Major networks are “beginning to see the light” by commissioning entertaining content from Africa, according to EbonyLife Founder Mo Abudu, as the heads of production houses in some of the world’s biggest growing content markets spotlighted the challenge of attracting new talent.
Abudu, whose pioneering outfit has tied with Netflix, Sony, AMC and BBC Studios in recent years, said the media world is “understanding that the numbers add up” when they consider there are 1BN people living in the continent and millions more outside who “want content that speaks to them.”
“This isn’t an NGO agenda but our stories can be entertaining,” she added, speaking on a Series Mania panel. “We have pitched and pitched over the last few years and studios are beginning to see the light. We’re getting the power and that’s why we need to tell great stories.”
Abudu cited upcoming Netflix feature Oloture about an undercover Nigerian journalist along with Starz’ Queen Nzinga period drama, which is being exec produced by 50 Cent.
“Gems can be found everywhere,” she added. “For too long the only African story was the story of the slave trade but there’s so much more and we have vast stories of today and the future.”
Along with France’s Newen Studios MD Romain Bessi and Studio Dragon CEO Kim Young kyu, Abudu spotlighted the challenge of attracting a flood of new talent to the growing local industry.
“Black writers and showrunners have not had the opportunity to be in the room at the highest level so the gatekeepers need to let the next generation in,” she explained. “Black actors have been frustrated because there’s not been enough work so finding them is not a problem but with writers we’ll have to start with a new batch and they are beginning to show promise.”
EbonyLife has launched a local free training initiative, which Abudu “tried to sell to every single governor of Lagos over the last eight years,” and has kickstarted an incubator program in the UK for Black creatives.
One of the Lagos alumni has already landed a role in a Netflix show, added Abudu.
Studio Dragon’s Kim, whose scripted outfit has a lucrative deal to produce content for Netflix, said talent relationships when so many shows are being produced are difficult to manage.
“We have in house creators and employees but then also freelance writers and service providers,” he added. “This way of working was quite simple and easy in the past but is now more complicated. We spend a lot of time on each project and have to find the right person at the right time to work on a specific project.”
CJ E&M subsidiary Studio Dragon works with more than 200 creators and has made dozens of shows for Netflix, which owns 4.99% of its shares.
Backing up comments made yesterday by Banijay ,Fremantle, ITV Studios and Asacha bosses, Newen’s Bessi, who recently succeeded Bibiane Godfroid, said the scrap for the best European talent is creating headaches.
“Platforms want A-list talent but we only have so much in a given country,” he said. “We need access to the next generation of writers, directors and actors.”
To mitigate the problem, Newen takes a “Schengen approach” to talent and content ideas, exchanging plans between its different labels and providing deficit financing and development funding, he added.
The group’s Eva Green-starring Liaison is about to become the first French language AppleTV+ show to launch.
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