Bongiwe Selane talks success and “Happiness’ at first in IPO series

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: In the first of a series of talks, the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) on 20 April 2016, presented producer Bongiwe Selane at an intimate gathering at Atlas Studio in Johannesburg. The evening was emceed by IPO chairperson Akin Omotoso, who explained the organisations objectives of serving the industry and hosting frequent knowledge share sessions with prominent industry fellows to demystify what producers do. Omotoso then flatteringly introduced Selane.

Selane, vice-chairperson of Blingola Media is also co-producer behind the hit film Happiness is a Four-Letter Word. After nine weeks at the local box office, the film has already raked in more than R12.7 million.

“Film making is an amazing collaborative effort,’ answered Selane in her Q&A with Omotoso. Selane stated that she plans to always be part of the development of the industry. Speaking on the success of the film, Selane said she read the book in 2011 and resonated with it immediately: “It was fresh, it read incredibly visually, like a rom-com, and was tapping into the new emerging country that we as film makers want to document. Even in reading the book I could see an audience for the film.’ Selane explained that she walked around with the book under her arm wanting to create conversation around the making of its film and that part of the reason she left M-Net was to do so.

Selane discussed securing the rights for the book, how she met the author, her now good friend Cynthia Jele. “I met Jele at the M-Net Literary Awards before she won in the best film adaptation category. I said I read your book I’m a fan and wished her good luck. I told her I wanted to be part of making the film, I went to M-Net and told them I want to make this film and they said maybe you could find a team.’ Selane then attended the NFVF pitching session and from there the team was put together.

In speaking of the process from beginning to end she said, “I think many don’t realise how long it takes, it requires a lot of patience.’ Selane shared stories of her first day on set taking selfies to the opening weekend hearing about the success of the film.

“Kudos to my team, I’m so grateful to the people who believed in this project and it’s a collective success,’ beamed a humble Selane. “I set out to make a film that I thought resonated with the audience, that people wanted to see, everyone was so eager to see what it would do and even then we couldn’t anticipate this kind of success. It’s not only a success for me but for the whole industry.’

Omotoso opened questions to the audience, which was made up of movie lovers, producers, directors, casting agents and a number of industry professionals. No topic was out of the question and industry hacks and hints were discussed in depth. Speaking openly about the challenges facing the local film industry and industry players, from profit participation to vernacular in Africa, genre to formula, fears to fees, it was all voiced.

Discussing the secrets behind the success of Happiness is a Four-Letter Word to the IPO hashtag #fillupthecinemas, and the force behind social media, no question went unanswered. The talk was concluded on the note that, “Filmmakers have to have the passion and the conviction to make it happen,’ and that there is much to look forward to in the South African film industry.

To get more information on upcoming talks visit the IPO website.


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