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Director Pink: Standing Out as a Music Video Director in a Crowded Music Industry

Director Pink: Standing Out as a Music Video Director in a Crowded Music Industry

Director Pink - Afrocritik

“To stand out, you need to understand yourself… Music video directors should let their uniqueness reflect in the videos, but certain elements from their previous videos shouldn’t be repetitive in their future videos. There should be a creative change in every music video. ” _ Director Pink

By Hope Ibiale

As a teenager searching for a department to join in church, Praise Onyeagwalam, professionally known as Director Pink, set her sights on a unit where she could properly function and contribute. She joined the video team, even though this decision was initially met with some resistance. But her determination soon quenched all the scepticism. 

In the years that have followed, she has worked across the creative industry as a graphic designer, animator, and still and motion designer. After going through these careers, Director Pink returned to shooting videos and began shadowing music video directors on their sets. In 2020, she shot her first music video and since then, has built a portfolio that places her as one of the most sought-after music video directors in Africa.

Director Pink is  credited for shooting videos like Chike’s “Running to You” and “Egwu”, Rexxie’s “Abracadabra”, Phyno’s “Do I”, Simi’s “Stranger”, and Qing Madi’s “Ole”. In this exclusive interview with Afrocritik, she speaks about navigating the music industry, the influence that Clarence Peters, the veteran video director, has had on her career, paying tribute to Mohbad in the “Egwu” video, her 2021 debut short film, Lady Koi Koi (The Arrival), and what makes a music video stand out in today’s crowded media landscape. As we conversed about her  career as a female music video director,  one thing became obvious; the director’s dedication to bringing more women into the world of cinematography. 

What initially drew you to the world of music video directing, and what continues to inspire you to forge on? 

Fate has a way of pulling you into a path, it wasn’t intentional. I joined the video directing unit in church and that’s where everything started. I was looking for a department to join and I thought the video team was a convenient setting for me to function. The people who look up to me and people who believe I inspire them motivate me to keep working as a music video director. When people are proud of you, you have to keep on going, you have to work harder. 

Are there any specific music directors, filmmakers, or other artistic influences that have shaped your approach to music video directing and filmmaking? 

A guy named The Alien introduced me to Clarence Peters. He wanted a female director and an all-female crew to work on Chike and Mayorkun’s “If You No Love” music video. We couldn’t get an all-female crew to work on the video, but we found amazing women to shoot the video and it came out great. From that moment, I kept pushing myself more. Working with Clarence pushed me more. Clarence put in a good word for me to Chike and his manager to shoot “Roju” and “Running to You”.

Director Pink - In conversation with Afrocritik
Director Pink

How do you approach interpreting a song into visual storytelling? Can you walk me through your creative process from concept development to final production? What factors do you consider when developing concepts for music videos? 

First, I listen to the song and try to understand the song’s message. Then I speak to the artiste and try to get into the thought process behind the song. I ask questions like, “What did you have in mind for the video?” and “What were you thinking about when you made the song?” When I get the answers, I try to understand the message and think of keywords. After that, I try to get a “creative me time”, where I try to get in the mood of the video, because I want to be soaked in the song. For instance, if I am shooting a romantic music video, then I’ll be in a romantic phase or if I am shooting a gangsta video, I’ll be in a gangsta phase. I approach my creative process carefully. From concept development to final production, I always give myself enough space to think about the video. I create the mood board and send it over to the artistes in case they want to add anything or take something out. 

In today’s crowded media landscape, what would you say makes a music video truly stand out and resonate with viewers? 

As a director, I believe you should find a niche. Some directors are influenced by the work of other directors, but sometimes they get carried away and forget that they are different people with different backgrounds. They get soaked into other people’s work and don’t find themselves and their strong points. That’s why you see music videos that are alike. To stand out, you need to understand yourself. There are millions of people all over the world and everyone has a different personality. Music video directors should let their uniqueness reflect in the videos, but certain elements from their previous videos shouldn’t be repetitive in their future videos. There should be a creative change in every music video. 

Having worked with artistes such as J’Dess, Simi, Niniola, Rexxie, Layzee Ella, Mercy Chinwo, Phyno, Chike, and many others who have different styles of music. How do you collaborate with these artistes to ensure your vision aligns with theirs, while still bringing your creative flair to the project?  

