South Africa is proud to have produced some of the best entertainers in the world, one of them being Trevor Noah who grew up in Soweto. While there is no doubt that the township has an abundance of amazing talent, it is unfortunate that most of it perishes before being discovered.
Playing his role in ensuring that young aspiring actors and actresses get the necessary exposure is Soweto-based producer, director, film editor and writer, Desmond Leteki, affectionately known as ‘Nikon Shady’.
In a dynamic interview with us, the 30-year-old who founded Black Power Movement (which is an affiliate of his film company also based in Soweto) explains that while his company, Contagious Fame Films, proudly brews its very own Kasi stories and creates opportunities for upcoming actors and actresses, Black Power Movement bridges the gap between talent and production by providing skills and knowledge.
When Leteki and his team of creatives started with the film company in 2009, the journey was as rough as sandpaper as they were just writers with stories and had nothing else. He recalls many a times pitching television and film ideas to some of the biggest production companies in the country and later seeing those very ideas on screen having received nothing for them in return. In some instances, the company would persuade them into selling their craft, but would only cough up as little as R2000.
Although very bitter, it is these experiences of exploitation that taught Leteki the importance of business independence and hard work. These are the valuable lessons he now passes onto what he hopes will be the new faces and brains behind Mzansi’s TV screens.
Expanding on the purpose of his movement, Leteki says it is created to unite young brains and to give hope to the youth by teaching them everything they need to know about the industry before jumping in. He explains that the name was inspired by his observation of black artists. “Black people are so relaxed yet they possess the power to change their lives,” he says.
He further adds that with this movement, the aim is to reach as many people as it possibly can. Currently, about 95 creatives are involved, and these include actors, actresses, as well as film makers. This movement is set to change South Africa’s film and television scene by making the on-going #OpenUpTheIndustry cries heard, not just for actors and actresses, but producers and directors alike.
“The industry is dominated by mature faces that we grew up seeing on TV and is also dominated by producers and directors we grew up knowing that they are behind many productions. The Black Power Movement is youth focused. I want to make sure that we as young people are given the opportunities to showcase our skills,” Leteki explains.
In view of the many atrocities that riddle South African creatives, Black Power Movement will also attempt to end the culture of scams that young and desperate aspiring actors and actresses fall into. “We are against scams and perverts who use the industry to rape and treat women as objects! Such behaviour should be exposed and reported to the authorities,” says Leteki.
For this powerful movement the future looks bright; as an even greater goal will be to get into the cinematic space. Leteki believes that South Africa is missing out on raw talent and urges the government to support local talent by giving producers free access into their local community halls to train and equip aspirants. He also urges journalists and the media at large to join in and support this initiative.
To follow the movement, follow Leteki on Twitter @NikonShady and on Instagram @contagious _fame _films. He promises that a website for his movement will be launched soon.
~ Thabile Shange