In this edition of Inside SMC our alumna in focus is Mrs.Toyin Oyemade, founder and Head of Production at Storyteller Media Global. Toyin describes herself as a woman of three parts. In this interview, she gave detailed information on how she found her career path and how the SMC contributed to her knowledge of the media.
I am Toyin Oyemade, the last child of six children. I am married, and I am also a content producer, and a documentary filmmaker. I like to describe myself as a woman in three major parts that branched out into other things: a woman in media, a woman in ministry, and a woman in music.
I run Storyteller Media Global, a talk platform that engages in creating conversations for mind renewal and life transformation. It is also a content creation organization that does documentary films for corporate bodies and government.
I have always loved the media. I discovered the power of media at the age of 10 when my father bought something we called a dish. Before then, we used to watch NTA, which was great, but when he bought the dish, we saw channels like the BBC, Sky News and CNN. It is interesting that it was the news channels that actually caught my attention, and I sort of saw myself at that time as a broadcaster, and I knew that I wanted to study whatever it was that would lead to that career path. So when I got to the university, my first, second and all choices for anything to study in school was Mass Communication, which I had the privilege of doing at the University of Lagos. My career actually started in the University of Lagos when the school set up its first radio station at the time called UNILAG Radio. I was privileged to be among the first set of students that would be called OAPs, although that wasn’t what we were called at that time, and one of the things that was done was to send us to FRCN for a period of training. We were trained to be presenters, and I worked at UNILAG Radio until I graduated in 2006.
After graduation, I had a stint in acting because I also wanted to explore that, and I got a role in the then Edge of Paradise series, which was showing on DSTV. I did that for a season, left for NYSC, got back in 2008, and I got my first job. At the time, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to go into, whether it was presenting or production. However, I stumbled on a talk show on television at the time, called Moments with Mo, and that changed my life. I loved the fact that it was a Nigerian production. It was well done, looked so beautiful, and it was excellent.
I decided to go behind the scenes to learn the art of creation rather than just being in front of the camera. So my first job, post NYSC in 2008, was working with the then Moments with Mo talk show series. I got hired as a floor manager. What I wanted was to be a producer, but because I didn’t have prior experience, I was hired as a floor manager. I will forever be grateful for that because it really built and developed me and enabled me to see things in-depth that I might not have known as a producer. But by the very next season, while working as a floor manager, I became very involved and started giving ideas for production and to producers. By the next season, I was made an associate producer, and that was when I cut my teeth in production.
The way the system worked at the time, a producer was in charge from idea conceptualization to a final video. You had to come up with the idea, write the scripts, get the guests, and you had to do everything. The episode was in your hand, and at that time, if we were five producers, each producer had eight episodes to produce in a season. The very first season that I worked on, we were producing 40 episodes in a month. It was very intense, we just had to jump into the deep end and create. It was the best experience I could have had in my life as a foundation because I have built on that work ethic and all those learnings.
Fast forward to 2010, I thought that I wanted more of an education in the area of media and communication. This was actually what led me to the Pan-Atlantic University, which was called Pan-African University at that time and was located in the heart of Victoria Island. I did a masters in Media and Communication; I was part of the FT2 class. After that, I freelanced with Moments with Mo until 2012, when I became a full-time member of staff with GTBank’s Ndani Television. I did that till 2013, when I decided to explore and have some exposure to documentary filmmaking.
Prior to that, at Ndani Tv I was head of production, and I went into the world of documentary filmmaking. From 2010 till 2015, I was the festival director for the iRep International Documentary Film Festival here in West Africa, working with Femi Odugbemi, Makin Soyinka, Jaman Anikulapo and Theo Lawson. There I cut my teeth, now fully immersed in the world of documentary filmmaking because this is a festival that is held annually until now. I had to manage filmmakers from around the world, watch a lot of documentaries, and that sort of piqued my interest in going into the heart of documentary filmmaking, which I did in 2013.
Prior to that, in 2011, after my stint at PAU, I also wanted a more hands-on practical course in media. So, I did a one-month course with NIFA in partnership with Dell York International, here in Nigeria. It built me in the world of editing and guerilla filmmaking. I was taught how to carry a camera, record something, sit down, edit and put it all together.
Cut back to 2013: from then till 2014, I decided to go right into the deep end of creating an organization out of what was my passion. I started Storyteller Media, which I had registered in 2012 but didn’t really start working with till 2013. Thank God, doors were opened, and I got my first stint producing documentaries for Schlumberger Nigeria. They had a seed programme, which was a scholarship education programme for schools. I worked with them for three years, producing the documentaries for that annual event. I have also worked with Muritala Muhammed Foundation, Access Bank, Aluko & Oyebode, and several other organisations, creating documentaries.
On the other hand, Storyteller Media went into full-time content production from 2016. We have created content such as ‘Chapters’, ‘Winning Together’, ‘How I Started’, ‘Pages’, ‘Sitting with the elders’, and different things. Some of this content is focused on marriage while some is focused on business and entrepreneurship. We are really just a full-time production company, and the goal is to create a talk platform, a platform for conversation specifically, where people can learn a lot, where one can watch 20 or 30 minutes of someone talking about their business or their marriage. It’s all about learning and knowledge dissemination. Today, I am the head producer here at Storyteller Media with a team working with me.
It’s been quite an interesting and enlightening journey. Yes, the learning indeed continues.
If we look at what the media industry is today, we cannot but say that women are spearheading content creation and media production in Nigeria – from Ebony Life TV with Mo Abudu to BAP productions with Bolanle Austin-Peters.
