UCHE AGBO: FOUNDER/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF COAL CITY FILM FESTIVAL GIVES INSIGHT ON THE FESTIVAL
The Coal City Film Festival 2020 was scheduled to hold on the 30th of April to the 3rd of May.
The Festival was founder’s passionate vision to open the doors for Eastern based film makers and film lovers. While welcoming international collaborations and enthusiasts to the Eastern part of Nigeria.
In an interview with African Movies Hub, Uche Agbo, the Executive Director and Founder, delivers his own side of the extraordinary story of how the festival came to be.
Please introduce yourself, brand, and tell us about what you do.
My name is UCHE AGBO, a Filmmaker/Media Practitioner and Entrepreneur. I am the Chief Executive Officer of OKIKE MEDIA, a content creation and Public Relation Agency in Lagos, with subsidiaries such as Abuja Film Academy, Enugu Film Academy, Nollywood Insider, and Okike TV, a Youtube all round Entertainment channel. I am also the Founder and Executive Director of Coal City Film Festival. Currently I am the National Secretary of Directors’ Guild of Nigeria (DGN), the umbrella body housing all the Film and Television Directors in Nigeria. I hold both First Degree and Masters Degree in Theatre Arts and Theatre and Film Studies respectively, from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria. I am a writer, Film and Television Director, Producer and Media/Entertainment Consultant.
You will be hosting the maiden edition of the Coal City Film Festival (CCFF) in a matter of weeks. What really inspired this convention?
Well, as of now going by the whole pandemic sweeping across the earth, we are holding on to the plans of hosting the maiden edition of Coal City Film Festival, because of the safety of our guests and in line with government and health guideline. We are monitoring the situation and a new date may be announced soon after the entire pandemic has been relieved. As for what inspired Coal City Film Festival, well, I felt it is long over due, that South East Nigeria and South South which make up the old Eastern Region of the country can’t boost of a singular film festival that holds annually in that region, meanwhile they contributed and still contributing greatly to the number of films produced in Nigeria yearly. A chunk of these practitioners do not even know what a film festival is, and worst still hasn’t even attended any. So the inspiration gave from the fact, ndi Igbo has a saying “aku rue ulo” which literally means let your “wealth gets home”. It will be a waste of knowledge acquisition, if I can’t use my wealth of Experience in the movie industry to establish such important gathering of movie and art lovers as well as community annually to discuss how to advance the film art in South East and South South Nigeria. Having being to several festivals myself, my core inspiration is in giving back to my community of birth, that which has built cities and given voice to such mighty cities like Sundance, Toronto, Durban, to mention a few. Film Festivals build cities and give voices to their dwellers, I intend to accomplish that with Coal City Film Festival.
Why is Enugu pivotal to this fest, why not Lagos or Abuja?
To start with I am an ardent believer and promoter of the growth of South East Economy, hence, any initiative that I feel can help in this growth, I don’t give it a second thought, I often take it down to my people. Again, when you look at the history of Nollywood, you cannot write it fully without ENUGU STATE. Enugu State Nigeria played integral role in hosting early filmmakers and provided locations in the beginning days of the largest film industry in Africa and has continued to do so; what other way to pay the state back, than assembling filmmakers from all over the world annually to this tourist city with so much historical and archeological significance to Nigeria and Africa as a whole. It is my believe that Coal City Film Festival will open the door of South East Nigeria to the rest of the world, increasing cultural exchange by celebrating African and world Cinema, whilst giving local and International arts community an opportunity to savour diverse bubbling film and tourism experiences in Nigeria away from the ever busy city of Lagos to the historical coal city. As a people, we need to start diversifying our economy, because Nigeria’s economic growth is as strong as its weakest link. So rather than concentrate all efforts on the cities you mentioned, it is rather a better economic plan to diversify to other parts of the country, and that’s exactly what Coal City Film Festival tends to achieve.
This is the very first of this kind of gathering, how are the partnerships coming?
So far so good, but it is never an easy tasks convincing potential sponsors and partners about the need to explore new markets. However, because this is a noble idea, and we have shown capacity, we have had more partners give us green lights than they would have done first time ventures. So I will say, we have sealed some, and more are underway.
From your standpoint, how do you think upcoming and established filmmakers can benefit from this event?
