A Sunday Affair, a new romance film produced by Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media, will debut on global streamer Netflix next month.
Written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey and directed by Walter Taylaur, the movie will become available on Valentine’s Day (February 14).
A Sunday Affair follows two female best friends who fall in love with a charming yet flawed eligible bachelor who is caught up in an unenviable dilemma. A love triangle ensues, with the women unaware they are dating the same man.
The cast includes Nse Ikpe Etim, Dakorea Egbuson, Alex Ekubo, Hilda Dokubo, Chris Iheuwa and Uzor Osimpkpa.
Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Media, said: “A Sunday Affair is an original idea that has been playing around in my head for nearly 10 years. It has been written and rewritten by several writers, each time adding a layer of richness to the story.
“It’s wonderful to see this film launch on Netflix on Valentine’s Day. This underscores how special this film is.”
Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media, has been appointed as an executive fellow at Harvard Business School (HBS) in the US.
The news comes months after the Lagos-based media company was selected as a case study at HBS and was taught to more than 1,000 MBA students as part of the required curriculum classes for all first-year students.
The school’s Executive Fellows Programme leverages the expertise of outstanding practitioners, including alumni, each of whom partners with HBS faculty members to bring their experience in business into the MBA programme and the school.
HBS executive fellows comprise non-faculty affiliates who contribute to the school through a rich set of co-curricular and curricular activities, based on their work and life experiences.
Abudu said: “I’m excited to let you know that I have accepted an appointment from Harvard Business School, as an executive fellow. Truly, it is an honour and a privilege for me to take up this appointment as an HBS executive fellow and to share experiences. My primary focus will be on research, with some instruction and advisory/coaching for MBA students.
“I will be producing a unique, fascinating and exciting project, in collaboration with HBS faculty, during my time here. I look forward to telling you more about this project soon. My special thanks to Professor Henry McGee, Professor Andy Wu, Professor Feng Zhu and the entire Harvard Business School team for making this happen.
“Last but not least, I still remain the CEO of the EbonyLife Group. This appointment is part-time for an agreed period. I will spend my time between Boston, London, Los Angeles and Lagos over the next few months.”
Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media, has started production on two short fiction films she is directing, titled Her Perfect Life and Iyawo Mi (My Wife in Yoruba).
Her Perfect Life tells the story of a 39-year-old who seems to have the perfect life but wants to end it all. It stars Pearl Thusi, Joseph Benjamin, Omawunmi Dada, Uzo Osimpka, Christian Paul and Mary Lazarus.
Iyawo Mi follows a couple who face tragic consequences after the wife starts having hallucinations. Its stars Adedimeji Lateef, Bolaji Ogunmola, Segun Arinze and Jude Chukwuka.
According to Abudu, both films highlight mental health challenges, an issue hardly spoken about in Nigerian society.
“As many of you know, I went to the London Film School in 2017 and I did the directors course. I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided at the end of the course that at God’s appointed time I would direct,” she stated on Instagram.
“Directing is an artform that takes years to master, so I’m beginning with baby steps and we started shoot today. I have written two short films that I will be directing – Her Perfect Life and Iyawo Mi (My Wife), a predominantly Yoruba-language film.”
The shorts are being produced by Sonia Nwosu, and executive produced by Bola Atta, Wale Tinubu, Shola Akinlade, Pearl Thusi and Nonso Okpala. The projects are supported by The British High Commission and the French Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria.
African media heavyweights Mo Abudu, Judy Kibinge and Tendeka Matatu have joined the advisory board of the Durban FilmMart Institute (DFMI).
Nigerian Abudu is the founder of EbonyLife Media; Kibinge is a Kenyan filmmaker, writer and producer; and Matatu is a South African producer and director.
The DFMI is a non-profit company that facilitates local and international trade and investment in African film content. The advisory committee will bring a wealth of industry experience and an international perspective to promote African cinema, according to the company.
Jacintha de Nobrega, chairman of DFMI’s board of directors, said: “We are privileged to have been afforded access to a diverse group of industry role players who are committed to taking African content to the global market, thereby ensuring that DFMI remains a key entry point that connects our industry to the world.
“We purposefully selected esteemed and influential industry leaders who will support the DFMI in increasing its footprint in the global market. This is aligned with our overarching strategy and our mission to consolidate the DFMI as the leading film market in Africa and the access point for African content.”
