Nollywood movies have been making a big splash in Africa and beyond over the last few years. “Music and film are our biggest exports,” declares Nigerian actress and producer Linda Obasi. And she understands why they are rapidly gaining in popularity. “The Nigerian style of acting and drama is over the top and theatrical with big emotions,” she exclaims, “and people just love it. Here is a country where all the leads look like their audience; it's all about representation. That's why it's booming among people of African descent all over the globe.”
Now the Overseas star is making sure that the talents on screen have an authentic space to get audition information for these highly-coveted roles. She’s launched EnyiCast, a Naija-based app and digital production hub that allows cast and crew talent to see what jobs and casting calls are available in Nigeria and instantly apply online.
“Producers and casting people can search by specific criteria such as location, age, gender, skill sets and even physique for films, television, radio and stage,” she tells EBONY.
Obasi created the app because the casting framework in Nigeria has been “very scattered,” she says. “It’s who do you know and what’s in WhatsApp groups. So this is the first app that's basically like a Backstage.”
The idea came to her back in 2007 after seeing how the “casting” process worked in her country. “It was 90 percent favoritism and casting couch. People often pay for roles, either with their body or with cash.” Obasi steered clear of this route. “There were a lot of jobs I could have done if I had compromised. And I was like, ‘Nah, no, thanks. I'll just produce my own.’”
When Nollywood was gaining more attention in the early 2000s, full-feature films were shot and edited in about 12 days. “And the same people kept getting roles,” Obasi says. Her app “democratizes the whole system: you have your portfolio, your photos, your videos and your resume there and you have a genuine shot at getting roles. It streamlines everything, which is very needed.”
The NollywoodWeek Film Festival just announced its winners in Paris, with director Biodun Stephens’ film The Wildflower securing the coveted “Prix du Public” (the audience award based on festival audience votes) in partnership with Angénieux Lenses. The jury consisted of professional actors, film critics, distributors, directors and government film officials, highlighting Nigeria's investment in filmmaking. With the improvements in production quality and storytelling, and a demand to showcase these films across the world, producers now go out of their way to find new faces, according to Obasi. “Everyone realizes that this app is helpful,” she concludes. “It makes that whole part of the job easier.”