Netflix on Sunday, June 13, commenced its first 3-month Episodic Lab (EPL) and Development Executive Traineeship (DET) programmes in Africa. This is in partnership with the Realness Institute, a South Africa-based Centre for African film-makers.

Over 500 applications were received from Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe for the inaugural development lab for African writers and DET initiatives. However, only twelve professionals were selected to take part in both trainings.

Two Nigerians, Ayoade Adeyanju and Kehinde Joseph, selected to take part in EPL based on their story ideas, will get to develop their concepts with help from expert story consultants and creative producers. Other participants are Andile Ngcizela, Dominique Jossie and Kudakwashe Maradzika from South Africa and Mary Waireri from Kenya.

The lab participants will receive about $2,000 monthly stipend to enable them to focus entirely on their training, which will run remotely till September 5, 2021. At the end of the lab, each writer will have an opportunity to pitch their incubated concept to Netflix and could see their series further developed for production.

Meanwhile, Ololade Okedare is the only Nigerian selected to participate in the DET, in addition to South Africans Anneke Villet, Antionette Engel and Thandeka Zwane, Damaris Irungu Ochieng’ from Kenya and Lara Sousa, a Mozambican.

The executive trainees will get to immerse themselves in the story development process and receive technical training by partnering with the EPL writers to develop story concepts into quality productions.

Improving storytelling in Africa

The Netflix programme is being held to strengthen the foundation of quality storytelling in Africa and is part of efforts by the global streaming giant to produce more original local content from creative writers on the continent. 

“Without the existence of our storytellers, our favourite Netflix stories wouldn’t be possible,” Alison Triegaardt, Netflix manager for Grow Creative in Africa, said. “Africa has an amazing pool of talent – both in front and behind the camera – hence Netflix is committed to investing in African stories and talent long-term.”

Furthermore, a 5-day workshop focusing on post-production organised by Netflix is scheduled to be held later this month. The APost Lab is aimed at training film & television professionals from across Africa on technical best practices, technical and creative support methods, and methods to facilitate the best creative process. 

Thirty-two participants have been invited to participate in the workshops while more than 100 film & TV professionals from across the continent will be part of the Masterclasses. 

Potential boost to subscriber base

In addition to improving quality storytelling in Africa, Netflix would most likely be looking to grow its relatively small subscriber base in the region by producing more relatable, original local content with the help of the development lab. 

According to a Digital TV Research study, Netflix currently has about 2 million subscribers in Africa, which is half of the continent’s total streaming subscriber base. 

There is a chance having more relatable original African content could lure more viewers on the continent to use the streaming service particularly as the London-based industry researcher estimates streaming subscriptions in Africa will reach 13 million by 2025, up from over 3.9 million in 2020. 

“We’re energised and excited by the many opportunities that lie ahead for us to help strengthen the quality of African storytelling and to bring fresh voices to our members in Africa and around the world”, Triegaardt concluded.

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Michael Ajifowoke | Author

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