Overview Of: The Visual Legacy Prize Clarence Peters
In the last 25 years, Clarence Peters has established and described cultural filmmaking, as well as introducing media labels in Nigerian music videos.
What is his iconic run's true cost? "Nobody can respond to you, submit your question to my Instagram dm," says Clarence Peters. His own social networking accounts are no longer working. He has kept off the internet and its gang culture since his new incident with the Nigerian authorities, where he is being held in tandem with the tragic death of a famous dancer in his house. He claims that the news cycle wasn't fair. Even if he responds to something, he tags something with the most appropriate description: 'that I can't tell.' He doesn't want to think regarding the case either.
The dark version outfit in his Studio Lagos can hardly be a mistake for the iconic filmmaker of 36 years, who is seated on his table on both hands. He was comfortable with his always present locks and eight TV displays and screens in a brown Jalabiya outfit. His feet are dried and his favourite swivelling
chair switches places. He has been focusing on graphics and marketing strategies for the forthcoming album of Burna Boy over the past days and he even has some fresh content for the campaign of Fireboy. A central screen shows a video project still cut under him. This has the company logo Mr Eazi emPawa in the lower left.
These ventures are a sanctuary for Peters, who is able to come back after camera and video after Covid-19's pandemic crippled manufacturing industries across the globe. Everything will force him out of practice throughout the 25 years after he first filmed a Nigerian music film. His vast graphic output was then a legacy and provided a multimedia roadmap for Nigerian music. A shelf filled with awards hugs a wall, a lonely black sofa provides space to sleep, and a smiling colleague is coming and going to check in when Peters will leave the workstation.
“Fireboy's brand is interesting to work with,” Peters says about his week. “He's a cool kid too. It's hard to explain to people that I'd rather work with projects for brands, than just one-off singles.”
As an actress, player, art producer, music video owner, author, author and record label manager, Clarence Abiodun Peters has led several lives. His introduction to the amusement industry started early with a son of Sir Shina Peters, the famous Afro-Juju hero, and Clarion Chukwura, the well-known actress. At the age of 9, Peters was already in town, contributing unofficially with his mother to Nollywood productions. He had his first artistic test at 13, working on a local film in Lagos.
Upon finishing his secondary schooling, Peters entered Alpha Vision for three years and took advanced training in City Varsity, Cape Town's film and creative arts academy. His studies in Cinematography were done in good time, leveraging his extensive hands-on knowledge with cinematography. "I've been a year ahead of my age, practically. Since they wanted to show a lot of things that I learned already. There were still other items I didn't learn that they learned, "he adds.
Peters is renowned for his high-end music videos, TV commercials, films and has received several local and foreign awards for his work with the camera. He is CEO of the film production company CAPital Dreams Pictures and CEO / Co-founder Capital Hill Music. He has the record label Tha Suspect, iLLBliss, Chidinma etc., amongst other artists.
Peters is known as a hermit among experts in the music business. He is never in the news about anything except his job. He sleeps mostly in his office, has no personal auto, and has very limited public contact outside the workplace. He 's weird and lively in person. His interest stretches beyond the art field, as he is immensely proud of his knowledge of global affairs and economics that he has gained from his constant reading of articles, debates and personal analyses of Nigerian culture. He always smiles at his comments, flips the apartment of a relative upside down sometimes, and allows me to search for my lost car keys and enjoys Okpa's nice gift.
We talk for hours about his life’s work redefining how Nigerians interact with music. He’s reclining in that chair where he performs all of his magic. I’m standing over him, seeking answers on how his legendary run in visual creativity was achieved and why he’s never been one to embrace his celebrity. As much as the respect comes in droves, he’s also received hate for his work, experienced cancel culture by a mob, and critiqued the hardest whenever viewers have found holes in his work. But he’s here. Still standing. Still leading, and creating for now and the future.
Joey Akan: Instead of just working on a video, you say you’ll rather work on complete branding?
Clarence Peters: Yeah. My conversation with Burna from the very beginning was Burna needs more than just a video. It can't be just a video. And that's my thing. I feel that videos have been so flogged. I mean. there's still a lot that we haven't done but the Nigerian market consumes...I won't say just fast. It consumes in a ferocious...
It has a huge appetite.
