Tag Archives: Basement Animation

Word from the Basement

Nigerian animator Mbuotidem Johnson, CEO of Basement Animation, tells Content Nigeria about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on production, his company and the sector at large.

Mbuotidem Johnson

What do you think about the spread of Covid-19 and its effect on the economy?
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives and even how we do business. No one knows how long this will last. Many businesses have been forced to adapt to the situation and revamp their models and those that have not been able to quickly find and implement new models that work are going out of business. This has brought about massive lay-offs, unemployment and uncertainty all over the world.

Businesses in the media and entertainment industry are not left out as content distribution has been affected. For example, there are movies that ought to have been released in the cinemas in this period. However, the choice has to be made between releasing their movies now and not meet their targets as cinemas are shut down or have their release dates pushed later when they will have to compete with even more movies for the consumer’s money. So it’s not exactly a win-win situation.

Most productions have been temporarily shut down but you have kept production going at Basement. How did you do this?
We are able to work remotely because before the lockdown started all members of the production team were provided with the equipment they need to work from home. We also provide data allowances so that we can send all of the large files we need to send during the course of our work.

Meetings are being held on WhatsApp groups and video calls. The system is not perfect, yet as the unpredictability of power supply is an issue that affects our working hours. It’s a work in progress and we are facing the challenges as they come.

Are you working on any animated series at the moment?
Since late last year we joined the production team of one of the most popular kids animated series from Africa: Bino & Fino [from EVCL]. Depending on our responsibilities we will be on this project for the next few months. We are also in the development phase of our own IP: Adefellas. We hope to start the production phase soon.

Bino & Fino is aimed at two- to six-year-olds

How do you intend handling any unforeseen challenges you may encounter while working remotely?
The greatest challenge would be if any of us contracted the virus. That’s one of the reasons we encouraged everyone to start working from home before the lockdown directive was given. Other than that, we are still facing the same challenges we were faced with before the lockdown: reliable internet access and epileptic power supply. And because everyone has their unique challenges, we communicate regularly with everyone to know what challenges they may be facing and help figure out a way out of these challenges.

Do you think other animation production houses will follow suit? How can they manage what is going on without it affecting their productions?
I am in touch with a number of animation studios and many of them are still functioning. We all have the same issues about power supply and reliable internet access. Eventually everyone will decide what works best for them.

Looking forward, do you intend changing how you operate in the post-Covid-19 landscape?
I don’t think it will be back to business as usual after the lockdown. People will still be wary of crowded places for some time after it is called off.

For us at Basement Animation, we have been able to build a system where people can work remotely and we intend to continue working remotely for some time after the lockdown is called off until we are sure everywhere is safe, so as to protect the health of our staff. We are also growing our team so this will be an opportunity to work with talent from other states who will not have to relocate to Lagos to work with us.

What lessons do you think Nigerians can learn from this crisis, particularly in the Nollywood and animation industries?
We really cannot predict when these types of things will happen even though we have to make plans for them. We have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. For the Nollywood and animation industries, many of us in these industries only get paid when there’s a production going on and now that production has stopped, everyone has to rely on whatever savings they had before.

Perhaps we need to try a different approach to content production and distribution such that the content we create will have a longer life and consumption of these content is maximised. This could ensure that stakeholders continue to get some payment from their past works over the course of the life of the content.

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African prodcos reveal animated projects

African animation prodcos Triggerfish, Basement Animation and Arobase Studio have unveiled a series of new projects on the opening day of MipJunior in Cannes.

Adefellas is from Nigerian studio Basement Animation

South African studio Triggerfish has eight new projects in the works – four feature films and four TV series. The company is working to secure partnerships and greenlight its upcoming series.

The South African prodco also creates animated content for the gaming market, and producer Vanessa Ann Sinden revealed that the firm channels its profits from this to help fund upcoming TV and feature-length projects.

Additionally, Triggerfish will be establishing a Director’s Lab initiative in the coming year in order to train local talent and foster new directors of animated content. Sinden mentioned the Lab will focus on bringing through black, female talent in order to address issues of diversity. Triggerfish previously set up a Story Lab and Writers Lab.

Nigerian animation studio Basement Animation presented two new original projects, Adefellas and Tech Timi Out, both 26×11’. The new series are aimed at six- to 11-year-olds and keep Nigeria and Nigerian issues at the core of the stories.

