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November 18, 2006

Another Film set for Zambia

By Jabbes Mvula, USA - Yezi-Arts Promotions and Productions, a Zambian independent production house is set to produce a ninety minutes film with a working title, “Nkhondo Ya Mkwezalamba, (War of Sacrifice). This is a feature film based on the documentation of human experiences dramatically presented on Zambia’s contribution to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa.

Zambia’s involvements in the wars of southern Africa have had serious political, social and economic implications even today. It was home to many liberation movements, who later formed new governments in the sub-region after dismantling the colonial masters in their respective nations. Self rule dawned in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, with the assistance of this country. In the words of Winnie Mandela: "Zambia was the midwife of the struggle in the region, and South Africa was the last child it assisted in freeing from colonialism and imperialism but this was with a great human, economic and social costs”.

The story is revealed in a dramatic way in contemporary Zambia: ‘Musada a former soldier, now a mental patient, was part of the defense forces during the liberation struggles. He suffered torture and witnessed the waste atrocities inflicted on the innocent villagers during the incursions by rebel soldiers. His mind is lost when he sees crater where his parent’s house once stood, and he ends up on the streets as a vagabond. Picked for a psychoanalysis treatment at one of the mental hospitals, reveals a lot what Zambia had to pass through during the war, highlighting frontline reconstructions with enemy forces; reflecting the answered questions on whether the war was justified or not and ultimately post-war seeking answers on whether Zambia paid the price in vain. Kondwa, his doctor, the psychiatrist, occurs to be one of the internally displaced persons who was served by Musada at one of the villages during a rebel incursion’.

Besides the theatrical movie, Yezi Arts will also produce a documentary which will be more than factual with interesting information that has come their way in this project. There is a lot that happened during this important era in our history, which many of our people are not aware of. Even the basics around who was Maina Soko – what role did she play? And, how did we lose her innocent life? In short, it is shocking that this important era, sometimes less than the cost of the fight for independence, is not part of our political history being taught in schools. In fact, research establishes that most of our citizens below the ages of 35 least know anything about our involvement in the struggle. And, this is not only limited to Zambia, it transcends even in the same countries that have since been liberated.

According to the producers, the film is expected to be produced within a period of six months commencing this coming year. Auditions for the film are expected in early December, followed by training of the different artists who will take up respective roles in the enactment.

“All logistics in place, this film should be available to the public within an optimistic period of six months. It has a budget of close to K270million, and we can safely say we have commitments of approximately K100million. So far we have spent over K40million in the research and part of the pre-production phase. Now we have decided to go public also with the hope that interested individuals, business houses and government may find a way of partnering with us. We hope Zambians can rise to the challenge and assist us in telling this story for posterity’s sake. We are a country and we have a history, and this history needs to be documented and disseminated to the current and future generations”.

Yezi-Arts Promotions and Productions sees this film also as timely with the impending SADC Heads of Summit and chair that Zambia will host in 2007, and it is an opportunity that our political leaders cease an opportunity to be part of our creative industry in which we can chronicle our contributions to the immense but untold role in the region.

Zambian Soap makes it on M-net

By Jabbes Mvula, USA - A Zambian local television soap opera produced by Mwazanato Studios on the Copperbelt, has been signed up by Africa's largest Cable M-net South Africa. The soap entitled 'What a Life', started showing on Africa Magic channel 104 on 07th November 2006. It is being broadcast from Monday to Friday every week.

Mwazanato Studios Head of Public Relations, Nkhondowe Fumeshi announced this in a statement to ZNBC news in Lusaka. What a Life which has been aired on ZNBC TV for the past two and half years will be the first Zambian program to show on Mnet.

The soap depicts an African way of life, particularly Zambian cultures, beliefs and traditions.

November 16, 2006

Morgan Freeman to grace South African Film Festival

By Jabbes Mvula, USA - The Sithengi Film and Television Market has announced that they will be hosting a celebrity roundtable to help facilitate the exchange of ideas between actors, producers and other players in the cinema, television and entertainment industries. Sithengi festival organisers announced on their website that during this year's festival that takes place this week, they will be hosting discussions between American and African personalities in the film industry.

The event, to be held at Cape Town’s Artscape on 16 November, will feature Morgan Freeman as the guest of honour. Freeman will be playing former president Nelson Mandela in the upcoming movie, “Long Walk to Freedom”.

The roundtable will happen during the Cape Town World Cinema Festival, which runs between 14 and 21 November.

In the two days of panel discussions, US entertainment industry representatives will be speaking to leading South African talent, such Tsotsi director, Gavin Hood, and Tony nominee and Yesterday star, Leleti Khumalo. Among the participants in the discussions are Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan, SABC CEO Dali Mpofu, Tsotsi star Presley Chuenyagae, actor John Kani, and Anant Singh.

Sithengi CEO, Mike Auret, says, “the discussions will give us an opportunity to learn how to nurture and promote homegrown talent, explore opportunities for collaborations, and speak out about the challenges that both nations continue to face.

“Our US counterparts will also be able to learn about opportunities in South Africa, such as Ministry of Arts and Culture funding for overseas productions being shot in South Africa”.

The roundable will be organised into panel discussions and Q&A sessions. These will include special sessions focused on television, film talent, screenwriting and music video.

Topics under discussion include:

* The challenges entertainers and professionals face in their own countries and the means of overcoming them
* What the US and SA can learn from each other, and opportunities for collaboration
* How a SA company can set up a production company to work in the US, and vice versa
* How new technologies, such as the internet, broadband and video-on-demand, can help promote SA content
* Strategies to protect intellectual property rights and fight piracy
* Television opportunities for US production companies in SA
* How can the entertainment industry promote HIV awareness, safer decision-making and fighting stigmas

According to Auret, Sithengi’s significance in the local entertainment landscape will continue to grow as South African cinema has comes into its own - the recent Oscar victory for Best Foreign Language Film, Tsotsi, and last year’s Oscar nomination in the same category for Yesterday, being two examples. “The country’s diverse locations, affordable, experienced talent pool and use of English have made it an important resource for a growing number of Hollywood films, including Ali, Hotel Rwanda and The Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo di Caprio”.

The Sithengi Celebrity Tour will bring speakers to Johannesburg and Soweto, Kruger National Park for a luxury safari and Cape Town.

October 2006 – Black Month For Zambia Theatre

By Leonard Koloko and Ackson Tembo, Zambia - The month of October 2006 can best be described as a Black month for theatre artists in Zambia as three prominent artists Kingsley Sinkala, Sonny Ngwenya and Cosmas Gabriel Mpundu died during the month. The untimely, horrendous and brutal demise of one of Zambia’s theatrical heroes has really saddened the artistic fraternity. In Kingsley Sinkala we have lost an ambassador, a friend, a musician, an actor, producer, director and arts promoter.

Kingsley was killed by armed bandits in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was shot by four men who raided his landlord's house in Rundburg residential area on Saturday 30th September 2006. He was gunned down when he tried to rescue his landlord who had been attacked by armed bandits. The late Kingsley was 43years and is survived by a wife and five children.

Kingsley had been on the art scene for entirely all of his lifetime having taken part in the ZANTAA festivals of the 70s and 80s as a schoolboy at Ndeke Secondary School. This was the time when, together with, the late Graig Lungu, Maidstone Mulenga, Elijah Daka, Danny Chanda and scores of other upstarts founded the youthful but powerful Tithandidze Theatre Group. Kingsley excelled both as an actor and a playwright and actually conceived a good number of plays that were accredited as having been written by the late Graig Lungu. Among such plays were ‘Woman is Queen’, ‘Den of Torment’, ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Forsaken’ and ‘Love Enchained’.

His theatrical prowess continued at Zambia National Service where he helped found KAFUNASE, the Kafue National Service Drama Group, which later became ZANASE. For some time after the Zambia National Service stint, Kingsley led what one would call a peripatetic life, living in about four towns a long the Great North road. He was in Lusaka, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi and Kitwe, and in all these towns, he was involved in various theatrical activities. It was the Venus Theatre Club project in Kabwe that catapulted him to greater heights when he played a leading role in ‘Kalicheli,’ a musical production penned, produced and directed by the late Kwaleyela Ikafa. In this successful and highly acclaimed production, Kingsley Sinkala played the leading role of Kalicheli.

In ‘Kalicheli', he partnered well with Belinda Dube who played the role of ‘Sheli’. The play went on to win an award at the 1982 TAZ Festival and was one of the best pieces ever to be screened on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Television.

Kingsley, fondly known as King, went on to push his talent to the top when he featured in a memorial play for the late Haggai Chisulo. ‘Haggai Remembered’ was a compilation of six excerpts from six plays in which Chisulo had played the leading role. The director Mumba Kapumpa wanted an energetic actor who could play Haggai’s roles in these excerpts, and Kingsley scooped the part. The role was extremely demanding because the characters varied and the play was fast paced requiring someone who would change character and costume quickly enough so that it’s continuity was not disturbed.

