Young, Gifted & Killing It: Kutlwano Ditsele
by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) This month we profile Kutlwano Ditsele (@thafilmaka), the founding partner and creative producer of Seriti Films. He is a born storyteller from Rustenburg who loves music as much as films.
Veli Ngubane: First things first: The Herd. I’m a fan; tell us more about how that project came about and your highlights?
Kutlwano Ditsele: Thank you. The Herd is the first project that I produced under my own company Seriti and, although it is my eighth show to be involved in, I have to say it is my favourite. It came about maybe four months after Seriti was launched; we had gone to pitch a few ideas at Mzansi Magic and we knew that we wanted to make a show about a young woman who steps into the shoes of her father and takes over a very patriarchal business. Needless to say, we went back and forth about 12 times over a period of four months, pitching different versions of it until (as it happens) our head writers, Lebo Mogashoa and Gwydion Beynon, found the crux of the story and we finally got commissioned. My highlight was sitting with the entire cast and crew on episode one and experiencing them seeing it for the first time. That night was magical.
VN: Where are you from and how has your background influenced your work?
KD: I was born in Rustenburg but have never lived there. My mother lived in Mafikeng and worked at Bop TV during that ’80s era. The romantic in me likes to believe that this is where my love for storytelling comes from? I have just always loved telling stories; as a youngster I collected VHS tapes where other kids collected toys. So, I would say I’m influenced by every movie I have ever watched.
VN: Okay, please explain what you actually do and how an average day looks for you?
KD: I’m a founding partner at Seriti Films, so my first role is that of business owner which is, of course, the hardest. I’m also a creative producer/show runner along with my partners, which in a nutshell means that the entire creative of a show runs by me. So, from the beginning. it will be from selecting which writers will write the show, then selecting directors, then co-creating the look, from selecting cameras, what colours our world will be, what the music will sound like, the casting etc. What I love most about Seriti is that I have solid partners who share the love of creating, so it’s an awesome collaborative process.
VN: Tell us more about Seriti Films?
KD: So Seriti Films is a production company that has three managing directors in myself, Thabang Moleya and Leanne Kumalo. We have a silent partner, Kundayi Munzara, who is key in us getting the business side in check. The business is divided in to three divisions, Commercials, Drama & Film and Entertainment. In the past year, the commercials and drama have had substantial growth with commercials for Brothers For Life, Ford, Vodacom, Wimpy to name a few and the drama with The Herd for Mzansi Magic and two more dramas (that I can’t mention yet) commissioned. Entertainment is still building and we hope by first quarter of 2019 it will be running.
VN: Why do you think the industry is struggling with transformation?
KD: People are just not willing to let go of what they know. I can’t speak for everyone but, certainly, from what I have seen there is a huge trust deficit between races. I’ve been in spaces where people are often not willing to just trust that a new black person is capable of doing the job that the white person has been doing for 20+ years. There are obviously many reasons and, in truth, this entire interview could be just on transformation.
VN: What advice do you have for young people wanting to break into the industry?
KD: You have to be resilient, the WORLD as a whole is a hard place to be and it does NOT owe you any favours. Once you understand that, be focused on what it is you want, be dedicated to your craft; if you want to be a writer, then write a page every single day, read a script, read a book, especially in the moments when you don’t have work and are trying to break in. Know that the miraculous phone call you are waiting for that is going to get you off your sofa is not coming. You are NOT going to win the lotto. You have to get up every single day and work towards YOUR dream in as many small ways that you possibly can.
VN: What community initiatives and mentorship programmes do you have and how can young people work with you?
KD: With all of our productions, both commercials and long form, we take on interns in different departments and, when those interns show promise, they are often employed and put on a salary. We have out of those internships come out with a director, writer and production coordinator. If they email their CVs to sithembile at seriti dot tv,then we will do our best to respond to all.
VN: Where and when do you have your best ideas?
KD: Strangely, when I’m in transit, be it in my car, on a train or plane. Somehow my mind becomes creative in those moments. Then when I get home late [at] night, it crystallises into a clear thought. But the genesis is always in transit.
VN: What have you learnt about yourself as a result of running a business?
KD: “Put a dog in a corner and you will find out what kind of dog it is.” That saying is my journey. I really didn’t know what kind of business man I would be until I did it. It has shown me leadership (which I always had) in a way I never knew I could lead. It is the most-challenging journey I have ever been on but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
VN: Tell us something about yourselves not generally known.
KD: If I wasn’t in film, I would probably be involved in the music business somehow. Not as an artist but like music creative director. I LOVE MUSIC as much as I love film.
VN: What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
KD: We are on production for a new action drama for Mzansi Magic and in development for my first film that I will be directing. Thabang is also in development for two feature films, Ernest Nkosi is also developing a film and, of course, our commercials division is also quite busy waiting for that Avatar brief, though. 😉
VN: Please would you supply two or three pieces of work you have been involved in?
Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) entered the world of advertising with a passion after completing his BSocSci (law, politics and economics) at UCT and a post-graduate marketing diploma at Red & Yellow, where he’s currently advisory board chairman. He also sits on the IAB’s Transformation & Education Council, is a DMA board member and has judged Loeries, Apex and AdFocus. He is the Joburg MD and founding partner of the largest black-owned and -managed full-service agencies in the country, AVATAR. He is also co-founder of M&N Brands, which is building an African network of agencies to rival the global giants. In his monthly column “Young, Gifted & Killing It”, he profiles award-winning, kick-ass black creative talent in South Africa.
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