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Being only female director? No big deal

Kemi Adetiba

By Lolade Sowoolu
One look at her and you’d know she’s a glamour girl. Two minutes of interaction and you can’t but be convinced of her intelligence and awed by her humility. Yet, all these don’t count much for Kemi because ‘I’m on a never-ending quest to perfect my craft and be the best I can be’.

Kemi Adetiba is a seasoned media On Air Personality and a New York trained film maker based in NY. She’s the skill behind TY Bello’s Ekundayo, Banky W’s Lagos Party and Strong Ting, among others, and she’s the only official music video director Nigeria has in circulation. She co-hosted HHWA 2009 with Banky W.

Here, the focused and fun lady shares a bit of her shooting experience. And yes, she’s single by the way.

You’re the only woman shooting music videos in Nigeria and you do it so well. Does this make you feel any different?
You know what? Someone always takes the time out to remind me of that everyday, but I consciously try not to pay attention to that.

I’m too afraid to keep my eyes off the goal, and that is to be the best in contention, irrespective of gender. I’m never in competition with anyone. The market is big enough for us all. I’m on a never-ending quest to perfect my craft and be the best I can be. That’s a never ending journey and a lot of pressure on its own.

I thoroughly enjoy my craft and feel absolutely blessed to be part of this industry and be able to feed everyday from my ‘hobby’, my dream- job, so taking time out to notice that I am the only  female is of inconsequence to me. I have noticed that when I let myself sit back and enjoy that statistic (of being only female music video director in Nigeria), I get very complacent and think I’ve finally accomplished all when in reality I’m still taxi-ing on the runway.

Kemi Adetiba

Are there any challenges you face, just because of your gender, in the course of work?

I’m sure they are but why focus on that? Everyone has their own challenges when it involves aspiring to be relevant to their industry. It could be a financial/physical/mental handicap and there are millions of people using that obstacle as a stepping stone/pedestal everyday, so who am I?

There are so many Nigerian women in this industry and others that have inspired and paved the way adequately for me to run through with less difficulty, including my own mother. Why should I trivialize all they’ve done by complaining?

When it comes to Music Videos/Film/Tv/Commercial production in Nigeria, it is highly technical and has mostly been a man’s play-ground. They might have felt a tad of concern to allow me full reigns without supervision and that is understandable. The onus was and continually is on me to prove myself like a rookie of any organization would have to.

It took a while for someone to take that risk but when you do ‘one’ project it is like putting business cards out into the universe. I no longer notice the ‘problem’. I actually get chosen over men that were initially considered for my jobs these days. But I promise you as soon as I waddle someone else will take it and it might be another woman so I always have to be on top of my game.

That’s why I’m passionate and personally invest in every project like it is my last.

How many videos have you shot so far and which projects do you have in view?

I have a short film from three years ago that did very well and screened at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and the Black Arts Film Festival in Atlanta and off their personal invites. I’ve done, to date, I think five or six videos.

From TY Bello’s Ekundayo (which won Best Female video at the 2009 Soundcity Music Video Awards), to Maga No Need Pay featuring MI, Banky, Omawumi, Rooftop Mcs, Cobhams, Bez, Wordsmith and Model.

I have five videos in pre-production at the moment, including one in the States here and another in Ghana. I also have a 13 episode -TV show being shot at the moment and in pre-production for my feature (film) Across A Bloodied Rainbow which I’m really excited about.

I can’t  wait!  I also just got signed to Talent management here in the States and will be traveling a lot this year as I’ve been invited to give talks at a couple of festivals based on my works, especially the music videos. It’s a busy/break-through year and I’m so grateful to God and extremely excited!

How do you achieve maximum impact in the 4min or less that a music video lasts for?

It always starts with the initial conversation with the artiste. I try to listen but not be creatively influenced at that moment. I tell them, “let me roll the song round in my mouth for a bit and lets see what taste I come up with”. Coming up with an idea for a treatment is never easy and its not a thinking process. I have to open up myself to receive and I definitely think they are images from God because whenever I try to think it out, it never works.

I’ll listen to the song and try to be as comfortable mentally and physically as possible. Most times images will flash in my head immediately if it’s a song that touches or inspires me. I now have to connect the images or dots creatively together and that’s the hardest part.

What is the least cost for shooting a video with K’Alpha?

Hmmph! I could tell you that but then I’d have to kill you. Seriously, it’s all relative to many variables: the concept, man-power, level of styling, level of execution, equipment and how much I believe in the song/project. There have been times that people have come up to me with a project and I love the song/idea so much I would cut drastically into my ‘take-home’ remuneration as Director. It all depends really.

How  is it relating with your clients. especially artistes?

I really haven’t had any problems. The first thing a client wants to feel is comfort and to trust your craft and level of professionalism. Now, even before I receive the initial phone call for a job, it is assumed to be based on my work that they’ve seen on television, internet or wherever.

I’m always passionate about whatever project I take on and that exudes when I talk it over with the client. Whenever anyone is passionate as you are about your own project, you know they will not do anything to mess that up. It’s like their baby as well. I’m as close as a brother to the client during production as I annoyingly attach myself to their hip. I eat and breathe the project for the duration of inception through to execution. I think that’s what gives the added ‘oomph’ with my projects.

It’s never a money making venture. We are creating art together and money happens to be a very  welcome by-product of that (laughs).

To what extent does the audio of a song influence the visual composition?

Very much. I would be horrible to work on a song that I didn’t enjoy, especially since I don’t think up concepts. I have to receive the inspiration. If I was not ‘moved’ by the song, I would have to ‘think’ up an idea and for me, it would be below par. And I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t worked on any project I didn’t thoroughly enjoy: Ekundayo, Today Na Today, Prize to Die For, Lagos Pary, Maga No Need Pay.

What do you hear in a song that makes you want to shoot a video for it?

Most times, it can be playing in the background and I immediately receive mental images. I’m not thinking about it (the song), it’s just coming. Then all the hairs on my body stand on end. I can taste it and want its video. At such time, I can’ t wait to get my hands on the song and get the best imagery possible out of it.

The artist works hard to cram so much emotion into a song. The onus is on me to let that emotion out visually and I have the creative arm-room to do so most times. I love my job.


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