Nigerian Cinematographer, Michael Shodipe (Duke of lens) in this interview with The Parakeet Show shares vital scoops into the world of a cinematographer, his greatest success so far as well as his goals for the new decade. Emmanuel Obokoh presents the excerpts:
Briefly tell us about yourself?
My name is Michael Sodipe. Also, I go by the Artistic name Duke of Lens; I am a cinematographer and I am from Ishara remo, Ogun State.
How best would you describe what you do?
A cinematographer or director of photography is the boss over the camera and light crews working on a film, television production or other live action pieces. I am responsible for making Artistic and technical decisions related to the image.
How did your begin your journey into cinematography?
I graduated from Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo with a degree in Economics. However, fast forward to a few months later, I got a job with a media firm called IBST Media. Technically, coming from a different background made it quite interesting fitting into the new space. But I was blessed to have learnt from the scratch, from rolling cables, carrying tripods to logging which was how the journey began.
Can you shed more light on what your work entails?
A cinematographer’s job can be quite simple with a good director who knows what visuals he is trying to create. It is crucial for both to be in sync to be able to achieve that.
On the other hand it can be difficult filming under different conditions, especially when it is an outdoor shoot. But, basically it is essential that you have an eye for creativity.
At some point in time, a typical week for me as a cinematographer was working 9-5, of which was tasking with everyday travel trips from one location to another. As a result I have been to thirty four states Nigeria. Thereafter, I made the decision to become a freelance cinematographer of, which can be very quiet at times, but when you have got series of shoots lined up, it could be hectic and again in my line of work there is nothing like Saturday and Sunday being free as we work any day at anytime.
How do you plan for a shoot?
Planning for a shoot for me starts with a brief from the client and producer that gives me a guideline of what is expected from me visually.
Also, I analyze the location of the shoot, looking at possible advantages and disadvantages I can encounter. This gives me an idea of the camera setup and equipment needed for my shoot.
What are the things you like and dislike about what you do?
My work definitely has likes and dislikes but once you have passion for what you do you will learn there are likes and dislikes that are important and keep you motivated.
What is most challenging about cinematography?
The most challenging thing for me is in regards to our Nigerian economy; filming on the streets of Lagos; especially with the whole drama of gangsters on the street demanding for settlement or otherwise seizing your camera. I remember getting punched in Festac because the guy wanted to drag my camera. I guess it is part of the job and nothing great comes easy.
Amidst all that, there is a rewarding feeling in seeing your visuals looking crisp and getting positive commendations from different people.
What level of education, schooling or skills is needed to be a successful cinematographer?
In my own case, I studied economics as my first degree before furthering on to get a degree in Cinematography at Mumbai. Although, some people did not go to school to learn, rather they learnt on the job as an assistant.
Nevertheless, I think it is important that you attend a proper film school and learn the basics of filming.
What in your opinion are the most important qualities of a cinematographer?
A cinematographer would require an eye for detail and a mind for fast invention is very important. Also, a thorough understanding of lighting techniques, light color, shade and manipulation as well as a Strong technical knowledge of cameras and the film production process and strong communication skills. However, for me the most important quality for me is a good listening ability.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Most people feel we carry a camera and just press record. They should always know we are the brains behind any video they watch on their screens. It is an Art which requires a high level of creativity and intelligence. It is not a roadside thing.
How do you balance work and family?
Well, balancing my family life and work can be tricky, but it is important your partner understands the nature of your work, and can tolerate your travelling and going off for weeks. Fortunately for me, thus far, it has been great.
What has been your greatest moment as a cinematographer?
Greatest success in cinematography is filming for CNN with Zain Aisher on three episodes for CNN Africa and also documentary on Afro Beats the Back Story.
What are your goals and dreams for the future?
My goals for the future would be to impact younger ones with the knowledge I have and also have my own studio in Nigeria like the Tyler Perry studios, whereby people can come in to film without issues.
What advice would you offer someone looking to pursuit this career?
My advice would be, go to a film school. It does not have to be the most expensive but get a proper school, learn the ropes and definitely you would succeed.
What else would you like people to know about your job?
Cinematographers can be weird but we are still one of the coolest people out there.