We weren’t playing when we said we would be stripping things down and getting personal behind the seens – but even we couldn’t have predicted just how fun and real things would get during our first Viber chat with An African City (AAC) creator Nicole Amartefio and actress Maame Adjei. Here are six things you probably didn’t know about the popular African web series.
1/ Money sparks as much debate as sex
Before the flurry of debates could begin on how sexy or otherwise Season 2 is, the amphitheater was already filled to capacity with folks harping away. Two words: Subscription fees. The backlash online might have been minimal when An African City’s producers announced all 13 episodes of Season 2 would be available for streaming on VHX for $19.99, but as we found out when we asked our readers for their questions, it was very much on people’s minds.
While some think it is premature for An African City to charge its viewers, others are open to the idea – but only if it takes into consideration the dynamics of the show’s African and Diasporan audiences. And there’s the “competition” – YouTube series like Ndani TV’s Gidi Up and MTV’s Sugah; channels like iRokoTV and Sparrow Station, and relatively more affordable VHX options like Black&SexyTV. Indeed, to some, subscription fees just spell an agonizing death for An African City – what exactly were they thinking? Apparently, “sustainable business”:
“We did not come up with that number in a frivolous way. We looked at our losses for Season 1 and looked at our budget for Season 2. We met with VHX executives who gave us advice and options on price points…We applaud Sparrow and B&S. In fact, we all talk and are supportive of one another. But, ultimately, from time to time, we will NEED different business models and that is OK.” – Nicole
While it is left to be seen how they will fare, they seem to be off to a good start, making more in a 24-hour period on VHX than tthey did in their 2 years (and 2 million views) on YouTube. So now, allow us to throw another one into the debate arena – Why are people reluctant to put and pay a monetary value for creative African endeavors that they, by all intents and purposes, enjoy?
2/ Bleaching and “dumsor” are about to take a beating
Yes, you read right. In addition to exploring the differences in returnee experiences and the nuances of *ahem* “going down”, the ladies and guys will take on the issue of skin bleaching head on this season and focus on a somewhat unlikely culprit: men.
“I’m seeing more and more bleached men in Accra since we shot that episode. It’s interesting that we only associate bleaching with women.” – Maame
Anyone who has visited Accra in recent times will likely have experienced the (still ongoing – 3 years and counting) power outages. If you haven’t, look out for Episode 11 – Nicole’s favorite – which talks about energy crisis in a “creative, entertaining way”. In case you couldn’t tell from our Africans on Twitter feature with Yesi Yesi, we’re all about mixing business with pleasure.
3 / Collaboration is the new sexy in An African City
Episode 1 featured work and art from Raffia, Blueprint Africa and Daar Living – the season will feature over 50 other African designers! As the ladies pointed out, supporting one another is just the tip of the iceberg, the beginnings of “a movement”:
“Gosh! We couldn’t mention just one designer [because] we have so many who sent us amazing pieces this season. I wanna say we had over 50 designers support the show (from Austria to Ivory Coast). All African designers (from or producing on the continent).” – Maame
4/ You’ve got options
Still bummed about the $19.99 subscription fee? Dont be. For one thing, you can watch opening scenes of the first episode on the An African YouTube channel for free. For another, well, let’s just say that the An African City crew got you from February 1 onwards:
Maame: “We’re on Ebony Life TV from Monday (February 1st). Viewers on the continent can catch us there. We’re also going to be on Canal Plus (Francophone Africa) starting February 9th. And i’m sure we’ll be announcing more platforms as we move along.”
Nicole: “In due time. There will be second runs. Third runs. The show will be carried on DSTV from Feb 1st.”
5/ Audience feedback matters
It doesnt take a film or media genius to tell you that charting (somewhat) new territories is bound to leave a few ruffled feathers in the wake. When it comes to crtiicism – and praise – An African City has had its fair share (and Maame has probably seen them all). But which ones have stood out and actually been incorporated?
Nicole: “Over a year ago, we did a screening in DC. Someone mentioned that if she returns to Ghana, life wouldn’t be as easy for her as it appears to be for these girls. That’s why I created Adoma. However, the story is about five successful, well off women. That’s not going to change. However, it did feel good to introduce a different perspective.”
Maame: “I can’t think of a particular one but someone suggested that they wanted to see more of Accra and not just us in restaurants or wanted to know more about the characters’ back stories.”
6/ Fear never takes a day off – you shouldn’t either
What do you struggle with as an individual? And then the silence, the moment everyone probably held their breath in disbelief – “Oh no, she didn’t just ask them that!” But I did, and I’m glad about it too because the gems that followed are exactly what going behind the seens is about:
Maame: “For me it’s fear. Absolutely. Fear. Fair of failing, Fear of not pushing myself enough. Fear of not reaching my full potential. It’s something that I make a conscious effort everyday to push through.”
Nicole: “Similar. I am my biggest critic. And what makes it tough for women is that we can be easily labeled. So in my quest for people to give 100% on AAC, that means I am a….you name it. But I won’t accept anything less than 100%. If I was a man, this would be accepted.”
If these ladies can push through their doubts and fears to tread new waters (however imperfect), so can you. I repeat, so can you.
So there you have it – some of the scoops, air clearing, business insights, and keeping it real moments from our behind the scenes chat with An African City. Want to read the entire thing? Visit our Viber Channel and stick around for many other Behind The Seens episodes. Also, remember to check the An African City YouTube channel and VHX site for new episodes every Sunday – scenes from the first episode below!
Written by Jemila Abdulai
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.