London — Africa's film and TV industry does not have a lack of raw talent but in many countries it has simply not had the breadth of experience you might find elsewhere. As part of its Corporate Shared Value programme, the Multichoice Talent Factory is aiming to help change things. Russell Southwood spoke to Cheryl Uys-Allie about how they found people to participate and what it's offering,
The idea for Multichoice's Talent Factory came out an initiative that M-Net had run in South Africa. Started in 2014, the Magic In Motion (MIM) Academy was targeted at film graduates:"The Talent Factory is a little different for the rest of Africa. The South African version had a much tighter criteria - film students - and is almost a 'finishing school' for them. For those taking part in The Talent Factory, it's based on looking for film-makers who we can grow to the next level".
It's also a whole bigger undertaking with three Talent Factory Academies in West Africa (Lagos); Southern Africa (Lusaka); and East Africa (Nairobi). There were 3,008 submissions to get into these Academies and it conducted panels across thirteen countries to whittle it down to 60 successful entrants: 20 for each of the Talent Factories. The successful film-makers are spread across many countries outside of the Talent Factory home bases including Malawi, Namibia, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Each of the film-makers will produce two one hour feature films that will be broadcast on Multichoice's local channels. Overall this means that its alumni will have produced 120 hours of new film:"The focus is on learning to make films."
The Talent Factory Academy is a widely-based, almost '101 in film-making' experience. There is a comprehensive curriculum comprising theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling. It focuses on two particular areas: sound and script-writing. It has partnered with companies like Dolby to carry out masterclasses. Fox will do masterclasses in Angola and Mozambique:"Stories are plentiful bit we're also providing support for script-writing." There will also be sessions on copyright and IP, ethics and the history of African film over the 12 months the Academy runs.
One incidental side benefit for the industry is that its partners will also carry out days on similar topics for the wider industry.
While students are being trained, they all are accommodated together so it's "a totally immersive experience". Each Talent Factory has partnered with a local academic institution that means that certain sessions will be given by the Professors and lecturers at those institutions.
Alongside local industry experts will also contribute sessions drawing on their own experience. Between these intense learning sessions, the Academy's intake will be put through a range of different internships at production companies to get "hands-on" experience in doing very different types of production work.
As Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe put it at the opening of the Lagos Talent factory Academy: "The film and television industry is the pioneer of creative industries in Africa and is particularly relevant as a tool for shaping the African narrative. We have been telling authentic and well-produced stories that only Africans themselves can tell. Nevertheless, there is a lot of raw talent that need to be nurtured and polished. The Academy will give such talent the opportunity to hone their skills, thereby increasing the pool of world-class talent within the industry. It's also about teaching the selected candidates the business of film and television".
Uys-Allie is very clear on what the Talent Factory Academy is setting out to achieve:"There's a lot happening across Africa and people are already running courses but the Academy will create an on-going platform that is sustainable and we can build on this. It's not about training thousands of people in this or that skill. It's small and niche in its approach, focusing on quality." Its South African equivalent, the MIM Academy has been running for four years:"We're able to give opportunities through the Talent Academy to people who come from such diverse backgrounds and who would not normally have this sort of opportunity".
Uys-Allie herself brings the experience of running and managing M-Net channels, including launching a number of regional and local channels:"Multichoice Talent Factory is a privileged next step for me. It's an opportunity to develop young talent with so much potential."