Sheena Bonsu Brobbey has built an impressive portfolio of branded content and music videos that share personal narratives with elegant care and attention to detail.
By placing individual narratives at the heart of her visual practice, Bonsu Brobbey continues to embody a nurturing style of her own. Bringing her warm and imaginative energy into the world of commercial campaigns, Bonsu Brobbey displays sensitive humility through positioning collaboration and communication at the heart of her directorial approach. Consciously leading teams from concept to creation, we asked Bonsu Brobbey to share with us the experiences that have shaped her nurturing and communicative role as a Director; discussing how happiness can provide space for artistic growth.
I want to be a Director who inspires everyone on set so that they can go home and know they’ve had a good day at work.
Starting her career shortly after the birth of her son, Bonsu Brobbey’s powerful combination of determination and resilience carried her from Graphic Designer to Film Director. Having begun working in the digital design team at Condé Nast, she soon felt a lack of opportunities to further her growth due to a lack of mentorship. “Working as a Graphic Designer, I got to a point when I wished that the images in the visual stories I was working on could move. I asked to take on more responsibility, go on shoots and be put on more jobs which would help me reach that goal but there was always an excuse why they couldn't involve me.” After shifts in the company, Bonsu Brobbey found herself pushed to the back of a male-dominated boardroom, leaving her feeling unhappy and undervalued. Recognising the impact this was having on her mental health, Bonsu Brobbey left the company to pursue her own path, carrying a new mantra in mind; “if it doesn’t make you feel good, then don’t do it”.
Staying true to her vision, Bonsu Brobbey steadily continued down the creative path she dreamt of, building a portfolio from the ground up. “I started off making stills, art directing my own personal projects by asking other artists to collaborate with me. This helped get to know the process inside out, always with the goal of finally moving towards creating moving images in mind.” Deciding to work on her own terms wasn’t the easiest ride, leaving Bonsu Brobbey struggling to find creative recruitment agents who were happy to help her transition from design to direction. Bonsu Brobbey realised very early on in her career that if she wanted to learn more she’d have to go out there and find a role where she could gain more experience. “But I wasn’t finding a space for me, I would keep knocking on doors and they were all shut in my face. It’s been hard.”
This lack of space for Bonsu Brobbey drove her to continue teaching herself which she has done for the past 8 years, describing 2020 as the year she started to see buds growing from the little seed she had planted. “It’s made me realise that this self-made path might actually be something, that it’s finally working”. The work produced over the most recent 6 months clearly show how this dedication has paid off, seeing her receive Direction credits on music videos, branded content and campaigns for projects that all speak to her creative values. Although Bonsu Brobbey’s experiences reflect the inaccessibility many Black creative industry leaders carry, there is also a positive take away - reminding us that the power of creation can be repositioned into the hands of those who make it.
"I like to create an open forum because I didn’t have that at the beginning of my career and it affected my mental health and my creative output. It’s definitely shaped my approach to leading teams today, by making sure everyone feels happy and heard."
Moving into her role as a Creative Director, Bonsu Brobbey exercises her abilities as a leader by fostering work environments that benefit everyone. “I believe that good work is always created in a team, so it’s important for me to consistently have that core process of checking in with clients and colleagues, having transparency and encouraging people to collaborate with one another. If everyone is in a good space mentally, their work will reflect that.” Leading projects with the intention of harbouring positive relationships is something that translates into Bonsu Brobbey’s on-screen narratives. Focusing on telling stories with an elegant sensitivity, Bonsu Brobbey’s inspiration coincides with her own personal experiences, something which leads us back to discussing her childhood.
Growing up, Bonsu Brobbey describes how she could often be found in a world of her own. “I was definitely a creative kid with a wild imagination. I could never pay attention in class, and scribbled in a notebooks pretending that I was writing stories”. As a kid, Bonsu Brobbey also describes being obsessed with MTV music videos, “I could sit and watch for hours, it was so phenomenal for me. Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang Clan, Missy Eliiot, and Britney Spears (who I’m obsessed with!); those videos made me want to be a Director”.
Moving through childhood to her teenage years Bonsu Brobbey started to recognise a growing sense of anxiety within herself. Upon starting University, the uncertainty and insecurities that Bonsu Brobbey was feeling compounded under the pressure to create. “I struggled a lot in my early twenties with stuff that made me unhappy. But there was a point after I had my son that I decided I wasn’t going to do anything or be around anyone who was going to make me feel bad about myself. I learnt that I owe it to my son, the people around me and most importantly myself to be as happy as I can”. Identifying the triggers of these episodes of depression and anxiety has helped Bonsu Brobbey to build a compass for herself to continually monitor and manage her mental health alongside the development of her creative practice. Recognising the ways she can balance time with her son, and create space for herself in the best possible way.
Art for me comes from an emotional place. I align myself with projects that I believe in, where I agree with the messages they want to share. When something doesn’t feel right then it’s not right. I’ve learned to trust that.
Adding to her own wellbeing are the people and projects Bonsu Brobbey surrounds herself with. “A lot of my work is women-centric. I enjoy working with women mainly because thus far it’s a space where I’ve generally felt more heard. For me, when there is no tension, that’s when things flow.” Reflecting on how this comes from a more mothering space, Bonsu Brobbey describes her visual practice as a nurturing kind of art, “but I believe that there are times, either on set or when trying to drive a piece, win a pitch or affirm my point of perspective when a more assertive energy comes out in me. I am always very clear and concise with my feedback and direction.” These characteristics can also be said for Bonsu Brobbey’s approach to motherhood, something we see come to life on the Sassy set whilst photographing Bonsu Brobbey and her son Israel. The communication and care that shines through their relationship is one that is both loving and disciplined. Offering us an insight into just how capable Bonsu Brobbey is when directing her devotion.
The last three months have seen Bonsu Brobbey’s direction career develop a more refined style, as she pursues her desire to work on further branded content and music videos. Her most recent projects have included directing the campaign ‘Subscribe #YouTubeBlack’ spotlighting Black online content creators from fashion and lifestyle to sport and tech. “There was a lot of creative trust between me and the client on this project which I loved and really appreciated. I’m really happy with how the project came out, the conversations were so powerful”.
The more autonomy Bonsu Brobbey appears to have, the clearer her perspective beings to become. “I’m starting to see what I lean towards more, for example I love taking inspiration from documentary and film formats. I love portraiture, organic textures, colours, movement and specific approaches to light. Another key thing for me is intentional casting and people showing their real selves on camera, telling their own stories.” These techniques have become the fundamental building blocks of Bonsu Brobbey’s creative vision as she steps into her power, heading up departments and channeling personal experiences into her leadership style; forever mindful of the place she started, and the direction she wishes to move in.
As we witness Sheena Bonsu Brobbey’s growth, it reminds us that by believing in your vision and working with your own happiness in mind, the best will always come to fruition.