Conversation with Director AM: "A budget is not an excuse for creativity"

Director AM

My three Ps are passion, patience, perseverance. 
You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker. 
– Robert Wise

Aaron Mheta aka Director AM, a cinematographer, photographer, director and editor has established himself as one of the top music video directors in the country. A self-taught film maker and with some "mentorship" from Chris Shoca has managed to produce some of the most wavy videos in the Zimbabwean Hip Hop scene. With a fair 2 years in the industry full time he has shifted and moved chess pieces at a faster pace than most of his industry mates to be listed among the best. He has produced award-winning videos such as Maria Musande for Scrip Mula, Jazz Prosper, Reverb 7 just to mention a few. He has worked with Nani Chehore (a Nasty C director) as assistant director on set for Da LES, Khuli Chana and Tshego, also worked on Takura's MaObama video as the drone pilot. All this work achieved under 2 years! Crazy right? We can only wonder what he will achieve as his career unfolds. GreedySouth reached out to the director to talk about his inspirations, lessons drawn from the film industry and aspirations.

What most people don't know is that Director AM traded the mic for the camera. Oh yes! From a rapper to a videographer. He was doing Christian rap, his journey into the film industry started with his curiosity and involvement in his own visuals as a rapper. Born a natural storyteller he decided to paint his story more vivid with his change to visuals to drive the Zimbabwean visual story further. "So I scripted the first video and we shot with Shoca, its called Call Of Duty by General Jay Tee ft Me & Dexter Baysiq. Then afterwards I was Shoca’s wing man until I grew to stand by myself" he narrated. Under the safe wings of Chris Shoca he got "mentor-ship" and a  source of knowledge for film making.

Director AM Photography

Story telling birthed his love for visuals and experimenting with new things led him to expand into photography which undoubtedly competes with the best, his color grading is always on point. He credits his hip hop background to why most of his productions are mainly from the Hip Hop genre. "Director X is sort of my mentor he keeps it simple and entertaining. The video I like  most with simple creativity is Hotline Bling by Drake" added Aaron about where he draws inspiration for video productions. Over the recent months he has directed his energy towards the growing Afro Pop scene because he believes its gaining more traction and needs to be promoted with quality visuals to compete regionally with acts such Davido. So far in the genre he has worked with the likes of Jazz Prosper and Coco Master just to name a few.

Directed by Director AM

He looks forward to expanding his catalogue by working with the likes of Takura, EXQ, Patoranking and Chris Brown. Passion is his key driver and his belief that teamwork makes the dream work has seen him collaborating with almost every director in Zimbabwe. "Yeah I think I have worked with almost every director in Zimbabwe lol helped Andy Cutta set up lighting on Yaka yaka Ft Roki - Baddest Wine, also helped Chris Shoca on Simba Tagz's "No pressure" the list is endless" he added. On his creative process he stated that, "Sometimes its a collaborative effort with the artist to develop the script or sometimes I'm given a full creative lead. I can come up  with a concept as soon as l hear the song and it develops as l keep listening to the song."

"The industry taught me not to be greedy with information, to try work with everyone, learn from everyone and try to share what l know with everyone. That's the main thing that has sustained me to grow my career. Our industry is growing and we need to work with each other. Its very young." 

As a young videographer he looks up to local industry giants such as Andy Cutta, Vusa Blaqs and Sim Doc. "The Zimbabwean film industry is growing so fast right now, we have so many guys venturing into videography." He adds that his perfectionist nature sometimes makes him doubt his creative direction but he ends up using that self-doubt to develop better ideas.

"A budget is not an excuse for creativity, being creative doesn't come with a certain amount of money. You just have to be creative whether there is $2 or $10 000 because you are a CREATIVE."

Every  videographer's dream is to have a project with a big budget but most Zimbabwean filmmakers have had to work against all odds like the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete." In Zimbabwe we have been working with very little budgets, very few music videos where you would get a budget of more than $1000 but we have made it work. With a $50 000 budget l would produce a "movie" in a music video, actually l will produce Avengers in a music video lol" added Aaron when asked what he would produce with a dream budget of $50 000.

"To all upcoming filmmakers don't chase money, its not about the money its about the passion. Focus on what you want to achieve as a storyteller. Put in the work, money will come later."

 Director AM's outlook for 2018 is to expect bigger and better music videos, commercials, covers and documentaries. You can view his latest production with Coco below.

Instagram: @iamdirectoram
Facebook Page : AM Pictures

Gerald Muchandiona

twitterinstagram How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement - no matter how temporary - Craig Thompson

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