There are not many young boys from Zomba who grow up with a dream and by the age of 25, find themselves living that dream, complete with a two-month stay in New York City.
However that is the way Brain Magombo finds his life unfolding right now following his successful graduation from the Southern Africa MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) Academy last month.
Brian was one of a group of enthusiastic, young TV and film hopefuls who entered the Academy in January this year, and has just graduated with flying colours. Facilitators were so impressed with his work during the year, he was awarded an 8-week internship at the prestigious New York Film Academy in America.
Given his natural flair for film, it’s not surprising that Brian has excelled in this way. Growing up, he was always curious about how films were made. His father worked in media, and there was often a camcorder in the house. Brian would experiment with these video recorders and make home videos with friends, which nurtured his love for film.
“After school I studied journalism at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Studies. It was then that I learnt about documentary making, and my passion for video and filmmaking grew. I am driven by learning, as I believe we never stop learning in life. So although I had some knowledge from my journalism course, I wanted to learn much more about film,” Brian explains.
After a lecturer gave him the MTF application details, Brian applied to attend the Academy. He believes his exuberance during the interview process secured his spot.
“I think they liked my enthusiasm. I had a lot of it!” he laughs. “I was very open-minded and showed them that I wanted to learn. I was also confident, because I knew that even though I wasn’t professionally trained, I had been passionate about film my whole life. I had also decided that I wanted to contribute to growing film in Malawi – I wanted to be part of that start-up story.”
When at the Academy, Brian wasted no time developing his skills to secure his future career. He immersed himself in the theoretical and practical teachings, gaining as much as he could from the industry expert teachers, and thrived on the opportunity to develop personally and professionally with like-minded people.
“The course was jam-packed. The entire scope of filmmaking was condensed into just 11 months. There was a lot to digest and to apply at the same time, so I really had to stay on my toes. When you’re learning from online tutorials, so many important aspects are overlooked.
But when you’re learning from industry veterans, you get to learn every detail from a different perspective, including marketing, distribution and making a film on a budget. I grew up idolising certain film projects, and the people who worked on those were now teaching me. That is an out of this world experience,” he says.
Beyond the skills development, Brian learnt a lot about himself. He has never worked in a team environment before and never been in a leadership position. His time at the Academy exposed him to both.
“I was privileged to direct one of the final productions we had to do. I got to inspire people to work together to achieve a common goal. I learnt to appreciate every aspect of the filmmaking process, not just about ‘I’ but about ‘we’ as a team. You’re dealing with different characters in all these different people, and you have to learn to manage them. Making films is always going to be about good team work. At the end of the day, it’s not about me as an individual and what I do, but about the film we produce together,” he explains.
As part of the programme, Brian and his peers were trained by facilitators from the New York Film Academy. He hopes to build on this knowledge when he visits the Academy in 2024 – an opportunity for which he is nervous and excited at the same time!
On his return, Brian wants to use his international experience to begin building his film career, starting with using film to grow awareness of Malawi as a country and to help address unemployment among the youth.
“Film in Malawi is an untapped gold mine ripe for exploring. I want to use my creativity to help better the Malawian people, especially the youth. I also want to tell Malawi’s story to the world. Not many people know about this small, African country. God willing I can use my creativity to help young people and tell our story at the same time,” Brian states.
He understands that most Southern African countries face the same issues, so would like to learn from other MTF alumni and see how they are working with film in their countries, and contributing to the growth of their creative industries.
“MTF was life changing for me,” he affirms. “I don’t take any part of this experience for granted and appreciate all the opportunities afforded to me. I will be forever grateful for the knowledge imparted to me as an individual and as a creative. Thousands of people would have loved to have been in the position I was in at MTF, I understand that, and want to make good on that opportunity I was given.”
The MTF Southern Africa academy class graduated on 17 November 2023, after a 12-month intensive programme inclusive of practical and in-class theoretical curriculum accredited by the University of Zambia. The graduation celebrated the talent and hard work of 19 students across six countries in the Southern region, who have put in many hours of honing their skills and expanding their knowledge and networks in the industry. There were two students from Malawi, including Brian Magombo bringing the total since MTF’s inception to 8.