Albantsho, a creative tech startup building a suite of easy-to-use screenwriting tools for African creators, has launched its first feature – The Scriptwriter, which is currently available free of charge for users across Africa.
Touted as the first screenwriting tool created by African screenwriters for African screenwriters, Albantsho offers a robust platform that will enable screenwriters to churn out polished stories that meet standard formatting requirements.
“The creative aspect of screenwriting can be very mentally demanding, but that doesn’t mean professionals can afford to focus on that alone and shun widely accepted formatting standards. So it can be tricky to balance ticking creative boxes alongside properly formatting each story element,” said Julie Ako, who founded the startup with Nikita Mokgware in 2020.
While there are existing formatting tools, they are either considerably pricey, with some going for as much as $200 (one-time purchase), or relatively complex.
This often precludes beginner and intermediate screenwriters from accessing the best tools to write, edit, and manage their scripts.
Albantsho looks to change this with its intuitive block-based script editor which is currently available for free.
The argument for the value of Albantsho’s platform is based on the increased global interest in African stories, which will, in turn, trigger more demand for them.
African stories are seeing a wider appeal on the continent and beyond, with Nollywood productions, especially, enjoying greater success in recent times.
The 2023 Nollywood $1 million blockbuster, The Black Book, racked up 5.6 million views on Netflix barely 48 hours after it launched on September 22 and was among the top 10 titles in 69 countries by the second week of its launch. Earlier in the year, Jadesola Osiberu’s Gangs of Lagos was also one of the top ten most streamed non-English Language titles on Amazon Prime.
This growing global appeal of African films, coupled with their potential to deliver quick and impressive returns on investment, is also transforming the industry into an attractive investable asset class.
For instance, funding for The Black Book came from a long list of tech founders, including Flutterwave’s Olugbenga Agboola, Piggyvest’s Odun Eweniyi, and Paystack’s Ezra Olubi.
Venture capitalists also pitched in, including of Voltron Capital, Subomi Plumptre of Volition Capital, and others.
Olumide Soyombo, who has also invested in other African films such as Gangs of Lagos and Brotherhood, cited the potential for returns demonstrated by Nollywood movies based on his experience.
“[ROI] varies from project to project, but it is better than keeping your money in a fixed deposit. We have seen 50% returns, 2x returns, and 3x returns,” he said.
Soyombo is not the only one noticing the potential in Africa’s filmmaking industry. Volition Capital, which also invested in The Black Book, recently launched a $20 million fund for creative projects, and Capital Film Productions, a movie financing firm that backed Gangs of Lagos and Brotherhood, has rolled out a ₦500 million fund for Nollywood movies.
The heightened audience and investor interest in African stories will inspire more filmmakers to produce more movies. In such a situation, the need for more readily available, compelling, and diverse scripts becomes crucial, and that’s precisely where Albantsho plays a pivotal role.
By providing simpler and more accessible tools, Albantsho aims to empower screenwriters to craft more stories and hone their voices.
This, in turn, will meet the growing demand from producers eager to bring such narratives to life, attract investors looking to fund such projects, and cater to a global audience keen on consuming more African stories.
As part of its mission to promote African storytelling, Albantsho also looks to introduce a script marketplace that will enable screenwriters to monetise their craft and producers to acquire quality scripts.
Tagged StoryBase, the feature scheduled for launch in Q1 of 2024, will allow screenwriters to put their ready scripts up for sale and allow producers to bid or collaborate on them.
“The goal is to democratize access to lucrative offers for screenwriters and give producers a go-to platform for the best Africa-focused stories,” notes Julie.
In the near future, the platform will also integrate a community feature that will enable writers to easily collaborate, share, and receive feedback and, as a result, create richer stories.
As earlier noted, screenwriters who sign up on Albantsho can now access the available features for free, including The Scriptwriter.
“We are big on building a thriving community of African screenwriters and filmmakers. We will make money, for sure. But we’ve been patient all this while, and we’ll continue to be as we prioritize the needs of our users for now,” said Julie.
“Once certain things are in place, we’ll roll out paid plans, but even then, some features will still be available free of charge,” added the screewriter-cum-founder.
This is not the first time Albantsho is offering free services. Over the last two years, the startup has organized iDraft, a free annual 8-week screenwriting workshop where budding screenwriters interact with industry experts. As part of the program, participants are required to complete scripts using the tips garnered, and Albantsho helps find buyers for the best ones.
“We’ve established a decent track record of bringing value to Africa’s filmmakers. The launch of the Albantsho screenwriting suite is how we plan to extend that record,” Julie offered.