Olatunji Afolayan aka Tj is the recent award winner of the Best art director at the just concluded African Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA).
NewsAfricaNow’s Adenike Fagbemi caught up with the high profiled award-winning art director recently for an exclusive interview. Known locally and internationally for his outstanding prowess in the industry., ‘T.J’ boasts of quite a number of reputable awards on his shelf, some of which are; 2018 African Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) Best art director, 2017 Best Art Director at the Golden Movies Award held in Ghana, amongst many others.
The multiple award-winning directors are also the CEO of Telegenic Media, a Production outfit registered in Nigeria.
Tunji holds a certificate in dramatic Filmmaking from National Film Institute [NFI], Jos and he is a graduate of Mass Communication from Lagos State Polytechnic [LASPOTECH], Ikorodu where he also currently lectures as a Technologist in Broadcast Production Screen and TV Scenery designs.
Interviewer: What can you tell us about yourself?
Interviewee: My name is Tunji Afolayan, I am from Ekiti State and I am a father of two beautiful girls. I am a proud graduate of the department of mass communication, Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH). , also the first HND graduate in LASPOTECH, Ikorodu, where I bagged a Higher National Diploma Degree in Mass Communication. Presently I also lecture in the citadel of learning as a part-time mass communication lecturer.
Interviewer: Why and how did you become an Art Director?
Interviewee: Well if you say I am an Art Director, there is collocation in my answers because I have been an Artist from birth and I did not become an art director until 2004. So there is a little background when I say that I am an artist from birth, I am not a painter or a visual artist but there is this thing in me that was discovered by my one of my uncle Late E.O Afolayan while staying with him at Ilesha. He discovered that whenever I want to do an assignment from school it is only fine art I could do on my own. I wasn’t a poor or brilliant student but I can say I am an average student during my secondary school.
Well, he discovered that whenever I am at home I put more interest in fine art than any other subject and when I do fine art, I always come out excellent even my result after school I had a high mark in fine art. So after my JSS 3 after writing my Junior Waec all my friends were going on holiday and my uncle said that “Tunji you are not going anywhere, so he took me to a Local fine artist and he said this is where you will spend your holiday and I was like, what do I need fine art for?, so he told me he discovered that I am very good at fine art, so I started learning. During my secondary school days, from SS 1 to SS3 I always go to the artist shop after school. And after my secondary school, I found pleasure and joy in doing signboard for any church I attended. I go to church and I make signboard for them free and move to another church. You know what a signboard is, it’s not this day of graphics design but it’s a manual thing that involves pencils and other things and I find joy in doing this since I had no job and I am very good at it. I later started doing petty jobs and I work as a security man at Mr. Biggs then as it was one of the biggest eateries, I later got jamb and I did GCE and I choose LASPOTECH as my first and second choice because I had no option then and I thank God my name came 7th on the list, so I came to LASPOTECH. My entry into LASPOTECH was the beginning of a glorious journey for me and this is because it is one of the best school and I always tell my students that this school made me who I am today. I am still growing and I am nowhere now but I know that the thing embedded in me is so much and bigger and what I can do is very big because even during my award no one knew me until I was given the award and everybody started rushing me. (Laughs). In fact, what I know is that my name is bigger than my face. Most people did not even know who I am and the reason I entered LASPOTECH, I’ll say it’s a sad story, it was because I had financial problems, so I always have to work as a security at night and in the morning I come to school.
Most lecturer in mass communication department knows me as I always come to school very tired but for the quest of getting educated. There was no parent and nobody. So I was doing this and I have to fend for myself, so when opportunity came was when I finished ND 1 and I wanted to go on SIWES, I needed to go to a place for training, I had no place to go and most of my colleague knew one person on the radio or Tv station. So what do I do?, but I remembered when I was living in Oshodi there is a place I pass whenever I am coming back from school. Main Frame Production at Opomulero.
So I told one of my friend Akinyemi that there is a place we could go, and since I was nervous I did not want to go alone, I needed someone to go along with me in case they abuse me they will abuse both of us and we can carry the shame together (laughs), we went there and we met one of our colleagues, we were very happy that we knew someone here, he directed us to the boss and the first thing he asked us after we have given him our document was ‘aside from going to school, did we learn anything?’ you know I learned fine art so I told him and he asked my friend and he said he did not learn anything. So made me the head of an art department and that how and I started in 2004.
