Why these two films? They are new high-profile Nigerian titles that have achieved global reach and recognition and offer a compelling contrast, not just in their narrative and stylistic approaches, but also in their financing models and target audiences.
Also, I’ve received inquiries about the financing of THE BLACK BOOK in light of information that’s been made public. However, I have no additional insights beyond what has already been shared. This is my attempt to provide some commentary on the matter, especially as MAMI WATA opens in U.S. theaters this weekend.
Twitter Survey and Future Scenarios
In August, I hosted a Twitter survey on the future of African film financing, posing the question: Which of these possible scenarios for the future (10 years) of African film financing, do you think is most likely to be the norm? The results below, with 43.8% going with the emergence of more hybrid and alternative funding models, from an increased diversity in sources.
THE BLACK BOOK falls under Scenario 3.
Reasons: The film garnered financial support from a diverse group of investors, including several tech entrepreneurs. These investors employed various strategies to pool their contributions. One such strategy involved the creation of a funding vehicle, independently established by one of the investors to streamline their investment in the film. The success of the film has prompted the launch of a larger fund, VEMA II, and a pan-African Fund, AFEMA, to finance more films in the future. These funds, while inspired by the successful funding model of THE BLACK BOOK, operate independently. They do not have a direct affiliation with the film, Editi Effiong, or Anakle Films.
MAMI WATA falls under Scenario 2.
Reasons: The film was backed by various international partners and funds; the film received support from the Red Sea Film Fund, Swiss Fund Visions Sud Est, and France’s iFind, highlighting the significant role of foreign financing in the project; the international backing helped bring C.J. Obasi’s vision to life, contributing to the film’s production and premiere at Sundance.
So let’s delve into the specifics of each film’s financing and the future prospects for film financing in Nigeria, providing a holistic overview of the current state and potential trajectory of Nigerian cinema.
THE BLACK BOOK: A Structured Approach
THE BLACK BOOK used a new funding approach and collaboration with skilled financiers to become a global Netflix Original, potentially setting a path for future Nigerian (African) films.
– The film utilized structured financing by establishing a specialized fund, VEMA I Fund, specifically for its production costs. This approach allowed the filmmakers to pool resources and capital from various investors, ensuring sufficient funding for the movie. This method of financing is particularly useful for large-scale projects that require substantial investment.
– The film benefited from collaboration with people skilled in deal structuring and capital raising.
– Editi Effiong, a significant investor himself, contributing around 30% of the entire production budget, also maintained transparency with investors.
– The success of the film has led to plans for creating bigger funds (VEMA II and a pan-African Fund, AFEMA) to support more film projects across Africa.
MAMI WATA: Global Funding and Festival Support
MAMI WATA was developed through global funding opportunities, prominent film festival labs, and workshops. This international approach helped overcome local financing challenges.
– As a “niche” project, offering a fresh and unique cinematic expression, and breaking the mold of traditional Nigerian cinema, the film faced significant challenges, including rejection and prejudice, highlighting the difficulties in securing funding for non-mainstream African projects.
– Inspired by West African folklore, the film explores themes of tradition versus modernity, offering a culturally rich narrative. Its international backing and festival premiere highlight the continued importance of global collaboration and support in bringing diverse and artistic Nigerian stories to the world.
– THE BLACK BOOK had a more local, structured, and substantial financing model compared to MAMI WATA, which relied on global funding opportunities and film festival support.
– Both films achieved global recognition, with THE BLACK BOOK becoming a Netflix Original and MAMI WATA premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
– Both films faced challenges in financing, but THE BLACK BOOK had the advantage of collaboration with experienced financiers and a structured funding model.
– THE BLACK BOOK demonstrates the viability of local and structured financing models in Nigeria, potentially encouraging more local investors to invest in the film industry; MAMI WATA highlights the importance of international collaboration and support, as well as the value of film festival recognition in gaining visibility and funding.
– Performance of THE BLACK BOOK in Weeks Two and Three on Netflix: The global ranking on Netflix is a dynamic measure, influenced by the number of views, audience retention, and new subscribers drawn to the platform by the film. The continued success of the film on Netflix will largely depend on word-of-mouth, reviews, and the film’s ability to maintain audience interest. The film’s performance in the subsequent weeks post-release will be a crucial indicator of its sustained appeal and the effectiveness of its marketing and promotion strategies.
– Performance of MAMI WATA in the U.S. theaters: The U.S. theatrical run of MAMI WATA is another significant milestone, given that it’s ultimately the major movie market. The film’s performance in the U.S. will be influenced by factors such as marketing, distribution channels, competition with other films, and the appeal of its narrative to U.S. audiences. A 100% Rotten Tomatoes score certainly helps at launch. But, like THE BLACK BOOK, word-of-mouth will ultimately be needed to carry it through successive weeks, as it travels around the country.
– Studio Financing Model (Hollywood): Major studios finance film projects, often owning significant rights and creative control.
– Independent Financing Model: Films are funded by various sources, including private investors, grants, and crowdfunding.
– Co-Production Model: Films are produced by companies from different countries, sharing costs, risks, and creative inputs.
– Equity Financing Model: Investors provide funding in exchange for equity or a share of the film’s profits.
THE BLACK BOOK aligns more with structured and equity financing models. Most similar to the studio financing model seen in Hollywood.
MAMI WATA aligns with the international co-production and independent financing models, leveraging global networks and funds. Resembles the co-production model popular in European and Asian cinema.
Both models have their own merits and challenges, and the choice depends on various factors including the scale of the project, the target audience, and the creative vision of the filmmakers.
In conclusion, it’s uncertain what the future holds. While both films followed different paths in terms of financing, audience targeting, and global reach, both films contribute valuable insights and lessons for future film projects in Nigeria and Africa broadly, emphasizing the importance of diverse financing strategies, global collaboration, and effective communication and transparency.
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