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I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly organised person. I know I’m process driven, because I think order helps the balance of getting stuff done, but in the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the role organization plays in doing something successfully.

ruff kaida performing at ZMAs

In February we (as in Media 365) co-produced yet another good Zambian Music Awards (I’m anxious for it to go online to share the link with all that missed it and embrace the talent of our local artists), approximately a month later the ZNBC Born and Bred Music Video Awards happened. There was a lot of talk, both on social media, and in ‘real life’ comparing the two shows. For the record I think Born and Bred really stepped up their game this year, and it wasn’t such a bad show.

And for all the people commenting negatively about it, the fact of the matter is you watched the entire show, so if we had people ratings, the show would still have been a ratings success!

I do think it’s important that we’re constantly learning and improving and maybe that’s why I’m not so ready to bash ZNBC for Born and Bred. I don’t think they really took into consideration the points raised at their stakeholders meeting in 2012, I do think they did a better job at acknowledging that if the ZMAs could do it, there was no reason why BnB couldn’t be better. And that needs to be applauded. I’m yet to understand why people in Zambia (and yes I’m generalising because it’s more of the norm than I care for) are so full of hate and malice. So quick to criticise and cut people down. I hope this year being 50 years of independence we’re learn to let go of our own issues (because the issues are with the person hating and fixating on the negative) and learn to embrace and support each other – it can be done, while there was some very quiet corners regarding Love Games and Freddy (repping M365 of course) winning an AMVCA (that’s for another blog), there was also overwhelming support from Zambians across the country and indeed the world. We can support each other, but there is still way too much hateful vibes from ourselves – what’s up with that?

Love Games wins at AMVCA

Anyhoo back to the matter at hand, when I watched the 3+hour Born and Bred Award show (it was unnecessary to be that long), their issues were easily fixed and somewhat minor, although they made all the difference to the show and the viewers experience (especially the at home viewers).

I can’t underscore the importance and need for planning and having the resources to enable you to get going with stuff. ZMA planning started months ago – and even that was too late. Realistically I think to put on a really amazing show you should start planning at least 6 months in advance. You have to remember that first and foremost it’s a show. And there is so much that goes into a show – Costumes – Cleo Ice Queen, Salma, they all had outfits made specifically for their performances.

Cleo Ice Queen channeling her inner Beyonce

Salma remixing old classic Mate

The choreography, the actual performance – Roberto had a pianist and violinist perform the musical arrangement for Good Woman (and it was originally supposed to be a string quartet – all female – yeah, hard one to find in Zambia, especially with only two weeks to the show! lol).

roberto

And stage design and lighting design? All those elements can’t be rushed. And ZMAs didn’t even have those six months but still pulled off a pretty decent show.

Then it’s about rehearsals. I think the artists at the ZMAs pretty much hated us for their constant rehearsals – the last two days they spent entirely at the venue rehearshing and rehearsing to get everything right. And I’ll give them credit because it would have been easy to be lazy about it and leave, but they committed to the rehearsals. And they received and welcomed feedback, which showed in their final performances.

The rehearsals were important for a number of reasons. The artists were performing live so they needed to rehearse to get that right – especially important for the singers. They needed to know their marks – the cameras needed to know their marks. I laughed the other day when we had some talent in the office who complained we ruined TV for them when I explained that rarely is anything spontaneous because camera, sound, lighting, producers all needed to know what the person in front of the camera was going to do at every moment to ensure it worked technically.

