Tuning your TV to a music video channel, there are chances that for every 10 music videos that pop up, there is a MEX directed video on there. His brand has evolved from VFX to storytelling and we are loving every bit of his evolution. Here is an excerpt of an interview with him.
There is very little information about you out there; tell us about yourself away from your director’s personality.
I actually did that on purpose; well, my name is Emeka Ossai. I hail from Delta State but I was born in Lagos and lived all my life in the southwest region of Nigeria. I am the second child and first son of my parents’ eight children. Shortly after I was born, my family moved to Ibadan and we stayed there for about 6 years before moving back to Lagos. I’m 34 years old and I am married to a lovely wife with whom I have two beautiful daughters. That’s basically all about me summed up.
When did you decide to become a video director?
Funny enough, I never set out to become a video director. I was so interested in videos and how they come about. I initially wanted to study to become a mechanical engineer based on brainwash by my parents but my score wasn’t good enough to make the admission list, so I settled for doing a pre-degree course which wasn’t so exciting to me. During my few university days in Lautech [I eventually left to pursue my passion], I got more interested in video graphics and that was the early internet days here in Nigeria, so I took to reading and learning about anything on video graphics. I was staying with some friends who were also interested in video graphics and we created a synergy together. We even planned on making a cartoon back then but we couldn’t.
What was your parents’ reaction to dropping out from school?
I never considered dropping out of school; I will like to say I left school to get involved into something I was attracted to. My Dad had always wanted us to do something we were passionate about, so when I eventually told him, he gave his blessings which made things quite easy for me.
What was it like on your firsthand video experience?
I started my career in post-production; I was just interested in editing and visual effects, so most people back then just gave me their videos after shooting, then I edited. I was more interested in doing what people were not doing. My dive into video directing happened by chance and it was quite exciting.
Morachi and I attended the same secondary school and we started our career almost at the same time. He had a song he needed a video for and the person I hooked him with was sort of very busy at that time and Morachi got impatient. So I decided to shoot it myself and because I never had an on-set experience, I asked him to just pay to rent the camera.
It wasn’t until when we were about shooting, that I realized there were other factors to consider like lighting, stage design etc. At the end, I shot it on a green screen and did the editing which came out well. I knew where some TV stations were located, so I took the video for distribution and the reception was so exciting that I had to shoot another video almost immediately.
Morachi had this buzzing song then called – Hapuya Like That, so I shot a video for it and that was when my video directing career began fully. After that, I shot for some couple of artistes including Bracket but they rejected it because their brand wasn’t a VFX kind of brand; I then met DJinee through another of my friend and we became quite close.
What next happened for you?
From meeting DJinee, I met M.I and I edited the video for his “Crowd Mentality” song and Audu liked it. So he came to my office somewhere in Surulere where I was squatting with some friends and told me he liked the texture of the video and wanted me to shoot another video for M.I. M.I had this SAFE song and Audu wanted me to shoot the video, but because the song was so big I ended up disappearing after shooting the video because I wanted to put my all into it which paid off eventually – the video got nominated for awards and won some; the video actually gave me my first ever recognized awards till date.
I shot DJinee’s “Overkilling” video which also got massive visibility too and then my steadily growing career took a nosedive when I shot Ice Prince’s “Oleku” – I uploaded the raw cut on 4shared not knowing it was a public platform and the video got leaked. I had to start calling every blogger but the damage had already been done. I had a very low spirit and I went off for a while, then I hooked up with my friend – Eva to direct her “High” video which kind of brought me back into the game. Prior to then, I had never put my signature on any video I shot, Eva’s High was the first and birthed MEX Films.
Why were you not including your signature?
I wasn’t trying to be popular. I just wanted to create content to entertain people and I shy away from criticism because I don’t take it too well. I believe I’m destined to entertain people and once I get criticized, I feel like my purpose has been defeated.
Do you have any regrets whatsoever in the course of your career?
I won’t really call it regrets but mistakes; I made some mistakes in the early facet of my career by not being sensitive to the music itself. It was later I realized it wasn’t about quantity but about quality. Now I reject jobs based on the song and it has helped me manage demands and my creativity.
Can you lead us through a typical working day for you?
There are three aspects to my works: pre-production, production, and post-production. The post-production actually takes more time than the others because that’s where we get to do the editing, color grading, and the rest.
Which video have you shot that has been the most challenging?
Every video comes with its own challenges but I guess the most challenging would be JantaManta by Mavin all-stars. The pre-production timing wasn’t sufficient because there was a similar song by another label and they needed to put the video out as quickly as possible. At the end, we had delays from props to stylists to locations but eventually we shot the video and the Mavins are very understanding artistes.
Who do you see as your competitions in this Industry?
The competition between video directors is fighting to becoming the director of the year and if you take a look at the main directors in Nigeria, I am fortunate to be amongst them but as you know there is always a number one person in every field and I think Clarence has successfully maintained this position for a very long time.
Clarence is actually a director other directors look up to because of his quality contents and creativity. There is also AJE who doesn’t put out contents regularly but each time he does it is always appreciated, same goes for Moe Musa and Sesan.
What is the next phase for MEX Films?
I’m very interested in creating TV contents; I also love film too but I’m sure I am not mature enough for film-making. Maybe sometime in the near future, I will but these are the things I would love to do. I also want to own a unique TV station different from the normal terrestrial stations we have now with unique contents people can relate to.
Culled from Issue 14