Tag Archives: Mo Abudu

Mo Abudu joins Int’l Emmys board

Mo Abudu

Mo Abudu, the CEO of Nigerian production studio EbonyLife Media and a proponent of African storytelling, has been selected to join the International Emmys’ board of directors.

Commenting on her appointment to the awards organisation’s board, Abudu said she would use her platform to boost Africa’s growing creative economy, stating her belief that the International Emmys can be instrumental in highlighting Africa’s distinctive narratives and advancing its creative industries on a global scale.

“I am deeply moved and incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received following my appointment to the board of directors of the International Emmys. It’s truly a humbling honour to join this esteemed board alongside distinguished members of the global TV and film industry,” Abudu said.

“As I step into this new role, I am filled with enthusiasm to use this platform to uplift Africa’s burgeoning creative economy in every way possible. With a rich history dating back to the early days of global television, the organisation has played a vital role in recognising and celebrating excellence in programming from around the world. It’s an honour to contribute to this prestigious institution’s mission of fostering international collaboration and showcasing the very best in television.”

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Mo Abudu to keynote at FAME Week

Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigerian film and TV production studio EbonyLifeTV, will deliver a keynote speech at the Women in Entertainment Breakfast at FAME Week Africa 2023, which takes place in Cape Town next month.

Mo Abudu

The breakfast is scheduled for September 6 and will bring together female professionals from all areas of the entertainment industry, including music, film and television. According to the organisers, it will provide a platform for women to connect, share experiences and discuss ways to overcome the challenges they face in the industry.

It will also recognise the significant role women play in shaping Africa’s entertainment landscape and breaking barriers internationally. It is designed to inspire, empower and foster connections within the industry, and create more opportunities for women.

Abudu – described as Africa’s most powerful woman by Forbes magazine – will share her insights into how women can navigate their careers and overcome obstacles.

FAME Week Africa, organised by RX Africa, will take place from September 3 to 9 and comprises Mip Africa, the Cape Town International Animation Festival, Muziki Africa and Media Entertainment Solutions Africa. The event is powered by EarCandy Dubbing and the Cape Town International Conventions Centre CTICC.

Louise Callcott-Stevens, co-founder and CEO at EarCandy, said: “There is so much research that points to women not supporting other women to reach their full career potential. As a female-owned business that consistently sees the business benefit and RoI of developing women, we want to be a part of this change.”

CTICC CEO Taubie Motlhabane added: “At the CTICC, we believe in the power of women in driving change and innovation. We are honoured to be part of the Women in Entertainment Breakfast, as it aligns perfectly with our commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse industry.”

Martin Hiller, portfolio director of FAME Week Africa, said: “The Women in Entertainment Breakfast is a crucial milestone for FAME Week Africa. By celebrating and elevating the incredible talent of women in the industry, we are forging a path towards a more equitable and vibrant future for African entertainment.”

Alderman JP Smith, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said the event aligns with the city’s commitment to supporting initiatives that empower women and foster inclusivity.

“We are thrilled to be the host city for the Women in Entertainment Breakfast at FAME Week Africa 2023. As a city that celebrates diversity and creativity, we recognise the immense contributions of African women in the entertainment industry,” he said.

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Abudu gets key role in UK-Africa summit

EbonyLife Group CEO Mo Abudu has been appointed by the UK foreign secretary as ‘creatives champion’ for the upcoming UK-African Investment Summit, scheduled to take place in April 2024 in the UK.

Mo Abudu

The role will see media mogul and entrepreneur Abudu forge connections between various stakeholders in the African creative industries.

As part of the UK-African Investment Summit, a first-of-its-kind UK-Nigeria creatives side event will be held in London to promote and project the creatives sector in Nigeria and other African countries and UK-African collaboration in this field.

The upcoming UK-African Investment Summit will be hosted by the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, in London on April 23 and 24 next year and will bring together heads of state and government from 25 African countries alongside British and African business leaders.

It comes as various countries in Africa set the continent on its way to becoming a global powerhouse in creative industries such as music, film, fashion, literature, visual arts and design.

The summit aims to strengthen UK-African partnerships, create jobs, foster growth, support talent in sectors such as finance and technology, and promote women entrepreneurs.

The announcement was made by the UK’s secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, James Cleverly, during the Creative Industries event at the Residence of the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos earlier this week.

Cleverly is currently visiting Nigeria as part of his three-country Africa tour that also includes Ghana and Zambia.