You’ve seen previous shows on TV (ehem ZNBC) where the camera didn’t follow an artist because the camera team didn’t know the artist was going to move off that mark – probably because they didn’t rehearse before hand. Each performance, each guest presenter, everything was timed. I’m not sure how the guest presenters on the BnBs managed to go so off script so often but I don’t see why that should have happened… perhaps it was the selection of presenters… I don’t know. There just seemed to have been a lot of issues due to timing and control of that time (I won’t speak to the non-live performances, think we all have a problem with that – though ZNBC said their audience for the show – the kids (who couldn’t afford to attend the show even if they wanted to) didn’t have a problem with lip syncing… alrighty then). I think if they could have got all their marks on their running order, we would have seen a notable difference just from that…

Generally this issue of time and allocation of it seems to be a common problem in Zambia. I recently started going for driving lessons – I figured with a bit of downtime on my hands I really ought to become compliant with the laws of the country. It is easy to drive around without a license but not only is it illegal, it’s also nerve wrecking to be dodging the police! I was shocked to find that you can rock up any time you feel like it and wait for an available instructor. For some of us who actually have time sensitive lives, this way of operating is really frustrating.

Finally I asked the owner of the driving school – who interestingly enough is quite hands on with how it’s run – why they simply didn’t allocate time slots to each student. She seemed nervous, but the way I see it, we (Zambians) need to start respecting time, there are only so many hours in the day. If we commit to something, let it be in an organised fashion. If I book my driving lessons for 10-11am then I need to be there during that time or I lose my slot, and therefore my money. Would we not follow that procedure? And for us more controlling people, we’d prefer services like that, because I can still plan my day around it. Right now, my driving lessons might only be for an hour, but I could be out of the office for over 2 hours as I wait for an available instructor or car. Doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same thing with the driving test. All the driving schools rock up at the same time and convince the examiner to let their school go first. But surely again, each school can be given an allocated time and limit? It’s just more structured, and more organised.

Somehow it seems we just like to live in chaos for no reason… oh but then again, it’s in chaos that other businesses thrive I guess…

Wish me luck as I take my driving test next Tuesday! I so need to pass… I don’t do well with failure…

I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Maliposa last night. I was honoured that Mingeli Palata the creator of the movie invited us to watch. The creative industry in Zambia is small and competitive, but not always healthy competition and good sportsmanship (for lack of a better term).

I have never worked with Mingeli per se but we’ve interacted quite a bit and share a passion for production and the industry in Zambia. Mingeli first told me about Maliposa a few months ago, and even sent me a copy for my opinion. At the time, I was going through my own reflection process – was I too critical of everything? Shouldn’t we be focussed on the fact that people are trying and not berate them for standards (or lack of)? After all, look at the Nigerian film and TV industry – it started a mess, and there still are programmes that are a mess, but it’s also produced really good productions too. And I was starting to believe that the point is to start, regardless.

My feedback at the time was actually it was alright. It was still better than what was currently on our screens and the story was relevant and timely. Maliposa, funded by Ministry of Gender and Community Development, deals with the all too pervasive issue of sexual assault and gender inequity. And it was shot with this blue filter that symbolised the sadness of the issue. But Mingeli was not happy. I understood that too because as a creator, you want to see your vision, as you imagined regardless of what people said. (It’s like how I feel about Love Games season 1 – but I didn’t have the luxury of budget to reshoot it). There were some technical challenges, and Mingeli went back to the drawing board and reshoot the entire thing. And I admire him for sticking to his principles and values regardless of the cost.

So yesterday watching it, was like watching the film for the first time. I do applaud Mingeli and Gardner Media for doing that film because it’s not easy. I’m not a technical person – in terms of camera styles, angles, lighting etc so I won’t speak to that. But from what I do know, the hardest part of doing a film that is funded, and is there to convey a specific message is getting the message right.

You can be excused for thinking that it’s easy to write a script with a message. But the reality is it’s not. There is an art to messaging, and not to toot our own horn (though why not?) but that is something we’re really good at, and it helps that we’ve been doing this for a long time.

Also because I am such a ‘girl power’ fanatic, I was disappointed with the script, and more so when I found out it was written by a woman. However, the only caveat to this statement is that in their defence, they created a 2 hour movie from a 13 part series for TV, so there could be things in the TV series that will strengthen the content. I wonder how many real life stories they draw from, because it’s one thing to read the stats or to read transcripts from court cases or whatever fact based research was done, without talking to the real life people behind the stats, or having gone through the experience yourself, there is a level of authenticity that is missing.

