In Case Study, Profile

Refined Creative boasts a diverse and international team with a lot of women on board! We have a great team dynamic and take pride in our ability to learn from each other, regardless of where we are in the world.

I was able to call Hassatou and learn woman-to-woman how she joined the team. We talked about the lessons she learnt, how I (and other women around the world) can benefit from her experiences and push each other to do better so we can continue to share powerful stories.

The Accidental Career

Hassatou Diallo started filmmaking while looking for work. Our Lead Creative, Emmanuel knew she was (and still has) strong skills in proposal writing and editing, so when he heard she was available, and relevant projects came up, they collaborated.

Hassatou is an “original” Refined Creative team member. She worked with the team in Washington DC before we expanded into Accra, Ghana and has always been actively involved in our progress.


The first project Hassatou worked on was our Goxi project, with the World Bank extractive industries. She led the research. Soon after, she became an Associate Producer on Perspectives because of her work on the proposal. It was funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa. Her main role was to contact the characters and schedule interviews. She did the preliminary interviews with the characters to see if they would be a good fit for the documentary. She worked from the USA trying to get in touch with people across Africa.

Pushing Through Obstacles

Hassattou described her role, trying to schedule interviews as “an experience” because of all the time zones and varying phone connections. I empathised with her, recalling my similar introduction to documentary-making with Emmanuel giving me a list of farmers to contact to help drive our story, Indigenous in Ghana. Though her experiences were more complicated. Arranging schedules across time-zones and temperamental phone lines is not a walk in the park.

Despite her writing and research experience, it was the first time she had worked with sourcing information for documentaries. Like many creatives find – she was learning as she went.

I was fascinated at the similarities between us, both writers, finding our feet in a new industry. It’s not typically an obvious transition for writers, but it remains incredibly rewarding. She told me;

“I don’t have a pushy personality. I quickly realized that in this industry you have to be pushy with people to get things done. You have to push through, otherwise things will fall through. Our team is small so you can’t bother people, they have their own tasks to focus on. You have to do it yourself.”

Though it made Hassatou uncomfortable, she had gained a lot of experience with how to deal with people and make things happen. Interviews were never going to set themselves up.

“I remember Nosarieme telling I had to keep calling people back. It worked, eventually we were able to get almost everyone we wanted in the documentary. Somehow, we made it happen. 

We laughed at the thought of how Emmanuel recruited us in a similar fashion, both looking for work but with a recognition of how transferable writing skills are in production. Hassatou said;

Emmanuel gives people chances. At first I was a bit hesitant because I didn’t know much about production, I wanted to stay in my bubble concerning what I already knew at that time. But, working in a small team allowed me to learn from and experience so many of the processes that were happening around me. I was learning as I worked, I think Emmanuel recognises that. He knows the people he brings on-board are smart people and eventually you’ll catch on to the areas of production you’re not used to or don’t know about and that will improve the team and the outputs. It’s easier for other people to see what we’re capable of, than for us to see it. He brings people on his team that are good at what they do and we contribute to the team our strengths to produce excellent outputs.

I love watching documentary films but I never before imagined that I would be a part of it, or part of my career trajectory. I never imagined myself being a Producer. Refined Creative opened another dimension, given my background, of where I imagined I would go. It hasn’t derailed my career path, but it has added new avenues I hadn’t thought of joining before. I’m doing and working on issues I care about through documentary films.

As a writer and researcher, I am really glad I got involved in with documentary films and the work Refined Creative does because the visuals help you remember the content and information because it was presented so well. It has an effect on you, more than if you were to read that same information in a report. Usually, those reports will be read by development workers, but if you were able to circulate these documentaries to a wide variety of people it will have a greater impact for people to understand the various issues that we cover. These documentaries will live on. I’m glad to be a part of it.

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