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In Conversation: Nollywood Film Editor, Martini Akande, Dissects the Anatomy of Editing a Memorable Scene

In Conversation: Nollywood Film Editor, Martini Akande, Dissects the Anatomy of Editing a Memorable Scene

Martini Akande in conversation with Afrocritik

“As editors, when editing a film, the actor’s performance is our biggest asset.”  _ Martini Akande

By Seyi Lasisi

Martini Akande has always had his mind set on making art. During his formative years, as he read science-related books, easily acing his science exams, all thanks to his father’s commitment to providing him and his siblings with extra-curricular reading activities, his mind was tethered somewhere else: the Art Department. While young Akande received lectures in his secondary school and graduated as the best science student in his set, his mind and attention pined for the relative comfort of the art department. Honouring this inner instinct and obsession with the art, Akande, rather than joining the Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientist (JET Club) – the stipulated vocational club for science students – found his way to the Cultural and Dramatic Society. 

Now older, Akande is recognised as one of Nollywood’s leading editors. He is credited to have edited Brotherhood, Gangs of Lagos, Adire, Glamour Girls, Nneka the Pretty Serpent and In Ibadan. So, how did Akande move from being a top-of-the-class science student to being one of Nollywood’s high-priced editors?

With alluring nostalgia, he recounts the years during our recent conversation. As we conversed, one scenario kept playing in my subconscious: I pictured the juvenile Akande observing his colleagues enthusiastically shouting “Nurturing future scientists” — the Club’s slogan —  in his first JET Club meeting, and how these chants failed to hold any special grip on his impressionable mind. Growing up in Nigeria in the 90s and early 2000s, being a science student attracted more commendation from teachers, parents, and society. With its relatively clear-cut career pathway, the science department is seen as the abode of brilliant students. Straying off, not the least due to intellectual deficiency or the fear of the drudgery associated with science-related disciplines, Akande, during his secondary school and university days, would begin his lifelong relationship with the entertainment industry as a comical actor. 

This revelation may come as a surprise. But indeed, Akande started as a comical act. As he gained recognition for his academic performances, he also attracted well-deserved and monumental fame in school for his reenactment of some popular comical acts in Yoruba. Now confident in his innate abilities to elicit heartfelt laughter through his comical performances, teachers, students, and parents counted on him to make the annual graduation party lively. “I got so good with my comical acts that I unofficially became the school jester. To date, when some of my peers or their parents see me, they remember me for my comedy”, Akande said with relish. 

During his earliest filmmaking journey in the early 2010s with Nigerian screenwriter Isaac Ayodeji, credited for writing All Na Vibes and A Green Fever, and Taiwo Egunjobi, the director of these productions, Akande became known — aside from his impressive work ethic — as a comical actor. “When I first met Akande, known as Kunle then, I was doing some sketches around the University of Ibadan and he is pretty comical”,  Egunjobi recalls. Egunjobi and Ayodeji, who witnessed Akande’s gradual transition from an actor into a film editor, recall with fervour, those earliest days of striving and struggling to hone their filmmaking skills. 

Martini Akande in conversation with Afrocritik
Martini Akande

Reminiscing on their early days together, Ayodeji describes Akande as one of the most multi-talented and solution-driven individuals he has met. “From the moment I met him, I knew he understood what work ethics meant. He did everything; he was an actor, producer, production manager, and editor”, Ayodeji told me. As Ayodeji describes Akande, the editor is someone who knows how to build relationships and networks, a skill every filmmaker should build. Describing Akande and his earliest journey into film editing, the screenwriter said, “From inception, he has been the one to look for solutions. When he went into editing, I witnessed firsthand, the countless YouTube tutorials, numerous data he consumed, and books he read. There was a book by American editor and director Walter Murch, In the Blink of an Eye,  that he was always talking about. This strong work ethic that he had learnt before, Martini carried into learning film editing. That is why he was able to rise quickly in Nollywood.” All this points to Akande’s strength.  