Kingsley stole the hearts of the audience when ‘Haggai Remembered’ premiered at Evelyn Hone College Hall. Many would recall how Kingsley changed from being an American guy in ‘I’ve Always Been A Stranger Here’, to ‘Che’ in ‘Che Guevara’, to ‘Kamunu’ in ‘Hunter of God’ and ‘Man’ in ‘Soweto Flowers Will Grow’ among the six other roles he played in that masterpiece. The beauty with Kingsley was his attitude towards criticism and eagerness to share ideas.

In 1989, Kingsley Sinkala found himself in another musical play, again by Kwaleyela Ikafa who had now moved to Kitwe from Kabwe. The play was special in that the actors lived in different parts of Zambia and only met occasionally for rehearsal. Kingsley was based in Kapiri Mposhi. The play, ‘Mawe-The Musical Riffs of Conscience’, was performed by CAST ( Creative Arts Simple Theatre ) with Kingsley taking the leading role of Kadansa.

‘Mawe’ told a story of two warring gangs in society ‘The Makululu People’ and ‘The Coach Station People’. These two groups were at each other’s necks with each blaming the other for its own social problems. Incidentally, the play saw the return of the two stars of Kalicheli as leaders of the two gangs. Sinkala (as ‘Kadansa’) led ‘The Makululu people’ whilst Belinda (as Tendai) led the ‘The Coach Station People’.

This contact with musicals brought out the musician in Kingsley Sinkala such that in 1991, he entered the ZNBC Studios and recorded an airplay single entitled ‘Uno Mwaka Tulevota’ backed by The Green Labels band. At this time, he was back with ZANASE as a full time actor taking part in a number of their ‘Play Circle’ productions that were the only local production on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Television.

After 1991, Kingsley Sinkala decided to export his rich artistry to the highly competitive South African scene where he still weathered the storm and represented the Zambia in that country. Apart from teaching drama and dance at high school, he wrote, produced and directed a number of successful pieces for the South African theatre.

Among the pieces that Kingsley did in South Africa, were musicals ‘One Love’ and ‘Katinanga’. He also featured in another drama entitled ‘Room 20’, a two man cast in which he played ‘Jabu’ an undercover cop investigating the activities of a drug trafficking sex-worker. Sinkala also wrote and directed the play. In Kingsley Sinkala, the nation has definitely lost a dedicated patriotic Zambian artiste who worked for the betterment of the arts.

As the country was still mourning Kingsley, the national again lost Television soap opera actor, Sonny Ngwenya, who died in Lusaka on Friday 6th October 2006. Ngwenya entered the limelight soon after the launch of the ZNBC Talent Search for Kabanana soap opera. He was picked during the talent search, and has been featuring in the Kabanana Soap, as a Drug Enforcement Officer.

Ngwenya also appeared in a ZNBC better TV advertisement where he acts as an informer for ZNBC TV licence officials.

Cosmas Gabriel Mpundu, a producer , play director, accomplished actorand playwright, died in Chingola on 19th October 2006 and was buried four days later in the same town. On 22nd October 2006, artists paid their last respects to Cosmas when his body passed through the Chingola Arts Society auditorium.

October 25, 2006

JK and Danny to set Zambians in USA on Fire

By Jabbes Mvula, USA - Zambia's music wonderboys Jordan Katembula and Danny Siulapwa are this weekend expected to entertain hundreds of Zambians based in the United States of America as Zambia celebrates its 42nd Independence annivesary this week. Zambia celebrated its independence day on Tuesday 24th October, but for most American based Zambian organisations, celebrations to mark this special day have been set for this weekend. Among the functions lined-up for this weekend, is the Association for Zambians in Arizona (AZA) Independence party set for Saturday night, while the '2006 Miss Zambia International Pageant' will be held on the same day in Atlanta Georgia. Zambia's music sensations JK and Danny are expected to grace the '2006 Miss Zambia International Pageant'.

The 2006 Miss Zambia International Pageant, in its first year running, is being organized by three Antlanta based ladies, Aretha Sisa, Margaret Phiri, and Mutinta Mazoka, daughter to late Zambian politician Anderson Kambela Mazoka. The 2006 Miss Zambia International Pageant will be held at the Georgia International Convention Center with charges pegged at $25 advance purchase and $30 at the entrance. One of the organisers Aretha, explained that part of the proceeds for the function will be donated to two orphanages in Zambia, 'The Nyumba Yanga Home of Joy' and 'Ubumu Orphanage'. Aretha went on to say that it is the desire of the organizers to ensure that Zambians in priviledged positions contribute to 'Girl Child' education. This event which is expected to be an annual event, is expected to support orphaned girls at the two orphanages achieve their dreams.

Jordan Katembula, commonly known as JK by his many local fans, has already arrived in Atlanta ahead of Danny. He told me earlier that he is in the country only briefly as he has other engangements. Jk, who is as 'trend' as America's P Diddy, was the first Zambian musician among the new blood to hit stardom when his first album outsold all other musicians of his time. Jk also provided vocals on Danny's song 'Masiku Onse' which introduced Danny to the Zambian music industry. The combination of the two is an explosion that may just leave their audience as entertainment casualties.

Loverboy 'Danny' is expected in the country any time. Danny is one of the stars in Bad Timing in which he both acted as well as composing sound tracks. Watching Danny on stage will just give you a feel of what you will expect in the film 'Bad Timing' as well as the documentary 'Voice of an African Nation'.

As for the Arizona Independence Party, it will be held on Saturday 28th October 2006. It is being organised by Fred Mwale, Kwame Musonda, Samuel Sakala and Prisca Okafor. 42 Years Zambia, Land of Peace and Joy.

October 24, 2006

UHURU

By Jabbes Mvula - Today is Zambia's 42nd Independence Day. It just feels good to celebrate my country's polotical independence and remember the heroes who died during the fight for my freedom. Uhuru is a word from East Africa meaning 'Freedom'. Zambia is now 42 years old, not bad anyway.

For Zambians reading this page, its time to ask ourselves what our contribution has been or is going to be for our country. It should not be what the country can do for us but what we can do for our country. By the way, the most exciting news during this year's independence is that 'Oil deposits have been found in Zambia'.

HAPPY 42 YEARS ZAMBIA.

October 23, 2006

One Bright Summer Morning

By Jabbes Mvula - I was still in bed when I felt a gentle hand touching my head, and as I woke up, I saw him with a broad smile standing next to the bed. He was always smiling, that is why sometimes we used to call him Smiler. I looked at the window as the streams of the sun beamed onto my face through the curtains. I looked at the watch, it was only a minute or so after 07:00 hours in the morning and yet the sun was already bright. What a bright summer morning. The day was 23rd October 2001, on the eve of Zambia's independence day.

He pointed to the food on the bedside table, "You did not eat your food last night," he told me as if I did not know. I knew that he wanted the food, and I told him to take it to his Mum to warm it first. He had gotten used to eating with me such that it seemed like he never enjoyed his food alone. I envied his great appetite, no wonder he was a big boy, the opposite of his skinny father. He dashed out of the bedroom to the kitchen like lightening, and then I switched on the radio to listen to the morning main news at 07:00 hours.

I was off from work, and after the news, I sat to plan my day. I had only three appointments on this day, one at the National Arts Council (NAC) where I served as a Board Member, another one with Actors and Actresses who had featured in the play entitled 'Banjo' that I had just finished producing the previous weekend, then later in the evening, there was an "Independence Cultural Night and Dinner" at State House to be hosted by the Republican President. As a board member of NAC, I had the privilege of attending high profile cultural and artistic functions.

I was still in the bedroom when I heard noise coming from the kitchen as if there was a party. I was very upset because it was early, and besides, my late Dad was visiting us and he was still sleeping. When I went into the kitchen, I found the whole family surrounding a three-year-old boy, Jabbes Junior who was singing and performing. He was singing the songs he learnt from the Theatre Club when the family went to watch my play the previous week. The song was not in very good taste, but as a kid, he was singing it very innocently, and I should admit that he was a spectacle to watch anyway. However, I breathed fire on everyone for watching a kid sing a naughty song, and I screamed at the three-year-old-one-man-performer (I regret screaming at him - will explain later).

There was an immediate silence in the room, then I enquired as to why the boy was not yet in school uniform. The Mum explained to me that he woke up with some blood clot in the nose, and she thought it wise that he be taken to the Doctor. I had no money at that time, so I promised to take him to the Doctor after coming back from the bank. I started walking out of the kitchen when Jabbes made a very silly remark behind my back, he said “TOLILO VOVO”, a local slang meaning “CRAZY”. Everyone in the room laughed at me especially that I used to defend him, and today I had received a dosage of my own prescription. He ran out of the room laughing after calling his dad ‘crazy’. He was the kind of kid who liked making silly comments when the mood in the house was tense, and somehow, we always laughed.

He came back in the living room after a while to inform me that the driver had come to pick me. By the time I got to the car, I found him seated in the back seat talking with the driver. I had to play some tricks to get him out of the car, leaving him crying. Am told he really cried very much (another big regret-will explain later).

