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As some may or may not know, the Pan African Film Festival is one of the biggest film festivals in the United States. It is held every year in Los Angeles, California during the month of February. This year was different due to the pandemic making the festival virtual.
Though things were all online this year, that still did not stop the in depth content from filmmakers from around the world. It was a pleasure to interview Muzi Mthembu who’s film, African America, was featured. He not only chatted about his film and the festival, but he also discussed what’s going on in the other side of the World.
Peep game some game while watching the interview above or reading below.
H.O.R.: Hey guys, this is House of Ramirez, you already know what’s up, we are out here in Atlanta representing everybody that is doing something big in the world. With me today, I have a very close friend of mine, Muzi Mthembu. He is very talented, and he is giving us his vision and perspective for his film, and he is doing a whole lot more, but without wasting any more time, I would like for Muzi to go ahead and tell us for himself what it is that he is doing, where he is from…so Muzi, thank you so much for being on my platform, and if you do not mind, tell us who you are and where you are from.
Muzi: Hello, my name is Muzi Mthembu, and I am from Johannesburg, South Africa, and I am television and film maker with my own production company, here in Johannesburg called MVP Productions.
H.O.R.: I absolutely love it! There is nothing like being your own successful entrepreneur, and you are doing just that, so you are not only fueling the dreams of others around you, but you have become successful in ensuring that others are also successful around you. You are giving everyone around the world the opportunity to see that if you want something, then go out there and get it…there is nothing stopping you, you just have to the drive and determination.
Muzi: I agree (he says as he smiles with excitement).
H.O.R.: I think that it is phenomenal that you have that drive to just conquer your dreams, a lot of people hold back from doing that because they are uncertain of what to do, or with what is going to happen, but when you bet on yourself, and you know that you can be the best, and that you are the best, there is nothing that can stop you, and you are a perfect example of that, and I would like to thank you for that (she says as she nods with pride).
Muzi: Thank you so much.
H.O.R.: So, can you please tell us what is it that do exactly, you wear many hats, and you do different things, and you are great at it, but please let our listeners/readers know what it is that you do.
Muzi: So, what MVP Productions does is that we develop as well as produce, and now we are promoting our content for television series. We assemble writers, story writers and head writers who come up with the concepts of what we are doing, we hire crew, and in the case of my movie ‘African America’, we hired a crew in South Africa as well as in New York City, so we are hiring from around the world to make our products happen. Then there is the grueling process of editing the work that we do for which, I am very hands on, that is actually my favorite part of the whole process, and then once it is done, we promote it and look for financiers who are interested in acquiring African content from around the world, we get our product out to the marketplace and we promote it; and we sell.
H.O.R.: That is phenomenal, you know you are very dedicated in your purpose, because I am able to see that it is your purpose. It is something that gets you up in the morning, you are excited just telling me about it. So, you have found your purpose, and you are driven by it every single day that you open your eyes, and I explain that people…you have to understand what it is that you are good at, what is it that you love to do, something that does not feel like a job but to some it may even be like a hobby almost, but when you wake up each day, you feel like it is something that you want to do, and you are able to do it effortlessly.
You are doing everything from A-Z, you are not stepping back, you are engaged in what you are doing, and you are making sure that there is a “all hands-on deck” approach from all of the people that you hire who are utilized for production, and you are there every step of the way, and as an entrepreneur, that is very important. You cannot lose track of anything and you have to think fast on your feet, you have to pay attention to detail, and we can tell that you bet on yourself, and that you pay attention to detail, and that you care for others. You are determined in the development of your projects; you are great at what you do.
Muzi: Thank you, and I also think with respect to being an entrepreneur, in the beginning you have to be hands-on so that you can maintain quality control of your product, to ensure that it actually meets your standards. Another thing that is very important for entrepreneurs to understand is that some of our job also includes hiring, giving opportunities to other people so that they will work in our organizations. Ultimately, I feel like you have a business, and once you are able to step away, and the operation can run independent of you…too often in my country with Black entrepreneurs, the business stops working as soon as the CEO goes on vacation, or the CEO dies. So, our goal as a business is to be detail oriented in every aspect of our business, but also for the business to be completely self-sustaining so that the “elephant can dance on its own” pretty much.
