Malawi’s music production industry has grown profoundly over the past years, with a lot of new players and a stiff competition in both production quality, and clientele outreach.
We’ve had the chance to interview Anthony Malisawa, also known as VJ Ice, the famous Malawian music video producer and director. He answered our questions, on how musicians and video producers can adapt to the visual digital world, and make a difference, and the secret to his success in the industry.
20 QUESTIONS with Anthony Malisawa aka VJ Ice
1. What is your job description?
To be honest, I am a lot of things, I am a video producer who directors and shoots music videos, a radio personality currently working at Beyond FM and a DJ too. As a producer I’ve worked with actors, animators, celebrities, composers, directors, musicians, non-profits, singers, and writers. I’ve shot projects on location, in a studio in many places countrywide.
I’ve produced projects for musicians, weddings, NGOs as TV well stations. I’ve done fundraising, marketing, promotion, budgeting, script development and graphic design. Am a graphic designer and a programmer too.
2. How did you choose to be a producer as your career?
It’s like the job choose me. Networking is the key to success in the video production industry. Strong communication and people skills. Tenacity and perseverance pay off especially when combined with passion and vision. Flexibility, creativity, hard work. An attention to detail while keeping the big picture in mind.
You have to have thick skin and not take rejection personally – because it’s a tough business. They don’t call it “show business” for nothing. As a producer, you have to like the “business” as much as the “show.”
3. What does it take to be successful in this field?
It takes a lot of dedication. Not everybody will be supportive of your work. You need to have a sharp mind to think what’s next for your production and how to support yourself to make it out.
4. Is it hard to get into producing and directing videos?
No it’s not hard to start-up. Get yourself a little school from Youtube and you be on your way to directing hottest music videos and movies. But what really makes you, and gets you started is your passion for the work, if you have it, then just follow your heart and you are set.
5. What was the first musical experience that really touched you to venture in the video production business?
Nature sounds have always been way more intense for me than music, especially when I was a little kid. I can remember as a kid, I used to sneak and deejay when I was in like Standard 4, till and that has grown in me till today. So I can say music itself is the whole experience to me doing all I do.
6. How has the process of making music videos changed for you over the years?
A lot has changed ever since we ventured into this music video business. A lot of high tech gadgets coming out every year making our videos more real.
7. How did you switch from using hardware to using software for making music video effects – and maybe back again? Has that changed the way you write video scripts, direct and produce the videos?
I love the feel of realness in a music video. Visual effects are good but I it’s the best experience when you find a way of doing it real so the video itself should look real. Like smoke machines, strobe lights and body paint (make-up artist).
8. Are you ambitious? If so, towards what ends?
I’m trying to do the best thing imaginable – that’s my ambition. And I try this by making good music videos. When you make a video and you watch it, it changes you and then it gives you an idea of something new to do. It’s a constantly evolving process. Every time you make a video, if you’re on form, you should be imaging what you want to see, which is basically how you want it to be. I would also love my production to reach as far out of Malawi as possible, make the name represent my homeland proudly. My dream is to make a high budget film one day.
9. As you’re getting into a phase of your career where you’re finding yourself among often much younger video-makers and producers: Do you sometimes feel it is important to pass some of your ideas and techniques to those who are curious about them?
Yes, they say knowledge is passed on to us by birth, so the same applies to my skills, they will have to be passed on. But the business of production has changed a lot since I started out. In many ways, it is more democratic and less hierarchical than when I entered the business. Digital technology has changed the media world dramatically in that both shooting and editing capabilities are accessible to non-professionals.
The newest revolution is in the expanding web and social networking opportunities for media distribution that both individuals and experienced professionals are exploring in terms of how to generate profit. Stay on top of all of the technology changes. On the creative end — figure out what story you want to tell or what issues you are passionate about.
10. What other producers, directors/videographers do you see as your primary inspirations?
The producers that have inspired me the most are Chipiliro Khonje, Ron CZ and Essim M’bwana of Animal Lab, just to mention a few
11. What is distinctive about a Flashlight production?
Our trademark stands on classic, quality and contemporary video production. Simple and hard-hitting. We aim to be different from everyone else’s production in the country and abroad while learning new things in the process.
12. Do you have a favorite musical project that you’ve worked on?
Obviously we feel strongly about Canny One aka Africa since that was one of our first big productions. It´s also an honour to get to work with great artists like The Daredevils, Janta, Dan Lu and Lawi
13. Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?
Ever since the first Tay Grin record hit the streets, we´ve been dreaming about working with him. Other artists I think we could create magic with are Phyzix and Zyuga, just to name a few.
14. What can we expect from Flashlight in 2015?
We have many new exciting projects lined up for us in 2015. We are blessed to work with the best people in the industry, and we´ll definitely do our best to have much of our work present on the charts. All we can do is just continue having fun and create the music videos that we love. At the end of the day it´s the public that will decide. So expect more mind-blowing music videos, a movie and lots of photo-shoots and of course not forgetting involvement in charity work to give back to the community course.
15. What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music videos and video production in general?
I love deejaying and taking pictures. But when I am not in the studio my main focus is my family. They are part of the team and give they give me great joy. Once in a while it´s also fun just to hang with friends or go clubbing.
16. Does it suck to be you?
No, I’m really happy with who I am. Only that my shoes wouldn’t fit a lot of people.
17. Have you ever had a ghost, a spirit or an accident speak directly to you through making music or while making music?
No, but I always felt a presence or something, I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s just a human condition, but it always feels like the gods are looking down on me and are like: ‘Ah, let’s make him do this’, because a lot is involved when coming up with concepts of music video or a film. So I can say I have ghosts within myself….lol
18. If you were curating a party or festival, what would be your dream line up of local and urban music artists?
I don’t know! But I have this musical fantasy, where I would like to rewind and follow bands and producers back in time when they made a special recording. To watch how ‘Kaphiri Ka Kwathu by Ned Mapira’ got made or how Fumbi Jazz Band put together some of their music. What they did in their lives leading up to recording this. But my modern day concert would include Gwamba, Kanye West, Uhuru, AKA, Minor Insticnts, Chronixx and Pratoranking
19. And what is your idea figure of a well budgeted music video?
– The budget for a good video should start from atleast 800 US Dollars (approx. MK 350, 400.00) going upwards.
20. What is your say on Malawi music promotion and what can you advice can you give to all artists and players in the music and art production industry?
– Music promotion is there and only thing lacking is the promotion of the art itself. We have come far to have our music recognized. We can do more to make it international. Our local music producers are doing well done professional records and we have a wide range of music video producers around now, so all I can say is that lets all hold hands and support one another and press things so we make it out together.
You can watch some of VJ Ice’s productions here: https://www.youtube.com/user/VjICeFilm/videos