Dami Solesi, CEO and creative director at Lagos-based Smids Animation Studios, talks to Content Nigeria about her participation in next month’s MipTV, the global industry event taking place from April 4 to 6 in Cannes, France.
You have been selected as a Producer to Watch at MipTV 2022. How does this impact you as an animator?
I am very excited to have been selected for the second time as a Producer to Watch in 2022. It’s a testament to the great work we are doing in the animation space, telling African stories to kids around the world, and to be recognised by a platform like MipTV is a big deal for us.
Can you tell us about your involvement in MipTV and your views about the event?
It will be my first time in Cannes and at MipTV. In 2020, I attended virtually because of the pandemic, so I’m excited to be there physically this year. I am also excited to attend all the events and, more importantly, have productive meetings with industry professionals. We have new shows that we will be taking to Cannes and we are excited for the possibilities and partnerships we will strike. MipTV is one of the largest content markets in the world so we are looking forward to doing business.
As an inspiring Nigerian animator impacting kids through your work, how has your journey been so far?
My journey in animation has been a great and challenging one. I started Smids Animation Studios 11 years ago, and it’s been great to watch the industry grow from nothing to what it is today. And we have only just started our journey and evolution as a company; we haven’t scratched the surface of what we have in store.
Can you tell us about your animated short film Onyà?
Onyà is an amazing animated short film about the journey of a little girl into a creative world as she battles a known foe. Onyà in the Igbo language means trap. This short film was directed by our art director Micheal Okoroagha and it premiered at the Rendacon festival on December 12 last year. It’s currently going through the festival round this year and once that’s done we will have an official YouTube release for it later this year.
Can you tell us about your other new projects?
We have three amazing new series currently in different stages of production. One is called Uyi and tells a story about a lovable but tricky tortoise and his friend, a curious and inquisitive bird. The show follows their many adventures as Uyi finds the best ways to outsmart everyone. The second is called Abi’s Mission while the third is called Makerbolts, which is about three friends who create fun and exciting adventures in an abandoned junkyard.
What challenges do you think the animation industry is facing today in Africa?
There are quite a number of challenges in Nigeria and Africa. One of the very first is talent; we still have a long way to go in terms of talent development in order to support the pipeline of projects coming through and to build a formidable animation industry. We need to think actively about our talent development strategy and plan years in advance. We are currently using the internship model but we look forward to a day when we have a proper education structure, like an animation diploma, that provides basic skills for graduates to be industry-ready. This is not far off and with the right partnerships this can happen.
There is also a lack of local funding to support animation, which is caused by a lack of understanding of the animation industry and how expensive animation is compared to live-action. Also the lack of coproduction treaties makes sourcing funds from foreign countries tricky. And lastly, there are all the challenges that come with running a business in Nigeria, such as power outages and security.
Should African animators do more in the coproduction sector?
Collaborations like these are crucial for us as creators. More African creators need to collaborate in order to do bigger production and increase reach. It is very important and we are looking forward to more collaborations in the future. We have a few in the works and we will share as soon as we can.
Smids Animation Studios was rated by the Ernst & Young Industry Report 2019 as being in the top two animation companies in Nigeria. Smids is also the first Nigerian animation studio to be selected as a finalist at the Animation du Monde at Annecy International Animation Film Festival.