Anita Ashiru is an ideator, brand strategist and creative. The 24-year-old art director, who works behind the scenes of some Nigerian favourite music videos, speaks with PELUMI BOLAWA on how the country’s promising creative industry can soar
How did you start art directing?
Towards the end of 2019 while working as a marketing strategist in an advertising agency, I got an opportunity to write my first music video with Dammy Twitch. It was my first time doing any thing like that, but I’ve always been a creative and always had ideas. After writing, he added me to the team for the project to execute the ideas I had written and that was my first go at art directing. I loved it, not only was I being given the freedom to share my ideas, but also the opportunity to make it a reality.
What stood you out as an art director?
I guess it’s my keen attention to details and my play on colours. I actually didn’t realise this until a couple of people told me, on several occasions, that they liked what I did with colours.
How do you come up with ideas for music videos that tell compelling stories?
I draw inspiration from any and everything. From movies I watch, to stories from friends, to dreams, to pictures I would see randomly; anything inspires me. The beauty of art directing is the ability to create the simplest to the most bizarre ideas. Everything is possible.
When and how did you land the big break and started landing big jobs with top Nigerian artistes and brands?
I wouldn’t say there was a specific time, but consistency played a huge role; the more work I did, the more people started seeing my name repeatedly, which motivated me to do better. With an amazing director and production team, who execute the ideas perfectly, we get bigger clients.
How do you prepare for production?
Sometimes, my role starts from the moment a client reaches out to the director. I come up with the concept or idea and develop the music video treatment. After we decide on the location with the team, we go for a recce where the director tells us where he wants each scene to be and elements he’d like in each scene. Then I prepare a mood board with the location in mind, and my team executes. We build if we need to. We source for props. We design. We dress the set and we are good to go. Most times, I am also involved in the styling, working with the stylist to come up with the looks for each cast in the production.
Would you want to talk about your first experience as an art director on set?
It was an experience very new to me and it was tough. Set life is not easy. Being on your feet for almost 20 hours, moving around, supervising, ensuring everything is in place, finishing touches. I almost collapsed.
The average Nigerian audience feels that foreign music videos have better concepts. Where do you think Nigerian music videos are lacking and how do you intend to change the narrative?
I think this ideology is changing already because Nigerian artistes are now becoming more open-minded to unorthodox ideas and are willing to explore different unusual concepts. For instance, ‘The Best’ by Davido, featuring Mayorkun, was inspired by Karate Kid, bringing Asian elements into Nigeria. , and it was a hit; people loved it.
What are the challenges that come with art directing in Nigeria?
There aren’t a lot of us in this field because a lot of people don’t even know there’s a thing like ‘art direction’. And some people reading this can testify. So truth is, we aren’t as appreciated as we should be. Yet, we put in a lot of our creativity and sleepless nights and sometimes we don’t get any credit for it. As a creative, that can demotivate you.
What do you think are solutions to the problems?
I think we need to start appreciating and giving spotlight to creatives in the production industry. A lot goes into production; it takes an army. Awards, recognition and press interviews (just like this) act as a boost and encourage a lot more creative minds to come into this field.
What are the things you do for fun?
I watch movies and series a lot, I don’t joke with my Fridays, and I spend time with friends and family.
You work in a male-dominated field. What has been your experience as a woman?
It has been pretty great because a lot of women came before me to make the walk into the industry a little smoother. I work with a lot of amazing women in production and I’ve observed and adapted.
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