In this interview, Apampa Owolabi Oluwadamilola (Dammy Twitch) speaks on how he found himself in the music industry, shooting music videos and working with A-list acts, among other issues
Could you give us an insight into your background?
My name is Apampa Owolabi Oluwadamilola. I will be 24 years old on October 27. I was born in Oyo State, even though I am originally from Ogun State. I grew up in Oluyole, Oyo State, and moved to Lagos State much later. I attended Redeemers Secondary School and moved on to TAIDOB College for senior secondary. I graduated from Redeemers University with a degree in Economics.
Besides video production, are you involved in any other kind of work or projects?
Yes. Quite a number. For example, I and my team are working on a platform. Basically, we will be taking pictures of people in different walks of life and telling their stories. With this, we look to tell the story of the country and continent through pictures and captions and help people tell their stories, so that people can make a connection or relate with the situations obtainable on ground here. It’s 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. We will put that out really soon.
Tell us how the journey of your video production/directing career really took off
When I started doing this full time as a business, I tried registering ‘Visuals by Twitch’ but the name was rejected by the Corporate Affairs Commission. After retrying, we got D-Twitch. But we are now Polar Films, which is the mother company that will house a much larger business.
When it came to the gigs, 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 did that in Senegal. So far, I have worked with quite a number of artists. I’ve worked with Falz, Burnaboy, Olamide, Dremo, Lil Kesh, Victor AD, Preto Show (Angila), Perruzi, Mayorkun, and more.
Can you name a few of the jobs you’ve done and artists you’ve done them for?
Wonder Woman by Davido; Bumbum by Davido and Zlatan; Aje by Davido (DMW); On God by Davido; Red Handed by Dremo, Mayorkun and Peruzzi; Majesty by Peruzzi; Ringer by Dremo;
Bigger Meat by Dremo; and Taya by Mayorkun are some that I can mention right away. There are more of them in the pipeline.
Are you married? Do you have children?
I’m not yet married; no kids.
What are your hobbies and social interests?
These days I really do not have the luxury of a hobby, but I used to play basketball, see movies and videos when I make out the time. It always opens the eyes and feeds the imagination. I am generally an introvert and I don’t do a lot of going out. Since I started out full time in music video production, I have had little time for anything else. I spend a lot of my time traveling between locations and making sure all pre-production requirements are in place. I spend any extra time I have getting educated/training in this business. There is always something new to learn.
How many years have you been doing this?
I started playing with photography in 2013 and while at it, I met a lady who was quite impressed and she helped me get some paid gigs. From then, I started getting gigs for burials and events photography; that’s how the hustle started paying early. While doing photography, I was also was playing with video editing and in 2017, I got to do some works with Director Q as an editor. By the end of 2017, I kicked off full-on in music video production with my personal brand. As I started, I began actively seeking opportunities to make more and more content.
Where do you want to take this?
I am about upgrading what the world expects from Nigerian music videos. With each project, I want to implement something different. Something better than I have done before. I want to challenge what we think is possible with music video production; that is where I am taking this.
At what moment did you decide to be a music video producer?
When I rounded off my degree in Economics, my parents wanted me to get a job in my field of study but I had other interests. Everyone kept feeling like they were doing me a favour because they were getting me jobs I never wanted.
As I said, while in school, I had been playing around with video editing. So, when I graduated, I kept training and taking any gig I got (whether it paid little or not), basically because I wanted to keep improving the level of work I could put out.
Can you shed more light on the non-profit idea you shared earlier?
We are trying to help people connect with this country and Africa through the stories of her people. Although we have several ideas, we won’t unveil a name yet till we’re ready with a clear message.
As a music video director, what’s your take on Nollywood?
I feel like Nollywood has grown really fast within a short time frame.
We are all in the entertainment industry producing video content, but Nollywood is about full-on movies and music videos are quite different from that. Movies have a longer project timeframe, bigger budget and serve a whole different purpose from music videos.