Again, it's not even that. So you break the Nigerian market into two. The industry end of the market and the people themselves. The people themselves just want to be entertained really. And the Nigerian audience can be very forgiving. Not the industry o, the audience. And when I say the industry, I'm joining everybody on social media (laughs). But just the people that are like I go to a bar with my friend and I'm just watching the TV or someone played me a video. They are very understanding if you get the core, if you get the sentiment, if you get the feeling across. If they feel it? All the techie and those other things..naah. But does it say something to me? The rest of the industry, both people in the industry and social media people, there's a lot of politics there. Everybody wants their voice to be heard. So those people unfortunately have become increasingly powerful in swaying perception. And that, I advocated for for a very long time. But be careful what you wish for. Because I advocated for critiques. For there to be real critics. But the thing is that there are no real critics. You can be a critic for anything else but if you're going to critique something visually, then you're going to know something about visual literacy at least to be able to seperate the director's work or the production work from the artist's music and themselves. And also being able to have...like if you write an essay on why this thing is bad, you can't just come and say ‘I'm not just feeling it.’ Or based on what he did the last time or when this happened. Social commentary, that's one. But if you're going to critique, at least put some time into at least understanding the semiotics of what you're criticising. If you're going to criticise the photography then criticise the photography. Come from a place where that makes sense. Now, objectivity is subjective. I don't expect objectivity but be intelligent when you're criticising stuff and don’t just use social constructs for it. It's disrespectful to the work that I do. I don't mind the critique but that. But industry people, no... It's political sha. So there's all of that.
But you're regarded as the S.I unit for...
I hate the word standard. I think the standard is what has brought us to where we are as people. I'm really scared for the future of my country.
Because of the young people that we have. From 16 to 48, which includes me. So I'm not excluding myself from it. I'm really scared of just how much we think we know, and how much we don't. We have a lot of information, but we lack the knowledge of the core. There's a saying; the person that knows why would always have one leg ahead of the person that knows how. So hypothetically speaking, I've worked with a lot of staffers in my company. Do I feel like there are people who as editors that I've worked with that are better than me? My knowledge of shortcuts on the key is very limited. I'm not a shortcut person. I've created my own shortcuts for myself that work for me. So in terms of the knowledge, of how to do that. But the ‘why.’ The ‘why’ is key. There's the ‘why-short term smaller picture.’ and there's the ‘why-bigger picture.’ It now depends on where you are.
The reason why Tony Enumelu is Tony Enumelu is not because he's the best banker or businessman in the world at doing banking or whatever business he does. Or the reason Why Asiwaju Tinubu is Tinubu is not because, in terms of being able to rally around the politics, he is the best at it. But he knows the ‘why it's being done.’ The why keeps you focused. The why can also take away a lot of pride. You know where you're going to. This person can get you there faster, you work with this person. Oh the person is a bastard, the person is evil. But that person is going to get you here. So you work with him with one eye open knowing his nature. If you fuck around at any point and that person fucks you up, it's really not that person's fault, it's yours. You're the one who screwed up essentially. So we are a very emotional generation. We have been starved of a lot. So I'm not saying that we are the way we are completely because of us. We've been starved of a lot of things, deprived of a lot of things. Deprived of a voice, deprived of an identity. Young people suffer from identity issues, standard.
But we—not just Nigeria but across the continent—we've been deprived of that so much that when we get power, we abuse it. Typical analogy would be when I was a kid. When they do the eba, my grandmother would remove the meat. She'd keep the meat there, so that's the prize. If you finish the eba, then I'd give you the meat. When a nigga grow old, shit, I packed all the meat, ponmo, everything. Nobody is holding me back from shit and I can afford it. I will eat this thing to the end. It's that. But in doing that, we also wreck a lot of things. In doing that, I gained a lot of weight. I abused a lot of food, things that were held back from me. So we have all this power. And I hate using 'standard' because that's what I believe the Western community has used to hold us for the longest time.
What is standard? When they say this is the standard. Standard is if I own a network or TV station, this is what I want you to give. This is our standard so we can broadcast. We take it as it's the best. Now, they can say it's the best for them. Does that necessarily mean it's the best for us? You can't really say that. And that's the reason why I hate the word standard or professional. I'm having to use that term now because it's really getting ugly, but I don't like the term. Now, professional means that you spend a lot of time at what it is that you do. I understand the use of the word. I don't have a problem with the word itself. I don't like the way we have abused it, the way we have given it a variation to different meaning that have screwed up a lot of people from growing.
They've said I'm a standard and by giving me that tag ‘standard,’ it stopped me from growing in the past four years.
Because I can't make mistakes. And if I can't make mistakes, I can't learn. The price for when I make a mistake and the price for when someone else makes a mistake is very different. I suffer a lot more if I make a mistake. So I'm scared of making mistakes. I used to relish making a mistake. I used to love to eat the bones of a mistake, so I can understand why that shouldn't happen again. So I found myself in the past four years under a lot of pressure. I learnt a lot from that pressure because I did make some mistakes. So you see this as a standard. As long as you can do better than this person, or as good as this person, then you are in that space. And when I was put on that pedestal, I know, I did not like it at all. I didn't think that I was ready to be put in that place.
