The Digital Bridge Institute owned by Nigerian Communication Commission is busy on a cool Monday morning in August. The large courtyard is just the right place for the kind of activities going on there. One after the other, the students of the Del-York Creative Academy (DCA) walk in to earnestly begin the day’s business. A lady walks into the premises holding large make up brushes with a slim bag resting on her shoulders. ‘She must be one of those training as make-up artistes’, I thought to myself. Before long, the entire building is now very busy with students carrying cameras around, shooting at different parts of expansive landscape. The green scenery offers them a good background.
A moment later, a tall man walks in. His dark skin shines brightly in the August sun. It is a little past mid day. “I am sorry I kept you waiting,” he says. His charm makes his apology very sincere. Linus Idahosa is the chief executive offer of Del York International which Del-York Creative Academy is an arm. Idahosa is a man burdened with the idea of developing homegrown creative talents in the film industry. Hence he decided to set up DCA, an annual training programme for young men and women who are interested in developing their talents in film making.
“The idea behind the setting up the film institute,” he tells me as soon as the interview began, “is to channel our energy into building the next generation of film makers across Nigeria. The idea is to domicile such a center here in the country that will not only serve the Nigerian market but also cater to the talents rising up across Africa.”
Idahosa has been producing Television Commercials (TVC) and consulting for a number of blue chip companies and government. One day, he had an encounter. In one of the projects he was doing for a bank, he was to produce a TV Commercial. The bank’s management wanted the TVC shot in South Africa. He had about two weeks to shoot it.
“I told them in corporate communications that we could have Nigerians do this,” he recalls. “Then most of the TVCs that Nigerians produced for CNN were always returned because of the poor quality of production. So most of the banks and other corporate organisations are either shooting in South Africa or France or the United States.”
This incident prompted Idahosa to go to the University of Lagos to source for young talents whom he believes could deliver on the job. “I got some of these young guys who are very good with their crafts, small laptops with good editing suites. Got them into a room and I told them, guys this is how I want this TV Commercial to be. And they did it. By the time we were done, we sent the brief to the bank they were in shock. They didn’t know we shot in Nigeria at the end of the project.”
After that, Idahosa told his team: ‘there is no reason why you cannot produce this kind of TVCs. That experience marked the beginning of Idahosa’s remarkable journey into discovering young talents, training them and equipping them for the challenges ahead. And so, one of his trips to the United States, he discussed with the dean of the New York Film Academy about a possible partnership. He agreed. And the partnership birthed the DCA with visiting lecturers from New York and Los Angeles.
“If you are familiar with our training programmes,” he explains further, “what you would have observed is that our trainings are very hands on. You don’t come here to learn just film making. Some of the lecturers who train the students are flown in from New York and Los Angeles for our training programmes. What we invest in doing pretty much is to ensure they do their projects at the end of the training programme. We usually document how they were before the training started and what happened to them during the training. We have counsellors who actually mobilise their energy in the right direction; to, for example, do editing. They are being trained in cinematography and video animation making. We have led them in those directions. As you can see some of the students within the facility, we get people from within the industry and we actually sieve out talents from amongst them.”
This year’s training tagged ‘Film Made in Nigeria’ has commenced. It will run for the next four weeks at the Digital Bridge Institute, Cappa, Oshodi, Lagos. Idahosa says this year’s edition is specifically channelled at improving the skills and creative capacity of film makers and broadcast journalists in the country. According to him, the program will feature an array of highly Intensive hands-on courses which include: producing, directing, acting, digital film making, broadcast journalism, set- designs, screen writing, costume design and make-up, 3D animation, cinematography, editing, graphics and special effects.
Some of the students currently registered for the training include members from the Directors’ Guild of Nigeria, The Nigerian Society of Editors, Creative Designers’ Guild of Nigeria, Screenwriters’ Guild of Nigeria, Nigerian Society of Cinematography, Actors’ Guild of Nigeria and the Association of Movie Producers (AMP).
