Israel Audu is the founder of the Kaduna International Film Festival and the CEO of Ezzykash Media Concept. In this interview, he explains that festivals can revamp the Nigerian film industry and be a panacea to promote peace and harmony.
Yesou are in the promotion of films and artists through branding, events and the organization of awards, among other related arts / creatives. How did you get started and what inspired you?
I have always had a passion for films and I wish to see the creative industry develop, especially in northern Nigeria, hence my attraction to films and entertainment. I want to see that the creative industry of the North is in competition not only with the South, but with the world in general.
You are the founder of the Kaduna International Film Festival and the CEO of Ezzykash Media Concept. Tell us more about them.
The Kaduna International Film Festival was founded in 2018. It is the first international film festival in northern Nigeria. The aim of the festival is to bring together filmmakers and moviegoers from all over the world every year in Kaduna State (which is the seat of the North, so to speak), to promote entertainment and to increase the GDP of not only the state, but also northern Nigeria thanks to cinema. production. And Ezzykash Media Concept is the brand that organizes this event every year.
It is because of the lack of film festivals in the North that the festival was created to promote, encourage and support creativity and showcase emerging innovations, products or services born out of the passion and skills acquired in the youth film industry. Nollywood, Kannywood and the ‘woods’ from different parts of Nigeria have benefited from the festival since its inception, including international filmmakers / actors.
Every year during the festival there are master classes, film screenings, workshops / seminars, round tables, tourism and awards. As part of a wider campaign, this film festival aims to promote public awareness on the role of the film industry and the promotion of our tradition / cultural background in relation to the development of entrepreneurship, knowledge and employable skills for young people and the public.
Among the many aspects of film promotion, why did you choose the film festival as a means of advancing the industry?
The film festival is a big brand that crosses the world and has an impact on all areas of the creative industry, which is why I chose the film festival to promote and advance the industry. And also to exhibit and showcase the cultural heritage of the North to the world.
What impact has the festival had on the film industry in the north of the country?
At the film festival, for example, the master classes which are an annual tradition during the festival and always free. Roundtables where we discuss issues affecting the industry and the way forward, give attendees the opportunity to meet celebrities and network with other guests for better collaborations in the future. Participants have the opportunity to meet brands for sponsorship and other related projects.
What are the problems facing the film industry in the North, and how can they be resolved?
A major problem faced by the northern film industry is the lack of exposure, trust in the brand, difficulties in communicating in the general language (English). We can only solve some of these issues through regular workshops and seminars, attending film festivals and having more film festivals, capacity building events and collaboration with nollywood and other ‘woods. In Nigeria and beyond. Direct government financial support to the northern creative industry.
How will you compare the film industry in the North with that in the South?
First of all, I will start by saying that the southern film industry is already ahead of the northern part in terms of production quality, exposure and technicality. While we are not where we are supposed to be, we need more support from stakeholders and government to pull us out of the challenges of the creative industry.
Nollywood stars like Segun Arinze, Zack Orji, Tony Akposheri, among others, have worked with the festival as project consultants, resource persons and panelists, since its first edition in 2018. How would you describe their impact on the project ?
They all had an impact on the Kaduna International Film Festival because without them the activities would not have been complete. The 2021 edition was a special edition, so I would like to thank Zack Orji for spending a week doing the master class for the participants. Tony Akposheri, Ngozi Ezeh and Emeka Okoye have all been wonderful. We appreciate their presence and support.
At this year’s festival, Nigerian film practitioners spoke about cultural heritage. What is the concept ?
At a time when we need peace and unity, our culture is a key tool to remind us of our roots, and that we can start afresh in peace and harmony without violence. The entertainment industry has a vital role to play in promoting our culture, preserving it and presenting it to the world. That is why we have chosen this year’s theme as “My Cultural Heritage”.
In addition to organizing film festivals, I speak to young people and creatives, especially at film festivals, workshops and seminars. At the end of this year’s festival, we intend to involve young people by organizing workshops that will have an impact on their lives.
What are your successes so far?
My first achievement is that I am able to launch the first film festival in northern Nigeria and maintain it for the fourth year in a row. I was able to create a platform allowing filmmakers to sell their projects to television channels, to discover talents based in Kaduna and Lagos. I discovered and projected certain talents during the master classes, and I sometimes create a way for them to perform during the opening and closing ceremonies. Overall, the film festival can revive the film industry as well as the entertainment industry as a whole, if properly supported.
How do you keep track of your talents and mentees to make sure they stay on track?
I make sure I have their contact to follow up, ask to know their challenges and know how to help them. Whenever we have a film festival or a workshop, I make sure they attend to learn and relearn.
What challenges have you encountered so far?
The general challenge is the lack of funding from government, both federal and state levels, and other stakeholders. Without funding, the film festival or the creative industry might not be supported as it should. We also need cooperative organizations and philanthropists to invest and support the creative industry.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors or young people interested in the film industry?
My advice is: never give up in anything you do, believe in yourself and use social media to show your talent to the world. People are watching and you never know where your fame will come from. Keep pushing, you are a star!
What are your expectations of the Nigerian film industry in the near future?
My expectation is to see the Nigerian creative industry develop to compete with Bollywood and other international woods in terms of productions and technicalities. Let the Nigerian creative industry also be independent and not always wait for the government to provide funds all the time, because sometimes even though funds are allocated, practitioners never see the money.