Discovering a new path: Efo's journey with DFS Africa
When Efo Korku Mawutor from Ghana embarked on his journey with the Digital Film School Africa (DFS Africa), little did he know that he was about to unlock a world of opportunity. Efo has been working as a journalist and was looking for an opportunity for hands-on training in compelling and entertaining audio-visual storytelling, something his university couldn’t offer. It was in this pursuit that he found DFS Africa, a programme that would change the course of his career.
Efo wasn’t sure what to expect when he first set foot into the YMCA Ghana to commence his training. He was one of 60 students at the YMCA, all as nervous and at the same time excited as he was. DFS Africa, which launched the new programme in January 2023, offered three training paths: Documentary Film, Screenwriting and Creative Producing. These courses were conducted both at the YMCA Ghana and African University College of Communications (AUCC), piloting a new era of filmmaking education on the continent.
Creating Ghana's first digital film school
DFS Africa was developed by YMCA Ghana and AUCC in collaboration with the non-profit organisation WELTFILME e.V. and with support of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The objective of DFS Africa is to make filmmaking education more accessible. The few film schools located on the African continent are usually found in big cities, and their programmes are often prohibitively expensive. With digital learning on the rise, DFS Africa aims to address these challenges by offering a comprehensive course programme for young filmmakers in Africa digitally through the atingi online learning platform.
Efo’s decision to enrol in the DFS programme at the YMCA Ghana was driven by its emphasis on practical training, which complemented his storytelling competency. Furthermore, the self-paced exercises allowed him to balance his work commitments with his studies. The programme design gave him the flexibility to learn at his own pace, at his preferred time, and in a location of his choosing.
“Truth be told, I didn't know how interesting and interactive an online class could be until I enrolled in the DFS Africa training.”
Facilitating effective online learning
While most of the programme was delivered online, the first meeting was in person, serving the dual purpose of fostering interactive and collaborative learning and assisting students in navigating the digital learning landscape. This blend of in-person and online instruction ensured that all participants were equipped with the necessary skills to excel in the programme. While digital learning is becoming more popular, it’s not something all students are familiar with.
Alexander Pfeuffer, the Founding Director of WELTFILME, acknowledged the challenges of translating a practical, hands-on subject like filmmaking into an online course format. Which is why the programme is offered as facilitated courses to ensure that students maximized their experience on the learning platform. This approach was instrumental in guiding students, providing support, and optimizing the online training experience.
Collaborative content development
The success of the programme highly depends on the content development of the courses. Collaborative efforts between instructors, trainers, and industry experts were undertaken to ensure that the courses effectively convey the essential knowledge and skills. E-learning is a new territory to most trainers and required them to acquire additional skills in instructional and learning design. E-learning trainings enabled them to create impactful online courses. Template courses provided a structural framework while allowing customization to suit specific curricular needs and focus areas.
“Working with other film experts to develop the curriculum for Ghana's first-ever digital film school was such a great learning experience for us, as an institution committed to the development of young people through creative arts”, said Goddy Nana Mens, trainer in documentary filmmaking for DFS Africa at Ghana YMCA.
Over the span of six months, the students gained fundamental knowledge in filmmaking and were brought together towards the end of the semester to collaboratively produce outstanding short films in smaller groups. These achievements underscored DFS Africa's mission to provide accessible digital training, mirroring the experience of a traditional film school.
Expanding the curriculum
With this successful first semester, DFS Africa is now actively expanding its curriculum to cover additional facets of filmmaking, such as Cinematography, Editing, and Sound. Plans are also underway to introduce courses in Directing, Art Direction, and Advanced Postproduction in the near future. Prospective students at the YMCA and AUCC can anticipate exciting opportunities as DFS Africa continues to evolve.
Efo’s experience is a testament to the transformative power of DFS Africa: “Just a week before the end of the programme, I secured a job as a Multimedia Producer for a consulting firm specializing in documentaries for international media houses and clients. I now earn a living from what I love, leading a fulfilling life. I never thought it was possible, but DFS Africa has made it a reality. My journey can only get better from here.”
About the programme
Digital Film School Africa (DFS Africa) is the result of a collaborative effort between YMCA Ghana and African University College of Communications (AUCC), partnered with the non-profit organisation WELTFILME e.V. and supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). DFS Africa offers a comprehensive course programme for young filmmakers across Africa, delivered digitally on the online learning platform atingi.
The first cohort of students commenced their journey in early 2023, with 60 students at YMCA and 44 students at AUCC undertaking courses in Screenwriting, Creative Producing, or Documentary Film. Their remarkable achievements concluded in the production of ten captivating short films.
DFS Africa is committed to expanding its offerings, with plans to provide professional accreditation in all areas of filmmaking. It is now developing new courses in Cinematography, Editing, and Sound. For the next phase the team is also looking into developing courses in Directing, Art Direction, and Advanced Postproduction.