Film-maker and producer Kutlwano Ditsele is responsible for breathing life into some of South Africa’s most loved local dramas.
He has made a career from the latter, bringing to screen discipled shows such as Ayeye, Isibaya, The Road, Isithembiso and most recently The Herd. Then there’s a show that’s in production that he can’t talk about too much. ‘It’s something you know that’s going to be really dope with my unique touch applied,’ he says… Of course it is.
How was your love of storytelling birthed?
I was watching a Kevin Hart documentary recently where he said that he thought he’d been a liar (through his comedy) his whole life, and only later realised that it was simply an expression of his gift for storytelling. I can relate to that.
I grew up with my mother. My father wasn’t around. At a point in my childhood, my mother got really sick, and I was living with a cousin in Jozi (she was in the North West). I remember being awed by the stories I’d hear from kids at school about their family life. Mine didn’t match theirs, and that’s when I started making up stories.
When did it dawn on you that you could make a career in film?
When I was a kid watching those VHS movies, I didn’t have a concept of film as a career. The credits meant nothing to me. I was just watching because I loved movies.By the time I reached matric, I was obsessed with film-making. However, my mother wanted me to go a different route, which ended up being Public Relations. I later went on to study media at Boston Media House, and
this is where I came across an advert for a scholarship programme for the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. That spoke to my passion.
What was your experience there like?
It was incredible. Before I went there, I was very reserved and shy. But to be 21 and studying film in Hollywood changed me in profound ways. It wasn’t primarily the schooling, but just being in the world’s film-making capital and experiencing it in real ways. For example, through a mutual friend, I ended up at some after-party at Denzel Washington’s house with his son Jonathan-David who has gone on to be a very successful actor. I remember sitting there, a little tipsy…okay, maybe a little more than tipsy [laughs]…but I remember thinking: ‘Okay, Denzel is on a different level, but ultimately you’re in the same industry. At some point, he was also a young man in the industry. If he can do this, so can I.’ That fundamental shift was significant. I came back to South Africa and started at the bottom, interning and hustling. I always had the end goal in mind, but to get there, I needed to put in the miles.
For more on film-maker and producer Kutlwano Ditsele, page through your November issue of Man.