“We need to think of our art as a business”: N&M Productions

N&M Productions PTY (Ltd) is a 100% citizen and women-owned entertainment production company and script-writing agency, with a vision to create a space where all Africans feel represented, respected and above all, entertained. It is owned and managed by Serena Serene Mmifinyana and Nikita Neo Mokgware. Their work includes UPICtv police drama The Star and Multichoice podcast This Is Africa.

What excites you most about writing for the screen?

Nikita: Writing for screen holds the promise of seeing it in action before your very eyes in ways you only dream of. I enjoy thinking of ways to make my story not just fun to read, but also fun to watch play out in front of you. And it’s not just the characters, but also camera movements, editing methods, and creative special effects that can take your story and elevate it to new heights! So many options, so many more stories to be told and utilized; I mean wow! How exciting is that? 

Serena: It’s always such a surreal moment to see your writing transform from paper to screen. It’s a wonder to see the work that you put in go through the transformative processes of production to finally be translated to a visual platform for all to see. As a media person, I am aware that media shapes and influences our communities, the world we live in. To be able to contribute to that – to teach, to entertain, to represent and celebrate our people – is truly surreal!

What’s the most important ingredient in a thriving film industry, and how does Botswana’s industry fare in that regard?

Nikita: There are many things that go into a thriving film industry, and it’s hard to pinpoint one. Off the top of my head, I would say that a thriving film industry relies heavily on collaboration between filmmakers. We need to utilize all of our collected skills and talents to make sure the work coming out of the country is top quality, and all local. Our own industry is still learning this.

Serena: Business skills are a must in any industry, and currently our film industry is lagging behind. As creative and talented as we are as Batswana, we need to think of our art as a business because we too must put food on the table. The art of business allows us to explore larger markets, to pitch to investors and stakeholders so we can develop and thrive.

In the movie of your life, what would the opening scene look like? Who would play you?

Nikita: The opening scene would probably be quite melancholic. I enjoy such emotions being portrayed on screen, and so I see my own movie starting with that, then leading into a more joyful space; a sun rising, or a child alone on a playground being approached by a new friend. I’m not sure who would play me to be honest. My first love was acting, so probably myself!  

Serena: I see a little girl stretching her arms out to the sky, eyes sparkling with passion and wonder at all that life can offer… I am a big fan of discovering new talent and would love to see a beautiful, Motswana girl make her debut on screen and captivate the world with her talent and aura.

What’s the biggest misconception about screenwriting?

Nikita: That it’s easy. Everyone thinks screenwriting is far easier than the different writing methods and honestly, as someone who has dabbled in novel and playwriting, it’s so incredibly difficult. You have to balance character dialogue with action lines. Figure out camera movements and any editing mechanics that need to be mentioned. Then there’s page count matching however long the episode or film needs to be, being aware of budget if it’s a small project and that scenes don’t end up costing a producer an arm and leg; so much to consider. Notice how I haven’t even mentioned the story itself yet! It’s so much fun, but it’s not simple or easy by any means to get a (good) script done.

Serena: Writing is easy; just make up a story! That is far from the truth! It takes research and planning, consulting and editing, constant re-writing and endless sleepless nights to develop a script. We create worlds and birth characters that our audience should be able to relate to, and that our producers and broadcasters are satisfied with; if we don’t hit the mark, it’s back to the drawing board! Screenwriting is a process, it’s a skill that only gets better with each script that we write.

Which local story, folktale, myth or real-life story, would you love to bring to the screen and why?

Nikita: My friend once mentioned all the folktales and myths that surround Mochudi, the area. I’ve dreamt of making a series based on them for the longest time. Setswana folktales are just as engaging as those from other cultures, so it would be nice to have our own stories be part of film history!

Serena: There are so many stories in Botswana that I would love to share with the world – our history, our folktales, our mythical creatures… However one that has always stood out to me is the story of Matsieng; to see Botswana’s first ancestor on screen leaving footprints behind on his adventure in a new world… What did he do? What did he see? Was he alone?

You can learn more about N&M Productions here and see their work here and here.

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