Mangi Mbileni is a passionate storyteller and entrepreneur that was always destined for a career in media and content production. Educated in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) and Cape Town, he holds a BA in Film & Media Production and honed his business acumen by completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Management, both at the University of Cape Town. He’s currently pursuing a Masters in Film & Television at Wits University focusing on Documentary Production, Screenwriting, and Screen Directing.
Mangi cut his professional teeth in radio production at Radio 702, working with SA media giants like Redi Tlhabi, John Robbie and Bruce Whitfield whilst also hosting a weekend overnight show at 947. He made a seamless transition to television production heading up ontent at Afrokaans Film & Television. Amongst his production credits are Vuzu’s flagship daily show V-Entertainment, All That BS, Dinner with Vuzu and Looking for the Loerie. In recent years he has directed and produced a slew of brand films and documentaries for leading blue chip companies such as Discovery, Nestle, Clinix, Anglo American Platinum and international organizations such as Global Citizen and AfroPunk.
He is particularly interested in and passionate about documentary filmmaking and scripted content formats, which is where he sees himself making a mark in the world. He’s concerned about stories that bring light to the black African experience in a nuanced and multidimensional manner.
Q&A with Mangi
How did you start in the industry?
My journey started soon after I finished my film and media degree at UCT. I was offered a job in Cape Town but I was desperate to come back home to Joburg so I turned it down and enrolled at Wits the following year to do a post-grad radio journalism programme through the Wits Radio Academy. During one of the modules we had a guest lecturer, the Programmes Manager for 702 Radio, who must’ve been impressed with my work because he invited me for a job interview two days later and I was offered a job as a junior producer on the spot. So in essence my career started in radio before I segued to TV production a couple years later.
What does your typical work day look like?
One thing I’ve always appreciated about my job is that no two days are the same but during production periods the days are very long and often start before sunrise. On shoot days my call time is usually between 5am-7am regardless of whether we’re shooting on location or on set. This usually takes all day and depending on the format we’re shooting can end in the evening. On days I’m not on set or shooting I’m usually pitching to clients, sitting in an edit, conceptualizing a project to pitch, planning a shoot or handling admin and business matters. Honestly speaking, I’d say my job is like 80% admin and 20% exciting stuff – it is honestly not as glamorous as people think. I’m also at the tail end of my Masters in Film & TV so I need to factor those academic commitments in the weekly goings-on of my life.
What do you think FAME Week Africa can offer the Pan-African Market?
I think that for the longest time there hasn’t been enough synergy or cross-collaboration within the various disciplines in the creative arts sector, what FAME Week Africa offers is an opportunity for all stakeholders within the different aspects of the industry to come together and see where opportunities for collaboration and growth lie. I reckon now more than ever, given the tough economic times caused by the pandemic amongst other factors, we should be looking to collaborate and leverage off each other both in Mzansi and across our borders. I know within my specific discipline (film, tv, video content), there’s a huge interest in our content, just look at Netflix as an example to see that there’s a serious yearning for what the African continent has to offer. The same goes within other creative disciplines such as fashion and art.
What do you think the future of the creative industries look like?
I know that the expression “The Future is African” is starting to feel outplayed but I honestly feel like it really is. The future for me really does look African. Not only is there an interest in things coming out of the continent (creative industry-wise) but I think we’re quickly realising that we’re just as capable as any region on earth. I see the continent becoming the next frontier for the creative arts both in production and export, we’re definitely experiencing an African renaissance in the creative arts industry.
What have been some of your career highlights?
Sheesh, I have a few that are quite personal to me. When I worked in entertainment television, I was part of the leadership team that produced an award winning daily TV show called V-Entertainment on Vuzu, we were credited with creating a celebrity culture of the new generation of Mzansi’s entertainers and audiences. Setting up my own company that has produced work for top brands and blue chip companies, and more recently I directed and produced a short documentary for Global Citizen, the doccie was played during a 90-minute YouTube Originals global broadcast to millions of viewers around the world.
Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
I’m extremely excited for what the future holds. I’m currently in development of an exciting documentary series as well as a music show that I can’t divulge too much about at the moment. There’s also something in the pipeline for an international collaboration happening next year that I’m over the moon about. Watch this space.
With FAME Week Africa being hosted in the Mother City, what do you love about Cape Town?
Cape Town is a city very dear to my heart. I lived there for 4 years during my student days and experienced some of my most precious moments. I love that Cape Town prioritises the creative sector; the natural scenery is unmatched and of course it’s a melting pot of different cultures. The city also has some of the best culinary offerings I’ve ever experienced of any city I’ve visited both on the continent and beyond. I would, however, love to see the government of the city actively pumping more resources into making it more inclusive to all. I feel like the township and peri-urban inhabitants of the city are excluded spatially and economically from participating in all the splendour that the city has to offer.