The buzz over the November 11 release of Marvel Studios’ Wakanda Forever is keeping not just movie lovers excited but politicians and corporate executives too. The African premiere of the highly anticipated blockbuster is scheduled to happen in Lagos, and the woman responsible for pulling this off is Chioma Ude, the Founder of the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) and Envivo Communications.
From childhood, Chioma had a strong interest in entertainment. And even though she was not clear on what career path she would take, she knew it would be something along the entertainment line. Recounting the times, Chioma said she was always the dancer and storyteller of the family, participating in several dance competitions even though she was shy.
“I was a very smart kid, I did all sciences. And I remember the pressure on me was so much to be a doctor. My parents would be like how can you study physics, chemistry, and biology and not do anything with them? But then, one fundamental thing was that I liked people a lot and I could sell anything to you,” she said.
This trait was a mix of strengths she pooled from both parents. Following her selling ability, Chioma’s elder brother urged her to study marketing. She got admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study marketing. Taking marketing as a career path could easily have been the easiest choice for Chioma, as the required skills came naturally to her and she hardly remembered she was studying.
After school, she worked as a dynamic sales executive in a trading company in Nigeria for two years before moving to the United States of America where she worked for 11 years.
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She then returned to Nigeria in 2006 to take up the position of MD/CEO of JATA Logistics Limited. Ude transformed the story of JATA logistics, moving it from the core logistics service company she met, to other areas like travel management, Business Support Services, and Events Management, which was a passion of hers.
Within three years, JATA managed various local and International roadshows for the Initial Public Offerings of UBA, Bank PHB, and Transcorp, private placements for Interstate Data USA and Global Biofuels, and managed events for National Sports Lottery and various other companies.
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Going into film production
Going into film production was pretty direct for Ude. Leveraging the connections she had made over the years, she started trying to fund films. For the first few years, the answers mostly sounded like ‘you go do it and come back to me but she kept at it. She got involved in scriptwriting as well, putting her storytelling skills into use.
While Chioma was heading JATA, she got involved in the production of the 2007 Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) UK Roadshow and remembered her first love for entertainment. Courtesy of some relationships she cultivated, she was invited to take on the Logistics of the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and the creation of the AMAA Charity Benefit, which she produced for the Africa Film Academy in 2008 and 2009. It was an initiative meant to be an annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project for industry practitioners and stakeholders to give back to society.
In 2009, Chioma and Jeta produced one of the most talked about film premieres in Nollywood, the film ‘Through the Glass’ produced by Stephanie Okereke. Chioma was crowned in 2009 fantastically as the local producer of the ION International Film Festival (IONIFF), held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. It was at this event that she got the nudge that would birth AFRIFF.
The vision behind AFRIFF
“The then commissioner in Porthacourt, Marcus Nneji said Chioma we have to bring this to Africa. We have to own something of this standard. So, I said to him it is too big and how am I going to get the finance? He said don’t worry. My mentor at that time was Douglas and I asked him what do you think? He is dead now, but, I remember he said he was going to be by me. So, with all these three people, I felt better. So, I did the first one in Port Harcourt and ran it on my own thereafter” Ude recounted.
And so, the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) was founded in 2010, as an annual international festival. From then, it has steadily continued to move towards becoming a fully privately funded interest. AFRIFF is firmly set in the international circuit of festivals and is continuing to attract tremendous international interest and support.
AFRIFF is collaborating with The Walt Disney Company and FilmOne Entertainment to host the premiere in Lagos, Nigeria.
In 2017, Chioma Ude entered a deal with her partner-based platform and service provider to birth Envivo Communications Limited. Envivo is a technology-based company that has its cloud and servers made by Cisco and domiciled in the main One. It primarily serves as a content delivery network.
Speaking about the entertainment platform on Envivo, Ude said; “Our servers also have something called compression technique; it compresses your content so that your data usage is a lot less without distorting the picture quality. Another benefit is that when you put your app on to start watching a movie, it buffs but the minute the video starts playing, it doesn’t stop till it ends, that’ll work for our film streaming app where we stream films that are off Cinema.”
Besides being an entertainment platform, there is also the education part of it – iClass – where users can learn. Envivo has partnered with approved universities to facilitate e-learning, by digitizing and placing different courses from the universities on Envivo so that users can study. When a user studies for many hours, he takes a test. After several tests, they can now take their examination at the university and get certified.
Chioma Ude is the Group CEO of Envivo Communications subsidiaries like Envivo Media, Envivo Education, Envivo Payments, Maverick Interactive Lavida Studios, and Mammal Studios. Ude is also a managing partner at LaVida Studios, which secured a $50 million production investment and signed a 10-project slate with Dentsu’s The Story Lab, USA, to recruit and support top African writing talent in creating original African stories that appeal to a global audience.
She also sits on the board of Innovatively, an incubation and acceleration lab for tech bases ventures in Nigeria.
A piece of advice from Chioma Ude
To younger people seeking to toe this path, Ude says “I would say run your race. Don’t look toward what anybody is doing. Know yourself and what you want to do. Focus on it. Anytime you are looking at someone else, they are taking away from your time and your space. So, keep moving and ignore it. Take calculated risks.”