I was in the meeting with the Deputy Director at NAC when I got a call on my cell phone. It was Dad with a shaking voice, “Your son is very sick and he has been taken to the clinic, please can you rush back home”. I was completely shocked because I left the boy playing. I called the mother to assure her not to panic, as I would move him to a private Doctor. Somehow, my mind kept on thinking ‘I hope my son will not die’. I tried to get this thought out of my mind, but it kept coming back. I was walking back towards the main road when the cell phone rang again, this time it was my younger brother Simeon. Immediately I answered the phone, he broke down, then after a while, in between sobs, he said, “Jabbe is dead”. I was devastated and I do not remember what happened next, but I just remember struggling to stand up. I think I got confused because I ran until I found myself in my office because I was somehow near the office when I got the message. My friend Joseph Zulu escorted me to the road to get a taxi.

When I got home, I was told that they had gone to the clinic with him. I gave myself some hope, thinking that may be he had only collapsed. At the clinic, I was greeted with shock, entering the Junior Doctor’s examination room, just to find my son lying on the bed as if he was only sleeping. I carried him in my arms and knelt down praying for a miracle. My workmate Ireen Nthani came into the room and asked me to put him on the bed and thank God for everything. She prayed with me for sometime.

The clinic had no mortuary, and as such, we were advised to take the body to the University Teaching Hospital where there was a mortuary. Since he was taken to the hospital already dead, it was classified as a B.I.D case (Brought In Dead). The pathologist Doctor had to first examine the body and certify that he was truly dead before he could be taken to the mortuary. Again I hoped that the pathologist would find him to be alive, but it was not to be. I remember the pathologist telling me that ‘Am sorry sir, you had a very health son’. All hope was gone now.

This now was the most painful moment. I asked to carry my son into the mortuary because I did not want the mortuary attendants to just throw him like any other dead body. When we entered the mortuary, it was a sorry sight. Earlier in the month, there was a road traffic accident in which some people died and most of the bodies were kept in one big refrigerated room of the B.I.D section. Most of the bodies could not easily be identified because of the blood which had dried up with dirty, with some of them being completely disfigured. There was just no space, and I told the mortuary attendants that I could not put my son on top of dead bodies. Out of understanding, they moved some bodies aside and created space for me to lay the child on.

I was reluctant to let go of the child, but after some persuasion, I just had to, and they had to almost drag me out of the refrigerated room. As they closed the door to the room, I remembered my last encounter with him – I screamed at him. I never had chance to make up with him again, just how is his spirit looking at me? I wished I had been given chance to make up with him. I also remembered that I ran away from him leaving him crying. I imagined him crying, “Is that the way you can ran away from me dad?” I could hear his voice saying “Are you leaving me alone here in the mortuary dad?” I used to tell him that I would always be there for him no matter what. I imagined that if he is to wake up, the first person he will call will be “Dad!” and I will not be there for him. I WEPT.

October 20, 2006

Reflections

By Jabbes Mvula - I have spent the last few weeks reflecting on my life, my relationship with others and generally re-defining my goals in life. Since we wrapped up the filming of Bad T!ming on Saturday 02nd September 2006, I happenned to be the most unfortunate one to have been hit by a bout of malaria and stomach complications. I spent just over one month in bed, and I felt like life had just come to a stand-still.

As I lay down looking at the ceiling, feeling lost and praying for healing from God, I kept thinking about what I want to do in life. I remembered words from my former Director General at Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Dr. Steven Moyo;

Ask yourself 'What haven't I done that I should have done, or what have I done that I shouldn't have done, or indeed, what have I done that I should have done better?'

Jabs-Pic-3.jpgI should admit that these questions, coupled with the illness, made me feel even more lonely at times, especially being far away from home. Just when I was recovering from the illness, I got a call that my youngest girl, Thokozani, was suffering from 'Chicken Pox'. Oh my God! Thinking of your child suffering when you can not even be there for her, is an experience that just leaves you helpless. You just think hard about nothing, constantly walk around aimlessly, and get emotional at the whiz of a fly. Thank God she is now fine.

Just when I start settling down, the family sends me another message, this time asking me to prepare a memorial message for the newspaper publication on the memorial day for the late Jabbes Jr on 23rd October. Its now five years since he departed. This time, it was interesting to me, because instead of remembering the pain of losing him, I have only been thinking of the motivation he gives to my life and ambitions. I realized that sometimes we go through a painful moment in order for us to sober up and think about tomorrow. The most unfortunate thing is that when a door closes, we always spend all the time crying such that our eyes become full with tears and we fail to see the other door that is opening.

I thank God for giving me the ti
me to reflect.

August 22, 2006

Missing My Family More Than Ever

jabbesWithFamily.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – When I arrived at the Lusaka airport 14 days ago I was so busy getting the crew’s passports and luggage issues resolved it took me quite along time before I was able to greet my friends and relatives. I would walk by the exit and I could hear them yell and scream for me. I wanted so badly to go greet them, but I knew I had to take care of business first.

That has been one of the most difficult things on this trip. I really would like to spend more time with my family, but it has been very, very difficult. We have 25 days to film this movie in Zambia and I feel torn every day. Last Sunday I was able to spend some time with my little girl, Thoko. We went to the mall and walked around. When I was in Arizona it was so difficult to be away from my little girls. I could not wait to be back in Zambia and hug my children.

jabbesFamilyCrane.jpgI can see the wisdom in not having your family on set. The crew is fortunate in this. They are able to concentrate just on filming the movie. I on the other hand need to spend most of my time filming. I wish I could spend more time with my Mum, my kids, my family and my friends. I am unable to do so. This has been very difficult for me. I want my family to know how much I have missed them and how much I want to spend more time with them.

August 20, 2006

Support and Success

jabbesDrNgomaAirport.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – I must admit I was very worried about making this movie. I was concerned about how the revised script would be received. I was concerned about the safety of the crew while traveling and visiting Zambia. I was worried about the cast and locations and props. It seemed that my concerns were warranted because last week was very difficult. We were all trying so hard to accomplish so much that at times I felt nothing was being accomplished! At the end of the week we were so exhausted and frustrated that I began to worry more. We took the week-end off. I slept. On Monday morning we started again. By the end of the day we had done 11 pages of the script! It was a great day. I realized then what Cyndi had known all along. The first week is hell. Everyone is trying to find their place and how to help. After six days everyone settled down and we accomplished more then we had planned for. It was amazing. I feel so grateful to everyone and their patience.

Everyday we shoot we become better at what are assignments are. Our shots are getting better. Our lighting is even more amazing. Our sound continues to be exceptional. Everyone is working together. Now as we work hard to accomplish so much we are accomplishing more. As we view the daily shots I am so proud of the crew and the cast. They are capturing my vision. This movie is going to be even better then I imagined.

August 19, 2006

Zambian Talent

sullyna.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – It is very interesting that the country has not produced any films and yet it has an abundance of talent. It has been wonderful to work with the actors on BAD TIMING. They have been so responsive to any direction I give to them. I must admit I was worried. Most of the actors have strong theatrical backgrounds. I am so grateful that they are as professional as they are and respect me in my role as director. It has been a joy to have my vision of this project materialize day after day during the scenes we have shot.

August 18, 2006

The End of Week One

talentZambia.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – The first week is finished. We have had some hiccups in the road, but the crew has fixed them. They have been so wonderful and very professional. One of the difficulties has been the small rooms we have had to use as sets. Putting in all of the equipment, the lights, the cameras, the sound equipment and I often wonder where we will fit the actors! At the end of the day we have managed to get the shot. I am so grateful to the crew. The lighting has been so wonderful and the sound has been terrific. They have worked so hard to help me make this project a success. I am not so worried about the rest of the shoot. I know what ever hiccup comes up next we will fix it.

August 14, 2006

I am so happy

BY JABBES MVULA LUSAKA AFRICA - I must admit, I have been very preoccupied. Ever since I knew I would be directing Zambian actors in BAD TIMING while being assisted by an American crew, I was worried. I would often wonder how they would relate to each other. I also felt like I was caught in the middle. On Thursday when the crew met the cast everyone was introduced, it felt awkward. I became more concerned. I knew it was very important that we mesh together in order for this movie to be made.

From the beginning, I feel this project has been a collaborative effort. Many friends and family have sacrificed so I could go to the United States to pursue my dream. While I was there I met an amazing woman and her students who embraced me and my dream.

Now we have returned to Zambia. I am bringing my new friends, some I consider to be family, to meet my old and dear friends and family. It is important that the two cultures find common ground. For right now the common ground is me and this project.

Today was our first official shoot. I had to leave the shoot to locate some technical supplies. My crew could not go do this without me because they do not know the area or the people. I was so nervous to leave, but I had no choice. When I came back I found the rest of the crew working with the cast. Jeniece had done make-up on the actors. They were teasing her. She was laughing. Pamela was interviewing the cast so she could put in their blogs. Susan was visiting with the other actors. I could feel the unity on the set. This made me very happy and relieved.

I know now that everything will be alright. I am no longer caught in the middle. I am a part of a wonderful group of people who are helping me make my dream come true. I am so happy

August 04, 2006

Leaning on Friends

JABBES MVULA, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, UTAH - Making a film is one hell of a difficult task. As a first time Director, I have had to face my own challenges, but am so grateful that the support that I have received all the way has always lifted me when I felt low.

