‘I Want To See My Music Videos In The Grammys’ | Independent Newspapers Limited
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‘I Want To See My Music Videos In The Grammys’

Posted: Jul 8, 2015 at 3:34 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

23-year-old Sanusi A. Shina is one of the youngest music video directors in Nigeria. In this interview with Ifeoma Ononye, the young CEO of 7hills Films tells an interesting story of how he started his journey into filmmaking from the roof tops in his neighbourhood.  

Your journey into music video directing is quite an winteresting; tell us how it all started?

I have passion for anything that has to do with the arts, particularly photography. But at first, I became an errand boy for a top photographer, Andy, who studied film in Jos Film School. Back then when I started, all I was interested in was the money I can



make from the job. I was 14 years old and that was when I first handled a still photo camera. I started learning from Mr. Andy that lived across my house because if I wanted to go to a proper school, I would need a lot of money. I have always wanted to make money when I was in secondary school.  I never noticed I had passion for what I was doing. I started carrying cameras for him. I was like the camera Personal Assistant; I run errands for him and from there, I started taking pictures. Treating of pictures to perfection became a hit, I delved into that too. I picked up the interest. I had another friend on my street that also helped me a great deal. She is a journalist with Daily Independent newspaper and she had a brand new laptop which was one of the tools I needed to practice what I was learning. She believed in my dream and allowed me use her laptop whenever I wanted. I uploaded my entire picture treating software on her laptop and sometimes I had to go to locations with it, she never complained. It’s funny she is the same person granting me this first interview. I used all her pictures on the laptop as my samples for practice.

After I saw that I had perfected the craft, I started doing photography professionally. From there, I went into film making. Not that I got bored with photography but I wanted to learn the next level and film making is the father of all moving pictures. Now I am focused on music video production.


Now you shoot videos for Terry G, what popular video did you shoot for him?

I shot ‘Run Mad’ for Terry G. I also shot a video for the northern superstar, Sani Danger. I have done a video for the popular Ghana artistes, V.I.P., I have also produced a video for Excellente of Cameroon. I have been fortunate enough to work with Skales and a lot of up and coming artistes.


At the point when you stopped treating pictures and started carrying bigger camera, the roof of every building in the neighborhood became your studio. People were wondering what you were up to, was that how you started shooting music videos?

That was how I started with motion pictures. At that stage when I was not a household name, people cannot trust you with their money. Nobody wants to drop huge amount of money with somebody like us that just started so we had to look for a way to make cheap and good videos. So the roof tops of the building in my neighborhood suffered it. On top of the roof gave me all I wanted. Up there we are close to the sun, which is the best lightening I could get back then and you can get very good long shots. That was how I started making videos for some up and coming artistes and that was how some people started believing in me.


How did you meet Terry G who gave you your first breakthrough job?

I met Terry G through his personal Assistant. Terry G had a shoot and the video was not up to what he wanted. He had issues with the shoot, and then the PA told him about me. They invited me and saw some of my jobs. They asked me to amend the job for them but it was not easy to amend unless I take new shots. We did the first one and it came out nice and from there, he trusted me with his videos.


Is it true that now you handle most of his video productions?

Yes, since then, I am the one that handles almost all his video productions.


Looking at how far you have come from where you started, do you look back and remember those days you almost gave up?

I really thank God because it has never been an easy one. Till date, I still battle with the issue of people trusting you with their money. But those are some of the challenges. I thank God that someone like Terry G believed in me because through him, a lot of people gave me jobs because they believe that if I can do it for Terry G, then it must be a good job.


Did you ever dream back then when you started from wedding video coverage, that you will get to where you are today?

People that know me very well, like my family, know that I am a very ambitious person. I see myself bigger than Aliko Dangote or Steven Spielberg one of these days. I am not close to where I want to see myself. I want to do a ground breaking film that will put Nigeria in the world map when it comes to film. I want to make films that can win Cannes’ award. I want to see my music videos competing in the Grammy’s.


And are you doing anything to improve yourself so as to get to that level?

For some time now, I have not been in the mainstream of the business because I see myself beyond music video production. Music video production to me is like playing when it comes to film making. I want to go into advert, shoot series; those are where the hard jobs are. I have taken some short courses at New York film Academy. I have gone to South Africa to do some short courses too.


It is said that, no matter what, you do not agree to substandard production, is this true?

Yes it is true. There is something about me and that is, when I agree to do something, I give it my all. Even if we have agreed to a certain amount, I am committed to producing a standard job for you even if the money is not up what I am expecting or enough for the job. I always want to prove my name.


I have also heard that you have done some videos free for some people, is that how big your heart is?

I don’t know if that is having a big heart. I just love doing this job. I have done videos for people that paid close to nothing so it is not totally free but to some other video directors, they may consider it as free video. I do this because of the love I have for the work and the love does not let me see that I am getting into trouble. I only realize that I am in debt when the job is done and it’s time to pay people that work with me. I have done free videos for friends that know me when I started. It’s true that business is business but in some cases you have to consider relationships. I am very nice when business has to do with friends and family but I am extremely nice when clients come with money for me to do their job.


Tell us about your background…

I will not say I was brought up with a silver spoon but we were okay. But at a point, things changed for us. Life became hard. I lost my mum when I was a baby and I am the only child of my mother. My dad catered for me. My mum is from Ogun State and my dad is from Kano but I grew up in Lagos. I grew up with my mother’s family.


Right now, do you still take pictures?

Yes I still take pictures. Photography is the foundation and you cannot just leave it. If you are a good photographer, you will be a good cinematographer; and if you are a good cinematographer, you can be a good filmmaker. That is how you grow. Right now I am working on my photography exhibition and a photography documentary. These are the projects that I am working on that will be coming out before the year runs out.


How did you get the name 7Hills film?

The name 7hills is spiritual. When you say seven hills, it means perfection. At the seventh hill is where you have the angels. You see the seas you have to cross before you get there. The name came from all that I have gone through before getting to where I am. There were times I was almost thrown out of the house because my aunt did not agree with my coming back late and leaving the house for days. My family wanted me to study medicine or law and I wanted something different. They stopped sponsoring me and I had to walk the walk all by myself. Now they are all proud.


You started at 14, how old are you now?

Now I am 23. I think I am the youngest music video director in Nigeria, not sure though.


Do people intimidate you because of your size?

People don’t know my age. You are the first to publish this. Age is not a barrier to work that you know how to do. There are people younger than I am that work in the bank. So it should be hard for my industry to understand that it is not a crime for me to be young and still run the industry. And when it comes to production on set, there is hierarchy and you must follow that, so my age is not what they look at when I am behind the camera as the captain.


What about female admirers?

I am not a very social person. I am not a fan of girls. Don’t get me wrong, I am not gay. It’s just that all I think about now is money and business


When will you think about marriage?

When I make a lot of money, I will think of marriage.


But there is a belief that you may not find the right person when you are ready, why not go into a serious relationship now?

My money will bring the right girl to me when that time comes.