Learn, copy, modify…become great

by Niyi Akinmolayan

In the early 2000s, there was a rise in the use of motion graphics and animation on TV. Most creatives were self taught.
We would buy training DVDs at computer village and practice. I was very interested in computer graphics but while many focused on just the quick ways to create stuff, I wanted to understand everything behind the software.
So I would read tons of help manuals and practice none stop but something kept happening, my work was never as good as some of the new stuff I was seeing on Nigerian TV like Global sounds, Nigezie, sound city. I didn’t understand why. I worked so hard but those other stuff were just too good. It was also done by the same people which got me confused since we all used same software. I thought maybe I just wasn’t good enough.
I reached out to a few of the creators and studios asking for their secrets but everyone was so hush about it.

Then one day, freelancing for a producer on a show, I found a set of 10DVDs called digital juice. They were a pack of pre made templates for cool video graphics. Just like the ones I had seen on these shows. I was both excited and mad with rage. Why won’t anyone tell me things like this existed. Why did I have to create everything from scratch. Why are people evil. I would have made more money and created awesomeness. It helped shaped my thinking about hoarding useful information.

Every great innovation or creative endeavor was built on a previous one. Originality is an illusion. If you want to do your best work, start by building on the work of other people. Copy is an ugly word but that’s what all great artist do. That thing they call “their voice” is a modified version of someone else’s.
On the other side, share knowledge/process. Everytime you google something online, the information was put there by someone like you. You can be that person. It’s the reason we are in a futile loop of zero innovation in Africa. There’s nothing to build on because everyone is hiding “secrets”. It’s why we can’t create heroes from our undocumented culture.

We need shoulders of giants to see further and giants need to make those shoulders available
Learn…Copy…Modify…become great!

**Akinmolayan, a filmmaker, is the CEO of Anthill Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

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