Abudu took to Instagram to say: “I am pleased to announce I have been invited to join the advisory board of the Durban FilmMart Institute, as a board representative from Nigeria amongst a distinguished panel of others from the UK, USA, Egypt, Canada, France and Kenya.”
Other committee members include award-winning US producer Steven Adams; Todd Brown, head of acquisitions for XYZ Films in Canada; award-winning Egyptian film director Jihan El-Tahri; Cécile Gérardin, head of drama at France-based Canal+ International; award-winning US director Roger Ross Williams; and Dana Sims, talent agent at Hollywood agency CAA.
Lagos-based EbonyLife Studios has confirmed plans to collaborate with Hollywood studio Sony Pictures Television on historical series The Dahomey Warriors.
The show, which is in development and currently being pitched to global networks and platforms, is inspired by the story of the Dahomey Amazons that dates back to between 1625 and 1894 in what is now Benin.
Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Media, announced the news on Instagram, saying: “I am pleased to inform you that we have made significant progress on the development of the first season and we are engaging with global broadcasters and streamers. I can’t wait till sharing it with you all becomes a reality. The series is coming, so be ready.”
Abudu was commenting on the upcoming historical movie The Woman King, also produced by Sony-owned US studio TriStar Pictures and covering the same history as The Dahomey Warriors.
The film is set for theatrical release on September 16 and the cast includes British-Nigerian actor John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, South Africa’s Sivuyile Ngesi and model Zozibini Tunzi.
The Woman King was written by Dana Stevens and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and is scheduled to be released theatrically by Sony Pictures in September. Its production companies include TriStar Pictures, Welle Entertainment, JuVee Productions, Jack Blue Productions and Entertainment One.
“Seeing this feature film Woman King become a reality on a global level is heartwarming and inspiring for me as an African woman,” added Abudu.
The development of the The Dahomey Warriors series is part of a three-project deal between EbonyLife and Sony that was agreed in 2018. The US company will distribute the projects resulting from the agreement.
Nigeria’s EbonyLife has again been selected as a case study to be covered at Harvard Business School as the prestigious Boston college celebrates 100 years of teaching using the case study method.
The news comes after a case study about the Lagos-based media company, led by CEO Mo Abudu, was taught last year at the Harvard Business School to over 1,000 MBA students, as part of the required curriculum classes for all first-year students.
Abudu said on Instagram: “I am pleased to inform you all that the EbonyLife Harvard Business School case study is now one of the selected case studies in celebration of the Harvard Business School’s 100 years of teaching the case study method.
“I look forward to joining Professors Andy Wu and Feng Zhu as we reflect on the never-ending EbonyLife journey.”
EbonyLife TV, a subsidiary of EbonyLife Media, started as a pan-African entertainment channel that was launched on the DStv platform in 2013 to sub-Saharan Africa. EbonyLife Media no longer runs a linear TV network but instead produces African content for third-party platforms around the globe, most recently with thriller miniseries Blood Sisters for Netflix.
Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigeria’s EbonyLife Group, will be honoured with the Women in Series award at the Series Mania drama festival, which is being held in Lille, France, from March 18 to 25.
In collaboration with the European Women’s Audiovisual Network and advocacy group Pour Les Femmes Dans Les Médias, the prize is given to a remarkable woman from the audiovisual industry to honour her vision and leadership. The awards ceremony will take place on March 22.
Last year’s winner was Christina Sulebakk, general manager of HBO Max EMEA.
Announcing the award on Instagram, Abudu said: “I am deeply pleased to be fulfilling a dream where EbonyLife Studios is working with a variety of international partners in amplifying the awareness of the black experience in storytelling and bringing fresh new African stories to a world audience.
“I would really like to encourage our industry to make positive change with inclusive representation of women, African and black creative talent.”
Abudu started Ebonylife TV in 2006 and the network now airs in more than 49 countries across Africa, as well as in the UK and the Caribbean. She established EbonyLife Films in 2014 and her first film as an executive producer was Fifty. Teaming up with The Elfike Collective in 2016, she produced The Wedding Party and other films. She has also exec produced or coproduced movies including The Wedding Party 2, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, Chief Daddy, Your Excellency and Òlòtūré.