However, I do think a good majority of people will nonetheless enjoy this production – even after the premiere last night, it seemed a success and the Ministry very happy – a happy client is always a good thing! And I do see the show traveling, even outside of Zambia, but as a tv show and nothing more. Great for Gardner Media, not so great for the Ministry and its donors who were trying to address an issue.
Content is an issue for us, us as in creators in Zambia. We’re getting the technical right but when you look at what we’re producing, it’s content that is letting us down. This morning I watched a music video that again, technically looked good (remember I’m not an expert, I’m sure if I showed it to one of my more experienced film/tv/video makers they would pinpoint lighting errors and all sorts!) but for me where it let me down – like so many other good videos before it – was the content and lack of a concept (if there was one, it just wasn’t clear).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think one person has to be good at everything – that’s why we can rely on partnerships, to strengthen where one is weak. I think it’s great we’re getting our industry together and we’re definitely putting out better things than in the past, but let’s still be open and honest about the challenges. This will help us all improve.

I hope you’ll all watch Maliposa, because supporting our own, also helps grow the industry – we need to be hungry for our own content to grow it to the standards we want it to be. And it will happen, I believe it. I really hope I won’t get mistaken for being a hater – too often when we criticize people think it comes from a place of hate, but really I see too many people giving false feedback meaning no one can learn and improve. I just don’t want to be that person – I do want to give honest feedback, but still encourage people to keep doing them – we’re not at the stage where any production (TV/Film/Video) is faultless yet. Just keeping it one hundred.

I seem to spend an unhealthy amount of time complaining about the inefficiencies, lack of services, lack of work ethics, and all sorts related to my stay in Zambia. Today I’ve decided to write about some positive experiences – so you know it’s not all bad!

We’re into the 22nd day of shooting Love Games season 2 (only 24 days more to go!) and I’m so excited with how the shoot is going. It looks so good! We also have some new cast that are amazing, and some celeb appearances that I’m also excited about. I would say who now but it might be announced in a leading local paper so I can’t say anything until that deal is concluded (or not). But trust me when I say season 1 has nothing on season 2 – this is the bomb for sure and will really make us proud of what Zambians can achieve if we really put our minds to it.

sandra and michael

Ok, we did get some help from our friends down south. We are still a growing industry and if we really want to compete internationally (or just regionally) we can’t be afraid to ask for some help – it still is a Zambian production.

Also thanks to the success of season 1 we’ve been able to get more businesses interested in coming on board to help out with sponsoring the materials to build and design sets – Handyman’s Paradise, and to help with our own set catering needs we have Eezee Instant Noodles for days! But you can read more about them on the official programme website in a few weeks. But it was interesting that it was still a hard-sell to many other businesses. Even in this months’ Bulletin and Record Love Games has been tagged as must watch TV, (unfortunately it won’t be on air in May), so shows just how popular it is. While productive placements are big business in some mature TV industries (namely the US), sadly Zambia’s marketing tactics are left to traditional and basic advertising tricks, but that’s for another blog!

These two companies coming on board haven’t necessarily save the production budget loads of money but has enabled us to do more – people can work longer with food, and we can get better sets with the availability of the materials! Which all in all add to a better product at the end of the day. I know as a business I should always focus on the bottom line, but I couldn’t in good conscious ignore the end product as well. Love Games has been so well received it only made sense to do it bigger and better – even with the small budget – because the audience and the Media 365 brand deserves as much.

I haven’t been on set as much as I’d like… ok I lie, I’m not of fan of being on set – it can be stressful and long (22 shots and numerous takes later), but I’ve been watching the rushes and I’m excited. Sometimes I worry the storylines are not as ‘fun’ (i.e. no real bandit behaviour) but when I look at how beautiful the sets are, how great the framing is, and just the style of shooting, I’m excited, almost wishing July was here already!

Though we did attempt a skills transference process in season one, in season two it has come together much better, with teams in camera, continuity, sound and post – we even have a new title for someone, Digital Imaging Technician! So far it’s going good – and everyone is learning – it goes both ways doesn’t it?

