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.”
The Beverly Hills-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the organisation behind the Oscars, has invited three Nigerian filmmakers to become members.
Listed among 395 members for this year’s class, the Nigerian trio are EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu, actor/director Ramsey Nouah (The Figurine, Rattle Snake: The Ahanna Story) and director Andrew Dosunmu (Restless City, Mother of George) .
Abudu was named in the producer category for her films Oloture (2020) and The Royal Hibiscus Hotel (2017); Nouah was named in the actor category for his roles in 2016 movie 76 and 2009’s The Figurine; and Dosunmu was named in the director category for his films Mother of George (2013) and Restless City (2011).
Writing on Instagram, Abudu said: “It’s such an honour to be included in this category by the Academy. I am proud to be one of 29 producers from around the world who has received this invitation, and the only Nigerian and African woman in the producer category.
“Ladies, we can do anything! I give God all glory and all honour. My thanks and love to the EbonyLife team who work so hard to make these things possible. This membership is ours, guys! We will continue to do what we do best – telling African stories to audiences around the world.”
In 2019, Nigerian filmmakers Tunde Kelani and Chinonye Chukwu and actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje were invited to join the Academy.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Nigeria’s EbonyLife Media has sealed an exclusive first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television (SPT)’s international production division.
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.”
Netflix is set to premiere its next original Nigerian film, Oloture, on October 2, the first title produced for the global streamer by Nigeria’s EbonyLife Films.
The film will be made available in more than 190 countries by the SVoD giant, marking the first time the film will be seen by the public, aside from private screenings in cities such as LA and Lagos.
Executive produced by Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV, and written by Yinka Ogun and Craig Freimond, Oloture tells the story of a young, naïve, female journalist who goes undercover to expose the shady business of human trafficking in Nigeria.
The film was selected to screen in October 2019 at the prestigious JCC Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia, and it aims to put the spotlight on a current African crisis told by creatives from the region.
Announcing this news on Instagram, Abudu said: “We are super-excited about our first Netflix original feature film. A project dear to our hearts.”
She added that Oloture may well be EbonyLife’s most important film to date. “We had to make it. Human trafficking is a global problem, with trafficking networks flourishing across Africa through the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of migrants.
“According to the UN, more than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually – looking for a better life, but ending up in forced labour, domestic servitude or sexual slavery. Oloture is another example of us telling the African story from our perspective.”
The film was directed by Kenneth Gyang and stars Nollywood actors including Sharon Ooja, Omoni Oboli, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Omowunmi Dada, Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, Wofai Fada, Pearl Okorie and Omawumi Megbele.
Oloture is the second Nigerian original feature film for Netflix after it announced its move into Nollywood film production last year. Its first Nollywood movie was 2019’s Lionheart, produced by The Entertainment Network.
EbonyLife Films has produced seven feature films so far: Fifty, The Wedding Party, The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, Chief Daddy, Your Excellency and Oloture. Three of these – The Wedding Party, The Wedding Party 2 and Chief Daddy – are the highest grossing movies of all time at the Nigerian box office.
The company has also produced over 5,000 hours of original television shows, including Fifty, Castle & Castle, Sons of the Caliphate and On the Real, all of which are now available on Netflix.
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.”
Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Media is developing a second season of its legal drama Castle & Castle.
The first run, which was picked up by global streamer Netflix in February, was directed by Tope Oshin, Niyi Akinmolayan and Kenneth Gyang and followed a happy couple, Remi (Dakore Egbuson-Akande) and Tega (Richard Mofe-Damijo), who ran a successful legal firm in Lagos.
Abudu, EbonyLife Media’s CEO, took to Instagram to make the announcement saying: “Super-excited about this month of July. Such great news to share with you all. Guess what guys – Castle & Castle, Nigeria’s first legal procedural series did so well it’s getting a season two and it’s exclusive to Netflix. We are in development. It will be coming to you in 2021.”
The series cast includes 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’s Afropolitan projects that reflect African issues and contemporary African life.
EbonyLife TV, the fast-growing African broadcast entertainment network founded by Mo Abudu, will no longer air on pay platform DStv from the end of this month.
Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV, took to her Instagram page to make the announcement, saying: “Remember when we used to wait a whole week to watch our favourite TV shows? Well, those days are gone forever! Now we can binge on the whole series if we want to. Therefore, we have decided that EbonyLife TV will no longer be available on DStv from 31st July 2020.
“Create your own viewing schedule and watch your favourite EbonyLife shows with our app, EbonyLife ON, available from Play Store or App Store for access to our library of over 5000 hours of series, lifestyle and entertainment.”
The channel was still available on Star Times at the time of writing and no announcement has been made about dropping carriage on that Chinese-owned pay TV platform.
EbonyLife TV’s move to drop its linear channels on a third-party platform in favour of the company’s own direct-to-consumer on-demand service mirrors a similar move by The Walt Disney Company (TWDC).
The US-based media giant recently announced plans to close Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior in the UK, with all content being made exclusively available on recently launched SVoD service Disney+ instead.
Nigerian producer Mo Abudu has signed a deal with Netflix that will see her develop original titles for the streaming giant.
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.”
Mo Abudu’s entertainment channel Ebonylife TV is developing ‘Afro-futuristic’ crime drama Nigeria 2099 for AMC Networks Entertainment Group.
The show will be executive produced by EbonyLife Media CEO Mo Abudu and EbonyLife TV’s head of programming Heidi Uys, while Ahmadu Garbu (Happy, Sinner) will write the series.
Set in a futuristic Nigeria, the drama is about a police officer in Lagos who is assigned to protect an American businessman and unravels a global conspiracy.
Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks Entertainment Group, said: “We’re looking for highly original visions and voices as we think about how AMC Networks evolves. The projects in development, both on the entertainment group side and at AMC Studios, all embrace people with singular and surprising points of view.”
Filmmaker and CEO of EbonyLife TV Mo Abudu is to chair the 47th International Emmy Awards Gala on November 25 in New York.
She took to her Instagram page to make this announcement, saying: “I am honoured to chair the 47th International Emmy Awards Gala that celebrates extraordinary television producers from all over the globe. I would like to thank the International Emmy Awards for this honour and opportunity.
“As producers, we are in a unique position to share fresh, authentic and original stories with a global audience. Our content is not limited by language or culture. Viewers want to see stories that reflect their everyday lives which can be found everywhere.”
The International Emmy Awards are bestowed by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in recognition of the best television programmes initially produced and aired outside the US.
Media entrepreneur and filmmaker Mo Abudu has been honoured with the Reformers of Africa Arising Award at the Reformers Arise Summit.
Reformers Arise characterises a reformer as someone who is tired of the status quo and full of creative energy and passion.
As the first recipient of the award, Abudu was recognised for her numerous contributions to the media and television industry and also promoting African culture at both home and abroad.
Announcing the award on Instagram, Abudu said: “On Saturday June 1, I was pleasantly surprised with being the first recipient of the Reformers of Africa Arising Award at the Reformers Arise Summit. My dear friend Alero Ayida-Otobo had asked me to come and present an award, only to get there and be a recipient.
“The Summit defines a reformer as someone full of creative energy and passion, who wants to see change and are willing to be the instigator of that change. I will continue to do my best to live up to this objective.”
Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu has called on African creatives to tell local stories with global appeal.
The EbonyLife TV founder made the comments in an interview with British broadcaster the BBC in Lagos.
“Africa has remained creatively silent forever, so there’s such an abundant treasure trove of stories that we have to share with the world. Our stories need to be heard globally,” Abudu said.
“Our content is fascinating for anyone to watch; we have a huge amount of history to share.”
Although Nollywood has been in existence for 20 years, Abudu said the next step for the African screen industry was for its stories to have global presence.
She added that this had been her motivation in producing movies, which include top-grossing titles such as Fifty and Chief Daddy.
“I want EbonyLife Film to be the provider of the niche market [of viewers who] want African stories that speak to them. EbonyLife Film has a brand and an audience waiting,” Abudu continued.
She also offered tips on good filmmaking practice, including finding relatable stories and working with great talent, as well as striving for high production values and good sound grading, marketing and post production.
EbonyLife is working hard to invest money and resources in content development, Abudu added.