Firstly, my good lady Cyndi, has been my greatest darling especially during the script development stage. Cyndi happens to be my Executive Producer and at the same time my Professor in Digital Film Making at Mesa Community College in Arizona. Being my professor, she played a big role in guiding me through out the stage of script development. I would always take my scripts to her for guidance. Even after the first draft was ready, she sat with me for about two weeks guiding me in re-writing the second draft.

After we had the final draft, it was time to do the script breakdown, locations and props breakdown. It was a ladies game this time, Cyndi, Gina and Pamela who worked all their lungs out, trying several kinds of ways to make the breakdowns easily managable for a first time crew. I can just say hats off.

storyboarders.jpgAm very bad at drawings, and I just did not have any clue as to how to handle storyboards. Someone had to help me again in putting on paper my ideas and interpretation of the film. Jacob Felix, Eric Aguire, Heath McKinney and Mario Carbajal were just the perfect guys I needed, I enjoyed working with these guys. It was a very hectic stage, but it was also very refreshing for me working with people who could do just anything to make my work much easier. Storyboards gave me a chance to direct the movie well in advance, making me more prepared. The period gave me a chance to get more closer some of the crew than we were before.

Two days ago, I was talking to the Chairman of the National Arts Council of Zambia, Mulenga Kapwepwe, who was very encouraging and motivating to us. Yesterday, I was talking to the Director General of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Joseph Salasini about the project. Joseph who happens to be my former boss, was just so awesome and refreshing. Everytime I talk to him, and Dr. Edgar Ngoma, our main sponsor in Zambia, I always feel highly motivated.

I have been away from Zambia for the last one and half years, and as such I couldn't have managed to know all the new Actors and Actresses that have come up lately. I knew most of them, but there were a few that I had no clue. I just do not know what I could have done if it was not for Augustine Lungu being there for me doing the groundwork. He has just been awesome and upbeat to get things moving such that as of now, almost everything is in place.

We had some problems on the ground in Zambia late yesterday, as usual, when I felt low, Cyndi gave me one piece of advice, "If it was easy to make a film, everyone would do it, and you wouldn't be making the first film in Zambia, just pick yourself up and face the challenges". That was all I needed to tackle the problem, within two hours, we were back in business.

A friend that I value in Cape Town, Precious Gumede of Shell South Africa, was kind enough to send me a cool attachment to make me smile when I told her that I was feeling so low. I needed a smile at that particular time, and I just could not believe that she could be so prompt. Later Thursday afternoon, the Press Attache at the Zambian Embassy to the United States in Washington, Mr John Mulutula, called me just to check on our progress and to encourage us. Both Cyndi and I felt so overwhelmed with excitement at the feeling that people from the embassy are so much behind us.

As we drove back to the lodge after the screenings here at Sundance, I thought, "Thank you God for all the friends that have been there for me and have lifted me whenever I've been down". My task couldn't have been made more easier than this if it was not for the support from everyone.

August 03, 2006

Crazy Lady

BY JABBES MVULA, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, UTAH — If I was asked to describe my Executive Producer Cyndi Greening in only one word, I would say she is the most "CRAZY" person that I have worked with in a long time. If you are planning to work with her in the near future, my advice to you is you have to be prepared to run along in order to catch up with her.

In the next 10 days, we start shooting the first feature film in Zambia BAD T!MING. The documentary, VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION is already well under way as of now. The past months have been very hectic for both Cyndi and I, including the several other people that have been working on the projects. Now that the filming is just around the corner, I would love to very briefly share with you how I feel.

I should admit that am very nervous, and the thought that everyone on the set will be looking at me as the Director, sometimes sends a ripple in my stomach. Please get me right on this one, am not worried about director the film, rather, am worried about what my Executive Producer has done. Am currently attending the Sundance Independent Producers' Conference, and I just could not believe the level of appreciation professionals in the industry have for this film being produced and directed by first timers.

I've had the rare opportunity of meeting with both established and newcomers in the industry, and most of the people I met here at Sundance, seem to have been well informed about the project and they approached me with so much admiration. I will not pre-empt my interactions with other fellow professionals today, I will leave that for my post tomorrow, but the only point that I wish to state is that people are not expecting a film from a first time Director or Producer, but a professional film.

notSpeedy.jpgAm not scared of this fact because I have gone through a thorough drill to prepare me for the task from script development to the final stage, but my worry is whether everyone involved, from the cast to the crew, who all happen to be first timers, are ready for this challenge to be undertaken in ONLY three weeks. At first I thought I will be directing a first time film, but now I realize that people will be expecting a professional film from us. Thank God I came here, coz am now fully prepared.

Working with Cyndi is like the film SPEED (starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves), in which when the bus attains full speed, there is no slowing down, otherwise you end up crashing. One thing I have learnt with admiration is the way she has prepared everyone involved in the project, and as for me, well am also getting crazy.

July 25, 2006

When the going gets tough

JABBES MVULA - "God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage". Today the Film Zambia crew had a very good experience of that fact. We had a feel that in the process of achieving success, sometimes the situation may become tense and unpleasant. The most important thing is to realize that success is not easy to come by, it can sometimes be rough to attain, especially when everyone is working so hard to a point that they even overstretch themselves.

_MG_1109.jpgThe crew was today working on schedules that would make it possible for the film to be shot in within three weeks. For those who know what it means to shoot a movie, planning to film a feature in three weeks is an uphill battle, unless you do a very good homework when planning. That is what we were doing today, planning every details of the shooting schedule.

Cyndi put together a crack team to work on different aspects of pre-production planning in order to come up with a schedule that would make it easy for everyone involved, from cast to crew, to know what we would be doing at every particular time. Thanks to a very sophiscated software that she has, it makes you understand the filming process better and even reminds you of the little things that you might have overlooked.

There were about three different groups that were working on different aspects of schedulling. Cyndi herself was coordinating all the groups and ensuring that whatever was being planned, would work on the software that we are using. I, as the Director, was moving from group to group explaining how I will direct the film.

The first group had Jeanette and Pamela. The two had to all the questions to do with locations and the scenes so that they could group them together and see which scenes could be filmed together. Both Jeanette and Pamela are very precise in their work, and they really put me through a process that also made me realize where I had not done proper planning. The ladies were awesome, they really wanted all the details on paper so that everyone involved understands my vision. It was like attending a job interview that is for a manager's position.

The second was a one woman group of Gina. This is the kind of a woman who wants to make sure that she knows the number of hairs on your head if she has to plan a hair make-up for you. What am trying to say is that she wants to make sure that she is so precise with every little detail. Perfect for continuity when filming. She had to make sure that she lists down every prop in every scene and even the changing of clothes from scene to scene. She was amazing.

Then there were the storyboarders, Eric and Jacob. I had expected the storyboarders to just draw the sets in order to give averyone an idea. Eric had his own approach, the guy wanted detail in how am going to direct every shot that he was to draw. I had to think of the camera positions especially in relation to the Actors. The guys did an awesome job (Eric and Jacob). Let me say I started directing the film today, way before even moving on set.

Robby was in another building editing video news packages about the film. M.K was locating items we would bring to Zambia. It was in the process of the groups trying to get information from me, that Cyndi, who sometimes becomes protective of me when she feels am getting stressed, wanted to stop the detailed questions. Almost everyone got stressed at one point, including me. However, everyone continued working until we achieved our goal for the day, and now, everyone knows how we shall shoot the whole movie in about 15 days. The rest of the days have been left for "B" rolls and "B" plans should one or two things not work as per plans.

If you ask me if it was easy to make the movie, my answer is "Sometimes the going got tough".

July 22, 2006

VISUALIZING ON THE SET

BY JABBES MVULA - Eleven days from today, Cyndi and I will be joining several other Independent Producers at the Sundance Conference, and then eight days later, we will be arriving in Zambia to start the filming of BAD T!MING. Most of my friends are very excited, but Cyndi (am sure) and I are having sleepless nights going over every little detail and making sure that everything is in place. Sometimes I pity her because whereas am only answerable to her, she is responsible for the whole crew and answerable to the entire management of Mesa Community College and the taxpayers of Arizona State.

The last three days have been very cool for me, Thursday having been my birthday, and I made sure that I took it easy. Yesterday I was very excited when my buddy Oliver Mzenje Banda brought me the pictures from home. I took sometime looking at the picture over and over, visualizing the scenes and comparing the pictures with the script. I should admit that the pictures highly motivated me because I felt like I was already on set in Zambia.

cranecam.jpgAfternoon yesterday, Jacob and Robby were packing the crane and a couple of other things. As they mounted the crane, my mind was visualizing the kind of shots I will need using the crane. I imaged the shots at the concerts as the revelers are having fun. I think am just picturing in relation to the script.

Later yesterday, Cyndi gave me a copy of TSOTSI. I should say to me, TSOTSI is a big deal because it was the first African film to win an Oscar, and that it was done in a local language, but in a style very easy to follow. When I first got the DVD and rushed home, the first question was "What is in this film?" I have since watched the film twice, and I will be watching the "Making of" later tonight. At one time, I realized that I was not concentrating on the film, but I was rather looking at the Director's intentions and shots. I constantly asked myself, "Would I use that shot?" I enjoyed the movie, and look forward to meeting some of the people involved in the movie.