In season two we’ve brought in a variety of new cast – especially for supporting roles (total number of cast, including leads, supporting and bit roles is coming up to 40! don’t even ask about walk ons and extras!), and have a new lead character, who are all doing an amazing job. I can safely say I’m truly excited about Season 2.

But at the back of my mind I still have to remember that once we wrap this production at the end of July, we need to focus on what the next thing is, as there is no season three of Love Games. Loads of ideas, now just need to find the funds to back it up. I read somewhere on twitter yesterday that Robert Townsend said that running a business was like climbing a mountain. Yup that’s how I feel. But imagine the feeling when you get to the top…

The last month has been very interesting. We have spent time looking for the production crew to work on the second season of the highly successful Love Games. A lot of people don’t have the experience or the education for working in TV production, not surprisingly, Zambia doesn’t really have a TV industry. It is definitely one that is growing, but not yet as mature as our neighbors, especially not like South Africa, or Kenya even.

Career vs Job

But I looked at some cvs of people who’d had the opportunity to study abroad, and they all have degrees in stable career paths, like economics, law, business etc. When asked why they wanted to work on the production as say a make up artist, they said it was because it was their passion. So my follow up question was, ‘then why didn’t you study it in school?’

Most people had the stock answer, ‘I needed a back up just in case.’ Erm, you have no experience, or education in the field you’re passionate about, so how does that show it’s your plan A?

As an African child raised by a very African father, I understand the not doing what you really want to do. My father wanted all of us to go to university and get a degree in something traditional like economics, law, business etc. I said, ‘nah, I think I want to study film.’ He sighed and told me to prepare myself for a life of unemployment.

Plan-A

It didn’t deter me though. I didn’t necessarily go on to study film for many reasons, but I did ingrain myself in the industry where I could. My former boss at MTV has no qualms telling anyone who’ll listen how much I bugged her to get a job there – I was pretty bad. I’m sure she hired me just out of frustration! Lol. Now, I’m not sure that type of persistence will always get you what you need, but you do have to have some persistence for people to take you seriously.

And then it’s not all glamourous to start with. There is real grunt work to do when you’re on the come up in the TV industry. It’s hard work, it’s late nights, and all for not much pay… or pretty much any industry really. It’s all about determination and focus – you know what you want, and you work towards that.

My whole career has been focussed on working in the media arena in one way or another and honing my skills to make me better each day – I keep telling people, every day is a learning day!

The last couple of years (well will be 2 years on Sunday) in Lusaka I’ve been shocked by the work ethics of most people I’ve met. People be like give me a job and let me show you want I can do. And then they show up to work late, write in text speech, they expect you to accept their shoddy work, and get surprised (and upset) when you fire them. Actually in most cases they fire themselves! Walk off set, or don’t show up at call time for no valid reason. They saunter back on set when they’re ready and expect to find a job waiting for them!

After my stint at MTV I’m used to people working like slaves to get ahead – ok it didn’t help that it was fairly obvious that there was a queue of hundreds of people waiting to take your job if you didn’t perform. But I do truly believe that fortune favors those that put in the effort for their career. And there were countless examples of the interns who rose to SVPs (senior vice presidents) at MTV, exemplifying that anything is possible.

Yet, here, just working past 7pm is a problem for people. And can’t be dedicated to one thing… I don’t know, it’s frustrating.

success

Again I understand it’s scary to commit to one thing, especially when there is no industry to show that it’s worth the commitment, but how do you know for sure if you don’t try?

There will be many that come, but only few will remain. And these few will be the ones that establish a real tv and entertainment media industry for the country.

Right now I have little tolerance left, and like America, I refuse to negotiate with terrorists. If it means I have to fire someone even if I don’t have a back-up person, so be it, we make an alternate plan, terrorists can’t hold us to ransom!

