Tebza is a director who goes against the mould. He’s also fiercely ambitious and hugely talented, but it’s more than that that first attracted Star Films to him. Tebza is 100% guided by his convictions and his bravery to showcase that in his work leads to a profound authenticity and relevance. His is a voice to be heard and we listened! (On a personal note – we also fell in love with him and we’re currently planning a small yet widely televised wedding, but that’s a story for another Top Billing episode.)
It all started back when Tebza was just thirteen years old accidentally stumbling onto a film set in Melville and seeing his idol Spike Lee in the director’s chair. Most of us would languish in the opportunity to take a secret-selfie or blast out a Tweet, but without skipping a beat Tebza ran over and formally introduced himself. Lee pulled up a chair for him and the two co-directed for the next 10 minutes or so. Tebza still thinks of that day ‘When I left I turned and said to him ‘One day I’m gonna be doing what you’re doing.’
iDidTht: What exactly was it in that moment that made you decide you wanted to pursue directing? Tebza: Honestly, I had never seen a black man with so much power. When he said ‘action’ they listened and when he said ‘cut’ they stopped. I was just a little kid thinking ‘Wow, so much authority, I want that one day.’ I loved the idea of feeling that I can be in control.
Seeing a part of himself represented by someone like Spike Lee in that director’s chair sparked a burning ambition and a dream that has now become a career. Tebza’s work is often described as ‘authentic’ or ‘un-adland’ and at the core he still wants to see that thirteen year old represented, but now on-screen.
iDidTht’s Top Picks from Tebza’s Reel
McDonald’s ‘A thousand little things’
Telkom Kwesta Zkhipha More
KFC ‘Destruction Boyz’
DSTV Premium Festive
iDidTht: Why the move to Star Films? Tebza: I was at Bomb Films and I learnt so much from them, I love them with all of my heart. Bomb gave me the foundation of commercials and they put me in the game and trusted me to run. Now I’m in the second act of my career, that leads to the third act, that leads to the finale. It’s time to change gears and get ready to take over the world. I always knew Star Films would be the right fit when the time came.
Tebza is now ready to make his move. Not only is he no longer nostalgic about the cool stuff he has accomplished or the awards he’s already won (there are many), but he’s now focused on the future and the possibilites that lie ahead. We asked Adam Thal, producer at Star Films, ‘Why Tebza?’ Adam: For me, apart from his amazing talent, it’s really his attitude in his style of work and his personality. He’s a hungry go-getter and so down to earth, but he doesn’t give himself enough credit. The guy never makes enemies. Tebza is incredibly ambitious and that’s what we like at Star!
Armed with the Courage of his Convictions
In South Africa, Tebza has become synonymous with directing some of the most culturally influential music videos, but the journey wasn’t always easy. On a recent interview on 702 he described how he had to walk away from the music video scene for a while, feeling that a lot of the imagery was perpetuating harmful stereotypes of women and that he was much more determined to push his own agenda of positivity.
Tebza: I feel like the world needs a lot more feminists and I… iDidTht: Hang on, say that again! Tebza: I feel like we need a lot more feminists… iDidTht: *Inaudible screaming and wild clapping* We thought so, you may continue you beautiful human you! Tebza: Haha, thanks. I feel that feminism also needs to be in my work. I almost feel the authenticity that a lot of people talk about when referring to my work comes from me being honest to my convictions and essentially I try to stay true to them by weaving a level of honesty into everything I do, even when I’m selling chicken wings. iDidTht: Amen! But you eventually returned to the music video scene. Nakhane Touré’s beautiful music video for ‘Clairvoyant’ ruffled quite a few uptight feathers in South Africa, what was it that attracted you to this piece? Tebza: When Nakhane approached me, there was a lot happening around the country in terms of homophobic attacks and not enough of us seeing gay men just being gay men and just being themselves and in love and being people! It was really close to my heart and I really wanted to tell that story – just the normal life of two gay men that love each other, it’s just love.
Clairvoyant Music Video
iDidTht: Do you sometimes get briefs and think ‘how the hell am I going to stay true to who I am and put the vodka on the table?’ Tebza: Haha! You know when you walk into any brief for an ad and they always use that dreaded sentence ‘Let’s make it aspirational’? iDidTht: Jesus take the wheel! Tebza: Yes! The aspiration for a guy who lives under a bridge is to live in a shack and a guy who is in a shack wants a four-roomed house. Aspiration is very subjective. You can’t throw a blanket on all black people and say ‘make it aspirational – LSM 8-10 big house, big car.’ iDidTht: So how do you balance that out? Tebza: When Kwesta approached me to do ‘Spirit’ I had just done so many boards that don’t show the realness of our people, the guys on the streets or the guys I see in the hood when I go visit my mom being represented. All we were doing was creating this bubble in adland where it has to be aspirational and we can’t show certain images, real images. So I really wanted to show them and give them a face, and that’s why Spirit is packed with so many township visuals, it’s an onslaught. I wanted to give as many township people the time to shine because unfortunately those aspirational ads never really cater for them.
Time to Take Over the World
iDidTht: So apart from weaving your own positivity in everything you do, what do you look for in a script? Tebza: It’s very simple for me. I look at it and I go ‘Do I see myself in this?’ By that, I don’t mean whether it’s a ‘black script’ or about a kid who comes from the hood like I do. It’s about whether I can see something within the construct of the narrative that resonates with me. But if there’s a big budget I’m sure my producer Adam is gonna be like ‘Screw you buddy, whether you see yourself in that script or not you’re gonna shoot that ad’, haha! iDidTht: Haha, that’s why he’s a great producer! Tebza: Absolutely! I call Adam and Tristan Holmes (Co-owner and Director at Star Films) my brothers from my other Caucasian mother! iDidTht: Haha! Tebza we don’t want to stop talking to you man, you’re everything! So please do the honours and end this off for us- what’s next for you? Tebza: Simple, I want to take over the world, but who doesn’t?! I look around and see what Trevor Noah is doing in comedy, what Black Coffee is doing with House music, what Laduma is doing with fashion, what Nelson Makamo is doing with art…South Africans are doing amazing things and it shows the world what happens when people are co-living with different races and cultures. I think the world needs us to show them how to do life. And the world needs to see our art, our stories, our music…that’s what the world needs. South Africans owe it to the world to have a global mindset.
Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder
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