After 9 created the buzz around Mzansi so I needed to chat to one of the people involved to find out how it all came about.
I spoke to Lesego Majatladi, soon to be 31 co-producer of After Nine and I felt so cheated at having had the conversation over the phone coz some people just ooze intelligence. Now I need an excuse to meet with him and Lucky Koza face to face....and I promise it has nothing to do with the fact that they are so so so so delish looking. It's all about business.
BS: Who is Lesego Majatladi?
I was born in Thaba-Nchu but I grew up in Mabatho and did part of my high schooling at a catholic school in Kimberley. I thereafter went to study for a BCom law degree at the university of the North. I only did that for 2 years and due to stupidity i quit and went to the world of entertainment.
I called somebody at the SABC 3 and said I wanted to work for them so they called me for an interview; got the job and i told my mom I wasn’t going back to school.
I later went to AFDA to study directing. It was a 3 year course but because I had experience I jumped into the 2nd year. I had my issues with them so I left AFDA after a year. BS: What were your issues with AFDA?Lesego:
Technically, it’s a sound filmmaking school but it lacks in certain areas.
All we were learning then was American and I felt that there was more to filming than just America. I was more into the global way, Asian, African and all that.
At that time I was also spending a whole lot of time with Angus Gibson and Tebogo Mahlatsi so I was learning more from hanging out with them than being in film school. I’m very impatient at times so I saw it not working for me coz I’d watch them shoot & direct Yizo Yizo and it just didn’t make sense for me to continue with school. I have no regrets about leaving AFDA though coz I’m happy with where I am now. BS: And where is that? Lesego:
Where I understand a business. I have my own company and Sechaba owns his but we had to come together and open a joint one for the purposes of doing After Nine.
Outside of films, I’m into property investment and that’s quite interesting.
I’m also involved with a company we call FACETS.
You see, Joburg is a small mining town on the tip of the African continent and though we may think it’s big, on a global level it’s insignificant so FACETS is about “How do we make it significant?”
When you are anywhere in the world and tell people you are from SA, the rest of the world think of Africa, that’s why you’ll hear them tell you “I have a friend in Kenya, do you know him?”
They still don’t know much about Africa, they know we sing well and run really fast and it’s a negative but FACETS chooses to use that as a positive. We say we are Africans, let’s not be obsessed with borders that we didn’t even put there ourselves.
I’m also involved with a lifestyle/ travel show called SNAPSHOTS
. You can call it a snob’s view of the continent. BS: On what channel are we gonna see that show? Lesego:
We've been in discussions with SABC for the past 2 years now but in a week or so I will know what’s gonna happen. But whether or not it’s on SABC, you will get to see it.
There’s also a book, Graceland by a writer in Nigeria that I want to adopt into a feature film.BS: What has the reaction to After Nine been like?Lesego:
The only reception I’ve seen was what I read from TVSA coz the ratings aren’t out yet. TVSA's been my only form of feedback. BS: Really? I'm so happy to hear that!!
I actually think you guys are on to something and I don’t think you realize just how powerful you are. I know of people in the SABC who go on your website on a daily basis to check out what you say about things. And you have this community of people that are passionate about television, it’s amazing. BS: Thank you so much, so how did you get involved with After Nine? Lesego:
Well, the SABC put out a brief about a show that has to do with masculinity. BS: I normally see postings on the SABC Website about briefs, is that what you are referring to? Lesego:
Yes, they release a brief and it contains everything about what they are looking for. They make the brief quite accessible and you can get it anytime but the trick is to always know when it’s coming out. They give a deadline and you submit your proposal ke. BS: What did you do when you first saw the brief for this particular show?
Before that, I'd had a conversation with a friend of mine who works in a law firm and he was saying that not being married was career limiting and if you are married you are perceived to be stable, reliable and focused. He was also saying if he had to choose between two people unmarried and married, he would go for the married one.
So the brief wanted a story about Masculinity – What is a man and how being married to a woman makes a woman look real. Sechaba and I had previously spoken about working together so we started brainstorming about this and we came up with 3 parallel stories.
1. A guy who comes out of prison, he’s a typical Gintsa
with flashy clothes. He goes to jail and once there starts to re evaluate his life so he comes out different but once he’s outside there’s pressure to be what he was because he is not seen to be manly now that he’s less aggressive.
2. A journalist who is married to a fashion designed. He helped her to set up her business but once her business starts flourishing, his financial contribution at home is insignificant so he ends up physically abusing the woman.
3. The 3rd part was about this gay Guy who couldn’t come out. China.
The common thread through all of it was this black female Psychologist that they all went to. That’s why the show was called Confessions at first but for various reasons, it was decided to stick with the gay story. BS: How do you feel about that decision? Lesego:
I liked the other stories but then the SABC felt they were too stereotypical, physical abuse and a black guy coming from jail, you know. BS: Do black people see psychologists?
That’s a superficial argument, no offence. Just because you don’t do something does not mean you will not understand it. There aren’t advertising company owners ekasi but we still watch Generations.
BS: Ok so what happened once the idea was decided?
We brought in a team of writers, we worked on the script, pre-production, hired wardrobe people, did castings and decided on the location etc. BS: Did you get gay people to write that script? Lesego:
We got story consultants that are open gay people, we went to gay clubs, read books, watched a lot of gay films and Gay TV series in the states. We didn’t’ wanna offend the gay community hence the amount of research that we did.
