Award-winning filmmaker, Thabang Moleya, is enthusiastic about nurturing new talent and being a team player to create films that make people laugh and leave them feeling inspired. From the humble beginnings of documenting school events to presenting on national television and now, being an accomplished director, he acknowledges that trials are necessary for personal growth and honouring family is more important than winning accolades. He believes that people always remember how you make them feel and that having working relationships that are defined by collective passion and honesty is what makes for memorable performances and unforgettable films.
How did you become interested in filmmaking? What led to this discovery?
My high school was spent at the National School of the Arts where I fell in love with photography. It was still in the old days when we had to spend hours in the darkroom processing images and I spent most of my time in there, exploring different techniques of manipulating images; from then on I got into writing and shooting my own short films.
What trials have you gone through to get to where you are today, and how did you overcome them?
Trials will always be faced: in career, family and love. Sometimes you don’t think you can overcome them, but when you look back you can see why they were important for your growth. Trials are too endless to mention. In the end, faith and perseverance are most important.
Alternatively, what have been some of your greatest triumphs?
My directing work has done really well; from student film festivals both on the local and international platform, to long-form series directing. The goal is to achieve the same success in my commercials career, but it’s important not to get caught up in awards. Awards are just evidence of the past.
How would you describe your directing and film style?
Honest and authentic/real. I believe I’m a strong storyteller because I love the director/actor relationship; very few times do people remember the special effects of a scene in a film or a commercial, they remember how you made them feel and you can only get that through strong performances and a good script.
South Africa is rich in stories. Which kinds are you interested in telling and why?
Stories that make people laugh, laughing is a beautiful emotion. Stories that make people feel inspired: where they see a reflection of themselves, a moment in the past, something they hold dear to their hearts. If I can evoke emotions in my work and make them memorable to people, then I have succeeded and that is something a budget on a commercial can’t determine; it’s about the idea.
Filmmaking is a collaborative medium. What’s the key to keeping a team together and working successfully with a large group of people, while still maintaining your artistic vision?
People can get caught up in themselves and unfortunately egos can get in the way of making something beautiful. We’re all on the same team here. Let’s work.
In terms of actors, you’ve talked before about working with the greats and exposing fresh talent. What have you learnt from working with artists who have with different levels of experience?
The most essential attribute is discipline for the craft of acting. A newcomer can display that discipline versus a more experienced actor who’s more interested in their Instagram likes.
You’ve also had experience in front of the camera. How has this helped you to be a better director?
I was a K-TV presenter for almost eight years of my youth, I didn’t have after school murals instead I was on a set almost every day of the week. That experience help me appreciate and love this industry.
In your opinion, what attributes make for an excellent director and unforgettable film?
It’s about the team, the people behind the scenes that you never get to see, that’s the machine that keeps the wheels moving.
The local drama series, Sokhulu and Partners was nominated for an IEMMY in 2009 and winner of Best Drama series at the 2010 SAFTAs. How has winning awards impacted your career on both a personal and professional level?
It was an affirmation that I’m heading in the right direction. Sometimes the challenges you face make you question yourself and your skill, then the universe reminds you to keep going.
What is the most significant thing you’ve learned throughout your career so far?
That family is important.
If there’s one thing you could change to better the film industry, what would that be?
There is no bridge between students graduating from film school and entering into the industry. After paying so much on tuition fees they are left in the dark, with little to no experience of how to break into the industry.
What are you currently working on and working towards?
I’m working on some great ads, coming out soon, stay glued to the Bouffant website. I’ve also just completed my first feature film, coming out February 2016.
Lastly, what kind of legacy would you like to leave?
I want to be remember for who I am to my loved ones, family and friends. I used to be so caught up in winning awards, then after I did win I lost those awards or misplaced them, and so I learnt that the only tangible thing that affirms your existence in this life are the people that love you.
Look out for Thabang sharing more insights in conversation with Between 10and5’s Uno de Waal in Glenfiddich The Art of Individuality video series.
Photography of Thabang by Darren Gwynn.