View the local film industry through the lens of those who tore down barriers to entry
When we think of the film and television industry our thoughts often turn to glitz, glamour, and fame. We think of our favourite movies and some of the most beautiful people in our country and the world, we think of the greatest rags-to-riches stories.
We often first think of the end product, in an industry of careers and behind the scenes practitioners that, in reality, are a large amount of people who pull together to make a beautiful end product, be it a film, advert or miniseries and, more than that, we forget that it has the potential to be really big business.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report titled Entertainment and Media Outlook 2018-2022, the South African television market will be worth close to R40.8 billion a year by 2022, with the film sector forecasted to reach R2.1 billion in the same year. This indicates that some industry practitioners are, indeed, making money in South Africa.
However, as large as these numbers may seem, the industry itself is heavily localized in Gauteng, with the Western Cape coming in at a distant second. The majority of the country, however, is not as fortunate, leaving many creatives in other provinces feeling like they don’t have the tools to further develop themselves and their respective localities.
Well established production company The BarLeader TV teamed up with free state broadcaster Nkokeli Lindazwe to create an educational live and interactive platform, in a panel discussion style titled The Classroom.
The first session was for the film and television industry and was held at the Bloemfontein Civic Theatre. The Freestate was purposefully picked to reach an audience that would not traditionally have access to the industry.
On stage were industry practitioners who are developing the field. Legend Manqele, the founder of production company The BarLeader TV, which has numerous shows under its belt, like Being Bonang and Living The Dream With Somizi. Manqele was joined by Kutlwano Ditsele founder of production company Seriti Films which is an ever-growing player in the television and advert space. Finally, completing the panel was director Tebogo Malope, who is the owner of Star Films. He directed the first-ever Netflix African original Queen Sono.
The initial lesson of the classroom boiled down to, how does one get into the industry? By its very nature, the film and television industry is not like other traditional industries because it does not have clear career paths. Each panellist conveyed their own story about how they entered the industry, with Ditsele being the only one who was to complete his studies before starting in the field.
The common thread between the three was an insatiable curiosity and passion that led to them finding their way to sets they were not supposed to be on. Legend recalled that he had no idea of where to start but ended up as part of a studio audience for YoTV, to learn and, perhaps, get even close to the action. It is this very curiosity that gave him the courage to speak to people on set and ask for a job doing anything available.
Another lesson was around whether or not it is realistic to believe that an individual can make it into the industry and, indeed, get work if they come from a place with a less established industry?
The panel cautioned the audience, saying that industry localisation is not unique to South Africa. They said this is how the sector takes shape, pointing out Los Angeles in the United States, is an engine for its industry. They also said the growth of the industry depends on political will. The political will of provinces to create an atmosphere that is friendly to the sector would enable production companies in Johannesburg to work in and around provinces that aren’t as well equipped.
KwaZulu-Natal was mentioned as an example of a growing film and TV sector, largely due to the provincial government’s intentional investment and collaboration with the sector, thus leading to more productions being filmed in the province.
The biggest question that inevitably came from those in attendance was now that The Classroom had taken place, how could people proceed and continue to engage with the panel? A decision was made to continue to develop #TheClassroom and take it to as many people as possible. The professionals on stage agreed to set up a flowing shadow programme, alongside stake holders, CTC College and The BarLeader TV, for willing creatives.
An insatiable curiosity and passion will lead you to sets you are not supposed to be on.