• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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A day in a Nigerian film school

A day in a Nigerian film school

In today’s world, being captivated by entertainment media is rapidly becoming more of a career path for aspiring performers and directors. A degree in media production is not the only prerequisite for employment in the media sector, but for young people looking to refine their talents and develop their resumes, film schools offer a route to acquiring experience, creating a résumé, and networking.

After writing two exclusive stories on film schools in Nigeria, which was born out of curiosity to understand the talent pipeline in Nollywood, the next step was to go visit a film school and experience firsthand, how the next generation of Nollywood talents are moulded to serve the ever-growing entertainment consumers not only in Nigeria but globally. This was not going to be an easy choice as to what particular school to visit as Lagos alone has quite a number of outstanding film schools which are top-rated in the country.

At the same time, news broke that Del-York International Group, the parent company of Del-York Creative Academy (DCA) partnered with the Lagos Government on a project to establish the company’s infrastructure project of building an African film and media city which poses to be the biggest media attraction in Africa. This news made my decision easy and arranged with my team an interview session and tour around the academy.

For Linus Idahosa, The Chairman of Del-York International Group establishing DCA in 2010 was in line with his vision of capacity building which promises students who wish to attend hands-on practice-based learning experiences, mentorship from global industry professionals, and a cohort of ambitious peers.

My tour plan was to meet with Idahosa himself to share with me how far he has come to realising his vision for the industry but he was unavoidably absent, however, Maliz Mahop, Head of Global Communications, and Partnerships stood in for him and warmly entertained my visit answering my curious questions and giving me a tour round the academy to meet with students and the professors.

Mahop, a Texas born Cameroonian who is working in Africa for the first time expressed her excitement about her experience working with Idahosa and the Del-York group, a feeling that swept across the room on my arrival.

Briefing about the academy Mahop said, “Most of our students come in with a clean slate, they start off having to go through the basics because we bring in experts from all over the world. The majority of our instructors are Hollywood instructors that have trained in the industry and have practised in the industry currently. We also have our alumni from whom we select the best and bring them back to teach our students so that we have a pipeline program of having people who are not only tenured in the industry but have taught all over the world and have a local feel of Nigeria and Africa.”

Read also: Anikulapo: The making of Netflix most watched non-English film

Idahosa’s vision for the creative industry doesn’t just stop at the film academy but has recently taken a massive step that will drive the creative industry to its new phase by partnering with the Lagos State Government during the Ehingbeti Investment Summit in October in establishing the ultramodern Film and Media City in Epe, Lagos.

The project set to be complete by 2025 is described by Mahup to be packed with amusement parks, resorts, and a film studio that can bring in filmmakers from different parts of the world to shoot on set and create content. She also mentioned that the film academy will be moved to the site and developed into a university offering a semester-to-semester program.

Many Nigerians have relocated to the United Kingdom, Canada, and United States, among others, in recent years in search of greener pastures, a development that is popularly called ‘Japa’ (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”). Speaking about how the film school through its programs can help stem the number of Nigerian creatives travelling abroad Mahop said,

“Mr Linus had the vision of creating a vocational institute to premiere creative leadership and even with the Linus Idahosa Foundation for Empowerment, those things happen as well, as for the economy, we can’t wait for the government, we seek for the knowledge and the tools which is why we bring in global leaders so that the perspective can be shifted so you are able to dream and that’s where our local instructors come in so as you dream, the practicality of how to measure that and make it scalable in your environment is there for you.”

She also mentioned that the academy is empowering individuals to equip themselves with the tools and knowledge as well as creating an ecosystem for people to have an opportunity to have a thriving creative economy in Nigeria and Africa at large.

Running a film school doesn’t come without a few challenges and for one such as DCA, the cost of operation comes at the top of the list. “People don’t understand the operating costs and what it takes, which is why partnerships are extremely important in some ways. have a number of students that have different needs, from equipment and to be able to have the right programmes like 3d animation class which are very costly,” Mahop said.

She also mentioned that importing most of the equipment from the US and other parts of the world to keep up with the global standard, bringing in global instructors, and paying their salaries, accommodation, and their feeding have to be taken into account. “We are able to do this because of the partnerships that we garner and that we sustain. It is literally getting people that believe in the vision involved and can also see how their investment can be returned for them.”Mahop said.

Part of the challenges according to Mahop involves working on the mentality of the students trying to upgrade from what they knew, to what they need to learn to compete on a global scale. She said,“Sometimes there are people that come in here and they tell us they’ve been doing this for X amount of years, and not to say that what they know is not right, but we are showing them a different way and this is what’s going to enable them to compete globally.”

