According to an ancient African proverb, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This proverb probably motivated the renowned novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, when she delivered her thought-provoking keynote speech at TED Talks in 2009 titled “The Danger of a Single Story.” Adichie had explained that the Single Story is when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative, and a one-dimensional perspective of something quite complex is presented, saying that, “People outside the continent often forget that Africa is a continent made up of 54 different countries, with over 1 billion people (15% of the world’s total population), thousands of different languages, and hundreds of different cultures. When people think of Africa, they think of violence, poverty, AIDS, uneducated people, helpless people, hopelessness, and corrupt governments”.
While the talent and doggedness of the African storytellers have yielded a steady stream of productions in movies, television shows, and other content genres, the African film and television industry still trails its foreign counterparts in inadequate technical skills, and lack of access to funding. Interestingly, Africa’s biggest film industry is enjoying global acceptance, recognition and patronage. Currently ranked third, behind America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood, the Nigeria’s Nollywood, is Africa’s biggest. Although it is leading the charge for a better African narrative, other African countries are not left behind; there are the likes of Uganda’s Ugawood, Ghana’s Kumawood, and Tanzania’s Swahiliwood.
Africa’s film industries, specifically, the Nollywood attained its robust stature due largely to the dogged dedication of many stakeholders and purveyors of film and television art in Nigeria. Without the investment of Africa’s foremost entertainment company and beloved storyteller, MultiChoice, it would have been impossible for the country to have achieved so much in the film industry, and broken some impressive records in film art
As Adichie rightly noted, the ‘single story’ of Africa is a very small fraction of the story, because the continent is replete with the same stories that you find everywhere else in the world, filled with vibrant culture and lively people. In those days, preserving and documenting history through storytelling was the exclusive job of bards and historians, as custodians of the continent’s cultural heritage. Presently, its best storytellers are the filmmakers, who create the motion pictures. In recognition of the need to play a critical role in developing future film talents that will be responsible for positively shaping Africa’s creative industries, Multichoice has invested heavily into grooming a new generation of filmmakers. These filmmakers will keep the art alive, and continue the task of spinning excellent, original African stories that portray African histories and cultures through the original lens of the African people, without falling in danger of the single story.
In May 2018, MultiChoice launched its flagship Creating Shared Value program, the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF), to develop and train young, emergent and passionate film talents through experiential filmmaking. Through this social investment, MultiChoice is developing TV and film talent, whilst simultaneously promoting the growth of local content in key markets. Operational across East, West, and Southern regions in Africa, the West African academy of the MTF, based in Lagos, comprises students from both Nigeria and Ghana – two of the most vibrant film industries in West Africa. The East African academy is based in Kenya, and comprises students from different countries in East Africa. The South African academy is based in Zambia, and comprises students from Southern African countries, excluding South Africa, which already has an academy that serves it.
The much-acclaimed MTF initiative aims at advancing Africa’s creative industries by boosting the quality of local content, as well, as creating a pipeline of great stories is the first, and perhaps, the only one of its kind on the continent. The MTF offers emerging and established filmmakers the opportunity to acquire theoretical knowledge, and hands-on experience in cinematography, film editing, audio production and storytelling, among others, through three touch points namely: the Academy, the Masterclass Series and the Portal. The academy is a structured program aimed at training sixty talented and passionate young people, across the three regions of Africa, annually. The academy runs on a one-year curriculum, and it is structured to thoroughly teach carefully selected people the art and business of filmmaking. The program is tuition free, and the students are, in addition, paid a monthly stipend of $400 and provided with accommodation. They also enjoy other benefits that accrue to the staff, including healthcare, feeding and transportation allowance.
The Master Class Series, a series of industry workshops, aimed at up skilling established film and TV professionals to improve the quality of local production and professionalism in the industry. The MTF also operates a Pan-African networking platform for the film industry, the MTF Portal, an online destination for information about the creative industry, including contacts and thought leadership. The MTF portal has over 15,000 film professionals engaging and synergizing on ideas and projects while building relevance through thought leadership.
MultiChoice also avails students its platforms to gain hands-on experience in a three-month immersion program, where the students intern on all of Multichoice’s original productions and external productions.
Considering the huge cost of this project, it is only normal to expect a commensurate Return on Investment (ROI). The direct return on investment (ROI) is the empowering of young people to change the world through the power of well told stories, and the indirect ROI is greater sense of pride, identity and confidence in being Nigerian.