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Multichoice Talent Factory: Testament of Nigeria’s adaptability, excellent storytelling

In many ways, the Nigerian film and creative industry is what it is today because of the dogged dedication of many stakeholders and purveyors of the film and television art in Nigeria. On more than one occasion, Nigeria has set a pace or broken some impressive record in film art, and this would have been unachievable without the investment of Africa’s foremost entertainment company and beloved storyteller, MultiChoice.

In 2018, MultiChoice debuted its flagship Creating Shared Value programme, the Multichoice Talent Factory (MTF) and that revolutionalised the way many Nigerian creatives saw their art

Back in the day, preserving and documenting history through storytelling was the exclusive job of bards and historians. Today, our best storytellers are filmmakers, who create the motion pictures that we all enjoy. This is why MultiChoice as an organisation places special focus on training the new generation of filmmakers to keep the art alive and continue the task of spinning excellent, original African stories that document our histories and cultures the way we as a people want.

Under the leadership of master filmmaker and cinematographer, Femi Odugbemi, the MultiChoice Talent Factory has given 40 young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 26 salient tools to become whiz storytellers.

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Attempting to further list the merits of the talent factory may prove unnecessary since it is well known that the initiative was structured for youngsters who are passionate about telling authentic African stories. To actualise this vision, the MTF initiative successfully delivers three touchpoints within the training year, which are the MTF Academy, Masterclasses and the MTF Portal.

In practical terms, MultiChoice, through its aptly named talent factory, invests in talents by not just telling or teaching them about filmmaking and quality storytelling, but by involving them in day-to-day successful productions that viewers all over the world pay to see. This means that they are fully involved in MTF’s immersive programme where they get an opportunity to intern on all MultiChoice’s original productions. This is in line with Benjamin Franklin’s popular quote that says “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

In addition to the students being provided with skills to develop their talent, connect with industry professionals and tell authentic African stories, the comprehensive curriculum comprises theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling. Also, the MTF Portal, a digital hub conceived as the premier destination for Africa’s creative industries, profiles and connects them all with more talents and opportunities outside of the country and region.

It would be remembered that by the second year of its existence, the one-year scholarship programme successfully partnered with the New York Film Academy and has since set the standard with even more illustrious partnerships with prestigious institutions and organisations like Pan-Atlantic University (PAU) and the internationally-acclaimed Dolby, Jasco Broadcast Solutions and Nihilent.

Following the academy’s inaugural graduation in 2019, MTF successfully ingrained its mission to boost the quality of local film and television programming.

Certainly, on a roll, the tsunami of the COVID-19 pandemic was not enough to cause a lasting setback for MTF. Instead, it created a new opportunity for the talent factory to evolve, re-evaluate, adapt to the new scenario and tell even more compelling African stories through the Nigerian narratives that emerged in the heat of the pandemic season.

At the recent virtual graduation ceremony for the MTF Academy Class of 2020, which held on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, Chief Executive Officer, MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, revealed that 2020 was undoubtedly tough due to COVID-19 but the ability of all 20 students to quickly adapt and transition from physical to virtual learning speaks to the world-class nature of the academy’s course.

“The MultiChoice Talent Factory is very close to my heart. It speaks to who we are as Nigerians, natural-born storytellers. Today we are here to celebrate the second cohorts who were dealt a heavy blow by the COVID-19 pandemic but the challenge seems to have brought on even greater opportunities,” Ugbe stated.

While Ugbe analysed the challenges the academy faced, including the fact that the course was extended from 12 months to 18 months due to the pandemic, one cannot sweep aside the fact that there were many benefits for the students.

Asides the fact that the additional time translated to the graduands walking away with not one but two qualifications, making them even more sought-after as they re-enter their respective local film and TV sectors as highly qualified industry professionals, the extra certification is a qualification from the prestigious New York Film Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (NYFA).

The 2020 graduands had equally completed an intensive three-week online NYFA course on the production of micro-documentaries, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), music videos and also worked with the United Nations on the global #PledgeToPause campaign, which automatically equals exposure for the young creatives to global networks.

Other benefits accrued in spite of the COVID year include an NYFA eight-week scholarship in the United States of America for the top-performing graduate; Nihilent Technologies eight-week scriptwriting internship on an animation; and Jasco Broadcast Solutions AVID media composer licence to the most-promising film video editor; Jasco Broadcast Solution AVID Pro Tools license to the most-promising sound engineer.

This is without forgetting the four-week MNet internship in South Africa, and the CEO Award for Innovation which the trio of Eric Kafui Okyerefo, Chioma Paul-Dike and Avuiroevarie Igho Arusi won for building Ekho media, a streaming platform for short films and content creators. They also got $1000 each and a structured 1-year mentoring session with the CEO.

Without prejudice or sentiment, it is glaring that Africa’s creative industries are custodians of the continent’s cultural heritage and in Nigeria, Multichoice has repeatedly stated their dedication to developing those African talents through investive initiatives like the MTF.

The skills graduates from the talent factory emerge from the academy with have become the new cornerstones on which a pipeline of great stories are being built.

According to Ugbe, “it is fulfilling to see just how in-tune this next generation of African storytellers are with the importance of being multi-skilled and intuitive creatives. This is a proud moment for everyone involved in ensuring that the students became graduates,” he said.

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