But for now, the beginning stages of the business, I am excited and honored to be setting the standards for the company going forward.
H.O.R.: Yes, and you are right, you have to be willing to put in that work initially to be able to have that firm grip on things so later on, you can focus on other things like philanthropy, for instance, just as you are doing now. You are working on so many things, that you are able to let the elephant move forward on its own. You have to trust the process and others as well.
I would like to shoutout my sister Naomi, CEO, and founder of Purposely Awakened, the Magazine. I have a partnership with her, and so it is a House of Ramirez exclusive in partnership with Purposely Awakened, and she is doing just that, she is giving opportunity to others to focus on what drives them so that they can create opportunities for themselves and live out their own dreams. Once we begin to trust in one another, and we help each other, there is just a natural flow of life and energy, and I think that it is amazing what you are doing, because you are not only looking out for yourself, but you are looking out for others who are around you, giving them opportunities and that is what is all about.
H.O.R.: I would love to know and was wondering if you could tell our viewers/readers, how you got started, and at what point did you pivot towards the road that led you to the success that you are enjoying now?
Muzi: I have to credit my parents a lot for that. My parents were television producers from as far back as the early 80’s when apartheid governments controlled the Republic of South Africa, and basically the public broadcaster finally thought to make content for Black people.
So then there was a bunch of people of color, South African citizens who came on board. My mother initially began as a news reader and worked her way up to commission editor, my father was in the sound department, the two of them got together and they formed what is now, MVP Productions and they created content for kids, soap operas, drama series…a bunch of different things and I grew up pretty much watching my parents, particularly my mother, run the whole show.
Towards the end of the 1990’s, there was a lot of mismanagement with the public broadcaster, who was our main client, and as a result of that work dried up for them but nonetheless my mother still kept my sister and I, my sister is my business partner, Phumelele Mthembu, in the National School of the Art, which is an Art school in South Africa (located in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, it specializes in art, dance, drama and music) as well as taking us to University, I have a degree in Screenwriting/Performance/Directing.
As soon as we graduated, my mother reminded us about this business, this legacy that she left for us, and so she encouraged us to pursue it. After that we went back to the public broadcaster and we did 2 seasons of a drama called, ‘Mutual Friends’ and it was great but again, in 2016, there was major corruption with the public broadcaster and so, just like that we were not renewed for a third season, it was very difficult. We were seeing family history repeat itself, a family pattern that was happening again. My sister and I resolved that we did not want to be that way and we did not want the business to fall by the wayside, so we now have approached international distribution of our content.
That has been incredible and so now we have taken what used to be a local production company, and now getting accepted into the Pan African Film Festival, which is such a big market, we are now opened to selling to territories around the world. It has been such an honor to step into my purpose and my legacy, especially during this time. I guess that God saw that, and I will keep going.
H.O.R.: Yes, and that is such a success story. You are destined for greatness and you can tell that you have that same drive from your parents to keep that legacy going for your family. Kudos to your parents, your sister and you as well, because it is not easy to bring representation to our neighborhoods, and to our countries, and our communities. In a sense, we are connected world-wide, and so it is important for us to look out for our brothers and sisters. The fact that your parents started this legacy and passed the baton to you and your sister, and you have picked up that baton, moving forward, not stopping…I see great success stories coming from you, I am so proud to have you here on House of Ramirez, it is truly an honor.
I would like to ask you this, there is this big film that is coming out, and then there is the Pan African Film Arts Festival, let us talk about your movie that you have written and directed it is called, ‘African America’ what is it about, and how did you come up with the concept for this movie?
