1. When you first started getting into filmmaking and making movies, did you know that a film of yours would have an audience in Nigeria, how was that reversal of roles for you, as South Africans are usually the ones who consumes ton loads of Nollywood material.
The reality is Nigerians have been consuming South African films from time immemorial. I grew up in Nigeria and I remember being blown away and captivated by the movie “Sarafina”, which is a south African film that became hugely popular in Nigeria in the early 90s. Before that was “ the gods must be crazy” which was a very popular south African film that was making the rounds in the early 80s. The leon schuster movies, from “Mr. Bones to “There is a Zulu on my Stoep” were all equally popular. Not to mention the phenomenally powerfull Shaka Zulu mini series and soapies like egoli and generations which were syndicated to Nigerain TV stations. So the phenomenon of South African films finding audiences in Nigeria is not new. I suppose the advent of Nolly wood movies finding their way to SA screens was just reciprocal of that fact. Nevertheless it does feel good to be contributing to the cultural and value exchange between the two countries through films . So it is something to be proud of.
2. Tell us how it was to work with the Multi Starred Cast of Mrs right Guy? Thapelo Mokoena, Dineo and Lehasa who are such huge personalities in SA, was it exciting working with new movie acting talent in the likes of Thando Thabethe?
I had worked with Thapelo Mokoena when I directed the second and third season of the SABC 1 TV series “society” in 2008. And I had also worked with Thando Thabete on the SABC 1 sitcom “My perfect Family” in 2013. So Thando is no stranger to SA TV screens. I had never worked with Lehasa and Dineo but we had a very rigourous audition process for Mrs Right Guy that actually began in 2013, which involved a lot of conversations for several days and just chatting about scenarios and the character nuances with the actors. So we already had a fabulous rapport before we even began shooting. Once we got on set, it was smooth sailing from then on.
3. The Movie market in Nigeria is seemingly set- up very differently to ours here in South Africa, have you considered these nuanced ways of dealing with Movies in the Nigerian Market when promoting the Movie in Nigeria? For instance the popular use of street vendors to sell the product?
The peculiarity of the Nigerian Market is due to the fact that the modern digital cinemas are a recent development. Prior to that, the only way Nigerians could enjoy movies from Nollywood was to consume them off Video CDs and DVDs. The cinemas were not in existence until early 2000s and the TV stations were mostly government stations that showed mostly news and current affairs programmes. The boom in private TV stations was also something that began in the early 2000s. Entertainment was low in the programme offering of the TV stations. This was the gap that Nollywood films quickly filled. Because they were accesible, quick to make and relatively cheap and not easily regulated nor policed. Hence it was also easily exploited by piracy. The reverse was the case in SA, where there was a strong, regulated extensive cinema system that catered for mass viewing of theatrical releases. My position is the two scenarios should work hand in glove with each other, because they are both means of distribution, one is formal and one is less formal but if both are regulated and designed properly, it does equate to more revenue streams for the film maker, which means more money that can be ploughed back into making more films and keeping the wheels of the African film industry perpertually turning.
4. How important is Pan-African trade especially in building what is termed ‘The Creative Economy”?
I believe the creative economy is the next fronteir of wealth creation on the continent. It is the next “natural resource” that we must harness, develop, share and export. The US and Europe have succeeded over the centuries in exporting their culture, arts and craft all over the world. It is a billion dollar industry which exploits music, film, fashion, literature etc. But of recent it looks like the value of their artistic commodities have been diminishing. We, as Africans have our culture, arts and craft. The days of relegating African arts to charity and NGO projects are over. It is time to start appreciating the commercial potential of our artistic expressions. In time past, billions were made from exploiting our creative economies. This should now be the preserve of all Africans and not just a privileged few. One of the most commercially succesfull show piece of art in the world right now, is the theatrical production of the lion King, an African story with African roots. So it shows you the potential of African art. But the only way this can happen is if cross pollinations, collaborations, pan african investment, markets and trade zones are established, encouraged and perpertuated within the continent first before all else.
5. What are the logistical problems you faced in getting the movie into a different country?
The problem of language will always be the first challenge, viewers will always prefer to enjoy a film that is conveyed in the language of their every day discourse. The options of circumventing this problem are very few, so it is a problem that will always cost you some viewers.
6. Assuming you received some sort of Support, Was it Private Corporate capital or Government support or a hybrid of the two. Can we get into that, funding for large projects such as your Own.
The National film and video foundation recognized the need for audience development along side production development. They realized that the south african cinema going audience were leaning more and more towards the holly wood films rather than the locally produced films. So In 2012, the national film and video foundation decided to fund a slate of films that they felt could attract the south african cinema going audeinces towards patronising locally produced films. So Several films were funded during this period and Mrs right guy just happened to be one of those projects. It wasn’t my script, it wasn’t my concept. The writer was Cati Weinek and in conjunction with Mokopi Shale and Putsetso Thibedi, they worked in making the script shoot ready. I was just brought in to direct after the funding was secured. Films like Mrs right guy can not really be regarded as large budget projects, granted it is the largest budget I have ever had to make a film with, but it is really in the mid range. In SA the funding for such films usually come from bodies like the National Film and Video Foundation, which is the chief funder, followed by rebates from the department of trade and industry and contributions from the Gauteng Film Comission. These bodies are mandated to propaget everything film in SA, so most producers access funds from these bodies for their projects.
7. Have you considered making a series for the African Market? If you would What themes would you explore
I think I can tick that off as “done” on my to do list. I was part of the creative team behind the Pan African TV series, Jacob’s cross. But to be fair, we do need more Pan African TV series. We need shows that celebrate our peculiarities as well as our commonalities as Africans. For me family is always a big theme, and when I say family, I mean family in all the various ways it exists and it can be defined in our post modern world. Our never ending battle to over come the odds that seem to be always stacked againsts us is also a theme I would enjoy exploring. Exploring the legacy of the past on our present and future is also a theme that appeals to me. Heroes, for me are important, and exploring our place as individuals in the context of our dynamic communities
8. I guess the entire making of a movie is a process of “Collaboration”, would you be open to collaborations with other creatives ( ie: make a musical film production, or Video and Stills Documentary between you and a Photographer.)
I am keen on collaborations, although I prefers to play to my strenghts, and that is narrative story telling, either through feature films or Tv series but I am keen on exploring new ways of doing what I think I do best
9. If you weren’t a movie maker and HAD to choose another creative career what would it be?
I always joke that if I wasn’t directing films, I would probably be directing traffic, directing films is about the only thing I am severly keen on mastering. I don’t feel like I am where I want to be yet in terms of my career, there is still much to learn and much to discover, so the adventure continues
10. Whats next in the Plan for you, we need more movies in Africa that tell different narratives of us and our people?
I am working on some scripts and developing some ideas, that I hope will attract funding so that those films will see the light of day. But I am also working towards establlishing a continental theatrical distribution network that will cater and focus on delivering African films to an African audience .
Click here to watch the trailer.