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6 Powerful insider tips on how to get into the film industry

Advice from influential women in film on networking, mentorship, and making your mark in the industry as an aspiring filmmaker
Author: Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine
Sat, Mar 02, 2024

From left to right: Jacintha de Nobrega, Catherine Meyburgh, Penny Lebyane, Clementine Mosimane, and Connie Chiume.

“Television has been a powerful medium that has entertained, informed, and inspired audiences for decades. Throughout the history of television, there have been numerous legends who have left an indelible mark on the industry with their talent, creativity, and contributions. These legends have not only shaped the landscape of television but have also influenced popular culture and society as a whole.”

This reflection, shared on the Joburg Film Festival website, captures the essence of television's transformative power and the legacy of its most influential figures. As part of the festival’s programme, a panel titled “Celebrating legends in the industry” featured Connie Chiume, Clementine Mosimane, Catherine Meyburgh, and Jacintha de Nobrega, led by moderator Penny Lebyane, who shared their remarkable journeys and offered invaluable insights for aspiring storytellers to carve their paths in the industry.

Drawing from this wealth of advice, here's a guide, offering a roadmap for those aspiring to break into the film sector:

NETWORK RELENTLESSLY

“Networking is the most integral part of our industry. Whether you're an actor, producer, networking is everything,” says De Nobrega who is the producer of London Recruits, the story of the young white Londoners recruited to be freedom fighters in SA during apartheid.

The film industry thrives on connections and relationships. Attend every possible event, workshop, and festival to meet peers and professionals.

JOIN INDUSTRY ORGANISATIONS

Sisters Working in Film & Television (SWIFT) is a non-profit organisation committed to championing empowerment and access to equal opportunities for women. Being part of such organisations opens doors to resources, support systems, and people willing to guide newcomers. “Be active in those organisations,” says Nobrega. “Go to the events. Make sure that they hear you, see you.” Staying engaged with the industry's developments, trends, and educational opportunities is crucial for growth.

FIND A MENTOR

“I found a mentor six years ago,” says De Nobrega. “And she's been my mentor ever since. I mentor at least three different women. Start conversations. Find people, women, preferably, that you would relate to.” A mentor can provide invaluable guidance, feedback, and introductions.

ENTER AND ATTEND FILM FESTIVALS

“Go to any festival you can possibly get to,” says De Nobrega. Festivals are critical for exposure, networking, and receiving feedback on your work. She adds that there are also different programmes you can apply to such as through the NFVF. “Get on their mailing lists and get involved. “I’m involved in a programme where we take writers through the development process and at the end they learn how to submit. And we’ve had really great results – our participants get funded. So you just need to be in the loop.”

Says Chiume: “I’ve seen a lot of young people coming up in the industry. And you see how much they have progressed. And most of them, they've become directors and producers.”

LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA

Says Lebyane: “Get onto SWIFT, get on the mailing list. Follow them on their social media pages, watch what they do, show up, be interested." Social media platforms are powerful tools for connecting with the community, showcasing your work, and staying informed about events and opportunities.


“Exercise your skills,” says Meyburgh who edited and reviewed the film 1001 Days, which follows the journey of eight devoted women as they selflessly provide aid and comfort to young, expectant and recent mothers through the Ubulele Visiting Home programme in Alexandra. “You all have access to your smartphone. So, you can film a little short story. Use available resources to create content and share it to showcase your talent and vision.

“Have something to show that's visual, that shows your talent. Have something to show when you're going to an interview. Don't just say, here I am and I've done this many scenes. Say this is what I've done. Take a look. Be brave. This is what I've done. We, in the industry get a hundred nos a day. We apply for funding. We send in scripts. We send in proposals. We get no, no, no, no, no all the time. But every now and again something hits the mark,” she says.

VOLUNTEER AND INTERN

“You can start as the girl who makes tea in the kitchen for the director. Because you get to talk to the director,” says Lebyane. Gaining experience through volunteering or interning can provide practical insights and networking opportunities. Navigating the film industry's labyrinth requires persistence, creativity, and a willingness to learn and adapt. While rejections are part of the journey, says De Nobrega, “Each no is a step closer to a yes.”

By immersing yourself in the creative community, seeking mentorship, and continually pursuing opportunities, aspiring filmmakers can forge a path to success, armed with the wisdom and experiences of those who have navigated the spaces before them.

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