Chit Chat: Thapelo Mokoena

2011-03-18 16:24

Everyone’s favourite China, Thapelo Mokoena, is taking a seat behind the camera as the producer of the South African film, Skyf. FARRAH FRANCIS caught up with the man who is proving to be more than just a pretty boy.

What is the movie Skyf about?

The movie looks at addiction and revolves around seven characters whose lives are intertwined. They have a common addiction – smoking.

How did you get involved in the project?
In 2008 the idea came about for a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA). At the time I was working on a sitcom and someone approached me about doing the PSA.

The concept basically started with someone who flicked their cigarette butt while at a petrol station.

It looked at how many lives would be destroyed because of that one move.

From a PSA it moved to a short film and was then developed into a feature film.

What’s the biggest issue facing the local film industry at the moment?

We have a huge challenge with funding. People need to make movies despite this and with Skyf we saved for over two years in order to have enough funding to produce the film.

Filmmakers still need to make movies even if they don’t have a big budget so that when the big budgets do start flooding in, producers and directors will know how to use them.

What was it like moving from being in front of the camera to the producer’s chair?

It was hectic! I had to sort of do a bit of everything with this movie from producing to planning, as well as taking part in the movie.

It’s a position that requires dedication and time and, most importantly, leadership.

The challenge is dealing with a variety of people with different views and standpoints regarding their art, and finding new and informed ways to have production run smoother.

Do you have a preference for behind or in front of the camera?

When working behind the scenes I think you get a more in-depth understanding of the business of making movies.

Being in front of the camera is something of a God-given talent, but that isn’t enough for me. I need to be involved in more aspects of the industry.

One of the biggest criticisms about the local movies is there isn’t enough script development. How do you feel about this?
I agree. Some scripts undermine the intelligence of the audience. Local scripts need to be more challenging, more convincing, better written and tighter.

When creating Skyf one of the things we spent a lot of time on was workshopping characters and ensuring that we were over-prepared when it came to production.

You come across as a workaholic. How do you relax?

My lady and I like travelling. I enjoy spending time with my family in KwaZulu-Natal. As I get more involved with work I realise I spend too little time with them so when I do get time off I try to make time for them.

Are you a smoker?

Definitely not!

What’s next?
I will be working on season 7 of the British drama Wild at Heart and then I am off to Zanzibar with Hunters.

When I return I will start shooting my next film and I am also working on something with the SA Blood Service.

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