Nigerian filmmaker Faraday Okoro on the 18th of April won a $1 million grant for his proposed film “Nigerian Prince.” The New York University film school graduate will shoot his film in Nigeria.

The film is expected to premiere in 2018 at the Tribeca Films Festival.

Biyi Bandele, one of Nigeria’s top movie directors revealed on Facebook:

Faraday, a graduate student at NYU Film School, is on the verge of directing his first feature film, “Nigerian Prince,” from a brilliant script that he co-wrote with a friend. Faraday is Nigerian-American. “Nigerian Prince” is set in Lagos. And I’m producing it with Mexican-American filmmaker Oscar Hernandez. Anyway, this was what Faraday’s whatsapp message said: “We won the $1 million production deal!!!” One million dollars. This film is getting made!

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Described by The New York Times as a chance in a lifetime, the opportunity didn’t come easy.  When this opportunity came, hundreds of filmmakers applied, and out of the applications only five were chosen.

According to The New York Times, the idea of the prize originated this year when the AT&T chief brand officer, Fiona Carter approached the executive chair of Tribeca Enterprises Jane Rosenthal on how to get more women and minorities to make more films. Titled, Untold Stories, the initiative is a collaboration between AT&T and Tribeca Film Institute.

The five finalists chosen gave their presentation before a jury of three members who included Lee Daniels, Jeffrey Wright, and Anthony Mackie. Each finalist had only 10 minutes to present their project. The winning film will also make its premiere at the Tribeca Films Festival next year. AT&T will stream the winning film on all its platforms including DirecTV Now, and give $10,000 to the four runners-up.

Faraday Okoro alongside the other finalists awaiting the announcement of the winner Photo: Facebook/Faraday Okoro

The jurors took two hours to reach the final decision on the winner of the $1 million. Okoro had a couple of weeks back pitched his film “Nigerian Prince” at the Production Lab before pitching it to AT&T.

He will receive mentorship from industry professionals. The pitch session was broadcast on Facebook Live.

After being announced as the winner. All smiles. Photo: Facebook/Faraday Okoro

Okoro’s film is set in Lagos, and explores the back stories of email scammers. His project, “Nigerian Prince,” was described as the story of a stubborn Nigerian-American teenager forced to go to Nigeria against his will and joins forces with his cousin, an internet scammer, in order to return to the United States.

Okoro described his project according to IndieWire as a “coming-of-age heist-thriller” about the author of Nigerian scam emails and like his protagonist, he was sent to Nigeria for school, “but I did not have any nefarious cousins to help me with an escape attempt. I was forced to stay put.” He used his experience “to make this story more accessible to an international audience.”

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Okoro hopes to shoot the film on location in Nigeria with “a minimalist, cinema-verite style.” He also listed set of actors he hoped to cast in the project, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, to whom he pitched the project last month.

When asked about his research process, which led the director to single out his co-writer in the audience he said, “We went to Nigeria, we did interview scammers. I told my uncle, ‘I’m coming to Nigeria. If you know any scammers, let me know. I can’t do the script without it. The moment I landed, there one was.”

Faraday Okoro with his $1 million cheque. His film will premiere in the Tribeca Film Festival next year. Photo: Facebook/Faraday Okoro

Faraday’s films have been screened in numerous film festivals worldwide and was included in the MovieMakers Magazine’s 25 Screenwriters to watch.

We wish him all the best in this journey, and as Lee Daniels said, “your movie better be good.”

Jussie Smollett, Naturi Naughton and Malik Yoba attend AT&T & Tribeca’s celebratory launch of Untold Stories: An Inclusive Film Program at Thalassa on April 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival/AT&T) Photo: Facebook/ Faraday Okoro