Abudu has also formed partnerships with Sony Pictures Television to coproduce The Dahomey Warriors, a series about the Amazons who took on French colonialists in a 19th century West African kingdom; with AMC Networks to produce Nigeria 2099, a crime drama created by EbonyLife; with Netflix to create two original series as well as multiple Netflix-branded films; and with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Studios to produce a slate of film and TV projects connected to the African continent.
Laurence Herszberg, founder and general director of Series Mania, said: “I am honoured to be making this wonderful announcement alongside the European Women’s Audiovisual Network and Pour Les Femmes Dans Les Médias. Mo Abudu is truly a remarkable leader and visionary and was the perfect choice for Series Mania and to complement the 2022 International Women’s Day campaign theme of #BreakTheBias.”
Nigerian television pioneer Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Media, has blasted the UK television industry for its “shameful” lack of programming made by and for black audiences.
Speaking during an online session at the Berlinale Series Market yesterday, Abudu said she is currently spending more time in the UK urging commissioners at broadcasters to mirror global streamers such as Netflix.
Discussing the TV industry in general, the media mogul said: “A lot of the gatekeepers are still middle-aged white men who really still have a very, very different view of the world and the sort of programmes they think they should be commissioning.
“We need to become gatekeepers. We need to see African women, we need to see black women as gatekeepers. And we are seeing that, with Netflix, we do see that there are black gatekeepers based out in Amsterdam.
“They’ve trailblazed into the continent and realised there is a place for African and black storytelling. That gate is definitely very open to us. But what about the other gates around the world? Why isn’t my story as relevant to the gatekeepers in the UK?
“The black creative economy in the UK is non-existent. It is shameful. Commissioners and broadcasters need to look to themselves and say, we don’t even have a sitcom or a drama series that reflects black life on television in the UK.
“I’m not saying you won’t see people of colour in some of the programmes. But there are no specific shows speaking to us. We are a community of people and we deserve to have shows that speak to us as communities. So we are knocking on those doors and saying you need to do more. That is why I am spending more time in the UK, reaching out to commissioners and broadcasters,” said Abudu, who has launched EbonyLife Productions UK.
Initiatives in the UK intended to improve representation on screen and off include Channel 4’s Black to Front project, which saw the commercial pubcaster’s entire programming schedule fronted by black talent and contributors for one day in September last year.
Asked about Black to Front, Abudu said: “it is something and absolutely better than nothing,” but there needs to be “a shift in the types of stories being told” and more still needs to be done to improve representation throughout the schedule.
Abudu added that while EbonyLife Media is yet to make headway with the BBC, it did strike a development partnership with the drama production department of its commercial arm BBC Studios last year.
The two are working on action-adventure series Reclaim, which explores issues of colonialism, race and cultural ownership. The six-part heist thriller follows the story of a team of art thieves looking to return artworks stolen by the British Empire 125 years ago from the Kingdom of Benin back to its rightful home in Nigeria. Abudu said the series is currently being “shopped around” for a potential buyer.
British-Nigerian entrepreneur Mo Abudu’s Lagos-based EbonyLife Studios has struck a partnership deal with Lionsgate-owned US network Starz for an African period drama.
Queen Nzinga will be developed under the partnership. Set in 17th century Angola, it tells the story of an innocent princess who transforms into a fearless warrior queen and wages war against the kingdom’s enemies in the form of Portuguese slavers.
The drama will be produced by Lionsgate Television and executive produced by Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson through his G-Unit Film & Television alongside Abudu, who will executive produce through EbonyLife Media. It will also be overseen by executive VP of original programming Karen Bailey on behalf of Starz. The search for a showrunner is currently underway.
The series will star Nigerian-American actor Yetide Badaki (American Gods) as Queen Nzinga. Steven S DeKnight (Spartacus) is the creator and head writer.
Abudu said: “Dear Karen Bailey, thank you so much for uniting us all on this project. The continent of Africa has a treasure trove of stories that are yet to be told. Queen Nzinga is a story that I have wanted to tell for a long time.
“This project is also special for us as it comes in the wake of us opening EbonyLife USA LLC in Los Angeles. I said it before and I am saying it again, as Africans, we should see ourselves as world citizens, and our storytelling, locations and networks should extend to every corner of the globe.”
Jackson added: “As G-Unit Film & Television launches more premium international productions, I couldn’t have found better partners than Mo, Yetide and Steven to help tell the incredible story of Queen Nzinga.”
