I MESSED UP when I made my first millions —Patrick Elis ; One of Nigeria’s finest music video directors, Patrick Elis, is one man who is much respected in the music industry. For almost 10 years, Elis has been in the industry …
One of Nigeria’s finest music video directors, Patrick Elis, is one man who is much respected in the music industry. For almost 10 years, Elis has been in the industry shooting videos for top hip hop musicians. In this interactive session with SEGUN ADEBAYO, shares the story of his career among other issues.
You are one of the top music video directors in the country, but you are hardly seen around. In fact, for some time, it was said you left the country because jobs stopped coming. Now that you are here now, could you tell me what has been happening to you?
I don’t know which of your questions I should answer first. Let me start by saying I have not been silent. I think the reason people say I am silent is because they don’t know my style and what led me into entertainment. Right from the beginning of my career, I never wanted to be a music video director, but to be a director. Many people don’t know there is a difference between the two even though it might seem the same. I have always dreamt big and dreaming big means I want something bigger than just to be called a music video director. Everything that has happened to me in the last two years has been good. I couldn’t have been happier.
Patrick Elis, to some people, is still relatively unknown. Could this be true?
The idea of Patrick Elis Pictures is not something that is supposed to be seen on the television; I never planned it that way. The first video I shot, I didn’t put my name but it got to a time that I would shoot a video and different people would claim the credit. I have never stopped getting jobs. I left Nigeria over a year ago for the United States and I can tell you that I have turned down many jobs, because I was getting distracted from my studies in the school, where I have been to study wide on cinematography. My career has been on track and I am enjoying it. I will be going back to the US in a couple of weeks and I am sure that by the time I am gone, people will come out to say that he has gone silent again.
How long have you been a music video director?
I have been doing this since 2008 but the Patrick Elis concept came to the fore in 2010 when I shot Wiz Kid’s “Holla at Your Boy” video. But before then, I have been shooting videos . I shot some reality shows. I shot “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”; worked with Nigezie for about a year; shot some TV commercials and a lot of stuffs for private organisations, which I didn’t put my name on. But when I shot Wizkid’s video, I needed to put a name, so that was how Patrick Elis’ name first appeared on TV as music video director.
Not many people knew you shot Wizkid’s first video. How did it happen?
Then, I was still working at Nigezie. I met Samklef, whom I had just shot a video called Labalaba for. That video was shot under four hours and delivered the next day. At that time, that video was different on TV. I think Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) saw the video and contacted me. They had even paid for Wizkid’s video to another director, but they felt I could deliver. That was how we shot the video. Wizkid was a young guy and I was pretty young too, so the vibes were great and of course Banky W was there, so it was fun.
You would agree with me that Wizkid gave you that big break?
I won’t say Wizkid gave me a break. I’d been shooting videos before I met him but the Holla at Your Boy video was a major shift from the norm and everybody liked it.
You have shot other videos for Wizkid after then, how do you feel about working with him?
It is always nice working with him. At least, I shot Bonbe, Show me your Money, Thank You and a couple of others. What I can tell you about Wizkid is that he’s talented and will sell any brand. Whatever any issues anybody has with him is immaterial to me.
Since 2008 till now, you have won some awards and have been nominated in other top categories, what have you been able to make out of your silent career?
I have been around for some time and I am still very relevant. That, to me, is something big and exceptional, because for one to have come this far is not something you can separate from sheer hard work. I have travelled to many countries in the course of this job. I have met people who told me they appreciated my work even if they have never met me. I am still yet to get over a particular event that really shocked me recently. I was at an event outside the country and a young boy walked up to me at the venue and said he has always wanted to see me. He said he likes my productions and would not mind giving away all he has just to follow me back to my country. I was moved. To me, as a young man, I have built a world for myself and I am already living in it. I thank God for my life.
You are from Delta State but you grew up in Warri. How did you find your way into this profession? I understand you were once with Nigezie before you decided to come up with your outfit. How much influence does your background have on your career?
For me, my growing up has nothing to do with what I am doing today. Warri is a place where you have to hustle for yourself. As a Warri boy, if you want to be successful, you have to do everything possible to make sure you achieve your set goals.
How was growing up in Warri?
Warri is a place where you have to work for yourself. When I mean work, I mean hustle very hard for yourself. Whether legal or illegal, you just have to survive.
Even if you have to steal?
I didn’t mean it like that. I mean you have to work legitimately, because what matters at the end of the day is how successful you are. You must have the spirit of survival. You must never give up. The truth is that you can’t go back and tell your people stories that touch the heart, so you have to work hard. And, don’t also forget that people from that part of the country are very talented, some of them who have maximized their talents are doing very well today.
What kind of illegal business did you engage in when you were there since you said one has to survive, no matter what it takes?
I have always been a cool-headed person. I was an architect. I was doing well until I found my way into entertainment. Everybody knows what Warri is. But that does not mean everybody that was raised up there is bad. I am a living example. I have never been involved in shady jobs with anybody and I make bold to say it. Though, it was not easy growing up in that society but I thank God for my life. I was able to sustain myself with the proceeds of my architectural job.
When did you decide it was time to come to Lagos?
