. . . who believes she is the African Shonda Rhimes
Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
ZIMBABWEAN graduate at the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) in Zambia, Nkosilesisa Kwanele Ncube, wants to shake up the industry as she believes that she is the African Shonda Rhimes.
Shonda Rhimes is the American screenwriter behind hit television series such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal (The Fixer) and How to get away with murder.
Nkosilesisa was part of 60 trained new professionals into the African pool of film-making talent, with 20 students each at academy sites in Lusaka (for students from Southern Africa), Nairobi (East Africa) and Lagos (West Africa).
The filmmaker was one of two Zimbabweans to graduate, who were among the students of the Lusaka-based academy for Southern Africa.
The other one was Nelson Madzima.
Nkosilesisa is a creative writer from Bulawayo. A graduate of Midlands State University in Media and Society Studies, 25-year-old Nkosilesisa has big plans for her career.
She is the screenwriter for films which have beamed on DStv’s Zambezi Magic, such as Jaiva S’bone, Another Wedding, The Stealers, Ubuntu, a Zambian drama and Figure it out — a short film which will air on Showmax this month. Nkosilesisa last year published a book, Lookout for Drafts: 100 Letters I Will Never Send launched at the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo.
Chronicle Showbiz Reporter Bongani Ndlovu (BN) caught up with Nkosilesisa (Nkosi) and she shared her journey on MTF and future plans.
BN: Welcome back from the MTF. Please share with us the highlights of you being there.
Nkosi: I think every week was a journey. We had different people coming in to teach us and each of them left us with something really special. Meeting people who are the brains behind some of the content you consume every day on TV was surreal. Another highlight was getting to pitch ideas to DStv, like an actual pitch and getting feedback from people who actually control what goes on TV. Working with the UN on their Pause Verified campaign was another highlight, oh and the three-week course we did with the New York Film Academy, there were really so many highlights but if I had to pick, it would be these ones.
BN: We are living in a Covid-19 world, how did the pandemic affect your learning?
Nkosi: The programme was disrupted by Covid-19. We should have been in Zambia for a year but we only stayed for five months before we had to go home. Learning virtually was also a challenge, there is no replacement for a conventional classroom setup so that really messed with things. But the academy administration and our facilitators made the experience more bearable.
BN: After graduating we want to know what drives you?
Nkosi: I like to push the envelope and see what I can get away with. So, every day, I am looking for a new challenge, a new status quo to challenge, a new stereotype to destroy. We can always do better and that has been my guiding principle for quite some time. As long as you’re alive, you have the opportunity to try harder and do better.
BN: What do you love about being in or part of the film industry?
Nkosi: Being able to create entire universes in my head and having them play out on screen. I love telling stories and being a part of how people are represented. I also love writing for television, it’s such an intimate thing to have people invite you into their homes when they watch what you have produced and I do not take that for granted.
BN: What rubs you the wrong way about film and which film in particular.
Nkosi: Misrepresentations. I failed to watch Coming 2 America because it was so ill informed and I understand how dangerous terrible stereotypes can be. They are disparaging to entire communities and that just makes me really mad.
BN: Do you think that you have reached your potential?
Nkosi: I’m afraid of peaking now. My greatest fear is what if things never get better. What if this is as good as it gets for me? I am most terrified of peaking at 25 and never getting better than I am right now. That’s why I work as hard as I do, so that better is always ahead of me.
BN: What or who inspires Nkosilesisa?
Nkosi: The minute you start realising that every person you come across is a nuanced individual with loves and hates and a past, you can’t help but be inspired. Everyone has such a beautiful story inside of them. As for who inspires me, the list is long, Shonda Rhimes before all, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Phathu Makwarela, Portia Gumede, Mandla N. . . so many but I’ll stop there.
BN: What do you think is being done wrong in the Zimbabwean film industry?
Nkosi: It starts with the basics. I am not sure that the training that is being offered to student filmmakers is adequate, there are a lot of holes in the training given to film students locally. This isn’t just limited to filmmakers, performers as well. People should be trained adequately before they can stand behind or in front of the camera. Additionally, I think there should be a relationship between the commercial and creative sector, there should be a mutually beneficial relationship between both.
BN: What’s next for the future?
Nkosi: Hopefully, nothing but good things. The short film we worked on as part of the academy should be on Showmax in May. A feature film I wrote wraps production this week (that’s as much as I can share just now). I have a really light-hearted lifestyle documentary series going onto my YouTube channel in the next few weeks. Other than that, I just really can’t wait to see what else happens. I have had a satisfactory career so far and I just hope that trajectory keeps getting better. I work hard and I pray hard and I hope that’s enough.