Zulumoke Oyibo: Working To Take Nigeria To Global Stage With Film
Zulumoke Oyibo is an innovative leader in the African film industry. Trained as a lawyer, her passion for storytelling and creativity led her and two friends to co-found Inkblot Productions in 2010, which has since become one of Africa’s leading production houses.
In her 12 years of practice, she has produced and executive produced over 22 films and TV series, including The Arbitration and The Wedding Party Series. Inkblot has also secured partnerships with Netflix and Amazon Studios and in 2020, was commissioned by Netflix to produce Netflix’s flagship African Young Adult show, Far From Home. A passionate advocate for women’s empowerment.
She founded iWIF, a platform with the mission to build a sustainable industry while tackling and proffering solutions to social, ethical, and professional issues affecting women film practitioners. Having won several awards and recognition home and abroad, she remains committed to supporting and amplifying the works of other filmmakers, serving as mentor, speaker, evaluator, and advisor for various establishments on issues and policies affecting the Nigerian film industry.
As a trained lawyer, what inspired your transition into the world of filmmaking?
I studied Law for six years and was called to the Nigerian Bar but it was quite evident through it all that I had a love for creative arts. When the opportunity came to sit together with friends, talking about story and the Nigerian film industry, I felt right at home. Inkblot Productions was founded in 2011 on our love for good storytelling and a desire to see our stories told our way. We must have been doing something right because we grew from these three new entrants to a leading name in filmmaking in Africa, with the highest grossing film franchise out of Nollywood (The Wedding Party 1&2) and more.
Over the past 12 years, Inkblot has become one of Africa’s leading production houses, what do you attribute to its success and growth especially in a country like Nigeria?
We’ve had collaboration as a watchword, from inception to date. We are keen on institutionalising and building an industry and focused on making global content at scale so that Nollywood films remain relevant. This is a herculean task but not an impossible one if you collaborate. I appreciate that creatives need a level of conviction and self-assuredness but that often leads to a bloated ego. We need more collaborations, internally and cross culturally. It is through collaboration that a film like The Wedding Party, which showed new possibilities to the industry, exists.
Could you share some of the highlights and challenges you’ve encountered so far?
As far as challenges go, I’ll say the unavailability of financing and financial instruments, skill gap, lack of policies and government support, lack of operational data and so on, but I choose not to focus on that. I choose instead to appreciate the weeds growing from the concrete, every filmmaker, making success stories against the odds. People are building legacies regardless.
You are attending the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and will be speaking at some panels; what insights do you plan to share?
The Cannes Film Festival is the biggest film festival in the world and I am thrilled to be on a couple of panels there to lend my thoughts on creative Africa and our uniqueness, international co-productions and its possibilities, cross cultural growth and the power of media as well as the impact women in film have made in the short time they have found their voice. The world has opened up so much that we cannot ignore ourselves and our unique identities and I’m so excited to experience the future of our stories.
What are your expectations and what do you hope to gain from the experience?
The idea is to solidify many connections that will emerge into beautiful creative expressions soon. Inkblot is taking Nigeria, Africa, global. Thanks to the music industry, we see the opportunity. Nigeria is full of so many beautiful, different stories we have not even begun to tell. Just as every culture has its folktales, every film industry has its unique stories. Co-productions are a way to expand our horizons and finance our projects so that we set ourselves up for success. We want to hear the tales from our neighboring continents and we want to tell our rich African tales too but also, we want to merge these stories.
In 2021, Inkblot entered a first-of-its-kind output deal with Amazon Studios; tell us more about this and its significance for African filmmakers?
Many creatives are stifled by the economics of their dreams which usually results in a muting of expression. What output deals do is they provide opportunities to expand the limits of creativity by reducing the worry of those economics. For the period since the deal has been in existence, over 2000 African cast and crew members have been beneficiaries.
Creative Africa is in the spotlight and I am so proud of what Inkblot achieved entering this deal and what it means for the African film industry.
In December 2022, Far From Home was released and it broke many records and built a solid fanbase, what should viewers expect from the series and are there any teas to spill?
Far From Home is such a darling project for us. To have been trusted to deliver on Netflix’s first young adult series was an encouraging inflection point on Inkblot’s journey. Working closely with the studio to create the show was very insightful. If you are looking for tea, I advise you stay tuned to the news on Netflix.
What can audiences expect in terms of new projects and partnerships for the rest of 2023?
We have movies like “Big Love” coming to the cinemas next month and movies going to streaming platforms. We have international co-productions lined up. We have upskilling projects in the works for younger creatives. With our increased Pan African outlook, we have collaborations with the biggest stars and filmmakers out of Africa. Watch out for fresh perspectives and many intriguing stories, cultures and lifestyles coming to your screens.
Looking back, what advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
Start where you are. Collaborate. Your first film is your calling card into the industry. There is no barrier to entry besides yourself, so give your dream a shot.
What do you enjoy doing outside work and how do they contribute to your creativity and well-being?
I love people watching which is the genesis of my love for reality tv. I love to dance to loud music and weird as it may sound, I absolutely love my moments of solitude. It is important to reconnect with your core occasionally. For me, that core is God and once I get that rest, I am recharged to continue the good fight.
What have learned throughout your career and how have they influenced your decision-making and growth as a filmmaker?
Success confuses. You make a solid film that everyone raves about and suddenly you think you are the cock of the walk. This makes you ignore or misinterpret the lessons you should have picked from the project. Find a balance, do not let success get to your head but also, do not let failure get to your heart.