Muzi: So, the film is called ‘African America’ and it tells the story of a disgruntled South African woman, who embezzles money from her accounting firm, leaves her traditionally wed husband to pursue her widely and misguided dream of being a Broadway star in New York City. Upon arriving in a very divided United States of America, she learns the hard way that the grass is greener where you water it. The story actually began with my business partner, she left South Africa to study musical theater back in 2014, and she came back 8 months later, and she was very dejected and sad, so we took that, and we created the story African America, and through our U.S. producer, Avil R. Speaks…an amazing American independent film maker, we partnered with her to work with crews from both America as well as South Africa in the telling of the story. I am very excited that it is debuting at the Pan African Film Festival this year, albeit virtually.
H.O.R.: Yes, but everything comes in due time, and right now, this is your time…it is your time to shine. I do know that you have been nominated for Best Director, for your very first time at the Pan African Arts & Film Festival for 2021 (H.O.R. snaps her congratulations for Muzi and his nomination). I would like to just celebrate you in your moment, this is your time, Muzi. Do not allow anything to hold you back, focus on what you are doing and continue to give others opportunity, and just walk in your light.
You are truly a light, and we need that now more than ever. You have seen what everyone is going through all around the world, and we need representation, we need people that we care about who are actually producing films that keep us engaged. We have heard stories, and we have gone through things and we are able to relate to your films, we can relate to what you write. So, you give us something that we can hold onto, and tell others about so that we can explore things and grow as individuals.
So, I would like to thank you because growing as an individual happens, change is inevitable…you are going to grow and evolve and when you have the proper tools, the proper communities, the writers who can help to navigate, knowing that sometimes people are visual, and films can help get the message across. You have some who are readers, and you have the ability to highlight our reality, while providing us with an escape in dealing with what we face on a daily basis, and even when we are not at home, we feel like we are, so I would like to thank you for that.
Muzi: Yes, it is true that I give them an escape, and it is also about the actual reality, I hope that they return feeling empowered, motivated, and to return to a sense of their own agency, because it is not just about empowering us just economically as a business, but it is a message to the world, and it absolutely echoes what you just said, that was quite a prophetic word that you just gave us, so thank you so much (he says as he smiles).
H.O.R.: You are absolutely right, I tell people all the time that they have to be careful with the things that they say, because everything that you say comes to life. So, the fact that you produce something, and that you create content, that is something that is brought to life for us to take in, so that we can receive a word of encouragement so that we remain driven as a result of all the hard work that you have been pouring into these positive affirmations.
You are carefully strategic in giving us all of that positive energy, using the perfect angles and settings, and verbiage so that the positivity comes back to us, and it causes us to think and appreciate all that you are doing. It takes a lot to be able to move people, and that just further demonstrates that you are walking in your purpose. This is your destiny; this is your time.
Muzi: Thank you very much! This is a great interview, you are so amazing, thank you so much (he says while giving a big, beautiful smile).
H.O.R.: Well, I would like to shout out your P.R. agent, Ms. Daria, she is amazing. We communicated and along with what I have read about you, I was able to recognize that you have a lot going on for yourself, you are blazing the trail, you are not waiting for someone to give this to you, with your hard work and determination, you are reaping the results from what you have sown. You produce a cycle of positivity that impacts all of those who are around you, because when you are walking in purpose, it is not just about you, it is also about helping others. I am just excited that you are on my show and I hope that the readers/viewers/listeners, once they see or hear this interview that they are inspired to conquer their dreams, whatever it is that you would like to do, it is out there, and you can out there and be great, and you are the perfect example of that.
Muzi: Thank you so much Leslie, thank you.
H.O.R.: Thank you for the inspiration. I would like to ask you, would you suggest entrepreneurship to our audience, and if so, why?
Muzi: I did not see myself as an entrepreneur, it really was a calling. Also, it was a necessity, the track that we are on now, it was out of necessity. I did not even plan to be the one who was going to be directing it, I thought that it would be someone who was more qualified. But, having been on the journey, I really would recommend it to anybody who would like to have greater control over their destiny, and who also wants to make meaningful contributions to their communities, you know what I mean?
