With a production budget of several million rands – MultiChoice’s biggest domestic TV show on DStv to date – the epic drama series Shaka iLembe on Mzansi Magic “was so big it scared us”, says Nomsa Philiso.
As the CEO of MultiChoice’s General Entertainment division, Nomsa Philiso, a veteran South African executive, is well versed in the many day-to-day logistical intricacies and challenges, the many problems, crises and constant problem-solving required in the world of television industry.
Bomb Productions’ bold 12-episode series – chronicling the historic rise of Zulu king Shaka – presented a unique new production challenge in terms of money, scope, ambition, production value landscape and the sheer scale of MultiChoice, M-Net and Bomb Productions, which television companies had not attempted. South african pay tv operator in randburg has expanded its reach before.
“The most important thing was the intent – to get it right,” Felissou tells News24.
“We wanted to get it right and in terms of how it was told. When you’re telling a story that’s everyone’s story, there are conflicting narratives. The pressure on the team was to try to get it as accurate as possible.”
“We understand that we’re doing a drama series, but the topic is so important to so many people that the biggest pressure point was: Do we have enough and as valid information as possible to base this on? Why have we relied so much on academics, historical consultants, and people of different generations.”
“Putting it all together and then saying, ‘This is the direction we’re going,'” she says, “was the trick.”
Limby sharkplanned to run for three seasons, is busy with production on season two while South Africans watch episodes of season one on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) on Sunday nights, showing the beginning of Shaka’s origin story.
While the second season will revolve around the unification of the adult Shaka and the eventual creation of the Zulu nation through his clever battle and warrior strategies, the third season will culminate in his murder as well as his legacy – the growth of the Zulu nation across what is today KwaZulu-Natal.
“How big are we?”
While MultiChoice isn’t willing to divulge how much has been invested in the warrior epic show, which has employed a cast and crew of thousands, Philiso says, “The higher the production, the higher the budget; the more complex you get in terms of the work that really comes into the picture.” .
“We knew it was a big story. So the question was: How far do we go? We could have made a surprise move in the Sunday drama, but we really wanted to be honest with it. That was the thing: It’s not small. That’s why the way we We tell Shaka Olympics that it spans three seasons.”
“The first season is almost a ‘prequel’ of sorts,” she says. “Shaka belongs to the community that gave rise to him. So we don’t just want to see him as an adult in a fighting and conquest phase. The more we peel back the layers, the more we realize how big it would be to do Shaka Olympic. He was big enough to scare us, too.”
“For me, I feel that if there was ever any doubt about the ability of MultiChoice, M-Net and the South African television production industry to be able to pull off something of this magnitude, that doubt is really gone,” notes Filiso.
“A lot of international companies come here, take our work as a dry lease in, say, Cape Town, but Shaka iLembe we’ve all been – doing it ourselves. It confirms our position that the South African TV industry is a very skilled as well as a very capable industry, It also underscores MultiChoice’s ambition to be the greatest storyteller in Africa.”
Regarding casting – with Limby shark He brags about who he is in South Africa’s thespian fraternity — there was, at least initially, some trepidation about the series being occupied by so many famous faces, Feliceau says.
“There was a time when we were feeling ‘Are these faces maybe not very familiar?'” Everyone is there. Mind you, we were in the process of finishing up the casting of Shaka iLembe just as the wife at Showmax became this big thing.”
“Some people think, ‘Oef, there are just too many of these people.’ So my point was one of, ‘These people are adorable.’ They became part of the MultiChoice brand.”
“What I’ve learned is that it’s actually possible to have a project where everyone is… the leadership is from Desireé Markgraaff [managing director at Bomb Productions and co-executive producer of Shaka iLembe] and Angus Gibson [Bomb Productions director and series director] It was amazing “.
“They had everyone going in the same direction. It wasn’t the easiest of times because we decided to shoot in the winter – which turned out to be one of the wettest and wettest in a long time. It was a tough thing. And remember, it was only a year after coming out of lockdown from The Covid-19 Pandemic”.
Mkabayi played Dawn Thandeka King in Shaka i Lembe.
Queen Ntumbazi is played by Khaponina Kiobka in Shaka Lembe.
Godongwana played Thembinkosi Mthembu in Shaka i Lembe.
Maui is played by Wanda Zuma and King Jubi is played by Hamilton Dlamini in Shaka Elimpi.
“I expected people to be nervous. But strength of mind – having a unique focus is the thing that sets me apart. Even here at MultiChoice. The way we approached marketing and messaging – it just shows everyone was charging for the same goal.”
We said, ‘We’re going to do one thing, and we’re going to do it right. Desireé and Angus driving were truly amazing. And of course, driving MultiChoice because at the time we thought those numbers had so many zeros we couldn’t do that, they said: do it.”
“We asked: Really? And they said I do. That was the most terrifying time because we thought it would never happen – not that amount of money with no other investors and financiers. Everyone who gave a little tick believed it, every one all the way.”
“What amazed me was the extent… I think it was everyone’s dedication,” says Felissou.
“You expect it – but when you see the run it’s always impressive. Everyone who worked on it Limby shark As a project wants to be in this project. There were no loafers. Everyone put their hearts and minds on it. Dedication to me has shown me that it is possible.”
For Philiso, Limpy shark MultiChoice triumph and M-Net triumph.
“What makes me happy about Shaka iLembe is that we accomplished what we set out to do. We set out to tell an African story, by us, for us, and we made it happen. It’s just a reaffirmation that our stories matter. Our stories matter just as much.”
Shaka iLembe airs on Sundays at 20:00 on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and is also available on DStv Catch-Up and via the DStv App.