Iconic Women

Dolapo Adigun's Journey from English Major to Editing In Nollywood

By Esohe Ewaenosa Iyare | Dec 13, 2023

Stories make movies but editing makes cinema. Nollywood has been undergoing a renaissance that has put Nigerian voices on global platforms, accessible to every kind of audience. Within this renaissance, Dolapo Adigun has worked her way into being one of Nigeria’s top editors. In 2022, she was ranked 8 out of 10 top editors by FilmOne. Still, she remains an enigma to the non-Nollywood world. This article follows Dolapo’s inspiring professional trajectory from the moment she fell in love with film, to her becoming the editing genius behind some of 2023’s most riveting productions like Jagun Jagun.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s in English from Adekunle Ajasin University in 2013, and completing the compulsory one year of Youth Service, Dolapo went straight for a master’s program at the University of Ibadan. It was during this time of study that she clocked on what her passion was–stories. Not just stories, but how they were told using film as a medium. Rather than the average movie watcher, Dolapo would not only ‘see’ a movie but ‘see into’ it. She became increasingly fascinated by how scenes were crafted to push a narrative, irrespective of whatever the actors were doing. It was the intentionality behind each frame in really good films that struck her. This spark made her decide to find her way into cinematography.

The first step she took was learning how to use image and video editing software like Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro. At this time, she was working as a social media manager, which helped her put this knowledge into practice by centering campaigns around stories. Each campaign became like a film, and every element became a frame. 

The results were consistent and good but she knew she wasn’t cut out for roles under corporate communications. She wanted something more, so she continued studying graphic design and visual effects, hoping to branch out properly in the new future. All her learning paid off when in 2019, Niyi Akinmolyan–Founder of Anthill Studios–announced a free training for Nigerian women who were interested in editing. Dolapo applied, got in, and the Nollywood rollercoaster began.

Sensing her talent and commitment to getting the job done, Akinmolayan hired Dolapo as an in-house editor for Anthill Studios in January 2020. Her first film was Prophetess(2021) where she worked as a Visual Effects (VFX) Artist and a Director-in-Training. Being on a Nollywood set for the first time, surrounded by famous actors, didn’t faze her. If anything, it reaffirmed her decision and pushed her to pay very close attention to how the director (Niyi Akinmolyan) was translating the script into each frame.

This attention to the dynamics of directing and her editing skills paid off, because in the next films The Man for the Job (2022) and Hey You (2022), she was promoted to First Assistant Director and made the Post Production Supervisor. When asked what struck her the most about her first three films, Dolapo says:

“The result. In Prophetess, there’s a football sequence in a stadium. The crowd is purely VFX. The fact that I could work on something like that and have an average viewer think it's real is so gratifying.”

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Still of Football Sequence in Prophetess (2021)

 

Even as she was marking off her first three, Jagun Jagun–which would stun the world–was already on her table. Granted, it was a remarkable piece, but for Dolapo the work she did on Jagun Jagun wasn’t that different from her other work. It just reminded her of how unique her skillset is, being an editor with VFX skills.

“Editing is the bedrock of good movie music and even VFX. So It sure helps a lot that I’m an editor who is also a VFX artist. And I always edit all my films with temporary music of what I believe the emotion of each scene should communicate. And I ensure to use shots that will make VFX look magical and most believable. I did the VFX composition of some of the scenes myself.”

Ever one to take on new challenges, this year Dolapo made her Scriptwriting debut in the 2023 movie The House of Secrets. Being the co-writer for this film, her presence on set took on a new dimension from just post-production or VFX. Usually, she’s on set making sure that scenes are shot in the best way to facilitate post-production, giving apt suggestions with the eye of an experienced editor and artist. This time, she poured even more of herself into the project–it was her baby. She even directed a few scenes.

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Dolapo Adigun at the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos

While giving a seminar at the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, Dolapo was asked by eager students what advice she had for anyone thinking about a career in Nollywood. After encouraging them to commit themselves to learning software first. She also advised them not to be afraid to start small, and to consider other well-paying jobs in Nollywood, even if they also want to direct and write scripts such as: makeup artistry, cinematography, special effects, film production, and costume design as areas which are yearning for fresh talent. For her, the goal is always to be multidimensional.

From English major to major editor, Dolapo’s story is one of opportunity meeting preparedness. Her story also shows that sometimes success isn’t loud or flashy, it’s just the silent sound of cheques being cashed and glowing recommendations being made. When asked what matters to her the most professionally, Dolapo says “To keep showing that it can be done, and it can be done in Nollywood because I’m here. The barbie of editing badassery.”