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Kaizen’s Big Swerve From Ebinpejo Lane
Ebinpejo Lane has long been synonymous with Nollywood film posters, where traditional styles reign supreme but Kaizen Kreativ’s work is a refreshing take on the art form.
Nollywood posters lined the streets of Ebinpejo Lane, in Idumota Lagos. From afar, you could see pictures of star actors, crudely cut from the movie, squished together with bright colours lining them and busy backgrounds adding character. They helped audiences make decisions about what films to see.
Film posters have remained main characters in Nollywood and are often the easiest way to draw attention to projects and pique enough curiosity in the audience. Back then, the long, unending thick walls of posters, usually pasted on older posters characterised places like Ebinpejo Lane, Iweka Road in Onitsha and Pound Road in Aba which were film marketplaces, where distributors selected flicks to take to video clubs and markets across the country.
Technology has created new marketplaces, other lanes in a sense where these posters help audiences make decisions. Nowadays, billboards in city centres, cinema halls and social media platforms are lined with posters of Nollywood projects, hoping to interest the audience and convince them to see the films. But these posters are looking less like the ones on Ebinpejo Lane and Iyebiye Adeitan ‘Kaizen Kreativ’ is at the forefront of the change.
Kaizen’s designs often ditch the actors’ faces to lean on the film’s symbolism and character, using strong colours, fonts and photo manipulation to drive the point of the film home.
In designs where he uses the stars as a focal point, his intention is to give the audience room to engage with the film’s intent rather than simply the stars brought on board to sell it.
It’s a big swerve from Ebinpejo Lane, which was also the name of his film poster exhibition, held in Lagos on September 29 and 30. Here, the posters lined the walls of a gallery with film enthusiasts coming together to have conversations about the depth of themes and stories evocating from the designs themselves which is a sharp contrast from posters glued to the walls of the street with audiences and distributors deciding whether a film would be a good watch based on the number of stars they could count and the actions of these stars on the designs.
The exhibition is the first of its kind in Nollywood and for Kaizen, it is important to document the industry’s revolution and keep other parts of the art accessible for public discourse beyond marketing film projects.
His belief in documenting and displaying poster art is in part fuelled by the difficulty of the present Nollywood generation to “access what has been done by previous generations of Nollywood.”
“We can’t find posters of films from Ola Balogun and others. We can’t find materials online or anywhere. This is the bridge I am trying to build. To have people look back ten years, twenty years from now and say this artwork reminds me of this person’s film. I feel like an exhibition is a step in the right direction to establish that.”
When Kaizen first shared his posters online, people commented about the style and found the deviation from the norm a bit jarring. A designer sharing film posters with no faces, in an industry that was built on star power selling films, inspired conversations about what a film poster should or shouldn’t do.
The reactions have since gone from surprise to admiration with audiences, especially on social media, discussing films based on the symbolisms on posters designed by Kaizen. The conversations are an integral part of his vision for film posters. “I want people to see these posters and feel the stories, even if they haven’t seen the film and if they have, I want them to see the stories told differently when they stumble on the posters.”
“You know, when you are looking at an image, it is sometimes provoking or emotive. It’s not about aesthetics for me. I am interested in the functional aspects of posters. What can they do to the human psyche? I want to tap into that when I create.”
Questions about the commercial impact of Kaizen’s work have come up. Does the emotive symbolism of a poster inspire the audience to go see the film? For him, the overall marketing strategy is what should be measured and tweaked.
“When normal companies that do physical products are trying to promote their work, the kind of creatives they churn out sometimes are not in your face. It’s just the idea of what their product will do. The feeling of what the product will do to you is what they sell and it works. It works. We should be selling the story,” Kaizen said.
For old Nollywood, just like the posters, the stories were also told in the film trailers, which were usually added at the end of movies. A high tempo, excited voice gave you a summary of what to expect in the upcoming film and if done right, you were halfway to the video club after the man yelled “grab your copy now!!!”
Kaizen reckons that everything about the story of a film, how it is made and the people in it can sell a film if the recipe is just right. “Buying a product, the same as watching a film, is an emotional decision. Posters should be more than just celebrities. Some of these celebrities are very identifiable that even their shadow is enough to get the audience to start asking the right questions about the project.”
“I think design is solution oriented, I think it’s a tool for change and if wielded well, we’d be amazed at how much change can happen to humans or to society really. Design is freedom,” Kaizen says at the end of a long speech about the importance of design, his passion palpable like it has its own life.
Creative freedom is not new to him. As a young boy, he knew he could be anything with the help of supportive parents who didn’t have much but let him explore as much as he could. He tried everything — acting, dancing, painting and drawing — but it was the last two that really stuck with him through the years.
“My dad used to buy Disney films and cartoons and once I saw an image that struck me, I would pause the TV and start drawing it. I am grateful for my parents. They are teachers and so it was easy for them to identify my creativity and guide me. My dad then thought I was going to be an author of children's story books and he was happy.”
Kaizen didn’t take design seriously until his final year in the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta, Ogun State where he studied Theatre Arts. His class was required to put a short film project together. His group decided to make a CD packet to boost their marks and got a graphics designer to work on it.
“The guy got screenshots from the film and did something good. I liked it and kept thinking to myself that this was something I could do because I sat with him throughout the process. I told him I wanted to learn, got the software and started playing around with it. The rest, they say, is history.”
“I am here now,” Kaizen says. “At some point, I want to own a museum of film posters so that people can walk in, bring their kids and show them the films that rocked the years of their youth.”