Zimbabwean Championships of Performing Arts (Zicopa) Hollywood nominee for the World Champions of Performing Arts (WCOPA) Donovan Takaendesa, popularly known as Don Claude, is making it in the film industry and is working hard to make arts in Masvingo recognised nationally and internationally. (Zicopa is owned by Jessica Nyarai Tandy).
Takaendesa’s skill in the arts industry has seen him booking a ticket to represent Zimbabwe in 2016 in Hollywood at the WCOPA, but he failed to travel due to financial constraints.
Our correspondent Sukuoluhle Ndlovu (SN) caught up with Takaendesa (DT), who now runs his own production house called Don Claude Ent.
SN: Tell us about yourself.
DT: I was born in Gweru, but I grew up in Masvingo where I did my primary education at Rujeko Primary School before proceeding to Victoria High School for my Ordinary Level. I did my Advanced Level at a private college where I specialised in arts subjects.
SN: When did your career start?
DT: My passion for arts started to manifest when l was in Grade Two through poetry, but my dreams were shattered because arts was not taken seriously at the school where l was learning. I then started to resuscitate my dreams when l went for Advanced Level at Paramount College where l started my own drama club in 2010. I was writing scripts and directing them and I was also part of the cast. The drama club was then involved in competitions and in 2011, we tasted our first triumph at the Yocaf [Youth Cultural Arts Festival] where we won the Best Newcomer Award. I set up an organisation called Exhibitors, comprising of exhibitors of all kind, where we are helping each other to nurture our talent. i then later started Don Claude Ent.
SN: Why did you choose the film industry?
DT: I love acting, so l always loved movies. l always wanted to act and be part of it, but in our country we have a few films being produced, so l had to learn and be part of it and produce films for the country. I then ventured into production and left the acting side though l still feature here and there, but I am more on the production side. I have a passion for the film industry and I got this drive l have that l will never give up. l started as a poet till l became part of the film industry. I have a big vision and I am trying my best to fulfil my dreams.
SN: How many films have you produced?
DT: I have five films so far, including Mafia, which l produced in 2014, Critical (2015) and The Zimbabwean Warrior (2016), which was screened on ZBC. I did a film titled Ruth last year and the latest l did it this year and it’s titled Gehena Harina Moto, which l did with Patience Musa and PaChihera.
SN: Any plans of taking your work internationally?
DT: Yes, l am working on a script and l am really taking my time on it as it should meet international standards.
SN: Any great filmmakers and actors you have worked with?
DT: I have worked with Patience Musa, Courage Murambadare, Pah Chihera, Sydney Taivavashe and Yolanda Chimbarami, an actress from Canada who features in hollywood films.
SN: What challenges are you facing?
DT: I face finance challenges. It is very difficult to get sponsorship.
SN: What is it that you are proud of as far as film is concerned?
DT: I am proud of myself. Against all odds, I am fighting and now I have realised my dream. Many people want to be part of the film industry, but they are failing to make it because of certain challenges. As Don Claude Ent, we are proud to produce something that is recognised nationally and l have a suprise for the people of Zimbabwe as l am now targeting the international market.
I am also proud of other filmmakers who show that in Zimbabwe we have the best and all we need is support and to be united. As filmmakers, we want to be on top because our productions meet international standards.
SN: Any message for upcoming artistes?
DT: You have to go an extra mile to reach your goal because if you are afraid to fail, you will not succeed. If you want to make it, you need to associate with people who are well-versed and learn from them, you need to develop yourself.
SN: What is it that you are doing to succeed in the film industry?
DT: I am collaborating with experts because l have realised from my past experience that you have to engage others to make it. You cannot work with people who know nothing. I am learning from the internet and writing a script for the next project, which I believe is going to be my best production. We are uniting with other producers and actors to move forward and learning from Hollywood, so that we can follow the steps and make it. We want to do things professionally right now. I want to open a big studio and have celebrities to beef us up.
SN: What is your view about the film industry in Masvingo?
DT: The film industry in Masvingo lags behind although we have some of the best filmmakers and actors here. The best that we have are migrating to big cities like Harare and Bulawayo, but I want to make it a point that I am staying put in Masvingo. The film industry in Zimbabwe is not regarded as that important and it is difficult to get sponsorship. We need sponsorship and government should do something about piracy as it is dragging us down. If there was no piracy, we would be far by now. People are trying to make good films in Zimbabwe.
SN: You have an entertainment company called Don Claude Ent—what is it all about?
DT: Don Claude Ent focuses mainly on filmmaking, but we also do music videos and manage artistes and dance crews.