Conversations with Budding Film Maker – Lwazi Mvusi
Q: Tell us about yourself and upbringing?
A: I was born and raised in Durban and moved to Johannesburg to study film at AFDA. I then went on to do my Honours in Creative Writing at the University of the Witwatersrand and then my Master of Arts degree in Film at Wits.
I have mostly worked as a writer for television and I have made a short film with the NFVF’S Women in Film slate in 2013 which was a sci-fi called The State.
The film was showcased at the African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York. While working on this film I met my producers Carolyn Carew, Tsholo Mashile and Kamscilla Naidoo. Together, we started Free Women Films which produced my debut feature film Farewell Ella Bella.
Q: What influenced you to get into film?
A: My mom says that I was writing stories from the moment I learnt how to write in school. I loved creating characters who could do and say things that I couldn’t and the imaginary worlds that they existed in.
I got into playwriting while studying drama in high school and eventually by the end of high school I knew that writing and directing for the screen were the best fit for me. I’ve always been obsessed with movies and television even as a very young child.
I remember watching a movie for the first time in the cinema – The Lion King – and thinking it was the most magical thing I had ever seen. So, I would say that all of those hours spent in front of the television and watching movies on video tapes encouraged me to choose this path. And I was lucky that my parents supported me.
Q: What makes your work different from other film makers?
A: I enjoy telling female centred stories with film which don’t fall into the usual stereotypes of “women films” or “chick flicks”. It’s important to me to present women as they are – complicated, flawed, motivated and active in their own lives.
I also value making films that reflect the nature of human relationships and the tragedy and comedy of every day life. So, I would say my style of filmmaking focuses on interpersonal relationships and self-actualisation which can play out with any genre.
Q: What assistance did you get from GFC and how did you apply for the assistance?
A: Our production company applied for Marketing Finance from the GFC. A formal application was made through their website. Thereafter, we came in to pitch to the GFC where we outlined our plans for marketing our film and where we got great feedback and advice from the panel. On the basis of that pitch, we received our funding.
Q: How do you market and distribute your work?
A: Firstly, we engaged the services of a public relations company. They have worked to help us obtain interviews with press, radio and television media. Secondly, we have very active social media accounts which frequently post. We pay for boosting of these posts to help us reach the widest audience possible. We also constantly apply at the various film festivals to help create an awareness around our work.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced when starting out and how have you managed to overcome them?
A: The greatest challenge I’ve faced which most people in our industry face is rejection. There are many times where I was told that filmmaking wasn’t for me or where my applications for funding haven’t succeeded.
Through this I’ve learnt the importance of persistence. If you believe you are meant to do something, you have to fight to get it. The determination and ability to commit and follow through is what separates those who achieve their dreams to those who don’t.
Q: What’s your take on the South African film industry… Are there opportunities for you to export?
A: The local film industry is definitely growing. More South African films are in cinema this year than ever before and the high rate at which our films are selected for international festivals shows that what we make is good and is able to translate to a foreign audience.
Attending film distribution markets has shown me that there is a demand for quality South African films and that we as filmmakers have to push and engage with distribution markets both in Africa and worldwide.
Q: What’s the best business advice you’ve heard and would like to share?
A: As someone who studied the humanities, the best advice I ever got was to pursue what makes me happy. When you do something that you love, you will never stop working to better yourself and your skills and that work is what leads to success.
Q: How can people get hold of you
A: I’m on Instagram and Twitter as @lwazimvusi
Our film accounts are:
Facebook: Farewell Ella Bella
About the Gauteng Film Commission
The Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) develops, promotes and coordinates the film and television production industry in South Africa’s wealthiest province. An agency of the Gauteng Provincial Government, GFC is tasked with positioning the province as a world-class destination for film-making as well as attracting local and international investments in the film and television industry.
Visit www.gautengfilm.org.za to find out more.