ZimExcellence

Gideon Jeph Wabvuta : Reframing Africa's Narrative (1)

August 04, 2021 CULTURELLE Episode 11
ZimExcellence
Gideon Jeph Wabvuta : Reframing Africa's Narrative (1)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Gideon Jeph Wabvuta is a Zimbabwean writer, solo actor and teaching artist based in Los Angeles. He is a 2019 graduate of the University of Southern California MFA Dramatic Writing program. His work as a writer includes Family Riots, Master’s Shoe, and his solo show Mbare Dreams amongst others. He has taught writing in the US, UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many others. His work in theater has also included stints as a program’s director and a literary manager. He also works as a consultant, and researcher for tv shows in development. Gideon’s artistic goal is to create works of art that will reclaim and reframe the African narrative on the world stage.

Website: https://www.almasiarts.org

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gideonjeph

Twitter: www.twitter.com/gideonjeph

Resources mentioned:
Celtx (free screenwriting software/app) 

Eclipsed by Danai Gurira*
In the Continuum by Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter*   
Father Comes Home From the Wars by Suzan Lori- Parks*

*The following is an affiliate link. If you decide to make a purchase using it, I may receive a commission that helps support the show. Thank you in advance. :)

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Vongai: Welcome to another episode of ZimExcellence. Today my guest is a writer, solo actor and teaching artist based in Los Angeles. He is a 2019 graduate of the University of Southern California’s MFA Dramatic Writing program. His work as a writer includes Family Riots, Master’s Shoe, and his solo show Mbare Dreams amongst others. He has taught writing in the US, UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many others. His work in theater has also included stints as a programs director and a literary manager. He also works as a consultant and researcher for TV shows in development. Y’all he is hella booked and busy and his overall artistic goal is to create works of art that will reclaim and reframe the African narrative on the world stage. That sounds familiar? Please welcome Gideon, Jeph Wabvuta. 

 Gideon: Oh, thank you for having me. I've been looking forward to this. I really have.  

Vongai: I've been so looking forward to this. And this is like the last week of mercury retrograde, and we just had so many little tech issues happen where it's like, magetsi aenda (electricity is gone) and then, microphones, like one person couldn’t hear the other. So today, we're recording this episode on Zoom as our backup plan. And so let's just see how it goes. Okay. So before we get into it, it's important that the people know. So we obviously have two amazing things in common. So you have this artistic goal that is to reclaim and reframe the African narrative and putting the African dramatic voice on the world map, which is what I'm all about. This is why I'm like, so excited to have this conversation with you. And the second thing is taka pesana (we’ve crossed paths). So you and I, we crossed paths.

 Gideon : I know ! 

Vongai : In America, like Gideon and I are so many mutual friends. It is not funny, and it was like we were in New York at the same time. And one time he like he was also living in LA and I visited LA twice. So it's like why?? 

Gideon : I know, I know. 

Vongai: Yeah, we finally met virtually.

Gideon :  We did it. I'm happy we did. 

Vongai : Yes. And so the first question I always ask is for you to kind of share a little bit about your origin story. So you were born in Zimbabwe. And you are currently in Zimbabwe right now, actually. But you're also based in Los Angeles. You're you're a bit? Well, not transatlantic, I'd say Trans Indian Ocean. Currently. Yeah, I'd love for you to kind of share, like how we got from point A to point B. And also, if it could involve like, you know, how you fell in love with the arts?

Gideon : Yeah, I always say to people that I did not. I had no plan of being in the arts. I was. I was born and raised in Mbara, in a very Christian family. And I don't know why I say it's a very Christian family. It's a Christian family. 

Vongai : I feel like all Zimbabwean families are very Christian families, though. So that's valid.

Gideon : That is true. I think I never had this on my mind that I was going to be like, deep in the arts. I was always legitimately interested in writing. And because I used to read a lot. So when I was growing up, my dad was really good at cultivating like, my need to read. I read so early, and I would read anything and everything that was around me. I remember, I got to O-level when I was doing my O levels. And I think we're studying an O-Level book. It was the Mayor of Casterbridge, I think it's a hardy book. And I started remembering that I had read that book, right. And I remember that I literally read that book when I was grade three. I was in third grade when I read that book. And it was because like, around my house, one of my uncle's had left a lot of like English classics and all that. So there I think was kind of like the interest in the arts. But it was not something that I thought I would ever take seriously. I mean, when I was in primary school, obviously, we did go. You do have like, you know, primary school dramas, primary school plays and all that but you don't take it seriously. It's one of the things you're just doing to pass the time. But I knew I had that interest. But at the back of my head, I didn't think I could pull it off because there was at that time, there was nothing. Or nobody to look up to, to say, hey, this, if I look up to this particular person, I mean, this is what I can aim for. This is the height of what I am doing or what I want to do. There was nothing at that point. And, and also, I think the kind of like the life that I was, I mean, with my parents, it was a little bit sheltered. So, with regards to what I wanted, I think there were there was there were there were always kind of like knowledge boundaries that existed, there was blinders. But obviously, as you get older, you slowly start moving away. I remember, I started going to high school and when I went to high school that allowed me to meet new people, you know, with different ideas, different thoughts. I went to an all boys school, and that’s. That's not a good thing for anybody.

