Multi-award-winning film and television writer Busisiwe Ntintili is the creator, writer, and producer of the third original African Netflix series, JIVA! She chats to us about this and the impact of the lockdown on the production of the series.
I was born in Mthatha, South Africa. When I was 3 years old, my parents and sisters and I moved to America, where I lived for 20 years. This was because my parents were anti-Apartheid activists. While we were in America, they continued to fight against Apartheid while studying and eventually became professors. I grew up around a lot of South African self-exiled activists which helped us keep a strong connection with home.
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I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was a teenager. My sister and I would go to the movies all the time at our local cinema. At the time, I had also started writing poems and plays. So, after high school, I studied literature and film. After my studies, I returned to South Africa where I landed my first job as a personal assistant. I then worked as a copywriter in the advertising industry while trying to find my way into the television industry. A few years later I eventually broke into television with my first gig on the reality show, Big Brother.
JIVA! is a dance drama series about young people chasing their dreams through dance. The story was inspired by young people who are chasing their dreams. This is a generation of go-getters, hustlers, and entrepreneurs who are actively sharing their creative talents to the world all over social media and on the streets of their communities. The series is currently in production but we’ve had to pause shooting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shooting will resume once the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The lockdown has been a huge challenge for us as we were in the middle of shooting the series. We had to pause and shut down the whole production, but fortunately, we managed to break successfully. We were also able to ensure that all of our cast and crew got home safely. As the showrunner and executive producer, I have been keeping in touch with my writers, creative team, and actors to keep their spirits up and we all stay in touch through Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups. This has allowed us to continue to creatively collaborate on ideas while we are in lockdown. The other big challenge was casting our actors as I wanted to find young, talented actors who could also dance amazingly. We did a nationwide search until we found the perfect actors for the roles. And their dancing is out of this world.
Opening doors for other black female writers has been a major career highlight for me. Being a black female writer in a male and white-dominated industry hasn’t been easy. It has taught me to be resilient and unapologetic about taking up space. Seizing the opportunities I have had has allowed me to open doors for other black female writers in the industry which has been a true highlight for me. my other highlights include earning a SAFTA nomination for my first drama series, Noah’s Ark. When my film Happiness is a Four Letter Word became one of South Africa’s highest-grossing films I was also thrilled because it showed me that anything is possible. And now with JIVA!, to be able to create, write and produce the third original African Netflix series is a true honour.