Sanusi Shina is a young celebrated music video director. He shares his experiences in this interview with Saturday Beats
Why did you decide to become a video director?
I have always had a passion for anything that has to do with art, particularly photography. When I began my career, I was like an errand boy for a top photographer, Andy, who studied film in Jos Film School. Back then, all I was interested in was the money I could make from the job. I was 14 years old and it was the first time I handled a camera. I started learning from Andy who lived across my house because I knew that if I wanted to go to a proper school, I would need a lot of money. All I was after was the money and I never noticed that I had passion for what I was doing. I started carrying cameras for him and from there, I progressed to become his personal assistant. Gradually, I began taking pictures and treating them to a point of perfection. That was how I picked up the interest. I had another friend, a female journalist, on my street that also helped me a great deal. She had a brand new laptop which was one of the tools I needed to practise what I was learning. She believed in my dream and allowed me to use her laptop whenever I wanted. I uploaded my entire picture treating software on her laptop and sometimes I had to go to locations with it and she never complained. I used all her pictures on the laptop as my samples for practice.
After I saw that I had perfected the craft, I started doing photography professionally. From there, I went into film making. Not that I got bored with photography but I wanted to evolve and film making is the father of all motion pictures. Now I am focused on music video production.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a greenhorn on the job?
Before I became known, people did not trust me enough to invest their money in my craft. Nobody was interested in investing a huge amount of money in somebody that just started, so I had to look for a way to make cheap and good videos. Often times, the roof tops of my neighbours suffered for it. On those rooftops, I got all I wanted because from there I was close to the sun and it provided the best lightening. I also got very good long shots on the roofs. That was how I started making videos for some up-and-coming artistes and some people started believing in me.
How did you meet Terry G who gave you your first breakthrough job?
I met Terry G through his personal assistant. Terry G did a video shoot for one of his songs but it was not what he had in mind. He had issues with the video and as fate would have it, his personal assistant told him about me. He invited me to his place and saw some of my works. He gave me the video and asked me to make amendments for him but it was not easy to amend unless I took new shots. The first one we did came out very nice and from there, he trusted me with his videos. He gave me my breakthrough in the industry.
Is it true that now you handle most of his video productions?
Yes, since then, I have handled almost all his video productions.
Did you ever believe you would become successful with the help of a camera?
People that are close to me, like my family members, know that I am a very ambitious person. I see myself being bigger than Aliko Dangote or Steven Spielberg very soon. I want to do a groundbreaking film that will put Nigeria in the world map when it comes to film. I want to make films that can win Cannes’ Award. I want to see my music videos competing in the Grammy’s.
Are you doing anything to improve yourself so as to get to that level?
I have taken some courses at New York Film Academy. I have also gone to South Africa to do some courses in video production.
What was your parents’ reaction to your career choice?
My family supported me because they know I have a passion for the job and it makes me happy. I will not say I was brought up with a silver spoon but we are comfortable. However, at a point, things changed for the worse in my family and life became hard, especially when I lost my mother. She died when I was still very young and I am her only child. My dad catered for me but I grew up with my mother’s family. My mum is from Ogun State while my dad is from Kano but I grew up in Lagos.
Do you still take pictures?
Yes, I still take pictures. Photography is my foundation and I cannot leave it. If you are a good photographer, you will be a good cinematographer; and if you are a good cinematographer, you can be a good film maker. That is how you grow. Right now I am working on my photography exhibition and a photography documentary.
How did you get the name 7Hills Film?
The name 7hills is spiritual. When you say seven hills, it means perfection. At the seventh hill is where you have the angels. The name came from all that I had gone through before getting to where I am. There were times I was almost thrown out of the house because my aunt did not agree with my coming back home late and leaving the house for days. My family wanted me to study medicine or law and I wanted something different. They stopped sponsoring me and I had to walk the walk all by myself. Now they are all proud of me.
You started at 14, how old are you now?
Now I am 23. I think I am the youngest music video director in Nigeria, not sure though.
Do people intimidate you because of your age or physique?
People don’t know my age. Plus age has nothing to do with the work that I do. There are people younger than I am that work in the bank. The industry needs to understand that it is not a crime for someone to be young and be on top of his game. When it comes to production on set, there is a hierarchy you must follow. So, my age is not what they look at when I am behind the camera as the captain.
How do you cope with your female admirers?
I am not a very social person. I am not a fan of girls. Don’t get me wrong, I am not gay but they are not my priority. I am not just the type that falls in love when I see a fine girl. All I think about now is money and business.
When will you think about marriage?
I will get married when I make lots of money.
People believe that you may not find the right person when you are ready?
My money will bring the right girl to me when that time comes.