Chidinma Igbokweuche Talks Nollydata and the Need To Tell The Nollywood Story

In the year 1990, English film fan and computer programmer, Col Needham, started compiling a list of actresses with nice eyes. Together with friends, they later expanded the list to include actors and directors. Thirty years later, what started as a series of leisurely compiled lists is now the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the largest database of movies and entertainment-related information online.

Chidinma Igbokweuche and cofounder, Ibrahim Suleiman, have recently launched something similar— Nollydata, a one-stop source for everything Nollywood. The announcement was made weeks ago on social media and it was greeted with a lot of acceptance. It feels like a timely arrival, like something the industry has needed for so long but hasn’t been able to articulate clearly till now.

There have been renewed attempts to document Nollywood in recent times. Film sites and blogs are replete with reviews, articles, and essays, all trying to cover an industry that continues to find its footing as it expands. But there remains that lingering feeling that more can be done; that a context-specific approach may be the way forward. Nollydata takes a stab at solving this dilemma. Here, industry players don’t have to wait for coverage from the press before they are heard or seen. They don’t have to work in isolation, away from the public glare. They can simply log in to the platform and share any information about their work for the world to see. It’s that simple. That’s the beauty of putting power in the hands of the people.

Filmkaku had a chat with founder, Chidinma Igbokweuche, about her story, the origins, plans, and hopes for Nollydata.

Filmkaku: Can you please give us a background into how you started in the industry?

Chidinma Igbokweuche: I started with writing, then producing. I’ve also handled a couple of directing jobs. Most recently, I created, wrote, and directed a series.

FK: Interesting. How do we access these projects you’ve done?

CI: For producing, I was the producer for The Olive, a web series for Accelerate TV. Also, there’s Yellow wall and The whole truth, also for Accelerate TV. These projects can be found on YouTube. In 2020, I executive produced a short film, Chaos; an experimental film that was shot and released during the pandemic regardless of the compulsory constraints imposed by the lockdown. I decided to write a film I could virtually direct and use to explore possibilities outside traditional on-set practices. I virtually directed my actors, collated their individual cuts, and forwarded them to my editor. The film can be accessed on YouTube and the Nollydata platform. At the moment, I freelance.

Founder Chidinma Igbokweuche
Cofounder Ibrahim Suleiman

FK: Amazing. Speaking of Nollydata, I’m curious to know what challenge you look to address with Nollydata.

CI: One of Nollywood’s biggest problems is data. Online data about our movies are sketchy and almost non-existent. Data such as synopsis, year of production, and actor profiles, details that are readily accessible for Hollywood films. I struggled to access certain information when I needed them. Particularly actor profiles when I had to cast a specific kind of actor for my first short film. This was back in 2018 and that was when the idea was birthed—a website of some sort where data can be stored and accessed. In 2021, I revisited the idea when we encountered difficulty casting for The Olive. I refined the idea and pushed harder for its actualization. This time, with a broader vision to contain the profiles of crew members to enhance their visibility.

FK: We see that Ibrahim Suleiman, a Nollywood actor, is co-founder of Nollydata. How did that partnership emerge?

CI: Ibrahim was a friend for years before becoming a partner. At the initial stages of the idealization of Nollydata, I was trying to do it alone but I had challenges. So, I tweeted, expressing my fears of trying to do something and he reached out. He loved the idea and requested to be part of it. I considered his offer, given his status in the industry and his robust online following. So, I suggested a partnership and brought him in as a co-founder. We both contributed our experiences, as actor and crew respectively, to build a platform that could serve both actors and crew members.

FK: The beauty of great partnerships. You earlier mentioned something about putting your films onto the platform, can you explain that bit?

CI: For clarification, Nollydata is not a streaming platform. You can only watch the movies listed on the website on the platforms where the makers and distributors have made them available. What Nollydata does is give you information (usually obscure and inaccessible) about Nigerian movies. Nollydata is user-based. A producer and/or executive producer can sign up on the platform and upload information they deem suitable about their film. It could be a trailer of the film, cast and crew profiles, movie release date, logline, and links to where the movies can be accessed for viewing, whether on Netflix, Amazon, Showmax, IrokoTV, and even the cinema. We try our best to protect the IPs of filmmakers, that’s why we do not screen movies, except if it’s a Nollydata original, and that’s a plan still in the works. For now, Nollydata archives information about Nollywood films, both new and existing.

FK: How do you see your company evolving in the coming years? What are the things you think Nollydata would start to do?

CI: One of the things we plan to do is ensure that, within the next few years, Nollydata is the most prominent platform where filmmakers seek to put up information about their work and profiles. More like a CV on the go for Nollywood filmmakers. We hope to see Nollydata links on social media handles of Nollywood filmmakers where their entire profiles can be accessed. Nollydata is projected to be a scouting ground for talents, cast, and crew alike. There are also plans to document in-depth reports about Nollywood. How are Nollywood movies made? What are the stories behind the finished products we see on screen? There will be BTS show-reels and immersive interviews with actors and crew members. The information on the platform would also help global spectators of the industry with research data on filmmaking practices in Nollywood.

FK: Amazing plan. Surely, better days are here for Nollywood. Thank you so much.

CI: My pleasure.

FK: As a sign-off note, what would you say about Nollywood; where we are, and what you hope to see as touching improvements?

CI: I consider myself a preacher of Nollywood. Our work is growing in value and quality. Of course, there’s still a large room for improvement. I think our decision to keep working despite all the obstacles speaks about our resilience to be better. The time, energy, and dedication that filmmaking in Nigeria demands is no joke. So, I do not doubt that the love for the craft is present. However, one thing I’d say regarding our desire for improvement is that we need to grow our visibility to the larger world and that’s where platforms like Nollydata come in. We are not perfect, yes, but we need to present ourselves as an industry with a structure that welcomes collaboration. Film is a collaborative venture and we need to embrace that truth more.

FK: Thank you very much for sharing this with us. Nollywood is blessed to have you.

CI: Thank you very much. This is much appreciated.


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