Hollywood met Nollywood at the recently wrapped Africa Intl. Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Nigeria, where Relativity reps underscored the studio’s increased efforts to boost capacity for African filmmakers.
A day-long series of workshops, seminars, and training programs during the fest — which culminated with 20 Nigerian students being invited to the recently opened Relativity School in L.A. — showcased the studio’s commitment to global outreach.
“The architecture of storytelling has changed a lot in the last 20 years, and it’s become a lot more global,” says Michael Novak, international advisor for Relativity Education, the studio’s educational outreach program. “The focus … is to be a global center for education and media and story-telling.”
In Nigeria, the studio’s efforts are geared toward helping the prolific Nollywood industry boost production values, leverage digital and other distribution platforms, fight piracy, and tap into the continent’s largest economy to help fund the growth of an industry that the Nigerian government recently estimated to be worth $5 billion a year.
The goal, says Stephen Ozoigbo, who’s leading Relativity’s initiatives across the continent, is to lay the groundwork for Nollywood and other African film industries to become a major player in the global film biz.
“At its core, Relativity Education is looking to support the growth of African content around the world by educating the next generation of African media entrepreneurs,” says Ozoigbo. “It’s not a charity project. It’s a business project.”
On a continent that boasts some of the fastest-growing economies on the planet, he says, the potential is huge.
“Not only does Nollywood have a fledgling industry, but Nigeria and Africa also have a young population,” he adds. “It’s aspirational. It’s entrepreneurial.”
In Nigeria, the studio is in talks with AFRIFF to offer year-round capacity-building programs so that the fest is “not just a November to November” event, but part of something more sustainable. From Nov. 16-21, Relativity is hosting seven industry execs from Zimbabwe, who spent a week meeting with stakeholders and talking to possible partners in the U.S. Ozoigbo says talks are also under way with government bodies in South Africa.
It’s a way, he says, to lay a foundation that will benefit future generations of African filmmakers.
“We’re there to point them in the right direction, and also provide them with tools, resources, and access,” he says. “It’s not about the end product. It’s about the process.”