2020 has been a year like no other but through the various phases of lockdown and quarantine periods (for those who needed them!), it is the content from our favourite creators that has kept us sane and entertained. This week we spoke to one such creator, multi-award winning television writer, producer and director Busisiwe Ntintili whose CV is as colourful as they come.
Having worked on many of our favourite productions over the last 20 years and through the lockdown she has wasted no time in working hard on new and existing projects, including an exciting Netflix feature which is coming to our screens in the next few weeks and months.
We took the time to ask about this and other recent projects on her resume, while taking the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons about the ever-evolving South African film and television industry.
Welcome to Moziak Magazine Busisiwe! How has it been working in this “new normal” of ours?
It’s been… yeah! Different! I mean the first couple of days were a bit surreal but we’ve all just adapted I guess. Things are very, very strict on set and right now you can’t get away with anything even the slightest symptom would be cause for concern. Thankfully we haven’t had any issues, everyone is taking strict precautions.
Wow it’s fascinating and strange but hey, the show must go on right? Speaking of shows, we were extremely proud to learn of your newest project with Netflix – Jiva! How did it all come about?
Yeah it’s a very exciting development and It’s been a very exciting project to be involved in as well! Jiva is the third original show form the continent to be picked up by Netflix. It’s fun, it’s youthful and it’s very South African and it’s yet another opportunity to show off our authentic selves to the world. As you said the show is called Jiva and its about exactly that, dancing, partying. The storyline follows a girl who just has an unshakeable passion for dancing and we get to witness the realities of her life, her family and everything in between. It’s good fun.
I love that the show is that it’s a South African dance production. We grew up watching a lot of American dance movies and for once we get to put on something that isn’t western infused – it’s strictly local showing off our moves and our talent. I can’t wait!
Just out of interest, how is it that Netflix manages to keep these massive productions such a secret?
Have you ever heard of a Non Disclosure Agreement? [Laughs]. Jokes aside, there’s a lot of loyalty from all parties involved when it comes to these things because of what’s at stake. It’s like when Beyonce recruits people to work on her projects like she did for Black is King for example; everything is hush hush until it drops – it’s the same thing for Netflix productions.
The other thing is, I think there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to ruin it for yourself, you know? You’re involved in such a special project, the last thing you want to do is run your mouth and ruin it for yourself and others involved. So yeah, it’s not that we don’t want to share the news, we just want to share the news at the right time in the right way.
Another big highlight of the last 18 months was your production, Isipho, which had viewers gripped on eTV. How did it feel to helm that project?
Wow it feels like so long ago, but yes it was a great production to be involved in. Isipho was a telenovela that was on screen for over a year and ended in December but it was a really great project. It was so different and what it taught me is that South African series we really have a chance to break the mould, break the existing boundaries, you know? For too long we have been asked to play it safe, even though the creative ideas are there. Compared to overseas where expansive concepts are given full backing to be explored, but that is slowly changing. Viewers are enjoying fresh narratives, content creators are finally being entrusted with more out-of-the-box ideas so we are on the right path.
Your CV is glittered with some of the biggest shows in recent TV history. How would you describe your journey in SA television as a writer and producer who has grown to become a household industry name?
Wow, what a loaded question! I started out as a logger back in the early 00s on Big Brother, I remember it vividly and the industry is so different now than it was back then. Back then it was rare to see a black name on the credits – let alone the name of a black woman. So sometimes people would stop me at a roadblock, see my name on my license and be like “Oh wow it’s you!”. These days the industry is a lot more diverse and representative of our culture and my work over the years has put me in a great position. I don’t think of myself as a celebrity, or a household name, or any of those kinds of titles.
What advice would you have to someone who is starting out in the industry as a logger, or an intern, or a runner on set – but who has aspirations of writing and creating their own content one day?
My advice would be two-fold:
- Don’t be in such a rush to become the finished product. Savour the journey and take the time to soak in as much as you can, because that’s what helps you reach your final destination.
- Don’t be afraid or too shy to make yourself known, or to make it be known that you want to learn something. I’ve had people approach me and ask me to mentor them and they tend to be the ones who go the furthest because they were willing to put themselves out there. Don’t live within yourself.