The Coal City Film Festival (CCFF) is a first-of-its-kind assembly of African film industry practitioners, investors and movie enthusiasts. The event which will play host to movie-makers such as film producers, directors, actors, marketers, distributors, etc, seeks to give life to the art of filmmaking as never seen in our shores.
Although the scheduled dates have been moved forward due to the Covid-19 pandemic world-wide, the festival will take place in Enugu, popularly known as the Coal City where many of these Nollywood’s veterans began their careers.
In this interview with Africa Movies Hub (AMH), the convener of the Coal City Film Festival, Uche Agbo, explains why he decided to host the CCFF and other sundry issues regarding the event.
- How the CCFF will benefit African filmmakers
- Key topics and Panelists to feature at the event
- How Nollywood will profit from the Coal City Film Festival
- Why the fest is holding in Enugu
AMH: Please introduce yourself, brand, and tell us about what you do.
Agbo: 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 the 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.
AMH: You will be hosting the maiden edition of the Coal City Film Festival (CCFF) in a matter of weeks as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic clears. Tell us what really inspired this convention.
Agbo: 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 also to keep in line with government instructions and health guidelines to stay indoors. So, we are monitoring the situation and a new date may be announced soon after the entire pandemic has been relieved.
As for what inspired the CCFF, well, I felt it is long overdue, that South-Eastern Nigeria and South-South which make up the old Eastern region of the country, can’t boast of a singular film festival that holds annually in that region, though it contributed and is still contributing greatly to the number of films produced in Nigeria yearly.
Come to think of it, a chunk of our film industry practitioners do not even know what a film festival is, and worst still have not even attended any. So the inspiration came from the Ndi-Igbo saying that goes thus; “aku rue ulo” which means let your wealth get home. It will be a waste of knowledge acquisition, if we can’t use our 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, the South-South and Nigeria in general.
Having been 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.
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AMH: Why is Enugu pivotal to this fest, why not Lagos or Abuja?
Agbo: To start with, I am an ardent believer and promoter of the growth of the economy of the South-East, 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 an 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 archaeological significance to Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
… when you look at the history of Nollywood, you cannot write it fully without Enugu State.- Uche Agbo
It is my belief 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 art 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.
AMH: Since this is the very first of this kind of gathering, how are the partnerships coming?
Agbo: So far so good, but it is never an easy task 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.
AMH: From your standpoint, how do you think upcoming and established filmmakers can benefit from this event?
Agbo: Film festivals all over the world are high-networking events; they afford practitioners the opportunity to network, strike new deals and reach potential partnerships. So, the Coal City Film Festival (CCFF) is an opportunity for independent filmmakers to meet, interact, and seek new ways to collaborate.
As I will always say, instead of competing, 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 from 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.
…instead of competing, why not collaborate. In fact, the new way forward in the industry is collaboration.
AMH: How does the CCFF benefit Nollywood as a sector?
Agbo: Asides from 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 challenges to practitioners.
Also, as 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 as film locations way back 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.
The 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 as these investors will also be meeting with filmmakers with proven track records and even the upcoming ones with fantastic ideas.
The 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 as these investors will also be meeting with filmmakers with proven track records and even the upcoming ones with fantastic ideas – Uche Agbo
Finally, it is also an important gathering to Nollywood in general since 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 project ideas for potential international collaborations.
AMH: Tell us about the ACT & WIN competition?
Agbo: 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 any character in a Nollywood movie produced from the 90s to early 2000s, post the video on their own Instagram page, the festival will, in turn, re-post on their page, and the audience will have to vote for their best video.
The person with the highest votes wins N50, 000 (Fifty Thousand Naira) in cash and is giving a VIP pass to all the major activities during the Film Festival. The ACT AND WIN competition will achieve two objectives; promoting our upcoming actors and celebrating the veteran actors that gave birth and contributed to the growth of the Nollywood we all benefit from today.
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AMH: Are there going to be Master Classes in Filmmaking?
Agbo: 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 is the proper master classes.
The beginners’ classes will have established practitioners like Kabat Esosa Egbon teach Script Writing; while Charles Inojie of The Johnson’s Tv Series fame, will take them in Acting. Another renowned filmmaker will take them in Filmmaking.
…established practitioners like Kabat Esosa Egbon teach Script Writing; while Charles Inojie of the The Johnson’s Tv Series fame, will take them in Acting. Another renowned filmmaker will take them in Filmmaking – Uche Agbo
There will also be two more master classes for filmmakers on the topics; Producing Films that sell beyond Borders and Documentary Filmmaking as alternative Film Business to Cinema. These among other industry topics will form our panel of discussions that will gift attendants the opportunity to improve on their knowledge.
AMH: Can you tell us more about the CCFF and other projects and plans you are hatching?
Agbo: The CCFF is gathering momentum right now because people are actually looking for film events outside Lagos and Abuja; hence, it seems like 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 launching Abuja Film Academy 6weeks and 3 months practical classes in the city of Abuja to train people on the art of filmmaking in the heart of the town – one can visit Abuja Film Academy to learn more about our programs.
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 advocate against the identified menace in the society by using popular faces and names as agents of change during the event.
I am currently 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.
I am currently 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 on-going.
AMH: Do you intend to make the CCFF a yearly event?
Agbo: Yes, the Coal City Film Festival (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 an Okike Media initiative with the goal of serving as the gateway to the heart of tourist potentials of South-East Nigeria.