Global streaming service Netflix has lined up two more Nollywood films this festive season.
A Naija Christmas, which will debut on December 16, is the story of three brothers who scramble to find wives they can bring home by Christmas. Meanwhile, their mom sets out to host the most beautiful Christmas celebration ever. The movie stars Rachel Oniga, Kunle Remi and Segilola Ogidan.
Chief Daddy 2: Going for Broke, which is available from January 1, is the sequel to 2018 Nollywood comedy Chief Daddy, made by Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Films.
Directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, it stars Funke Akindele-Bello, Shaffy Bello, Kate Henshaw, Joke Silva, Rachael Oniga, Ini Edo, Patience Ozokwo, Nkem Owoh, Beverly Osu and Beverly Naya.
Abudu took to Instagram to announce the news, saying: “Come January 1, 2022, the Beecrofts are returning with more family drama, more secrets, more laughs and even more fun and entertainment.”
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.”
BBC Studios Drama Productions has struck a development partnership with Mo Abudu, founder and CEO of Nigerian entertainment company EbonyLife Media.
Under the deal, which was brokered by US talent agency Creative Artists Agency, BBC Studios Drama Productions and EbonyLife Media will develop a new action-adventure series called Reclaim.
The six-part heist thriller is written by Bafta Breakthrough Brit Rowan Athale (The Rise, Strange But True, Little America). It is based on an original idea by Abudu, Heidi Uys and Bode Asiyanbi and tells the story of a team of art thieves looking to return artworks stolen 125 years ago by the British Empire to their rightful home in Nigeria.
“Reclaim is our first big-budget, global series, set partly in the UK. It is a dream come true for two reasons – first, it is a partnership with BBC Studios; second, the project will debut under EbonyLife Productions UK,” said Abudu, who is a former winner of MipTV’s Médailles d’Honneur and is speaking this week at Content London.
“We set up EbonyLife in London because our global strategy includes expansion to the UK and the US. As Nigerians and Africans, we should see ourselves as world citizens and our storytelling, locations and networks should extend to every corner of the globe. I am delighted with this opportunity to extend our reach into the UK with a great story and a formidable partner.”
BBC Studios head of drama Priscilla Paris added: “Reclaim’s breathtaking action-adventure is underpinned by thoughtful and timely themes and declares our shared intention to create stories which have both local and international resonance. Rowan Athale is the perfect writer to bring this story to life, having written both commercial hits and arthouse breakouts.”
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.”
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.”
Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media, has been appointed as a member of the advisory board of Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo (MIA), the TV trade event that takes place this week in Rome.
MIA bills itself as the first Italian market converging all the segments of the audiovisual industry, including film, drama and documentary.
With over 2,000 professionals from 58 countries participating in each edition, according to the organisers, MIA is a platform for top players in the international film and TV industries.
“I am extremely excited to announce that I have been invited to join the advisory board of MIA 2021. I am equally excited to be speaking at MIA 2021 – ‘Standing out in the streaming game,’” Abudu said on Instagram, referring to the title of the panel session she will be participating in at MIA.
MIA is supported by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, The Italian Trade & Investment Agency, The Ministry of Economic Development and the Media Programme of the European Union.
Ted Abudu, Nigerian producer and daughter of EbonyLifeTV chief exec Mo Abudu, is set to debut her new series, Money.Men.Marriage (aka MMM) on YouTube.
The series is produced by Ted Abudu’s new Lagos-based production company Laced Up Productions and will be released on YouTube on 29 October.
The show follows the lives of five young women through the eyes of a newcomer to the chaos and unpredictability of Lagos as they figure out love, life, friendships and finances. It stars Toni Tones, Elozonam, Christopher Iheuwa and Chinasa Anukam.
Abudu took to Instagram to announce the news, saying: “So so so so sooooo excited to announce the release of MMM the series under my new production company Laced Up Productions!!! It’s been a long time coming but I’ve learnt better late than never. God willing the first of many more series to come!”
MMM is produced by Abudu and Isioma Osaje and directed by Ema Edosio, Ifeoma Chukwuogo and Ted Abudu.
Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media and Sony Pictures Television (SPT) have collaborated to set up a new African writers’ initiative called Àló, meaning ‘once upon a time’ in the Yoruba language.
