Sello "Chicco" Twala - Film Producer

You're at home and  bored. You'd love to watch  something that will make you laugh. You just want light entertainment - not something hardcore.

So what do you do? You go and hire a Nigerian video from several of the Nolliwood video shops that are on every street in Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville.

Wrong - you go for local.  Welcome to Twalawood, a movie revolution in full swing in Mzansi.

The language is raw, comic relief delivered in the clearest of township lingos, calling a spade a spade.

In Focus spoke to Sello "Chicco" Twala, who together with his ex business partner Senyaka, for years produced very successful low-budget comedy videos and now continues to produce videos that sell like hot cakes.

Q. Mr Twala, we've always known you as a successful musician and a producer. What inspired you to go into film?

I've realised that many of the film makers in South Africa lack doing research about their target markets. Hence I capitalise on that. If you want a successful film, you need to go to the township and check out what those people relate to easily, what makes them tick and what make them laugh. I wanted to produce films that people can relate to, films that are in Xhosa, Pedi, and Zulu. I also want to compete with the Nigerian market.

Q. Film is a very challenging industry, but you made it look simple, what difficulties did you come across and how did you overcome these?
A. Finance has played a big role. People see me as a music producer and not a film maker. Now having to step out of my boundaries to go into films, there were questions on whether I would make it. Hence I decided to do low cost films, buy my own equipment and produce good movies. The interesting part is that now we have people coming to us and asking for advice, clearly what we are doing is good and it works.
Q. What inspired you to go the comedy route?
A. I believe that there is too much drama and violent films on our televisions, so the aim was to shift from that stigma to producing movies that make people laugh - besides I love comedy. I might not be a good comedian myself, but I sure know how to produce good comedy films.
Q. Where do you get your funny characters?
A. There is a lot of talent in the township. I spend most of my time there, and  that's where I meet these characters, some I even meet in shebeens and I just invite them to my shooting and take it from there. It's always good to bring different people into the market.
Q. Do you produce your own story lines or you have joint ventures with other people?
A. Our storylines are very simple. My movies are freestyle. We give the character a scenario in which to develop a scene which is totally unscripted and improvised. I don't want to restrict these people into a script because I know their strengths. We give actors the platform to express themselves.
Q. Who was your distributor and what channels did you use?
A. Madluphutu is very successful nationally. Our strategy is very simple. We sell our movies to established networks, Reliable Music, Jetstore, Edcon and whackers, because whackers help us reach the target market. Right now we partnering with spaza shops and shebeens. With the new Madluphutu, we want to make it available to spaza shops and shebeens.
Q. Did you require funding to produce your movies?
A. We do require funding, because later this year, I will be going to the United States to approach Martin Lawrence to play a character in one of the movies we want to reshoot, Moruti Wa Tsotsi. We are raising money to reshoot it. But we won't stop shooting low cost movies.
Q. Where do you see yourself in the future, in the film industry?
A. We want to make sure that we release movies in Venda and Giyani - because there are many stories that need to be told in those places. We want movies to be done in their own languages and release the movies on the directors' behalf, and they receive royalties.
Q. What advice can you give to people aspiring to produce their own movies?
A. It's important to realise that when things are done in the SA way, they will become more successful because people will relate more to them. People must write their own African stories and stop imitating the American movies. It has been proven by the Nigerian market that it is possible.
Q. What can we expect next from you?
A. We're growing, we shooting Maddlupuhti 3 and it will be in the market in 3 weeks time. We also have a new movie coming, Traffic Cop which we are almost done shooting. Traffic Cop tells a true story of how people have to pay bribes to traffic cops in order to not get tickets. It's very hilarious and people should look out for it. Our goal is to shoot 10 movies for the viewers each year.