We have Mildred Okoh, Tope Oshin, Jade Osiberu. We have also the younger generation, Emma Edosio, Lala Akindoju and so many other producers out there. Women are strongly in this field, strongly telling powerful stories, strongly shaping and changing the narrative, and I think indeed it is a world for anyone who wants to delve into it right now. Right now, I have a team, and all my full-time staff presently are women, and that wasn’t planned.
My editor is a woman; my producer is a woman; my administrator is a woman. The director of my shows right now is a woman. It’s a world for women, and women are acing the game and topping the charts with amazing things in the world of content production.
The one year I spent at SMC, which was the year 2010, was really a time of deepening knowledge in the theory and the legalities of media. I remember courses like the Media Law course of Tomi Vincent. It was quite an interesting time of learning and deepening knowledge in the world of media and communication. But one thing in particular that I know I took away from SMC was the concept of media literacy. The concept of media literacy is to be literate, and when we say literate, it is to be very aware about the power of the media that we are taking in. We all watch content each and every day. Everyone is trying to programme us in a certain way, sell us a certain message, and just shape our minds in a certain way.
That ability to sit down, consume content and understand that I’m not just consuming it as a passive consumer, but as a very active consumer, knowing what this media is trying to do to me, knowing what I choose to accept and what I choose to discard – that concept of media literacy, I will always thank SMC for.
That body of knowledge changed for me personally how I consume the media, and I think that’s one of the powerful things about the media. It is the fact that it’s a very subconscious shaping tool, and if we were all more conscious about our consumption of it, the world would be a better place.
In these days where you have social media and all the other kinds of media, so many things are going on, and I think we just need a more media literate people. Yes, that is what I would say was one of my major highlights at SMC, minus the relationships that I made, of course. There are friends that I still have till today, great relationships as well with my classmates and my lecturers. I stumbled on one of my lecturers a couple of weeks ago, randomly, after not seeing him for like five years, and you would have thought we had just seen a couple of days ago. SMC was an amazing environment for networks, for relationships and for learning.
On Monday of every week, we release new content. By the end of the preceding week, we would have ensured that the video is done and dusted, and Monday is just to finish whatever little things we need to finish.
So I get to the office, and I have a meeting with my team We discuss what to do in the current week, what we are doing on social media, what video we are releasing, and what the structure of the week is like. I sit down with my editor to watch the final video for the week, make sure that it’s done, and then we plan the new release for the following week.
I also sit down with my producer to talk about the content we are recording. We are constantly sourcing for guests; like I said, it’s a talk platform, and we are always looking for people that are ready to tell their stories. We keep sourcing for guests, for all of our shows, and its just a continuous journey.
We also look for clients for our documentary work for organisations, corporate bodies, governments and all of that. We get to the office, and we do the work that needs to be done in pre-production, guest sourcing, scripting, speaking with clients and marketing.
Equipment should be working, and the crew should be ready. The part time crew also comes in during the week. In post-production, whatever editing needs to be done as well is done and dusted. So that’s a typical day for me as a content creator. I go from the entire gamut of pre-production to post production every single day and ensure as well that the running of the organization at large, as a profitable organization is being pushed to the next level by the day.
It is all a matter of balance. Balance, planning and scheduling, basically. You do what you have to do at work, but you do what you have to do at home. I have come to learn that with proper shared labels, things can be done. Perhaps this is because my time is my time because I founded and run the organization. Sometimes it seems easier, but one might also be dropping the ball. It is really a matter of balance, of planning and of scheduling. Sometimes you can get very busy, and sometimes it’s very overwhelming. I try to work with a To Do list as well. With a To Do list, just ensure that from number one thing, you move to number 2, then you move to number 3 and, with the grace of God, we keep working at it.
First thing is that you must be very interested. A must have is curiosity and interest in the kind of content that we produce. We are not into what I would call core entertainment because of the kinds of stories that we like to tell. Young people just want to be entertained and laugh and let time go.
You have to be interested in the kind of content that we are creating. Whether it’s documentary, business talk, marriage talk, life talk, you have to be interested in it. You also have to be willing to learn. If you are hired as a producer, are you willing to learn editing? If you are hired as an editor, are you willing to learn content? It doesn’t mean you would have to do these things, but when you work in a creative space, everybody’s creative juices matters in what is the final output.
Like I said, we are constantly looking for guests. If we are looking for someone who has been married for 10 years that wants to tell their story, you never know if that person can come from your editor. That person can come from even your cleaner or from anyone. So the young person has to be someone who is ready to learn the roles of other people and contribute to the larger body of what the organisation is seeking to do.
They have to be able to work under pressure. Sometimes, we are rolling, we are recording and also editing till midnight. They have to know that the time sometimes will be crazy. Actually, we are a 9:00am to 4pm organisation, and one can close at 4pm – some even close at three – but on the days when we are working at 12 midnight, we work at 12 midnight. We are interested in the world because we are about real people, real life, real stories.
It’s that you are passionate about the kind of content, ready to also expand beyond your scope, or beyond your skill and that you are giving even extra. That’s what it is. That you feel you can give and that you are ready to grow, grow, grow.
I am passionate about media, ministry and music. My relationship with God is central and core to everything about my life, so you will definitely find the Bible. The two other books would be very difficult. Different books continue to shape my life and seasons, but if there is a particular book I’m going to mention now, based on the season in which we are doing this interview, it will be a book called Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed.
Another book that I would mention is one of the books that featured on Chapters, and I really love the book. It is by a Nigerian author, Funmi Oyetunji, and it is called A Conscious Life: Navigating critical stages and aspects of life. It is about that practice of living life very consciously and going through one season of life to another, very consciously. I really, really, like this book.