I believe it’s my job to work with different artistes. I know artistes from different genres of music are going to hire me so I see communicating with them as a business. They all have the same motive of shooting a music video with me. 

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Director Pink on set of Phyno’s “Do I” featuring Burna Boy
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Director Pink

In recent times, the music industry has seen relationships blossom between artistes and music video directors. From TG Omori and Asake to yourself and Chike, which has seen you direct his songs such as “If You No Love”, “Running to You”, and most recently “Egwu”. Do you think this creative marriage enhances the creative execution of the music videos?  

The relationship between music video directors and artistes is a plus, but it isn’t everything. As a music video director, you have to make sure everything works. I have been working with Chike for a while and I feel like we are part of a team. Sometimes, you should have a good relationship with the artistes; other times, it is not necessary to know the artiste. 

How do you incorporate elements such as choreography and visual effects to enhance the storytelling in your music videos? And with the “Egwu” music video, how were you able to piece everything together to create a colourful and resonating video? 

I got the record before Mohbad passed away. After Mohbad’s demise, we took a long break and when the song dropped, I didn’t think Chike would still shoot a video for it. When I got the confirmation from Chike, I started looking for a way to place Mohbad in a strategic way that speaks volumes. I wanted to make him a key part of the video and I didn’t want people to just hold his pictures. I was driving one day and the thought of placing Mohbad’s images on billboards just came to me. Placing his pictures on billboards was emotional for people and you can feel those emotions when you watch the video. His passing was a sad moment, but I didn’t want the video to be a dull affair. That’s why there was dancing and a lot of colours. Also, we didn’t want to place Chike all over the music video that’s why he was placed in the sky. From the choreography to the cinematography and visual effects, I paid close attention to everything. 

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On set of “Egwu” music video

Can you share any memorable or particularly challenging experiences you’ve had while directing music videos, and what you learned from them? 

Every project has its challenges. One thing to always note is that when you are facing those challenges during post-production, pre-production, or shooting times, it is advisable not to be nervous. When you are nervous on set everything else will be in disarray. The usual challenge I face ranges from the light guys flopping on set or the generator going off in the middle of the night. 

Aside from shooting music videos, you are also a filmmaker. Your short film, Lady Koi Koi (The Arrival) explores the myth of a ghost high school teacher. Why did you explore this particular angle in your film? Is horror a genre that interests you? Are we expecting a new film?

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I have always said that my first film will be a horror film. I want to explore making horror films in the future because I am a director who likes to play with emotions. It was a happy film, but at the end of the day, it was still sad. That’s a hard emotion to communicate. Horror, as a genre, gives me a lot of challenges. I love the challenge. It is one thing to make people scared, it is another thing to realise that they are scared. I created Lady Koi Koi (The Arrival) because I wanted to make something the audience could relate to. I enjoy shooting music videos so that’s what we are focusing on for now. 

The music video directing scene is male-dominated and so is the music industry. Have you faced any challenges as a female in a male-dominated industry? How did you navigate such challenges?  

I won’t call them challenges. Nobody is shutting the door on you, but they might look down on you. The only way for them to look up to you is when you put in the work. The work speaks for itself so they not only see you as a girl trying to play director. The more you put effort into your work, the more it is recognised. Challenges aren’t challenges; they are just the ones in your head. As an aspiring music video director, you already have negative thoughts about the industry that influence how you navigate your career. While trying to build a career, you will meet people who aren’t helpful regardless you should strive for excellence in your work. 

Director Pink - Afrocritik

 

You’ve mentioned that you are involved in training women to become cinematographers. Why is it important to train female filmmakers?  

I think I work well with women. We don’t have a lot of women in the industry. Training women is something I am passionate about and I also believe that it is a chance to push women forward. The industry is male-dominated and these women feel discouraged by the ratio. But when these women see me, they believe there’s hope for them. 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. Through your production company, Pinkline Films, you have trained female cinematographers and inspired other female creatives in the music industry. What word of encouragement do you have for other women trying to do the same in their industries?  

Be more challenging and have drive. Your strength lies in your mind, not your body. Put in the work and don’t slack for any reason. 

Hope Ibiale is a writer and journalist. She has a keen interest in music, film, and literature. You can connect with Hope on X @hopeibiale and via email: hopeibiale@afrocritik.com. 

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