BEHIND THE LENS. HOWFANA INTERVIEWS TOP VIDEO DIRECTOR ADASA COOKEY

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Howfana:The first time we interviewed you was in 2013. At the time, your most popular video was Burna Boy’s Like to Party. Tell us about your more recent work.

Adasa Cookey: That’s going to be difficult because there’s a lot going on and we’re always working. Since the last interview we have done over 150 videos. Where do I start? We’ve worked a lot with Harrysongz, from Reggae Blues to Samankwe… We’ve worked with Korede Bello, Olamide, Davido as well as a lot of talented upcoming artists.

 

You always sound very professional. Is this one of the secrets to your success?

I think I am too serious or uptight sometimes (laughs). Actually, sounding serious and being professional is definitely one of the things you need to succeed in any business. When people think about your brand they should take you serious.

 

The youths [in PH] look up to politicians and militants who shouldn’t be role models to anybody.

Give us a brief description of your career path.

I have a B. Tech in Architecture. By the time I was leaving the university, I think I had lost the passion I went in with. It was clear that I wasn’t going to practice. I started one or two businesses. My brother and I started the first car tracking service in Nigeria but were unable to grow it. All this time, I had been in music. Out of some frustration, I got a job in Airtel. After I left Airtel, I started Squareball.

 Before then I was trying to push The Bizmess men [a music group] with Jerome. I must say, music is not for the broke. There are so many expenses needed to pursue a music career. When I realized that I didn’t have the funds and I still wanted to be in entertainment, I started searching myself. I realized that there were things that I could do on end without getting tired, like graphics work. I can’t stay in an environment where I am not creating something new, where I am not thinking. I can’t do work that involves, say signing documents or accounting. So I settled for film making which I understood because all my life I had been watching music videos – even before I thought of getting into the industry. There would be videos that I would see and say, this video was not done well, does not correspond with the song.

 

In my last year at in Airtel [his department was being managed by Ericsson], I started studying and training myself. I got an email saying that the company was restructuring and was giving some of us the option to voluntarily resign and apply for other positions within the company, or be kicked out. A few hours after I got the email, I replied saying that I was going to resign. In the first place, I didn’t feel it was the right place for me. That’s where I started my journey. I was struggling here and there until my big break came with Like to Party. And from there, I didn’t drop the baton.

I was struggling here and there until my big break came with Like to Party.

A popular actor said to me that all the PH boys he has met have a way of getting ahead and achieving when they land in the entertainment industry in Lagos. You moved from Port Harcourt to Lagos and have done well for yourself.  Is there a blueprint for anybody who moves to Lagos?

Port Harcourt is a city that doesn’t present you with so many opportunities. The staples there are; Politics, Oil and Construction. For me, there aren’t enough role models. The youths look up to politicians and militants who shouldn’t be role models to anybody. If you work in Oil and Gas good for you, but how many people can Oil and Gas accommodate? The city doesn’t have people in manufacturing who are famous. How many successful directors are there? How many successful musicians still live in the city?

 

When you come to a city like Lagos and you see wealth from every industry, it tends to open your mind, and you’re like, so someone is a billionaire from furniture, someone is a billionaire from entertainment? So I don’t have to do my ‘chairman sir’ for ten years before I am able to rent a house. It is that hope that people come in to the city with, that you can just face one thing and hustle it hard – for those that are ready to work and are not looking for short cuts. People who are ready to go wake up early and sleep late, and even when they are sleeping, they are working on it. A lot of people think there’s so much discrimination in Lagos. It’s hidden here and there but basically the city is open.

 

What do you think it would take for the PH music industry to become vibrant like it was when you were in the Biznessmen?

There has to be a conscious effort. Everybody has to be aware that this thing has to be built. The Government has a role to play too. Entertainment will benefit the region more than Oil and Gas will. How many people can Oil and Gas employ? I have a production company that employs different professionals; producers, script writers, editors, production assistants, an in house stylist, a  driver and logistics person, a caterer who supplies food to all my shoots…altogether, my activities  benefit about twenty five people. There are some crews that employ up to fifty people. If you have fifty people in the entertainment industry in PH who are doing well, it’s possible that you would have engaged up to a thousand people.

The first sign that a region is peaceful is that entertainment and tourism are booming.

 Also, security has to be fixed, no sentiments. Politicians need to calm down with their rhetoric. Their antics are ruining it for everybody. Can’t they play their politics quietly? If people cannot have fun in a place they will not invest there. The Government and people of the Niger Delta keep saying that the region is peaceful and safe. You don’t have to tell them that the region is peaceful, you show them. The first sign that a region is peaceful is that entertainment and tourism are booming. You don’t need to show it. It shows itself. The Government needs to realize that entertainment is not a side thing. It is the main thing.

 

The media also has a role to play. I come to PH and I listen to the radio but I don’t hear the PH songs. If we’re playing music for one hour, we should play at least five Port Harcourt songs. Not just playing them, but hyping the artists because celebrity culture has to come in. The artists also have to take themselves serious. The Niger Delta needs a lot of things to develop itself and one of those things is entertainment.

 The learning never stops. In fact, I am still learning. Just before this interview, I watched a tutorial.

Do you have any tips for people who want to succeed in your field? 

Skill up; people are attracted to quality. I have a slogan which says, if you chase them, they are running. So, attract them. When a pretty lady is walking down the street, people always come to her because of all the endowments God has given her. In production, you have to make your work pretty. It has to be high quality so that people see it and they want it for themselves. Before you can achieve quality, you have to learn. The learning never stops. In fact, I am still learning. Just before this interview, I watched a tutorial. I want my work to be at par with what they do in Hollywood. We’re gradually approaching it but we are not there yet.

It’s the beginning of the year and a lot of people are rearranging their lives. You mentioned in this interview that you chose to resign your job with Ericsson. What advice do you have for anyone who has that urge to resign their job and follow a dream?

It’s going to be hard but embrace the challenges. We like to do things by faith and tell ourselves, my own will be easy. Yes, it will be easy if you have a lot of things set up and you have planned properly before resigning. But challenges will come and it will test you. The first thing you need to do when you are on your own is that you have to work harder than you did when you worked for someone. It is more work, not less work. If you did nine to five and then went home to rest, now you are going to do twice that. The beauty of it is that you get to choose the time that you do the work.

People usually say, follow your passion. Recently, I had a change of mind about that.

At least, it will be work that you enjoy.

People usually say, follow your passion. Recently, I had a change of mind about that. People’s passions naturally lie in what they like to do. They may not have the talent, the conditions or the sponsorship but because they have been told to follow their passion, you might see someone who could have been the best tailor in Nigeria trying to be a singer…Or someone who could have been the biggest stationery supplier, trying to be an actor, someone who should have been in Oil and Gas trying to be a make-up artist…

The reality I now believe is, follow your opportunity. Opportunities present themselves for you to take advantage. But because you want to be like Davido, you decide that you are not going to take that construction job. When you follow your opportunity you’ll learn to have passion for it over time. Passion can be developed. So anybody who steps out on their own should look at their opportunity.

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