Joy Odiete is in the core business of film production and has spread her tentacles to other countries in Africa through the film-making industry.
Her company, Blue Pictures, has carved a niche for itself as one of the foremost film distribution companies with affiliations to leading global production organisations.
In this interview, she speaks on the business aspect of the industry, among other issues.
Being the only woman leading a global film distribution company in Nigeria, how do you feel?
I think the initial feeling was a daunting one, as it is a field less travelled by women, let alone establishing a business whose core is distribution. Predominantly, the men lead conversations in this field even in the international market. So, to answer your question, I would say it is a great feeling, knowing that a woman too can create a table to sit at and not just looking to sit at the table.
How easy was it to break the glass ceiling considering the financial involvement and connections required in the industry?
There were, and still are, ceilings that need to break especially in the film marketing business. For me, it was mostly about getting the funding required to scale the business. The Nigerian system is really not built to encourage entrepreneurs as it took my business well over five to 10 years to attract the attention of Nigerian banks and pro-entrepreneurship organisations. The international market actually took more notice of the business before the traction began in Nigeria. So, funding is one ceiling. I distribute contents to global streaming platforms including Amazon and Netflix.
Blue Pictures has produced quite a number of films, tell us about the experience.
Every movie has its own experience, Gone was our first production and I would say I got my first baptism of fire venturing into production. Again, we got stuck because of funding following the unprecedented increase in the rate of dollar towards the end of the Nigerian shoot, which made us overshoot our initial budget. We were unable to follow the timelines scheduled on paper for the New York part of the film. Money Miss Road was not same; we received the funding by the Executive Producer for Money Miss Road way ahead of planning the production. This time around, we had to meticulously plan every Naira and kobo in such a way that the budget doesn’t go over as experienced with Gone, bearing in mind possible inflation.
In terms of experience, how would you rate your performance in film distribution, production and marketing?
Experience in film distribution gives you the ability to know the right director for a particular script or story or genre; know the cast, who can deliver stellar performance; and the right brand partnership you may want to attract for the film.
For the young woman whose ambition is the entertainment industry, what would you say to her?
In business, there really is no mapped-out path to success. You only need to be very good at what you do, be consistent and most importantly, be true to yourself.
As a filmmaker, entertainment professional and distributor, how do you know your audience’s interests?
The Nigerian audience is fully aware of the times we are in; it is a time where Black Cinema and Black Essence are being celebrated. Therefore, what the Nigerian audience wants to see at the box office is the best content in terms of storyline and excellent delivery of the story being told. What sparks my interest is the storyline and the delivery by the talents.
As a distributor and producer, do you see becoming an actress or director as part of the mix in the near future?
I have no future interest in acting or directing. Absolutely none.
What gladdens and saddens you about Nigeria’s film industry?
What gladdens me is the fact that there is a huge traction at the International Film Community, and what saddens me is the lack of structure.
What recipes do you have to grow the African cinema industry?
There is no special recipe. In this industry, we urgently need funding to scale certain aspects, skilled and knowledgeable tech partners to boost certain levels of our production. This could be argued but we also need better interpretations of how our story is told especially now that we have the interest of the international market.