The company’s creative director and producer, Mbuotidem Johnson, said the two projects are currently in development and are seeking to secure copro partnerships and distribution deals.

Meanwhile, the Ivorian animation studio Arobase Studio revealed that a second season of TV5 Monde-backed series Kassa the Messenger is currently in production.

The French-language series follows a grandfather and grandson duo as they learn about local culture as they explore the country with their pet dog.

On top of that, two additional series are also in development and seeking production partnerships and distribution. The series are The Queen and The Successor, and Tamia the Explorer.

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Nigerian firms set out for Mipcom 2019

Entertainment content market Mipcom takes place next week from October 14 to 17 in Cannes, France, with this year’s theme being The Streaming Offensive.

The event will aim to reflect the changes in global distribution networks, their impact on content production and licensing, and the global response to the direct-to-consumer challenge.

Nigerian companies at the event will include Basement Animation, Multi Mesh Broadcasting Company, Asake Productions, Kaftan TV, International Development Initiative in Africa and a host of others.

Mipcom brings together influential TV and digital content executives and this year will present a production funding forum where producers and financiers can meet and bring premium content projects to life. It will also see the launch of new streaming platforms by legacy players, including SVoD and AVoD, plus creative exchanges, networking, screenings and talks.

The preceding MipJunior event, on October 12 and 13, will host major animation producers from South Africa, Nigeria and Ivory Coast as they present their development slates ripe for international collaboration.

Simon Adae, CEO of Arobase Studio, Mbuotidem Johnson, CEO of Basement Animation and Vanessa Ann Sinden, producer at Triggerfish Animation, will provide a 30-minute showcase to reveal their projects and discuss possible business opportunities.

On his Instagram page, Mbuotidem said: “It’s an honour to be invited by [event organiser] Reed Midem this year to speak at MipJunior – another great opportunity to share, network and make Nigeria proud. We are changing the narrative of the Nigerian animation industry. I sense a strong wave coming in 2020.”

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Animation goes DownTown

DownTown Lagos follows two friends who struggle to make it in the city

Nigerian animator Mbuotidem Johnson, CEO of Basement Animation, tells Content Nigeria about his new series DownTown Lagos, why he created it and the challenges he faced during production.

Mbuotidem Johnson

What inspired you to create DownTown Lagos?
At Basement Animation, we believe in responsible business practices. DownTown Lagos was created because we felt the need to use animation to address relevant social issues. This way, when we capture our viewers’ attention, we can pass across relevant, relatable information that addresses the current issue, albeit with a humorous tone.

What message is the show passing across to its audience?
DownTown Lagos is the story of two friends, Olajide Dollar and Chike Chicago, who despite their daily struggles are determined to ‘make it’ in Lagos after relocating to the city. Each episode will use animation and comedy to illustrate how they constantly come up with new and, more often than not, silly schemes to make money and become successful in the city. The show also touches on real issues affecting their community and Nigeria.

What challenges did you face during production?
The main challenge was a lack of constant power supply during the production process as the production of animated content requires constant power. Also, in the course of producing DownTown Lagos, we were transitioning to a new animation software to meet up with market and innovation demands. Finally, Basement Animation is a relatively small team, therefore we did not have a dedicated team focused solely on the project, and as such, a few of our projects had to be put on hold to enable us finish DownTown Lagos.

What shows do you have in the pipeline?
Our other upcoming animated content includes Tech Timi Out, Raga Shaga Mama and Adefellas. These are all currently in production. Basement Animation is one of the fastest growing animation studios in Lagos and is focused on producing qualitative kids, teen and family entertainment content.

DownTown Lagos aims to offer comedy with a message

In 2017, Basement Animation was mentioned as one of the top five Nigerian animation studios by Discop. That same year we had the opportunity to produce a TV commercial for Fupitoons Festival that was broadcast on Cartoon Network Africa.

In 2018, we coproduced the pilot episode of l’Arbre à Palimpseste, which won the Gulli Prize in Animation du Monde/MIFA pitch at the Annecy Animation Film Festival and was subsequently pre-bought by Gulli, the Lagardère-owned kids’ network. Basement Animation and two other African animation studios will kick off production in the third quarter of this year.

The pilot episode of DownTown Lagos, titled Do As I Say, was released just in time for the recently concluded election cycle in Nigeria. The episode encourages everyone to become more proactive as regards every aspect of nation-building, politically and service wise. It is not enough to be newspaper analysts or social media activists or everyday mourners of bad leadership. Our actions must follow our words and we must do as we say.

