• Monday, April 22, 2024
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‘At Netflix, we want to amplify more stories by, for, and about women’

‘At Netflix, we want to amplify more stories by, for, and about women’

Dorothy Ghettuba, Netflix’s Director of Content in Sub-Saharan Africa, walks the walk and talks the talk. In this exclusive interview with BD Weekender, she shared her success story and revealed Netflix’s blueprint to amplify African women’s voices, creating new stars in the entertainment industry.

What inspired you to pursue a career in content creation and storytelling, particularly focusing on African narratives?

My passion for storytelling and the desire to showcase the richness and diversity of African stories to the world have always been my driving force. While I initially aspired to be an actor in my teenage years, it wasn’t until later that I actively pursued storytelling.

Moreover, observing the growth of local creative industries and the increasing appreciation for local content, I left a comfortable job in Canada to establish a TV production in Kenya. Despite lacking formal education or experience in the field at the time, I recognized the opportunity to create high-quality content in response to the growing demand for well-produced African stories for TV.

Can you share some key milestones and challenges you encountered in your journey from co-founding Spielworks Media to becoming Netflix’s Director of Content in Sub-Saharan Africa?

The journey from founding Spielworks Media to becoming Netflix’s Director of Content in Sub-Saharan Africa has been a lengthy one. I started Spielworks Media just before returning to Kenya, where I worked as a production manager for a local TV show for about six months to learn the ropes. Despite the difficulties, I am grateful for that experience. My first production, the drama series Block D, presented challenges as I needed funds for the pilot. Fortunately, I managed to secure seed funds from family and friends, allowing me to kick off the project.

Following the success of Block D, we produced additional TV shows such as Lies that Bind, Higher Learning, Saints, Ladies 1st, and the civic education drama series Know Your Constitution, marking a significant journey. Throughout the early challenges, I had a support system comprising family, close friends, and generous industry colleagues who stood by me through rough patches. I can confidently attest that when women support each other, the possibilities of success and impact are boundless.

Reflecting on these experiences, what lessons or qualities can women draw from your journey to success in the creative field?

I encourage women, not just in entertainment, to embrace fearlessness. It’s vital for women to challenge, inspire, and support one another. Giving up should never be an option. Had I given up during my early career struggles or quit film production after initial hurdles, I wouldn’t be here today.

As Elizabeth Gilbert asks, “Do you have the courage to bring forth those treasures hidden within you?” I hope your answer is a resounding yes! Embrace the courage to step out of your comfort zone, confront new challenges, because growth and comfort cannot coexist.

As a leading figure in the African creative industry, what initiatives do you believe have been most effective in promoting African storytelling on a global scale?

I would say investment in local talent – especially when it comes to finding ways to strengthen the pipeline through capacity building, skills development and training. For us at Netflix, this is very important.

We understand that being involved in Africa’s local creative community entails certain commitments, especially in nurturing emerging talent and providing opportunities for new voices to emerge. Thus far, we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with remarkable female creators, crafting narratives featuring resilient female characters like King of Boys, Blood Sisters, and Shanty Town. We also advance this commitment to fostering talent through initiatives like post-production workshops, in partnership with the Realness Institute, to discover and collaborate with fresh talent in the industry.

We also focus on enriching the creative environment by engaging young writers and actors, evident in projects like “Far from Home” featuring a cast of fresh, youthful faces. Our goal is to showcase a wide spectrum of experiences in local narratives. Netflix lays emphasis on inclusivity by telling diverse stories centered around women, addressing issues relevant to them.

How does Netflix collaborate with female creators to produce original content, and what unique opportunities does the platform provide to make it appealing for women in the industry?

While there’s a significant presence of women in the entertainment industry, it’s not yet enough. At Netflix, we’ve made strides in inclusion, but recognise there’s more work ahead. Entertainment isn’t just about amusement; it’s about reflecting society’s complexities, struggles, and joys. More women deserve to see their lives portrayed on screen. We have more female-led titles coming out in 2024, from Mo Abudu’s Òlòtūré: The Journey, Bolanle Austen-Peters’s House of Ga’a, Kemi Adetiba’s To Kill a Monkey, and Hamisha Daryani Ahuja’s Postcards.

At Netflix, we want to amplify more stories by, for, and about women because well-crafted representation in entertainment holds immense power, impacting millions who watch and when you see yourself reflected on screen, it gives power to your experience. Also, our programming serves as both a mirror for our members and a window to previously unseen lives. The journey for women in entertainment hasn’t been easy, and there’s still ground to cover. Yet, we owe our progress to the inspiring stories of women who dared to dream big.

What advice would you give to aspiring African creatives, especially women, who aspire to make a significant impact in the entertainment industry?

Keep creating and innovating, recognising the importance of your creativity. Build and nurture your inner core, valuing your creative potential. Cultivate a business mindset, ensuring it harmonizes with your creative capacity. As Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

In your opinion, how can we further empower and support women in the creative sector, both in Africa and globally, especially in light of International Women’s Day?

This year’s Women’s Day theme, #inspireinclusion, encapsulates our responsibility to foster inclusivity in the creative sector. It is crucial to provide women with opportunities to share their stories, promoting diversity and creating a safe space for their creativity.

We stand on the shoulders of female creative leaders who paved the way for us and we must hold open the door for those who will come after us to further the cause.

● Netflix lays emphasis on inclusivity by telling diverse stories centered around women, addressing issues relevant to them.

● We have more female-led titles coming out in 2024, from Mo Abudu’s Òlòtūré: The Journey, Bolanle Austen-Peters’s House of Ga’a, Kemi Adetiba’s To Kill a Monkey, and Hamisha Daryani Ahuja’s Postcards.

● Entertainment isn’t just about amusement; it’s about reflecting society’s complexities, struggles, and joys. More women deserve to see their lives portrayed on screen.