Monday, July 28, 2014

GALAXY OF STARS: How MultiChoice and M-Net's R1 billion investment per year in local content keeps the SA film and TV industry churning.

M-Net and MultiChoice, running the DStv satellite pay-TV service, on Saturday night celebrated 27 years of bringing South African pay-TV subscribers and the South African television industry premium local TV content since 1986.

To mark the milestone, M-Net and MultiChoice held a Galaxy of Stars celebration event at Gallagher Estate.

Galaxy of Stars as a made-for-TV event will be broadcast on DStv on M-Net (DStv 101) on Saturday 9 August at 14:00 and later the same day on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) at 21:30.

What DStv subscribers won't see is how entrepreneurs, fueled and supported through M-Net and MultiChoice's R1 billion annual investment in local content, keep the South African film and television industry churning.

Local productions such as Isibaya on Mzansi Magic has been setting the South African TV biz ablaze. The telenovela landed awards at the South African Film and Television Awards and the inaugural Royalty Soapie Awards.

Yet few viewers and pay-TV subscribers who enjoy productions like Isibaya can fathom the incredible amount of hard work, skill and talent it requires to mount, produce and sustain such a TV production.

For the past 27 years MultiChoice has been supporting local film and television industries, investing in production houses and content providers.

Through this support, MultiChoice has indirectly created literally thousands of jobs within the industry, helping to sustain and grow the local industry especially during periods where the South African public broadcaster, the SABC, started to falter and fail in its public mandate to create and broadcast quality local content.

One of the companies that has benefitted from MultiChoice's continued financial investment is Studio Zoo, and award-winning broadcast communications company specialising in on-air promos, commercials and corporate videos.

Studio Zoo offers services which include conceptualisation, copywriting, editing, graphic design, directing, shooting and post-production done by a staff that is handpicked from the best in the industry.

Owners Cathy Ferrara and Adi Leach explain that the company's 15-year relationship with MultiChoice started with the intention to function as an extended branch of the MultiChoice marketing department.

The duo says that the relationship gave Studio Zoo a kick-start in a very daunting industry, adding that MultiChoice has always at the forefront of technology and entertainment. They say that being on the same team as a "big league player" means having to constantly up your game.

"Working with MultiChoice has been a key driving factor in our growth as a company and our technical revolution, on both an infrastructure and skills level".

"MultiChoice's support and trust in our various concepts and initiatives has allowed us to deliver quality work, push creative boundaries and win a myriad of local and international awards".

Cathy Ferrera and Adi Leach also credit MultiChoice as a dynamic force in the South African TV industry, creating jobs, supporting and developing new talent behind and in front of the cameras.

Mentored to become a filmmaker
The Film Talent Incubator (FTI) programme graduate Wiseman Mabusela’s thriving career bares testament to this. The cameraman with a passion for telling stories about environmental issues registered his company, Bluorange Media, in 2008.

In any profession, there is always room for improvement, so Wiseman Mabusela joined the Film Talent Incubator programme in 2011.

He credits the program for giving him the skills he needed to operate as a filmmaker and the confidence to tell the stories he wanted to tell.

"For the first time I felt like I could do a film without being judged," says Wiseman Mabusela. He explains that being mentored by captains of industry in the program contributed to his growth as a filmmaker.

"One of the things I struggled with was being unsure of my proposal," he explains before crediting director Vincent Moloi for challenging him to concentrate on his strengths rather than his shortcomings.

Wiseman Mabusela says MultiChoice's contribution to the film industry "is huge". "What MultiChoice has done, other than starting Mzansi Magic as a platform for upcoming producers to tell our stories on TV, is empower a lot of young people," he says.

"A lot of the people who came out of the Incubator programme have a strong sense of independence. They want to be on their own and that means a sense of leadership is unleashed," says Wiseman Mabusela.

Positive impact 
Make-up artist Anne-Marie Bronkhost shares Wiseman Mabusela's sentiments when it comes to the positive impact that working with MultiChoice has had on her career.

"Working with MultiChoice is not a career, it's a dynamic lifestyle," says Anne-Marie Bronkhorst.

With a major in special effects make up design, Anne-Bronkhorst is currently working on productions such as Kwela on kykNET (DStv 144) and the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Awards.

"I am very privileged to work for MultiChoice as there are opportunities for growth within the ranks of the company".

"MultiChoice has helped me grow both socially, through the interactions I have had with people from different backgrounds, and professionally by giving me a chance to work on creative and exciting projects", says Anne-Marie Bronkhorst.

Simply the Bomb
The company behind the hugely successful telenovela-turned-soapie Isibaya, Bomb, has also enjoyed the support afforded by MultiChoice to production houses in South Africa.

A labour of love and a product of what executive producer Angus Gibson calls "a healthy, supportive partnership with MultiChoice", Isibaya has exceeded expectations with those behind the scenes admitting that it was an adventurous project.

Angus Gibson says that Isibaya was his first project working directly with MultiChoice, although Bomb had been involved in initiatives such as the Vuka Awards.

Angus Gibson believes that MultiChoice has contributed to healthy competition in the film industry, as well as making content available as more and more people engage with local content.

"We made Isibaya as partners. MultiChoice has been a supportive partner. Isibaya was a fresh, energising project and an opportunity to explore and experiment," says Angus Gibson.

Part of the exploring is harvesting new talent and casting director and producer Kutlwano Ditsele, who works with Angus Gibson, says it all comes down to instinct. 

He recalls the process of casting for Thandeka Zungu explaining that Nomzamo Mbatha's picture sold them on her being right for the role.

But it takes more than just a gut feeling to do the job and Kutlwano Ditsele's film career started with a scholarship to study in Los Angeles, although his love for film started way before then. 

When it came to getting the hands on experience he needed, Kutlwano Ditsele kicked off his career with a MultiChoice production, Jacob’s Cross, and has now found his way to being part of the crew behind Isibaya.

Kutlwano Ditsele credits MultiChoice for launching careers of his peers and, echoing Angus Gibson, says the company has managed to create a collaborative space. 

"It's never a 'no' but a 'how do we make this work?' ". Kutlwano Ditsele adds that he studied the vision of Mzansi Magic so closely that he managed to get a drama commissioned to air later in the year.

Sharing the executive producer title with Angus Gibson is Desiree Markgraaff, who says MultiChoice has offered an exciting new content choice for viewers and has created a space for competition which keeps everyone on their toes.

"The experience has been good and they have an amazing team on their side," says Desiree Markgraaff,  explaining her working relationship with MultiChoice. "It's rare to have such a good relationship on a long-running project".

Adze Ugah is part of the award-winning directing team for Isibaya and calls it "a labour of love for both cast and crew". "MultiChoice has given the film industry the momentum it needs to put out good productions".

"MultiChoice is the greatest thing anyone could do for the entertainment industry in Africa. No one body on the continent has done what [they] have done. It has opened up opportunities for many of us to exercise our craft. It's one of a kind," says Adze Ugah.