Tag Archives: EbonyLife

Abudu calls for more African talent in UK

Mo Abudu at Content London

The UK needs to do more when it comes to featuring African talent in local shows, according to the founder of Nigerian entertainment network EbonyLife and other panellists at C21Media’s Content London conference.

Mo Abudu, whose company recently agreed a development deal with commercial distributor BBC Studios, was speaking about the representation of African voices in TV nowadays.

“We’ve decided to have one office in the UK and one in the US to start looking at African stories set not specifically in Africa,” she said. “We are global citizens and we deserve to have our stories told, wherever we happen to be. I’m quite disappointed with the representation of Africans or even ethnic minorities on our screens in the UK – it’s very limited.”

Dorothy Ghettuba, manager of African series for global SVoD Netflix, was full of praise for her company’s investment in African content, saying it was essentially the only buyer to have taken local stories from Africa seriously.

“We are now seeing that stories can be told by anyone,” she said. “What’s more, they can even watch anywhere. Our talent in Africa doesn’t need to go to Hollywood now – we can nurture them at home and take them to an audience of over 200 million subscribers. We don’t want to be extractive – we want to nurture the whole industry.”

As far as nurturing the industry goes, Ghettuba said that outside investment would be all but useless, as scaling up a business in Africa is too difficult. Her suggestion was to find local partners.

“If you want to go to Zimbabwe or Ghana, find local partners,” she said. “There’s no other answer to how to break into local industries.”

Cecile Gerardin, meanwhile, head of drama at French distributor Canal+ International, felt even more could be done.

“It’s about finding local partners and helping them grow together,” she said. “Teamwork helps create a positive circle and when the quality comes up, so does the number of buyers.”

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EbonyLife studied at Harvard biz school

Mo Abudu with Harvard professors Andy Wu (left) and Feng Zhu

The growth of Nigerian broadcaster EbonyLife will be taught as a case study to over 1,000 MBA students at Harvard Business School (HBS) as part of curriculum classes that all first-year students must take.

According to EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu, this is the first time that a case study about an African female-led media company will be taught to MBA students at Harvard.

“I did not see this coming, but I’m giving God all the glory. Only he could have made this possible,” Abudu said. “This is the Harvard Business School – EbonyLife case study. It’s been about a year in the making, in partnership with Harvard Business School professors and their research department.

“EbonyLife turns 10 next year, so the case study reflects on how we started and where we are today. It also reflects on many of the challenges we have had along the way and the consequences of some of the decisions we took.

“It is such an honour for me to be on the Harvard Business School campus in Boston while this case study is being taught for the first time today. I get the opportunity to share the EbonyLife story with the students and faculty in person, and to answer their questions about our journey. My sincere thanks to the HBS staff and the EbonyLife team for making this possible.”

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EbonyLife starts production on Netflix film

Death & The King’s Horseman

Nigeria’s EbonyLife has begun production on Death & The King’s Horseman, a Netflix film that comes under EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu’s deal to develop original titles for the US-based streamer.

The feature is an adaptation of a play by Professor Wole Soyinka, which is based on a real incident that took place in Nigeria during the colonial era when the horseman of a Yoruba king was prevented from committing ritual suicide by the colonial authorities.

According to Abudu, one of the major challenges of the production has been finding locations that fit the 1940s setting. So far, scenes have been shot at the Muson Centre in Lagos and at the Lagos Colonial Secretariat.

“We are so excited to be making Death & The King’s Horseman,” Abudu said. “It’s been a lot of work bringing this particular project to life because it is a period piece set in Nigeria in the 1940s. I will be forever grateful to Professor Wole Soyinka for giving me the rights to this most important and treasured piece of literature. I cannot wait for the world to see this feature film – another Netflix exclusive.”

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EbonyLife, Will Packer tell Hushpuppi story

Nigeria’s EbonyLife Studios and US-based Will Packer Productions have won the rights to a Bloomberg article about a Nigerian internet scammer and are developing it into a movie with Universal Pictures.

Mo Abudu

Evan Ratliff’s article The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master is an exposé of Nigerian Instagram influencer Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi. He is alleged to have perfected a simple internet scam that allowed him to launder millions of dollars, which eventually led to a criminal case being filed against him in a California federal court.

EbonyLife Studios CEO Mo Abudu announced the news on Instagram, revealing that the project has been set up at Hollywood-based Universal Pictures.

“When the Hushpuppi story made headlines last year, I pitched the story idea to Will Packer and [production partner] James Lopez. They bought the idea and together we won the rights to the Bloomberg article,” she said.

“The rights were won after a highly contested derby by several producers. It’s a dream come true to be working with Will Packer Productions and Universal Pictures on this project.”

The film has been described as a hybrid of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 pseudo-biographical crime film Catch Me If You Can and Bryan Singer’s 1995 neo-noir mystery thriller film The Usual Suspects.

Outlining why she believe stories like this need to be told, Abudu said: “Firstly, there are many lessons to be learnt from good and bad stories. Secondly, if we do not tell this story, someone else will, and to ensure that this story is told with authenticity, a Nigerian storyteller with our pedigree needs to be involved.

“Too often, these types of characters are one-dimensional and feed into the worst stereotypes.

 Hushpuppi’s story is based on a real person whose story is already partly known to the world, but the film gives us a real chance to tell a cautionary tale about a character formed by his environment and life choices.”

“The films of Martin Scorsese are a great example of a filmmaker telling richly layered stories of criminal characters from his heritage that we’ve all grown to love, without ever creating the impression that all Italian Americans are members of the mafia. Needless to say, not all Nigerians are 419 scam artists.”

