’Reyka’ producer Harriet Gavshon unpacks the other side of showbiz
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Harriet Gavshon is a legend in the industry.
The managing director and shareholder of Quizzical Pictures is the name behind many of South Africa’s critically-acclaimed and award-winning offerings.
She’s currently sharing the producer credits on M-Net’s crime drama, “Reyka”, which premiers on July 25.
Despite close on 30 years in showbiz, Gavshon is most humble about her accomplishments.
In a recent chat, she unpacked her journey, reflecting on the challenges for women when she started out.
She explained: “The industry was very different. There are few females who have been around for as long as I have, I must say. It was a very divided industry. It was racially, extremely inequitable. It's only over time that that has changed somewhat.”
“Females make very good producers because, in a way, you have got to multitask all the time,” Gavshon added.
Looking back at the projects under her belt, which include big screen releases, reality TV and soapies, too, she has “Tsha Tsha”, “Hard Copy”, “Umlilo”, “Interesexions”, “The Lab”, “MasterChef SA”, “iNumber Number”, “Rhythm City”, “Lithapo” and “The Girl from St. Agnes”, to name a few.
Wearing the hat of a producer is both a pleasure and a challenge.
She explained: “The issue of being a woman producer when there are not that many of you is based on you not being taken seriously, especially when most of the people you are dealing with are men.
“How do you hold yourself and make sure you are taken seriously? And that’s, frankly, still a bit of an issue.
“It’s something one is constantly reminded of. It’s also something that you internalise. I think many women (in this industry) have imposter syndrome.
“They feel like they have to first take themselves seriously to deserve that space. They are not an imposter.
“But how do you say what you need and what you want, without feeling like you are being a nuisance.
“You know, all those psychological issues, which I think more women deal with within the workplace.”
Somehow, she’s not only survived but she’s been able to plant her feet firmly and pave the way for other females to leave their mark.
She added: “I still think that there are certain areas in our industry that are under-represented. I think there are still not enough women directors. I’ve been trying to act with intention to ensure that there is always a woman - at least one - on any directing team.”
On “Reyka”, she has Catharine Cooke and Zee Ntuli on the director’s chair.
The unassuming producer unpacked her crucial role in the creative process.
Gavshon shared: “I always say my most important role is to identify talent. That is my most important role. Sometimes the ideas come from me directly, like I have an idea, and I get people to help me make it.
“Talent is a very ephemeral thing. Often, it’s about rhythm or the way the work flows.”
And when Rohan Dickson approached her for “Reyka”, she was happy to share the producer credits with Serena Cullen.
“I read the outlines and loved it. Then we met the British producer, Serena Cullen, and we got on very well.
The series is helmed by Kim Engelbrecht and Iain Glen.
She added: “Kim was our first choice. I think it is a career-defining performance for her. Iain agreed as he loved the role.”
While casting the child actors wasn’t easy, Gavshon is confident about choosing Gabrielle de Gama for Young Reyka.
“There’s some big surprises to come, too,” she hinted.
On what else she has in the kitty, she confirmed they are busy with several drama offerings.
Gavshon added: “It feels like SA television is on the brink of taking on the world and that is enormously exciting. I think SA content is excellent.
“We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to show it. We are very excited about this opportunity and how it will change our industry.”
Even better, in leaving deep footprints in the industry, she is a pioneer in this trailblazing eventuality.