Botswana should adopt film commission for independent filmmakers

  • “It is a risk and expensive to self fund content”- Shona Ferguson
  • Meanwhile local content is sold for peanuts


Funding and distributing a film has been identified as one of the greatest entrepreneurial challenges for local independent filmmakers. This was revealed  at the first Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) Film Festival hosted last week in Gaborone. In his key note address actor and TV icon, Shona Fergurson suggested that in order to unlock the true potential of the creative industries,  television broadcasters should offer film commissioning for independent filmmakers.

“I guess we were fortunate enough to have options of film commissions offered by some broadcasters in South Africa when we started out. I feel like Botswana should adopt the same strategy because self funding is risky and expensive. You have to take a chance on talent,” he said.

In the case of Botswana,  the state broadcaster has been buying cheap, second-run content from local producers instead of actually commissioning programming. From a publishing perspective, local production houses are distributing their content to a third party for a fixed term at a negotiated fee. Meanwhile, film commissions attract production crews to submit ideas, offer support so they can accomplish their work smoothly and produce the content for a mass audience.

Lufuno Nethengwe, who is the Head of Scripted Content Drama & Telenovelas from Mnet Africa, said they have a commissioning protocol for independently produced South African programming where they welcome initiatives to encourage the development of the independent production sector. “In accordance with the Copyright Act of 1978,  we commission programming and pay and the work is made in pursuance of that commission. We will be the owner of all copyright therein,” he said.

For her part Producer and actress Connie Fergurson said even though there are opportunities for Batswana at Fergurson Films, the bigger picture is to produce content in Botswana for Batswana in collaboration with a local production houses using local talent. “To the powers that be,  talent is there in Botswana, it doesn’t have resources. We are here to say Batswana use us,” she said.

Although buying content is generally expensive, local creatives have bemoaned that there are inequalities when it comes to funding foreign producers versus local productions. “We need to regulate our industry. A local production will be funded with P1 million today and expected to produce 30 episodes while a foreign production such as Morwalela was funded with P3 million in 2010. Similarly,  Mma Ramotswe was funded with P33 million,” actress Lorreta Mekgwe said.