Business has such an incredible, awesome responsibility, it is more than just you making money for yourself. When you think about business as just a source to make money, it is so easy to put out things that are more capricious, and unsustainable, things that will not last beyond you. So, I would recommend entrepreneurship for anyone that wants to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.
Once you are an entrepreneur, then you will need to really respect your workers, pay all of your taxes, think of yourself as someone who is giving opportunity and solving issues in the world. If that is a passion for you, then I think that you should absolutely go for it, and go for it with humility, with focus, dedication, and with grace and generosity in your heart. I would absolutely recommend entrepreneurship.
H.O.R.: Yes, I second that. I believe that once you have your purpose in life, that you have realized, held on to and are working towards it, it is like you said…it is much bigger than you. You begin to refine yourself as an individual once you step into your purpose, and then you are able to propel that out to others, and you are able to help them, be kind to them, and it is the ultimate goal, regardless of what your purpose is, or the path that you decide to take.
Entrepreneurship is the way to go, we were not placed here on this earth to live someone else’s dream or to work for some big corporation, we are here so that we can live out our dreams and so that we can help others. So, yes, I would definitely recommend it as well. I would like to thank you for that, and I hope that our young listeners and our more mature listeners are considering some of what has been said here today.
We have that voice in our heads inspiring us to do the things that we want to do, but you have to have faith in yourself so that you can go ahead and take that step, bet on yourself; and take that leap of faith. I hope that your story will encourage others to do that because it is time. Since last year (referring to the pandemic) we have seen plenty of reasons why we need to bet on ourselves and come together as a community, come together as a family…you know I am speaking this from experience, so I do not speak on things that I do not know.
Sometimes there are differences within families, but you have to be able to mend that because we were given this family, this is our family, and then once we have healed the core, we can build our villages around us. Slowly there have been things have been causing divisiveness among us, but we have to turn that around, and not only do we need to talk about it, but we also must be about it.
You are doing a phenomenal job, and you are using your platform through your films, writing content to effect change, creating employment opportunities, along with the trust and kindness that you are showing others to help us to turn things around; and to come together, so thank you.
Muzi: I gladly do it, that is what I am here for.
H.O.R.: What do you think would make this world a better place? Everybody lives life the same way. We are born, live our lives and then we die. In between that time, we have the same footprints, but we are all on different paths. So, based on your own path…Muzi, what do you think would make the world a better place?
Muzi: I would say that what would make the world a better place is less polarization. We have been watching the United States for the past 4 years, seeing what is going on there, and relating to it because in our own countries, we are also seeing family get togethers that are getting heated, because we cannot even disagree productively where we can move towards solutions and do better.
When I think about the big challenges that we have in the world, it is not only just the pandemic, but it is also a climate crisis that we have, that requires us to be unified, that requires us to at least be able to work productively towards finding solutions that will actually sustain us, and the lives of our children.
What the world needs now more than any of that, and I do not like the word tolerance, but to have a respect for others and for diversity, and diversity not just because of our complexion or ethnic background, but diversity in opinions, diversity in our approach. I would say that is what the world needs now. I think there needs to be a bit less politics and a bit more cooperation.
H.O.R.: Yes, definitely. Cooperation goes hand in hand with communicating. We have to be able to communicate with others in a healthy manner so that we can find some middle ground, and we can all be fine. You are right we have to be able to respect the way that we all think, initially, we may not be able to understand where others are coming from, but if we have open lines of healthy communication, and we can also understand that they are human and are dealing with certain challenges in life, then we all will be able to communicate and work on the things that we need to.
There needs to be action in addition to us talking… we cannot just talk the talk, but we have to walk the walk. I completely agree with you, that would make the world a better place, that love, and kindness.
Muzi: I agree, love and kindness, I think that’s it.
