Creativity, I had always thought, is meant to be understood or honed by those in Humanities or Arts. But I grew to understand that being creative is like nature, like the dew of the morning, you don’t have to belong to any sect before it happens to you. As a Nigerian writer, I have encountered writers who are far not in line with the Humanities but whose creativity is sharp and clean and just unique. Dami Ajayi is a medical doctor. Chisom Okafor is a nutritionist. These writers have created magically creative works.
This is why when I heard Barnabas ‘Barny” Emordi, a very experienced Nigerian cinematographer, who graduated as a mathematics student, I wasn’t that surprised. This has made me realize that art is just what happens to you, no matter what field you invest in. For Barny, it occurred to him to become a creator, an artist, in a period between graduating from school and waiting to be enlisted for his NYSC, a one-year mandatory service to the country.
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“I had never thought I would have a career as a filmmaker or cinematographer, till, erhm, I think I left the university in 2015 and you know that brief period before you go for NYSC, that period I wanted to do something with my time because we had like a year. Thankfully I had a friend who was already in Nollywood and I told him, omo, I love films, I really want to know how you guys make films because I love watching films and before you know it, I fell in love with cinematography and I have been going from one level to the other and I am grateful for that journey”, Barny said.
One of the major characteristics of art is spontaneity because it just happens to you. The idea might sneak into you while you’re taking a stroll in your street in the evening, or when you’re having a casual conversation with an old friend and just a word that dropped from their mouth would form inside of you and become a body of work. After spontaneity comes consciousness, which is the effort you make to make the idea into a body of work. It is with this spontaneity and consciousness that Barny Emordi attempts every project he’s worked on. He doesn’t force the idea to come to him before he works on a project. He lets it come by itself.
But creativity doesn’t just happen without having a tinge. A writer cannot just spin without previously being an admirer of words. As a cinematographer, even without knowing he would grow to build a career in that, Barny grew up consuming a lot of films.
“Growing up in a good film culture and being able to consume a lot of films growing up added to my taste, added to the kind of films I love seeing and also added to the kind of movies that I love making at the moment”, he said.
Previously, it used to be common knowledge that a director directs everything that appears on our screens. The advancement of discourse around movies has made important characters behind the movies more known. A director is majorly concerned with the theatrical performances of the actors while the cinematographer directs the visual representation of these actors.
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Barny understands that accurate visual representation is key to a movie. Whatever the audience sees on the screen is final. And the final product is what the audience would have a debate on whether physically or on the streets of Twitter. Barny understands this, so he only works with the genre he best could interpret.
“I love dramas, I love romantic comedies and now I presently make one of the biggest dramas, one of the biggest romcoms, one of the biggest thrillers and so many amazing films”.
Barny knows himself. He understands the work rate he invests in the movies he’s worked on and is always sure the outcome will be satisfying because every work is personal to him. He understands this so well that he tags himself “Barny Blockbuster” on his socials. In a post on Instagram, he wrote, “every story I have ever worked on has been personal and it’s always a huge honour to bring words to life through picture”.
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On his socials, including WhatsApp, Barny is always sharing a shot, a portrait which exhibits how personal he is about his work. Apart from being recognized with the AMVCAA nomination, the results of the projects he’s worked on proved this. Whether in Days of Destiny, which is Nigeria’s first travel film, or Namaste Wahala, the first movie collaboration between Bollywood and Nollywood or in a private project he did for TomTom, Barny always proves his consciousness to his creativity.
“Before I work on a project, I want to read the material because I always want to know what it is I will be making. And then I’ll want to have a conversation with the director and the executive producer so that I will have the overall vision of this particular project. If it is an amazing story, I’ll definitely want to jump on it because I feel particularly personal about the kind of story that I tell. It is very important for me to connect with the story. If I connect with the story, that will be the only way I’ll be able to bring words to life”, Barny stretched. Before working on any project, despite trusting his creativity, he knows he has to connect with the movie. If there’s no connection between him and the movie, he is not working on it.
“I’ve had to turn down projects. Not even just about my connection, it also depends on my availability as well”, he said when stretching on why he has to turn down projects. But in the end, for him, it falls back to the project he connects with. “Personally I’ll still choose the one I connect with the most”.
When asked if he’s concerned about most of the crews behind the scenes of a movie not getting the recognition they deserve, he said, “when people see a good work, they will definitely look for the people behind the good work”. Besides, “at the moment in Nigeria and Nollywood generally, people are beginning to recognize the cinematographers that photograph amazing works”.
“Let’s keep moving forward”, that’s Barny’s mantra, what he believes and it is a word he says to every cinematographer. “Let’s keep moving forward as a cinematographer, let’s keep moving forward as an industry, that’s the only way the industry would get to the level we would all be proud of”. Right now, Nollywood is one of the influential agents that is putting Nigeria on the world-scale level. Directors and cinematographers like Barny Emordi are those working on theatrical performances and pictorial outcomes of each movie that pronounce Nollywood out there.