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Nigerian TV firms bound for Discop

A number of Nigerian television companies are set to attend the Discop event scheduled to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa next month.

Crey Ahanonu

Discop Johannesburg runs between November 14 and 16 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. It will include several events that will bring innovative ideas, fresh talent and industry experts together.

There will be over 1,500 participants including 1,000-plus acquisition, production and distribution executives from 70 countries, according to Discop organiser Basic Lead.

Also in attendance will be about 250 producers of film, television and digital content, adaptation rights and packaged TV channels, including international, regional and local suppliers. There will be a wide display of movies, TV series, documentaries, animated content and dramas by these firms.

Nigerian firms at the event will include Lagos-based Basement Animation, Screen Academy & Films, Black Studios, Dope7 Media and Shutterspeed Projects.

Crey Ahanonu, CEO of Screen Academy & Films (aka SAF Productions), said: “We stand to gain a lot at this event. It will give us the opportunity to meet with content buyers and discuss filmmaking and online TV. We hope to promote our online TV service, MySafTV.”

This Enugu-based company creates an avenue to teach and empower the young and old who wish to be in the movie industry through its film academy. The company also engages in video production, films, TV shows, commercials and documentaries.

Discop Johannesburg will allow for networking opportunities between content buyers, sellers and producers, screenings of upcoming TV, web shows and movies and also sessions for discussion on topics related to innovation, coproduction relations and pitching competitions.

The conference agenda for the event includes a panel on Nigeria’s animation, comic books and video gaming industry on November 16.

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Animators speak out at NITV

Somto Ajuluchukwu, Ayodele Elegba and Kola Olarewaju at the animation roundtable

Animation is an often-neglected part of Nigeria’s media industry but this is beginning to change, delegates at Nigeria International Television (NITV) Summit heard.

In a roundtable discussion at the Wednesday event, studio heads and animators discussed the uniqueness of the animation industry as well as the challenges.

Mbuotidem Johnson

Speakers included Mbuotidem Johnson, CEO of Basement Animation; Ayodele Elegba, CEO of Spoof Animation; Kola Olarewaju, CEO at Komotion Studios; and Niyi Akinmolayan, CEO of Anthill Studios. The session was moderated by Somto Ajuluchukwu, MD of C3 African Network.

Highlighting the challenges facing the industry, panelists agreed that one of the major issues is electrical power, saying that the use of high-powered computers and other technology necessitates constant light, which is costly in Nigeria.

According to Akinmolayan, talent is also difficult to come by because there are no training schools in Nigeria, so it falls on the animation studios to train animators, which is a long and costly process.

“Finding the right person to do your job is not easy because there are no qualified people and no training schools. Therefore, that responsibility lies on us, so we train and do the job simultaneously because that is the best tactic,” he said.

Agreeing with this, Johnson, who is also the founder of trade body Animation Nigeria, said: “I came from a background of 3D animation but as I considered my options, I switched to 2D. With 2D I can finish a project and train faster. Within a month a trained person can execute 2D renderings well enough, but 3D takes about five to six months of training and you’ve hardly begun.

“Finding investors is also one of the hardest thing to do. So to stay in this industry you have to do things in unusual ways.”

For Akinmolayan, director of The Wedding Party, the right approach to sustaining an animation studio is to get other jobs to keep the cash flowing.

“Do something on the side. I make money as a film director. If you call me to do wedding videos, I will do it. Anything to keep the money flowing in, because animation is a long-term investment and I’m not giving up.”

Olarewaju highlighted the issue of religion and animation. “When we did [short film] Sango, many people said it was fetish. They liked it but would badmouth it because of their religion. They do not see it as a work of art but as something fetish, which is mostly how Nigerians react to something out of the norm,” he said.

“The audience demand in the international market and here in Nigeria varies. Animation in the international market is often created for younger audiences, for under-nines, or nine- to 13-year-olds. However, here it appeals more to adults, so to break the market in Nigeria we are often forced to create content for adults, which is kind of restricting,” said Johnson.

Elegba, also founder of Lagos Comic Con (LCC), advised on the right strategy for getting investors. “If you are only thinking of how good your content is, you will run down,” he said. “You have to think of the business side – think distribution, coproduction, and more.”

LCC, of which Content Nigeria is a media partner, takes place at the Landmark Centre, VI, Lagos on September 15.

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