Recognized as one of the continent’s most successful women, Mo Abudu has built an entertainment empire on the back of a desire to tell the African story, in its own words. With EbonyLife TV thriving, the decision to step onto the Nollywood treadmill presented itself – and she’s subsequently had a hand in producing the top three films on the industry’s all-time box office grossing chart, with takings of nearly ₦1.4 Billion for EbonyLife Films’ The Wedding Party, Fifty and Chief Daddy – which made its worldwide streaming debut on Netflix on 15 March.
Lesson 1: “Passion can trump experience – if it’s tempered by knowledge”
Abudu didn’t let her lack of TV experience deter her from pitching what was to become the ultra-successful show, Moments with Mo, to DStv when she spotted a gap in the market for a Pan-African talk show. “Passion can trump experience – if it’s tempered by knowledge,” she says. “The difference between thinking you’re right and knowing you’re right is something all too few people understand –, particularly in the business world. Moments with Mo was powered by the conviction that we needed to project a true image of Africa to the world – and that’s something that has driven us on to creating Nollywood movies with EbonyLife Films.
Lesson 2: “Information is your compass – if you know better, you’ll do better”
Speaking of knowledge, Abudu has a genuine belief that it’s the foundation for power. “Information is your compass – if you know better, you’ll do better,” she says. “You need to explore all the possibilities you can think of – and be smart enough to make the right decisions when unexpected opportunities come your way. Don’t be shy to explore and research what other people have done to succeed, and don’t forget to ask about their failures, too.
Lesson 3: Be proud of your Story
Being proud of who you are and where you come from is foundational to the success of EbonyLife TV – and, as a result, of EbonyLife Films. “Our tagline ‘Made in Nigeria for the world’ is a declaration of pride at where we come from, as well as an indicator of our ambition,” says Abudu. “Your story is amazing because it’s yours, alone – and sharing your experience or presenting your take on things can inspire millions of other people. Don’t let anyone make you feel second-rate – our film industry is the second largest in the world, one of the most productive and the third-largest in terms of revenue, employing more than a million people. Be proud of that – and be proud of your story.”
Lesson 4: Choose your partners wisely
Being smart about choosing your partners is important in such a big industry. “A film is made on the back of the efforts of hundreds of people – from those carrying power cables to the ones writing scripts, serving meals, shining in front of the camera and putting together the deals that bring the project to the screen,” says Abudu. “If you think you can do it alone, you’re wrong. But as much as you need partners to help you make a success of it, you need to make sure you target the right partners, who share not only your vision but your drive. Making movies is hard work. Chief Daddy was a full Nigerian effort; we are proud of the team and talent we have locally.
Lesson 5: Don’t be afraid to aim high
While being realistic is important – it’s equally important to aim high. “Why should you not pitch the product you’ve poured your heart, soul, and money into, to global players like Netflix?,” asks Abudu. “As successful as we are in Nollywood, we’re always looking at ways to access the African diaspora, amplify our projects and generally take things to the next level. Hollywood films are a staple around the world because they made it so, themselves. We’re moving into a space where we want to make our local stories for a global audience. It’s time for the rest of the world to buy into the Nollywood appeal.”
Log in to Netflix from March 15th to watch Chief Daddy, the latest box-office blockbuster from EbonyLife Films.