H.O.R.: You are so successful, and I am proud of you. What pieces of advice do you have for our up-and-coming entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurship can take on many different shapes and sizes; it is for everybody…including myself. So, considering how successful you are, what kind of advice can someone of your caliber offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Muzi: No, is not the end of the conversation. I have seen as we have grown in this particular project, we had so many noes and a lot of those noes have turned into yeses. The conversation changes as your business grows, and I would say for entrepreneurs, that it is important to not burn bridges. People who do not get on board with your vision, give them time, you just need to continue to work, and develop and prove the business model that you have, and then they will turn around or not, even if they do not, ultimately you cannot let noes distract you from your purpose, or from what it is that you need to do.
I think lastly, there is a stigma about giving up, we always say don’t give up and it is true…do not ever give up, but also be willing to adapt. Be willing to give up certain things in order to get the bigger things. So for instance, if something is not working out right now, think about the things that you may need to give up in order to make it work. Do I need to give up my leisure time, do I need to give up certain people that I am surrounding myself with, do I need to give up certain members of my team, what do I need to do in order to get to the next level.
So, I would say do not be distracted by noes, and always be flexible, be willing to adapt and change, that would be my advice to entrepreneurs.
H.O.R.: Yes, and I always preach that to. I tell people that you have to be able to see another way, or through something, sometimes you have to take the time to dedicate yourself to go head on and find a solution to the problem, or you can go around it and you do not have to entertain whatever the obstacle may be, and keep moving forward, do not let anything stop you.
People have to understand that the road to success is filled with noes, you just have to find a way to get a yes. It builds character and resilience, so all of those noes, the doors that have been closed, will open up the right ones. So, for all of you that are listening who are thinking that this is tough, what do I do…it is okay. If it was not meant to be, thank you…because there is something else that is better out there for you.
To second what you were saying, we have to be able to adjust to different situations. It cannot always be my way, I want this my way…no, as a creator you have to be quick on your feet, you have to be able to realize that if this does not work, then I can do that, let me improvise or let me filter people out and bring new people in, just move, and go with the flow. It is not always this ridged process; you have to move with the flow of energy, and when you feel the good energy, then go towards it, and that is when you end up in the right place. So, I completely agree.
Muzi: Also, the film actually speaks about these different things. The film is about what do we do with our dreams, especially people of color when we see the social injustice of last year, or the impact that Covid-19 had on Black and Brown communities around the world. What do we do with our dreams, and what the film talks about actually, is to not be materialistic in your dreams, it is not as important to realize your dreams as it is to realize who are you.
Entrepreneurship really is what that journey entails, you learn how strong you are, how patient, how understanding, how good you are to others. You learn that creativity is not about ingenuity, it is really about problem solving, that is why it is important to know create people, and to foster creativity within yourself as a leader. So, I encourage people to watch the movie for more of what we are talking about.
H.O.R.: Yes, absolutely, and I think that is very important as well, we have to be able to do that, and I love how your movie is able to bring home that feeling. You cannot be driven by money, if when you are walking in your purpose, all you see is money, then you are not in the right place. Because at times as entrepreneurs, and again I am speaking from experience, we are do things for free initially, we are giving, we are giving, and it does not feel bad, because we are walking in purpose.
So, when you love to do something, you do not mind giving. Focus on the purpose, how to problem solve, like you mentioned, and everything will just flow.
Muzi: I am not saying that money is the enemy, it is important that your business makes money so that you can pay people on time, your integral responsibility is to make money, but you cannot make money its own thing, you have to see it as a tool to better yourself, your community; and those around you.
H.O.R.: I speak money mantras in the morning, shout out to my sister, GHI, she is all about growth, healing, and the empowerment of everyone. She speaks money mantras, and I am all for that, money does love us…it has energy, and we see it as a tool just like you have mentioned, we have to understand that it is going to come to us and we are going to spend it, and it will come because it is a cycle, and it is energy. There is nothing wrong with understanding that money is indefinite, and that it is out there for all of us, but we need to focus on the purpose. When you focus on the purpose, the money will just flow.
