Murtala Balala is the lead cinematographer of the popular Kannywood series, Labarina, showing on Arewa 24, a Nigerian satellite cable channel.
The series features Kannywood stars like Nafeesat Abdullahi, Nuhu Abdullahi, and a host of others.
PREMIUM TIMES caught up with Balala who is popularly called ‘Wizkid’ on the ‘Labarina’ set where he spoke about the series and his career.
PT: Labarina has become a must-watch up north. How did you get on board the production?
Balala: This is interesting. Yes, the Labarina project is really a success for everyone involved in it. It is the most-watched love series in the north, I can strongly confirm to you. How I got to be part of the project is another story. Let me tell you something, it is a known fact that anywhere you see the veteran producer and director, Aminu Saira, on a set, you get to see nothing but the best hands around him.
PT: So you mean your expertise guaranteed you an automatic spot in the production?
Balala: Yes, that’s right. I am good and that’s why I am part of the crew. People say I am the best in Kannywood, so I hear, and this is one of a kind production so you need the best and that’s why I am with the team.
PT: Are you really the best cinematographer in Kannywood at the moment?
Balala: People say so and I know what I can do and I see what people do; I think I am or among the best.
PT: What is the secret behind your success then?
Balala: Well for me I think it is hardwork. I take my time to learn and keep learning new things. Cameras are made and upgraded at intervals. You have to understand that and technology. You must keep learning and developing your craft else you will be left behind. That is my philosophy. I respect my job, I try to be creative all the time and also get to take some directing sessions.
I have attended several trainings organised by BBC service, I also work as a senior cinematographer in multimedia companies like Newage Network and this is in addition to working with other private producers.
PT: I can see that you are very excited about Labarina, why?
Balala: let me tell you something, Labarina is Arewa’s Jack Bauer’s 24 series. You know how people rush to watch the series, that is how northerners rush to watch ‘Labarina’ every week. We shot season one and two in 2017. Today we are shooting season three and four. It is one of my best movie recordings.
We are using some of the latest recording gadgets in location, camera rails, state-of-the-art camera stands, lights, mics, and different kinds of cameras. And I operate all of them. You can see why I am excited?
PT: How long have you been a cinematographer?
Balala: For as long as I know myself. I have always been one to date.
PT: Are you likely to delve into something else apart from manning the camera?
Balala: ‘Camera is me, I am camera. So, any other thing is secondary to me. Allah knows best.
PT: Have you worked on other productions beyond the Kannywood, may be Nollywood or even Hollywood?
Balala: Yes, I have handled some movie productions in Lagos. I was the cinematographer in some movies that had the likes of RMD, Segun Arinze and Zack Orji. So you can see that once you are good, there are no boundaries whatsoever. I hope to see myself shoot movies in Hollywood too. It is a matter of time.
PT: What is your advice to aspiring or budding cinematographers?
Balala: They must be patient and passionate about their craft and again and have the willingness to learn new things. That is the special recipes for success as a cinematographer. Once you get the above you can get to anywhere.
PT: I remember you used to appear in movies, do you still do?
Balala: That was a one-off. Camera and directing are what I do most. But camera it is.
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