We want people to forget that the characters are gays and just see them as two people who are in love. BS: Isn't that a bit naive? We were not used at seeing such things!
If it was a guy and a gal doing what Hector and China did, people would not have had a problem with it. There shouldn’t be noise about it just because it’s guys doing it. BS: But did we really have to see that love scene?Lesego:
I understand the shock factor and I can imagine people being surprised or taken aback and I'm not about to suggest that I saw it as normal but we tried to make it gentle.
Brokeback Mountain’s love scenes are hectic, it's like the two guys are fighting. Our was beautiful and we wanted to make the story so interesting that you are willing to put yourself through those uncomfortable scenes just coz you enjoy the other parts.
For example, I don’t like seeing blood or people being operated on but I watch Nip/Tuck and because I love the story so much that I’m willing to go through that. BS: China and Hector were so much into sex, don't you think that helped to strengthen the belief that Gays only want to sex one another up?
There are lots of couples that have more sex than China and Hector but we don’t complain. Why aren’t we complaining about the fact that they are playing too much basketball? They aren’t different from a guy and a gal who have just met and are madly in love.
We are just generally uncomfortable with gay people having sex so that’s why we put more weight on the sex but they are not having more sex than any normal couple. BS: What were we expected to learn from this show? Lesego:
That’s life !!BS: A lot of people have been suggesting that it should become a soapie, how practical is that? Lesego:
If something like that were to happen, we would have to re-think the whole story. China’s gayness would not be the focus of the story. Maybe it would do as a weekly drama series.
You see, the SABC owns After Nine now coz when they paid us, they bought the idea so they can do with it as they wish. If they for example, they decide to use it and work with different producers, they can also do that. They aren’t obliged to work with us.
I’d like two shows to come out of After 9. One that will explore the world Zee & Sbu live in. I’ve read comments on your website with people asking what Khanyi is doing there. II don't think those questions would be there if it weren't for her social profile but having said that, I do agree that, writing-wise, we did injustice to the character.
I think we could have also explored the friendship between Bokang & Zee further but I think Khanyi is a good actress and her interaction with Sbu was just so great. BS: Did you give the part to Khanyi just because of who she is? Lesego:
We actually wrote 3Sum into the story so they are friends with Khanyi and I think they told her about it and she phoned Sechaba and asked to get involved and we hadn’t found a Zee then so we thought she’d make a great Zee. BS: Interesting. Selimathunzi sold it as Khanyi’s show, why was that? Lesego:
Yeah, we were shooting Zee’s wedding when they came so maybe they thought she was the main character. BS: Did Aaron get to audition for the role? Lesego:
He was suggested by one of the commissioning editors and I must say, he did a good job. BS: Did you specify that you wanted gay actors?
No, we just wanted actors that were gonna be comfortable with kissing other guys. There were other guys that turned it down and I understand where they are coming from.
BS: You mentioned that SABC paid you for the story, how does the whole budget thing work, the SABC give you money and then what? Lesego:
Oh Aaron...what in the freaking hell???
Previously they used to, let’s say they were doing a magazine show: they’d say e.g. R3 000 X 24 minutes X 13 episodes and that would be the budget and they'd do the same for a drama but now it’s different.
How it works now is that you work on your budget and present it to them so they’d get their Budget controller to go through it and check if it compares to the script etc, whether it’s sufficient but I think they always have a ballpark figure at the back of their minds. BS: So who handles the actors' payments? Lesego
: With After 9, shooting took 5 weeks and we needed China for 4 out of those 5 weeks so what we do with such people is that we negotiate a global deal instead of a deal where we pay them per scene. We agreed that we’d pay him a certain amount for maybe 20 days and agree that we'd for example be allowed to go over by 5 days without extra payment but if it’s more than that then they can start charging us for the extra days. BS: What would you like us to take away from After Nine? Lesego:
Be who you are, make yourself happy and just be true to yourself.
BS: What do I do if I want to become a TV producer?
Start from the bottom, either as a production co-ordinator or whatever but you can climb the ladder once you have your foot in the door.
Producing is all about being creative, just think of it as project management. If you are more creative then you can get other people to help you with the other stuff but I personally don’t think it’s as daunting as it may sound.
If for example you want to produce a drama, you need to read about what makes it work. Work with the writers, learn about the equipment used.
80% of the people I’ve worked for, never went to film school so this industry allows you to learn in the job. It may take time for you to move up the ranks but it will happen. You can be an accountant and become a producer. The trick is get in and to know what you don’t know so that you can learn it.
The people who are there try and make it look difficult but it’s not, it’s only challenging. You just need to work hard, be curious and ask a lot of questions.
Once you’re there, hire a good team. You don’t need to know everything about cameras but you should know enough to have a conversation with your cameraman.
If the show is re-commissioned, I think we can do a show that’s twice as good as the one you saw coz I watched it and saw a couple of things that I thought we could have done better. BS: What does it take for a show to get re-commissioned? Lesego:
Ratings play a role but it also depends on their schedule as a channel. It will depend on whether they have other dramas lined, whether they have slots available, the subject matter and whether there is interest in it. BS: Well thank you so much for talking to me, I really hope they'll bring the show back!