For me there is no going back because I don’t have the back up plan. Plan A has always been my plan, so I might fail at times, but I always have to get up and dust myself and keep it moving. I don’t quit. I might let go of things when I’ve tried every means to make it work, but I won’t quit. And I like to surround myself with the people who have the same spirit. It’s not always easy, those close to me have seen when I’ve fallen apart, frustrated, not knowing what to do, but we get up, we solider on. No one said it would be easy – and they do say anything worth having is not easy.

Maybe I do push people too hard, or expect too much, but I do truly believe that everyone can achieve greatness – or at least what they want in life. I just don’t have the patience for anyone not trying to achieve what they can, with some hardwork, focus, and determination.

In the words of my friend Believe + Achieve! (though ok you need a little bit more than believe, but you know what I mean!

Last week Zambian Breweries under its Mosi brand sponsored the first ever Zambian Music Awards. Media 365 had the pleasure of being the local logistics and production company working on the event. Seems a bit of a stretch for Media 365 right? Especially as our work is so focussed on cause related communications. Well this is a ‘cause’ for us as we’re all so passionated about the music industry in Zambia and promoting it for the recognition it deserves. We also believe that the people in the music industry can help young people achieve their dreams, so what is there not to support?

Also we’d worked with VLP productions – the South African company producing the event and TV shows for the Road to MAMAs event in Lusaka and our Creative Director Fred Phiri had always stayed in touch with them (is there a lesson in networking to be had here? Well that’s an article for another time!)

Danny Performing

So anyway, as the MD, I don’t always play a hands on role on the project, and as we are a small time, already with six other projects on the go, I get a lot of the top level information, and the overall workplan and tasklist to see what everyone is working on but that’s about it. But there are things that I do take interest in – I’ve always loved attending rehearsals of award shows – there’s just something magical about seeing it all coming together. So I did find the time to drop into those rehearsal from time to time.

This is the first real entertainment event I’ve been privy to in Zambia, and it did help me get some insight into the entertainment industry here – which I’ve been out of since I left Trendsetters in 2002. It was an eye opener.

There were a couple of things I found fascinating, firstly the time and effort people put into their careers, and performances. Watching people like Beyonce you know she puts in hours on her performances to get it perfect – you don’t need to be part of her inner circle to know this. Even a week or so I watched the Braxton Family Values (yes i have these terrible reality tv moments!) and the sisters had a show to put on in 3 days – a small event but the stress that was coming from those rehearsals! Joh! And it’s not like we don’t know that the more you put into something the more you get out of it, especially when it’s your job.

You can imagine my surprise (ok slight amusement) when some of the performers were not exactly thrilled about the daily rehearsals four days leading up to the event. They seemed kind of horrified and the thought of having to do more than one rehearsal! What? That was a surprise. One of the performers didn’t even pitch for the first couple of rehearsals.

But I also thought it spoke to the entitled attitude we in Zambia seem to have, like the whole world owes us something. The idea of working hard and taking responsibility is almost foreign. In fact when we (I’m using the royal we here) are at fault, we prefer to blame someone else rather than reflect on what went wrong, own up to our part in it, learn from it and move on.

Cathy and Anna

This kind of leads me into my wardroble malfunction. After my lovely stylist friend Manenga Mwense (@manenga1) chose a style for me to wear, using a red carpet look (i’m too embarrassed to say who when it’s so obviously got wrong), and the so-called designer/tailor here got it wrong, after three fittings (!), he sent me a text message saying that it was my fault for coming so late for the fitting that he couldn’t do a last alter. WTF? Already having a bad week with some terrorists (my new description of some clients), I just couldn’t be bothered to respond to the his text as I really would have ripped him a new one.

If it wasn’t that the VO announcing me on stage was already done I had no choice but attend the awards. I searched frantically through the Love Games wardrobe to find something to wear. Our wardrobe is nothing like the one on the Devil Loves Prada sadly. I was in tears not knowing what to wear with this wardrobe disaster and I was already almost an hour later. Through the tears came the answer – I’ll wear two dresses! I would have one the one, as it was a better fit, but as it had already been packed away it was all creased. But my worry was that the ill fitting one was still obviously ill fitting. What choice did I have? Surprisingly enough everyone said I looked great anyway (gosh do I look bad most of the time for this bad look to look good?!)

