Talk of Ghanaian filmmakers making big strides and one name you are sure to mention is David Boanuh. David is an adept filmmaker who makes travel and lifestyle videos as well as documentaries. Despite his young age, he has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Apple, Unilever, Vlisco, Chelsea FC, and many more. Recently, he was a Tedx Conference speaker and is the co-founder of the production company, Beautiful Stories Studios. Sounds exciting? Well, it gets even more engrossing as you read this interview with him.
Photo of David Boanuh
Ayeyi: Hi David. What’s up?
David: Hi, I’m good. And yourself?
Ayeyi: I’m also good, just whiling away time, I guess. So, before I start asking you questions, I’d first like to congratulate you for being the Director of Photography for the Ghanaian portion of Beyoncé’s upcoming film, “Black is King.” That’s huge. Congrats.
David: Thank you.
Ayeyi: Alright, to begin, can you take us all the way back and tell us how you got into the filmmaking industry?
David: It began while I was university, Ashesi University, when I did a video for this course, FDE [Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship]. This was like the first video that I did. I’m sure you’re shaking your head right now (laughs).
Ayeyi: (laughs) Yeah.
David: FDE wasn’t so rosy for some people, but for some of us, it was the beginning of our careers. We were supposed to work on our MVP [Minimum Viable Product] testing for our business, and we could present it anyhow we wanted. So, I decided to make a video. I borrowed my friend’s phone, and my friend installed a crack version of the editing software that I use right now. And yeah, I tried my hands on it and I just moved along with it.
Ayeyi: Wow. So, since the FDE video, you just continued making films?
David: Yeah. Before then, I did have a passion for photography, but I just had never tried videos. You know, I’d watch videos, but it was progressive till that moment that I actually made one.
Ashesi Class of 2017 Graduation (Student Perspective) – Film by David Boanuh
Ayeyi: Now, you mentioned that you started while you were in Ashesi, so how were you able to balance both school and filmmaking?
David: Honestly, I don’t know (we both laugh). If there was supposed to be a clear distinctive answer, I’d have failed because I think there’s no one way. Maybe this would be a good answer. The semester where I took data structures, I took MIS [Management Information Systems], double L, and I had to take that semester off work. That was especially tough for me because it was within that same semester I worked with some of my biggest clients at the beginning of my business: Vaseline and Blue Band. At the time, I’d mention such brands and people would get surprised. They’d go like, “Woah, you just started, and you’re working with these brands.” I remember starting work with these brands just a week before exams and it was a difficult choice I made. I didn’t do so great in the exams because of that, but it was worth it if I think about it right now. You know, there were times that I had to be a part-time worker, and there were times that I had to be a part-time student. You can’t do it perfectly unless you are some genius like that. But I’m just a regular guy so…
Video by David Boanuh documenting the Unilever x Chelsea project to select the best player for Africa11 to play against Chelsea FC.
Ayeyi: So, I checked out your videos on YouTube, and for most of them, the average length is about two minutes which classifies them as short films. How long does it take for you to to make a film of that duration?
David: Um…hmm…At some point, I started to realize that the shorter the video, the more difficult it is to create. For me, my work is never done until my time is up because I’m always trying to perfect it. Right now, I’d say I can do it in a short period, but there were times that I’d need a whole month. I could even still use a whole month, it’s just that sometimes demands are quite higher than before, so you have to adapt and get better. It depends, you know. Depending on the scale of work, and how pressing the project is, so there’s no definitive answer. But if it was up to me and my project, I’d want to use as much time as possible just because of the kind of person that I am.
David Boanuh’s first travel film titled, “Live Your Dreams.”
.Ayeyi: A unique thing about you is that you are pretty vocal about your relationship with God. Even in your social media handles, you have the word ‘gospel’ in them. How do you think your relationship with God has influenced your work so far?
David: I think it is what has led me to this point, even in my creative journey. As a creative, starting with poetry until now, it’s like an evolution of storytelling. And what God has always placed on my heart is to be able to express myself in very different art forms, and I just feel like that wouldn’t have been possible without my relationship with God. So even at this point, it’s just because of my relationship with God. My name, ‘Gospel’, in itself, came from poetry and rap.
Ayeyi: Did you say rap?
David: Yeah, gospel rap. Before poetry, I was rapping.
Ayeyi: Wow! That’s interesting.
David: (laughs) My creativity evolves in different ways, and it started from there. I also write a lot. I just don’t put it out there as much as I used to, but I’m still trying to get comfortable recording in a studio or on my phone. I’m sure you saw the last one that I put out.
Ayeyi: Yeah, I did. It was nice.
David: Thank you.
A poetry piece by David Boanuh
Ayeyi: So, you also have a production company known as Beautiful Stories Studios, and one of your aims is to tell the African story from the African perspective. What specific narratives of Africa do you wish to portray with your company?
David: I used to say we tell authentic African stories, but right now, I’ve started to realize that there really isn’t any authentic African story because African stories are diverse. As soon as you try to bring the word authenticity to it, people start to create their own stereotypes. So, I’ll say that the stories we tell are supposed to be as diverse as possible, but eating more into who we are as a people. And when I say we, I mean the company: what we are influenced by, and what our surroundings speak to us, influence the stories that we tell. It wouldn’t be too far off from who we are because that is where our stronghold is. Being able to tell our stories because creativity stems from who you are.
A video by David Boanuh showcasing the rich culture of the Northern part of Ghana.
Ayeyi: So, before we end this interview, could you please share your social media handles and where we can find your works for all those who are interested?
David: Yeah, definitely. I don’t have followers so you should follow me (we both laugh). On Instagram, it’s gospellifestyle. On Twitter, it’s Gospel_Official. I’ve tried to change it to gospellifestyle, but it’s already taken. My business page on Instagram is beautifulstories.projects. We’d be on Twitter soon.
Ayeyi: We’d be watching out for that. All too soon, we’ve come to the end of the interview, but it was really great talking with you. I learned a lot, and I hope that you get more opportunities and more successes as you continue this journey.
David: Thank you. Thank you very much. Same to you as well, you’re doing amazing.
Photo of David Boanuh
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity*