Q&A with Ghanaian filmmaker, documentary photographer Christine Boateng
Every year since 1991, International Day of the African Child has celebrated the African child and the importance of protecting, empowering and educating the continent’s future generation. To commemorate this year’s celebration, the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) spoke to Ghanaian filmmaker, documentary photographer and MTF Class of 2020 student Christine Boateng.
What was your goal when you had joined the academy as part of the Class of 2020?
Looking back at it now, I didn’t have a clear-cut goal; I was just going in for an experience and primarily hoped to learn to be as good at telling stories as I am at listening to them. I was also interested in gaining opportunities to learn from key industry members, acquiring knowledge about how to sustain a career in film production (the business of film) as well as building a strong network of meaningful relationships.
Since joining the academy, what has your experience been like?
It has been very explorative. It has allowed me to appreciate the principle of the process through learning, unlearning, and relearning. Learning the importance of being process-oriented and the power of collaboration has been an interesting and self-reflective process. It has been up to me to make the best out of the opportunity of being a part of MTF & I believe I was selected to be part of it at the right time. I have been able to discover that I am capable of so much more and I should continuously push to be better and do better even after the programme.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all industries, including the creative economy. How has it affected you?
I believe that the creative economy thrives on shared experiences, no matter the medium through which they are shared. The pandemic, for me, has been very constraining in this regard because there is now a shift in how people will consume art, the new restrictions or way of life which we will have to adapt to has somewhat stalled the creative process of many creatives like myself. Mentally, processing these unprecedented times and trying my best to stay sane and to keep moving is a daily challenge. For someone who is constantly looking for ways to be hands-on, loves moving around documenting and likes to be on set, it has been overwhelming and a little bit frustrating to not have the freedom to do so.
Despite COVID-19, the MTF Academy has nevertheless taken the dynamic approach of virtual learning. What has this experience been like for you, and what parts have had an impact on you?
Honestly, it’s been a bit weird, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that this is a new reality. I am grateful that this initiative was put in place to help us continue our programme. Adapting to virtual learning has been a bit challenging. I do think, though that adapting to this new type of learning / virtual collaboration will only do me good and help me better myself and my process. Virtual learning is a great alternative and perhaps people will grow used to it.
The pandemic has also given a number of creatives a chance to approach their craft differently. What have you learned about yourself during this period on a personal level, as well as on a creative level?
I’m learning to not worry about the things I’m not in control of; managing my energy- personal and creative energy. I'm still on a beautiful journey of discovering myself. On a creative level, I have realized It’s up to me to grow and do the things I want to do if I want to survive as a creative. My new mantra is: Just start! I am gearing towards a higher level of focus and determination and it seems I’m on the right path. With truth and showcasing reality as my storytelling medium, I'm seeing the need to not see this global pandemic as a challenge but focusing on it as a means to enhance my creative practice.
June 16 was the International Day of the African Child, and according to the WHO, “it encourages people's spirit of abundance to share something special with a child in Africa.” As a young creative, it’s important to contribute to the African continent’s creative film and TV industry just as much as it is to learn from it. How do you think you can contribute to this industry?
I believe in creating a space in the industry where people can give back to the industry through teaching or through community initiatives. I would like to contribute in my own way by creating an avenue for there to be more female crew members or job opportunities for them, also targeting young people - focusing on youth in film because I believe documentaries for young audiences is a powerful tool to incite social change. I also think training and helping the youth is likely to grow to be a big market - it highlights how it is to grow up in Africa and their wonderful experiences. Like literature and others, I would love to see film being included in school curricula because we live in a world dominated by images and it’s only right that they learn the art of moving images early on just as they are taught grammar and English. And finally, with community initiatives, I believe taking films to rural areas is something I would love to do.
What’s your advice to an African child who would like to work in the continent’s creative film and TV industry?
You will never know until you try! People will try to discourage and intimidate you, but you should be intuitive and the passion and zeal you have within you will carry you far. Do the time and surely the right opportunities will present itself. There are no bad ideas. Be open to possibilities and opportunities of exploring your very own African culture and understanding it and be open to collaboration.
COVID-19 has shown how vital the creative economy is to the world, but also how important it is to rethink how the industry has set itself up. It can’t go back to operating as it used to, not just from a physical perspective but in terms of storytelling and even as a business, among other aspects. How do you think it should change?
I believe storytelling is going to shift and represent a whole new dynamic, showing more of people’s experiences, how they are processing things and dealing with the new reality. As a business, people will have to gradually adapt to being fewer on production sets, the use of cinema spaces will change, the handling of equipment, and even how we communicate too will change. The shift in sound and music, which I believe plays a vital role in driving a narrative, is what I also think we’re going to have more of.
Locally, how do you think your country’s film and TV industry should approach this ‘new normal?’
Consumption patterns have shifted. Since many people won’t be able to go to cinema spaces, attend live performances etc. everyone is staying connected through their phones and devices, hence the need to keep them engaged and entertained. We should therefore leverage being more digital with this new normal as a viable alternative as we reimagine new ways in which creative content creation will adapt or advance in the near future. We should support local arts and artists more too.
Who are some of the creatives that have kept you entertained/engaged during your lockdown?
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