Let me back track again to pre-show events 🙂 So the lack of interest in rehearsals was a shocker but hey, it’s each person’s individual career, it’s up to them where they want to put their focus – the same artist then even said that rehearsal were not on priority list and we could remove said artist from performances if we wanted (that’s what he said). Yup unbelievable.

Back to show night! When I finally managed to get comfortable, and everyone commented on my kickass hair style, so that helped make me comfortable too. In fact my hair was literally finished like an hour and a half before the show! I do love my hair dressers at Vanilla Salon at Manda Hill – I do think they think I’m crazy because I always have some outrageous style in mind, but they manage to pull it off well. So got my hair and nails (Shellac, I’m too busy to be having my nails done every other day), and at least that was helping me feel better. Having good hair, nails and face on always helps!

Cathy and Benne Banda on Stage

The show was amazing. Ok some of the performances were a bit ehem, well, you’ll have to watch the show. Other performers were just … they brought it. The Ruff Kidd collaboration of Vigabenga with Slap Dee, Zone Fam, and P-Jay had so much energy, was so good! Ruff Kidd is absolutely crazy, but you have to love his stage presence.

But for me the best performance of the night was the closing performance Slap Dee did. The thing that I liked about these performances is that they understand that even if it’s hip hop, today you can’t just stand on a stage and walk around spitting into the mic, people want to see a show. And definitely with those two performances they saw a show! I think you can tell the artists who really put in the time with craft and are focussed on the prize and those who are, well, entitled and think they’re good enough.

zonefam_ruffkidd

It was then fun to ring in my birthday at the after party with Jay Rox (from Zone Fam) who I also share a birthday with.

I have to admit I am really pleased with the response Love Games has received. It’s been an overwhelming success, and I do believe it’s genuine praise we’ve been receiving.

This has been the first real long form (ok ignore documentaries) that I’ve done since wrapping Shuga: Love, Sex, Money last year, and I’m glad that Zambia has something it too can be proud of. As much as I’m proud to have my name associated with the product, I think it’s important to keep reminding ourselves that our success and our failures, are all our successes and failures as we try to develop our country to the great country it can be. Why should it only be football (ehem) we can hold our heads high for being the champions of Africa – a title we will retain in the upcoming Afcon games! Why can’t we showcase our talents and accomplishments in the arts too? With Love Games we wanted to showcase young acting talent, but also our fashion and our music, and combine our traditions with modernism for a young audience to watch and discuss. And I think we’re doing it.

Love Games, for me, is just a start to what our TV and film industry can be and with more support it can grow to compete on a global level – it’s time that our stories our told too!

Watch Love Games here and let me know what you think of it!

Love Games Episode 1 from Media365 on Vimeo.

My first TV series since leaving MTV is about to hit Zambian screens tomorrow night. I’m feeling excited, anxious, and apprehensive about it. I am proud of the work the people involved put in to make it happen, but I don’t by any stretch believe it’s the best it could be – for many reasons.

love games flyer

I am fiercely critical of my work, that is true, but I do think it we’re to continue learning and improving we have to be critical of what we put out – hold a mirror to whatever we do and ask, ‘How will I do this differently next time?’

With social media it’s also means that I get to ‘hear’ the audience views on the show – what better way to get an honest opinion? But there’s also a lot of people who stroke your ego on your twitter and facebook, so those people I need to be wary of!

It’s not like I’m looking for people to tell me the negatives – not at all. But I really do see some people on twitter giving people false confidence. Misguided support could end up affecting your career in the end. I don’t want negative for the sake of being negative either, but honest feedback is always useful.

I do like the show and it definitely gets better with every episode and season 2 is just explosive! And as with all funded programmes there were some things out of our control (not that I’m making excuses), but I still think that it will help change the game for what audiences can demand to see on our local screens that are still being true to Zambian content.

Anyway, I guess we’ll see what tomorrow night brings on twitter!