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Winning Is Synonymous With Play Network Studios

By Njideka Agbo  
27 May 2022   |   6:26 pm
To make a film more memorable, one of its secrets lies in creating a bigger quote. (paraphrased)- Author Anonymous When Charles Okpaleke announced the intended release of Living in Bondage in 2020, the announcement was received with mixed feelings. In the film industry, classics, as some argue, are better left like that. To make a…

Charles Okpaleke. Photo George Okoro for Charles Okpaleke

To make a film more memorable, one of its secrets lies in creating a bigger quote. (paraphrased)- Author Anonymous

When Charles Okpaleke announced the intended release of Living in Bondage in 2020, the announcement was received with mixed feelings. In the film industry, classics, as some argue, are better left like that. To make a sequel or a rerun is to leave a sour taste. In Nigeria, where these films were the mirror to society and influenced the daily lives of people, films and sitcoms such as Living in Bondage (Nigeria’s first film), CheckMate, Nneka The Pretty Serpent, Rattlesnake were revered. To touch them was to desecrate Nigeria’s treasures. 

As Guardian Life wrote in an interview with Okpakele in 2020, “Living in Bondage”, as such, became the revealer of the “secrets”- that not all who belonged to the special class had obtained their wealth through legal means.”

Yet, 28 years after the release of Living in Bondage, Charles Okpaleke, a new entrant in the film industry, announced through his company, PlayNetwork Studios its sequel. That same year, it was nominated 11 times and carted 7 Awards, including the highly coveted “Best Overall Movie” Award, making it the first in AMVCA’s history to make this mark.

On why he chose to tow this risky path, Okpaleke says, “I grew up watching old Nollywood. It was a bit personal to see how I could relive that feeling of 20 years ago and take it to the modern times. I thought that if I can afford it, I am a Nigerian that would appreciate it and I thought that others would.” 

In a country such as Nigeria, this is no small feat. With the continuous issues plaguing the country, there is the adrenaline rush to move on to the next thing. To be able to retain their attention for more than a week is work for magicians. Okpaleke seems to have found the secrets to this power. For one, he believes that in one’s aim for perfection, there is an audience to appreciate the effort.

From making Nnamdi, Nneka the pretty serpent among others memorable with its quality cinematic experience, Play Network, is giving Nigerian classics their due flowers and Africa is not just paying attention but applauding the Studios. 

Now in its second year of producing films, Play Network Studios has carted 5 awards at the just-concluded AMVCA awards and is not resting on its oars.   

One vital lesson he has learned during production he says is “doing it afraid”. Well aware of the critics, he admits that he is not a superman after all but notes that his motivation to continue lies in history, because “in the end, history won’t forgive you because these are classics that if, are not brought back to this generation, would be forgotten.”

With Netflix Original’s collaboration with Play Network studios for Glamour Girls scheduled for release this June, King Jaja of Opobo in the works, and the recent purchase of Diamond Ring, it is clear that what started as a drop vis-a-vis Kenneth Nnebue’s belief in him is now an ocean.

Now, how is he fanning the flames in others? He says that Play Network’s goal, beyond films, is to give young talents an opportunity.

“If you notice in all our films…, for example, in Living in Bondage, our writer was a first-time writer, Nicole Asinugo; our lead cast, Jide Kene Achufusi, that was his first major role; in Rattlesnake, we had a lot of fresh people who were major breakouts, some of these people had less than 1000 people on their social media. In the nearest future, we would also be executive-producing scripts from pre to post-production.”

Play Network Studios is just getting started but one thing is certain: it will be remembered for redefining film in Nigeria.