The Critics Company: Utilize What You Have and Create
Written by Rob Smittix on December 28, 2020
The Critics Company is a young group of Nigerian filmmakers that have impressed the likes of Hollywood producers and directors. When the group got started they had very little to work with but they utilized what they did have and the end results were some phenomenal sci-fi short films. I (Rob Smittix) have been a fan for quite some time and today I introduce my new friends to all of you.
RRX: Critics Company if you could in your own words explain who you are and what you do.
Raymond Yusuff: I’m a VSX artist and cinematographer. I am given shots to work on and add visual magic to them. Visual magic is something as making somebody fly in the sky when the person is actually standing on a bare floor or removing a cup from a scene. That’s a line from my TEDx speech early 2020 (laughs). As a cinematographer my job is to bring out quality looking images for our short films.
Lawson Titus: I’m the sound guy and what I do is make sure we have quality sound on set while shooting. I’m also a photo editor.
Ronald Yusuff: I am the props man and second camera assistant for the Critics. As a props man my job is to create extra props. Props you can’t actually get, it’s too expensive for us to order or it’s gonna take time for us to get, so I have to create them. As a second camera assistant my job is to get extra camera angles on set. Especially for scenes that we have to shoot in one take.
Richard Yusuff: What I do on sets is actually make sure we shoot according to the scripts we’re writing.
Victor Josiah: My job is to bring life to a scene to provide lighting according to the cinematographer’s instruction, bringing color to the shots without color grid. And lastly I’m in charge of all lights and behind the scenes.
Godwin Josiah: I’m a film maker, a writer and director.
Ridwan Adeniyi: I manage everything around here, from people to resources and projects.
RRX: How did this begin? How did this get started from the ground up to where you are now?
Richard: The Critics Company started back in 2012. We realized we watched the same movies at the same time and then we actually met to talk about them. We watched Nigerian films and we saw that they were bad so we criticized them. We took it upon ourselves, we could actually change this and make new films. That was where the film making dream began.
RRX: So one of the things I noticed that I thought was rather cool is the transparency that you show as far as how you make your videos. So on your YouTube channel there are all sorts of different tutorials, really just capturing the moments on how you did like a green screen or how you do special effects, certain little tricks that help enhance the videos. I appreciate that. What was it that made you decide to show behind the curtain a little bit and showing them how you do what you do?
Raymond: We had this meeting amongst ourselves where we had to decide if this move was right for us. Why are we revealing our secrets and sharing everything to the world? But the truth is we learnt these things that we know how to do from people who shared insights on their YouTube channel. If these people were stingy with their knowledge we might not have learnt anything and we might not have made films and probably The Critics might not have existed. It could end there without any guidance to follow. So we took it upon ourselves since we did not have a lot of content creators in Nigeria. We’re like okay, maybe we can actually do this for the young people around us and could probably inspire somebody somewhere.
RRX: You caught the attention of JJ Abrams. Then you received a big box full of something, I’m sure it helped you out. Explain to us that experience and how it made you feel to catch the attention of some of Hollywood’s elites.
Godwin: It’s something we all didn’t see coming but it did happen. We had people we’ve always looked up to send us messages telling us how good our stuff was. The feelings were all over the place because… I don’t know, personally it was too much to take in at that time. The feeling was sweet as honey. I don’t think quite a lot of people get to experience that particular feeling throughout their lifetime. People you look up to telling you, you are good, it’s actually really rare. JJ Abrams is a very big supporter of ours until this very day. (JJ) went further and actually sent us packages down here to Nigeria. Packages included cinema cameras and better filming equipment. We also had a one-on-one conversation with JJ which if you told us last year we would not had ever believed that would happen. It’s surreal, it was unbelievable. We hope to use the very best knowledge and inspire others like they have inspired us to create.
RRX: Critics Company is a gigantic example of utilize what you have and make something from it. I’m under the impression that you will be millionaires someday and given the fact that you’re going to have some cash to spend. How do you plan on giving back to your community in Nigeria?
Ronald: So giving back to society is something that we’ve actually had discussions about because growing up where we grew up we didn’t actually have access to a lot of camera equipment, computers and film making gear. We are planning on creating a platform or a place where young people can come together and see these things first hand and have access directly and lend out to use this equipment. We created an online group and brought a lot of young people together to give them tips on how these things work and just to share ideas.