Mahop took me to the creative academy which is at another location from the Del-York International Group but still within the area of Victoria Island, a 5 minutes drive from where it is located. Getting to the campus, we learned that most of the students were out as they were having their “Set Day” where the students go out on set to create content.

During my tour, I met with the professors, most of whom were from Los Angeles, United States led by Grant Housley, The Executive Director, and Lead Instructor, at the academy who was kind enough to answer some of my questions before their team meeting.

Speaking on how Del-York academy help to foster networking with the creative industry, Housley said the creative industry is just one industry and what is being thought in DCA can be applied in the real world “ the cinematographer can take care of anything in the video scope for any company and film making is just a portion of what we do and the students can work in the advert, media or any multi-functional facilities that use media, the directors have a skill set of management and they are the manager of the entirety of their film project.”

He also said that the acting students don’t just learn how to act but learn internal discipline, how to incorporate themselves into a world that is not really theirs and also interview skills. Same as how editors are thought to apply their skills to real estate or advertising.

Janell Inez, the acting instructor a the academy, speaking on her Hollywood techniques said, “ what’s important is that the student is grounded in who they are and what they bring to the industry as actors Because Nigeria is a very specific culture and we don’t want to lose the part of what Nigeria is. So what we bring to the table as Americans by way of acting is the groundedness, the realness the levels of what you’re going through, and what you bring to the work, but not taking away from their culture, the levels of what you’re going through, and what you bring to the work, but not taking away from their culture.”

She further explained that what is being taught includes scene study, character development, and the business of acting in terms of how they present themselves on the set. Inez stressed on the importance of teaching the actor how to advocate for themselves from a business perspective as most of these actors don’t have managers on a lower level. “It’s how to present yourself, how to carry yourself, and to handle situations, in the business of acting,” she added.

Further, on teaching the business of acting, Housley who is big on vision said he is giving the students the ability to ask questions and look at their world differently and use that to tell stories that are more broader and imaginative but still within the framework of their cultural experience.

Chinedu Ben, a former student of the school in 2010, is one of its outstanding alumni who the DCA hired as a lecturer. Like other lecturers, he is giving back to the younger generation of actors and filmmakers who are striving to change the status quo and create a more progressive Nollywood that would provide material for both domestic and international audiences. “What DCA did is to open my eyes to a better way of doing things like telling stories, how to frame my shot, and how to help the audience understand what I’m trying to convey. Very few of us have this knowledge at home, so what DCA did is to help me give back this knowledge to a lot of us who don’t have it,” Chinedu said.

The era of streaming is upon Nollywood and mediocre movies are not welcome on the platforms as the cinematography of the films that make it to those platforms is top-notch Hollywood standards. Angel Awotarigha, one of the cinematography instructors who is also an alumni, said that he has been able to locate common threads and how it affects the Nollywood industry. “In the past filmmakers were not as particular about lighting and the movies looked flat nevertheless we were still able to tell great stories but how well you tell your story mood-wise is largely dependent on cinematography and sound. So we are teaching them to use whatever is available to them even if they don’t have all the resources and when they finally start using Hollywood standard equipment, they will be familiar with that too.

Jordi Ruiz Maso, an award-winning cinematographer from Barcelona (Spain) based in Los Angeles, California and professor of cinematography at DCA brings in the knowledge he has garnered over those years to students at DCA. “The way I apply my knowledge here is to have an open mind approach of being a problem solver because cinematography requires a lot of discipline. It can be helpful for the students to know my theory and also my experience that I’ve had through shooting films and music videos so far. It doesn’t matter the type of camera they use but they have to learn the fundamentals and be a problem solver as there is never going to be enough time or money and so the cinematographer has to learn to have an open mind and good discipline when encountering these issues.”

Del-York offers a wide range of courses in the industry of filmmaking and my tour guide Mahop took me to the classes with the names labelled on the doors. Though they had their set day on the day of my visit, Mahop took me to see classes such as acting, filmmaking, post-production and editing, screenwriting, digital marketing, sound design and scoring, costume, and drone classes.

Attending a film school comes with dedication from the students to Learn what it takes to compete in the ever-growing film industry and even though that may not be the path for everyone who has found themselves in the industry, film schools help project to its students the culture of setting trends. For students attending an academy like Del-York creative academy Mahop says they have to be hungry, striving for excellence and accepting that mediocrity is not the end goal for them but looking to know and learn more.