OVER 100 film and television industry persons thronged in Bulawayo hotel this past week for acting and directing masterclasses which were being held courtesy of Multichoice Africa. IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) spoke to Berry Lwando (BL) and Denny Miller (DM), the regional director of the Multichoice Talent Factory based in Lusaka, Zambia. The following are excerpts from the interview
AK: What is the thinking behind the masterclasses?
BL: There was a sense from the business and also the industry on the need for us to look more solidly at how to professionalise, by getting someone in the industry who has worked at such a high level to be able to share their experience. In this case, Denny Y Miller (Egoli, Backstage, Isibaya). Coming to Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, it is also deliberate. It is where the direction of the industry is supposed to go, where people stop looking at it as a hobby.
AK: How many have attended the masterclasses?
BL: We did 55 first day and 65 second day in Harare. In Bulawayo, it was 55 first day. I am pretty pleased about the demographics. My biggest pleasure is to see one of my alumni, Norbert (Mafoche), directing the shooting of the masterclasses. In terms of the demographics, which ranged from 18 to quite mature, it means that we are projecting toward the industry growing into the future. We are growing a cadre of industry professionals.
AK: How did you get to be part of the training programme?
DM: I contacted my friend, Femi Ogudbemi, who is the director of MTF in Nigeria, whom I worked with on Tinsel a few years ago, which was Nigeria’s first daily soap. I said to him, I am interested in doing this sort of thing and would MTF be interested in having some talks and he contacted Cheryl, who is in charge of all talent factories. Femi sang my praises and the next thing I was being booked to go to all three hubs, Nairobi, Lagos, and Lusaka, with a quick stopover in Ghana and now Zimbabwe. I think there is a huge amount of hunger for information and a lot of really interesting questions about things that I would have considered to be basics that they learn in film school.
AK: Where do you see African content right now, what is your sense about it in terms of quality?
DM: I think we should be writing stronger, better stories. I think we should be doing better writing and we have got enough stories to tell, real life in Africa, what it is like to be living in Africa. We should not be scared to go forth and express our truth, the challenges, the culture, xenophobia, corruption. I got so irritated in Kenya, I address people in Swahili and they respond in English. I am like guys why are we not holding onto our culture and roots instead of spending a lot of time thinking about America and wanting to like America?
AK: But that is the success of the American movie industrial complex.
DM: Yeah, sure there are things that we can learn but we must tell our damn stories. We must bring our own stories to life and not be ashamed of it. I do think there is a market for African stories but we must package them a little better because the competition is strong and the quality is strong. We have got to start upping our game, sharing information and bouncing ideas around.