Let creatives market themselves more

Last week, the country hosted its first ever European Film Festival. The festival was held both in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe. The opening of the event was graced by Black Panther actress Connie Chiume who many Malawians may also remember for her role as Mamokete Khuse in the South Africa’s hit series Rhythm City on Etv. Our Arts Editor EDITH GONDWE caught up with the veteran actress to pick her brains on a number of issues surrounding the development of the film industry in Africa.

Chiume: It’s very difficult to produce good quality work without money

Q

: You have been in the film industry for a long time. How do you rate the development in which the film industry is growing?

A

: It is such a pity that we have such wonderful stories to tell, we have got experience, we have talent but I don’t think the rate at which we are growing is as good as I would like it to be. I think the reason for that is lack of support from the corporate world and even from our own governments. There is some kind of growth. There is eagerness. There is determination. There is passion. There are stories. B but all we lack is just the support. So, it’s not growing at the rate that it is supposed to.

Q

: You have had the rare opportunity of starring in the movie Black Panther. What was your take-home lesson?

A

: My take home lessons on the Black Panther experience is that budget is everything in our industry. It’s very difficult to produce good quality work without money. You have to pay for everything, you have to pay for the story, your actors, technicians, you have to sell your product and you have to pay your distributor. All of that so in Hollywood what I realised is that they really do go out to budget for movies, they are not afraid to put money into it and trust the people that they have hired to do the movie from the people in front of the camera to those behind the scenes, they really put their money there and they have confidence that their money will come back.

But here on our continent, its getting there, but not as much as we would like. I know in South Africa the government has a number of agencies and the film commissions for each and every province, we have the Department of Arts and Culture, Department of Trade and Industry. We have Department of Film and Video Foundation. Those are some of the agencies that are supporting the film industry. And also maybe we should look at the model of how Nollywood is also doing. They also have their market, and their film industry is growing in leaps and bounds.

Q: How has your life changed since Black Panther?

A

: Yes, people recognise you. Well, they have recognised me from the previous works that I have done but now its even better. I have been in the industry for 42 years now, and most of my work has been South African work. Of course I have done a number of international films which were shot here in South Africa. But I don’t think Black Panther has done much difference for me except for being invited to events, festivals and stuff like that. But as far as my profession is concerned I have done some TV stuff, after Black Panther. I have also done a Netflix movie which is going to be released soon called Queen Sono. I have done a few movies at home but you know I think maybe I am also to blame for it because you know sometimes when you reach where I am you are supposed to have a manager. I do have an agent but no manager. One is supposed to have a manager and a publicist, someone who is just working on your brand. So, maybe it’s something I have to seriously look at to have someone work with my brand to make it grow better than what it has grown after Black Panther.

Q

: Malawians fell in love with your character Mamokete on Rhythm City which sadly got killed. When do we get to see you again on television?

A

: Oh, unfortunately I don’t know which TV series are sold to other countries in Africa, but here at home people see me on TV. That was not the last thing I did before Black Panther. I do act on several TV drama and series. So, hopefully Malawians will see more of me soon. 

Q

: Have you sampled any of the local films? What is your view of our work so far?

A

: I have seen all of the movies screened at the European Film Festival and I must say the talent is so amazing. The passion from the few people that I saw there who showcased their work and also addressed the film festival, I can see the passion of those filmmakers, those creatives actors they need support and I am saying big up to them to work under such difficult situations for producing such god work. I said to them I am going to be a messenger and see how in South Africa we can start collaborations between Malawian filmmakers and South African film makers. And maybe not just that but with the rest of the continent.

Q

: Any final thoughts?

A

: I encourage creatives not to give up. God has given us this talent to share our stories to help the economy of our countries through our talents, so whatever talents you have just go for it for we live in a cyber world now. We all have cellphones. It’s all in our hands now. We all can Google, connect with others, we all can sell our stuff, put our things on YouTube. We all can use social media positively, to promote ourselves, to market our jobs, to market our talents and to market our brands. That is all I can say for now and thank you very much for having me in Malawi.

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