Vongai: I agree with you. I went to an all girls school and I would never put my children through that. Sorry, mom and dad. But no thank you. 

 Gideon : Yeah, I agree. It is terrible. I just think that it took me a while to just even when I left school, I didn't know how I was supposed to behave amongst women. Because when you're around just boys, when you think about women, and you're talking about women, it's from this perspective of like, this very distant people that we do not know, because you never had, like you I spent six years in high school and I never sit next to a woman I never sat next to a girl just because I was in an all boys school. And it was a bit of an adjustment. And this is a discovery I think I recently made I like my partner always used to say me, like, dude, you don't realize how, like, how I had to be patient with you for you to just adjust to actually know how to be able to talk to me. And and it's something that I had to learn and, and I think that was kind of like the same thing with the arts in the sense that I had no plans to be in the arts. And I remember I was going to go and study journalism after high school. And I stumbled upon, a friend of mine, who's a visual artist was like, Hey, we're studying this whole thing where to go to performing outside. And it was sort of like a performing arts school. It was a weird place. I don't want to lie. It was a weird place. Because it was was a bunch of like super talented people. But then it eventually turned turned into I don't know, I think the best way to phrase it is like it turned into a cult. 

Vongai : Oh no ! 

Gideon : Yeah it turned strange, like rules and laws and like, dreams and weird stuff. It was it was the weirdest thing ever. But the biggest thing that I can say that I got out of that was the love and the desire for the arts. Like I left that place, and I really loved theater, I was obsessed with theater. I could not think about anything like you could not tell me to do anything outside of theater. That's literally what I what I wanted to do. Like I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a writer. And around that time, my parents were like, Hey, dude, I know we've not been seeing eye to eye because of this whole thing. But you need to get a college degree. So my dad cleverly and wisely just said to me, Hey, you just need to get a college degree. I don't care. I don't care what the college degree is in. And so I ended up going to the University of Zimbabwe and studying theater. The point that for the very first year, I didn't even tell them that I was studying theater because I was scared I was. It didn't make sense to me. They're like, if I tell them they'll be fine with it, that their son is going to be an actor. And they're always looked at the whole profession as aaah it's acting. It's you know, theater, who cares about it, do you think you can earn a living from that?

Vongai : Yeah, like it's a luxury or entertainment. That's something to touch on if we have time later on. Yeah,

Gideon : Yeah, definitely. I mean, it. It was it was tough. And one of the things also is because you know, how you like personally, for me, one of the toughest things was, I'm so used to naturally protecting myself. So sometimes, I asked myself questions, and I answer them without necessarily going to them and like, hey, so what do you think. To the point that I remember I, when I was, I was still at the University of Zimbabwe. So I started performing professionally whilst I was still a student, which was really good for me because I didn't have that kind of lag period where I'm out of school and now I'm starting to look for jobs. I always had something going, but the tough thing was, I think I just I was struggling to balance between being in school and being and wanting to be a professional actor at that time. But I really was hell bent on just doing it and eventually when my parents found out this still this is what I was doing, doing fine with it. They just said, Hey, if you're going to do this, just make sure you're the best at it. My dad has a saying that, like, if you're going to be a lazy bum, who sits at home doing nothing, then be the best lazy bum and never work a single day in your life, you know? So that became such a kind of like a driving force where I was like, hey, it's, I have an opportunity, right. And that opportunity is just to say, hey, you can actually do this and earn a living from it. Like when I'm not talking about, that's what I was trying to explain to a friend of mine, I was like, I'm not trying to talk about making millions of dollars, right? No one is expecting you to make millions of dollars, we're just talking about earning a living and be able to live in this world with kindness, with love, and, you know, be able to do the work that you actually want to do and be satisfied. And that's personally like what I'm going for. I literally say to people, I'm scared of being rich, because I think I don't yet have the character to be able to sustain that much money. So I'm fine with gradually just building up. And I think that's kind of like where, how kind of I got into theater after the University of Zimbabwe. That's when I had the opportunity to, to come to the US, which was such a strange thing. Because, you know, like, you have something at the back of your head, and you just never think that it can happen. You're just not like. I knew that, you know, this is what I wanted, I did not have a clear cut path as to how I was going to be able to achieve my goal. But I remember like, the first time I was asked, hey, I think you might be good enough, I think you could enough you should consider applying to grad school in the US. I remember just thinking, you know, I don't know if I want to do this because there was that doubt and that fear that started creeping in. But eventually, when I was able to do that, got into a couple of schools, of course, money, scholarships, all that mess. Yeah. Which in now, in retrospect, I'm always like, thank God, I did not get into any programs that gave me money, because I think if I had been studying acting, I would have dropped out. I am almost sure I would have dropped out at some point because it is such a I, I think actors are some of the bravest people in the world. Because 

 Vongai : Well thank you so much, we are. 

