PROFILE: FRANCIS YUSHAU BROWN
Considering the high emolument on the table, the temptation to accept an offer to work in a highly prestigious international animation studio was hard to fight. This was a period when he had just graduated from the university and had to live with a friend for survival. Francis decided to reject the offer to start his studio (AnimaxFYB Studios) in Ghana anyway.
Francis Yushau Brown is a Ghanaian filmmaker specialising as an animation artist. He was born in Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western Region of Ghana where he was raised by his grandmother. Losing his grandmother after his Basic Education Certificate Exams(BECE), he was sent to live with his father at Tema in the Greater Accra Region.
Francis had his secondary education at St. John’s Senior Secondary School in Secondi. He was offered visual arts, a course he always wanted to study even as a child. He graduated as the best Graphic design student, best Ceramic student and the overall best Visual Arts student.
Coming from a supportive family, Francis was constantly encouraged by his grandmother and father to pursue his dreams in life. They would often buy him pictorial storybooks to read and learn from. His grandmother would also tell him stories about her day whenever she would return from town. As his imagination grew, he knew exactly what he wanted to be; an animation artist.
Due to financial constraints back home, Francis could not further his education abroad as he desired, hence, he joined Home Studios, a graphic design company based in Tema as an intern and later as an established worker.
INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL ARTS/NAFTI
Barnabas Korley, the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of Home Studios became a lifelong coach and mentor to Francis. He trained Francis to achieve what he(Barnabas) was unable to accomplish even as it was his dream, to be an Animator. By introducing him to books, creative websites and programmes on 3D animation, Barnabas led him into the space of digital art, a world that was entirely new to Francis. By the time he was fortunate to use design software, he already knew where to start from.
After impacting all the knowledge he humanly could, Barnabas encouraged Francis to return to school to further better his craft. He recommended the National Film and Television Institute(NAFTI) to Francis who at the time was saving money to go study Animation in South Africa for three months.
Following the advice of his mentor, he applied to NAFTi, a school he hitherto never knew existed for visual artists like him. He was selected as one of only 35 students who were accepted that year out of over a thousand students who applied. He attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the National Film and Television Institute(NAFTI) and grabbed the award as overall best film student of his year. Francis revealed that he funded himself throughout his tertiary education by taking on odd jobs, leveraging on all his other artistic skills.
LIFE AFTER UNIVERSITY
Shortly after his university education, and with no money to live off, he was forced to live with a friend who gave him a place to stay. Fortunately, his debut film, Agorkoli from his final year project got him the big break he needed to start his studio. The twelve-minute film won him over twenty(20) awards, took him to numerous countries and festivals, and largely opened him up to some prestigious international job offers. Francis nonetheless chose to stay in Ghana to create the space and market for the animation industry just as he had envisaged. He aimed to have his animations resonate with everyone across the globe regardless of the skin colour his animation characters portrayed.
For a man who is stimulated by everything around him, it is no wonder Francis draws inspiration from the works of Walt Disney. As the only artist he looked up to growing up, Disney’s animations shaped his thoughts on content creation and the confidence not to box himself to just one race.
Being a child from a humble background with great dreams, funding was and still has been his major challenge especially in Ghana where the sector has not been fully developed and understood. Francis decided never to make that a limitation for him regardless but to serve as a rope for upliftment.
According to Francis, the idea of animation is still green in the Ghanaian setting and as such, appreciation for artists has also been on the downside which in turn affects their finances. To him, it is an opportunity to elevate the market of animation on the African continent. He believes the African story is set out to be successful if it’s shaped right.
Francis has been a panellist on some of the world-leading and change-making platforms. These include the France Africa Summit, META Cinema Forum, New York Comic Con, Africa International Film Festival and many others.
Francis was shortlisted for the 42nd Student Academy Award(Oscars), Won Best Animation Film in 2016 at the African International Film Festival(AFFRIF), Best Creative Artist in 2017, Animator of the year in 2017 at the Ghana UK Based Awards(GUBA) and Best Animation at the Ghana Movie Awards, 2018. In 2019, face2face Africa named him as one of the five African animators who can confidently contend with their Hollywood counterparts and give them a run for their money. Francis was named at the 6th EMY Africa awards as the Creative and Support Art man of the year.
AnimaxFYB studios became the first African animation studio to feature a full time running kids animation content on Amazon Prime, making Francis the first African animator to attain such a feat. Mmofra, the 70 minutes children’s animation project also featured on DW TV.
Currently, his content does not air on any local networks due to the high fees television stations demand before showing local content. He however has several free content on YouTube at animaxfybstudios, his website, www.animaxfybstudios.com and Mmofra on Amazon Prime.
To help the next generation of animation filmmakers, Francis offers internship programs for upcoming visual artists from various universities to take advantage of. His modern animation studio, AnimaxFYB studios has trained both local and international students from America and Europe. He also runs mentorship programs and some online courses for everyone interested in learning. He hopes to shift the mindset of the general perception that animation is just for children.
CALL TO ACTION
Although he started with nothing, his projects are putting Ghana on the map globally. For Ghana to become a hub for creatives in the animation industry, Francis calls on sponsors and investors to pay attention to the animation industry because it is very lucrative and a possibly great contributor to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP).