Filmmaking husband and wife duo, Lawrence and Afentse ‘Fenny’ Lekolwane have reached a 20-year milestone as trailblazers in the local film industry.
Through their film and television production company, Botswood, the pair have successfully placed themselves amongst the leading lights on Botswana’s small screen.
Over the years, the couple have put together memorable, game-changing productions such as ‘Mpho le Mphonyana’, ‘Botshelo Jo’ and ‘Beauty’.
Although much has changed since 2003, when the Lekolwanes boldly took their first steps into what was still a very raw industry at the time, they admit Botswana still lags behind when it comes to telling our own stories.
With this firmly in mind, Botswood is repositioning itself to focus on historic and cultural documentaries styles of storytelling.
During a recent tour of their impressive, well-equipped Botswood studios, which the couple built from scratch at Lekolwane Farms in Rasesa, Fenny was in nostalgic mood as she reflected on two eventful decades in the industry.
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“When we started, we didn’t have any local companies and productions to benchmark from. As a result, we relied on our South African counterparts, not only for content but for training as well,” she explained.
Despite this, through their debut production ‘Flat 101’, which featured the legendary Mike Klinck, Botswood became the first local company to sell a production to South Africa’s M-Net.
Their history-making ways continued with ‘Beauty’, a 13-episode drama the likes of which had never been seen in Botswana before – at least not from a homegrown enterprise.
Botswood would go on to sell scores of productions to BTV in the following years.
Fenny attributes their success to a simple but important ethos: being mindful of the demands of their target audience.
“At that time, our research found that sit-coms were top of the list in terms of Batswana’s preferences, which is why we went with ‘Beauty’ and the like.”
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20 years later, Botswood is now evolving to create content that targets international audiences – the start of a new chapter brimming with possibility.
“Considering that the era of digitization and streaming is upon us, there has never been a better time than now for Batswana to dream big in terms of targeting international markets with their productions.”
She went on to advise local productions to look toward cultural and historic representations of who we are as a people, a market which remains largely untapped.
“We have landscapes, wildlife and natural resources which are undocumented and it is upon us creatives to sell our truth about who we are as a people,” she challenged.
As the final ingredient to successfully commercializing the film industry, Fenny stressed the need for collaboration.
“We need to work with each other but most importantly leverage from those who are already ahead of us. We need them to pull us up so that one day we can stand on our own.”