Art Directing For Some Of Africa’s Top Music Videos with Anita

Art Directing For Some Of Africa’s Top Music Videos with Anita Ashiru

For some people, they enjoy listening to music and for others, like me, the thrill is in watching amazing videos. The first time I watched the music video for the song the best by Davido and Mayorkun, I wondered how they put the video together. When I watched A Good Woman by Flavour and realized the same Art Director worked on it, I knew I had to talk to the creative genius. Anita and I had a chat about creating some of Africa’s top music videos, managing her finances while running a business from another continent and her goal to create Africa’s biggest creative house.  

Your work speaks for itself but who are you?

I’m a risk-taker, I’m creative and I have no limits. Since I was bout 15, I have created in many different ways. I have started a blog in Ibadan, dragged a camera around to study journalism, worked in branding and communications and now I work in Art Direction. I have only been able to do this thanks to the risks I have been willing to take.

How long have you been an Art Director?

I have been an Art Director for a little over 2 years and honestly, It has been exciting. Getting into Art Direction was really a mistake. At the time I started, I was still working at an agency and I had a close friend turned family, Dammy Twitch, who was transitioning from photography into videography at the time. Dammy asked me to do the art direction for one of his videos and that was it. I had no idea what I was doing but I gave it my best.

2 years later and I honestly cannot recognize my own work. I have grown so much and it’s quite...exciting. I'm so grateful for Dammy plugging me when I had no idea what I was doing

What does it really mean to be an Art Director?

Art Direction entails designing the visual aesthetic of anything you see. It’s a mouthful but let me break it down. If you are watching a war scene in a movie and you see blood dripping and guns firing and soldiers falling on the red sand, art direction is the blood you see, the guns in the shoot and the sand on the floor. It’s putting together all the elements that create a visual piece of art.

Art Direction is being handed an empty room to create a bedroom that fits the story of a script

So Video Directors bring in the cameras and shoot what the art director has designed on set.

All your projects come out completely different. How do you remain inspired to be so creative?

I’m at the stage in my career where thankfully, I pick and chose the kind of jobs I do. If I don’t feel any connection to a job, I don’t do it. My inspiration usually comes from what I read, watch, or just see, so if I get a brief and I don't feel connected, I won't take it.

How did you evolve from art direction for music videos to art direction for established global and international brands?

The first time I ever did anything outside music videos was when I got contacted by the people at Henessy for an event and I was blown. I had no idea art directors did that and after that event, my perception of art direction changed completely. I started doing research, talking to people and now I have worked and managed projects in different industries.

What influences how you charge your clients?

Hmmm, the scope of work, time and manpower. I charge my clients separately per hour for my time and then separately for the service they would like done.

Interesting! What counts as expenses for an art director?

So my expenses are categorized into expenses for a business and expenses for a project. For a project, the expenses are the cost of props, the cost of manpower, the cost of transportation and the cost of materials. For my business, the expenses are salaries, cost of internet and other running expenses. I am currently in Europe while my workers are in Lagos, Nigeria so I spend a lot of money on internet and making sure we are connected.

How do you manage to execute all of these projects all the way from Europe?

Well, I built my team whole I was still living in Nigeria and we worked together for a while. Now, they know how I work and can execute my standards. The pandemic also forced us to use Zoom and communicate virtually. All of this makes it possible.

What’s your biggest challenge as an art director executing projects in Nigeria?

My biggest challenge is access to props. Nigeria has one of the biggest movie industries in the world but it’s so difficult to source props. Sometimes, I have to borrow furniture from family and friends to finish a set.

The alternative to borrowing from people is to use a generic piece of furniture everyone else uses or buy a piece of furniture you may never use again. I want to solve this problem by building Africa’s biggest prop house. I want to cater to people in film, video and even events; basically a warehouse with every prop you need for any production.

How do you manage your finances with all of these?

I hate numbers so much, I am terrible with budgets and spending money, so what I did was that I acknowledged this early on and found a trusted party to handle all my finances.

When you think of your company, what’s the big dream?

To create something that people can not live without. Something that people need to live their everyday lives, something like Google. So maybe it’s my prop house and maybe it just has not come to me yet but that’s the dream.

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Onyinyechi Nneji

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