by Bukola Oyebode
First a radio anchor and TV show host, Kemi Adetiba is now a cinematographer with a Masters Degree from New York Film Academy, president of K’Alpha Innovations and creative director of music videos, films, and commercials. She is known for the picture quality of her production and the interesting storyline of the her music videos. Most recently she directed the highly inspirational video for TY Bello’s ‘The Future’. In her chat with YNaija she exudes positivity, power and passion for her vision and aspiration for the years ahead.
Is Kemi Adetiba still a TV Show host?
I’m still a TV show host, though I feel more comfortable behind the camera. I get offered a lot of jobs for hosting but I’m not so much in that phase anymore.
How did you diversify into film making, especially at the point when you were at the peak of your career as a TV presenter?
I don’t think you diversify; I think anyone that is a true film maker is always born a film maker. All you need to learn is the technique; but you don’t learn how to be a film maker because it has to do with an eye, you have to be born with it. Even when I was presenting, I always helped with the creative directing. I didn’t know what the camera was; I’d just say how about we try it this way or that way. I didn’t know it was called directing but I was doing it. I just went to school to understand the lingo for it and the other technical aspects of it.
What inspires your script for any musical video that you shoot?
Largely the song, that’s why I am very selective of the songs that I do. Usually when I hear a song, I kind of see through it. I see photographs in my head. It always comes in flashes, usually when I’m sleeping, half asleep or half awake and then I’ll see something. I’ll play the song over and over again, and one day it will just come.
TY Bello “The Future” is classic and inspirational, how did you achieve the concept for the video?
To start with, we are friends. She is one person I admire in the industry, and one of the few people I talk to first when I doubt my creative work. She is very spiritual so sometimes she will pray. She is very positive and good at uplifting people around her. She called me one day and said Kemi you have to listen to the song. She came over and I listened to it and I just started crying. She said there is no other person I want to do this video. I want you to do it, it is yours, do whatever you want with it I trust you. You have to understand what that means to me. TY is a very creative person; she is very into her work and how she is projected. So for her to be able to trust someone else with it is a big deal and a big honour for me.
Bez’s More you, Ego’s Fall in love; what other music videos have you directed?
Nigerian all Stars’ Maga no need pay, A prize to die for – the theme song for Hiphop World Awards 2009, TY’s Ekundayo; it was great to come back and collaborate with her again. Banky W’s Follow you, Lagos Party – in fact we just enjoy working together. Then Wizkid’s Tease me…
Yes, the controversial Tease me, right?
Exactly the controversial, Tease me, which I love. It is actually one of my favourite. At first when we were going to do the video, his management was scared, because of the perception people caught about Wizkid. The thing is he is not young, he just looks young. He loved the idea, and he was so happy to do the video. You need to look beyond the strippers; look at the technicality, the costumes, the storyline – you will see the video is sensual and not slutty. Well, things have changed now, everyone loves it.
Apart from Across a Bloodied Ocean which other film have you directed and written?
I have other short films that I have done, we actually didn’t put them in for the festivals. I’m actually shooting one now by God’s grace, something I’m very excited about. I’m co-producing it with my brother. It’s based loosely on a true story, on a true story that involves him. We are going to shoot it in New York because that is where it happened. It will be very simple and minimalist. The main characters are going to be two people – it will be highly conversational and controversial as well. It is a true story and highly dramatic. I don’t want to let too much out, but by end of summer we should be done shooting the script and we are going to put into the festivals again. I don’t want to say too much before someone steals my story… (Laughs) I’m looking forward to it.
How has it been, pushing the boundaries as a female director?
I really don’t see myself as that, female? When I talk to people about me being in the industry, I say I’m like a racehorse, a champion racehorse. They don’t look to their sides, to the right or to the left, they look forward, straight on. My mom is one of the first African Civil Engineers, I’m used to having powerful women around me. I was not raised to understand anything about sex or gender limitations, it doesn’t exist for me. I will say don’t be run by money, don’t be run by obstacles like race, religion, sex, just look forward. On to the next one.
Filmmaker, Troublemaker… Are you really a troublemaker, going by your personality on Twitter?
I am really a trouble maker. I have to be a trouble maker to be able to exist in this industry. I will get things done by any means necessary. That is my motto, I never see anything as impossible. I’m very stubborn when it comes to my vision and don’t like to be stifled by things that can be controlled. That’s why I don’t like to surround myself with people that tell me things cannot be done, instead ask me “how are you going to get that done?”. I prefer that, it inspires me. The people I have around me are very positive, and I don’t keep a lot of friends.
I like to think of you as notorious, pardon me, but you can help me out by describing yourself in three words
Three words – intensely loyal, passionate, and I’ll say shy.
(Laughing) I don’t see you as shy… I do have a problem understanding that.
People don’t believe it but I am a shy person. I just show it in different ways. I have learnt how to handle it especially as a TV presenter, being in front of the camera, I had to learn to convert that shyness into adrenaline and from adrenaline into confidence.
With over ten years in the industry, what’s the biggest thing you have achieved?
I don’t really feel like I have achieved anything yet. Sometimes I feel like an under achiever, I feel like I could have achieved so much more at this stage. I’m constantly trying to better myself.
Is your dream to own a TV and Radio Station still on, maybe add a training school as well?
Yes. I want to be the next Nigerian Ben Bruce, like American Oprah, so it is like a blend of Ben Bruce and Oprah Winfrey together.
That’s powerful! Will the Nigerian space take that explosive combination?
They are going to have to make way, hopefully. God will make a way.
Going by everything happening now, in our society, do you think the future is here? Is the future now?
Definitely things have changed, but then I can only speak for my industry. Though we still have some kind of handicap, we have to admit that so much has changed.
What is the greatest lesson you have learnt in life?
The biggest lesson I have learnt in life is that the only person am in competition with is myself. I have learnt in life to depend on God in everything that I do.