The platform is aimed at finding and curating the best authentic African story ideas that would inspire viewers around the globe.
It is open to writers of proven African heritage born in any of Africa’s 54 countries or have proven citizenship as a native of the country, or as first-generation children, including professionals, freelancers and up-and-coming writers.
Submissions must pay homage to Africa’s unique cultures, diversity, heritage and people and will be reviewed and shortlisted by the Àló team, comprising creative executives from both EbonyLife and SPT.
Successful candidates will have the opportunity to enter into a series pilot development agreement with SPT and EbonyLife to create and write a pilot script. Once completed, the projects will be pitched to major international broadcasters for their consideration.
The first round of the initiative will accept submissions between September 24 and November 5 as well as a further six-week period to be confirmed later in the year.
Submissions are also open internationally from the US, Canada, UK, European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. More regions will be included as the project expands for future submission periods.
The move comes after SPT and EbonyLife agreed a two-year deal earlier this year, giving SPT an exclusive first-look at all new EbonyLife scripted television projects.
Mo Abudu, CEO at EbonyLife Media, said: “I am particularly thrilled about this writers’ initiative because it is in line with our continent-wide vision to harness and grow our creative economy. It is focused on global storytelling that is authentically African and that gives African writers access to the biggest international broadcasters in the world.”
Nina Lederman, exec VP of global scripted development for SPT, added: “The Àló initiative is born out of SPT and EbonyLife’s shared passion for great storytelling. We know from our many, many conversations developing this initiative with Mo and her team at EbonyLife that there are countless stories from across the African continent yet to be told. We hope that this provides a unique platform to writers of African heritage with a story they want to bring to the world.”
Nigerian production company EbonyLife Studios has concluded production on thriller movie Blood Sisters, which will debut soon on global streaming platform Netflix.
EbonyLife chief executive Mo Abudu made the announcement on Instagram, saying: “Excited to share the official press release issued by Netflix on Blood Sisters. As the first and only African studio to sign a multiple-title deal with Netflix, our relationship with Netflix is based on a mutual vision: to bring authentic African stories, with superb production values, to both African and global audiences.
“Netflix’s commitment to growing the African film industry is unparalleled and we feel honoured to be part of this journey. We look forward to many more successful productions together. It’s been a busy year for us: Castle & Castle 2, Chief Daddy 2 and now Blood Sisters, yippee!!! And still more to come, trust me, we have a never-ending slate of films and series to roll out to keep you all glued.”
Blood Sisters follows the story of two friends, played by Ini Dima-Okojie and Nancy Isime, who try to cover up the death of one’s fiancé who was killed in self-defence by the other, leading to a catastrophic series of events.
As well as Dima-Okojie and Isime, the cast includes Ramsey Nouah, Uche Jombo, Kate Henshaw, Segun Arinze, Genoveva Umeh, Deyemi Okanlawon, Wale Ojo, Gabriel Afolayan, Toke Makinwa and Kehinde Bankole.
The release date of the movie is yet to be announced.
The second season of EbonyLife Studios’ legal drama Castle & Castle will debut exclusively on global streaming platform Netflix on September 15.
The first season of the show, a procedural drama set in a successful Lagos law firm run by a married couple, debuted in March 2019 on EbonyLife TV.
Mo Abudu, EbonyLife’s CEO, shared the news on Instagram, saying: “Three years after the first season aired, the highly anticipated second season of EbonyLife Studios’ Castle & Castle is coming exclusively to Netflix on 15th September 2021. We are tremendously excited about bringing audiences the sequel to Africa’s first legal drama series, Castle & Castle, along with our partners, Netflix.
“Fans were riveted by Season 1, and we responded to their desire to see more.
Castle & Castle Season 2 is a very sexy series and promises to deliver on high drama and some very unexpected twists and turns. No doubt you all want to know what season 2 is all about.”
Shot in Lagos, Nigeria, the new season is directed by Kayode Kasum and Walter Taylaur and stars both new and returning cast members, including Dakore Egbuson-Akande, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Eku Edewor, Deyemi Okanlawon, Etim Effiong, Dorcas Shola Fapson, Kenneth Okolie, Bimbo Ademoye, Bisola Aiyeola, Mimi Chaka and media personality Denola Grey.
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.
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.”