This week’s featured media mogul in the making is filmmaker, multimedia artist, writer, director, and podcast host, Yaba Tuffour. Learn more about Yaba’s journey below.
You are a multi-talented individual dipping and dapping in a bunch of other expressive fields. So, what was it about journalism or media that piqued your interest?
“I’ve always been a very artsy person. Growing up I was always surrounded by art. My father played the upright bass and drew a bit. My mother is an anthropologist so she would always have African sculptures and would tell me stories about our ancestors. Because of this I would spend hours drawing or creating homemade movies with my friends. I thought I was going to go into acting, but as I auditioned more I quickly realized it is more political than it is about your talent. So I shifted gears and took more of a ‘behind the scenes’ approach to film making. My drawings turned into digital graphic designs and my interest and dedication to film making and graphic design took off from there.”
How did you get your start in the media field? Did you study communications in college? Internships? Hobby writing?
“I got started off in graphic design by creating advertisement flyers for clubs I was in while in college. I went to American University (AU) where I studied Film & Media Arts with minors in Business Administration and Studio Art. I was the outreach chair for the Black Student Alliance (BSA) and would primarily serve as liaison between BSA and other multicultural clubs. As such I created flyers to promote different club events with sponsors. I would go to the school library to use photoshop and illustrator, because at that time I couldn’t afford the program on my computer. With time I became better and got offers to create logos, event flyers, and posters.
I got started in film by accidentally walking into the wrong office for a job interview. The president of the BSA told me about an on-campus job that would film campus events like prominent guest speakers, Student Government elections, and just general news on campus. I had very limited film experience prior to the interview with the exception of a few student projects I made in class. So I was a bit nervous and didn’t really know if I was qualified, but growing-up wanting to be an actor for so long really paid off during this time, because I wasn’t going to let anybody see me shook. I walked into an office (the wrong office) and confidently announced I was here for an interview. Coincidentally they were actually looking for someone to hire, they just didn’t expect anybody so soon. Matt Fredericks took it in strides and interviewed me on the spot. I showed him my reel and told him that I’m comfortable working on Adobe programs and that I’m a very quick learner. He seemed impressed because he offered me the job on the spot. A few minutes after talking through the details of the job Rowshawn Z. walks into the office and is surprised to see me. Matt told Rowshawn she did a really good job because he didn’t expect to hire anybody so quickly, Rowshawn was shocked too and confessed that she didn’t send me here for the job and doesn’t know who I am. The conversation quickly turned into a game of clue as we tried to figure out where my real interview was and how we went for about an hour without figuring it out sooner. Once everything was cleared up Matt still offered me a job and fortunate for me I was able to reschedule my original interview and was offered that job as well. It was my first bidding war so I was really feeling myself. I ended up working with Matt at the University Communications and Marketing department as a Video Production Specialist / Office Assistant. From this job I worked with an amazing team and learned a butt load of practical film knowledge and in 2013 I was awarded an Emmy Honor for our video JFK:Building Peace for All Time. Over time I made more short films, music videos, and a few event promo videos. Recently have been accepted into the DGA Trainee Program in New York. In this program I’m training to be an assistant director and have worked on projects such as Law & Order: SVU and a new Tracey Oliver Project – currently untitled.”
Tell us how you built up your platform. What’s your mission/goals? Who’s your audience?
“I built my platforms on the basis of showcasing life from my perspective as a multimedia artist, filmmaker, podcaster, and writer/director. I don’t mindfully dedicate a lot of time to my platform because I currently have a love hate relationship with social media. I love how accessible my work is to people and I greatly appreciate the feedback I’m given but sometimes as an artistic person I get very overwhelmed and intimidated by other’s work. Because of this I’ve really shifted my goal in social media to be a visual portfolio to represent the lessons I’ve learned in my projects. For example if you look at the beginning of my IG (FilmFrik) you will see Marvelous, a short film about finding happiness when everything seems to be conspiring against you. Then you’ll see Color Me, an artistic video and photo series dedicated to skin color. Recently I’ve been working on the You Go Gurl Podcast, a podcast I co-host that focuses on kitchen table talk conversations about life, news, and experiences of black women and men.”
So far throughout your career, what has been your proudest personal media moment?
“My proudest personal media moment has to be my photo series at Afropunk and Curlfest. I have been working on Tender Head, a short film about a tender headed black girl finding her black girl magic through her hair. I took my camera to Afropunk and Curlfest about a year ago and interviewed people on their favorite hairstyles, their worst hair-stories, and other general questions about their relationship between themselves and their hair. I was able to meet a lot of different people and got some great stories from strangers. It really motivates me to continue to tell this story and to tell it properly because it is the through-line of every black girl.”
What advice would you give aspiring mediapreneurs looking to enter the field?
“If I was to give any advice to mediapreneurs I would say embrace failure and be bold. I’ve spoken a bit about how social media can become overwhelming and intimidating to artists, and I think that’s the part that I hear a lot of artistic people struggle with. They struggle with executing their ideas because they overthink the technicalities, worry about how it will be perceived, or generally have a lack of confidence in their abilities. When I start to see myself get into that frame of mind I have to tell myself, ‘fuck ‘em.’ There’s always going to be a troll and there will always be an excuse not to do something, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Whether your attempt is great or not you will inevitably learn from the experience. I’ve made so much crap work and have almost given up because I thought I should be better by now, but that’s the amazing thing about the media industry. There is so much appreciation and support for different styles and techniques regardless of skill level. The film with horrible lighting or ‘cheap’ production value might be hated by a few but loved by many. Failure is not always as bad as you think it is, but you have to be bold to find out.”
Connect with Yaba Tuffour on Instagram to keep up with her. To learn more about her short film Tender Head, check out its official Instagram page. To view the latest episodes of the You Go Gurl podcast, click HERE.
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