I hope I can find something else that can keep me visualizing the set so as to take away the anxiety.

July 21, 2006

Location Scouting

village.jpg

BY JABBES MVULA, PHOENIX, USA — This is one of the locations that we'll be using for BAD T!MING. It's the village scene and it's very near to where I grew up. My Mum still lives near this area and it makes me long for home to see it. A friend, Oliver Mzenje Banda, got these images for me and delivered them at 1:00 a.m. We're getting ready to go to Zambia to shoot the film. We're having to do the location scouting from a far. Cyndi tells me that it can happen this way with Hollywood films, too. They have to send a Location Scout to the area to find suitable locations before the cast and crew arrive. Of course, I know what things look like but this helps the crew a great deal.

vicFalls.jpg

Here is the Victoria Falls location where we will be shooting the wedding scene. It's a gorgeous setting. I think the audience will love seeing one of the most beautiful settings in my country. I too will be excited to see Victoria Falls as I have never been there. I worry that the water may create problems when we're filming because I read that it can shoot up in the air. Many people wear raincoats around the Falls.

July 20, 2006

20th July — My Birthday Arrives

BY JABBES MVULA - It was just about 21.00 hrs (9:00pm) Arizona time on July 19 when I got my first text message from home. It was my immediate young Sister Monica, and the message - "You are now our Big Bro and Father, our first born, don't get upset when we wrong you." Monica followed up with another message from her two daughters Violet and Rachel, together with my other kid Sister, Ellah. Well, I was humbled with the message, that my large family considers me the father.

littleThoko.jpgThe next two messages were the greatest, my first daughter Judith, she was teasing me, coz she knew Dad was happy. Then Thoko just came on the line and sang two songs - Happy Birthday and ... oh my God, I have forgotten the other song coz I was so excited. Just after Thoko said "I love you Dad", her Mum came on the line too to wish me a happy day.

I haven't spoken to my young Brother David who is in South Africa in a while. His message that came just after midday local time just made my day coz I had decided to sleep a lot today. His message was "Today a boy is born, happy birthday Big J." By the way, sometimes people call me BIG J.

One of the biggest suprises of the day was a call from a very old friend who has never called me in a century, Norah. She suprised me with a stray call to wish me a happy day. She admitted that she meant to call somebody else, but she was suprised that the call came to me instead - interesting. Anyway, it was fun talking to her after sometime. It added a smile to my day.

My good friend and confidante, Richard wrapped up the day when he and his wife Julie hosted a special birthday dinner for me at their home. I spent a wonderful time with his three children, Maddie aged 12 in grade 6, then Jack who is still in pre-school, and 18 months old Heather who spent the entire four hours that I was visiting, running all over the house. They were so warm to me and I enjoyed the art and creativity of Richard, which he has passed onto his daughter Maddie. I loved the presentation she made at school about Jamaica, and I asked her to make a presentation about Zambia next time. She agreed. After spending some quality time with the family, we had dinner, and I enjoyed the Chicken and Macaroni. They gave me the birthday cake. I wish Thoko was here to eat with me.

I gave myself a lot of rest today, sleeping half of the day, something I have never done in the last nine months that I have been working on the Bad Timing project. My birthday was worth writing about.

July 18, 2006

CRITICISM

"In the face of criticism, we can become bitter or better, upset or understanding, hostile or humble." — These were the words of one William Arthur Word.

BY JABBES MVULA — Most people hate criticism, I don't like it either, though depending on the approach, I may take it or just ignore it. However, little did I know that during the process of developing the script, I would go through a stage at which my script would be criticised and torn apart. This is a very important part of script development in the business of writing either film or book.

JabbesCyndi.jpgThe last two weeks have been so hectic for Cyndi and I. After I finished writing the script at the end of April, I gave it to my Executive Producer (who is also my Professor in Digital Filmmaking) Cyndi Greening, to proofread it. It took her almost the whole month of May to write her detailed comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the script. She gave me her comments, together with a 19 page layout of how I could improve my script. Her comments were very good and enriching to me, but I suddenly developed fears that the guide would make my script sound American.

This is one of the times that I gave Cyndi a plus in the way she played her game as Executive Producer. She came back to me with a different approach. For a period of two weeks straight, the two of us met from morning till late to discuss the script in depth. Her role - criticising the script word for word and sentence for sentence. I had to justify why I put "that" and not "this". Sometimes we differed, sometimes we agreed, but at the end of the day, we made sure that the Zambian voice of the original script that I wrote was maintained, while at the same time making it professionally accepted.

I learned that sometimes, when you realize that criticism can be good, it can make you a better person and it can make your work better. For two weeks straight, I went to bed at 03:00 AM and was up at 06:00 AM waiting for Cyndi to pick me up. I only slept for 3 hours a day, not so healthy, but it was worth it. Am so happy with the script, but guess what, I still have a lot to do before we can start filming.

In the face of positive criticism, we have produced a better script, and I feel so humbled.

COOPERATION

BY CYNDI GREENING — Filmmaking is such an odd art form. Fine artists in many fields create their work and refine it—alone—and then present it to the world. Paintings, drawings, sculpture. They spring more often from the mind of a single person. Critics may comment on the work but the artist can simply say, "This is the way I have created it."

In order to make a successful film, it is vital that the filmmakers face mounds of criticism long before the critics ever see the finished film. Filmmaking demands that a group of artists come together and bring every skill they have to bear on the creation of a magical tale woven out of everyone's imagination. This can be the missing element in independent filmmaking.

I've been going to the Sundance Film Festival since 1996 and I have seen over a thousand independent films. Some of those films are wonderful and amazing. There are some, on occasion, that needed more criticism. Some films have the same writer, producer, and director which makes for a singular, independent vision. But, sometimes, those stories are weaker because they wander all over and are too "loose" to sustain the story for the viewer. They did not benefit from enough criticism and cooperation.

I have to give Jabbes a lot of credit for the way he has handled the development and production of BAD T!MING, thus far. Like me, his goal has always been to serve two masters in the making of this film. One commitment is to make the best film possible. Equally important is the commitment to accurately reveal contemporary Zambian culture. Both commitments must be manifested by the script. Based on the stage play by Samuel Kasankha, the story of Chiku and Mutinta needed to be adapted for film. It had to be developed for the camera and the visual shorthand that comes from filmmaking. As Jabbes worked the many drafts of the script, the story kept getting stronger and clearer. The dramatic throughline for Chiku strengthened and the opposition of the villains (major and minor) clarified.

It would have been interesting to see us working on it. (Ask Pam, she had the dubious distinction of being able to watch us for a couple of hours.) I'd say, "I don't get this part. It doesn't work for me. I don't think this character would do this."

Jabbes would scowl at me as he considered what I said. Sometimes he'd explain why he thought it should go that way. Sometimes, the explanations were very long. Sometimes, he'd say, "You're right, Mum. What about this ..." Sometimes, it would really be a cultural thing. I recall one scene with Mutinta and her mother when I said that I thought the mother would speak a certain way. "In Zambia, Mum, never. Never would a parent say that to a child. Never."

The real gift of this experience (and, as a producer, I must say, if only all writer/directors were like Jabbes, the world of filmmaking would be a joy!) is that the goal for both of us was always the strongest, most compelling Zambian tale.

Now, we count on all of the other members of the team to use their skills to make this script leap off the page and into the hearts and minds of viewers around the world.

July 15, 2006

ACTION

Today is probably one of the most important days in the diary of BAD T!MING. This is the day that the stage will be set for the movie. The final script for the movie will be released at the end of the day today, July 15th, 2006. Those within the 'Film' family will be able to see the script. Originally, I wanted to release it on 20th July on my 37th birthday, but I realized that the more we are getting closer to the D-day, the more am getting anxious, and I have to reduce this anxiety.

clapboard.jpgMy mind will now be thinking of the first sound of the 'clapboard' in Lusaka just before I will shout the word 'ACTION'. I should admit that am so anxious for that life changing moment of my life. I feel it will be like attending a job interview or my first date with a girl of my dream. Am not jittery or afraid, but am just sort of excited to assume the most envied job in the making of a movie. Being a 'Director' in a movie is a very challenging job.

Since I embarked on this journey, it has changed the way I watch movies. Every time am watching a movie, this time I try to ask myself questions like 'Why did the Director do that?' or 'Did the Director really to put that action there?' To me, every action that I see in a movie now, must have a reason, coz the 90 minutes given to tell a story, is just too valuable to be blown just like that. These kind of thoughts are the ones that bother me a lot, because I know that people will also judge my directing the same way that am judging others.

The more I think of all these things, the more I wish I could just bring the days forward to that I can go for it. I will have the Actors and Actresses looking at me for guidance and directions, while at the same time, the technical crew will be looking at me to explain to them what I really want to achieve. Its not easy when more than 100 people are all looking at you expecting you to answer all the questions.

