‘Being open to new possibilities can help women navigate leadership roles’
Busola Komolafe is a filmmaker, certified TV producer, content specialist and all-round TV and streaming platform expert. With a wealth of experience spanning over 15 years, she currently serves as the Channel Head at Paramount Africa. The international award-winning filmmaker gained her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature in 2008 from the University of Ado-Ekiti. With a Diploma in Basic Presentation from the National Broadcast Academy in Nigeria, she also had a distinction in TV/Film Production from the New York Film Academy. Her job experiences cuts across various top broadcast organisations and she has been a key contributor to content marketing. She served as a Presenter and Producer at the Nigerian Television Authority(NTA) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). She also worked with Africa Magic, served as Commissioning Editor at MultiChoice Group and recently won the Best Short Film award at the Toronto Nollywood International Film Festival. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she speaks on her passion for telling and projecting African stories to a global audience
Share with us your career story so far?
My career journey has been an interesting and fulfilling one. I got my first radio gig at the age of 19 as a presenter with Radio Nigeria and then a TV presenting opportunity came along the line with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Upon graduation from the university, I already had four years broadcast experience. This was a significant launching pad for me. Afterwards, I worked as an Associate Producer and TV entertainment reporter for Hip TV, where I had the opportunity to produce entertainment shows and Headies Awards. Though my stay at Hip TV was short-lived, it opened doors for me in the industry.
One of my most impactful experiences was joining the then M-NET team, where I eventually became the Head of the in-house production. I successfully managed an incredible team that produced the M-NET popular flagship shows – 53 Extra and JARA, one of the longest-running Magazine shows in Africa, spanning 11 seasons.
Subsequently, I joined Multichoice fully as a Commissioning Editor, which is a project management and supervisory role. I worked on major successful projects, including Big Brother Naija, Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, Nigerian Idol and various Africa Magic TV Contents. In 2022, I decided to challenge myself and directed my first film to do something different from what I have done over the years which has always been reality shows (unscripted formats).
I studied film Producing at the New York Film Academy in the United States. Little did I know that daring to Direct and Co-Produce the film will bring me international recognition. The Short Film, ‘Phantom’ so far has been nominated for four different international awards while it bagged the Best Short Film Category.
My current role is Senior Channels Manager at Paramount Africa, where I oversee programming strategy and production for the Paramount channel brands (MTVBase, BET Africa, Comedy Central Nickelodeon) in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. All of these opportunities have impacted me tremendously, and I am grateful for every one of them.
You are passionate about producing outstanding results and this is evident in your strong creative skills as an invaluable asset to any production team. How are you achieving this?
Achieving outstanding results while creating content that resonates with the audience are two aspects that I really prioritise in my work. I believe in fostering a collaborative and inclusive work environment. I always value the contributions of every member of my team and I often encourage them to bring their unique perspectives and ideas to the table. I work with a talented and diverse team that shares the same passion for excellence, and together, we strive to deliver content that captivates and inspires our viewers. Also important is continuous learning and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations in the industry. It helps me push my boundaries of creativity and explore new ways of engaging with my audience.
What does your new role entail and how are you championing your cause?
In my role as the Senior Channels Manager at Paramount Africa, I have a multifaceted set of responsibilities. I am responsible for overseeing the overall content strategy and production for the channel. This involves collaborating with various stakeholders such as writers, directors, producers and talents to develop and execute engaging and high-quality content. I also play a key role in identifying and acquiring new content opportunities that align with the channel’s vision and objectives.
This includes scouting for talented filmmakers, exploring co-production partnerships and staying updated on industry trends. To champion my cause, I emphasise the importance of creativity, diversity and inclusivity and consistently strive to provide a platform for emerging voices and under-represented talents by supporting their creative endeavours and helping them bring their stories to a wider audience. By fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment, I aim to create opportunities for unique and authentic storytelling that resonates with our diverse viewership.
As a female in a managerial position, what challenges have you been confronted with and how were you able to surmount them?
Thanks to the culture at Paramount; being a woman in this role has been a fulfilling journey. I rely on a combination of resilience, determination and the support of a strong network. It also helps that at Paramount, inclusion and diversity are taken quite seriously. I actively seek out opportunities to showcase my skills and expertise, challenging any preconceived notions or biases that may arise, and I always advocate for gender equality and diversity in the workplace, encouraging an inclusive environment where all individuals have equal opportunities to thrive and contribute. Basically, I try to be the change I want to see because I strongly believe in the power of mentorship and role models. So, by supporting and uplifting other women in their professional journeys, I think we can collectively create a more inclusive and equitable industry.
The African creative industry is fast receiving recognition globally. In your opinion, what are the challenges the industry is facing, and how is your organisation addressing them?
The African creative industry has really evolved over time to occupy a position of global relevance, especially in the film and music industry. However, with the right funding module and better structure in the industry, we can go farther in projecting our stories as Africans to a wider audience.
Paramount Africa has identified this problem and has driven quite a lot of initiatives in support of the true expression of African heritage. We have successfully run quite a number of initiatives, including a partnership with the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), which gave expressive platforms and support to African storytellers across the continent. We have engaged and are still engaging with African filmmakers to co- fund and co-produce their films while also presenting the option for distribution deals for these films. This will go a long way in propelling the Nollywood industry.
As a woman who has risen through the ranks and sits at the upper echelon in the industry, what advice do you have for other women seeking to rise up the ladder?
My advice for other women is: Be confident in your abilities/capabilities and never underestimate your worth even when those around you don’t give you a reason to. You need to believe in your skills and your unique perspective. Find mentors and allies who can provide guidance, support and opportunities for growth. Building a strong network and fostering meaningful relationships can open doors and provide valuable insights into navigating the industry.
Also, never stop learning. The truth is the entertainment industry is constantly evolving almost at the speed of light; so you can’t afford to be complacent. Stay updated with the latest trends, technologies and best industry practices. Look for professional development opportunities and be proactive in expanding your skill set; it will give you a competitive edge and open doors to new opportunities.
Finally, I urge women to support and uplift each other. By creating a culture of collaboration and empowerment, we can break down barriers and collectively work towards gender equality and a more inclusive industry.
How do you stay inspired and motivated in your professional journey?
I find inspiration from various sources; sometimes from other creative works or travel and art. They spark new ideas, ignite my imagination and remind me of the power of storytelling to connect with others and make a difference. I also draw inspiration from the people around me, both within and outside the industry. Collaborating with talented individuals, hearing their stories and witnessing their passion fuels my own motivation. Networking and engaging with like-minded professionals provide opportunities for shared experiences and learning. Self-care is essential for maintaining motivation. l enjoy a good Spa day and personal reflection helps me recharge and stay focused.
How can more women get involved in leadership roles while fulfilling their dreams in these changing times?
I think the first thing women need to do is to embrace the idea that they can pursue leadership positions without sacrificing their personal fulfilment. They need to define what fulfilment means to them personally and strive to achieve a balance between professional and personal goals.
The second is to build a strong support system. Seek out mentors, allies and networks that can provide guidance, encouragement and resources. Surround yourself with individuals who support your aspirations and understand the importance of work-life integration.
Thirdly, don’t be afraid to negotiate for opportunities, promotions and equal compensation. Be assertive in expressing your ambitions and demonstrate the unique perspectives and skills that you bring to the table.
Lastly, stay adaptable and embrace change. The world is evolving rapidly, and being open to new possibilities, technologies and ways of working can help women navigate the shifting landscape of leadership roles. Continuous learning, upskilling and embracing innovation are key to thriving in these changing times.
What is your life’s mantra?
My life’s mantra is: Embrace challenges, pursue growth and make an impact.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.