Saturday, September 6, 2008

Video queen: Melina Matsoukas

Melina Matsoukas. Photo/FILE 

By TIM KAMUZU BANDA
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At just 27, Melina Matsoukas is one of the most sought-after video directors in America. She has directed music videos for Beyonce, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo just to mention but a few.

Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Beyonce...You are high-flying girl...

(Blushing) It is just a job and a job I really love doing.

Where did all this start for you?

I wanna say that I am self-made, I educated myself in many of those things.  At high school I studied photography but my interest tilted towards video recording. I joined New York University for film studies.

And that is where I got refined. When people were doing their research thesis in graduate school, my thesis was music video. 

What was the first video you worked on? 

I remember in 2003, I blew $3,500 (Sh238,000) of my own on a friend’s video and that did not go very far but I learnt.

In 2005, I moved from New York to LA and worked on a video Go Ahead for Ali and Gipp but the real breakthrough for me was Money Maker by Ludacris.

Was that enough to get you to the A-list artiste?

The people at Black Dog Film noticed my creativity and they signed me on. I also got a manager, Inqa Veronique who has been responsible for marketing me and finding me the right contacts.

I also played a role as a cinematographer in the 2006 film Gypsies and Tramp and Thieves.

Is Beyonce as pampered and bitchy as the press makes it sounds?

(Laughs) You should know you press people write all sorts. No, not at all. She is a hard worker, very creative and very talented and one of the best people to be on scene with.

I worked with her on four videos on the deluxe edition of her album B Day so I know her for sure.

How about Ludacris and Snoop Dogg, they surely are crazy?

I wouldn’t say so. Let us just say that they are different but they are very artistic. To make it where they are, you have to be creative and good.

What you see on video is not always what the artistes are.

Aren’t some of those videos offensive to women, with naked women often all over, you promote that?

As much as I am a video producer, I am also a woman. I would not take part in a video that I find degrading to women. I have never and I will never.

Are you going to help turn our Wahu to Beyonce?

(Laughs) Hmm! She is already talented and that why she is chosen. 

We are going to do some good work on the song but what I am keen on doing is also training the up-and-coming filmmakers to make quality videos.

They can then go on to make more for the other artistes.

You have seen some local videos, what do you think of them?

Your industry is young and developing so this is what I expect but I am here to play a small role in helping it improve.

I must say though that I have only seen a few videos.

Does the quality have something to do with the inferior equipment?

Not really and you should never think that way. You can come up with a very good video using just one camera. I have done it before.

A good video has the right visuals, a well conceptualised story and should be exciting and elicit reaction.

We will do that for Wahu (she pronounces it as Waheuu).

What impact will this video have on Wahu’s career?

This is MTV brother. Big, really big. But she has to build up on this.

You come from a very mixed family, tell us about it!

Yes, I am very multicultural and that is one of the reasons I agreed to come down to Africa on this assignment.

One of my parents is half Jamaican and half Cuban while the other is half Greek and half Jewish so I am sort of in between.

Supposing a Kenyan brother is interested in getting to know you more?

(Blushes) I am still very single if that is what you are asking.