I left Warri because I wanted more out of life. I made up my mind that I wanted to do something different from what I was doing in Warri. I studied Architecture in school— Petroleum Training Institute in Warri. As an architect, I was getting some jobs but I didn’t see it as something that could sustain me in the long run, so I decided to come to Lagos. When I got to Lagos, I met a group of guys that deal in music production and we started working together. So, in 2008, I went to South Africa to study and I came back to Nigeria and started working with different directors. I don’t want to mention their names. In 2010, I joined Nigezie as its director of photography.
Why did you leave Nigezie?
I left because at a time, my dreams were different from what the company had. I wanted to improve on myself and set up a platform of mine where I would be able to express myself and be independent. I left Nigezie, because I wanted to know what it takes to be on the street working for yourself. I am happy that the decision really paid off.
So Nigezie was not giving you all that?
No. I didn’t see that coming from them.
Your jobs are rated as one of the five top in the country, do you actually believe you rank as one of the top in that category?
Yes, if the people who watch our videos concluded that I am one of the top five, I believe I merit it. I have done a lot and I am yet to get to that point I envisioned when I started out. As an individual, you have to set your priorities right and you know Nigeria is a funny country, the same people that rate you high today will demote you tomorrow. The only thing you can do for yourself is to keep working on yourself, keep seeking for knowledge and never stop believing in yourself. You have to give your audience something new even if they are not expecting it. I don’t want it to get to that stage whereby the same people that rated me high today will bring me down tomorrow. I am never scared of anybody on the job. I am Patrick Elis and I know my job and I am proud of who I am and how far I have come as a music video director. This is just a phase; I am going to the next phase in a couple of months.
Talking about ratings, there are other top music video directors in the country with the likes of Clarence Peters, Kemi Adetiba, Aje, Sesan, Unlimited LA amongst others, where do you place yourself among them?
I don’t want to compare myself with any other director. I feel my style is different and you will agree with me that I am unique. I still remain that video director that you will work with and you would want to come back to work with me again. Apart from shooting your video for you, if I work on set, I share ideas with the artiste; I will make you feel like you are part of the production crew. I think that makes me different from the rest. I keep my standard. I don’t copy other people’s jobs. If you see my video today, you can’t say you have seen something like that before.
But Clarence is still rated as Nigeria’s number one music video director, do you agree with that?
Clarence has done well for himself. He has been in the business for a while. He has shot a couple of videos for so many people and I think that’s why people rate him as the number one in the game. As I said, everyone has his own way of portraying himself to the public. I want to just set a standard for myself and be truthful to it.
You still haven’t admitted if he’s your number one director…
People like using numbers, I don’t like it. I don’t have number one director. Everybody is good in his or her own way. Sometimes, I love Aje’s works and sometimes I go for Unlimited LA. Even Sesan is also good. When I watch a video, there are things I love to see, so when I see those things, I appreciate them. I love to see a challenging video anytime I watch one.
When last did you see a challenging music video in Nigeria?
That’s a big question. I have not seen any challenging video for a very long time. I don’t see creativity. Everybody does the same thing and that is one thing that pushed me back to school to do learn more. The last video that I saw and was challenged was shot by Unlimited LA. It was a really nice video. The song was A Beautiful Day.
Some artistes say your charges are on the high side, why is that so?
I charge based on the concept and the idea of the project I am working with. As I said, I don’t just shoot and go, I make sure the artiste understands the concept and sees why things have to go the way I understand. Sometimes, an artiste might come up with a studio video concept and I will say no, it can’t work like that. Sometimes you buy a Mercedes Benz and sometimes you go for a Camry but Mercedes has class. I have shot a low capital video and I have gone as high as four million naira. You know I don’t work for money, I work for quality and those who had worked for me before will confirm my claim.
Now that you have gone back to school, what has been the experience so far?
Yes, I decided to go and learn more about the job. You know the competition is rife now, so you have to be ready for the demands. After a period of time, you need to upgrade so that you can be up to the task. I am doing my Masters in Los Angeles Music School.
While you were away, did you get any major jobs that you had to turn down?
I have been getting jobs but the fact is that you need this training, so you have to sacrifice something to get another big thing that will take your career to another great level. I had tried to go back to school before but the demands were too much that I found it extremely high to turn them down, but as I said, I needed to go back to school. If you are a thinking mind, you will know that the attention you are getting today will not last forever, so you have to step up your game, which is what I am doing. I am building something now and I am going international. I am building my network. I think that is more than money to me right now. I am not coming back to be a music video director, but to be a complete director. I just felt I needed that space to improve and upgrade.
Are you thinking of getting married anytime soon?
Married to whom? To my work? If you say to my work, I will say you are right. But if you mean getting married to a woman now, that will be suicidal. I am married to my work now. I want to achieve a lot for myself before bringing in any woman.
When you made your first million, how did you feel?
The truth is that in my own case, there was nothing like a million naira. It was about millions. I made some millions some years back and I got distracted. At a point, I asked myself that am I not too young to have this kind of money in my account? It was very distracting for me but I deserve to celebrate my hard work. I was happy. Then I was in Warri, but I will fly to Lagos every weekend to come and have fun. Lagos was like New York to me then, but the fact is that I was distracted. I couldn’t even concentrate in school.