The founder and CEO of African broadcaster EbonyLife Media believes the continent remains an untapped opportunity for producers as well as those looking to sell programming to networks and platforms there.
Mo Abudu told delegates at her International Drama Summit keynote in London this week that US and European studios should work more closely with African writers, producers and directors to help programming become more authentic.
Her firm’s network, EbonyLife TV, which launched in 2013 and produces more than 1,000 hours of original programming each year, struck a deal with Sony Pictures Television earlier this year that will see the pair co-develop three scripted projects. Abudu said such partnerships would allow a “transfer of knowledge” and could help programming travel further.
“Can we tell these stories to a global audience? No, we cannot. But do we need to be a part of the process? Yes, we do,” she said.
“We need to be in the room. Audiences everywhere can detect very quickly if a story isn’t authentic and we’ve had our stories told by others looking in many time.”
Abudu added that now is the time for Africans to tell their own stories.
Ebonylife Media Group was born from the desire to fill the gaps in the market, she said. “My big dream was and still is to change the narrative about my continent.”
Linear lifestyle and entertainment channel EbonyLife TV was intended to offer something fresh and different, she explained. EbonyLife Films was set up in 2014 and has now produced two of the highest grossing Nollywood films of all time.
Global VoD service EbonyLife ON launched this year and EbonyLife Productions was established recently in the UK, to be followed eventually by EbonyLife Studios.
Abudu claimed that for stories to be told in an authentic way there had to be a partnership between creative and business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
“As a continent, Africa has remained creatively silent for centuries. Our stories were seldom told outside of our fami-lies and villages and often from the perspective of ‘someone’ looking in,” she said.
“These stories need to be told with authenticity and also produced to the best international standard – which can really only be done in partnership with those that understand how to get the best out of truly great stories. Nobody does it better than Hollywood for the gloss and Europe for the grit.
“But these stories cannot be told effectively without our input. If these stories are told from both perspectives there is a captive audience on both sides of the Atlantic waiting to be entertained as never before.”
Abudu’s first series, The Dahomey Warriors, is in development, while EbonyLife’s new Afro genres – Afro-history, Afro-futurism, Nigeria 2099, Afropolitan and Afro-modern and Afro-impact – are currently being worked on.
She added: “As storytellers, it’s important to remember that our emotions are not limited by language or where we come from. I think we have a responsibility to remove barriers.
“Most important of all, let us connect the world with our sto-ries. We believe that we are in a unique position to partner with those looking for fresh, authentic and original stories to take to a global audience.
“As you develop your slates, we simply ask that you consider a slate within your slate that tells our stories.”