Nollywood made its Essence Film Festival debut last month with “Nigeria Day.” Made possible by Toyosi Etim-Effiong, founder and CEO of That Good Media, the partnership is devoted to the movers and shakers of the Nigerian film industry.
“We screened a Nigerian film last year at the festival, but I saw a huge gap there,” Toyosi Etim-Effiong tells STATEMENT. “So we went back and said, ‘if you’re organizing a Black film festival, are you sure it’s Black or simply African American? Because if it’s Black, then Nollywood has to be included; after all, we’re Black too, the most populous nation of our race, and have the second largest film industry in terms of output, so that must count for something… And they were open to it this year. It grew from screening a film to having our own day.”
The Essence Film Festival, which ran from June 29 to July 3, showcased films from South Africa, Ghana, and other African countries.
Toyosi Etim-Effiong spoke to STATEMENT about partnering with Essence, and showcasing Nollywood in New Orleans.
How long have you been working on the partnership with Essence?
So we facilitated the screening of a Nollywood film last year, the first ever at the film festival, and there was a panel with Nollywood players, and that has now progressed into an actual Nigeria day where we have a full day for content and conversations around Nigerian film and TV. So yes, it’s year one.
You’ve worked in media for a while, taking up different roles in different organizations. What has that been like for you?
It’s been an interesting and aggressive journey, and the house is being built brick upon brick. I enjoyed working at Folio, and some of the other roles that I’ve taken. Some have been projects, not full time jobs, and have led to this point. I now run my company ‘That Good Media’ and we’re in partnership with Essence for the first ever Nigeria Day, which has been interesting. Not hitch free, but an interesting and progressive journey.
What do you mean when you say ‘Not hitch free’?
I mean, I’ve had challenges. I’ve had to deal with things that I’d rather not have dealt with. There have been money shortages on projects, issues with people that are not aligned with the vision, and things like that that have been problematic, but also contributed to my growth as an individual and also my progress in the journey.
Now that the vision of having a ‘Nigeria Day’ is happening, what are some of your goals for it?
My goal for the day really is to secure strategic collaborations and partnerships. I hope that people come from all over The United States, Africa, and they connect with our talents — filmmakers, directors, producers — and decide they want to partner. You know, I’m working on setting up for key attendees like production studios to have meetings with local studios as well.
Besides the Essence Film Festival Activation [ the ‘Nigeria Day’] we’re also meeting with Film New Orleans. Now, Film New Orleans is the film board of New Orleans, linked or attached to the mayor of New Orleans’ office. And so they’re going to be hosting us for a cocktail reception and a forum, which is to get us acquainted with how things work in New Orleans for those who want to end up going to film there because they realize a lot of Nigerians tend to film in Atlanta, maybe Houston or New York, but nobody’s really giving much thought to New Orleans. But that’s about to change because New Orleans is such a rich and culturally vibrant place, and having the film board decide to host us along with other local production companies and local producers so that there can be an interaction and exchange of ideas is huge. It’s what I’m hoping will lead to big projects and more recognition for Nollywood.
From the Essence Film Festival to meeting the New Orleans Film Board, what do you think this looks like for the future of Nollywood?
It’s started already. If Afrobeats can do it, then Nollywood can too because they are from the same father and mother, and we refuse for Nollywood to be the child that doesn’t make it. We’ve seen how these music collaborations have helped the Afrobeats space and we’re hoping the same would apply to the film industry by the time Tyler Perry decides to partner with EbonyLife for example or Oprah Winfrey Network decides to partner with the Filmone or Inkblot or any of our major guys doing major things here. It will definitely have ripple effects that will positively affect the Nigerian film industry.
Okay. So away from the Film Festival, what’s something you and your team are currently working on?
We [That Good Media] run a talent management division, so we are constantly looking for the best opportunities for our talent, and positioning them well, not just for local gigs and local collaborations with brands, but with international brands as well. So the Talent management Division is one that is growing and we’re working a lot on. What else are we working on? We’re also working on securing more collaborations and partnerships like the one we have with Essence. It would be great to do this with other major platforms. It will also be great to do this across the United States and even the rest of the world. So it’s all about partnership. It’s all about cultural exchange to improve what is currently the norm.
You worked in bringing people from Hollywood to the 2022 AMVCA. What other plans like this do you have in the future?
You know, the thing I say is ‘my network becomes your network.’ So the more I build my network, the more I build a network for Nollywood, and there are other people doing the same thing as well. So again, I’m not coming here as a savior or to rescue a broken system. It’s just my contribution to an industry that has been in existence for a long time, is doing relatively well, and can do much better. I’ve seen gaps that I’m trying to fill. And so in terms of, um, getting people on board to the AMVCA’S, AMAA’s, or anything really that requires the presence of Hollywood, I am ready and available to provide my services.
Right. What has the reception been like from people in the industry?
Oh, that’s a loaded question. For someone who is doing this for the very first time on this scale, of course, there’s been some caution. People are like, “hmm, what is she up to? What is she doing?” So there’s that. But there are also people that are like, “this is great. We know of Essence, and love that you have been able to secure a partnership with a brand like them, which is fantastic and we want to support you. And whichever way it goes, it’s good for the industry.” So I’m happy with the reception that we’ve gotten so far, especially from the press, and I want to say thank you again for actually talking to me about this partnership.