It was so sad that after my ND I wouldn’t come back for my HND because I can’t be doing night work as a security man and go to school in the morning, I just wanted to stop as this is an opportunity. As I have learned this work and I should face it. But Mr. Steve one of my lecturers said no! I have to come for my HND, so he called me and said Tunji, ‘I have gotten your form’, I then decided to go for my HND and all the rest were stories. And this is where I am today, I have finished my HND, glory be to God and I forged ahead and started working occasionally. After my graduation in 2007, I became a full flared art director.
Interviewer: At what stage did you resolve to be an Art Director?
Interviewee: I became an Art Director from 2004 to date.
Interviewer: Growing in this profession did you face any challenges?
Interviewee: Well there is no way I won’t have passed through challenges. It’s just that at this point, I can’t remember most of these things because they are not really challenges that are out of space. I was so determined as I have chosen this as a career and as a career there are so many challenges both financial and attitude, but I thank God because if I say that there are no challenges then I am lying, there are challenges.
Interviewer: Did you see yourself winning the award before the event?
Interviewee: Well I never saw myself winning the award, truth I have always thought that it is always orchestrated, the way they get people awarded, the movie was good, everybody was talking about the work but I did not know I will be given the award, although I have won best art director from several awards I was not prepared, and thanks to AMVCA, I was given the award.
Interviewer: How will you describe the moment you were announced winner amidst other contenders?
Interviewee: Well if you watch the video, I was perplexed as I did not know what to say and I am short of words and even lost in thought. I was not expecting it, I just I heard the winner is and my name was called and I am very thankful to AMVCA for the award.
Interviewer: How do you think you were able to win this award?
Interviewee: Well God was involved and how I was able to achieve it I don’t know because I’ve done the movie the way I have done other movies, the same zeal, and energy I put on every film have been doing is what I have put on Lotanna. I know that when God says Amen to something then it’s Amen. I have done so many movies but Lotanna just became something that everybody likes though I gain more experience as always and I thank God for this.
Interviewer: Working on Lotanna, what were the challenges you faced on this project as the art director?
Interviewee: The Challenges while working on the movie Lotanna were much I can’t even mention them, but I know that the producer really worked hard. There were many issues and there are also some issues that are not sorted out yet. The producer had issues and the most of them were the financial issue, he had no sponsor and a lot of money was spent on the movie. The producer had to borrow money from one person to another, but we thank God we made it and Lotanna was a good one.
Interviewer: Aside Lotanna, can you mention other Movies that you have played active roles in as far as Art Directing is concerned?
Interviewee: Yes, a handful of spectacular movies I have in my portfolio as the Art Director and these include; Amina, Hello Rain, Lotanna, Miami, Wedding Party 2, Skinny Girl in Transit 4, Dazzling Mirage, Irapada, Lagos Big Boys, Ghetto Dream, 93 Days, Eti Keta.
Interviewer: Have you received any award so far?
Interviewee: The few awards are the notable one, well I won a Ghana award, last year I won the Golden Movie Award as the best art director, also the AMVCA. I won few awards but the notable ones on my shelf are Golden Movie Award and the AMVCA.
Interviewer: What awards would you like to receive?
Interviewee: Well I want to win an OSCAR if it is possible, an OSCAR is the biggest award celebrated across the world, and I want more of AMVCA and also many African awards and HAMMER.
Interviewer: What Should the Industry expect from you since the award has gotten you more attention?
Interviewee: The Industry should expect my hard work in the industry and they should help Art Directors to prove their worth in the Film Industry. The Industry should expect God favor me in doing the best as an art director.
Interviewer: Do you think Art Directors are well celebrated?
Interviewee: Well I like this question and I am thankful for the Industry now, I think it coming of age unlike 10 years ago when nobody knows who an art director was and I was one of those that helped producers realize who art director are and their need in the film industry. Most people did not know the need of art director, they did not see it as a professional department or a career that someone can hold or nurture. They always see it as what are they even doing, but because of the development in the Cinema most producers have started seeing the need for an art director.
Interviewer: Do you have any advice for coming art directors?
Interviewee: I want to advise the youth to believe in themselves and pay attention to whatever they do. They should not overlook anything and people will criticize them but they should grow to become better and do things at their best. I also want to advise them to never let anything thing discourage them, as this will help them a lot.