At 24, popular Nigerian music video director, Dammy Twitch, real name, Apampa Oluwadamilola, has achieved feats some of his older colleagues can only dream of.
Within a space of two years in the industry, he has shot videos for some of Nigeria’s biggest musicians like Davido, Falz, Burna Boy, Dremo and Mayorkun. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he speaks about his career and the challenges of plying his trade in the competitive Nigerian entertainment industry
PT: How did your foray into music video directing begin?
Dammy Twitch: I began playing with photography in 2013 and while at it, I met a lady who was quite impressed with my work and helped me get some paid gigs. From then on, I started getting gigs for burials and event photography- that’s how the hustle started paying early. While doing photography, I also was playing with video editing and in 2017, I got to do some work with Director Q as an editor. By the end of 2017, I kicked off my career in music video production with my personal brand.
As soon as I started, I actively began seeking opportunities to churn out more quality content.
PT: Are you self-taught?
Dammy Twitch : Not really. I have done photography, I have been a video editor and then a DOP. I started out with video editing. While at school, I would edit videos on my phone and then proceeded to learn what more I could do editing on a system.
Now I direct, oversee and execute the production process and am very hands-on in post-production so I personally now sit to the final output. I now work with a team that takes up different parts of the process from pre-production to post.
PT: Are you involved in any other projects aside from video production?
Dammy Twitch: Yes. Quite a number. For example, my team and I are working on a platform pretty much like humans of New York. We will take pictures of people from different walks of life and tell their stories. With this, we look to tell the story of the country and continent through pictures and captions.
The idea is to help people tell their stories so other people can connect or relate with the situations obtainable on ground here. It is still a work in progress but will be out soon. It’s our way of giving back to society and expanding on the African story from a contemporary angle.
PT: Tell us about the first big-budget music video you shot?
Dammy Twitch: The first music video I shot was for Burna Boy and Yonda in 2017. That same year, I was in Senegal and Davido called me to shoot a video for his label which was ‘Aje’. I shot that in Senegal. So far I’ve worked with quite a number of artists. I’ve worked with Falz, Burnaboy, Olamide, Dremo, Lil Kesh, Victor AD, Preto Show (Angola), Perruzi, Mayorkun and more.
PT: Is music video directing all you have always wanted to do? Are you living your dreams?
Dammy Twitch: After I rounded off my economics degree, my parents wanted me to go get a job in my field of study but I had other interests. Everyone kept feeling like they were doing you a favour because they were getting you a job but that’s not where my mind truly was.
As I said, while in school, I had been playing around with video editing. So when I graduated, I just kept training and taking any gigs I got (whether it paid little or not). This was because I wanted to keep doing and wanted to keep improving the level of work I could put out. So to answer your question, yes I am living my dreams.
PT: As a music video director what are your thoughts on Nollywood?
Dammy Twitch: I feel like Nollywood has grown really fast within a short time frame. I applaud the Nollywood directors that are pushing the limits and doing things that haven’t been done ever before. However, I feel movie budgets have to be improved generally if we must match our Hollywood counterparts. A lot more support has to be given to video content producers. We all will keep doing our bit to drive the African narrative through entertaining content.
PT: What exactly do you dislike about your industry?
Dammy Twitch: First is the low level of collaboration among directors and producers. There is this unnecessary competition between music video directors when in fact we should be collaborating to improve the output of Nigerian music video content.
Besides that, there is a low level of support for our industry. When people think videos, they think movies. While this is not a bad thing, we should also consider the fact that music is one of the biggest means through which Nigeria exports culture. And we the video producers/directors are responsible for crafting the visuals that make this music more appealing.
The budget is always a conversation-starter. Sometimes you finish a gig and have not very much to show for it in terms of profit but we keep it moving. The more I work, the luckier I’ll get.
PT: Do you think you and your counterparts can compete with your foreign colleagues?
Dammy Twitch: We aren’t evolving as fast as our counterparts in the U.S. In order to push myself, I have been pushed to work with big international labels and trust me, it’s been a whole different experience. They have requirements that can be quite intimidating for fast-rising music video directors.
The international exposure has shown me that we have a long way to go as an industry and it made me up my game. I have gone on to work on projects with Sony Music, Warner music and I now currently working on a project with Universal music. I’ve had to learn really fast to meet their requirements. I’m happy this makes me push myself all the time.
PT: Have you ever rejected a gig?
Dammy Twitch: So this one time, an artist reached out saying he wanted to produce a music video with people twerking from the beginning to the end.
His demands didn’t tie back to the music in any meaningful way. I tried to make him see the better angle but he wouldn’t bulge or listen. I had to decline that gig because it ultimately could be better than that. I have also rejected a gig based on budget constraints. When a client’s demand does not match the budget, we can improvise but sometimes people push it a bit too far. They over-expect while underpaying.
PT: Who has had the biggest influence on your work?
Dammy Twitch: Dave Meyers, Director x, Meji Alabi and quite a number of others.
PT: Does your background in economics come into play at any point in your career?
Dammy Twitch: Yes, it helps with the business side of this game. Video production is a business not just an art and when you come to the business side, you have to be on top of your game or you’ll frustrate your art.
There’s a lot to the business side of every craft including video production.
PT: What have you observed about the distribution of video content in Nigeria?
Dammy Twitch: Nigerians don’t spend on distribution/promotion. If you spend x amount on content creation, you need to spend double on promotion. That’s what most artists and labels don’t get. You do great work, spend double your budget on distribution. Distribution is a key aspect of the growth you aim for as an artist.
PT: What advice do you have for budding music video directors?
Dammy Twitch: Pick up what you have and start doing the work it takes to learn. Pick up your phone and shoot something. Edit it, watermark it with your handle and put it up online. You have to keep doing and learning because when an opportunity comes, it is what you have done that you will show and it is what you can show that will win you the gig.