Adekunle ‘Nodash’ Adejuyigbe: The making of continent’s best cinematographer
You are likely to keep people guessing if you are at a gathering of filmmakers and you ask to see Adekunle Adejuyigbe.
But mention that you would like to see ‘Nodash’ and fingers would definitely point to the multi-award winning cinematographer and director, who is undoubtedly one of the most sought after Director of Photography or DOP, as they call them in the country.
The Team Lead at The Elite Film Team, reputed as Nigeria’s most internationally-compliant film team and the honcho at Something Unusual Production Company, Nodash, who holds a Bachelors degree in Engineering from the University of Ilorin, and who has several years of experience producing television commercials, documentaries and television shows, hit the right notes recently with his first feature film as director, titled The Delivery Boy.
The film has so far screened in about four continents to brilliant reviews and it has merited several nominations. The film has also won several awards, including the best Nigerian Film Award at last year’s edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
Just back from Tunisia, where The Delivery Boy featured as part of a special focus on Nollywood at the prestigious Carthage Film Festival, Nodash spoke about his career and life, insisting that his most memorable would definitely be The Delivery Boy for so many reasons and his favourite is always going to be the next one. Excerpts.
What motivated you to helm The Delivery Boy?
I felt it was important that a story, such as The Delivery Boy, exists in the library of Nigerian films. I mean a non- comic story with layered characters and an unpredictable plot.
I had worked on many film sets and I kept seeing the same production issues happen over and over again, and since my plan was always to build ‘Something Unusual Studios’ into a one of the most respected production companies in Africa, it was important that we found solutions to those problems. And the only way to do so was to experiment with our own money.
So, we did and we found the solutions we were looking for.
What was your experience directing and handling the camera?
I was both the director, director of photography (DP) and camera operator. But this is something I am used to from my days of making music videos and documentaries.
I actually don’t see it as two different things. It is like driving a car, you turn the steering wheel, change the gears and push the pedals at the same time, but it only registers in your mind as one thing- driving.
And also, right from when I was writing the script, I already knew how I wanted to shoot every scene, so it was easier and faster for me to execute the ideas in my mind, since I had the skill set to do so.
I guess that is why Hollywood directors, such as Robert Rodriguez, Cary Joji Fukunaga and James Cameron, also do the same thing sometimes. Actually, I started off as a writer/director. Along the way, I picked up editing. Cinematography came last.
The people who know me first at a director were confused when I picked up cinematography, so it is quite interesting to hear people say the reverse now.
I have directed films (such as the facade- 2010), documentaries, television commercials and television series (such as Gidi Up Season 3)
How did you venture into film photography?
I have always told stories right from Childhood. So, directing films is really just me doing what I have always done, but doing it for a bigger audience. I never pursued a career in acting; it was always writing and directing. I decided to go into cinematography, because at that time, I couldn’t find anyone to shoot the kind of pictures I wanted for my films. So, I learnt to do it myself.
My first experience as a DP was on my own set. I had hired a DP to shoot a music video that I was directing, but I realised he didn’t know as much as he told me he did. So, before the next project, I decided to learn it and then do it myself. And the rest is history.
Do we need more cinematographers in the country?
I think we need to do more. The demand is definitely higher than the supply. We make over 2,000 films a year and we definitely don’t have enough skilled hands into properly shoot 10 per cent of those projects.
Personally, I started a team in 2015 called ‘The Elite Film Team’ and the idea was to use this platform to recruit and train the most internationally-compliant film crew in Nigeria. We have been successful at doing that.
We also occasionally organise Master Classes, etc. But this is just scratching the surface. We need a bigger platform where we can train more people on how to deliver world-class projects, while working within the unique Nigerian terrain.
‘Something Unusual Studios’ is working on something and it will be announced soon.
Meet Adekunle Adejuyigbe
I was born and raised in Akure, Ondo State. I was that kid whose friends would gather around for him to tell them stories. In secondary school, other kids would bring me films and books, because they felt my narration was more interesting than watching or reading them.
When I was I Primary 5, I was given an award as the ‘most creative student’ in my set. I was happy I got the award, even though at that point, I didn’t know what ‘creative’ meant. My first taste of directing was for a stage play in secondary school.
I have a Bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the University of Ilorin and if I were not a DOP, what would I probably be, in terms of a career? Oh well, technically, I am actually not a DP; I am the director who went undercover as a DP. So, if I weren’t in film, I probably would be a scientist building gadgets to help humanity communicate with aliens or something equally radical.
If you were not into filmmaking, what would you have ventured into?
My success at understanding both the artistic and technical parts of filmmaking has given me the leverage to do so much more than I would have been able to if I were just a writer/director. It has led to the formation of ‘The Elite Film Team;’ it has led to my many contributions to the careers of other filmmakers, and now that ‘Something Unusual Studios’ is developing content for both local and international platforms, that knowledge makes me a more efficient producer even on projects that I am not directing or editing. So, I wouldn’t change anything.
What have been the gains of the profession?
It has been quite rewarding, because this is, perhaps, the most definitive time in the history of African cinema and it is up to us to ensure Nigeria gets a big seat at that table.
In the past, the world wasn’t really paying attention to Nigerian cinema and most of the time, our stories were told by non-Nigerians. But now, they are beginning to listen. We have a window of opportunity to introduce ourselves to the world on our own terms.
This is the greatest reward of all, and if we successfully change the global negative predisposition towards Nigeria, no pain we go through would matter.
What are your hobbies and career ambition?
My hobbies are reading and martial arts and career ambition would be to do my part of building an Africa we can all be proud of, using the media.
You will agree with me that there is a whole lot happening on the continental circuit. We were in Tunisia recently for Catharge Film Festival and it was a great experience. I have been to many festivals across the world, but this was the first time I would be at an African film festival of that magnitude.
The Delivery Boy was so well received that the people who missed it were excited when they learnt it is now available on Amazon prime.
The best part was seeing impressive films fellow Africans were making and meeting the filmmakers. They don’t necessarily have more resources, but the standards are higher.
It made me realise how quickly we have to step up. The perception of America as a giant was majorly built through the media, so if Nigeria is truly going to be the giant of Africa, Nigerian filmmakers need to step up and step up fast.
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