I know that once I start, everything will get back to normal life, it's the beginning that sort of bothers me. I wish we could start shooting next week on Monday. I think am now ready to go.

July 07, 2006

Developing TV Drama

Lungu.jpgZambian Independent Producers involved in the production of Television Dramas, have come together to form a commision that will help them speak with one voice and promote technical excellence in the industry. This is according to a press release published in the Abet Arts Newsletter of June 2006. The commission that will be called COPPERBELT TELEVISION DRAMA COMMISSION, was formed by the four main production houses on the Copperbelt Region of Zambia. The region as the name suggests, is the economic hub of Zambia, a country whose main traditional export is Copper. The region currently has four active production houses that mainly produce soap operas and sitcoms for the country's public national broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

Despite the fact that there is no locally produced film in the theatres in the country, local Independent Producers have for a long time been making several attempts with limited resources to develop the film industry. During the past two years, the country has seen the opening of the second television channel MUVI TV, and the coming to the screen of a number of locally produced soap operas and sitcoms. The country has also seen films like PASSION OF THE CHRIST being premiered at the same time with Western countries, except that one had to purchase the ticket two weeks in advance to secure a seat.

The formation of the commission came at the end of a one day seminar held at the Fatmols Guest House in Ndola on the 14th May 2006 to discuss the future of the Film and Television industry in the region. The primary object of the commision is to build a culture of technical excellence and financial strength for the production houses. It is generally very difficult to secure financing for a Television Drama, let alone a film in Zambia.

The four houses behind the formation of the commission are BGM Studios, producers of LOOSE ENDS, Mwazanato Studios, producers of WHAT A LIFE, Zilile Studios, responsible for the production of WINDS, and the producers of REFLECTIONS. Members of the commission are drawn from Executive Producers and representatives of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

Meanwhile, Abet Arts Newsletter also reports that Zambia's most celebrated Actor and Comedian Augustine Lungu, has finally bade farewell to bachelorhood after marrying former Miss Kamwengo Vunda, an Actress. Augustine, who overstayed in his bachelorhood, and whom we used to call "Confirmed Bachelor" lost his much treasured bachelorhood at the Carnival Resort in Lusaka on 27th May 2006. He is one of the most famous names in the Zambian entertainment industry, and probably the most highly paid Actor and Master of Ceremonies in Zambia. Apart from being an Actor, he has also produced and presented several Radio and Television programs.

June 25, 2006

Confession of a Black Sheep by Jabbes Mvula

"What we eat secretly in the dark, will be seen from our vomits". This is a translation of one of the common proverbs used by elders in my country, Zambia. It just happens that the proverb has come to pass in my life over events that happened lately.

The last one week has been a very difficult period for me as I had to deal with the loss of my only son who passed away during the night of 17th June 2006 in Zambia. Just as the loss of the child was very difficult for me, it was also very difficult for me to announce the death of the child to my friends and peers. It took me half a day of thinking and reflecting on issues surrounding my life before I made the announcement of the death of the child.

Firstly, I lost my first son Jabbes Jr on 23rd October 2001. On 23rd December, 2001, I lost my Dad. Driven by this double loss, my love for the two departed beloved ones, and my wish to keep my son Jabbes Jr in my heart all the time, I decided to come to the United States of America to pursue studies in Film. The end of the road is to make a movie about the ups and downs of my life, the big achievements that I've made as well as the mistakes (especially in my relationships with women). I just want to bring out the passion and drama that I have created through the years of my life. This movie should be coming sometime in 2008, if God keeps me until that time.

The desire to pursue all this will probably show you the strong bond that I have with my children. Other than the late Jabbes Jr, am still blessed with Judith Chikondi, aged 14 and Taonga Thokozani aged 5. I am very close to these two girls, I sing about them everyday just like every other parent does. Almost everyone that has associated with me, the first thing they get to know about me is the fact that I have two great daughters, Judith and Thokozani. With this background, when I got the sad news about the demise of my second son Kondwani (meaning Rejoice or Happiness), I had a lot of difficulties to announce his death to friends when from the onset, I never told anyone that I had another son. What everyone knows is that I had only one son who passed away in 2001, and that I only have 2 daughters, period. The question now has been where does Kondwani come from?

CONFESSION - The late Kondwani was born in February 2005, just two months after I left Zambia for the United States. He was a product of one great mistake that I made before I left Zambia (it was "Bad Timing" for me). There is no other way I can put it other than just this - I made a mistake that led to the birth of Kondwani, and because of this mistake, I was suppossed to present myself before some elders and make things right before I could proudly sing that I have a son. I never talked about the child because of the dark cloud that hung and surrounded his birth. But despite this, let me make it very clear that I was loking forward to going back home to make things right and be able to hold him in my arms and tell my friend that now I have a son to keep my name going, it was never meant to be.

PRIVACY - My culture demends complete privacy to mistakes especially by elders. Where I come from, we never wash dirty linen in public. It is against this background that I kept my mistakes so private, hoping that I would have a chance to make them right, but that chance never came. Despite enjoying a bit of limelight, you may have to bear with me that am also entitled to some privacy. As much as I have tried to be open, I should admit that I never discuss my mistakes openly, unless you are so close to me or unless I feel you need to know. In the same vein, I don't derive pleasure in poking my nose in other people's privacy, unless they willingly feel I should know about their issues. For example, the one and half years I have been here, I have really missed a kiss, but it's not for everyone to know.

By the way, I still need a son, but for now, my energy is on the project, but I hope to channel all my energies to making a son after the film project.

Having made this Confession of a Black Sheep, let me end by appreciating the great love, concern and care that I received from all my friends. Everyone close to me has been very supportive and am so humbled with the kind of support that I received. This has really made my loss lighter, and it is my prayer that God will richly bless everyone for the Love that they have given me.

June 14, 2006

Orson Welles Says It Best

The director is simply the audience. So the terrible burden of the director is to take the place of that yawning vacuum, to be the audience and to select from what happens during the day which movement shall be a disaster and which a gala night.

U.S. filmmaker, actor, and producer Orson Welles (1915–1984) in a speech, Nov. 4, 1985, at Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Director's Angle

I have spent this week relaxing and chilling while Cyndi and the crew have been having production meetings and team-building exercises. I plan to spend the rest of the week just relaxing because "All work and no play made Jabbes a dull boy."

During this period, am reading some books just to have more insight into what it means to be Director. The first book I looked at as I prepare myself for this challenge, is the $30 Film School. I went straight to Chapter Four - FILM CREW. My heart lept when I read the role of the director, this is what they wrote;

"Is considered GOD. He runs everything on the set. He tells everyone what to do and everyone listens."

I realized the load that I will have to carry as the Director, and for that matter, first time Director. It is not just shouting "CUT CUT CUT." I just have a lot of work on my hands because I can imagine more than 20 people on the set all looking at me for direction and guidance.

I have been asking myself as to what I want people to see from the movie. and I think the following are some insights into my visual aesthetic;

1. I like moving cameras. I would like the cameras to provide rhythms to the motion pictures, and I would be so happy if my DOP would be able to use some good travelling and dolly shots. I do not like swish pans that give the viewer blurred images as if they are watching a movies using broken spectacles.

2. During my "Acting for Film" class at Mesa Community College with Prof. Sandy Ellias, I learnt, and this sank into me, that movie-goers pay at the theatres to watch images of people and not objects. I just do not like shots that capture a small image of a person in the middle leaving a lot of space. What I want are close-up and extreme close-up shots. I will only use long shots when there is a specific message that I want to express in that shot.

3. I like seeing faces on the screen. This means that whether an Actor/Actress is talking or not, I would like to see some action on their faces. I like movies where even the listening shot becomes interesting. As for the Actors and Actresses, I like faces that are captivating and that tell a story. I do not like dull faces.

4. When the dialogue is explosive, I hate shots that miss the movements. Whether this is deliberate in some movies or not, I want the camera to capture every movement that I need, it be a talking head or a listening shot. This means I also prefer an Editor who is able to put together motion picture that tell a story even when there is no talking.

5. The fact that we will be filming dark skinned people, does not mean I would be happy with black pictures. Lighting, especially on dark-skinned people is very cardinal. During my acting class, I learnt that light skinned people do not need a lot of light when in front of a camera, but dark-skinned people normally have problems with little light.

6. Although I like looking at faces and expressions, I do NOT want to make a "talking heads" movie. Filmmaking is visual storytelling. Much of the story is carried in the locations, the set design, the costumes and the movement in the frame. We will use all of the visual tools to make a rich and satisfying story.

This is an exciting time for me. Everyone is busy, working to build BAD TIMING into a powerful film that presents the Zambian people and culture to the world.

My Creative Peak Period

Sometime in January just before the start of the semester, I decided to visit my friend Theresa Mulomba in Michigan. Theresa is one of my friends with one or two things in common, she was an actress in Zambia before coming to the United States, she loves the movie industry, and she dreams of making it in the film industry. She also writes very good poems. I went to visit her so that we could spend some time sharing our ambitious dreams, and I should admit I greatly got motivated and gathered more confidence just before I approached Cyndi.

Last week, I decided to go back to Theresa in Michigan to get away from my computer because everytime I enter my bedroom, the first thing I see is the computer, and I just can't stop working. I just wanted to go and dream again, nothing to do with the film project. Though I wanted a break, I carried two books, The Prayer of Jabez and $30 Film School. One of the reasons I had to go and dream is that between 20th June and 20th July, I try hard every year to develop a new idea. My late son Jabbes Jr. was born on 20th June while I was born on 20th July, and I always try to create something memorable during the time between our birthdays. I call this period in between as my peak period.

I was just about to take breakfast when Cyndi called and told me that we had been accepted to the Sundance Independent Producers Conference. This means we would get a chance to rub shoulders with great names in the movie industry in the United States. Cyndi's phone call just messed my appetite, I felt so excited that I thought "Man shall not live on bread alone." Immediately, I realized that the heights that BAD TIMING may attain requires us to get ready for a follow-up next year. Since I was in the dreaming zone, I did not have any difficulties in thinking of the next production. Am glad Cyndi liked the idea of our second movie, either PERFECT BRIDE or AN ANGEL FOR THE WEDDING DRESS.

My peak period looks promising, coming from Theresa's place, Monday I had an opportunity to talk to some of the people close to my heart. I talked to my Queen (Mum), my Sweetheart (Judy my daughter), my beloved kid Sister Gladys, then my kid friend Patricia Mulomba (Patricia just made me feel so good and appreciated). Judy wished me early "Happy Father's Day" before anyone else. What more with a blessing from the General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Zambia Rev Japhet Ndhlovu who emailed me yesterday? Rev Ndhlovu is probably the most influential spiritual leaders in Zambia today. I felt so good when I got an email from him. As if this is not enough, Cyndi gave me very exciting news today, and I just felt like on top of the world.

In all this, I thank God that he made it possible for me to meet Cyndi Greening, put two crazy people together, then expect an EXPLOSION of energy, activity and creativity.

June 11, 2006

Sundance Producers Conference

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, AZ, USA — We got the news yesterday via email! I thought the announcement was going to be made on the 10th so I was surprised when it was there. The acceptance letter. I've applied for the conference before AND the workshops but was never selected. Of course, I think this project is by far and away the best project I proposed to them. It has the most potential to make a difference in the world of independent cinema. It was surprisingly short and direct.

Cyndi Greening and Jabbes Mvula
BAD TIMING, First Zambian Feature Film

Dear Cyndi and Jabbes,
Congratulations! You have been selected as participants for the Sundance Institute's 21st Annual Independent Producers Conference! The Conference will be held at the Sundance Village in Utah from August 3 – 6, 2006. We look forward to meeting you soon!

I called Jabbes in Michigan today. He'd gone up there to relax a bit. Like me, he was feeling a bit stressed out and exhausted from the process of getting this film together. He was beside himself with joy. Our goal of launching the film industry in his country and making a powerful feature film that achieves international distribution seems so much closer now. We'll be getting support and guidance from distributors and financiers of independent film. It's really great to be part of all this.

June 06, 2006

Still Waters Run Deep

The last few months have greatly transformed my life in many aspects. One aspect that I thought of sharing today is "The other side of Jabbes". Most people that have known me here in the United States have known me to be a "very quiet young man". My family, especially my daughter Judith and nephew Johnphan would laugh their heads off if you told them that am a cool guy.

Whereas I have been a quiet guy, I just realized "Bad Timing" has turned me into a crazy guy inside. Everything that I see, read, hear, or experience, to me is a possible visual that I can use in the movie. Am a first time Writer and Director, and all I think of from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, is Bad Timing. Here are some of my crazy thoughts;

1. One day a dear friend in Phoenix came complaining to me about her Brother's behaviour when he drinks. The man is a very cool man, but the moment he takes some intoxication, the daughters are "bitches", the sons are idiots. When he sobers up, he hides from everyone. I consoled her, but I remembered one of my former neighbors in Zambia. This became one of the characters in the movie.

2. I have a dear friend who is an Instructor. When teaching, she can be crazy, she will sing, play, tell silly stories, get back to serious work, and just will do anything to keep the students attentive. I like her character and this is the character of the teacher in the movie.

3. My cool friend Jeniece sent me an attachment of what children think of God. One statement reminded me of some questions kids asked me when I was a Fellowship Leader back in Zambia. This helped to remind me of the behavior of children back home.

4. One of my female friends came complaining to me about the difficulties she has been having with her husband. After I consoled her, she felt so good and as we parted, we hugged. While we hugged, her head rested on my shoulder and she whispered in my ears "You are so nice and understanding". The whisper was so sweet that my heart almost melted away. My mind said "this position can work well in the movie".

5. There was this letter that I had to submit urgently, but I had forgotten to print. I went to my friend's office to print. My friend was seated behind her desk and I stood next to her. She tried to print, but the flash drive could not open, so she pushed back her chair and asked me to open the flash drive on the computer. I bended forward and as I worked on the computer, I looked at her. I suddenly realized that she is pretty and she looked young. She had a killing smile, and my heart started to melt. I felt so happy. I complimented her and as she smiled at me, I thought, "I need this position in the movie".

As I sit down on my desk at home at the end of the day, I realized that every time am thinking about the movie, I shift myself into a quiet mode, and yet my thoughts go so deep to places where they have no business. No wonder most writers are quiet. Samuel Kasankha, Francis Magiya Manda, Cheela Chilala, Henry Sakala, Stu Neta, are some of the writers I know, and are all quiet, unless you find them in the wrong company of Augustine Lungu and Jacob Chirwa. Oh yeah "Still Waters Run Deep".

May 30, 2006

I WANT TO MAKE A MOVIE

ColinCyndiJabbes.jpg
BY DIRECTOR JABBES MVULA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - The first time I posted on this blog, I promised to write about how this project started but I haven’t been able to do that due to pressure lately. We are just about to get rolling and there are just hundreds of things that Cyndi and I have to take care of in just one month. I will still keep my promise and write about how the idea came to be and possibly even write about my background. I promise to write a whole boring story about my life, my struggles with my dreams and ambitions, my successes and of course my failures.

This time around I thought of writing about something on professional lines, my experiences about filmmaking so far. I was talking to a friend from Zambia, Henry Sakala. He is one of my friends in this business that have maintained very close contact. I was trying to find out about the latest developments in the industry back home. Henry is one of Zambia’s greatest Actors, and I think playwright Samuel Kasankha’s favourite. He is also an upcoming writer having penned one award-winning play. Recently, he wrote and produced a film entitled SILENT VOICES. I called him to get a feeling of what it was like making a movie.

I will summarize his experiences in brief. Henry wrote a first draft script, found a low-end mini DV camcorder, put a cast together, shot the film, did straight editing, and ... he had his film. It was simple, very basic filmmaking. Because of its simplicity, people don’t seem to have any confidence in it. No investor wants to help market it, and he was only able to screen it at the Lusaka Play House where only a handful people came to watch it. Henry put a lot of effort into this production, but people just don’t seem to appreciate it. And yet, when Henry runs a stage play, it’s been a sell-out.

Henry may be in this sad situation, but probably the worst situation is that of another very good friend and one of Zambia’s great comedians, Shingonga. The guy is good at his art, and he also put together what he calls a “film”— which he shot on lowest end VHS. The only people that have watched his production are the actors and his wife. He is the Writer, Director, Producer, Actor, and Editor of the film. My heart bleeds.

I have been analyzing these sad situations and I think I have learned that making a movie is not as simple as people imagine. If it were that simple, then almost everyone with a script would be a “Filmmaker”. Working with Cyndi Greening on this movie has taught me a lot of things on filmmaking.

One of the most important things in making a film is having a good script. I have never written a script before, though I have produced over 1000 scripts for Radio Drama and about 15 or so for Television. How do I know these numbers? Simple mathematics. I worked for Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation for 15 years, and for about 10 years, I produced two plays every week for Radio, one in English and one in Chinyanja. That is about 104 Radio plays every year for about 10 years. I worked with Zambia’s prolific writers like Samuel Kasankha, Francis Magiya Manda, Joemwa Mtsinje Mwale and Nick Venter Shamilimo.

When I started writing the script, adapting it from stage to screenplay, Cyndi gave me screenwriting software that helped me a lot. I wonder what it would be to write a script without the software. I wrote each page about 4 to 5 times just to come up with the first working draft. Every time I wrote about 5 pages, I would take them to her for analysis, and she would make her comments, advising me where it was weak. She maintained that she wanted it to be a Zambia story, and so she never made any corrections or changes, only offered suggestions. She would only point at the weak points and ask me what I was trying to put in the movie, who were these characters and what was I trying to tell in this part of the story. I worked for some months to come up with the first draft.

When I had finished my first draft, one day she brought to class a lot of films and let the class watch the first ten minutes of every film. She also taught us to watch the first ten minutes of a film with volume turned off. A good film has very little talking with so much fast action in the opening minutes, while a bad film has everyone talking with very little action in the opening minutes. After watching the films, Cyndi and Bob Lewis (the other teacher who also a Regional Manager for Apple Corporation) led the class into analyzing the films. I just felt like they were all critiquing my script 'coz it had a lot of talking in the opening minutes.

After class, she told me to cut my first 10 pages into 5 pages, and I should describe my main characters using actions. I said to myself “If this is what it means to make a movie, then it is not fun." One of the things I have known with low-cost films is that the first 5 minutes do not inspire people to continue watching, and I realized that Cyndi wanted me to turn my script around so as to inspire my audience.

After putting in all this work, I thought I have done the best, and I gave her my FINAL script. I had a shock when she told me that she is breaking it down using the latest script software, and then she would make her comments so that I can produce my FINAL script. After that, I would then work with the people doing the storyboards.

After talking to Henry, I wondered if he or Shingonga had access to this kind of guidance. I haven’t even begun to write about the kind of filmmaking equipment that we will be using or the award-winning editors that I will work with to do post-production on the film.

Am not better than these two guys, but I have just been privileged to work with a professional person on this dream I have that started from the simple sentence “I want to make a movie." Now am getting to understand what it really means to make a movie, I hope to use my experiences and observations to inspire and motivate others in Zambia and around the world. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are saying “I WANT TO MAKE A MOVIE."

Producer's Note: Jabbes asked me to find a photograph of the two of us together to post with this entry. I have over 500 production stills that Mike Montesa has shot so far and this is the ONLY photograph I could find of the two of us together. Apparently, there is so much going on, we're never in the same place at the same time.

This photograph was taken in the early morning at the recording of Colin Boyd's The Big Picture for FM101.5. Set to air in mid-June, Colin interviewed us about the making of the two Zambian films. Neither Jabbes nor I had had more than three hours of sleep. Thank goodness Colin did a great interview and got us talking up a storm!

May 26, 2006

KWACHA AND USD

It has been difficult to write in the blog the last couple of days. We have been working on the press kits and revised budgets for both the feature film and the documentary. Since Cyndi has never been to Zambia, I have been helping her with the cost of filmmaking in my country. We have been doing everything from planning location fees to converting prices from Kwacha to U.S. Dollars. I believe I will be able to write a more reflective entry soon.

May 24, 2006

OUR GROUP iPOD

iPodCrew.jpgiPods are not so common in my country Zambia. We do have them, but not common. Perhaps it is because they are too expensive for most ordinary people. I mean why spend one's hard earned 200 bucks on an ipod where you will be listening to music alone, and yet people live a communal life. It just doesn't make sense, though as for me, if I had enough money, I would definitely buy one.

iPods are the main thing here in the United States, almost everyone must have an iPod. Sometimes I would sit and look at young students very excited humming or sometimes shaking their bodies to music that only them could hear. I would always think "THAT'S CRAZY".

One wise person said, "Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music".
Yes, when you see other people excited or even dancing to music that you cannot hear, you think they are crazy or insane. Little did I know that one day, I would also be listening to music that other people sitting close to me cannot hear.

When Cyndi and I agreed to work together on this project, I hurriedly walked out of her office as humble as you know me to be, but the moment I was out of her sight, I jumped and danced with excitement. I have no iPod, but I was excited. Some people saw me, and I think they must have thought am a lunatic. I don't care.

Over a period, as Cyndi got more and more into the project, moving it from a small idea to ideas that will change lives of million people, she too has become so excited and crazy. In fact she has brought more excitement and craziness to the idea. We started seeing a greater picture of the project that no one else could see. Jeanette Roe, another MCC Media Arts teacher, joined the vision. When I had a chance to meet the College Vice President, I could see the excitement in her and the anticipation of success. On Monday, I met Rodney Holmes, the Dean of Instruction, who will be coming to Lusaka as well. He was so excited and already had a clear picture of how to get into Zambia from here, definitely he has been doing research.

Now I cannot even explain the excitement that is among students who are part of this project, and just how anxious they are to make a life changing contribution to my Zambia. I have spent some time with Mike Montesa, a great Cinematographer, and he seems just ready to abandon his profession for the meantime, just to make sure that this project is a success. Another great Cinematographer I've come to meet, Carlos Espinosa, is a very quiet, modest guy, and the only words I've heard from him are "Hi" and "Zambia". I did not know that Robby Brown had another job, because every time he has to work on our project, he is always there, so committed to the vision.

I always thought there is little information about Zambia here, until Monday when I was suprised to find Heath McKinney and Jason Werner with books on Zambia. I was like "Where did you get these books from?" One thing that humbled me is the commitment by everyone to know more about Zambia. Alec Hart is a quiet and shy guy, and should have been in New York by now, but he has opted to be part of the vision to change Zambia's image to the world. On Monday, I could not believe when he told me what all the colors of the Zambian flag stand for.

When I first produced my Digital Story, I did not find it to be so touching, but I think Jeniece Toranzo beat me pants down on my own production. When I saw the re-edited version that she produced with Cyndi's guidance, I felt glows of tears in my eyes. I just loved the commitment she put into the work. I wasn't suprised though because her first production in class was equally good, and I remember telling her that one day we should work together. I have lately developed so much liking for MK Racine. It is not easy to satisify Cyndi, because she always wants perfection, and things to be done at supersonic speed, but MK manages to handle her. Tell MK an idea, she tells you how it's gonna be done.

I first met Katie Greisiger at the Phoenix Film Festival when Cyndi introduced me to her. I have been so humbled at the level of commitment and the drive she has in making sure that she gives the productions as much publicity as possible. She makes a difference. Lindsey Black is my sweet girl. From the first time we met during a recording session with Cyndi, she has been so encouraging. She even gave me the book "The Prayer of Jabez" so as to motivate me. Its a great book. She is so sweet.

Recently, we had a meeting and I met Shawn Downs. Though he is just finishing high school, he has been earning dual enrollment at Mesa Community College. He is young but very excited about film. His excitement for Zambia is growing.

One things binds us together - we share the same vision, we have the same passion, we are all committed, we are all hearing the same music - the music of success. Some people might think we are just crazy, indeed we are crazy because they do not hear the music that we hear. The sweet thing about us is that so many people, one iPOD, one song, one dance. If all of us can hear the music so loud, then we cannot all be wrong. For BAD TIMING or VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION, an award is sure coming our way. Cyndi's GROUP iPOD.

May 21, 2006

THE PRAYER OF JABBES

Jabbes 1.jpg"If you view all the things that happen to you, both good things and bad things as opportunities, then you operate out of a higher level of consciousness." - Les Brown -

One day I was crying and asking God "WHY?", but now am smiling and am not asking God "WHY?" That is why I have come to believe that sometimes even bad things may happen to us in order to provide us with an opportunity, the only problem is that we spent all our time crying and trying to find who is wrong so that we know who to blame. You have to let go of your most valued seed and bury it into the ground in order for you to get a harvest.

On this blog, I will in the next couple of weeks give you details of what inspired me to undertake this project and what I have and what I will be going through as we move towards the day when we shall be premiering BAD TIMING. I will give you my inspiration and motivation factors, and of course I will also pay glowing tribute to those that have contributed in any way, greatly or least, positively or negatively.

This being my very first posting, I think I should give you a loose-may of the beginning. Am not talking about the beginning of my vision, but the beginning of God's involvement in this project. The idea came a long time ago, but I invited God much later. As I was in the process of putting together my plans and preparing a project proposal, I suddenly found myself going through a lot of stress. My personal life was breaking up, I had problems back home, I was facing a lot of financial difficulties, one of my very dear and close friends who inspired me, was distancing herself from me. Things were just not going on well with me.

Just at about that time, I talked to Cyndi Greening and Dr. Edgar Ngoma about Executive Producing me, and they both agreed to give me their full commitment. With that commitment in offing, I thought of involving God in my plans. I dedicated the whole month of February to praying for success, I spent half an hour everyday giving the same kind of prayer.

1 Chronicles 4: 9-10 : : Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabes, saying I gave birth to him in pain. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me and keep me away from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.

I cried out the same prayer everyday, reminding God that am also Jabez(s) and that I needed Him to grant my request. I dedicated my plans to God asking him to enlarge them. I asked for the greatest support that only Him cane give. I gave this prayer everyday for the whole month of February. I was also mindful that even the greatest people in the Bible met obstacles, and I knew that at some points I may meet these obstacles. I remembered to recite the prayer of David in Psalms.

Psalms 23 : : "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ............ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they confort me .......... Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

I should admit that God prepared me for the project. I told myself that it's going to be tough and that sometimes I may break down, but God will be with me all the way. A dear friend Lindsay Black (Linz) gave me a very valued present - The Prayer of Jabez. It is a highly motivating book, I should admit.

I never get suprised when I see the kind of commitment that Cyndi, Jeanette and all the students are putting into the project. Cyndi has become my Mum, Sister, Partner, Instructor, Friend, Producer and just anything. When God moves a car, He takes away the brakes so that it does not stop until when He accomplishes His plans. I should admit that the support and attention that I get from everyone involved is way beyond what I had expected. All in all, I just say God forgive me because sometimes I work so hard and I end up so tired that I give little time to God. However, to Him be the Glory forever and ever.

Later in the week, how it all started.