Making steps in movie making


They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step and that if you want to pass an examination you first of all have to taste failure.

You simply cannot get to another destination if you have not attempted walking and so like Johnny Walker – keep walking and you will finally realise your dream.

These are the words which have remained stark in the brains of members of Lilongwe based youthful grouping known as Wachetemara Ensemble Theatre and keeps on driving them to make headway in their movie making projects.


Watching some of their movies will surely disappoint you because they are simply amateur films with poor quality pictures and sound such that renowned movie maker Shemu Joyah who has won awards with his movies Seasons of a Life and The Last Fishing Boat will be disappointed – but one thing is for sure – they are moving the right direction.

In fact sampling their movies gives you a picture that the group was not using professional cameras and one may even concluded that they were using ‘toy cameras.’

There are people out there who have talents but are failing to utilise them let alone coming out and show the world their God given gifts. Simply put, they nothing.


But here is a group Wachetemera which was born in 2011 in Area 23 starting off with stage plays and now has gathered courage to attempt movie making.

Of course film making is not a simple challenge; it is a serious business which demands a lot on the ground but all those who are doing well in the industry these days including the mighty Hollywood started off with attempts producing poor work before finally striking the right button.

It might as well be the same picture for Wachetemera which has close to 26 members most of whom are in their 20s.

One of the group’s members Dickson Mandota, who is a script writer and also editor, admits that their movies are nowhere near quality but he attributes this to lack of resources.

“As youths we felt we could use our talent through movie making but the biggest challenge is that we do not have resources. All the movies which we have produced so far we have been using one camera and we also have to borrow a computer to edit,” says Mandota, who participated in Film in a Box training in 2013 courtesy of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (Amaa).

Mandota says they are currently producing their movies for promotion and that they have never attempted selling them.

“We tried at some moment but it turned out to be difficult as we had placed ours on the higher side looking at the money we were spending on production. We printed about 10 copies then but we spent a huge amount of money in reproducing and in an attempt to recover the money we put it on the higher side but things never workedout on the market,” says Mandota.

He says the group has been holding stage plays until later encouraged by the audience, they decided to venture into film making so as to reach out to many people.

“This is a group which was started by the youths who had just sat for their Malawi School Certificate of Education ( MSCE) and were waiting for the results and so to get ourselves busy we decided to form this group and engage in stage plays,” says Mandota.

He says that they used to hold stage performances in secondary schools and in other public forums and that they sometimes take time to visit hospitals.

“We visit hospitals every month and as a group we have our objectives so in visiting hospitals we simply want to speak for the voiceless but also disseminate different messages on health, child trafficking, environment among others,” says Mandota revealing that they have never received funding in their projects.

He says at the moment they use their own resources working on the movies revealing that so far they have produced three films – The Bathos, Spark of Passion and Wages of Sin, which is still being edited.

“As I said at the moment we are just producing the movies for promotion and we are hoping that one day we will be noticed and get the much needed support. Actually those interested can assist us because all we need are the resources. We are looking at getting a projector going forward and then show our movies in communities,” he says.

Mandota says they would love to have their movies on the market but they feel they still need to do more in terms of producing quality material.

“As I said earlier, we do not have equipment and for those movies we have produced we have not been using professional cameras but we have no choice but use what we have on our disposal. Actually we have used one camera in the production of the three movies,” he says.

Mandota says with resources they are capable of producing quality movies with the knowledge which they have.

“We are not far from the best. As members we train each other on the basics of movie making and we have at times consulted others for guidance like the Film Association of Malawi ( Fama) and they have always encouraged us,” he said.

Asked why they have not made attempts to ask for funding from Fama which at one time was offering grants, Mandota said:

“I would say most of the members are not paid up members of Fama but we only managed to pay as a group. We will see going to the future if we can all pay and try to see if we can be assisted.”

He said some of their members are also making headway in their studies saying that one of them is studying at University of Malawi – Chancellor College in Zomba.

“The one who is at Chanco is in first year and during holidays he joins us but others are doing their studies with private colleges. But for others their parents cannot afford to pay for tertiary education so they have nothing to do,” he said.

Mandota, who wanted to pursue (ICT) says his parents could not afford the fees.

“For me to do film in a box I was sponsored by Fama president’s wife and I say thank you to her for helping in shaping my skills. I already had some basics in film making before I went for this course,” he says.

The young man who did his secondary at Lunzu Secondary School in Blantyre says he takes time to watch behind the scenes for Hollywood movies saying in them he learns how they produce their movies.

“Through this platform you learn how to produce quality movies, what you need to do that. You need to use several cameras to produce quality movies but we do this using one camera,” he said.

Mandota says they shot one of the movies in Nkhata Bay after they contributed money amongst themselves.

“This came about after noticing that we were being disturbed in our homes. Everytime we embarked on a shooting session, some members would be sent on errands by their parents and so to avoid all this we just thought of taking this long trip,” he said.

He said as a group they have rules and regulations and that they always make sure that they are exemplary out there.

“When we were going to Nkhata Bay for shooting, I had to talk to all our parents and assure them that this was all for the good of our film project. They accepted having seen what we had produced. But even then I was given a responsibility to check on everyone,” says Mandota.

Mandota says through their movies they have also made it a point to be role models to fellow youths and that they refrain from unnecessary behaviours because they have a reputation to preserve as Wachetemara Ensemble Theatre.

For now, this youth group is nowhere near quality movies but they believe in themselves that with resources, they will surely get there.

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