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First EbonyLife Academy students graduate

Mo Abudu (back row, fifth from right) with the graduates

The EbonyLife Creative Academy, which was recently launched in partnership with the Lagos State Government and Lagos State Creative Industries Initiative through Nigeria’s Ministry of Tourism, Art & Culture, has graduated its first intake of students.

Over 120 students completed eight courses over 12 weeks in courses such as the Art of Screenwriting, Producing for Success, The Director’s Toolkit, Acting for Screen, Cinematography & Lighting, Art Direction for Film & TV, Audio Essentials for Film & TV, and Visual Post Production.

The courses have been designed by local and foreign industry experts to help working film professionals improve their skills and to equip beginners with the skills they need to launch their careers.

EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu said on Instagram: “It is with loads of excitement that we announce the graduation of the first intake of students at the EbonyLife Creative Academy on the completion of their 12-week courses. All of their courses were free of charge, courtesy of funding by Lagos State Government… I am excited about what the future holds for our bright creatives.”

Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, Nigeria’s Commissioner for Tourism, Arts & Culture, added: “I am so proud of this first batch of young filmmakers, who have spent the last three months honing their skills. They are well on their way to becoming the highly skilled technical and creative filmmakers that we need to help us to drive the creative economy forward.”

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EbonyLife to close VoD service

Nigerian broadcaster EbonyLife is set to shut down video-on-demand service EbonyLife ON this weekend.

An email sent to its subscribers reads: “It has been our pleasure to provide a platform to share high-quality series and movies through our global video-on-demand digital service, EbonyLife ON.

“As we wind down the year, we plan to discontinue our EbonyLife ON service effective November 30, 2020. As a result, we will cancel your subscription account online and via the mobile app.

“Since 2014, our subscribers have watched gripping series, riveting Nollywood movies, unique documentaries, and more. Thank you for subscribing to EbonyLife ON; we hope you have enjoyed your viewing experience.”

EbonyLife ON launched in July 2018 in Lagos, featuring a broad range of content across drama, reality and factual programming.

Its titles include glossy dramas like The Governor, which chronicles the struggles of the first female governor in Nigeria; Fifty, a series adaptation of the 2015 hit movie that follows four women in their 50s in Lagos; and Sons of the Caliphate, a drama about feuding between powerful political families in northern Nigeria.

In addition, viewers could see African celebrities on the red carpet with VVIP Events; the latest celebrity buzz with EL Now; inspirational stories of Africans achieving success in all walks of life in Hello Africa; and Moments Z, a talkshow for millennials.

Earlier this year, EbonyLife ON’s availability was extended across Africa, with EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu announcing she would take her channel off pay platform DStv from July 31 to focus the VoD service.

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Chief Daddy 2 set for Netflix

Chief Daddy was released in 2018

Netflix has ordered a sequel to 2018 Nollywood comedy film Chief Daddy, made by Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Films.

Chief Daddy 2 will follow on from Chief Daddy, which was directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, written by Bode Asiyanbi and produced by Abudu and Temidayo Abudu.

The first film followed the drama among a billionaire industrialist’s family and staff after his sudden death. It starred popular Nollywood actors including Funke Akindele Bello, Kate Henshaw, Nkem Owoh, Joke Silva, Patience Ozokwor, Richard Mofe Damijo and Racheal Oniga.

Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Films parent EbonyLife Media, announced the sequel on her instagram page, writing: “I am pleased to announce that EbonyLife Films, the creators and producers of Chief Daddy in partnership with Netflix will be bringing you Chief Daddy 2. It’s exclusive to Netflix globally and will be coming to you in 2021.

“Remember our star-studded cast, they are all super excited about bringing you the sequel.”

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Netflix, Abudu link for Nigerian originals

Nigerian producer Mo Abudu has signed a deal with Netflix that will see her develop original titles for the streaming giant.

Mo Abudu

Under the partnership, Abudu and her EbonyLife prodco will create two Netflix original series and multiple Netflix-branded films.

The deal will also result in screen adaptations of literary works by Nigerian authors Lola Shoneyin and Wole Soyinka. Shoneyin’s bestselling debut novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives will be adapted as a series, while Soyinka’s Death & the King’s Horseman will be made into a film.

Further details of the other projects have yet to be revealed.

Abudu said: “As a Nigerian storyteller, my biggest motivator has always been to tell authentic and untold stories that resonate with every person, regardless of where they’re from in the world, while showcasing our culture, heritage and creativity.

“This unprecedented partnership is testament to Netflix’s investment in African storytelling, and we at EbonyLife are grateful and excited about the opportunity to work together with Netflix to deliver a slate of unique and riveting stories from Nigeria over the next few years for Netflix audiences around the world.”

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Netflix picks up Nigerian legal drama

Global streamer Netflix has added EbonyLife’s legal drama Castle & Castle to its line-up of Nollywood content.

Directed by Tope Oshin, Niyi Akinmolayan and Kenneth Gyang, the series follows a happy couple, Remi (Dakore Egbuson-Akande) and Tega (Richard Mofe-Damijo), who run a successful legal firm in Lagos.

Business and marriage often clash when the couple are on opposite sides of the law. Remi prefers to work with affluent clients while Tega is zealous about pro bono cases that impact society.

The show stars Dakore Egbuson-Akande, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Eku Edewor, Deyemi Okanlawon, Etim Effiong, Dorcas Shola Fapson and media personality Denola Grey.

The show is one of EbonyLife films’ TV Afropolitan projects which reflect African issues, contemporary African life and African drama generally. It will be available on Netflix from Friday February 14.

The news comes after Netflix licensed EbonyLife female-led drama Fifty, about four women who are approaching 50 years of age, as well as previous acquisitions of Crazy, Lovely, Cool and Sons of the Caliphate.

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