Other sectors may still be slowly reopening following the national coronavirus-induced lockdowns, but Botswana’s film industry is a hive of activity and adhering to all post-lockdown regulations in continuing to create world-class film and TV content.
In particular, students of the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) Academy for Southern Africa who have returned from the academy headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia are working hard from home to continue their studies ahead of their graduation later this year.
Lorato Orapeleng and Masego Mohwasa were the two fortunate local creatives who were chosen to represent Botswana this year at the MTF Academy – a MultiChoice initiative that aims to ignite Africa’s creative industries and in so doing, transform the film sector.
Skilled and experienced professionals in the African film industry are scarce. The MTF Academy wants to be part of the solution by proactively growing this skills base in various Southern African countries, including Botswana, while uniting the African film sector into one formalised, professional industry.
To do this, students from across the region participate in a yearlong, paid-for programme that provides them with invaluable skills and hands-on industry experience. COVID-19 lockdowns in Southern Africa may have restricted students’ personal interactions, but it has done nothing to damper their spirits, as Orapeleng and Mohwasa are fast proving.
One could say Orapeleng was born for TV. Since the age of five, she has dreamt of being on screen, regularly ‘presenting’ TV inserts for friends and family.
A failed audition for Mantlwaneng had her second-guessing her passion, and she pursued a course in accounting and business principles at the Botswana Accountancy College.
“But I knew this wasn’t for me, it wasn’t what I wanted, so I dropped out,” Orapeleng said, adding that time spent with the youth non-governmental organisaton, SkyGirls, which encourages young girls to embrace themselves and their inherent talents, reinforced her passion for TV.
Orapeleng then travelled to South Africa to complete a short course in TV production, which cemented her career path. When AFDA, the South African film and TV school, opened up courses in Botswana, Orapeleng instantly enrolled for a Degree in Motion Picture Media and graduating in 2019. During that time she applied to the MTF Academy, but was unsuccessful. However,
“My MTF experience so far has been amazing! It has really expanded my thinking and shown me the wealth of opportunities available in film and TV both in Botswana and beyond our borders. As soon as I’ve graduated, I want to start working on local content for DStv and then content for the region,” Orapeleng explained.
Interestingly, Mohwasa’s journey followed a similar trajectory to that of Orapeleng. She also discontinued a business administration course she was doing in favour of pursuing her film and TV dreams. And, in the absence of relevant courses in Botswana, she too looked to South Africa for a way into her future career.
“Nothing scares me more than the thought of working in an office. As a child I loved stories, books and movies, but I never thought film could actually be a viable career option,” Mohwasa revealed.
“As soon as I discovered AFDA and the course it was offering in Johannesburg, I applied and was accepted. When the school opened a branch in Botswana I transferred my admission, and embarked on a four-year Degree in Motion Picture Media, majoring in scriptwriting and directing, which I completed last year.”
Destiny had a hand in Mohwasa attending the MTF Academy as well: she saw a TV advert on the very last day before the deadline for applications cut off, and took a chance and applied.
“I wasn’t sure of the value it would add to my life as an existing film graduate, but I was wrong! My time at the academy in Zambia showed me that African creative industries can flourish if the narrative is changed from wanting to make money to wanting to tell authentic stories,” Mohwasa added. More than this, her MTF experience has reaffirmed her own natural affinity for storytelling, has built her self-confidence, and empowered her to fight for what she believes in.