This week skynewszimbabwe.com meets one of the most talented filmmakers in the South African film and entertainment industry: Obey Muchipisi.
He is described as a jack of all trades in entertainment filmographics, he has a tenor-singing voice, is a ballroom dancer, casting director, a hairdresser, a cameraman, a presenter, and MC, and has played roles in numerous South African television series, including Generations, Rhythm City, Tshisa, Erfsondes and Ya Lla, as well as numerous Zimbabwean productions.
Obey Muchipisi says he has mastered most of the aspects of the film and TV industry, he has always played characters that are not close to him, and this fascinates people on how he can handle such.
You were born in Manicaland. So you are a Wasu?
Actually handisi Wasu, even though I was born in Manicaland. I’m Tsonga, what everyone here calls Shangane though I speak chiManyika very well than any other Shona dialects.
I spent most of my childhood with my aunt who was a nurse at a mission hospital where I was born. She also had a child the same age as me and we were brought up as twins. As children we used to sneak into the hospital and steal bandages, syringes and stuff and go up the mountains, catch frogs and lizards and admit them in an imaginary hospital and administer them with all sorts of made up medications. Funny I didn’t become a doctor.
Your childhood friends?
I’m still in touch with some of my childhood friends via social media. But because I had my cousins all the time, they are my friends and I refer to them as my brothers and sisters rather than cousins as we have grown up together.
How did you discover your talents?
Ever since I was young I was fascinated by television and television personalities, and I’ve always wanted to be on TV. So I started researching on how to develop talent and how to get in to the industry, which was a bit tough especially in Zimbabwe.
Jees I have many, people seem to reinvent my name over and over again. Growing up I was Muchi, Bey, Ombito and so on now I’m Obeezy, Beezy, Muchi-Muchi… see what I’m talking about.
Generally, where are you now in terms of your professional career?
Well I have excelled in most areas of film and television production and I’ve mastered the technicalities that go into film and TV, and the industry at laerge. I have my own production company Beezy Pictures.
Highlights in your professional career?
I worked on quite a number of international productions. From the top of my head I remember Top Actor Africa for BET, worked as a scriptwriter for them and Sound City, a Nigerian music channel on DSTv, worked as a script writer for them.
How did you get into singing, acting and presenting?
I have a diploma in Dramatic Arts and I was trained to be a triple threat in the performing aspects. So I can act, sing and dance.
Was your family supportive or they wanted you to do something else?
It’s really hard for an African family to accept or rather allow their children to take acting as a career especially in a country like Zimbabwe where the industry is very small.
What was your first job ever?
I was a booker in a model agency in Johannesburg.
How much were you paid, and what did you buy?
Funny, do people really tell what they earn. Ha ha ha. Anyway I earned R4 000/ month and this was in 2008. I had to make sure that I had proper accommodation and always looked good.
You said it took two years of strategy, two test scripts, a good reference and one meeting for you to land the Generations gig. Tell us more…?
I’d always wanted to work for Generations ever since I was involved in productions. Eventually I got an opportunity to submit a test script and after two weeks I received an email and I still recall this line “… you’re not what we are looking for, good luck with your writing.” I was really gutted by this but it didn’t stop me from trying with other shows. Two years later, I looked at the test script and realised how many mistakes I had made. It literally took me correcting the mistakes and submitting the same script and I was called in for meet with the head writer, just like that I had a job.
What goes into Generations in a nutshell? Remember millions will be watching, and this is prime content?
I’m no-longer working with Generations but the show itself takes quiet a lot of talented people to put it together. Being the longest running show in SA if not Africa, it’s backbone is structured in an international way, they have fully fledged departments of everything. The script department alone consists of a head writer, story liners, screenwriters, interns, translators of all languages, website story liners, website scriptwriter. It’s a big production.
There was a lot of blood on the floor after the cast of Generations were axed over a pay dispute. How did you feel during the dispute?
This was very subjective. As an actor myself I could feel where the actors were coming from, and everyone could hear what they were saying about the issues, but at the end of the day producers have deadlines to meet and the show must go on.
How do you feel now?
As much as it was a scary move. I think this was a blessing in disguise as some of those actors have been busy working for other shows that are doing quite well.
Muchipisi meets Zimbabwean TV personality Yvonne Katsande during her birthday.
Generations The legacy… in a nutshell?
It’s a nice twist to the old Generations. I mean it’s Generations, the audience will always love it.
How much research goes into casting?
Quite a lot actually. Once the writers have developed the character, the team has to sit and realise potential talent available that will suit the character, there after they will assign a casting director to sudition potential actors and decide thereafter.
Your views on the state of the African film and television industry?
It’s growing and we have so much potential. We just need to open up and allow the talent that we have to express themselves and allow international markets to realize how talented and rich Africa is.
The difference between a screen writer and a casting director?
A screen writer is the person that writes how, what and who you see in a TV show. The words that a character speaks are written by a screen writer and the piece of paper they write on is called a script. A casting director is more like a TV/ film’s resources manager. They interview actors and hires them for roles in auditions.
You can do both at the same time?
There is never a limit to assignment of roles in the Film and TV industry especially if you work as a freelancer. I for instance I’m an actor, producer, scriptwriter and casting director. I do these simultaneously.
You said that there is so much talent in Zimbabwe. Where is it?
Undiscovered. People lack access to resources and thus no one even knows them. I studied TV productions in Zimbabwe and most of my classmates do not work in TV or film because of lack of resources and exposure to the right people or opportunities.
The people who have been influential in your career?
My Shona teacher Mr Mhonde, I was terrible in Shona in high school, he sat me down and asked me what I would want to do and ever since he would check on me and ask how it was going. I was also inspired by my late Uncle Nhamo Sambo, he was a Script Lecturer at University of Zimbabwe. Their positive attitudes kept me going.
What are your interests besides scripting and cameras?
I love travelling and reading. I’m always travelling and buying a lot of novels.
Obey Muchipisi with Mandla Gaduka (actor), Phophi Mulaudzi (casting director), and Mona Monyane (actress)
What feedback do you get from your fellow actors?
I’ve always played characters that are not even close to me or my personality, and this fascinates people. Many wonder how I can handle such different roles, speak to different audiences and act in different capacities.
You have accomplished so much at a relatively young age. Are you in the right direction?
Definitely in the right direction. I regret nothing so far. As they say the sky is the limit. If you get big people from big channels calling you to freelance for them, then you know you’re in the right direction.
You spend most of your time researching and keeping abreast of the state of affairs on the market?
At the moment in researching on the Zimbabwean market as I’m planning to be shooting a few projects there. It’s looking quite good and promising.
How do you ensure that your work leaves a lasting impression?
My partner always asks me “Why does everyone know you” . Unfortunately I’m not that guy that will say “Don’t you know who I am?” . I’m glad to say my work speaks for itself so will it in more years to come.
You said Zimbabwe has a lot of productions but in most instances quality was being compromised for quantity. Like how?
I never expected to be asked this question. Ha ha ha. Anyway I’ve seen quite a lot of guerrilla-style made shows, films and people love them. This unfortunately creates a bar on which most aspiring filmmakers look at and then everything is created in such a manner and it compromises the quality of work and will not stand the same bar as international work. However, I know a few people that are making quality work in Zimbabwe.
….to be continued. Why Muchipisi wants to meet Shonda Rhimes…?
Do you know of Zimbabweans who are making strides in South Africa, those who excel in their line of work or business, or those who are genuinely making a difference and flying the Zimbabwe flag high. email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us who they are and why you think they are making a difference. skynewszimbabwe.com. News First