Masterclasses in Storytelling, and Film Pitching

(Being text of an interview in the Luanda-based newspaper, EXPANSO, granted while Odugbemi was in Angola for a two-day Masterclasses — “Visual Filmmaking: Enhancing Storytelling with Imagery” (August 24) and “Crafting a Compelling Film Pitch” (August 25), courtesy Multichoice Talent Factory, MTF. Originally published in Portuguese, it has been translated to English by Estefania Sousa, Corporate Affairs Lead for Multichoice Angola):

3eeb00e0 9c48 40c8 9eed 131d17d7a8ad

‘While economic crises can be challenging, they can also prompt governments, businesses, and individuals to seek new opportunities, diversify their economies, and innovate. Economic crises often highlight the risks of over-reliance on a single sector. That is why emerging sectors like technology and the creative industries offer vital opportunities for new streams of income into national economies across the continent.  

FEMI ODUGBEMI: “Can investing in films diversify an investment portfolio?”

YOU are in Angola to facilitate Filmmaking MasterClasses. What will Angolans learn?

 I am excited to facilitate two different Masterclass sessions for the Multichoice Talent Factory in Southern Africa. The first is  on Visual storytelling and the use of imagery, symbolism and subliminal messaging to enhance our narratives. The second Masterclass is really a clinic on Film project Pitching. We will explore how visual imagery in cinema can have the power to create atmosphere, establish character dynamics, and communicate subtext. Through the visual language filmmakers can shape the audience’s perception, heighten tension, convey themes, and ultimately enrich the overall cinematic experience. Our storytelling can be more effective and efficient when we deploy the cinematic principles we will be discussing. And in the pitching clinic we will workshop how to market our best ideas for film financing in the most concise and strategic presentations. 

Could you share how your journey began into the realm of cinema? What inspired you to choose film?

I grew up in the 70s watching a lot of films in the inner city neighborhood cinemas of Lagos. And through films I learned about the world and escaped into spaces of imagination that made me want to tell stories on film. I attended film school at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana in the Jnited States. I returned to Nigeria 30 years ago and I have been making film and television in Nigeria and across Africa since. 

Do you still remember the first story you told through the lens of a camera?

Oh absolutely! It was a short film called ‘Bar Beach Blues!’ It was something of a political satire, with just about 7 characters in one sprawling location of the Atlantic Ocean beachfront in Lagos. I tried to do much with a narrative that had so many subtexts, I still laugh now when I remember it. It was quite a thrill and a great learning experience too.  

What does it feel like to be able to tell stories with images, when in the past african storytelling was primarily oral?

The great storytelling superpower of film is the visual exposition it conveys. A picture, they say,  is worth a thousand words. Telling a story in images is immersive, engaging of the senses, and experiencial. We are also able to say more when we show the world of our characters rather than describing them. Cinema makes our stories larger than life when we take advantage of its capacities for visual exposition and the subtleties of imagery, symbolisms, subliminality and the narrative layers possible in mis-en-scene of a framed image. 

In your opinion, why should a financial investor invest in a film project? Is it not a big risk? 

Well, Investing in films can offer several potential benefits and opportunities, although film  investments carry risks. Successful films can generate substantial profits through box office revenue, streaming rights, distribution deals, and international sales. A well-received film can provide a high return on investment. And Film investment can be part of a diversified portfolio, providing an alternative asset class that isn’t directly correlated with traditional financial markets. For me though the best investors in film are people with a  Passion for Creativity – Investors who are passionate about storytelling, filmmaking, and creative arts, especially when they choose to support projects that resonate with their interests. The cultural impact of films is the biggest motivation for investors, governments, filmmakers and audiences. Films have the power to influence culture, raise awareness about important issues, and contribute to societal transformation. It is about preserving our stories and advancing our cultural identity in the global space. Film is simply a vital cultural practice especially in these post-colonial times. 

Femi Odugbemi 1

As a former Academy director at the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, how does it feel to engage with individuals whose passion for cinema aligns with your own?

I cherish every opportunity to engage with storytellers and filmmakers and I am very excited to come to Angola again and meet emerging filmmakers, industry colleagues and old friends. For anyone like me who share a passion for cinema, interacting with like-minded professionals can be very fulfilling and enjoyable. Sharing insights, discussing favorite films, exploring cinematic trends, and exchanging creative ideas can create a sense of connection and camaraderie that enriches one in a special way.

Could you provide insights into the progress of some of the MTF alumni, considering your role as one of the pioneer Academy Directors?

We are all very proud of the professional progress and quality of work being done by many alumni of the Multichoice Talent Factory across the continent. In West Africa, several of them are building production companies that are not only creating great scripts and films, they are impacting the industry economically by providing jobs and support structures for the industry. Albantsho is a critical acclaimed script marketing digital platform created by alumni’s of the Talent Factory in Nigeria and Ghana. A production management app offering locations, cast and crew options was also launched by a different group of alumni’s as well. The same is happening in East Africa and Southern Africa regions as well. So the results of the massive investment of Multichoice to build and equip Africa’s next generation of storytellers is already bringing dividends and we all should indeed be excited for the  future of African cinema. 

