Editi Effiòng discusses ‘The Black Book’, Nollywood, and the future of streaming in Nigeria

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla
"I don't see any downsides"- Editi Effiòng on the future of streaming in Nigeria

Editi Effiòng has remained a vocal voice in Nigerian cyberspace for years. His digital agency Anakle, which according to its website uses “data-driven marketing solutions, [to] help our clients make faster and more meaningful connections with their target audience,” has been a leader in the digital marketing space for a long time.

These days, depending on who you ask, he has become a kind of scion for the digital age, leading the charge towards a future of streaming with the advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime in Nollywood.

With both Anakle the digital agency and his new portfolio of films, Editi Effiòng will seem like a crash course on how to succeed, monetise and build a business around creating content for the digital age, his over 180k followers on X inclusive.

But his view of things is quite different.

"I don't see any downsides"- Editi Effiòng on the future of streaming in Nigeria

“I don’t know how to be an influencer on social media to now move away from it. I’m not what you’ll consider a ‘creator.’ In modern terms, a ‘creator’ is like someone who makes short videos. And that is not what I am. I’ve never been any of those things,” he said.

What about building a business around creating digital products? “I don’t think that is a question I can answer,” he said. “I usually describe myself as an entrepreneur working in tech, advertising and film.”

This is how he sees things.

“My first business was a web development business. I was building web products; websites on one hand. [Then] moving into a more dynamic sphere building mobile apps. That’s where I come from.”

It was after this that he worked as a marketing lead and products manager for a retail company and decided he was going to help businesses market their product. With his background in tech, he focused on digital.

In those days, at the beginning of the last decade, his focus was building digital infrastructure, website, and apps (remember the Bride Price app?) for the future, what is now the present, when we spend too much time on our phones, reading, shopping and playing.

“Back then advertising was sitting in the hands of the big traditional agencies. Nobody had the capacity for people buying stuff off of mobile phones. So basically, we were pioneering a new era in marketing where people were going to be spending a lot of time on their phones,” Editi said. “People had to learn to evolve to designing marketing for mobile.”

Then Editi Effiòng built Anakle Labs, working with as he said “mostly financial services, [to] optimise products, design products.” He also started a short-lived accelerator for startups under Anakle Labs. “It’s important to just work to your strength and that’s not a strength,” he said.

Editi Effiong’s foray into filmmaking

Editi Effiong then added making movies to his tasks. He worked on Up North in 2018 with the musician Banky W and his actress wife Adesua Etomi-Wellington as leads.

“I was always going to make films, it was a matter of when. So when I could afford to, that’s when I made Up North,”

Now the stakes in Nollywood are different. Giants like Netflix have come to take a huge share of the market. Some filmmakers have called for caution in the embrace that the streamers have received from both the Nigerian audience and the Nollywood establishment.

But for Editi Effiòng, primarily a producer, the arrival of the streamers offers new opportunities for Nollywood.

It’s increased the audience. There are people who will never go to the cinema to watch a Nollywood film, but are seeing them on streaming,” he said.

“It’s like you finish in cinemas and streaming gives new life to a project, like taking the project out again one more time. And in some cases, producers see the things that didn’t work in cinema, and go and recut their film. That’s an advantage. It also allows more straightforward investment into the industry. Streamers are buying films from Nigeria and putting them on their platform for a wider audience,” he said.

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The caution that has been raised by those filmmakers has not been without merit, however. Nollywood is still a nascent industry, still unlocking paths to financial sustainability across the food chain. Hollywood, a much older industry is beginning to see the downsides of the streamers. Writers and actors in Hollywood have been on strike, demanding fair compensation in an age where residuals and royalties barely come to them.

For Editi Effiòng, Nollywood and Hollywood are just too different for us to begin to think of streaming in that light at least for now.

“I’m a Nigerian filmmaker. I can’t speak for Hollywood. I can only speak for the Nigerian system. In Nigeria, producers put all their money, take all the risks, and whether the films do well or not, they are the ones taking the risks. So I don’t think that streamers are taking away money from creators.” he said.

"I don't see any downsides"- Editi Effiòng on the future of streaming in Nigeria

Netflix has also been accused of pay disparity for creators in South Africa and Nigeria. According to Netflix’s socio-economic impact report, South Africa got $125 million, while Nigeria got $23 million between 2016 and 2022. Nigerians also contributed 283 licenced titles and three commissioned titles during the same period. In South Africa, 170 were licensed, while 16 were Netflix originals.

“Netflix subscription in the United States is N18,000. The highest plan in Nigeria is N4,400. The number of subscribers is way less. That is why. Netflix is not a charity. They are a business,” Editi Effiong says. “They are not going to pour money into a market where they are still on the low end. I am not saying things cannot be better. But I’m saying there is a business case for why that happens.”

The Black Book

Editi Effiòng’s current project is The Black Book which will premiere on September 22, 2023, on Netflix. The movie is like many of the newer Nollywood productions, with a deliberate attempt at perfection and a more complicated storyline. But Editi isn’t comfortable with the film being described as “not the typical Nollywood film.” For him, The Black Book is the typical Nollywood movie.

“I avoid that thing of ‘it’s not a regular story.’ In fact, what it is, is a regular Nollywood story, because what is a Nollywood story? It’s a story made in the Nigerian film industry.”

Editi Effiong

“If the Nigerian market is small you’re going to get small films. That is it. I can’t risk my life and take 10 million dollars and go and make a film for you to enjoy when I know that there are only like 20 thousand people that are going to watch. And so you think a film is badly written but what you didn’t realise is that I just couldn’t shoot what I wanted to shoot. The story I wrote could not be shot. The audience doesn’t see that, but that is the reality,” he said.

The cast of The Black Book includes heavy-weight actors like Shaffy Bello, Richard Mofe-Damijo, and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett. What was it like working with these stars?

"I don't see any downsides"- Editi Effiòng on the future of streaming in Nigeria

“They are very professionals. Actually, I worked with a band of very professional actors, cast and crew. We had a wish list and we’re very lucky to close 90 per cent of the people we had on that list. And when you work with professionals it makes things easier. It was a lot of fun,” Editi Effiòng said.

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