Award winning film and commercials director Tebogo Malope signs with JOJX for representation in the United States. Tebogo - also known as Tebza - grew up in Soweto, South Africa. He has grown a reputation for being the voice for African narratives, now joining JOJX in Los Angeles as he enters the US market.
Why did you decide to make the move to your new company?
There were a few companies that reached out but the moment I sat down with Joe, Jacky and Pedro I knew that was it. Their view on the world and what they value resonated with me.
What is it about the team there that clicks for you?
Firstly, their sincerity and humility. They are a great bunch of people. The relationships they are able to nourish and their approach to work are exceptional too.
How did you first get into the industry? What was your very first job in the industry?
I worked my way up, starting out as a camera trainee on an episodic series in South Africa called Hard Copy.
Where did you learn your craft (film school? Mentored as a runner? Self-taught?)
A combination of school and then becoming a trainee on a professional set during my first year of film school. And there’s a lot I had taught myself before going to film school.
Before doing what you do now, did you work in any other field/ have any different career paths?
I did a lot of community theatre. There’s an immediacy in theatre that makes the work vibrant and alive, you have to pursue truth each time. This ethos has defined my approach to directing today.
And which creative talents in your field have inspired you in your own career?
I was lucky enough to meet Spike Lee as a 13-year-old, I can't overstate how pivotal that was for me. He is still one of my biggest inspirations. I’m also inspired by the visual style of Nicolas Winding Refn, also inspired by the operatic nature in Yorgos Lanthimos’ work.
What was your first creative milestone in the industry – the project you worked on that you were super proud of?
My first feature film called 'For Love and Broken Bones', extremely indie and low budget, we shot it in eight days and it went on to win numerous awards around the world. That gave me a lot of confidence in my voice.
And what recent projects are you proudest of and why?
My most recent project is 'Queen Sono', it’s Netflix’s first African Original. Really proud to represent a continent in this manner.
What really drives you creatively?
Purpose, the incredible thing about what we do is that we deal with the currency of the unseen, by that I mean we trade emotions, feeling, a shift of mindset, empathy, joy. To be gifted with this gift to entertain whilst finding ways to add value to humanity. Social justice and giving a voice to the voiceless.
What are the aspects of your work that you really obsess over?
I’m such a fan of the medium that I obsess over different aspects of each project. On one job I could be totally obsessed with the colour of a dress, on another sound design, and on another hair. I’d like to believe my obsession is the medium itself.
How would you describe your approach to your work?
I often start with trying to find myself in the narrative, one aspect of the story that will resonate with me and I'd spend time percolating in that feeling until I internalise it, which usually becomes my internal compass when I tackle the project. From that point onwards I'll keep searching for that truth.
When it comes to enjoying the creativity of others, what sort of thing excites and inspires you?
Effortlessness, when you watch a piece of work that’s so immersive, visceral, complex and yet so simple. When the filmmaker/artist has such a great handle on the craft they make it look easy.
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
I was a youth leader for over a decade in my childhood township of Soweto, I experienced first hand how poverty, injustice, and disenfranchisement can destroy someone's life before it even begins. My passion is to inspire young people, especially from these backgrounds, to give them hope, exposure, and resources that could give them a sense of purpose.