Global audiences are hungry for unique and little known stories that they can make an emotional connection to. Add to this the growth of streaming services and video content on social media, and African filmmakers already have a foot in the door of the global film market.
These are the words of David Cornwall. The managing director of Scorpion TV, an international production and distribution company, has over 20 years of experience in the global media industry. He was speaking at the ANF Academy Presents: Going Global - Connecting African Producers to Global Markets. The fireside chat was hosted by Africa No Filter’s grants manager Victor Mark
David says the most important ingredient to making it big is to get started, whether locally or globally. He said the growth of streaming platforms and the increasing need for innovative content by social media platforms like Tik Tok and Youtube have made it easier to get a foot in the door - as long as the content is compelling and well-made.
Here are his tips for getting started.
Choose a route: Film and documentary production can be done in different ways. Do some research and decide if you'll be making TV commissions, feature documentaries, digital documentaries or partnership documentaries. Weigh your options and determine what's best for you. Do you want to make short documentaries for a digital publication, or will your local newspaper fund your film? Considering how you like to work and what kind of films you want to make, choose a route to help you make the most impact. For example, TV commissions are quickly funded, but you'll need a proven track record to secure any broadcaster's interest.
Know your audience: Filmmakers should think about who they'll be making films for before and during filmmaking. This is important because 'products' should always meet a need in the market. Audiences like to be surprised and informed; they like to feel. So, make it immersive and uplifting. Give them what they want while at the same time remaining true to yourself and the kind of art you want to produce.
Find a gap you can fill: While there are no new stories, there are hidden stories — overlooked stories. Filmmakers trying to penetrate the scene should think about the different kinds of novelty they can bring to the table. There's still so much that could be produced about the continent, and new filmmakers like you can fill that gap.
Have some footage: Investors want to know you're credible and can deliver what you say you can. As a result, it helps to record your previous work and some footage of the project you want to bring to life.
Collaborate with brands and organisations aligned to your project: What kind of partners are interested in the film you're trying to make? Find those partners and pitch your film to them. It saves time and effort, and you'll avoid being frustrated in the long run. If you want to work with brands like Netflix or the BBC or popular US brands, get them in at the early stage of the project because they are less likely to buy finished projects. Also, try to team up with an experienced producer so whoever is investing in your project can see that they won't be throwing their money away.
Look for funding: There's money out there, but nobody is going to tell you where it is. You have to go out there and find it. Attend pitching forums at significant festivals, take the initiative and reach out to brands you would like to work with. Always be on the lookout for funds you can apply for.
Watch ANF Presents: Going Global - Connecting African Producers to Global Markets here.