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Phathutshedzo Makwarela: The mastermind behind The Queen and #Rockville

Finally black stories are being told by black people, and Mzansi folk are addicted. One of the very few head writers in South Africa is Phathutshedzo Makwarela.

From the age of 16, Makwarela already saw himself toying with the feelings of South African TV lovers.
He confessed that he did not know how he was going to win audiences, "but I knew I wanted to be part of making dramas an appointment viewing," he says.
"I have always had ideas, every time when I watched TV. It got to a point where I was sending my ideas to TV production houses as letters but they would reject them."
But the ambitious Makwarela did not give up.
"I knew I would make great TV. My parents wanted me to be an engineer, so they sent me to a technical high school. I did not want that but I went and did motor mechanics, which I was good at."
Makwarela is now a scriptwriter and a head writer of Mzansi Magic's most-loved soapies, as well as dramas such as SABC 1's Skeem Saam and Uzalo; Mzansi channel's Rockville, Igazi, and most recently, The Queen.
Makwarela was also the scriptwriter and head writer for TshiVenda soapie Muvhango.
The 32-year-old tells SA stories across cultures and different languages.
"I love SA cultures, the adversity. It is beautiful. Usually before we write a drama, for instance, with Igazi, we visited the Eastern Cape. We spoke to the community there and cultural experts," Makwarela says.
Makwarela, born and bred in a rural village, Mamvuka in Limpopo, said right after finishing his matric at S.J. Van Der Merwe Technical High School in Lebowakgomo, Limpopo, he had to ask his uncle to talk to his parents about the career path he wanted to take after matric.
"I knew my parents wanted me to be an engineer. I was afraid to tell them about my passion. I had to send my uncle to tell them I wanted to study television."
His parents eventually agreed.
"I had applied to study TV and Film Production at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria at the time," he recalls.
He said during his time at the university, his class travelled to SABC studios for a tour.
"When we got there I remember the only person I wanted to see was Karabo Moroka (Connie Ferguson). Unfortunately, she was not there and I was so disappointed."
However, Makwarela says, the tour guide at the SABC took them around the studios to see TV sets.
"Being around those sets was an out-of-body experience. I was so happy. From that day onwards I decided I wanted to write. I wanted to tell actors what to do and say," he chuckled.
He described his time as a film student as a surety to his passions and dreams.
"I even started applying for internships. I remember the first opportunity I received was from Soul City. I had applied and the producer made me write a script test. I passed it and that was my biggest chance."
After Soul City, Makwarela worked on dramas such as Tshisa, and then a sitcom Moferefere Lenyalong.
He says after that sitcom, "I knew I was not a sitcom writer."
But his journey to becoming a script writer was not without challenges, Makwarela said.
"I had a lot of ideas for shows. I was always that talkative one in the brainstorming meetings but I noticed that black people were being undermined in the industry," he said.
Makwarela cited the fact that black TV writers were not trusted with heading productions.
"You would hardly see a black person being a head writer and that bothered me so much for a long time.
"Even when I started at Muvhango black people were just writers, roles for head writers were reserved for whites."
He said the challenge of black writers always being below white writers had become so bad that when a production house owned by soapie veteran Ferguson and her husband Shona called him to be a head writer in their dramas, he was shocked.
"I asked myself why are they not calling a white person? I even asked them, but they insisted they wanted me to be a head writer," said Makwarela.
Working for the Fergusons has been a great experience for him.
He credited Skeem Saam creator Winnie Serite for believing in him and always teaching him a lot about script writing.
Makwarela also said his co-head writer, Gwydion Beynon, at Ferguson Films has been a great help in his career.





Khabza Mkhize

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