“Making films in Ghana brought me nothing but loss” Leila Djansi Talks about Working in Ghollywood

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Leila Djansi

Leila Djansi who is one of the Ghana’s top filmmakers revealed yesterday what it’s like to work in the Ghanaian movie industry tagged Ghollywood and also shared some of the regrets she has as a filmmaker.

You’d be surprised by what she had to go through in a bid to try and set a standard for herself and some of the things she has to say in this article culled from her blog and shared below for you to know more about Leila.

When I’m invited to speak or when I speak to people or even when I write, I make a lot of references to my personal life. I do that because that is what I draw from, that is what I am, that is why I am who I am and I have to be honest about the things I got wrong and be proud of the things I got right. Above all, someone might learn from my experiences.

I decided to do a lot of soul searching this week and that’s exactly what I did and I discovered a lot of flaws in myself. Thankfully, they are things I can change. I’ve been on this journey for a while, but I was looking for who to blame, not wanting to take any responsibility. But really, I can only blame me. Myself.

Last year, when my editor, who I also call my mother, Avril and I were putting some finishing touches to And Then There was You, she looked at me and said “This is really good Leila”. I started crying. She stopped cutting and as usual, we began to talk and I started to vent. She always lets me vent and when I vent, I feel better. Another reason for this blog. To let it ride.

ATTWY is my smallest budget film. There is a thought abroad that A Northern Affair is my film. It’s not. Not my money, not my nothing. Just my skill. I did it for a friend and I’ll do it again for him if he needs my services. Back to the story. Although ATTWY is my smallest film, it is my most successful. It got me into rooms I never knew or thought I’d get into. Got me meetings with major players. It got me future deals.

Making films in Ghana brought me nothing but loss, enemies, haters; I’ve been vilified for winning awards, I have been sabotaged for being honest, I have been called names for trying to make change. I won’t say misunderstood because pluurse, these people know exactly, exactly, what they are/were doing.

Ugly, skinny girl thinks she has money and she’s coming from America. Who is she? Always has has something to say, too known, book-long, is she the only filmmaker in Ghana? we’ll deal with her, teach her a lesson she’ll pack out. 

yeah, you sense the bitterness these people have?

If I had taken the budget for Sinking Sands and Ties That Bind and told American stories, my peace of mind would have been guaranteed. Because the stress, the stress, the effort, the time, the money, the grueling hours that went into making those films is better experienced than described. Then a crew, crew, will come into my space, I step away for a minute, he searched my computer, stole the master of the film and pirated it. Seriously? really? Can you close your eyes and imagine the heart of these people? Beauty is not a thing of the physical. it is of the heart. It is spiritual, and not everyone can see it. Especially not people who are consumed by darkness; dark hearts. 

That actually is one of the reasons why I made Northern Affair.I wanted to experience making a film with little. I wanted to experience how other people got it done. We made the film. It won the same awards the big budget ones won. Got the same acclaim they got. That, is my regret.  You can make a good film with little. By good, I mean by Ghana/Nollywood standards. A film that won’t go anywhere, like none of the films go anywhere but circulate within the African diaspora, win African diaspora awards and be loved by Africans in the diaspora. Fade out. Nothing wrong with that at all. And that discovery melted me.

Let me clarify something. I have no intention or desire to be a big fish in a small pond. It is said that if you are the smartest person in your group, then your group is too small. I want to learn from the greats, and I want to create my own great.

The way we made A Northern Affair is so far from how I’d normally work. Tony Tomety called me before I got to Ghana for the shoot and said Leila, how do you expect us to work with this kind of budget? He had a team of 6 people, The gaffer had a team of 4, the DP had his choice of equipment. Both Uncle T (our gaffer) and Tony almost killed me. Finally, they both said Leila, we will work for free. even our boys. because this money is so small, it can only cover the materials/equipment.

Aunty Mabel (Our producer) said Leila you have spoiled these people, they’re used to the big budget films you make. But really that wasn’t the case. Neither Uncle T nor Tony have ever worked for any of the local filmmakers because none of the local filmmakers can afford them, let alone understand their work ethic; these people have a name to protect. Tony I know will never work on a film where he has no room to play and be creative. And, he won’t work on a film that won’t go anywhere. I was blessed, I am blessed they’ll do anything for me.

I like to control my space, that’s why I always build my sets. I built a house for Ties That Bind from scratch. Yes, you heard me right. I built a house, which was used as the clinic because I needed the story of the clinic to be specific.

I look back now and I realize, this kind of investment, on this kind of industry was not necessary. No matter how much I want to do things the right way, it was not necessary. I was only throwing my pearls away.

Mathew 7:6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.


I was so angry after I sing of a well I didn’t give myself time to heal. I was blind to reason, and here I was with a huge, huge amount of money pumped into my company and I was on a roll. But I was operating in hurt. Those who know me well know I can do anything when I’m angry.
Ties that Bind was same. Again, I was operating in anger. My PA whom I trusted and took as my sister, went rogue. Love is blind huh? She fell for a gold-digger. stole company money for him.  I was pissed. I again, acted in anger.

You never make good decisions when you are angry. Sinking Sands and Ties That Bind have been to so many places and won so many awards within Africa and Africans and without. Imagine what it would have been if I had a little more patience. I’d have spoken to more people about the wisdom in spending such huge sum in a flawed industry. Maybe I’d actually have spent more. I’d have done things very differently. I’d have surrounded myself with different people, cast, crew…friends.  I’d probably have gone the “Half of a Yellow Sun” way. Which is the only way to go if you really want to make a good, good, good, good film from Africa.

If I am to look at myself and advice who I was then, I’ll say
Make sure, the future you desire for the product is guaranteed or at the very least, possible before you start working. No matter how long it takes, be patient. 

I am mentoring a young lady now and that is what I keep telling her. Be patient, be patient. She’s not listening, and I’ve decided not to force her. Like me, she’ll learn the hard way.

That is one advice I give to a lot of people who come to me now seeking for help. Be patient. Don’t seek to prove anything to anyone. Unless you die, you still have time. But I do believe You’ll only die at Gods appointed time and if you do not achieve your goals before you do, maybe, that’s his will. It’s hard to accept, trust me, I know, but better to walk in the will of God for your life, than to strut off on your own.

Even if you are not a believer, learn to be patient. Analyze your motives. Because if your motive is just to tell stories, time won’t matter. You’d chose to get it right the first time.

Mind you, Proverbs 10:22 says: It is the blessing of God that makes one rich, and he adds no sorrow to it.– This article was originally posted on Leila’s Blog

Mistah Cole

Mistah Cole

is a Nigerian-born Music critic and movie blogger

8 comments

  1. Dats how poeple act wen ur presence intimidates dem, I don’t knw y it’s like dat in Africa buh gud tin u wer strong enof 2 pull tru

  2. Dats how poeple act wen ur presence intimidates dem, I don’t knw y it’s like dat in Africa buh gud tin u didn’t give up

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