Regardless of his ascendant profile and quantity of labor within the Nigerian skit business which has earned him two Africa Magic Viewers’ Alternative Awards, AMVCA, nominations in two years, Edem Victor Chukwunalu stays a kind of filmmakers you may’t instantly put a face to, however his identify and signature look like in all places within the business.
Since beginning his journey within the skit business in 2016, Victor has used his craft to create a number of the greatest skits out of Nigeria. In 2022, three of his works have been nominated within the first-ever On-line Social Content material Creator class on the eighth Africa Magic Viewers’ Alternative Award (AMVCA). He’s now transitioning from being a cinematographer to a content material creator.
That is the story of Edem Victor!
We’ve by no means met Victor in individual, however we might paint an image of him from our one-hour telephone dialog. He’s an affable, modest and energetic younger man from a humble background who tried his arms on a number of abilities – from electrical to laptop engineering and dumped his dream to review mass communication earlier than lastly discovering his forte in cinematography. Victor held nothing again as he took us by means of his journey to turning into one among Nigeria’s main on-line social content material producers.
He didn’t have it so clean rising up in a one-room residence on Aina Ajobo Road within the Ogba space of Lagos the place he lived together with his household consisting of his dad and mom and elder sister. Their single-room residence was demarcated with a curtain to create two separate sections. His mother was a preferred meals vendor generally known as ‘Mama Chioma’ within the neighbourhood whereas his late dad labored as a safety officer after which tried completely different jobs after quitting the safety job earlier than his loss of life in 2016.
At 17, he suffered a setback in his teachers when he was in SS2 on the Babs Fafunwa Millennium Grammar College in Ojodu, Lagos, after which he stop.
“I used to be not mentally able to see my classmates in Senior Secondary College 3 (SSS3) whereas in SSS2. So I stated as a substitute of spending one other 12 months, let me simply go to Technical College. Somebody in my space was working with the electrical energy distribution firm. He additionally completed college and had suggested my mother to enrol me for a one-year course on the technical college to study elect-elect, and after that, he’ll repair me someplace in his workplace as a workers,” Victor stated.
Two weeks into his one-year course, Victor stop once more.
“I didn’t keep greater than in all probability two weeks. I went like twice. The primary time it was to register. I wouldn’t wish to say I left the varsity due to bullying, however I used to be focused by a gaggle of boys who have been always trolling me and tapping my head as a result of I had a bald head then,” he stated. “They do this, and so they chuckle, so I simply returned residence and informed my dad and mom that I used to be not going again there once more. Thus far, I by no means informed them why I stop; I simply cried and satisfied them that I don’t really feel good there, and so they stated okay.”
When Technical College didn’t work, Victor tried studying laptop engineering on the Laptop Village in Ikeja, adjudged West Africa’s largest marketplace for info and laptop know-how merchandise and equipment.
“They didn’t educate me something,” Victor stated. “I went there each day for six months to take a seat like a receptionist and mark attendance.”
He discovered no pleasure at Laptop Village, and he grew to become satisfied that laptop engineering was not his calling. And he walked away. That was the third time he can be quitting a profession path.
“I used to be attempting all these abilities as a result of my sister was in a better establishment and my dad and mom couldn’t ship each of us on the identical time. So I needed to look ahead to her to finish her research.”
Circa 2013, after quitting his coaching at Laptop Village, Victor discovered a brand new fascination.
“As an alternative of staying at residence, I made a decision to affix my neighbour, an occasion cinematographer, so I used to go to his store as a result of I used to be simply fascinated with seeing all this stuff. That was the start of my journey into cinematography,” he stated. “My dad and mom spoke to the neighbour, however he stated that he doesn’t prepare. He beneficial me to another person, so I used to be with that individual for a couple of 12 months. Then I received to see Akin Alabi. I used to see him in music movies then as Akin Alabi Movies, so I checked him on Fb and tried to succeed in out, however I couldn’t get him. I informed my mother that I feel I ought to go and work with this individual apart from these occasions as a result of this individual is into music manufacturing. We lastly received to him, and the actual journey began after I began working with Akin Alabi.”
Victor’s first three months with Akin Alabi, one among Nigeria’s main filmmakers and music video administrators, virtually resulted in one other fiasco like his earlier endeavours.
He informed us he was on the crew doing nothing for 2 months, however he had determined it was what he needed, and he’d do something to make it work.
Victor ensured the failure that crested over his earlier endeavours didn’t overcome his cinematography coaching.
“Once I began working with Akin Alabi, the coaching was alleged to be for 3 months. However within the first two months, I used to be working errands for my senior colleagues,” he stated. “Whereas working the errands, I might simply come again and take a look at what they have been doing. I couldn’t contact the system. In my third month on the academy, we had moved to Faculty Street, and our home was now on the identical road because the workplace, so I used to be given the important thing to reach early to open the workplace and clear up in all places.
“At any time when I received to the workplace early within the morning, I used that point to observe what I noticed the day past, and that was what I stored doing.”
A number of weeks after immersing himself in educating himself, Akin Alabi gave him a process that may determine his future on the crew and outline his profession in cinematography.
“In my remaining week, Akin Alabi referred to as me to his workplace and requested what I had discovered thus far, and I informed him. Then he gave me a process to do, I did it, and he stated it was spectacular and would retain me. That was how I didn’t depart after three months, so I began working with him.”
Akin Alabi’s phrases grew to become the validation that gave Victor the fillip to clear the cloud of uncertainty that surrounded his earlier makes an attempt to amass a talent. Greater than ever, he grew to become assured that success was ascertained.
“If I had failed the duty, I wouldn’t be capable to proceed engaged on the crew. possibly I might not be doing this now.” Victor discovered his rhythm from that second, and there was no stopping him.
Like many different younger Nigerians, police harassment and indiscriminate arrest of younger individuals have been a number of the main occasions that formed his childhood. This expertise has been a outstanding theme in a few of his works.
As he was honing his cinematography abilities, the Nigerian skit business dominated by creators entertaining hundreds of thousands of social media customers with content material created with their smartphones was additionally going by means of its formative stage.
When he lastly mastered the cinematography abilities, it was about time the business was gaining extra recognition whereas creators have been getting a greater reward for his or her ardour. Victor’s talent got here in useful because the business was transiting from skits made with smartphones to skilled cameras.
The Nigerian skit business has turn into an essential a part of our each day lives and now we have to confess it. However the business has gone by means of completely different phases. Within the early 2010s, when Instagram was simply gaining reputation amongst Nigerians, customers might solely submit a 15-second video. With their smartphones, web connection, and social media accounts, content material creators entertained hundreds of thousands of followers throughout the globe with their quick skits filmed and edited with their smartphones.
With their 15-second skits, early content material creators within the Nigerian web area like Oluwakaponeski, Woli Arole, Dr Craze and Ade, Klinton Cod, Ogbeni Adan, Oluwadolarz, Aphrican Ace and Maraji, amongst others had followers glued to their smartphones hooked on their content material.
Round 2016, the business started to expertise evolution, creators began introducing DSLR cameras and high-end modifying suites to create their skits, and the business began taking one other form as a movie-making enterprise. Patronage from company organisations elevated whereas native tv stations started together with a number of the skits as a loop into their each day broadcast schedules. At that time, smartphone skits might now not match into the subsequent part of skit-making. Manufacturers and TV stations demanded higher-quality movies shot and edited by professionals.
Throughout this time, Victor was additionally mastering his cinematography abilities, and he lastly grew to become the go-to man for one of many skit makers – Babatunde ‘Oluwadolarz’ Ogunleye, who was looking for a cinematographer to shoot a TV-standard skit.
“Oluwadolarz was taking pictures with a telephone then. When he was alleged to submit some movies to a TV station, they stated they wanted higher high quality, so he reached out to me after seeing one among my photos the place I held a digicam and stated he needed us to do one thing collectively. It was simply alleged to be a one-time factor, so after submitting the movies, he appreciated the standard and stated we should always persist with the digicam, and that was how we began working collectively,” Victor stated.
Shortly after then, his work caught the eye of different skit makers looking for somebody who might shoot their skits with the proper cinematic equipment that may make them extra interesting to their viewers.
“So, whereas I used to be working with Oluwadolarz, many individuals thought I used to be working with solely Oluwadolarz, so a lot of them didn’t wish to attain out as a result of they didn’t need any points,” he stated. “It was MC Energetic that reached out and requested if I used to be open to working with different individuals; I stated ‘sure’. So I began working with Energetic additionally.”
Since his profession as a cinematographer took off in 2016, Victor Edem has turn into the artistic behind most of movies that make us giggle on social media.
In 2020, when movie manufacturing was suspended because of COVID-19 pandemic, social media content material creators solidified their maintain on customers with their content material. Since then, the variety of social media content material popping out of Nigeria each month has continued to extend.
Victor informed us he shoots greater than 30 skits in a month, and he’s simply one of many many cinematographers taking pictures comedy skits within the nation. “Generally I might shoot 5 skits in a day for Mr Macaroni, MC Energetic and Kie Kie. So in every week, I can shoot for 4 creators and shoot my skits.”
From the younger boy who stop secondary college at 17, stop laptop engineering coaching after six months and was bullied out of Technical College, Victor has turn into one of the vital outstanding figures within the Nigerian skit industry said to be worth ₦2 billion as of 2020.
With guarantees of extra alternatives, the business continues to develop as extra younger individuals with smartphones, web and social media accounts are making an inroad into the business in a rustic the place greater than 23 million individuals are jobless, based on the NBS.
Victor has now moved from being a skit cinematographer to a content material creator. He has been creating comedy skits below his identify. One among his earliest works was nominated within the new Social Media Content material Creator Class of the eighth Africa Magic Viewers’ Alternative Award (AMVCA) in 2022.
“My good friend – Kelvin, an excellent scriptwriter, despatched me the script,” he informed us. “I began taking pictures my content material as a result of I simply needed to check out various things apart from comedy as a result of a few of my content material is not only comedy.”
In 2023, he earned one other AMVCA nomination in the identical class for his November 2022 skit – The Activist.
We requested him if he plans to crossover into Nollywood like Mr Macaroni and Broda Shaggi, who’re taking alternatives in Nollywood.
“That is what I wish to proceed doing for now,” Victor informed us. “For now, it’s only for us to maintain doing our stuff the way in which we do it. There’s YouTube, and we’re utilizing it to place our stuff on the market.”
Interview: Anjolaoluwa Abiosun & Michael Orodare
Cowl Design: Samjoe Mbanefo