• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Toyosi Etim-Effiong, contributing to the growth of Nigeria’s creative sector


Toyosi Etim-Effiong is a versatile media entrepreneur supporting the telling of authentic African stories to a global audience. With over 9 years of multifunctional experience across the media industry – both locally (in Nigeria) and in the United States, she has garnered requisite exposure and skills to spearhead media-related and experiential projects, as well as create communication strategies for personal and corporate brands.

She served as the Global Director of Content for the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) and also as the Publishing Editor (COO) of the CNN-powered Folio.NG.

She is the founder and CEO of ‘That Good Media’, a boutique media company specialising in creative solutions, talent management, public relations services and content creation and distribution.

She was recognised as one of Nigeria’s most inspiring and influential women by the Leading Ladies Africa organisation in 2022 and continues to inspire through her writing and speaking engagements.

As a visionary with a desire to contribute to the growth and development of the Nigerian creative sector, particularly the media and movie industries, she organises the Independent Producers’ Workshop, a multimedia workshop for budding TV producers and media executives.

Her value lies in providing advisory services to local and global organisations, seeking to connect with key players in the media and entertainment industry on the African continent.

As an avocation, she runs an 8,000+-member-strong community, ‘The Good Friend Zone’ that supports millennials on their quest to navigate and nurture authentic friendships.

Beyond being a media entrepreneur, Toyosi is married to actor and filmmaker, Daniel Etim-Effiong, and together they have two beautiful children.

Take us through your years of growth and its influence till date

Growing up was fun. It was carefree, no worries or cares, just time spent alone and with cousins, neighbours, and classmates however, there was a dichotomy to my life. On the one hand, I was classmates with children from wealthy homes in Corona V/I (hello Mrs Sasegbon), on the other hand, I was spending weekends with my grandmother and cousins on the other side of the tracks in Amukoko between Alaba and Ajejungle. These two lives were polar opposites and while I enjoyed my weekends at Amukoko learning how to dance galala and singing songs from Salawa Abeni and Kollington, I started to find it embarrassing as I grew older. It was many years later, through a conversation with a friend, that I realized that my firsthand experience of both worlds had given me somewhat of a well-rounded view of society. Because of this, I am able to understand and empathise with people from both sides of the tracks, which helps me have a decent relationship with people across echelons.

How are you bridging the gap between Nollywood and the global film and TV industry?

That Good Media, my media solutions company, actively seeks partnership opportunities for Nollywood globally. There are gaps in the global film and TV ecosystem that need to be bridged, and we’re working really hard to facilitate mutually beneficial opportunities that would serve as bridges between those gaps.

Our recent partnership with Essence Film Festival in New Orleans for the first ever Nigeria Day, which is a day where we showcase the best of Nollywood, would undoubtedly serve as an opportunity for Nollywood stakeholders to connect with their global counterparts, particularly those in Hollywood.

We also have two yet-to-be-announced partnerships with two other film territories and for us at TGM, it’s literally a case of the more we seek, the more we find. Organisations and film bodies globally want to partner with Nollywood and our job is to facilitate that.

Share your 10 years of multifaceted experience with us and the lessons learnt

I started off as an internal auditor at a bank but very quickly realized that it wasn’t for me at all. It was like oil and water and there was no amount of positive self-talk and motivational speeches that could shake that feeling. After soul-searching and counsel, I went back to school to get degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Producing. My first paid job was at Sahara Reporters in their entertainment department and since then, I’ve worked either full time or on projects with NdaniTV, BellaNaija, ARISE News and FOLIO.NG to name a few. I also had a stint on radio and produced and licensed a talk show to Africa Magic.

One of the major lessons I’ve learnt is that there’s always something new to learn.

How have you positioned yourself as a leading expert in the African movie industry?

I am standing on the shoulders of the giants, especially the women in the Nigerian Film and TV industry. These women are the ones I watch that show me that impossible is not a thing. My goal really is to bridge gaps for the industry, to create/facilitate opportunities that will provide “more” for Nollywood and its stakeholders.

How can the potential of the African film and TV landscape be better harnessed?

By strategic partnerships and collaborations. I think there should be a gradual departure from the big fish in a small pond mentality that currently exists in Nollywood. Don’t just be the best in Nigeria, be the best in the world. Let’s open our doors wider and be accommodative of external influences without losing our values. Cultural exchanges go a long way in harnessing the potential of any industry. I believe that with Nollywood, more international co-productions, partnerships, forums, festivals will open our eyes to more efficient ways of doing things.