Film festival all over the world is a highly networking event; it affords every practitioner the opportunity to network, strike new deals and reach a potential partnership. So Coal City Festival is an opportunity for independent filmmakers to meet, interact, and seek for new ways to collaborate. As I will always say, rather than compete, why not collaborate. In fact, the new way forward in the industry is Collaboration. To this end, it is an opportunity for upcoming actors and filmmakers with new ideas to be in the same room for three days with established practitioners and share thoughts on how to gainfully partner. It is also a good ground for investors to also identify talents and invest in them. We are also looking forward to having some embassies in attendance; it will be a good time to discuss International Collaborations as well. Enugu also offers the best filming environment in Nigeria, because, aside the good locations and great tourist potentials, its inhabitants are very schooled about filming, due to age long history the city has with filmmakers, so it is easy to find homes and people willing to accommodate filmmakers. It is therefore a great period for these filmmakers to integrate and learn the culture of their host cities. We can also boost of beautiful people, and most entertaining night lives, so it won’t be a boring adventure at all for both upcoming and established practitioners during Coal City Film Festival.
How does the CCFF benefit Nollywood as a sector?
Aside the already mentioned benefits, one other very important benefit to Nollywood is that it affords us as an industry an opportunity to also liaise with the state government that is solidly behind this initiative through the state ministry of Culture and Tourism and other funding institutions billed to come, and see how we can access funding which is one of the biggest challenge to practitioners. Also, like we say at the Festival board level, it is an event that takes Nollywood home – Enugu State is the home of filmmakers in Nigeria, and it is another opportunity to even visit some of the key locations used to film in the 90s up to early 2000s, and fraternize with them again. I am sure it will be an avenue to count our blessings and thank God for the journey so far. Coal City Film Festival is also an opportunity for industry delegates to meet investors who are willing to stake some huge capital, so it will end up being a win-win situation, as these investors will also be meeting with filmmakers with proven track records and even the upcoming ones with fantastic ideas. Finally, it is also an important gathering to Nollywood at large as it affords the opportunity to promote independent filmmakers doing amazing works with little or no voice, and giving them the opportunity to pitch their new projects ideas for potential International collaborations.
Tell us about the ACT & WIN competition?
Well, the ACT AND WIN Competition as initiated by Coal City Film Festival is part of the many opportunities we are providing for upcoming actors before and during the festival. Upcoming actors are expected to replicate or mimic a character in a Nollywood movie produced from 90s to early 2000s, post the video on their own Instagram page, the festival will in turn repost on their page, and the audience will have to vote for their best video. The person with the higest video wins Fifty Thousand Naira in cash and is giving a VIP pass to all the major activities during the Film Festival. The competition is doing two works; promoting our upcoming actors and celebrating the actors that gave birth to the Nollywood we benefit from today.
Are there going to be Masterclasses in Filmmaking?
Definitely yes! In fact, we have two kinds of classes, the first is what we call Beginners/Intermediate Classes, which are for the newbies in the industry and the second being the proper master classes. The beginners classes will have established practitioners like Kabat Esosa Egbon teach Writing, while Charles Inojie of the The Johnson’s Tv Series fame, take them in Acting and another established practitioner take them in Filmmaking. On the other hand, the Master classes will have the famous Zack Orji take on established actors on how to remain relevant as an actor for many decades. We are also working on two more master classes for filmmakers, “Producing Films that sell beyond Borders” and “Documentary Filmmaking as alternative Film Business to Cinema”. These among other Industry panel of discussions will gift attendants the opportunity to improve on their knowledge.
Can you tell us more about the Coal City Film Festival and other projects and plans you are hatching?
CCFF is gathering momentum at the moment right now because people are actually looking for film events outside Lagos and Abuja; hence, it seems as a perfect escape to the busy life of Lagos. We are getting more and more attention, and it is a good thing that many stakeholders are identifying with the vision. For other plans I have, we are working on many things as a company. The very first is lunching Abuja Film Academy 6weeks and 3 months practical classes in the city of Abuja to train people on the art of filmmaking at the heart of town – one can visit www.abujafilmacademy.com to learn more about that. Secondly, we are working on another event that will hold in Lagos, “Nollywood Legends and Under 40 Roundtable” and we are also working on bringing back our advocacy project “Nollywood Campus Storm” which we use to identify talents, groom them and launch them into the industry as well as advocate against identified menace in the society using popular faces and names as agents of change during the event. Personally, I am working on a 35 Million-Naira budget “Musical film” that I hope to release by December. Right now we are seeking for partners, investors and the pre-production is ongoing. I will tell the press more on this project when we are nearing the Principal Photography stage.
Do you intend to make the Coal City Film Festival a yearly event?
Yes, CCFF is an annual International film festival that is designed to provide activities that foster an appreciation of the art of film as well as educate local, regional and International filmmakers, students of film, the broader arts community, and the general public. It’s an opportunity for independent filmmakers and the art community at large to celebrate the beauty of the art of cinema. The Festival is Okike Media initiative with the goal of serving as the gateway to the heart of tourist potentials of South East Nigeria.