Extraordinaire Filmmaker from Ghana

Deep passion for revolutionizing Africa’s film scene has caused Mortinno Morton to mentor more than 20 aspiring young filmmakers from Kibera and Turkana.

It’s unquestionable, the future will be driven by technology. As it continues to revolutionize the world’s different industries, it’s creating a plethora of opportunities in the media industry — movie, television, music streaming, among others.

The penetration of smartphones and the emergence and adoption of social media platforms have helped aspiring journalists from places such as Kibera to easily practice and improve their craft by snapping pictures and recording videos using their phones.

In the past, it was hard for aspiring filmmakers to practice their crafts — they needed to rent cameras at exorbitant prices or slowly save money to buy their own. Also, accessing hosting and showcasing platforms during the Kodak era was a challenge.

We are past the above-stated challenges. Currently, one of the main challenges is the scarcity of connoisseurs who are willing to share their extensive knowledge with the youngsters. Despite the ease of access to learning resources via the internet, it’s still extremely valuable for aspiring filmmakers to work closely with experts that they can readily access — to ask questions and watch working.

Just like an apprentice working with his master to make a masterpiece hoping to make a similar masterpiece in the future, all protégé filmmakers wish to watch their mentors create classic bodies of work. This encompasses all the stages of filmmaking — pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution.

It’s with great pleasure that Tunapanda Institute and Learning Lions — two unique organizations that exist to spread digital skills so that young people can use them to earn a decent living — received generous support from Mortinno Morton. With a deep passion for revolutionizing Africa’s film scene, the Ghanaian filmmaker has been mentoring more than 20 aspiring young filmmakers from Kibera and Turkana. Since moving into the country, in January, Mortinno has been hosting and delivering both virtual and physical classes, in the midst of the pandemic.

Mortinno delivering a class
Mortinno Morton

Mortinno met Jay and Mick Larson (the co-founders of Tunapanda Institute) while checking into a hotel room upon his arrival in Kenya. Jay and Mick were checking out. Mortinno describes the event preciously:

Upon my arrival in Nairobi in 2019, I met Jay Larson and his brother, Mick, checking out of the same room I was checking into (he laughs). That was perfect timing for all of us because if one of us decided to check in late or check out early, the story today would have been different.

Mortinno and Jay Larson (co-founder of Tunapanda Institute) in Turkana.
Mortinno and Jay in Turkana

Such unexpected meetup stories interest me the most. The majority of my network was formed the same way. Mortinno and the Larson brothers’ story reminds me of how I met Jay Larson eight years ago (a story for another day).

When asked about what made him board a plane to Kenya that first time, Mortinno replied by saying:

Film-making has been a great dream since my early teenage years. Through my passion, commitment, and love for film, I realized a need within me to explore more fields in the industry and acquire more knowledge and skills in my background through different cultures.

As someone who has spent many years in the film industry, Mortinno understands how it might be a challenge for aspiring filmmakers to access the right mentorship. That’s the reason he never hesitated to start his mentorship sessions at Tunapanda Institute.

Mortinno Morton coaching junior filmmakers
Mortinno Morton coaching junior filmmakers — Loropio, Turkana.

I casually texted Mortinno to ask what drove him to move to Kenya and easily agree to mentor Tunapanda Institute members. I received a lengthy yet inspiring reply:

Knowing how it’s expensive to acquire a background in film, my passion drives me to give my knowledge and skills freely to those who need it and can’t afford it. Wanting to explore and know more, I took the risk to move to Kenya, not knowing anyone. My aim was to make new friends and learn more about Kenya’s film industry and what makes it different from mine as a Ghanaian.

In the midst of reading Mortinno’s reply, I paused for a moment. I was filled with joy. Immediately after finishing the long text, I opened the mobile application that I usually use to record things (and people) that I’m grateful for and wrote how grateful I was for Mortinno’s bold act of taking his precious time to travel to Kenya and agree to teach me and many others filmmaking.

Obviously, I’m not the only one impacted by Mortinno’s presence in Kenya. When asked about the impact of Mortinno’s filmmaking classes and how he plans to use the skills in the future, Alex, who attended Mortinno’s filmmaking classes, smiles before he counter-asks: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But how much is a video worth? He then continues to answer the question by saying that “[Mortinno] unlocked how I view the world. He taught me the art of telling stories that create value… He has inspired me so much — watching him work on his film projects is just amazing.”

Alex went on to talk about Mortinno’s teaching style. Via text message, he said that “I find [Mortinno] a great teacher because he never tires of explaining concepts to the learners. He’d rather spend an hour explaining a concept until everyone gets it instead of moving ahead with the majority who already understand the concept.”

The sessions, which cut across pre-production (development, script-writing, production breakdowns), production (camera angles, lighting, sound), and post-production (editing), have been hands-on. With the provision of funds by GIZ through Wikonnect, an open-source eLearning platform, the learners have been able to access equipment to record educational videos that will be uploaded on the Wikonnect platform. Of course, Mortinno supervises all the learners’ activities as they work on their video projects.

At the time of writing this article, eight video projects are in the post-production stage. The video projects cover the following topics:

  • How to set up a remote working space
  • Video conferencing tools
  • Online personal branding
  • Understanding online taxes
  • How to shop online
  • Preparing for an online interview
  • Online safety
  • Finding legitimate online work opportunities

As part of the Wikonnect content creation project, Mortinno travelled to Turkana with Tunapanda Institute members, to work in the same physical space with the Learning Lions members with whom they have been virtually collaborating. While in Turkana, the teams from both organizations showcased their video projects and Mortinno provided detailed feedback. Also, during his brief stay in Turkana, he filmed Jay Larson delivering a series of video lectures on his work with Tunapanda Institute, the spread of digital skills, and learning. The video series will soon be uploaded on the Wikonnect platform.

Mortinno Morton and his film apprentices in the field in Turkana.
Mortinno (in white t-shirt) and an apprentice in Turkana

As someone who identifies himself as a lifelong learner, I’m a fan of such stories as Mortinno’s with Tunapanda Institute and Learning Lions. His primary goals were to learn about Kenya’s film industry and the different cultures that relate to the industry. Coincidentally, the two parties — with a strong belief in the importance of freely passing knowledge on — met and almost immediately found ways of channelling their great minds to help people who need them the most.

It’s great what Tunapanda Institute has accomplished so far in terms of training young people from informal settlements of Kibera in tech, design, and business so the learners can become lifelong learners, earners, and problem solvers. I’m one of the 380 learners who have graduated from the institution’s 3-month training program and among the 6,525 community beneficiaries of the institution’s other programs. It’s unfathomable how much impact the institution can have on the community through collaboration with selfless people such as Mortinno.

On behalf of many who attended the filmmaking sessions, I would like to thank Mortinno for taking his time to travel to Kenya to mentor aspiring filmmakers from Kibera and Turkana. The learners will use the skills learned to create high-quality educative content for Wikonnect and start their own film ventures or get employed in big media houses.

Mortinno’s impact on Kibera can be felt already:

Special thanks to Daphne Kabeberi, Jay Larson, and Maureen Moraa for reading the initial drafts of this article and providing valuable feedback.

By Melkizedek Mirasi

Lifelong learner.

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