Chiamaka Ebochue is leading the charge for women in African film production

Young, vibrant, and successful are the best ways to describe Chiamaka Ebochue. With a singular goal of solving problems and helping people grow, Chiamaka has facilitated the creation of some of the best TV shows on African Magic and Showmax in recent years. As CEO and lead producer of Cineast and commissioning editor at Multichoice, Chiamaka Ebochue is actively amplifying women’s voices in film production.

In this week’s #MCNWorkLife, we spoke to Chiamaka Ebochue, a film producer, production manager, and self-acclaimed workaholic, about her journey in film from Ndani TV to Multichoice, where she, along with her team, curates the perfect TV shows for DSTV and Showmax.

If you were a different person, how would you describe Chiamaka Ebochue?

I would say that Chiamaka Ebochue is among the most hardworking people I’ve ever met. Her daily mantra, inspired by Davido, is “We rise by lifting others” because wherever she goes, she intentionally tries to help the people around her grow. If you meet her, you will not leave the same way.

What was your childhood dream job, and how did it translate to your current work?

My goal in life is always to solve problems, so I wanted to be a mechanic.  When I was young, I noticed all the mechanics were men, and everyone always complained about their mechanics. I thought, “It would be nice to be a female mechanic, and everyone would come, and I would fix their cars, and everything would be perfect,”  but when I got to SS1, someone told me mechanical engineering was a 5-year course. Immediately, I switched to the arts because that’s not for me. Then, I thought about becoming a lawyer, but that swiftly changed when I heard it was a 5-year course and I’d still have to attend law school.

Eventually, I settled on mass communication, which was a rollercoaster ride while I was at the University of Lagos. While in university, I was a radio presenter at Radio Continental, a model, and an usher occasionally until someone casually said, “Come and help me coordinate this event,” and I did it. Luckily, it was a success. From then on, I got called to organise events and essentially be a project manager, which was great. Even up until NYSC, I was working multiple jobs. I worked as a production manager for music videos, a fashion blogger, a social media manager for Naira Box, and a presenter for Pop Central.

After NYSC, I was actively getting gigs to handle production sets for people like Jade Osiberu, which led to my employment at Ndani. My time as an associate producer at Ndani was exciting with various TV shows like Gidi Up, Skinny Girl in Transit (seasons 3 to 5), Rumour Has It, Oga Pastor,  TGIF, and many more.  In 2019, I left Ndani to create my own production company, and shortly after, I handled the teaser productions of GTCO Fashion Week. I am consistently building my production company to help people grow and deliver quality work to clients. Now, I am actively sticking to my goal of solving and managing problems and assisting people to grow.

Chiamaka Ebochue

Your educational background is quite interesting, from the University of Lagos to the London Film Academy, with no other educational breaks in between. Tell us a bit about that.

I’ve been working since year three, and everything I’ve accumulated has resulted from my experience, the grace of God, and simply being honest. At some point, I was doing a lot of commercials and productions in Nigeria, and it began to feel repetitive, so I got curious about the Western systems. Then, I took a leap of faith and sent a message to the London Film Academy, telling them about my plans and what I was to do. They asked me to send my CV, and everything was set in motion. Then COVID came.

Because of COVID, I was told they wouldn’t be able to take me on, but I insisted on having the classes virtually because I wouldn’t let a pandemic that would possibly last a whole year stop me from achieving my goals. So, I gained a lot of knowledge on handling a lot of film-related business, which was great! I still speak to my lecturers about approaching specific production issues, and it’s been very insightful.

My experience with the London Film School taught me a lot of essential principles that have helped me maintain a peaceful and respectful set. While imperfect, I try to communicate and respect the people I work with, even at Multichoice, which is my current 9-5.

Chiamaka Ebochue

That’s wonderful. Tell us a bit about Multichoice and what your role there is like.

Getting the Multichoice gig is hilarious because it was through a Jobberman recruiter. Someone sent me a message saying they thought I would be an excellent fit for a role at Multichoice, but I thought he was a scammer. I sent my email regardless because I wanted to see if it was real, and it was. I did a series of interviews for three months and was eventually told I had gotten the job. At first, I didn’t want it because I was working on a global Afrobeat documentary at the time. Still, the HR personnel—who I believe deserves a raise because she’s fantastic at her work—convinced me to take the multichoice gig, and I did. Now I am currently the commissioning editor at Multichoice.

As a commissioning editor, I work on multiple TV shows for the Africa Magic channels. We searched for script ideas from the pitch deck to see what works for the channels on Africa Magic or Showmax. If the story works or has potential, we commission it and work with the production company from its inception to the production process to ensure everything is seamless. My most recent project is the viral Unscripted, which mimics Big Brother Naija and all its eccentricities.