Abudu said: “There is much work to be done to move the creatives sector forward and there is no better time to start than now. I look forward to meeting with the various stakeholders in our sector across the continent, forging connections and building bridges that will foster collaboration, innovation and transformative progress in the creatives domain.”

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Mo Abudu launches film prodco

Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media, has launched a new production company called Mo Abudu Films.

Mo Abudu

Abudu said the new studio would enable her to take a more personal and intimate approach to storytelling, both as a writer and director.

“Over the past decade, I have been focused on building the EbonyLife brand, and I still am,” she said. “As a firm believer that true artistic expression demands absolute freedom, I am ecstatic to take this leap of faith and dive headfirst into writing and directing.

“My passion for storytelling has always been a driving force behind my work, and with Mo Abudu Films, I am excited to share even more stories with the world. I cannot wait to bring you all on this journey with me as I explore new creative avenues and bring my vision to life on screen.

“Whether it’s a heartwarming drama, an exciting action-packed thriller or a poignant romantic film, I am excited to explore the many different shades of storytelling through film. I am eager to bring my unique perspective to each and every project, and I look forward to sharing my films with the world through Mo Abudu Films.”

In related news, Abudu’s short films Iyawo Mi and Her Perfect Life, which she wrote and directed late last year, will be screened at the 21st Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, scheduled to be held from August 4 to 12.

Iyawo Mi tells the story of a young man who must choose between duty and love when his wife goes mad and threatens to tear their family apart. The film stars Lateef Adedimeji, Bolaji Ogunmola and Segun Arinze.

Her Perfect Life, meanwhile, tells the story of a woman’s picture-perfect life in Lagos, which is shattered by a hidden struggle as she faces the daunting challenge of reconciling her inner turmoil with her public persona. The film stars Pearl Thusi and Joseph Benjamin in leading roles, with Omowunmi Dada, Uzo Osimkpa, Mary Lazarus and Christian Paul supporting.

Abudu added that Iyawo Mi will also be showcased at the Short Film Corner during the Cannes Film Festival, a global stage that brings together filmmakers from around the world later this month. “This is a huge honour for me as a filmmaker and storyteller, as the festival is an important platform for black film and black perspective, and it’s also an Oscar-qualifying festival,” she said.

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EbonyLife’s Sunday Affair set for Netflix

A Sunday Affair, a new romance film produced by Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media, will debut on global streamer Netflix next month.

A Sunday Affair

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.”

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Mo Abudu named Harvard executive fellow

Mo Abudu

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.”

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EbonyLife’s Abudu directs short films

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).

Mo Abudu

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.

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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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Abudu joins DFMI advisory committee

African media heavyweights Mo Abudu, Judy Kibinge and Tendeka Matatu have joined the advisory board of the Durban FilmMart Institute (DFMI).

Mo Abudu

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.

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Abudu talks up EbonyLife, Sony series

Lagos-based EbonyLife Studios has confirmed plans to collaborate with Hollywood studio Sony Pictures Television on historical series The Dahomey Warriors.

Mo Abudu

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.

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EbonyLife studied at Harvard again

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

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.

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Abudu opens EbonyLife Creative Academy

governor of Lagos state Jide Sanwo-Olu and Mo Abudu at the official opening

EbonyLife Media CEO Mo Abudu has launched The EbonyLife Creative Academy in partnership with the Lagos State Government and Lagos State Creative Industries Initiative (LACI) through Nigeria’s Ministry of Tourism, Art & Culture.

The academy has been established to equip aspiring industry professionals with the practical and technical skills necessary to build a successful career in both the Nigerian and international entertainment markets.

The EbonyLife Creative Academy offers free hands-on practical training on courses including screenwriting, production, directing, audiovisual, acting, cinematography, lighting, art direction and visual post-production. Students will be able to gain insights and knowledge from industry professionals and create their original work at the end of the course.

Abudu, who announced the move on Instagram, said: “Truly this is a proud moment for everyone involved in creating the academy. As an HR practitioner, I have been and will always be a firm believer in training and development.

“So wanting to create a creative academy has been a wish and a personal desire for as long as I have been in this industry. To be counted amongst the best content producers in the world, training and development is key. To truly make Lagos a destination for media and entertainment, a trained workforce in our industry is critical.”

The governor of Lagos state, Jide Sanwo-Olu, has offered support to the initiative, allowing the academy to offer free courses to budding filmmakers living in Lagos state.

