The animation potential in Africa remains relatively untapped. Onome Egba is the CEO of NOVAT Studios and a young Director, Animator and Visual Effects Artist in Lagos, Nigeria. He speaks on his passion and the potential of animation in Africa
Can we meet you?
I’m Onome Egba. I’m a screenwriter, a director, an animator and a visual effects artist.
How and when did you discover your passion for animating?
I’ve always been a strong lover of ART and storytelling in general. I started out creating comic books as a hobby. I had always planned that I would eventually turn my comic book stories into animations but I never really took it as an active goal.
My inquisitive nature led me to passive research on the technology behind some of the most amazing visual effect movies although that was more on the technical aspect but it was while watching Dream Works’ How to train your dragon that I fully realized the potential of animated stories. It was amazing how the filmmakers made me care about the journey of the protagonist even though I could clearly see that everything before my eyes was ‘not real’. After that I went on watching more and more animated movies, short and feature and it was then I came to the realization that animation is beyond mere fictitious storytelling, it is what happens when Art meets Science—BEAUTY.
And it can change lives and I wanted to be a part of it.
How much work did you put into learning it?
Starting out with no formal knowledge on anything about animation, I relied greatly on books, 3D creative magazines, tutorial videos online and lots and lots of practice.
How many animated films, shorts have you worked on?
My first animated film is ‘PULL’ which was selected in the prestigious Africa International Film Festival and was also nominated in the best animation category. It has also recently been nominated at the Africa Movie Academy Awards for the award for best animation. Right now I’m working on two other animated films. But the goal now is to keep pushing the envelope in terms of production quality and storytelling with everything I work on.
Last year, you were nominated for AFRIFF, one of the biggest awards (Film Festival)in Nigeria and Africa how was the experience for you?
It was quite surreal for me that my very first animated film could achieve such feat especially since I was still trying to master the tools of the trade while working on the film, but I’ll have to say the greatest experience would have to be the premiere itself at the festival, getting to watch my film in a cinema with a live audience and see their reaction – that for me was more than enough.
This year, you have been nominated for another award. Tell us about it.
Yes, PULL has just been nominated for the 2017 edition of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). It’s been great for the whole team that worked on it. We were a very small team of about five people, myself, Adeosun Ezekiel, Ola Fash, Kubiat Morgan and Galo Ortiz. And other than Galo, most of us were still learning on the job while creating the film and to see it go this far is awesome. This year for the first time, the Nigerian animation industry dominated the award with 3 out of 4 nominations. It’s just great for all of us to be a part of this GREAT movement.
In a speech earlier this year, the Vice-President of the country, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo explained that the animation industry is one of the key diversification sectors the government is exploring, what are the prospects and challenges this fledging industry is facing and how can they be surmounted?
The animation industry holds so much potential and not just as a storytelling tool but also for the Nigerian economy. Many animated films have gone on to make millions of dollars and even billions in the worldwide box-office, animated films have been known to be very commercially viable and beyond that in creating a new industry would amount to employment for youths.
The major challenge would be based on the availability of resources. Most Nigerian animators are being forced into only making short films because of lack of funds and resources to attempt a feature film and as you know, with the exception of certain film festival that give cash prices for winning an award, it is near impossible for you to make considerable financial profits from short films. To actively improve this industry to the point where we can start to reap its benefits we need people to invest into the industry.
Precisely, what are the prospects for this industry and how are you harnessing it?
Like I have already stated above the possibility of this industry is endless.
Looking at a lot of the animated films that have been produced here in Nigeria, though they have beautiful stories they are still quite far in terms of quality compared to international animations. I’m personally trying to bridge that gap. I want my work to be indistinguishable or even better than our Hollywood counterparts in terms of quality and even storytelling. Once the wave that will take this industry to the next level comes, I want to be ready, I want NOVAT to be leading that revolution.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re working on?
Like I said earlier, I’m currently working on two animated films. The first one ‘Car Warz’ is a fully CGI 3D photorealistic film that aims to start to exploit the technology that has been used in many Hollywood blockbuster films like Transformers and Marvel’s the Avengers. It’s already in the production phase and a teaser should be out soon. The second animated film ‘SILENCE’ is in the early stages of pre-production and as such I cannot say much about it yet.
Thank you, once again. We wish you the best!