It is our duty, as you said to make capital, and to make sure that everybody is okay around us. But do not worry about it because it will always be there for us.
Muzi: Be more concerned about meeting a need then you are about cashing a check. Then your business will flourish, the money will come to when you are servicing the needs of people around you.
H.O.R.: At the end of my show, I always do a House of Ramirez shout out. So, do you have any shout outs…
Muzi: You are so great Leslie, your positivity, your words, and your encouragement…shout out to you, thank you so much for this.
H.O.R.: You know it is a true honor, Muzi. We are putting the spotlight on you today, I was so excited, and I still am to have you on House of Ramirez, this is super awesome! I would like to know who has been in your corner backing you up, regardless of any obstacles, and they are encouraging you. Who is in your corner that you would like to go ahead and put the spotlight on…tell the world who is there of Muzi.
Muzi: My shout out is my family, my sister who is my business partner, Phumelele Mthembu, she has been…I cannot emphasize enough the role that a good partnership makes in a business or whatever enterprise you want to have, and I think that you need to have someone that has similar values to you. So, if one partner is valuing money, and you are growth and opportunity, the moment that money is not there, your partner might disappear. So, I thank my sister for her fight, I thank her for the compatibility of values that we have.
I have to give a shout to Avil Z. Speaks, who is our U.S. producer. We had this idea that working with Americans would be this hard…we had a capitalistic idea of what working with Americans would be and she was the complete opposite, she was not the shark that I had imagined, she had such grace, and she was generous with her knowledge, I think that was incredible. Daria, our publicist for introducing us and for putting this together and introducing to so many amazing entrepreneurs that are working, so I have to give a shout out to her.
I would be remissed if I did not mention my government, particularly, The National Film and Video Foundation. The grants that they give to film makers is so helpful on every level of film making, in fact we have another project that we are developing through…another film that will be because of our government, so the political role they play in us being able to achieve our entrepreneurial dreams, I have to thank them for being in our corner.
H.O.R.: Yes, you definitely have to acknowledge everyone that has played a role to help to make this dream come true. Shout out to everybody in your corner. The film industry is booming right now in Africa, and you are a part of that, it is a movement, that is not just casually going on, everybody is watching, everybody is paying attention. You keep doing what you are doing Muzi. You are an influencer, and you are doing a great job, you are shifting things; and it is just amazing.
I will say that you have to give credit where credit is due, so shout out to Daria, your government and anyone else that has been all hands-on deck with regard to your projects. Shout out to the new project that you have coming out. Let us know where we can find so that we can go ahead and follow you, support you and be engaged with all that you are doing, so that we do not miss a beat, we want more of Muzi, Muzi, Muzi (they both laugh as Muzi responds…Muzi is coming)
Muzi: Please go to our website, www.mvpproductions.sa and also for the film, www.africanamerica.tv @africanamericatv or @muzimthembu, those are the platforms where you can find us.
H.O.R.: To our listeners/viewers/followers, please follow Muzi because he is a trailblazer, and he is effecting change. He has received the baton from his parents, and he is not stopping for anybody. Greatness is coming his way; he is flowing with it and we need to be engaged. Shout out to Muzi and thank you so much for being on my show. I would love for you to come back when you have another project…I see you king!
Muzi: Absolutely, my growth is not for me alone, so I would be very excited to come back.
H.O.R.: Thank you so much Muzi, it was a complete honor…so until next time.
Muzi: Thank you so much.
H.O.R.: Thank you, bye
<p class="font_8">Leslie has always had the ability to speak in front of thousands at such a young age, and has always shown fearlessness when speaking to anyone from any walk of life. She put her personable abilities and the way she was brought up together and has decided to use that to help others. She believes it is important to fire up the trail you, yourself, pave. Letting others see you luminate the way to your own success. Do not wait for opportunity, create your opportunity!</p>
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