One of the reasons I wanted to be part of the company I now run is because I wanted to be in control of the content we produced, I wanted to reflect an Africa, a Zambia as we lived it, not as it was seen through the eyes of donors or the west. In short I wanted to tell Our stories.

My enthusiasm was curbed when my partners pointed out the realities of our situation, before we could produce our own content we needed to do client work. We had to produce for other people and get paid for it.

I reluctantly agreed to this – I’m a dreamer, but not stupid, how could I produce content with no money? But as I’ve been doing this for over a year now my same frustrations prevail. The people who pay for content to be produced are not usually natives of the county or even integrated enough to know the ins and out of the country. For confidentiality reasons (and can’t get contracts cancelled), I’ll avoid elaborating!

It frustrates me because by now we should be in control of how we want the world to view us. But we also want to address our realities. We’re not perfect, far from it. In Zambia we have a lot of challenges, stuff that we talk about in private or in bars, but not really in public fora, but pretending they don’t exist isn’t going to make them go away.

I knew coming back I didn’t want to leave the creative edge I was used to working with, and the pride of producing something that looked amazing and made you feel so good about it – I’ve said it before, I want to be a defender of good design and high quality products. That’s what I wanted for our brand too. But if your clients continue to think that because we’re a ‘developing’ nation creativity is irrelevant, it becomes very frustrating. We’re expected to stay in a creative black hole from the 80s while the world moves on.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is like that. But in my experience working with development agencies, they want to package development in a boring predictable way, but also follow the principles of building a successful brand (it really is ironic, but amusing in a weird way, when it’s not frustrating you).

People think I over-react when I see a good thing changed into something flat and uninteresting, because after all, it’s what the client wants. But it’s hard to let go of your personal passion to put a business head that accepts anything because you want to get paid.

I’m hoping 2013 will usher in a new chapter in our business and my life. One must never stop dreaming.

But then the next challenge comes in, where is the local talent to produce the content?

I’m sure a lot of people will be upset with me for saying this, but we just worked on a drama series that saw us in production for about 80 days. I can’t count on one hand how many people had to be replaced due to inefficiency, laziness and just generally being uncommitted.

I’m not sure if it’s because no one has really taken our TV and film industry seriously, so they can’t actually see a career in it or because there is still a misunderstanding about the difference between a job and a career.

A friend of mine put it down to being uncommitted but I don’t know if that’s it. Even as we asked the crew what their issues were it was just not clear. They all insisted this was something that they wanted to do but the proof was definitely in the pudding.

Of the 30 odd crew, there was probably about five people I could say I would work with again – oh wait, that’s all the foreign crew then! Ok maybe that’s a bit harsh, they were just as many Zambians I would consider working with again. And maybe we shouldn’t have given so many young people this opportunity, but worked only with seasoned crew.

But honestly, it worries me what is going on with us Zambians in Zambia, our work ethic, commitment to delivering a great product, it’s just not there. I don’t actually know what we’re going to do, how we’re ever going to develop this nation when we want to continue to operate at a snails pace, unconcerned about the outcome of our work, and our inability to take initiative and just lead. And worse still, our continued acceptance of mediocrity.

Anyway, I could go on about this but really I do need to get some work done.

Advertisements