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Producing TV gold

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Producing TV gold
MASTER OF HIS TRADE: Ngwenya

The colourful producer revolutionising local TV

Samuel Ngwenya is an expert in his field.

The multi-talented 44-year-old Film Director is one of the country’s top Producers.

As part of the original crew members to launch Btv, Ngwenya enjoyed a ten-year stint with the national broadcaster before leaving in 2009 to pursue a career in Film Production.

He is the proud Producer behind the exceedingly popular television drama, ‘Colours’, which first hit local screens last year.

Commissioned by Btv and aired every Wednesday, the 26-episode show is making waves across the country, with many Batswana impressed by the content, visual quality and the production.

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo caught-up with the Francistown-born Ngwenya to discuss his ground-breaking show as well as his love for the Arts.

Q. You were one of the original crew members when Btv launched in 1999. What was it like starting from scratch?

A. It was hard because we were inexperienced, young and amateurs. Most of us were under the age of 19 and we were full of energy.

It was just a bunch of kids who wanted to explore and experiment in television.

I was employed as an engineer but when I went for training in Mafikeng, South Africa I just loved the art side of TV.

I decided to become a Camera Person and our trainers were impressed.

I became a Camera Person at Btv for eight years but at the same time I was a Producer and a Lighting Director.

I also presented Radio Jazz Music show on RB2.

Q. You left TV in 2009, what was the reason?

A. I joined RB2 after as the Production Manager for a year.

Growing up I had always been fascinated by radio and I love music.

Radio is not as hectic as TV! I left Radio after a year for personal growth.

I wanted to start something because I had my own ideas.

I have always wanted to produce a drama; Colours was a dream come true.

Q. When did you discover your talent for arts?

A. I believe I was good artistically and academically.

I pursued a BSc Degree majoring in Physics and Chemistry from the University of Botswana, yet I had this inkling for the arts from a very young age.

The problem is that I am an introvert so it took a while for me to indulge in my artistic nature!

Q. What are some of your most memorable moments at Btv?

A. I produced a show called ‘Di A Cha’ hosted by Martin Nkwe and Greg Losibe with Tshepo Maphanyane also involved as a field reporter.

It was a great achievement. Having three roles was also one of my highlights because it helped me to grow career-wise.

I came up with the concept of Morning Show, wrote it down and we produced it.

I travelled the world when I was a cameraman – I also travelled with the President.

One thing I appreciate is that the government trained me and I am perfect today in this industry because of that.

Q. Tell us about your exciting new TV drama, Colours?

A. Colours addresses social and personal issues that we face as people on a daily-basis.

It is set on a fictitious company Cereb44, where a young man undergoes a journey of self-discovery.

He must overcome and deal with his family problems, his love life at work and office politics.

Q. How long did it take to produce?

A. Colours was conceptualized in July 2016 when Btv put out a request to local producers for production of programs on their behalf.

We ended post-production around May 2018.

It’s been a beautiful journey of self-discovery for all of us who have been involved with Colours.

Q. What challenges did you face in production?

A. Any producer will tell you that the biggest challenge in a production is people management.

People come in varied personalities and mind sets.

Your duty as a manager is to build a team, create an environment conducive for teamwork.

I must say the Colours team sacrificed a lot to make the programme the huge success that it is.

I will be forever grateful to them.

Q. What inspired Colours?

A. I have always wanted to have a drama produced with my name on it.

Besides, Botswana has not had many dramas produced before, so I knew that this shortage of dramas on our TV screens needed to be filled – I drew my inspiration from there.

Q. What do you look for in a script?

A. A good, unique story, strong plot, a bit of humour, good character development and turning points.

As a Director or Producer, you need to observe life, people’s interactions and think.

Usually the first idea that comes to your mind is not the best, it can be something that has been done before.

Think harder so that you come up with something unique.

Everyone has a story to tell but you need a skill to make it the best and attractive.

I look at a story that relates well with my origins, focus on things that happen around us in Botswana.

Q. What makes a good Producer?

A. A good Producer is someone who doesn’t perform all the behind the scenes on a production.

It’s someone who delegates and also forms partnership.

I am glad for the partnership that I have developed with Mr B, the Colours Director.

Without him, Colours would not be what it is right now.

We created Colours together.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being a Producer?

A. The final product, when it all comes together.

The results of what started out as an idea made of one or two lines.

Q. How easy or challenging is your role?

A. It’s not easy because it involves a lot of people management, project management, resource management and vision (story) management.

Q. There was a point when DSTV complained of a lack of Botswana content. What makes it difficult to meet the required standard?

A. What we lack most in Botswana is experience.

We have loads of talent, but we don’t have the requisite experience to produce a world class TV drama.

We need to make more and more films and compete amongst ourselves, and then quality will improve.

Q. What needs to be done to improve the film industry?

A. Training, more and more training.

We also need broadcasters to commission more programs so that we get the experience needed.

Q. What kind of support did you get from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC)?

A. MYSC held a Film and Television Festival, which I was honoured to have been invited to as a panelist.

It was a great opportunity for me and other producers to share ideas and compare notes.

This festival is a noble idea and it also shows that people appreciate the contribution one is making as a producer.

Colours was screened at the festival, as a way of showing the quality.

Q. You are done with Season 1, any plans for a second Season?

A. Season 2’s coming depends on my client, Btv.

For now I am hopeful that with the level of quality we achieved, it will be relicenced.

We have proved that a quality production can be produced in the country and we can only grow from there.

Some international broadcasters are interested in licencing it.

In that regard it shows what we are doing here is also recognised internationally.

We are doing very well and there has been some serious interest in Colours.

Q. Are you working on any other productions?

A. I am working on another drama, which I think will see the light of day in about seven months time.

We need a sponsor.

It is one of the best stories I have ever come up with.

Initially it was two story ideas and I merged them.

Q. Sounds interesting! So, who is your inspiration?

A. I am inspired by many people. Firstly my mother, who raised me and my four other siblings single-handedly.

Former Btv producer, Bapasi Mphusu is also my inspiration.

He is a man, who always saw merit in his subordinates.

Lastly, Mr B, the Colours Director is also my inspiration.

He is a humble and hard-working man.

Q. What advice can you give to aspiring Film Producers?

A. As a film-maker, try as much as possible to create content.

That way you learn. Also do research and make maximum use of the Internet.

There is a large resource on information on the net to improve your craft.

The problem with arts is people think it is easy and anyone can do it.

It is something that goes deeper than that!

In music there is the best song, average and a terrible one but technically they are all songs.

Try your best and don’t take short cuts.

Q. And finally, Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. I have lost a friend so I will be attending the funeral.

After the funeral I will be back home – weekends are for family!

The other thing I like is to watch TV because it helps to improve my production.