What is the current contribution of the Nollywood film industry to Nigeria’s GDP?

As of September 2021, Nollywood was estimated to contribute 3-5% to Nigeria’s GDP, although specific figures can vary based on different sources and methodologies. Regardless of current data, what is clear is the capacity to expand that growth and to fertilize it for stronger capacities in terms of youth employment, audience expansion in distribution, international sales of products and development of taxable infrastructure. The entertainment sector in Nigeria is upwardly mobile in economic activities and the forecast of income contribution to Nigeria’s economy is bold. 

******

‘The great storytelling superpower of film is the visual exposition it conveys. A picture, they say,  is worth a thousand words. Telling a story in images is immersive, engaging of the senses, and experiencial. We are also able to say more when we show the world of our characters rather than describing them. Cinema makes our stories larger than life when we take advantage of its capacities for visual exposition and the subtleties of imagery, symbolisms, subliminality and the narrative layers possible in mis-en-scene of a framed image’

‘…countries like Angola must focus on establishing comprehensive film policies, investing in education and training, fostering public-private partnerships, and creating an enabling environment for filmmakers and artists. Building networks and collaborations within the local and international film communities can enhance knowledge sharing, co-production opportunities, and cross-cultural exchanges. Angola has incredibly talented creative artists and with the right support they can have a better chance to develop and thrive.

******

DRAWING from your experience, what steps should Angola take to cultivate its film industry’s development and substantial contribution to the Angolan GDP, akin to Nigeria, establishing a market capable of generating employment and fostering economic growth?

I think the huge potential and economic prosperity of the film and entertainment industry across Africa remain challenged by many of the same problems that I am sure exist in Angola. Some of these challenges include the lack of proper film production infrastructure, including studios, equipment, and post-production facilities, which limits the quality and scale of our productions. Limited access to funding and investment for film projects also restricts the ability to produce high-quality content and explore our best creative ideas. Along with that is the absence of comprehensive film education and training programs which results in a shortage of skilled professionals. Of course most countries in our continent also suffer insufficient distribution networks and limited cinema screens which makes it difficult to reach a wide audience and generate revenue from film releases. There are many other issues like piracy, poor technology, and difficult regulatory policies that need to be addressed so that our economies can benefit from our creative industries better and African filmmakers can be better positioned to succeed globally. To address these challenges, countries like Angola must focus on establishing comprehensive film policies, investing in education and training, fostering public-private partnerships, and creating an enabling environment for filmmakers and artists. Building networks and collaborations within the local and international film communities can enhance knowledge sharing, co-production opportunities, and cross-cultural exchanges. Angola has incredibly talented creative artists and with the right support, they can have a better chance to develop and thrive.

To what extent can an economic crisis serve as an enabler for the growth of sectors beyond commodities, such as oil, for instance?

An economic crisis can indeed serve as an enabler for the growth of sectors beyond commodities, including those beyond oil. While economic crises can be challenging, they can also prompt governments, businesses, and individuals to seek new opportunities, diversify their economies, and innovate. Economic crises often highlight the risks of over-reliance on a single sector. That is why emerging sectors like technology and the creative industries offer vital opportunities for new streams of income into national economies across the continent.  Of course, while an economic crisis can stimulate growth in non-commodity sectors, success depends on a combination of factors, including effective policies, investment, innovation, and adaptability. Sustaining growth beyond the crisis requires long-term planning and a commitment to fostering diverse and resilient economies.

Are there still numerous narratives about Africa and its populace that remain untold?

Absolutely. While progress has been made in highlighting a broader range of African stories, there is still much to explore and share. Many stories from different regions and communities within Africa have yet to receive attention. Each country and culture has its own unique stories that deserve to be told. There are many Untold historical stories, both pre-colonial and post-colonial, that offer insights into Africa’s rich history and the experiences of its people. And there are contemporary realities of modern-day life, challenges, and triumphs within African societies that often remain unseen, reflecting urbanization, technology adoption, social issues, and cultural evolution. Efforts are ongoing to amplify these untold narratives through film, literature, art, journalism, and various forms of media. It’s essential to ensure diverse perspectives are represented to create a more accurate and holistic portrayal of Africa and its people.

Regarding the awards you have received in your career, what do they mean to you?

I appreciate every professional recognition that I have been blessed to receive. And I view them as incentives to sustain the passion that drives my work. I do my best always to use such recognitions only as fuel to double my commitment to excellence in all I do. It is much easier to get to the top than to stay at the top. Each recognition one receives must become a renewal of your passion to work harder. 

Poster 2

155d97c0 7788 4d87 81b4 b7622a303385 1

Comments are closed.

Naija Times