Amartei Armar +
i. I work as a film director currently working in the Ghanaian film industry. I create various multimedia works such as short narrative films, corporate documentaries, music videos, and commercials.
ii. I do this creative work because:
I’ve always been drawn towards stories and storytelling. Stories are impactful. They shape how we see the world and those who live in it. They inspire us not by simply stating what is, but by creating something that could be. Stories, even when dark cautionary tales, are inherently hopeful. They speak of something more to come and redefine moments in time that shape how we see our future.
iii. A ‘typical’ day for me under Covid lockdown involves:
I spend my time mostly writing new scripts or new proposals to pitch to other companies. Other tasks may include conducting frequent Zoom meetings with key crew or any sort of pre-production that helps push the filmmaking process forward.
iv. Personal qualities that help me in my work are:
Generally keeping an open mind and allowing for inspiration to strike at any time. In my profession you have to be empathetic to the human condition and be able to relate to many people on a deeply human level. Building genuine connections and the ability to foster friendships are paramount. That, coupled with a strong, articulate vision of what you hope to create.
v. The greatest challenges around doing this work are:
I think at this moment, it would be lack of investment and finding key collaborators who share the same values in terms of the mindset of what it takes to make a successful film. When you are first starting out, you probably won’t have a lot of money to work with. So instead, you will probably have to invest your own funds into the passion projects you want to make, while still doing odd jobs to make ends meet.
Besides money, the most important investments are the fellow artists you seek out to collaborate with you. If you don’t have a team with high creative potential, it will be harder to make something of value without big sums of money. True artists, however, are able to do more with less. The trouble is, to find those artists and persuade them to come with you on your journey can be the most difficult process in the business. That being said, it is one of the best decisions you will make and will yield greater results.
vi. Creative childhood hobbies:
I loved to act as a child, mostly in theatre. I also loved building worlds using anything from legos to styrofoam packaging to fabric. World building, to this day, is what I often do in my free time. If ideas start to solidify then I know I am onto a feasible story I can write.
vii. Other creators who inspire you:
I’m a big lover of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s work since first seeing Amores Perros and 21 Grams back when I was still in high school. Both films cut back and forth between separate storylines with completely different characters, eventually colliding in one big moment so I was definitely influenced by that story structure. I also love French New Wave filmmakers Agnes Varda and Truffaut for their directing style and treatment of their actors.
More modern day creators are Attukwei Clottey, the founder of Afrogallonism and Jonathan Aggrey, a watercolor painter. Both are from Ghana and both inspire my work, whether it’s looking at color palettes and moods from Aggrey’s paintings or conceptual designs from Attukwei’s art pieces. They are definitely artists everyone should know about.
viii. Training that has helped me in this career:
University has definitely helped, but mostly on the job filmmaking is the best medicine. You have to get out there and make films constantly, engaging with every level and facet of production. From sound to holding the camera, to editing and musical composition; try everything. Especially if you want to be a director.
ix. A common trap that can hurt people in this career:
I think ego, like most professions. It may seem tempting to be larger than life or put on a persona, but what really matters is authenticity and a humble spirit. People will gravitate to you more if you present yourself as approachable and a lover of the craft instead of the accolades.
Another trap could be looking at another creator’s age in comparison to yours or any aspect of their life in relation to your own. Everyone has their own journey and the time it takes you to break through, may be completely different from another person. It doesn’t mean that artist is any better or worse in ability, just that everyone has to move at their own unique pace.
x. Some proud career moments:
Being able to successfully transition into the Ghanaian film industry and making two short films so far has been the highlight of my career. The people I have met, the experiences I’ve had were amazing and really gave me perspective. The fact that I could come here and work with Ghanaian nationals and create films that have gone on to win international prizes at film festivals, and even play on Emirates In-Flight movie entertainment is just a dream come true. But to be clear, the awards are just toppings on an incredibly scrumptious cake that is making lifelong friends who I consider family now.
xi. Upcoming shows or events include:
Right now, I am just finishing the post-production of my next short film entitled, “I Like It Here,” a short film that captures the emotional displacement of a “been-to” Ghanaian-American as he leaves his family and ailing Grandfather behind in a local taxi, in a hurry to catch the last flight out of Accra. I hope to release it later this year so stay tuned. Currently I am in development of another short film, entitled “Tsutsuè,” which is set in a Ghanaian coastal town, where two fishermens’ sons struggle to cope with the physical loss of their eldest brother whose body was never recovered from sea.
xii. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you:
Dare to dream and dare to fail. Reflect on your life experiences and worldview that you want to share with audiences. Think positive. Sometimes it’s good not to think about how things are, but how things could be. More importantly, what you can do to make that possible. Believe in something bigger than you. Build a legacy you can be proud of and others can prosper off of after you die. A Kenyan friend of mine would always say, “you know you’ve created something special, when you can personally walk away from it or leave it in the hands of someone else and the system still runs just as perfectly or even better than when you were there.”
Build and foster teams. There is no point in doing it alone. Celebrate and award your friends and your colleagues as much as possible. Be humble and gracious with everyone. Flexing is overrated and makes people believe you never need anything from anybody, which is impossible. We all need each other. Be honest with your work. Create things that personally speak to you. Travel to at least one other country in your life than the one you were born in – the further away, the better. That way when you come back you will notice things about your culture that you didn’t realize before.
xiii. A professional goal I have for the future:
Around last year, the producer of my works here in Ghana, Yemoh Ike, and I created the Grassroots Initiative, which aims to be an all inclusive multimedia house. Inspired with a mission to build a core group of art-driven companies, our aim is to build a new centre dedicated to building, promoting, and celebrating African excellence through the creative arts.
The central partnership of the Grassroots Initiative begins with AKA Entertainment Ltd (a film production company) and Next Media Concept (a strategic marketing agency founded by Yemoh Ike). It is our combined belief, that the path towards reconstructing the African mentality predominantly lies in the collective power of the creative arts. The way we express our cultural traditions and unique global perspectives to ourselves and the world has a direct impact on our communal sense of self belief in us as a people and as a civilization.
Through a ruling passion that combines the two parties’ creative knowledge and technical skills, we seek to establish and grow a nucleus of like minded thinkers instilled with a deep-rooted understanding and love of African traditions. Our hope, is that through this incubation of young African creative visionaries, we can unlock the genius behind the African system and harmonize it with the international standard of creative art in the modern age. Together we create multimedia products that mobilize both present and future generations, showcasing the excellence that exists on their own soil and celebrating the achievements in our backyard.
The greatest challenge for the millennial generation is to create a deep rooted sense of purpose and drive for every person at every level of social class. AKA Entertainment and Next Media Concept fashions themselves as Grassroots companies that wish to empower the artists, technicians, and skilled laborers of Ghana by giving them the monumental challenge of rebranding Africa as the new cultural hub.
That is my big dream for the future, and I’m working hard to go in that direction every day.
xiv. If you want to see my work, go to:
amarteiarmar.com or follow me on social media @aka_tei