TO be young, gifted and black, Oh what a lovely precious dream! This lyric is part of a 60s civil rights song by Nina Simone as covered by soul music legend Donny Hathaway.
A M KUDITA
I love this song and when I have the rare chance to sit down with talented erudite young artists, I can’t help feeling hopeful about this country’s future. Last week I had a long chat with United States-based Zimbabwean actress Danai Gurira. This week it’s local boy Trevor Ncube.
You may know his namesake Trevor Ncube who is this paper’s holding company owner, the media mogul right? Trevor or Trey as he is known in showbiz circles, is an articulate young Zimbabwean film school graduate who majored in motion picture in cinematography at the famous South African film training mecca AFDA.
The young filmmaker is producer of Bulawayo Swagg, a year-old television show that focusses on the jet set in Bulawayo that is gradually making inroads into the Zimbabwean showbiz arena. The show has been showing on Dandaro TV, an online United Kingdom-based channel that introduced new showbiz fly girl Mbo Mahocs and Rizla to national and international audiences.
His cohorts on the Bulawayo Swagg show are rising video maker Andy Cutta and hip-hop entrepreneur Naboth “Rizla” Rimayi. For the uninitiated, AFDA is the same school that trained Adze Ugah who is the director of beloved South African soap operas including the Zone 14 soccer drama with their classic signature Stimela-penned Zwakala tune, Society and Jacob’s Cross.
Trey was also at that school with Mahlatse Mofatse who stars in Isidingo as Sechaba and others such as Thomas Gumede now pushing their productions as young gifted black filmmakers.
“You need to understand that the South African film industry is very white dominated. Black filmmakers have to forge their own destiny and it’s tough.” Southern Eye sat down with Trevor Ncube to understand his journey this far.”
On his beginnings in film
“I am a creative person by nature. My parents were not initially chuffed with the idea of me doing film. I was studying architecture at the time at the Bulawayo Polytechnic, but I took the initiative and applied and said to parents: ‘I have applied and I have been accepted, can you assist me?’ This was around 2004 and you will remember that film was not a priority for many people because of the economic hardship. All I had paid was my fees.
I remember arriving in South Africa with about R50 in my pocket. But I was all about finding a place where I could find my dream and so I enrolled in the bachelor’s degree in motion picture media. Initially my idea was I wanted to be an actor, but I realised that actors ultimately had no real power or leverage in terms of production. They are the pawns. So I majored in cinematography, editing, special effects and scriptwriting. The reason behind that was that I wanted to understand the technical side of film producing so that when I then produced, I would know exactly what I was doing.”
At the film school
Just ten years after South Africa’s independence, AFDA was a very “white” institution at the time, but the young man was determined to make it. “The only black people we had at AFDA in terms of staff at the time were the people who cleaned the toilets and in terms of administrators, there was only one black. So everything was geared towards that and you were competing against white people. So here I was a black student with passion, but no resources. But it made me a better filmmaker because you learn to do more with less. I had R50 when I arrived. The hustle there is the piece job etc. I had to survive on people’s good will.
As for food, fortunately on one side my parents would chip in and thank God for my mother who then said ‘I will help you out here and there, but ultimately you have to fend for yourself’. It was hard, but that’s how you know that this is your passion if you are willing to do it for free while conceptualising your films. The school was basically a boot camp for film,” Trey reminisces. “Filmmakers are possibly the most powerful people in the world. Films have changed people, have changed nations.” In year one, you learn how to compose film, how to use colours eg using desaturated colours to invoke certain moods. We learnt many things like using specific musical textures to portray emotions and move the story along. Subliminally, knowingly and unknowingly, these things are happening as you watch movies and these things we learnt at school. But in South Africa what matters is your portfolio not your degree.”
Coming back home
“When I finished at AFDA I felt, let me go back to Zimbabwe. When I landed in Zimbabwe this whole system of “burning money” was strange to me and this was in 2008. My game plan was I was going to go back to Zimbabwe and set up my own production. When I arrived I found that no one was really interested in film and a lot of production companies were surviving on NGOs.
Leeroy Gopal (famous Zimbabwe actor of Yellow Card and winner of best actor award at the South African Film and Television Awards in 2013 was my senior at AFDA. I was frustrated to see this. I was thinking that if I can’t create content that people can buy then what am I going to do? There was a disconnect between the corporate world and the arts in Zimbabwe. Even the festivals had grown smaller. I saw that there was been structured way for developing young filmmakers. So we started this project with my partner Naboth. With Naboth it was a case of the world being a small place. He was working on the grapevine set and there was all this content and we said why don’t we package this material?”
Moving to Harare?
“A lot of people in Harare were saying forget Bulawayo, but for me this was just not an option. I felt a need and a desire to build the industry in Bulawayo. I knew that if I moved to Harare I would not come back. So initially we did DGTV and printed it on disc and started handing it around to people in Victoria Falls and Harare and Bulawayo.”
Role of the national broadcaster in your view ?
“ZBC needs to take into account that they have the responsibility to the country and to give a platform to people such as myself. SABC is the backbone of the economy not just the entertainment industry in South Africa. Their national broadcaster caters for 44 million South Africans. The whole idea is that MTN will pay for a prime time show.
There is a prime time show on which they will flight their adverts which target the wider population with access to television of about 22 million. So SABC pays money to producers like me to produce quality programming. They have a commissioning editor who works with independent producers who in turn create employment for film graduates. You need to understand that 90% of productions are outsourced.
This is how SABC works: It sends out briefs for television shows they want to see produced as like tenders for producers to come forward and submit their pitches showcasing their treatments. This is all based on their target audiences taking into account demographic data. That’s why you see that SABC 1, 2 and 3 have different target audiences and the programming reflects that. These can be on paper or pilot programmes for consideration by the national broadcaster.”
Trey Ncube film portfolio :
- Producer of DGVTV lifestyle variety show.
- Producer of Current a lifestyle variety magazine online TV show BYO Swagg presented by Mbo Mahocs and Naboth Rizla. BYO Swagg showcases the leading events, people as well as the hottest places in Bulawayo.
- Currently in preproduction with two more pilot TV shows the first one being a Zimbabwean lifestyle magazine TV show that profiles leading and upcoming fashion designers, hair and clothing stylists aimed at promoting and stimulating the growth of the local fashion and design industry by targeting the leading and upcoming players in the industry and putting them on local and international television and online platforms that will give them exposure as well as access to markets they otherwise would not have reached.
- Second pilot is a food magazine variety show showcasing Zimbabwean cuisine as well as the leading restaurants and eateries that serve it. So with the above-mentioned shows, we will be having auditions for male and female TV presenters for the respective shows.
Trey Ncube executive producer of his production Van Glorious Films, represents one of our country’s gifted visionary young people who are definitely going places. His productions should be on national television and he should be paid for the opportunity. There is no valid argument against such a proposition to my mind.