Share with us on fostering the participation of Hollywood in AMVCAs 2022

At the time, I was the Global Director of Content for MIPAD (Most Influential People of African Descent), an organisation that was commissioned to book Hollywood talent of African descent for the AMVCAs. This request fell on my desk and thankfully we were able to make it happen. Tasha and Sidra Smith were here and so was Brandon from ‘God Friended Me’ and Bayo Akinfemi from Bob (hearts) Abishola.

Tell us about leading Nollywood to the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans

It’s a full circle moment for me because I attended my first Essence Fest in 2016 where Oprah Winfrey was the keynote speaker, and I was gob smacked throughout. I felt like I was having an out of body experience just by watching her and the other women who were doing amazing things across different industries in the United States. Last year, post-AMVCA in Lagos, I had the opportunity to facilitate the screening of a Nollywood title, Jolly Roger, and there was a panel session afterwards which highlighted the similarities in African-American and African stories.

Fast forward to this year, we reached out again for the possibility of having Nollywood represented at the Film Festival and the conversation went over and beyond just one title, we got an entire day to showcase Nollywood. We went further and reached out to the office of the Mayor of New Orleans through Film New Orleans and were met with the same excitement. They decided that it would be expedient to host the Nollywood delegation and intimate them on the process of filming in New Orleans, and also organise an event where local producers and production companies in New Orleans could meet with their counterparts from Nollywood.

What are the challenges you have experienced being the wife of a Nollywood actor, personally and professionally? How do/did you rise above them?

Personally and professionally, I think it’s the stereotyping where I’m perceived as just an actor’s wife. There seems to be a subtle relegation to the background/an expectation of invisibility from me. We’ve been on red carpets together where I was completely ignored by interviewers, there’ve also been multiple invites sent to him that explicitly stated that he was being invited alone which baffles me because I grew up seeing “Mr & Mrs” on every invite that came to our house. My thought is that if anyone is organising a social event, the spouses of all invited guests must be accommodated regardless of the organisers’ sentiments towards the spouse. It’s disrespectful to the institution of marriage to treat a spouse as invisible.

I’ve risen above them by speaking up to my husband and to the red-carpet hosts, and it’s interesting because we have an uncle who retired as head of a leading multinational, and while visiting him and our aunt one day, the topic of invitations came up and he said he always turned down invitations that excluded his wife. If he had a relationship with the organisers, he would reach out to let them know that he would be coming with his wife. If he didn’t have a relationship with the organisers, he turned the invitations down. I was so thankful for that conversation because it validated my thoughts around the subject.

What advice do you have for that young lady who wants to make headway in the entertainment industry, Nollywood specifically?

Go on the journey of self-discovery first. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my contribution to this industry? That way, you go in with the right reasons. If you go in wanting to be rich and famous, riches and fame will fail you. Also, stay curious and teachable.

Tell us about investments and revenue-generating opportunities in Nollywood (including untapped)

Every part of the Nollywood ecosystem is ready for more. From the writing of movies to the funding, making and distributing, there are gaps that the right partnerships and support will bridge. Nigeria has a population of over 210 million people and 275 DCI-compliant cinemas, which is a ratio of 1 screen to 763,000 + people. It goes without saying that more screens would come in handy. There are opportunities to build world-class studios that would serve the global film and TV industry. There are opportunities to train actors, writers, crew members on how to be world-class in their craft, there’s room to support existing forums and film festivals, there are opportunities to digitise old Nollywood content and place them on revenue-generating platforms like FAST channels, there are opportunities for a solid, non-biased rating system… honestly, there are opportunities across the entire ecosystem and all these investments are potential revenue-generating opportunities.

Sell Nollywood to a global audience in 3 sentences

Nollywood is the second-largest movie industry in the world in terms of output. There must be something we know and are doing right that other industries don’t know.

All the major streamers have or are in the process of setting up shop here. There’s definitely something they’ve seen that has made/is making them do that.

Nollywood does a lot with very little. Imagine what we’ll do with more? You should partner with us.

If you had to speak (including advice) to the Nigerian government about Nollywood, what will you say?

I would humbly ask that the government create an enabling and thriving environment for our film industry and a system that ensures that all serious players are considered and taken on board when intervention funds are set up. There should also be an accountability/tracking system for the funds and consequences for those who misuse them. I would also like the government to be more intentional about setting up co-production treaties with countries of the world who are interested in co-producing with us. I would really like the government to see Nollywood for what it really is, an industry that has the potential to shift perspectives of the nation globally as well as attract economic gain for the entire nation.

Concluding words

Nollywood must be great. Afrobeats and Nollywood are from the same mother and father, and we refuse for Nollywood to be the child that did not make it.