Multi-talented star Mmabatho Montsho has turned her attention to behind-the scenes work directing the local hit series Lockdown. Picture : Daniel Coetzee

‘I’m NOT going to wait for people to give me permission about where I need to be, says director Mmabatho Montsho on what motivates her in th cut-throat film industry.
“It sounds airy-fairy but I feel like my success is between me and my God, and so once I’ve decided I’m going to do something then if you don’t like it, I will find another way to do it. You’ve got to tell yourself that as a black woman in this industry,” she said.

Montsho has switched the front of the camera for behind the scene work. She was South Africa’s darling when she was on Rhythm City and playing the role of Lumka on Generations but of late she has not been seen on the small screen due to her work behind the scenes.

The transition has not been without its challenges. The industry is still male-dominated, but Montsho intends to kick down some doors in the filmmaking space until having a black female director is normal.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the other women insisting to be in that space.

“So we’ve got to insist on being here and do that so it’s normal for the next generation. It’s normal to have a black female director,” added the 35 year old.

She may don many hats in the creative arts industry; acting, writing and directing but it’s that of a director that she wears with pride and purpose. She is part of the team that has South Africa captivated with the female prison drama Lockdown.

“Being a director is my blessing and my curse. It’s the reason people like me and it’s also the reason that people sometimes don’t like me. I’m passionate about speaking to the social issues in one way or another.

“And in this season as the episodes unfold you will see that we are trying to shine a little bit of light on the prison system,” she said.

Montsho says adding an element of unity among the women on the storyline was important.

“The personal relationships are absolutely important. But what happens when all these different people being in one space, having the exact same issues, deal with them. Is it possible for them to stand together to stand up against that issue so it was important for me to have that kind of element in the story,” she added.

Montsho pulls a Tyler Perry in the drama series as she doubles up as actress and head writer.

She stars as Phindi Mazibuko, a criminal psychologist who believes in the rehabilitation of inmates.

Her behind-the-scenes work started while she was still on Rhythm City. She wanted to leave the show but was already written into character for a year and they asked her to stay.

“They negotiated with me to stay a little bit longer and I said I would stay on condition they allow me to train to direct. So they were pretty open with it actually. They would’ve allowed me to train anyway without those conditions. So I started in the studio with a multi-camera, on Rhythm City,” she said.

Shortly after that, she headed to the New York Film Academy in LA to polish her skills and storytelling abilities.

It was there where the Soweto-born star realised writing didn’t have much to do with the right head space.

“I think before you are in a type of head space the most important thing is you gotta have something to say because we’ve learnt the tools of putting a story together. But what’s your overall message,” she said.

The Sunday Independent