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EAVE Interview: BLACK MIC MAC - expanding African storytellers’ audiences

“We want the films to be empowering whether it is for the filmmaker or for the people in the story.” – an exclusive interview with EAVE participant Nicola Ofoego

By Lilla Kadar

Nicola Ofoego, British-Irish-Nigerian participant of EAVE Producers Workshop 2022, studied economics at university and began trading bonds in investment banking. While navigating the world of finance and sales, she studied at NYU Tisch Film School in her spare time, continued her education at evening classes in London, then self-trained in Paris by immersing herself in French cinema culture, and finally left banking to find her way into the audiovisual industry, her true passion.

A week at the American Film Market with the Kinology team as an intern was a major breakthrough: she met many buyers and, with her proactive approach, made acquaintances that later led to job opportunities and to a broad industry experience in France.

At Mondex et Cie., she worked as a production assistant then associate producer on art documentaries, while also working as an acquisition agent for TMG Concorde where she identified and negotiated acquisitions of primarily French feature films. She also worked for Pathé International in their sales group.

After Concorde was bought out, she started working for MAREMAKO, identifying potential remake sources both in and outside of France, as well as for the acquisitions team at France TV Distribution, who have distributed films such as BETWEEN TWO WORLDS by Emmanuel Carrère (Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 2021), A RADIANT GIRL (Cannes Critics’ Week, 2021) and the TV show CALL MY AGENT.

Nicola recently launched her own production company OKU-TINE and is working with Pape Boye (former head of French sales company Versatile), on a new Paris based venture called Black Mic Mac, which finances and packages African film and TV content. Black Mic Mac is part of the Logical Pictures Group.

“We want to work with producers working in this region, to help them bring their projects to light, and we want to expand their audience, especially the European audience.”

The first film they have taken on board is HALO DAZE, a film by South African filmmaker Sibs Shongwe La Mer. His feature debut NECKTIE YOUTH (producer: EAVE graduate Elias Ribeiro) premiered at the Berlinale Panorama and won "Best South African Feature Film" and "Best Director" at the Durban International Film Festival in 2015.

The original focus was on “entertaining” African stories from Africa, but it will likely expand to include the African diaspora, including the Caribbean and filmmakers of African descent in Europe.

What does entertaining mean in this context? “We are not here to reinforce stories about war and sad African people, and we do not want to engage in stereotypes that have been consumed by Europe or the West in the past to reinforce a certain image of Africa. Of course, we all like movies and arthouse films, there’s going to be despair and horror and terror and drama… but we just want the films to be empowering whether it is for the filmmaker or for the people in the story.”

“I’d love to have a conversation with any producer or filmmaker who has some form of track record or interest in the region, who understands what we are trying to do, who thinks we have something in common that we can talk about.”

Nicola has been selected to EAVE Producers Workshop 2022 as a participant focusing on career development.

“I spend my time on a lot of different things, and I wanted the opportunity to better understand the production process, how to take the lead on projects, and really start working on projects that I am most personally interested in. On a personal level, I was struggling to manage my time, and I also wanted to have a larger network of like-minded film professionals in Europe."

Her production company named OKU-TINE, actually means “fire fire”: “oku” in Igbo (her father’s language), and “tine” in Irish Gaelic (her mother’s language) are both words for fire.

One of the most advanced projects in the slate is an eco-thriller from Trinidad by filmmaker Lauren Marsden, to be shot early next year with Mental Telepathy Pictures. An art documentary called WHY MUSIC by Mexican filmmakers Aarón Fernández and Jesús Muñoz is in development. Their previous film A PHILOSOPHER IN THE ARENA was very successful a couple of years ago: it was nominated Best Documentary at five film festivals including Buenos Aires, Monterrey, Guadalajara and Montréal.

“I think I’ll always have the acquisition angle because that’s what I have been involved with and what I enjoy. But for production, it's also important that I recognise early on the projects that I think have potential, and I want to be the one to take them forward. Rather than coming in at the end and saying «here is some money, go and do your thing».”

 

Page published 7 April 2022. Updated 29 April 2022.


Donate to the EAVE Alan Fountain International Scholarship Fund

A scholarship has been set up to honour the memory of Alan Fountain, former Head of Studies and President of EAVE, who passed away on March 3. Its goal is to enable one producer from outside the EU to participate in all three sessions of the EAVE Producers Workshop each year.

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