There are 75 Participants currently taking classes at the workshop. The Film Making class has 25 Students. In the Production Design class has 14 Students. Two students are registered for Screen Writing. There are six students studying Cinematography. There are 18 students in the editing class.
DCA’s courses are fully sponsored. And Idahosa says government agencies and individuals who believe in his vision have been good sponsors.
“This is purely sponsorship training programme. We realise that it will be difficult to, some of the talent folks that we have in the industry cannot afford to pay for this training programme no matter how cheap it is. River State government, Pepsi partnered with us on that particular programme so we started selecting across the country and the programme started. The idea pretty much is to invest in the creative capacity of men and women who are in Nigeria. Mobilise their energy in the right direction and see how they can make their creative products that will be commercially viable. That is pretty much how this was born and then we believe that as time progresses, we will be able to expand our programmes and open it up to other African countries for them to participate in what we are doing here.”
In addition, Idahosa have taken into cognisance the fact that students who have passed through the academy usually have a challenge raising startup capital. Hence he has approached some banks who have come on board to assist in solving the problem.
“We are now working with Heritage Bank to provide SME financing for some of our outstanding students,” he says. “When they graduate from a training programme, they get access to funds. They can use the funds to get cameras, produce a film, get editing suites or for cinematographers to get lights and other things. Our idea is pretty much to nurture the folks and lunch them into the industry. We have an online course that is called Talented.
“The graduated of our training programmes are domiciled, we network with them so they themselves can produce or get firsthand information as to what is happening within the academy, on monthly or yearly basis. For the productions that are being done in Nigeria our students are the folks who get those projects. We monitor them very closely. The idea is to empower them as well. We want them to know how to commercialise their creative capacities.”
Idahosa says the first step in getting students to enroll for the programmes is to identify some of them. Then he will write to some organisations to sponsor them.
“The selection process is really very rigorous,” he says frankly. “We get people who are aspiring film makers and broadcast journalist, to let those who are professionals in the industry. The training we are having now is specifically designed for set guilds. We provide, once we identify these folks, sponsorship for them. Like now we have Project Act. It is an agency under the ministry of finance, one of the intervention funds that was given for the training, we have them partnering with us on this particular project.
“For some of the students you are seeing here, they are sponsored. That is how we get sponsor. Last year, we had sponsorship from Edo State government; he sponsored about 18 students from Edo state. After the training, all the 18 students here were given automatic job in the Edo state. We have the likes of Tonye Princewill, for example, who sponsored 6-8 students from Port Harcourt. At the end of the training, he provided funds for them. Now they are all over the place shooting documentaries, news and all of that in their different places.”
Currently, the training comes up annually. Although Idahosa aspires to have it more frequently perhaps grow it into a full fledge film institute. But this he describes as a tall dream yet he hopes to achieve it someday.
“What we have been doing is to have the programme once in year. The challenges we undergo putting this kind of training together is that we have to fly all the lecturers in. Like I told you we have flown in about 68 lecturers from Los Angeles and New York into Nigeria. All of these folks who actually come in, we accommodate them. We provide security for them and we know how challenging it is getting them to come in. But these are people whom we have had conversations with. They are familiar with what we do here. And they are partnering with us in that light. This is a very tall ambitious exercise. What is happening here is ambitious on so many levels. If you do not have a passion for things like this it will like most elephant projects. And then it dies after while because to get partners in full capacity they need to understand what they creative process it in other to buy into a vision like this.
“So we have a five year plan when we started that we will begin to run our own programme, all the lecturers you see here today have bought into that vision. Many of us are doing a number of things within the next two to three weeks. To emphasis the fact that it is now time for us to have such a citadel of learning here. We don’t want to go to school where you are talking the theory of film making. Each student has access to the cameras, light. The costume maker also has access what she or he needs. This class is phenomenal you see these guys they have hair brushes to do make up using the resources we have within our environment to do all these.”