On Tuesday, Nollywood production house, Nemsia Films, announced that it has closed an exclusive slate deal for 3 commissioned feature films with American streaming giant, Amazon Prime Video, which made its way into Nollywood in December last year, signing deals with Inkblot Productions and Anthill Studios.
The slate deal in filmmaking signed by both Amazon Prime Video and Nemsia means that Amazon Prime Video has agreed to either co-finance or solely finance multiple films of Nemsia Films. This means, it is reserving the IP rights of the 3 films on the slate deal and will cover the production costs of all 3 films. Upon the release of these films, they would likely be called Amazon Originals.
In a statement, Ayanna Lonian, Director of Content Acquisition and Head of Worldwide Major Studio Licensing Strategy at Prime Video said, “We are very excited to collaborate with Nemsia Films on this pioneering slate deal, which will complement our growing lineup of local Nollywood content for Prime Video customers”.
“This slate deal supports our goal to showcase Nollywood at its best, by telling authentic home-grown stories in a range of genres to Prime Video customers around the world”, Lonian added.
About Nemsia Films
Nemsia Films was originally founded in 2009 as an advertising agency by Derin Adeyokunnu (Managing Partner) and BB Sasore (Creative Director). After creating a couple of TV commercials, the founders realised they could do great work in feature filmmaking. In 2013, they added filmmaking to their suite of offerings. Nemsia’s first production, Before 30, a television drama series, was produced in 2014 and started airing on Africa Magic in 2015 before getting listed on Netflix in 2020.
The company has gone on to produce more films including God Calling (2018) and Journey of an African Colony (2019), a docu-series based on books by lawyer and author, Olasupo Shasore. According to Adeyokunnu and Sasore, these films are available on Netflix, and have all become Netflix most viewed at some point.
“At Nemsia Films, it is our belief in ‘no gravity for the mind’ that has led us to work with Prime Video, one of the leading streaming services worldwide, capable of delivering our stories further than we ever imagined,” Adeyokunnu said. “We are tremendously excited about the collaboration and what the future holds for Nollywood.”
According to Adeyokunnu, the journey towards signing the slate deal started June, 2021 with Amazon Prime Video reaching out to Sasore on LinkedIn for possible collaboration. “We shared what we’ve got, and they loved it. After giving our work some light touch and creative guidance, they were good to go,” Adeyokunnu said.
Sasore, who’s the writer and director of most of the company’s production, thinks Amazon is doing something right, which is leaving room for more emerging operators to play.
“They’re really keen on the story and are ready to source from the best guys, regardless of their status,” he said.
Given the nature of the Nigerian movie industry (being the second largest movie industry in the world), it is quite commendable seeing Amazon navigating through and reaching out to independent and emerging creators for the interest of business.
Furthermore, Sasore believes that Amazon is different given the fact that with over 200 million global viewers, Amazon’s reach to the company has given Nemsia the freedom to recommend more interesting production outfits.
“We gave them some names, but they trusted us to make a choice, so we went for Loup Garou Films,” he said. He also added that Amazon loved the recommendation and folded them (Loup Garou Films) into the deal. Loup Garou is a small production company whose key focus is on music video production. The company has shot videos for Mavins artists, Ladipoe and Ayra Starr.
“The deal Amazon signed with Nemsia was originally for 2 films, but now that Loup Garou is involved, Amazon has made room for 1 more film. This means, Loup Garou will be producing their own film independently but under Nemsia Films”, Sasore stated.
The first feature film from this deal will be Breath of Life, written and directed by Sasore and produced by actor Eku Edewor, who recently joined Nemsia as producer.Sasore said the slated film will not be a production featuring an amalgamation of stars. “The story speaks for itself. It requires top talents and not necessarily the established stars,” he said while talking about how they are casting for the slated films.
The Entrance of Amazon Into Nollywood
The entrance of Amazon into Nollywood showcases the key interest to streaming platforms wanting to build a formidable local content bank. This is also seen in the entrance of Netflix commission films such as King of Boys: The Return of the King and the recent rave, Blood Sisters. Both series are Netflix originals.
The streaming platform also has begun the textbook approach to capturing both local and diaspora audiences of any frontier market: getting in bed with the locals through licensing agreements.
Last year when it announced its entry into Nollywood, it went into a licensing partnership with Inkblot Productions, a Nigerian film production company, to stream most of its titles that have already aired in cinemas. It also went into a similar partnership with Anthill Studios, an animation production company.
Licensing agreements can be considered low-hanging fruits since they mostly require buying the rights to display already-made products—films, in this case. But, through this deal, Amazon is actively demonstrating that it wants to put its back to work and have more skin in the game as it will be financing local films from scratch.
Sasore said even though the deal is signed and delivered and casting for the first film concluded, production will start in July and stretch through the third and fourth quarters of the year. He also said that Breath of Life should hit the screen by the first quarter of next year.
Also, this gives Nigeria and Nollywood an edge following the competition harnessed from this, with Netflix having its Nigerian office. YouTube as well, serves as an outlet for indie filmmakers to distribute their work. The big question is, Would Amazon Prime Video’s entry into Nigeria intensify the competition, and would it dominate the market?
Sasore agreed that the competition will be more intense, which he says is good for the market. But he believes the road to dominance for any platform is still far. “It’s a big market and, interestingly, an open one. There’s no market leader yet, so there’s still room to play. We are still in the early days of our greatness, and anybody in the film industry ecosystem right now is contributing to the groundwork”, he said.