It’s a new dawn for the South African Film and Television Industry as new seeds were planted, new paths paved and international relationships forged at the Actor Spaces Masterclass Talks – Women Play Lead. The 20th of December 2019 marked the breathing in of new life at the Johannesburg Constitutional Hill when Actor Spaces hosted a masterclass talk, featuring African American twin sisters and all-round creatives: Sidra and Tasha Smith – In partnership with ARIFF (Africa Rising International Film Festival) and Thami Dish productions. The masterclass was hosted by S.As leading ladies: actor, Mampho Brescia, and film-producer Lala Tuku.

WOMEN TAKE LEAD was the overall theme for talk. It was appropriate for the venue because of the tragic history it chronicles, a prison turned heritage site, where iconic women like Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, and Fatima Meer were incarcerated. The talk, with its liveliness and beauty, gave the space a new meaning and showed how women are here, present and stronger, ready to take the lead.

One half of the keynote speakers, writer, producer and founder of Essence Makers & Creators, Sidra Smith shared a trailer of a documentary she worked on based on the life of Angela Davis. She spoke of the difficulty of getting it off the ground because no studio would take it, but through persistence, dedication and hard work, she succeeded. She is now working on adapting the documentary into a feature film narrative. The producer also shared another trailer of A Luv Tale, a series she is going to launch on Essence Makers and Creators. A streaming platform that prides itself in “serving black women through film.” She extended an invite to South African content creators/film producers to submit their work to her as she will be creating an opportunity for black female filmmakers to distribute their content on the Essence Makers and Creators online streaming platform.

The other half of the keynote speakers: actress and director Tasha Smith opened her part of the address with these inspirational words: “Our dreams are not figments of our imagination, but God giving us a glimpse of our future”. These words injected the room with so much positive energy and prompted everyone to stand up and share in the joy of self-appreciation.

The motivation for the day was inspired by the story of the Chinese bamboo tree: “This particular tree has a seed that is so hard that when planted, it will do nothing for almost five years. In the fifth year, the seed breaks through the soil and begins to grow into a tree.” Tasha referenced the Chinese bamboo tree, using it to describe the patience required for the process of growth. She shared her own personal journey of growth, using an example of how working at her acting school for 20 years was in her words: “cultivating and nurturing the seed of directing in me.

Not only is Tasha an actor but In 2015, Tasha Smith made her directorial debut with the short film Boxed in, which premiered during the 19th Annual American Black Film Festival.[6] In 2017, Smith directed the television film When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story, starring Lil Mama and Lance Gross and it is based on a true story. In October 2017, she also directed an episode in the BET drama anthology series Tales and recently directed Empire.

In addition to all the seeds of knowledge planted within the room, filled with South African actors and filmmakers, Tasha took a moment to share the story of how she met Pallance Dladla and eventually connected to Actor Spaces which led to her trip to South Africa. She had caught Pallance Dladlas performance in the film ‘Hard to Get’ and was drawn to him since then. She watched him on the Netflix series ‘Shadows’ and that affirmed her first encounter. She slid into his DM and they’ve been talking for a year about the possibility of her trip to South Africa.

The Masterclass talk really resonated with people. One audience member Frank Mohlala remarked: “this talk is motivating actors and actresses. Having international acts here shows that there is real talent in South Africa.”

After a brief intermission, there was a Q&A session where the sisters answered various questions asked by the audience. From how Instagram is impacting the casting process, to colorism and how one should never change who they are to get into the industry. They also opened themselves to the prospect of collaborating and working with South African talent. This is the first of many collaborations and we look forward to a journey of knowledge sharing, international exchange and growing together.

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