Robot’s Zandi Tisani is a director with a finger on the pulse of pop culture, a background (and awards) in scriptwriting and a heart set on crafting considered narrative films with impactful visuals. About to serve as a jury member on the board for the Creative Circle (an organisation with the purpose to inspire transformation through creativity in South Africa) for her second term in a row, we wanted to find out exactly what Zandi had to say, catch up on her latest work and honestly, just hang around her because we’re obsessed.
10 Questions for Robot Director Zandi Tisani
Q1: How do you think you have evolved as a filmmaker in the last two years?
Zandi: I think I’ve become less self-involved. I started my career full of the ideas that I wanted to realise, but then I began learning how to collaborate in order to bring other people’s ideas to life. This doesn’t mean I no longer have my personal vision. It’s rather that I am now more self-assured and I know anything I touch will inevitably carry my distinct DNA. This is something that has become far more fulfilling to me.
Q2: The last time we spoke to you, you said you wanted your work to foreground black women in advertising and reach a young black female audience specifically, has that changed at all?
Zandi: Yes and no. I’ve become more secure in my identity – I don’t have to try and represent black women or try to reach an audience of black women. I just do by virtue of me being myself, whomever else is able to connect is welcome to join but ultimately when I think of ‘my audience’ I am generally thinking of people who reflect myself back to me.
Gifs from Zandi’s latest music video for Kamo Mphela ‘Thula Thula’
Q3: With so many young voices entering the industry, what is the one piece of advice you would give a young female filmmaker of colour?
Zandi: Don’t be so grateful to be allowed a seat at the table. You bring a huge amount of much needed value. It’s important to remember that.
Q4: What kind of scripts have Zandi written all over them?
Zandi: I love a good story. I’ve built a lot of my work around fashion and culture but where I really shine is turning a good script into a great story.
Director Zandi Tisani teamed up with Post Modern editor Ndivhu Mushanganyisi to deliver 5 x music performance videos for the Youtube Africa Day Concert streamed to audiences across the globe.
Q5: What can you bring to a commercial that nobody else can?
Zandi: I have a really good grip on contemporary pop culture combined with the skill of writing/crafting. Changing formats and platforms require more than different aspect ratios – you want to develop creative with the medium in mind. I think of myself as a crossroads between the old school grounding and for future challenges.
Spotify ‘African Heat’
Q6: In an ideal world, how would you want the creative and advertising industry to perceive you?
Zandi: As someone who is enthusiastic about making things a little bit more interesting.
Q7: How does Zandi 2022 approach her work?
Zandi: I look at what every individual brief and idea needs and what I can bring that no one else will. From then on, it’s really about simplifying and working towards realising a piece of work that stays true to the initial idea with some carefully chosen enhancements.
Below some of the more recent work Zandi has directed.
Thula Thula (Music Video)
Ixhala, directed by Zandi Tisani, explores the histories of African representation in film. In constructing a short film focusing on a Black femme in the film industry, Tisani speaks to the lived experiences of many Black creatives in the industry who must balance between portraying authentic representations of themselves and what is expected of them from people outside of their communities.
Q8: How would you describe the experience of being a black female filmmaker in South Africa in 2022?
Zandi: I’m more interested to know what it is like to be an older, white male filmmaker in South Africa in 2022. What’s really changed over the past say 15 years? Identity politics are for everyone to engage with.
(I get asked this question a lot and I never see white filmmakers being asked about this – which to me says there is an assumption their position is objective and neutral which considering the actual demographics of this country – is absolutely not the case).
Stills from from iXhala, Zandi’s short film commissioned by Wikipedia
Q9: What is your greatest strength as a director?
Zandi: Coming from a screenwriting background I’m a stickler for structure and the shorter the story the more significant its impact. I think that has gotten a little lost as of late.
Q10: What is something we don’t know about Zandi?
Zandi: I starred in a few commercials as a child. Spent a lot of afternoons after school waiting in castings.
Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder
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