‘The Black Book’ is Netflix’s first hit in Nigeria

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Edited Effiong’s excitement. Is it contagious. It’s been less than three weeks since your crime thriller, the black book, premiered on Netflix and the film has already been viewed more than 70 million times. “I’ve been in a very happy place,” Effiong says. “You create something and see it go out into the world, it would make anyone happy.”

the black book is one of the most expensive Nigerian films ever made, with a $1 million budget raised from some of Nigeria’s tech elite, including co-founder of fintech unicorn Flutterwave, Gbenga Abgoola and Piggyvest’s Odun Eweniyi. The film’s success (it earned the most viewed spot on the platform in South Korea and has been the number two film in several South American countries for over a week) makes it one of Nigeria’s rare hits on the streaming platforms and is perhaps a vindication of Netflix’s decision to invest in “Nollywood”, as the local industry is known.

“Thanks to the black bookNollywood filmmakers can now say, ‘Bet on us, support us with the right funding and we will give you films that will compete globally on your streamer,’” says Daniel Okechukwu, a Nigerian film writer.

Effiong began his dramatic career writing and directing church plays, which led him to production design. At the age of 12, while working on a play about the crucifixion of Jesus, he became obsessed with building the correct cross, spent time designing realistic uniforms from the Roman Empire, and even developed a prop that spilled fake blood when the soldiers in the play They were “stabbed.” ”with a spear.

This is the kind of ingenuity it takes to succeed in Nollywood, which has always been a low-budget venture. While their stories have often been overly theatrical and moralistic, they have always had the ability to entertain. Filmmakers mainly work with small budgets, between $25,000 and $70,000, usually finishing production within a few months. Initially, they released their work on cassettes, but while the rise of cinemas and streaming networks has improved the possibilities for filmmakers in terms of production quality, the industry remains underfunded.

When Netflix formally entered the Nigerian film industry in 2020, many in the business thought it would mean more money would flow into productions. The streaming giant had previously licensed existing Nigerian films and made them available to its more than 200 million subscribers worldwide. When it began investing in its own range of original content, Nollywood hoped it would spur a creative as well as a financial boom, giving filmmakers the opportunity to explore new terrain. But the first Netflix titles were very similar to the previous ones, in similar genres, although with slightly higher production values. And the money wasn’t much either. Reports have shown that Nigerian filmmakers are paid much less compared to their counterparts in countries with significantly smaller markets. The average licensing fee for Nigerian movies on Netflix ranges between $10,000 and $90,000, according to teccabalsignificantly less than in other parts of the world.

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