I applaud Nollywood directors that are pushing the limits and doing things that haven’t been done before now. Budgets have to be improved generally if we must match our peers at Hollywood and a lot more support has to be given to all video content producers. We all will keep doing our bit to drive the African narrative through entertaining content.
What exactly do you dislike about your industry?
First is the low level of collaboration among directors and producers. Then the 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 that is not a bad thing, we should also consider that music is one of the biggest means through which Nigeria exports culture and we video producers/directors are responsible for crafting the visuals that make this music more appealing.
Budget is always a conversation. Sometimes you finish a gig and do not have much to show for it in terms of profit, but we keep it moving. The more I work, the luckier I get.
We also aren’t evolving as fast as our counterparts in the United States. In order to push myself, I have pushed to work with big international labels and trust me, it has been a whole different experience. They have requirements that can be quite intimidating for a person who started out like me. This experience showed me that we have a long way to go as an industry. It also got me to up my game and to keep doing that. I have gone on to work on projects with Sony Music, Warner Music and I am currently working on a project with Universal Music. I have had to learn really fast to meet their requirements. I’m happy this makes me push myself all the time.
Have you ever rejected a gig?
Yes, I have rejected some gigs.
Why did you reject these gigs?
An artist once reached out saying he wanted to produce a music video with people twerking from the beginning to the end and that didn’t tie back to the music in any meaningful way. I tried to make him see a 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.
What would you say is your greatest skill set?
I would say directing and video editing. I love cinematography but I’m not keen about carrying cameras. I’d rather direct the video shoot and then sit for post-production. I also play the role of Director of Photography and get to carry the camera sometimes. But my core strengths are in directing and editing.
Who has been the biggest influence on your works?
Dave Meyers, Director X, Meji Alabi and quite a number of others.
Tell us about your roles so far
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 proceed to learn what more I could do editing on a system.
Now, I direct, oversee and execute the production process and I am particular and very hands-on on 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.
How do you react to negative comments regarding you or your work?
I laugh and walk away. I don’t even reply. Someone can insult you online, yet sees you in person and gets quite excited and probably hail you. If you don’t like me and you can’t say it to my face, then you really have a problem. I don’t like to stress this.
At this point in your career are you confident of your longevity?
Yes, I think I am because I’m educating myself and aiming for a new level, both in the short and long run.
What have you observed about distribution of video content in Nigeria?
Our people 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. If you do great works, you should spend double your budget on distribution. Distribution is a key aspect of the growth you aim for as an artist.
For those who don’t know about your work and have only read through this, what videos would you recommend they look at to get a sense of your work?
Davido – Wonder Woman; Falz – Loving;
and Peruzzi – Majesty.
There are some new videos that will come out in a bit as well.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
We have only just started. In five years, my company should have moved the world’s expectation in the video content production landscape. We look to do movies too but not immediately. We would like to have achieved specific landmarks in music video production before we venture that way and it really is happening fast.
What is your ultimate goal in life?
I have been helped in the process of my work. My goal is to help and grow as many people as possible even as I grow. I want to give back as much as I can.
Who were your idols growing up?
I really can’t remember having any idols, so I won’t even try thinking. I definitely have admired a lot of people in different areas of life but can’t remember holding any idols to mind.
How would you like to be remembered as a video director?
As someone that took this game to another level.
What were the difficulties you encountered while growing up?
I was living with my mum and she was really strict. I generally didn’t get to socialise a lot. That in itself wasn’t too much of a problem because I was already an introvert, but I also wanted to socialise a bit more.
If not video directing, what would it have been for you?
I think I would’ve been an economist because I generally did quite well at it.
What do you do before going out to shoot?
I do the normal checks with the team to ensure all plans have been executed. We check to ensure all equipment are available (there’s nothing as frustrating as not having equipment ready and on standby when you need them during a shoot). We also pray it doesn’t rain – rain is hardly a plus for your shoot. True, it can work for you, but in most cases it disrupts the process.
What kind of advice do you have for up and coming video production people?
Pick up what you have and start doing the work. 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.