Wasn't it financially rewarding?
The thing I'd tell you about financially rewarding is this: The older generation may have fucked up a lot of things. But there are some core things that they told us. We threw away the baby with the bath water. They may not have gotten a lot of things right, but there are some core things that their fathers told their fathers and their fathers told their fathers, right? Have you had a mellowed down conversation with Wizkid? Just if he's able to trust you enough to just talk and you just try to read between the lines. If you sat down with Burna to have a conversation with him, and even David. The three horsemen of the apocalypse (laughs). I have, with every one of them. I saw those kids grow. The way I look at them is different from the way you guys look at them and I'm going to bring this back to the financial. I looked at these kids. Wiz at some point was supposed to be my artist. So I know Ayo from then. I'm not going to say I know him, know him. But I know him enough just to be able to know where he's coming from.
Two years ago, I sat down with Ayo to have a conversation and I felt my boy drained. I felt the weight on his shoulders. When we shot 'FIA', I had conversations with David. I felt it. And David is...when he's feeling anyway and you have a conversation with him, even when he's trying to mask it, you can almost feel it. Same thing with Burna. This is Burna before the Grammys. The money becomes the enemy. Not the money itself but the perception. What people have tagged with the money. When they say money isn't everything, well money is a lot of things. But there's a core, that for you to enjoy money, you have to unlock that core and be in zen mode with yourself to be able to enjoy that money. These kids forget that they're young. They're not 30 yet. And they pull all those weights. Yes, it's the price. Remember that their predecessors that came anyway close to them were older by the time that they got here. So there was a bit more control for them.
I haven't enjoyed whatever financial success that I have gotten because I have put everything back into the work. I think I bought a car once, and gave it to my mom. Hence why I don't even go out. I don't have a car. Would I like a car? Yes. I can't afford a car. Now, every time I say that, everyone would be like ‘ah!’ I can't afford a car because there's so much I have to handle. Sometimes I feel like if I bought the car for myself, I'd feel extremely guilty. I would feel extremely guilty. I live at my work because if I had my own place, apart from the fact that I think that by a force of habit I'd be bored as shit, but I probably won't balance myself out. My work would suffer. The way I'm working now would suffer. I need to be available 24/7. Is that healthy? No. I didn't think it wasn’t healthy when I was younger. The older I've gotten, I've just realised it wasn't. And if I was going to break it, I would have broken it earlier but I was so into this.
So financially, maybe some other directors have been able to find a way. I can't tell you that it's been a blessing. I've been able to pay my bills, I'm able to streamline my bills. I'm also able to take care of the people that I love, that mean something to me. I'm grateful for that. I'd always be grateful for that. And this is a personal thing. Now you have kids who are probably enjoying their money from doing what it is that they have done. They have chosen a different path and I'm happy for them. But see, that comes with a price. Let me give you an example. A lot of people think that I have issues with T. G Omori. And essentially, they try to pit us against each other. Key reason is T. G does quantity, and he's what you'd like to say; a commercial music video director. So he bangs out the numbers and he has a certain style that works for commercial songs. Because in Nigeria, Nigerians don’t realise that we built a visual style that people might say is redundant and all that. But it’s a hybrid of different things, which when combined together, makes it very unique to everyone else.
So he has that. So they pit us against each other and I've been pit against a lot of people before. And if it wasn't for experience, I would have reacted based on what people were saying. And it's very hard not to feel hurt. You go in year-in-year-out, you're an artist delivering hits that make people happy. Yes you made money from it. But year in, year out you shoot videos and you're very specific about being able to shoot videos within..we count ourselves in quarters right? Q on Q to Q4. Now we call them goals. If it's successful, how many goals do we have this year. So by this year we're asking how many goals do you have? So that's code for how much impact have you been able to have this year. And we do that year in, year out. And you expect that the audience, the people should be able to give you so slack at some point if you don't get one right. Or if you get locked up in prison (laughs). You deserve that. You've worked hard enough for you to be able to earn it. But you find out that you don't. So you start to ask yourself, it's a loop. So you have to do it over and over and over again and then you get tired.
I think it was Wiz that said to me, “baba I don try, I don try.” Yes, he's tried. What do they want from him again? Year in, year out for the past 10 years, the kid has given you hits. David too, the same thing, hits! Look at the Burna situation, everybody's criticizing him. The 'Jerusalema' track drops and everyone is like ‘we don't care, we are taking him like that.’ So as long as you are fed. When you've gone long into it, you start asking yourself ‘what the fuck did I get myself into?’ You start doing the math. If I was in another profession, I wouldn’t be used to a certain lifestyle. So you would be a place where this is what you know, this is what you do and you'd be able to cut your coat according to your size. And yes, it would come with its own problems, but would its own problems involve being locked up? (laughs). Who knows? Maybe yes, maybe no. But that's the thing. And I can only speak for what I do.
The price of being successful, people knowing your name. I never wanted anyone to know my name. One of my guys, Banjo, he's the one who edited the video with my name tag. I think it was 2007 or 2006 and I didn’t know. I just saw the video on TV, when he was making the copies, he just put Capital there. It was just ‘we need to put something there’. And it was a PR move. It was a business move at the time. So I understood it but I didn't want to be known. Here's the cycle. Once people start to know you, you start to get the perks of being known. So it starts off with the perks and your like ‘okay, maybe it's not that bad. I need to be careful though.’ Then you now start getting used to being known, so your ego—there's no way your ego is not going to be stroked at some point. People know you, but then artists and your colleagues are starting to say that you're the best. And I did a lot to make sure that never got to my head because I don't see myself as the best.
When I was in film school, I had a friend called Nina. At the time she was like eight, ten years older than me. She's in Tanzania and she used to tell me: never let it get to your head. She always used to say it and I always hold on to that. Because if it gets to your head, that's when you fail. That's when they've got you. It's not what it is. But I took it a bit too far. I never even acknowledged that I was good. I always used to tell myself that it was luck. It's this year I started to realise that the years of experience have given a couple of skills that are not readily accessible to everyone else. That's what I hold as being good at what I do. It's not the techie, it's not anything of that. It's the foresight to be able to see why an artist is successful, what to do on set when they struggle. When those things, those things you can't pay for, you can't go to school for. Those are the things that I'm starting to realise myself that I have and I can say ‘oh yeah, I have something.’ Note, I have been doing this for about 24-25 years. Officially for music videos, this would be 16 years.
And I didn’t think that I had anything. Till now, I'm just starting to notice it. Maybe see all these things. So financially, it starts off being that, but the price. If you care about feeding your family, if you have responsibility. Because the thing is, as you grow and as you’re making money, even if you try to dumb down your lifestyle, there are bills that you have to pay that become like a standard. Because I don't know if you've noticed, but the requirement of what we need to be able to survive in this world with the technological age keeps increasing. You want to Facetime, you need an iPhone. You know the money of an iPhone. There are options. Fine, Whatsapp and all that, but you still need to buy a smartphone. You can't have a small palasa Nokia and think that you can go through it. It's not a luxury anymore, it's a requirement.
And you start going around all these different things, and that now becomes necessary to sustain that. Not just for yourself but everyone around you. Your livelihood in a sense is now tied to the money. It's a curse. This year, I had to accept this to myself: ‘I'm a service provider as long as I'm shooting music videos. A lot of music video directors keep forgetting that. They tell you that it's your video, it's not. Are you getting any money for it outside the initial payment? Do you have any royalties from it?You don't have shit. So how is it yours? It's there for your PR so you can keep doing the same thing for other people. But that's it. You're a slave to that process. If it was a film and you're part executive producer, you can negotiate that right? And you're respected for film and TV within a bigger space, because you can have certain conversations.
Music videos directors within the film world would always be seen as just that. Your respect would stay in the music industry, I mean among your peers. And I have kicked every single door because I'm a filmmaker. I consult for films, I shoot short films. I do these other things. But they still tag you as a music video director. Anything past three minutes, four minutes, they don't think you can do anything better than that. Or they think that you're collecting this money to collect three minutes, four minutes and that's it. Because you have some sort of a budget and all that. But if it comes down to real men, where the real men are, you can't compete. And that's what I've been trying to flip in the past two years. And the only way we can flip is to move the success that we have from music videos and move it into the episodic space.
That's what you've been working on?
That's what I've been working on for longer, but effectively working on for the past two years. It's where I can be able to take the new generation, the old generation of music directors and the experience that we’ve been able to create with these videos which is 100% us. And moving it into the dramatic space. I honestly think that that's the future for everything. Because this is the thing; Music can’t go past where it is now. It can but the culture needs to be sold complete for everyone to move forward. We have the music, we need the pictures. Late 80s, early 90s black American cinema was extremely instrumental in making rap music what it is. Because a lot of the references for hip-hop videos were mostly from films. Mafia films, black American films. It was very important that they had their stories being told holistically. The soundtrack is there, the videos are there out together. We would only be selling 40% of the culture if the stories don't match up with the music.