GUEST FILM MAKER
Welcome to my blog. Today I feature a very talented woman - a film maker - Yaba Badoe. Yaba is a documentary film maker with over twenty years experience in broadcast journalism. She has made documentaries for BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, ITV and C4. Throughout her career, she has combined a love of television and radio with a passion for writing. This has given her an excellent sense of narrative structure, an ability to convey the drama at the heart of a problem, and the confidence to devise entertaining ways of reaching the widest audience possible. Having worked on film, Beta, DV and HD with actors and presenters in studios, and on location in Europe, America, Asia, the Caribbean and Africa, she is able to gain access to very different types of people as well as supervise the editing and scripting of documentaries.
Welcome, Yaba. Tell us how it happened ...
• TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FILM-MAKING JOURNEY.
Every journey begins with a first step. Mine began, many years ago, without me realising it, when I started going to the Rex cinema in Accra as a child. I loved spending evenings at the cinema, waiting for the sun to go down, before whatever film was showing was projected on to the screen outside. I loved watching films because they moved me, sometimes to tears, and took me into a world outside my own.
• WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A FILM MAKER?
I applied for a job as a General Trainee with the BBC in the early 80’s and was trained in radio and television production. Most of the work was on the job training, however, I went on courses to learn how to direct in a studio, direct on location with a single camera, write scripts for television and so on.
• WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
In my opinion, the best part of making films is meeting all sorts of different people. Having worked on film, Beta, DV and HD with actors and presenters in studios, and on location in Europe, America, Asia, the Caribbean and Africa, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet eminent judges and politicians, Nobel Laureates and writers. I’ve filmed nomads in the Gobi desert and so-called ‘witches’ in the Northern Region, which is a huge privilege.
• WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A CINEMATOGRAPHER?
I think the filming part of making a documentary is the hardest part. Once you’ve done the research and worked on a treatment, making sure you have the footage you need – actuality and interviews – that you’ve got all the elements required to tell the story you’re after – takes warmth, tact, tremendous organisation and leadership. Filming can be extremely stressful but deeply satisfying.
• DO YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, OTHERS OR BOTH?
I make films for an NGO I’ve created with friends, Fadoa Films. We make documentaries for African women about African women. I also work as a free-lance director/producer and writer.
• WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME INVOLVED IN MAKING FILMS?
I worked as a Foreign Service Officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana
• WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I’d like to believe that as I continue developing my skills as a documentary film maker and writer, my greatest achievements are yet to come. I was delighted when my first novel, True Murder, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2009 and when The Witches of Gambaga was finally finished at the end of July 2010. In both instances I experienced a tremendous sense of accomplishment that material I’d been working on for so many years, had finally come to fruition, thanks to the support of friends and family.
• WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’ve just finished a novel, Aunt Lila’s Ghost, which is with my agent, Matthew Hamilton of Aiken and Alexander in London. I’m currently working on another novel, this time one for teenagers – Jiggers. I’m also looking for funding to complete Fadoa Films latest documentary project – a film examining the life and work of iconic African writer, Ama Ata Aidoo – Ghanaian poet, novelist and playwright. Early this year we filmed Ama Ata Aidoo in her home village in the Central Region of Ghana, interviewed her in Accra, and then travelled to the University of Santa Barbara in California in May to film a celebration of her work and the performance of her classic play about slavery, Anowa. Now we’ve completed the filming we’re trying to track down funding to edit and complete the documentary. All suggestions gratefully received!
• WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECT?
Everything and anything that pertains to Life and its Living.
• WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
A story well told whether in film or literature
• DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR EMERGING CINEMATOGRAPHERS?
Learn your craft by watching and doing. Be patient and work hard.
• WHY ARE YOU BASED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM?
At the moment I’m in Ghana, where I’ll be for the next three months. I’m spending time with my father who will be 90 in February.
• DO YOU SPEAK ANY OTHER LANGUAGES? IF SO, HOW DID YOU LEARN THEM?
I speak French and Spanish, leant at school and during a year spent teaching English as a foreign language in Cadiz, Spain.
• WHAT IS THE MOST EXOTIC DESTINATION IN WHICH YOU HAVE WORKED?
I loved making a 6-part documentary series for ITV about VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas – because it took me to far-flung places of the world. I visited Vietnam, where we filmed a volunteer collecting cuttings on a boat trip on the Mekong river. We filmed at a school in Kenya, visited the beautiful island of Lamu, and then travelled to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia and the Gobi desert. Overall, I think Gobi Altai in Mongolia is the most exotic location I’ve filmed. Thanks to the adventurous Dutch volunteers we were working with, we went into the desert and met friends of theirs, herders on camels, who we filmed.
• DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE OR TIME TO FILM?
I enjoy filming in the tropics early in the morning when the light is soft and dappled and the day is about to begin.
• WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN YOUR WORK?
Working with creative people who give of their best and do everything they can to make sure that the story we’re telling is well told
• DO YOU PRODUCE DOCUMENTARIES, FEATURE FILMS OR ANYTHING THAT COMES ALONG?
I make documentaries
• HAVE YOU MADE COMMERCIALS AND VIDEO CLIPS?
Sadly no, but all offers welcome.
• HAVE YOU MADE UNDERWATER FILMS?
• HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
Best Documentary Black International Film Festival 2010 for The Witches of Gambaga.
2nd Prize, Documentaries, FESPACO 2011 for The Witches of Gambaga.
• OTHER THAN MAKING FILMS, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love writing
• DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Wake up by the sea somewhere hot
Stroll along the sea shore
Eat a light lunch with my Beloved
Read and laze about in the sun.
Shower and dress for dinner
Eat dinner by candlelight with a view of the sea
Sleep soundly and wake up deeply refreshed
• WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To live my perfect day over and over again!
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Yaba. Happy birthday to your father, and I hope you get swags of funding. Love ya work!