Jabu Nadia Newman On Making The Foxy Five
The gap between recognising the need for telling our own stories and sharing them with the world is a learning curve requiring determination and team work.
Exactly a year to the day of the release of episode 1 of The Foxy Five web series, the team, led by filmmaker Jabu Nadia Newman, released their season finale.
The web series follows Unity Bond (Duduza Mchunu), Prolly Plebs (Qiniso van Damme), Blaq Beauty (Tatenda Wekwatenzi), Femme Fatale (Qondiswa James) and Womxn We (Nala Xaba), friends, and comrades in the take down of the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy. Through the characters’ conversations and arguments, we’ve watched (and learned) as they work out where they stand on issues of gender, sexuality, race and class. Jabu and the team of writers cleverly used the different personalities and experiences of each character to represent different perspectives on the conversations happening (or that should be happening) between young South Africans today.
While each episode took the audience on a journey through the issues of the day, a subsequent journey was taking place, one of watching young filmmakers find their way.
It’s a year that’s included a successful crowd-sourced funding campaign supported by their fan base, that’s seen them take to the stage at Design Indaba for a live performance, and that’s provided space for team members to try out different roles – notably, cinematographer Thandie Gula-Ndebele wrote and directed episode 5. The experience brought with it constructive criticism, a lot of love from fans (this is the one time you should scroll through the YouTube comments), and even a guest appearance from Queezy. Now, the entire first season is showing on the big screen at The Bioscope cinema in Johannesburg.
Watching the progression of the series from episode to episode has been an inspirational lesson in do-it-yourself for other young filmmakers. Except that the message is in fact, do-it-together. We wondered what else it takes to make your own web series, on your own steam, so asked Jabu to look back over the experience of creating season 1 to share her hard-earned advice. Take note.
Constant communication is very important. It’s usually not good enough to just send an email you have to follow up with a message or a call. Always get things in writing and never be afraid to ask or double check something – people tend to forget things and need a little reminder once in a while.
On making a web series on a shoestring budget
Get good producers. My producers took down the production budget of an episode by more than half. Don’t be afraid to ask industry experts for help – the industry is very small and people tend to want to help each other out.
Someone doesn’t have to necessarily type out words to be considered a writer. They just have to give you a good idea or suggest a large part of the plot to be credited. Letting other people have their input but also being able to defend your ideas is an interesting process. You have to always be open to criticism or change.
On directing actors
Make the actors feel like the role that they’re playing is the most important. Explain how their character drives the story and let them feel it out before giving suggestions.
Feminism is still a largely contested term where many femmes are still figuring it our for themselves. It also shouldn’t be something that we as womxn have to constantly defend. The Foxy Five is about 5 young black womxn and the daily struggles they experience. Naturally the nature of the show is feminist but that doesn’t mean that I or anyone on the team understand feminism fully or could even define it. Rather this is one representation of a feminism that we identify with.
Catch the first season of The Foxy Five now showing at The Bioscope in Johannesburg from 18 – 24 August. Details here.
Tickets this way: tickets.tixsa.co.za/event/foxy-five.
Follow The Foxy Five on Facebook.
Photographs by Jabu Nadia Newman on the set of Episode 6.
Interview by Alix-Rose Cowie.