“I need to emphasise the word ‘free,’” Abudu continued. “If we were to charge for these courses in this most conducive environment that we have created, with our experienced international faculty, the curriculum designed, the equipment available to our students, it would run into millions of Naira per student.

“Now we have an opportunity to make a real impact within the film and TV space that will improve production quality across the industry, provide jobs and business opportunities, and help to grow the creative economy in Lagos. Our utmost thanks to the Lagos State Government, Lagos State Creative Industries Initiative and the Lagos Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture.”

The classes will take place at a new campus in Victoria Island in Lagos. To apply, click here.

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Westbrook partners EbonyLife on film, TV

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Studios has partnered with Nigerian production company EbonyLife Studios to work on TV and film projects connected to the African continent.

Mo Abudu

The projects include Dada Safaris, an ‘Afropolitan’ comedy-drama series that follows four best friends who find themselves at personal and career dead-ends.

This is joined by TV series The Gods, which focuses on a pair of married Cambridge professors who set out to find answers to a surge of natural disasters but find seven long-forgotten African gods instead.

The first movie coproduced by the two studios will be Are We Getting Married?, a comedy set in the US about the daughter of a wealthy Nigerian family who falls in love with a nerdy but charming African American from Atlanta.

Eli Shibley, Westbrook Studios’ senior VP and head of international TV and film, said: “As we set out to focus our initial slate of international content for the studio business across a diversified set of key territories and regions, the creative energy and world-class artistry coming out of Africa is absolutely undeniable.”

Regarding the link-up with EbonyLife founder and chief exec Mo Abudu, he added: “We are thrilled to be working with a best-in-class producer like Mo and her EbonyLife team to tell stories that uniquely celebrate African characters and perspectives and resonate with fans of great film and television around the world.”

Abudu said: “We all dream of lofty goals becoming a reality, then one day those dreams come true. I’m proud to announce that our vision of EbonyLife Studios being in partnership with Will and Jada’s Westbrook Studios is now real.

“Westbrooks’ goal is to create and curate powerful and inclusive content. This is completely in line with our vision at EbonyLife – to tell global African stories from our perspective. Together, we will be developing a slate of projects that reflect our shared goals. We are beyond excited.”

Abudu said the two companies will focus on “creating the largest continent-wide ecosystem within which we harness and grow our creative economy, creating countless opportunities for all that work within our sector, in front of and behind the screen, never forgetting that our primary aim must be to tell stories that are world-class, exciting, relevant and entertaining.”

Westbrook’s recent expansion includes an international pact with Israel’s Euphoria producer Tedy Productions, while EbonyLife has previously struck deals with studios including Netflix and Sony Pictures TV.

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EbonyLife agrees first-look deal with Sony

Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media has sealed an exclusive first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television (SPT)’s international production division.

Mo Abudu

Under the two-year deal, SPT gets an exclusive first look on all new EbonyLife Media scripted television projects.

Founded by Nigerian producer and media mogul Mo Abudu, EbonyLife Media has produced shows including Chief Daddy, The Wedding Party and Fifty.

Last year, the company signed a slate deal with Netflix and produced its first original for the global streamer, human-trafficking drama Òlòturé.

The new deal is the second between EbonyLife and SPT, following the announcement of a three-project co-development and production pact in 2018. The first project announced as part of that agreement is a series inspired by the story of the Dahomey Amazons.

Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Media, said: “Taking African storytelling to global audiences is something we are very passionate about, and this new opportunity with Sony gives us a chance to reach massive audiences worldwide with our scripted TV series.”

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Abudu to receive Women in Series award

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.

Mo Abudu

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.”

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Abudu blasts UK biz over representation

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.

Mo Abudu

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.

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EbonyLife partners Starz for Queen Nzinga

Mo Abudu at Content London earlier this month

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.”

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Netflix lines up Nollywood movie duo

A Naija Christmas

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.

Chief Daddy 2: Going for Broke

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.”

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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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BBC Studios, EbonyLife strike partnership

BBC Studios Drama Productions has struck a development partnership with Mo Abudu, founder and CEO of Nigerian entertainment company EbonyLife Media.

Mo Abudu

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 BBC Studios deal comes after EbonyLife and Sony Pictures Television unveiled a first-look deal in February this year as well as plans to set up a new African writers’ initiative called Àló in September.

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