Watching television is a good way to spend time, especially for African parents who dream of their children becoming doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers, among other highly esteemed careers.
But for some, watching TV is also for something more. Growing up in the very households in which cartoons, soapies, as well as action movies aired, Botswana-based Otsile Valentine Keobokile and Priscillar Thapi Matara, have since a young age taken an interest in TV and film production.
In 2016, Keobokile’s love for storytelling saw her apply for government funding which enabled her to start a film and television company, making her one of the handfull of local women who have pursued this career to date.
“I sacrificed a lot in order to make sure that my company is where it is right now, for example before applying for funding, I used most of my salary for company administration and even funded my first production,” said Keobokile, director and producer of Walker Productions.
Since its inception, her company has produced diverse programs. Among them, Check Up- a health magazine, and The Chair- a production that talked to those in power. These have since aired on the local television station.
Keobokile was also the assistant producer of a production called Snakes of Botswana, and Bahai Blog Studio Sessions, a collaboration with a US-based producer.
“With the studio sessions we recorded in Johannesburg, Durban and Swaziland before COVID-19 halted us, we are still to record in Botswana, Namibia and then go to West African countries,” she said.
COVID-19 is not the first battle Keobokile has had to fight in order to succeed in the industry. For starters, the industry is male-dominated, making it difficult for female producers to penetrate.
“Most men that I wanted to work with as a producer refused because they felt that I was not experienced enough. I stood my ground though, and did not tire, I made sure I came up with sellable ideas and delivered,” she said.
“I look at what is missing and try fill in the blanks, I also try to do original history stories that most people can relate to or would like to know more about,” she said.
To gain an audience within the country and outside, in a world saturated by Korean dramas, Chinese movies, and other Nollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood productions, Priscillar Thapi Matara, founder of Blue Rhino Productions, said she struggled at first, but also soon realized that Botswana does not need to imitate others.
“We can be our own kind of special. My scripting reflects my culture. I find that my characters become what I have learnt and lived,” she said.
In 2019, Matara directed and produced a film called MIRAGES for DStv’s Zambezi Magic channel. DStv is a Sub-Saharan African direct broadcast satellite service owned by MultiChoice.
In her view, the local film industry has grown incredibly over the years. “I think we are finally aware that there is space for everyone. Stories don’t finish. There are new and better ways of telling old stories as well,” she said.
Since technological advancements have made networking easier, to achieve her goals, she believes the smart thing to do is to link up with other producers and directors across the globe, explore opportunities to collaborate, and attend online classes, among others. Enditem