For creators, inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places. That’s why we created #Watchlist — a series that asks Nigerian video directors to list the most interesting things that influenced their creative choices while shooting.
Tems is easily one of 2019’s most original breakout stars. Her anthemic third single, “Try Me” has been readily embraced by a wide audience, and its Ademola Falomo-directed clip, which also happens to Tems’ first-ever music video, has been a big part of that success.
So, as the video nears a million views on YouTube, we decided to sit with Falomo and have him break down everything that influenced his work on it — from 2002’s Oscar-nominated crime film, City of Gods, to the cover art of Tems’ previous single, “Looku Looku”.
On main inspiration:
The song itself was a major inspiration for the video. The synth, kicks and melody. The first time Tems played it for me, I had goosebumps. There was this unexplainable rage I felt, as we sat in the conference room listening to what sounded to me like the most emotional song I’d ever heard.
I remember I had a mental image of someone climbing to the top of a mountain seeking redemption. At that moment, I knew my mission would be to get to the bottom of that emotion and translate it to the audience in the most beautiful way possible.
On intended narrative:
Leaning on the strong themes of boldness and rebellion in the song, we built a narrative around misfits getting liberated from the bonds placed on them by society. We ultimately wanted to make a video for the people that don’t see themselves represented enough in popular media.
For us, these people were the ones that society looks down on because of certain physical features or lifestyle choices. We also wanted to comment on the oppression of women in our society and how powerful they are regardless.
On Tems’ input:
At our initial meeting, Tems spoke about what the song meant to her and her vision for the video, which included a scene with bound people entering into a truck and a scene with her performing in a room with women. So, I built on those ideas, weaving them with mine.
On visual references:
I wanted something raw and dark, based of off my initial feeling, so I picked inspiration from music videos, ads and my love for European cinema. I loved the energy of Rosalia’s “De Aqui No Sales” music video, and that informed the general vibe I wanted for “Try Me”.
For the chase sequence, I was inspired by the scene in City of God, where the tender trio stole from the gas truck driver. It thoroughly represented the pace I wanted for the biker scene, from the pace right down top the minimal shots.
The shots and cinematography in the living room scene were intentionally different. We were trying to represent women in the best way possible, and we wanted you to feel their visual presence. For that, I was inspired by the way the women were represented in the video for Blick Bassy’s “Woñi”.
Rosalia — “De Aqui No Sales”
‘City of God’ (2002)
Blick Bassy — “Woñi”
For casting, we made a list of what features we wanted to represent and went ahead to find not just people with those features, but the ones who have been involved in some form of activism surrounding it. Our hope was that the video would better serve to amplify their cause.
In terms of styling, we knew early on that we wanted to work with Daniel Obasi. So, we briefed him on our vision, and he pitched great ideas on how he’d approach it. We wanted looks that would complement whatever emotions the cast would express, rather than distract from it.
Since the video already had a dark tone, we just made them wear dark colours to compliment that. Interestingly, the ‘X’ printed behind the captor’s jacket was a spontaneous idea by anti.design, and I felt it worked for the narrative. So, I had the leader of the ‘bad boys’ wear the same jacket as well.
On the oddest influence:
Tems, definitely. In my treatment to her, I stated how I felt she had a dark/ energetic side to her personality. I had seen this from being in a meeting with her and the artwork for her song, “Looku Looku”, and I wanted people to see it too. I wanted people to understand that, yeah, she makes all these vulnerable songs, but she could be really dark if she wanted to.