On set w/ Anita Ashiru
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Not many people get to see the often gritty behind-the-scenes of making music videos. It rarely crosses your mind just how much work goes into the production of the visuals for your favourite bangers and this piqued my curiosity. I reached out to an old friend Anita Ashiru, a set designer; so she invited me for a day in her life.
The day started out with a 45 minute drive to Ajah. The shoot location was an abandoned resort which has since been repurposed as a place where many creatives can feel inspired and produce all forms of work. A lot of the resort was overgrown and falling apart, a shell of it's past days and what many saw as a wreck, others saw opportunity for a creative outlet.
As we walked around, Anita recapped on some of her previous sets, noting that they often required days of prep. Whatever it took to actualise the concepts in her head would be done and this sometimes involved some landscaping, painting buildings and clearing bushes, etc.
It takes a discerning eye to visualise an eye-catching set amidst the dilapidation, and a harder worker to materialise the vision and luckily for Anita, she's both.
We continued to walk around the different sets for the days' music video (Joeboy - Celebration) and you would be amazed at what can be achieved with some imagination, paint and some elbow grease. Her team which consisted of assistants, makeup crew, carpenters, etc were on hand and everyone eagerly played their parts in creating the vision.
I wondered how it must be to be a young woman at the helm of a team filled with Nigerian men and I asked Anita how she deals with this. Her solution was simple, she said "once you hold their money, everybody sits up!", and we both laughed.
Anita has found a balance between work and play which creates a great atmosphere for getting the job done. The jokes and laughter constantly fly around and this likely makes up for the long working hours.
With so many moving parts, one must wonder about the planning phase, and as you can imagine, it's a lot. Anita visits the set locations beforehand and photographs, comes up with concepts and hand-draws them, she then plans and budgets everything down to the last item before the actual design can begin.
I honestly wondered how she did all this, especially when a lot of these jobs were short notice but Anita shrugs because she definitely enjoys, and this shows how powerful a driver passion can be.
The most outstanding part of the ingenuity for me was how everyday materials were repurposed for the videos. The ability to do a lot with a little is key for survival in Nigeria and props, costumes, and decor are all sourced from local markets. Bigger props require a bit more reach, but her resourceful team always pull the strings.
I decided to wait till Dammy Twitch and his team shot some scenes and Anita was on hand to make sure her sets were primed to perfection, I stan a detailed queen! It was about mid-afternoon and I decided I had had enough of being baked by the intense Lagos sun so I started my trip back home, filled with a new outlook.
Anita seems to have carved out a very nice niche in the creative sector. Within such a short span, she has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry and it's obvious she has made herself valuable. Her attention to detail and her zeal for perfection have made her team one of the first choices when it comes to designing sets for music videos. It wasn't until 11pm before I got a message from her saying they were just wrapping up - you really don't find this work ethic anywhere.