For my first year at Africa Magic, I had 21 projects on my desk for different shows. My production company is still running, but I’m no longer the face of it. I leave it to other producers with whom I work to handle it.

From “Black is King” to WizKid’s “Essence” and the infamous “Dinner at My Place,” you’re constantly cementing your name in the sands of time. What has been the most exciting project you’ve had to work on so far?

I rate the excitement of my work based on the size of the challenges. Essence wasn’t challenging, and I worked as a production manager and line producer on set with JM Films.

For Black is King, as the production manager, I ensured everything was running smoothly, and all the issues were solved before they became a big deal. I didn’t know it was a Beyonce project until it was done. All I knew was I needed everyone to sign a seven-page release form and ensure the production was completed smoothly. When I discovered it was Beyonce’s project, I was elated and excited to be part of something iconic in this timeline. It was a beautiful experience, and I truly enjoyed it!

I do have to note that working with Tiwa Savage and Tems for Black is King and Essence, respectively, was a beautiful experience. They are really who they say they are and certainly know their stuff.

Being a producer is your main thing, but have you tried to explore other career paths?

I’ve tried many things, and while I don’t think I explored them properly, I still did them. I’ve wanted to own a Primark-like store. I love fashion, but I like it on other people. I tried to own a clothing brand, but the exchange rate was not friendly. I’ve wanted to be a makeup artist, virtual assistant, tailor, and more.

However, when I asked myself, “If I wasn’t a producer, what would I be doing?” then I began to ask myself questions about what it is I enjoy doing and stuff like that, and I realised I like growing,

I like solving problems for people, and I like money.

So, I looked out for the tech equivalent of a production manager, and it was a Scrum Master, which isn’t bad at all. So, I am a certified Scrum Master and excited about possibly working in tech.

Tell us about the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how you dealt with it.

One of my biggest challenges is that I look like a JSS2 child. I’m five foot five inches and a size extra small, and as a 30-year-old, being that short and petite with very little to no makeup is funny. As a producer, people don’t take me seriously when they see me at first. I used to think it was terrible at first, but now it’s my greatest weapon. When people look at me, they look at me like a child until I start speaking, and immediately, their opinions change. I like the element of surprise it gives, so I’ve gotten used to the expectations people have of me. All I do is continue proving them wrong, and it’s fun.

At the end of the day, as a producer, what would you call your greatest achievement?

My greatest accomplishment would be seeing my initiatives run on their own. For me, starting an initiative that will intentionally facilitate the growth of people in film is essential, and I’m doing that through Film Crew NG. Film Crew NG is a platform for people who want to find their foot in the door but don’t know where to start. So, the intention is to properly educate them and see their capabilities and behaviour. At a three-week boot camp, we intentionally train people and help them develop their skills. Doing this would help create a network of skilled individuals to refer to for roles in film production sets.

Because of my role at Multichoice, I have slowed down the process, but I am working toward my greatest achievement.

What initiatives have you participated in to promote gender equality and support other women throughout your career?

I’m very big on inclusivity, especially for women who want to work in the production industry. I would consider a woman first before considering a guy on a project. I always put women first because I know what it is like to be in an environment that doesn’t think of women based on their abilities but rather on their looks. However, we are entering an era where people are actively looking to hire more women or have women on their production teams. This is a step in the right direction, and I’m very happy about it.

How would you describe your personal life?

It doesn’t exist. Since I started working, friendships and relationships have been secondary to me. But after being rushed at the last minute to the hospital for an appendectomy, I realised that I needed to become more intentional about friendships.

I realised that I’m rich in people, and this year, I will be more intentional about my friendships and hang out with a few people every month.

So, I have to touch base with the essential people in my life and work toward having a well-rounded life.

How do you prioritise your physical and mental well-being?

I’m not as fit as I would like, but I am exploring various ways to stay fit. I’ve tried going to the gym, but it doesn’t work because my brain cannot understand why I must carry heavy metals to be healthy. So, I plan to explore other options, like tennis and swimming.

For my mental well-being, I rely on God for many things. I try to block out the negativity and stay positive.

What would you change if you were to do things differently in your career?

I think I would’ve left the country earlier. I used to believe much more in Nigeria, but now, I have a different opinion. But aside from that, I would leave everything else as is.

What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in film, TV, or video production?

Do it afraid; do it to the best of your abilities. You have to be willing. Your willingness will shape your attitude and your work ethic. If you’re not willing, don’t bother doing it.


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