Multichoice Talent Factory (MTF), which was launched in May 2018 as part of MultiChoice’s ground-breaking Corporate Shared Value (CSV) initiative, was created to equip the next generation of television and film creators across Africa with the acumen to not only produce high-quality content but also with the business education to support their craft.

It is a year-long fully funded experiential and training programme designed to ignite the continent’s creative industries, with a view to competing favourably on the global stage. Iconic film-maker, Femi Odugbemi has been at the helm of the academy as director since inception until recently when Atinuke Ngozi Babatunde took the reins to continue where Odugbemi left off.

Atinuke Ngozi Babatunde is the new Academy Director, West Africa, Multichoice Talent Factory. She is bringing to bear over 20 years of experience spanning entertainment, branding, research, media management, marketing and strategy.

Babatunde speaks with AYO ONIKOYI, Entertainment Editor on the task ahead and the new possibilities at the MTF Academy and beyond. Excerpts:

I want to understand that you took over from Mr. Femi Odugbemi. What are you bringing to the table?

The MTF doesn’t need any fixing, all we are doing is enhancing what we are doing. Uncle Femi as we fondly call Mr. Odugbemi has set a foundation, the academy is there and it’s running, so what we are adding now is enhancing the work that has already been done. We are pushing it further, we are engaging more with stakeholders; we are bringing in new partnerships in the area of training and the academic, so everything is continuum. The foundation has already been set, all we are doing is building on what has already been done.

You talked about enhancement, what type of enhancement are we talking about and what new look should we expect of MTF?

The new look is that we are going to be more out there, we are going to be more vibrant. With the kind of impact we are making in the industry, we need to tell our stories more and that is what we are doing. We are pushing the story of the MTF, the academy, everything we are doing in the industry. We are also looking at the curriculum, especially for the academy. It’s been four years now, times are changing, technologies are changing and there are new inventions, new technology, and so on. We had a meeting recently where we agreed to tweak the whole curriculum. We are bringing in new things that will enhance creative space and we are looking at being more involved in animations. Animation is a big part of the creative world. We are looking at things like sound effects; things that are happening in the advanced countries, the curriculum, stakeholder engagements and looking at telling our stories more and all that.

Regarding animation, African television and movie productions seem to be lagging way behind, what do you think can be done in this area to enhance the awareness and the know-how?

Like I said, we are looking at not only the curriculum of the students but also the industry as a whole. Most people tend to think the MTF is just about 20 students. It is much more than that. MTF consists of three hubs, namely: the portal, the academy and the masterclasses. So for animation, we are looking at bringing in experts that will teach not only the students but the industry as a whole. In Africa it’s an area that we should be focusing on because there are many things happening in that space and we are actually already in conversation with experts around the world that would come and train and teach.

MTF has been in existence for more than four years, would you say it has been worthwhile, based on your feedback?

Before you even finish the question, it’s been extremely worthwhile and I say extremely. It’s not just been worthwhile, it’s been impactful. It’s one thing to be worthwhile and another to be impactful. We’ve had students come out, become alumni and start up their own businesses. Over 50% of our alumni have their own production companies where they are hiring and empowering other people and so adding to the economic footprints of their various nations. Remember this is West Africa alone, when we look at the student, then the industry itself, we’ve had a series of masterclasses in different areas and others. We had scriptwriting about two weeks ago and we had over 1000 people that registered for that webinar and the response was because we were bringing in experts from all over the world, we are not limiting it to Africa. We are getting directors, producers, from all over the Western countries, so it’s been more impactful than worthwhile.

Apart from the actual training they undergo in the academy is there any form of mentorship after graduation?

They don’t graduate and we say bye bye, see you later. No, we have something called an alumni plan and alumni care. What we do is look out for them and when we see opportunities suitable for them, we give them. If we have productions locally, our own MNET productions, our own work and we find out that we have people that fit into those roles, we bring them, a lot of people are working on our productions and when they have issues they still come back to us. Even when they have content, we put them on our own channels, our own MNET channels and all. So yes, it exists, we don’t end the relationship.

Can you educate me more on what MTF entails?

Multichoice Talent Factory is made of 3 hubs. The first hub is the Portal, where as a creative you can link up other creatives in West Africa to see what they are doing. All you have to do is register in your details. It’s like a creative link thing, you just go in, you register and interact with other people or members of the community of creatives across Africa. So that’s the first.

The second one is the Academy, involving 20 students who are made to go through 12 months of training.

The third hub is the industry masterclass, open to anyone and everyone. Unlike the Academy that’s mainly for young creatives between the ages of 18-30 years, the masterclass has no age restriction for as long as you are 18 years old.

How do you select these lucky creatives, what is the selection process and criteria?

We open up a call to entry and people apply. We get as many as 3000 or 6000 applications. The first basis for selection is you have to be between the ages of 18 and 30 years. You have to have finished secondary school and then graduated from a higher institution not necessarily a university. Higher institution, maybe a film school but it has to be higher than secondary and then of course, you must love filmmaking and you must have a passion. So normally, when you’re applying, there’s a place for you to include something to show us you’re doing something along the line because it is for people in film and television, we just want to enhance what you have already done. We won’t expect a novice that has done nothing at all to apply. So they upload and go through that first process of screening where we look at and find out what you have uploaded.

Who are you partnering with this year?

For the academy, we have different partners that train, we can’t do all the training by ourselves, so we have different partners. For instance, the New York Film Academy, they are our partners, they come, they train the students on filmmaking, sometimes online, sometimes they send in and even the graduating students get to go over there to do something like an internship, exchange program. We also partner with Dovey, they are the world’s sound guys. Dovey is anything on sound and all that. We have a partnership with Canon for camera, film and all and there’s Pan Atlantic University School of Media and Communications, who issues certificates to the students.

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