Though he’s cemented himself locally and internationally as a force to reckon with, there is a humility with which Tony attacks his work. 

When Tony Tomety walked into the National Film and Television Institute for the first time as a student, he had no idea how much his life would change. Tony had grown up an artistic child. In secondary school, he had pursued visual arts. Yet, like many young adults entering tertiary school, Tony’s motivations were simple: he wanted to go to a university where his friends were. So when his mother insisted on him going to the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), he was less than enthused. But, after listening to advice from his neighbour, the legendary Reverend Christian Tsui Hesse, cinematographer and filmmaker (and personal photographer for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah), Tony finally acquiesced. And at NAFTI, everything changed. 

Although students were required to learn the basics of each part of filmmaking in Levels 100 and 200, Tony did not hesitate to specialise in set and production design in the subsequent years. He threw himself into the work, learning as much as possible from his seniors. Whenever they had a production, Tony would be there to help. It was how he learned as fast as he could. And when it got to his turn to endeavour into projects, all that learning became useful. 

“I started doing things that were probably not the usual which everybody was used to. I felt like this was architecture for me. It’s like we build all these worlds; we build all these places. People must understand why; it must make sense. It must be believable, you know? It must feel like something that can be done.” 

Photo by Gus Sarkodee

Sitting in a small restaurant inside the La Villa Boutique Hotel, Tony and I converse about his successful career experiences. Tony has spent the day at the hotel in different meetings. So I feel almost guilty for barging in with my many questions. But, despite how tired he looks, he is still accommodating, and we have a fascinating discussion. 

When Tony started in set and production design in Ghana, there was barely an industry to speak of. Despite there being more than a few set designers in the country, many production houses did not see the importance of designing a set to suit a production. Those who did were also faced with the significant barrier of cost, a problem that Tony would address later in his career. Faced with these challenges, Tony questioned himself. 

“I’ll be honest. At a point, I was like…will I get any work? Because I knew that the people who were studying stuff like photography at the time would get work easier. But nobody cared about art direction then.” 

Work began to come in trickles for Tony. He started out with production houses like Origin8, working on advertisements and brand content for brands like Areeba-MTN (when they transitioned into MTN). Years later, Tony has worked on many international films of renown, like Beast of No Nation, Ties That Bind, NBC’s Threadstone, and BBC & Netflix’s Black Earth Rising. Recently, his set designs for the 2021 3Music Awards performance sets were quite the sensation among Ghanaians and beyond. And work doesn’t stop for Tony. Just before we began our interview, in the brief moment of respite between meetings, Tony had whipped out his laptop to continue researching a new project he’s part of — just a day after arriving in Ghana from Greece. I spoke to him about some of the challenges he faces in the Ghanaian film industry. 

“The challenges in the industry have always been the fact that we do not have — like in my department — prop houses to go to. Because after you build a set, you need to dress the place. I can’t just walk into Kingdom Store to take a table; it’s for sale. The fact that we didn’t have those places made it very difficult for us. You spend a lot of time trying to find things, and you can’t even buy them because that’s expensive. That was one of our biggest challenges.” 

Photo by TwinsDntBeg

True to his innovative ways, Tony did not let this challenge stop him for long. In June 2018, he started PropHaven, the first prop house in Ghana, to solve the problem. The USD240,000 investment by Tony Tomety has been operating for four years now. It now forms a fundamental part of the film and event industry that, prior to its establishment, Ghana was sorely missing. In countries with more structured industries, prop houses form a key set-up that allows for set budgets to be slashed. Without prop houses, many of the items used for set design would most likely have to be bought outright, even if they’d be used for only a brief period. This often had an exponential impact on the budget. Now, creators in Ghana have access to a well- run prop house. 

Despite his challenges, Tony remains optimistic about the future of the Ghana film industry. Though he admits that the industry is far from where it needs to be, he also says this is more as a result of resources than skill. A way to bridge the gap between the Ghanaian film industry and other more advanced film industries would be through government investment in the industry. In addition, structures that promote Ghana as a filming location with local content laws applicable would also help in creating the right situation for a transfer of knowledge to take place. Without government assistance through sponsorship and investment, Ghana’s film industry would continue to feel stagnant. 

Though he’s cemented himself locally and internationally as a force to reckon with, there is a humility with which Tony attacks his work. This is probably why winning the EMY Africa Creative and Supports Arts Award came as a surprise to him. 

“I didn’t even know that people would be excited for me like that. It just showed that over the years people have appreciated the things we’re doing. I met people who were like ‘Oh, I’ve been wanting to meet you for so long.’ And I was like, who am I? I’m just a guy following a certain path, trying to change the narrative. And apparently, it’s working. Once people are noticing, it means that you’re doing something right. The idea to change the narrative is happening, and people are seeing that it’s possible; it can be done. So yeah, it was big. It was huge. I didn’t expect it to happen.” 

Tony is far from done achieving things. It is his intention to build a studio — the plans for which are already shaping up nicely — that rivals many of the studios he’s seen and worked in across the globe. For Tony, this investment would help Ghanaian filmmakers significantly. He firmly believes that Ghana can become a filming destination, and this will be yet another contribution from him to the industry. 



The glossy dark-themed coffee table book titled IBRAHIM MAHAMA by



Ayo Animashaun, once listed by Nigeria Entertainment Today as one of Nigeria’s

You May Also Like