How did the Comical Actor Become an Editor? 

Post-university, Akande, Egunjobi, and Ayodeji started experimenting with their story ideas by shooting short films. Ayodeji would write, Egunjobi was the director, shooting the scenes, and Akande was the actor. He would also take up any other production-related jobs. But once they conclude shooting, a question would pop to the surface: Who will edit the film? Faced with this new challenge, Akande took it upon himself to start editing the low-budget (2 to 5 thousand naira budget)  short films they produced. 

After editing his first and second short films, and receiving commendable feedback from his filmmaker/friends, he began getting massive requests to edit more films. This overwhelming flow of requests to edit more films meant Akande’s appearance on screen lessened. Prior to him waving goodbye to acting and fully embracing editing, he had been gravitating towards behind-the-scenes work. He was getting more at ease with being a producer and a production manager. Fun fact: Akande was the production manager for Prophetess, directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, which is one of Nollywood’s Top 20 highest-grossing films of all time. 

“What made me take editing seriously was when I edited other short films and the owners told me how different the film looked. They had probably given the film to another editor prior before bringing it for me to fix it. With this feedback, I started investing more time in studying editing. I started researching and watching YouTube videos. What I also did was look for films that have won editing awards. By watching these films, I started understanding what differentiates one editor from another”, Akande said reiterating what Ayodeji had earlier had.  

Martini Akande in conversation with Afrocritik
Akande

Reflecting, in hindsight, how his stint as an actor, production manager, and producer has aided his editing career, Akande recalls how he is constantly reading countless scripts in a bid to make production-related decisions. When he was a producer, thanks to the scripts he read, he could discern and easily spot any issues a script had. Now, as an editor, he can make informed decisions about a film just by reading the script. “All that I learnt as a producer, I was able to transfer into editing. From once being an assistant director, I know what kind of shot and composition will help an editor in drawing out the actor’s performance during post-production. I can also advise a director on things they could do when shooting”, Akande told me. 

In Ibadan was Akande’s debut feature-length editing job, which was directed by Egunjobi. Akande also cut and edited the trailer of Egunjobi’s recent project, A Green Fever. The relationship between a director and editor is built with trust and patience. As he opines, “Though the director has his/her interpretation, they trust the editor’s creative interpretation. It takes only one film to get into the mind of a director”. The editor has also worked with director, Jade Osiberu, on Gangs of Lagos and Brotherhood. Using Egunjobi and Osiberu as reference points, Akande mentioned how due to the artsy sensibilities of Egunjobi, he knows the kind of cutting he can adapt during editing. For Osiberu’s project, which Akande describes as being artsy albeit with a commercial leaning, the film’s aura and mood inform his editing choices. 

Taking a lecture repose, Akande said, “One of the things that I always hope for every editor is to find a director who understands the craft. Finding a director who won’t let you be lazy is crucial. Working with craft-focused directors is important to your growth as an editor.” Once a director finds an editor who can instinctively interpret their vision, they develop a career-long relationship with them. “An editor needs to understand that the film is the director’s vision. And as an editor, your job is to bring that dream to life. This doesn’t mean that an editor’s opinion isn’t important. It means that you can’t force your opinion or interpretation on the director. Quite often, the editor is always right. But, the director is also right. It takes patience to explain your interpretation of a scene to a director who is inclined to listen”, the editor concluded. By this, Akande acknowledges the need for synergy between the editor and director. 

The Anatomy of a Scene

Editing is the sequential arrangement of scenes, cutting visible dredges out of the actor’s performance, and making the emotional weight of a scene bear to the audience. The editor, like a musical conductor, directs the flow of viewers’ attention. By cutting out scenes, the editor tells the audience where they are, and what to pay attention to in a scene. Editing, through its relentless and painstaking job of directing the audience’s gaze, invites viewers to the character’s interior landscape — what they see, think, or feel. 

The biggest work of an editor,  apart from listening to the director, is bringing out the emotional depth of an actor’s performance in a scene. With the strain of shooting a scene repeatedly, sloppiness can gain entrance into an actor’s performance. When this appears, the film editor must cut them out. Using Osiberu’s Brotherhood as an example, Akande mentioned how editing helped elevate one of the audience-beloved scenes in the action sequence film. In the scene, Toni Tones, who played Goldie, in a fast-paced manner, jumped on a bike. “Using the performance that Tones had given me, I used a speed ramp to make the jump look cooler”, Akande said. “As editors, when editing a film, the actor’s performance is our biggest asset.” 

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With the technique required to draw out an actor’s performance through editing, Akande doesn’t believe he has an editing style. The film he is editing dictates the editing pattern and approach. Though Akande disapproved of owning a style, he has developed an editing process that makes his job appear seamless over time. Depending on when he is approached to work on a project, Akande first reads the film’s script. After this, he arranges the film’s data and footage into separate files. Once this bookkeeping process is over,  he commits to watching all the footage sent to him. In watching this footage, he painstakingly scouts for the performances that will make it to the film’s final cut.  “Editing is cutting out the bad part in a scene and retaining the best part”, Akande said. 

Martini Akande in conversation with Afrocritik
Akande

Not only does Akande edit films, but he also owns a self-titled blog where he randomly shares editing insights. The blog is filled with anecdotes about his work ethic and a manifesto of his career. The blog is also a treasure trove of information ready to be discovered. It contains gems which willing readers and budding editors can hunt for as a resource.  In the absence of institutional learning space and the rarity of willing mentors to aid the learning phase of fledgling editors, Akande’s blog could serve as an archive of information. In one of the blog posts titled “Buying a Laptop for Professional Video Editing– What’s Important? Akande detailed the technical specifications to look out for when opting to buy a laptop. “The brand of the laptop is not significant in this regard; specifications are what matters”, Akande wrote in the article. In “What I’ve Learnt From Editing Films in Nollywood, his most detailed and educative blog post for enthusiastic beginners and professionals hoping to take a refreshers course, Akande shares five nuggets: Editing is Like Writing; Rough Cut Will Suck, You Will Need to Test an Audience, Temp Music is Important, and Just Lock the Picture, Bro. Akande has also had the honour of being invited to speak at editing masterclasses, such as A 3-Day Free Editing Workshop organised by American Corner Ibadan in partnership with The Edit Space in 2023, and as a guest lecturer at EbonyLife Creative Academy, where he spoke in 2022, with students of the academy’s Visual Post-production department. 

When our hour-long intimate conversation was coming to a halt, I asked Akande a question that resulted in eruptive laughter. Rarely will one leisurely scroll through Akande’s Twitter (Now X) handle without catching sight of a tweet or videos featuring Nigerian musician Portable. Known for his notoriety and often perceived crass albeit social-conscious songs, Akande often finds relish in Portable’s humorous social life. While Portable dominates his Twitter timeline, DJ Chicken and other comical content makers also provide Akande comic relief across social media platforms. Their comical nature apart, Akande watches these videos for nostalgia. They remind him of his childhood experiences of watching carefree adults make light of situations and Old Yoruba films he saw growing up.

Recently, Akande put up a tweet that seeks to explain, in a few words, his supposed “Stanship” with Portable. It hints at Portable’s confidence and social currency. Expanding on the tweet, Akande said, “Where I am now came about with me speaking out and learning confidence. There’s the part where your work would speak for you and you would speak for your work too; learning that balance is important.” 

Seyi Lasisi is a Nigerian creative with an obsessive interest in Nigerian and African films as an art form. His film criticism aspires to engage the subtle and obvious politics, sentiments, and opinions of the filmmaker to see how they align with reality. He tweets @SeyiVortex. Email: seyi.lasisi@afrocritik.com. 

 

 

 

 

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