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.
EbonyLife Media CEO Mo Abudu has been revealed as a juror for this year’s Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
Established in 1976 by the luxury watch company, the Rolex Awards recognise “exceptional individuals who have the courage and conviction to take on major challenges; men and women who have a spirit of enterprise, initiating extraordinary projects that make the world a better place.”
Influential Nigerian media mogul Abudu, who launched EbonyLife in 2006, was one of 10 jurors chosen for their expertise and stature in a wide variety of fields. The jurors have selected 10 finalists for the awards, with the winners set to be revealed next month.
Announcing her involvement via Instagram, Abudu said: “Earlier this year in February, I was invited to join the Jury of the Rolex Awards. I had the privilege of meeting and spending a few days in London with executives from Rolex, my co jury members and we had the opportunity to evaluate the most incredible and diverse set of projects that were presented to us.
“As a 2019 Rolex Awards jury member we had a challenging time selecting the 10 finalists. We are off to Washington DC in June to judge the finals.”
Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV, is set to receive the 2019 Médailles d’Honneur award at the MipTV conference and market.
Reed Midem, organiser of the event, said the award ceremony will take place on April 8 at the InterContinental Carlton Hotel, Cannes, France.
The award is given to senior executives who have contributed to the development of the international TV community and to the world of TV. Abudu, who is a member of the International Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences board, is one of the most prolific producers in Africa.
She launched EbonyLife TV in 2013 and has since produced a number of movies, including Fifty in 2015, The Wedding Party 2 in 2017 and Chief Daddy in 2018.
Abudu said: “I am thankful and overjoyed at the news of being one of the four recipients of the 2019 Médailles d’Honneur at MipTV. I am so excited and most grateful for this recognition of our work and, more than anything, that our stories are now making a difference across the globe.”
Abudu will be receiving her Médailles d’Honneur award in Cannes alongside three other 2019 recipients: US writer/showrunner Ilene Chaiken; Banijay Group chairman Stéphane Courbit; and Sky Vision MD Jane Millichip.
Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigeria’s EbonyLife TV, has been made a director of the New York-based International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (IATAS).
The move means Abudu joins the board of the organisation in charge of the world-famous International Emmy Awards. Her appointment comes off the back of Abudu’s ongoing effort to secure global recognition for Nigerian TV and film productions.
Abudu said: “I’ve always wanted to be a member of the International Academy to help make African voices heard when it comes to nominating and rewarding the world’s best television shows. To be approved as a director is even better, because we need a seat at the table when important decisions about our industry are being made. I’m grateful to the Academy for their confidence in me.”
Founded in 1969, the IATAS is an independent organisation that brings together leading media professionals with the aim of discussing and promoting strategies to develop quality global television programming.
The founder and CEO of African broadcaster EbonyLife Media believes the continent remains an untapped opportunity for producers as well as those looking to sell programming to networks and platforms there.
Mo Abudu told delegates at her International Drama Summit keynote in London this week that US and European studios should work more closely with African writers, producers and directors to help programming become more authentic.
Her firm’s network, EbonyLife TV, which launched in 2013 and produces more than 1,000 hours of original programming each year, struck a deal with Sony Pictures Television earlier this year that will see the pair co-develop three scripted projects. Abudu said such partnerships would allow a “transfer of knowledge” and could help programming travel further.
“Can we tell these stories to a global audience? No, we cannot. But do we need to be a part of the process? Yes, we do,” she said.
“We need to be in the room. Audiences everywhere can detect very quickly if a story isn’t authentic and we’ve had our stories told by others looking in many time.”
Abudu added that now is the time for Africans to tell their own stories.
Ebonylife Media Group was born from the desire to fill the gaps in the market, she said. “My big dream was and still is to change the narrative about my continent.”
Linear lifestyle and entertainment channel EbonyLife TV was intended to offer something fresh and different, she explained. EbonyLife Films was set up in 2014 and has now produced two of the highest grossing Nollywood films of all time.
Global VoD service EbonyLife ON launched this year and EbonyLife Productions was established recently in the UK, to be followed eventually by EbonyLife Studios.
Abudu claimed that for stories to be told in an authentic way there had to be a partnership between creative and business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
“As a continent, Africa has remained creatively silent for centuries. Our stories were seldom told outside of our fami-lies and villages and often from the perspective of ‘someone’ looking in,” she said.
“These stories need to be told with authenticity and also produced to the best international standard – which can really only be done in partnership with those that understand how to get the best out of truly great stories. Nobody does it better than Hollywood for the gloss and Europe for the grit.
“But these stories cannot be told effectively without our input. If these stories are told from both perspectives there is a captive audience on both sides of the Atlantic waiting to be entertained as never before.”
Abudu’s first series, The Dahomey Warriors, is in development, while EbonyLife’s new Afro genres – Afro-history, Afro-futurism, Nigeria 2099, Afropolitan and Afro-modern and Afro-impact – are currently being worked on.
She added: “As storytellers, it’s important to remember that our emotions are not limited by language or where we come from. I think we have a responsibility to remove barriers.
“Most important of all, let us connect the world with our sto-ries. We believe that we are in a unique position to partner with those looking for fresh, authentic and original stories to take to a global audience.
“As you develop your slates, we simply ask that you consider a slate within your slate that tells our stories.”
Mo Abudu, CEO of Nigerian broadcaster EbonyLife TV, has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Westminister in London.
The award was for her contributions to the broadcasting industry in Nigeria and the presentation took place at the university’s annual graduation ceremony on November 12.
A broadcaster, filmmaker and producer of the very first pan-African talkshow, Moments with Mo, Abudu had previously obtained a masters degree in manpower studies at the university in 1993.
She said: “I would like to say a big thank-you to the University of Westminster for awarding me an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts, in recognition of my contributions to broadcasting enterprise in Nigeria.
“My second honorary degree – it’s really exciting to be recognised for doing what you love.”
EbonyLife TV is now a media group, encompassing broadcasting, TV and movie production, and video-on-demand services.
Several influential TV executives of Nigerian heritage have been included in a recently published list of the most powerful black Britons.
The selection was based on how influential they are among their immediate sphere of expertise and how far that influence reaches into the wider world.
The Powerlist has been compiled every year since 2007 by London-based Powerful Media, with support from JP Morgan, Ernst & Young, Linklaters and the Executive Leadership Council.
Among the 100 people in the 2019 list are Mo Abudu, CEO and executive chair of Nigerian broadcaster EbonyLifeTV; Tunde Ogungbesan, the BBC’s head of diversity and inclusion; David Olusoga, historian, filmmaker and joint creative director of London production company Uplands Television; and BBC TV presenter and actor Ade Adepitan.
The Powerlist 2019 was unveiled at a gala dinner held on October 23 in London. The list showcases and celebrates African and Afro-Caribbean men and women who are making an impact on people’s lives and their environment.
According to Abudu: “The Powerlist is the most authoritative recognition of black influence in the UK; therefore I am honoured and humbled to be included. It’s nice to know that those of us who return home to make our contributions are not being overlooked.
“This publication is sent to schools and universities all over the UK, so I hope that my story can influence even one child to follow their dreams,” she added.
Now in in its 12th year, the Powerlist has succeeded in creating a network of influencers and also elevating ordinary people to a state of prominence.