Home Filmmaking Interview with Zwelethu Radebe Writer/Director of The Hangman

Interview with Zwelethu Radebe Writer/Director of The Hangman

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Thato Dhladla as Khetha Mdlethse in The Hangman (Dir. by Zwelethu Radebe)

indieactivity: Give a background of your personal experience with the story, writing, production and marketing
Zwelethu Radebe: I wrote the story cause I wanted to explore a character that had his whole identity shaped by a system (Apartheid) that is against his own people as a result of a family secret that has haunted his life for the last 15 years. The production of the film was an emotional experience for seeing the film finally being made after an extensive development process.

We started the marketing of the film quite early with the release of a visual treatment, which was a story read through of the film, which introduced the audiences to the story and the writer/director and the lead character. This later saw us develop a social media campaign that started to build our target market using production stills from the film set, then later a trailer and so forth.

indieactivity: Did you start writing with a cast (You or any) in mind?
Zwelethu Radebe: In the early drafts no, however a few drafts in I could see the actors I wanted to play the roles, more specifically the lead Thato Dhladla and Lerato Mvelase who plays his mother.

indieactivity: How long did you take to complete the script? (Do you have a writing process?)
Zwelethu Radebe: I wrote the script on and off for about four years before we went into production.

indieactivity: When did you form your production company – and what was the original motivation for its formation?
Zwelethu Radebe: Izwe Lethu Pictures was formed to celebrate African storytelling across the globe.

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Thato Dhladla as Khetha Mdlethse in The Hangman (Dir. by Zwelethu Radebe)

indieactivity: What was the first project out of the gate?
Zwelethu Radebe: The first project was The Hangman short film in the capacity as a writer and the first full project will be The Hangman feature film.

indieactivity: During production, what scene (that made the cut) was the hardest to shoot?
Zwelethu Radebe: The scene where Mfundisi finds his wife being raped in a tunnel, which needed time to get the actors prepared psychologically. Despite the challenges I’ve been told by audience members that its one of the most powerful scenes in the film.

indieactivity: What works better in this latest production that mightn’t have worked so well in the last one you did?
Zwelethu Radebe: I think the storytelling; I deliberately wanted to craft the story so I took the time I needed to get it there. On previous projects I wanted to rush and get into production without letting the project develop properly.

indieactivity: You produced and directed the film, what measure of input did it take to don these hats?
Zwelethu Radebe: I wrote and directed the film. I chose to wear different hats at the necessary time, thus I didn’t try and direct the film while I was writing it and vice versa.

indieactivity: Is there anything about the independent filmmaking business you still struggle with?
Zwelethu Radebe: Funding, marketing and distribution.

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Khulu Skenjana (Mfundisi Mdlethse) and Thato Dhladla (Khetha Mdlethse) in The Hangman (Dir. by Zwelethu Radebe)

indieactivity: Where do you think your strengths line as a filmmaker?
Zwelethu Radebe: I love directing actors and getting to an outstanding performance together with them, so I’d like to say performance. Another strength would be visual language – storytelling through the use of light and composition I always look for ways to tell the story without using words through the camera.

indieactivity: Let’s talk finance, How did you finance the film?
Zwelethu Radebe: We financed the film through government grants and favours through suppliers we had built relationships with in our commercials career.

indieactivity: How much did you go over budget? How did you manage it?
Zwelethu Radebe: We were over by about almost $10K and we crowdfunded to make up the balance.

indieactivity: How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make any dent without it these days?
Zwelethu Radebe: Absolutely not, marketing is a major part of any film being seen, that was one of the major reasons why we started our marketing campaign months before the film even came out. Marketing was essential for us to attract an audience and following, which gave the film the attention we needed.

indieactivity: Can you tell us about your marketing activities on the project – and how it’s gone for you?
Zwelethu Radebe: We had a strategy that ran through social media and radio interviews, which attracted a lot of attention for us locally and eventually internationally. We also selected for a few local and international festival, which led onto to more festivals and screenings.

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A BTS of a prison guard outside the premises of the Mdlethse’s set in Pretoria, South Africa

indieactivity: What do you hope audiences get from your film?
Zwelethu Radebe: I want audiences to be taken on a journey that hopefully teaches them about the dangers of concealing the truth from those we love.

indieactivity: What else have you got in the works?
Zwelethu Radebe: I’m currently developing The Hangman into a feature film.

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