Women in film: Follow spot on Mary Njoku, Ego Boyo and Michelle Bello
It would be most unfair to wrap up discussion on the creative cash madams of Nollywood without a mention of Remmy Mary Njoku, Ego Boyo and Michelle Bello, three of the few significant women of the arts, who by their offerings, have been turning the tide for good for Nollywood and have also been playing big in the motion picture club that was hitherto exclusively for men.
This week, the follow spot shines on this set of creative cash madams of moviedom for their quality contribution to Nollywood.
Mary Remmy Njoku
Behind, beside and in front of the very successful media entrepreneur, Jason Njoku, who is Founder of iROKOtv, a web platform that provides paid content on demand, is his adorable wife, the quietly effective Nollywood actress and producer, Mary Remmy Njoku.
They have worked effectively together to build a successful media brand and a Nollywood factory machine.
But it is Mary that runs the movie making factory machine, being the chief executive of Rok Studios, a Lagos-based film studio and an arm of iROKOtv, which she runs as a production and original content company.
The company, which launched a fresh out of the box television channel on Sky TV in the United Kingdom, has grown incredibly, churning out works, such as Raging Passion, Hazeezat, Thy Will Be Done, Festac Town and a few others that have kept iROKOtv subscribers glued to the platform.
Born and raised in Lagos, Mary started out as an actress, making her acting debut in the movie, Home Sickness, but she hit the limelight after starring in movies, such as Blackberry Babes, Bloodline, Brave, Husbands of Lagos, Critical Truth, Hand of Fate and Sins of the Past.
No doubt, Mary has worked her way up the industry from an aspiring actress to a heavyweight producer and film studio head that has a deep understanding of the workings of Nollywood.
One notable female player in the filmmaking club is the delectable Michelle Bello.
The alumnus of the American University in Washington D.C. and Regent University in Virginia, where she earned a Masters degree in Communications, specialising in Film Directing, is best known for producing and directing the award- winning movie, Flower Girl, which stars Damilola Adegbite in the lead role.
Her journey to becoming a prominent member of women in filmmaking club started in 2005 when upon graduation, she moved back to Nigeria to pursue her dreams of becoming a film producer and director.
Her first call was in 2007, when she worked with prominent television producer and presenter, Mo Abudu, as an Associate Producer on her hit MNet TV show, Moments with Mo.
Her next call was producing the award-winning music video, Greenland, for well-known artist and photographer, T.Y. Bello, as well as producing and directing her first feature film, Small Boy, which earned several award nominations and won two Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for Best Art Direction and Best Young Child Actor at the 2009 edition.
But it was with her second feature film as producer and director, Flower Girls, that Michelle struck gold. Released in February 2013 to rave reviews, Flower Girl hit the big screen in an extraordinary way, selling out screens in cinemas and ending up being one of the highest grossing Nigerian productions in 2013.
Apart from its box office successes, it played strongly to delighted audiences across 15 cities in six countries and three continents.
A trained filmmaker, who calls the shot as chief executive of Lagos-based publishing company, Blu Star Entertainment, Michelle got the right icing on her career cake when she was awarded the prestigious and much coveted Trailblazer Award at the 2014 edition of the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA).
Currently working on her next film project, Michelle got the AMVCA for what the organisers said was her commitment, versatility and demonstrated talent and potential for cutting-edge approaches to African cinema.
She had remarked after receiving the award that there would be no stopping her, ever.
This actress, producer and media entrepreneur is not new on the scene. Ego Boyo, who is currently prepping for the November 19 premiere of the silent movie, A Hotel Called Memory, which she produced, has been playing more than a tide changing game in the Nigerian motion picture landscape.
Many will still remember her stunning role as Ann Haastrup in Amaka Igwe’s soap opera of the early 1990s, Checkmate. Her role in that long-rested soap earned her and the other actors in the soap, including Richard Mofe Damijo and Kunle Bamtefa, star status.
She became a household name and a darling to most keen viewers of the well-helmed and well-intentioned soap opera. And when acting on home video gained grounds, Ego moved over and starred in Amaka Igwe’s award-winning movie, Violated.
She did not stop at just acting; Ego later ventured into production through her outfit, Temple Production, which she has led to sign quality productions, such as Keeping Faith, To Live Again and Mildred Okwo’s 30 Days as producer.
A philanthropist, wife and mother, Ego, who recently returned to the screen after about two decades, featuring in Okwo’s first television series, Bankers NGR, seems poised to redefine filmmaking in Nigeria and Africa with her decision to fund the making of a full-length silent film, titled A Hotel Called Memory.
Directed by Akin Omotoso and starring Nse Ikpe Etim, Abdi Hussein and Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, moviegoers and critics that have seen the festival cut of the film have described it roundly as a fresh take on African cinema.
They also think Ego is on a journey to redefine filmmaking on the continent.
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