Rethabile Ramaphakela | Creative Director at Burnt Onion Productions

Rethabile Ramaphakela

As soon as she completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Motion Picture Medium at AFDA, Rethabile started tackling the TV industry head-on, working across a range of television genres. She kick-started her career as a kids’ presenter on SABC and KTV, helping harness her presenting skills by interviewing a host of International stars.

Rethabile-Ramaphakela_P1My Definition Of Success | Success means achieving the goals that you set out to achieve. What I’ve learnt is that the list of goals always grows. Success is ongoing. You won’t ever really wake up and go “Okay, that’s it. I’m done.” There will always be more to achieve and more to do. It is a blessing, and in some ways, also a curse.

I Am Driven By | People inspire me. They drive me. I’m also driven by a deep passion to tell stories. For as long as I can remember, that is all I have wanted to do. The reach of film and television is powerful and impactful. When I watch certain shows and movies, I hope that I one day too can evoke the emotion that the filmmakers and storytellers have evoked in me.

My Highlights | I have been very fortunate in my life. From being a kids presenter and having the opportunity to travel. I was lucky enough to one of the presenters conducting the red carpet interviews at the 2007 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles. I’ve also won the best Mnet TAG Award and I got to go to the Cannes Lion Festival in France as a prize,
Presenting will always be one of my first loves and I’m blessed to continually have opportunities that pop up like hosting the youth show Supernova on Supersport during the 2010 Fifa World Cup to being on eNCA’s Tech Report.
Another highlight was when I saved up and enrolled for a Screenwriting course at the New York Film Academy.
But my biggest highlight was starting a film and television production company with my brothers. Seeing the company grow from strength to strength each and every year is inspiring. (We started the company from my bedroom and now we have offices). Learning and seeing personal growth is also something that makes me proud. But mostly I get to do what I always wanted to and even though, on most days, it can be the most frustrating thing in the world I wouldn’t change it for anything.
A Key Talent | Put in the work. I cannot stress this enough and yes, it might not always be fun to stay in to read that script or practice those dance moves or get that cord right. Talent is like a muscle, you need to exercise it to see it grow, and that’s for whatever field you are in. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write every single day (which is still something I struggle with). Flex that muscle because otherwise you will lose it.
So put in the hours; read, write and exercise your talent not because you have to for your job but because you have to for you.
It is difficult especially if it seems that you will never catch your break. Don’t let the industry dishearten you. Just keep on keep on.

Dealing With Doubt | When I first got out of AFDA, I thought I had this writing thing down. But I quickly realised that there was still so much to learn. We started writing our first show and I quickly realised that, yes, I might have the basics but I still needed to exercise my talent muscle. It was a difficult lesson. I felt discouraged because I realised that maybe I was not as good as I thought I was. I started to think I was delusional about this whole writing thing.
But that’s the thing, it’s all about the exercise; cut to three years later and I’m a better writer (I hope). I’ve still got a lot to learn and master .
My saying for 2014: Keep on keeping on.

Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | Watching all of the TV and films. Reading the screenplays of all my favourite movies. Watching roundtables from American show runners.
Immerse yourself in your industry.Rethabile-Ramaphakela_P2What I don’t do enough of is immerse myself in what’s happening in our industry. I don’t watch enough South African TV and films. But it is on my goals list to prioritise the South African as much I do with the International content.

My Future Dreams And Ambitions | More TV shows where we can own the IP. Actually venturing into films. And other things that I would rather keep to myself.  J

I Am Inspired By | I’m inspired by people who have achieved what I have. I love looking to other successful production companies. I’m also inspired by my brothers who are on this journey with me. I learn from them every day.  It’s mostly worth it because I work with them.
I’m also really inspired by Mindy Kaling. She’s edgy. She has her own TV show, she has a book and she is generally really just kick ass. She’s making the strides that I’m hoping to make too.


The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I want to make people feel things. I want them to feel all the emotions. If I can do that then my work will be done here.

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