Gideon : You definitely are because it is such an act of surrender such an act of vulnerability, to just give yourself over to a process. I just. Whoo. It is a lot for me, I'm in the middle of working on my solo show. So we're in rehearsal for my solo show. And I am mad 360 times that rehearsal, just because were the directors trying to take me on like, this is too dark. So I have grown so much respect for the craft of like, like actors and what you guys do? Yeah. So I mean, to cut a long, long, long story short, so left University of Zimbabwe, went to try and be an actor. And then I was fortunate enough to go to the Ojai Playwrights Conference where people who were there were really great, because they all were like, Hey, we think you're good enough, you should apply to grad school for writing. So I applied to grad school for writing, and ended up going to USC, which was an interesting three years. Interesting probably is an understatement. But it was it was a packed three years. And I think anybody who's been to grad school, I think, fully understand what it means. Like if you've been to acting school or writing school at some point in your life, you understand that? It is a roller coaster. And, and yeah, and, I mean, I was lucky enough, graduated in 2019, and eventually started working around in LA, I was fortunate that one of my mentors invited me to a show. So I got hired in a couple of shows that were in development that I worked on. And then COVID happened, right?

Vongai : Mhm as it happened to us all. You’re on a trajectory and then you’re paused. 

Gideon : Yep, you know. Um, and it was such a, it was such It was such a pause button, because a changed. A lot has changed in the past, like year and a half to two years where I feel like I was going on a certain path was like, okay, that's what I need to do. Okay, I'm in this writers room for the show. Okay, cool. So this one is next coming up. Like, I had a couple of things that I've been fortunate enough to be like, shows that were network TV that were coming on and which was great. Bout to actually begin production on one of those and then so when COVID happened when like stories about COVID started coming up. Nobody, we didn't take it seriously. And I remember I was like, I'm going to go back to Zim and sort out my papers. And then I'm going to come back. Because I was still on my OPT, my second OPT. So I'm like, Okay, cool. I'm going to come back to I'm going to go to Zim sort out everything. Oh, no, I was on my application for my OPT. But I was coming to Zim to sort out my other papers, and then come back to the US. That was the plan. I get to Zim, and then the whole entire world just shuts down. And this is right before I had just started two jobs. The other two jobs that I've been doing, one was being a literary manager for the theater. And the other one was working with the Ojai Playwrights conference teaching the youth workshop, right. So technically, those are jobs where I was supposed to be there physically. And those people were great and gracious enough to say, hey, wherever you are, you can keep working. So I kept working. And the goal was, okay, I mean, everything is going to lift up, and we're going to go back to normal. And I'll be going back to going back to the US. But as I stayed, one of the things that struck me was just how, like, I started looking around me and looking at the industry here and how much and like what I could do, like the amount of work I've done in the past like year and a half with like a bunch of local creatives, I've done so much work. Like I literally was laughing at myself, because yesterday, I realized that I wrote like eight episodes of a TV show over the space of like three weeks. And it was, it was, it's just been such a creatively fulfilling process of being here. Because I feel like, for the first time in my life in a very long time, I'm in charge of the process, I am creating what I actually want, which is like reclaiming and reframing the narratives to say, hey, like, we're not all about guns and child soldiers and all that mess like. 

Vongai: Thank you Gideon. Thank you. 

Gideon: So that has been so much fun trying to kind of figure that out. And I'm excited for a bunch of things that are going to be coming out in the next four or five months or so.

Vongai: Oh, I'm so excited for you just to get our listeners up to speed for anyone who's confused or unfamiliar, OPT stands for optional placement training. And basically, it gives you one year of work for you. It allows you to work within. It's a work permit that allows you to work within the field that you studied in. So you always get your own PT after you finish your like degree or your course in the United States. So that's what Gideon was referring to. Again, I just want to say, Gideon, welcome to I don't know why I'm saying welcome because I probably joined the industry after you're in it. But like, We're so happy to have you in this industry. We're so happy that you're there representing us. I'm so happy that I have I guess I can say comrade, I have an ally and a friend in this fight of redefining the Zimbabwean narrative and telling African stories and telling Zimbabwean stories and just showing that you know, we are multifaceted people. I just want to say thank you because like we are completely tribe, and I adore you. And I just can't believe it took this whole pandemic for us to meet virtually. With all of that said, I'm interested to know what does being Zimbabwean mean to you? How would you personally define it?

Gideon: Oh, that's that's that's I think being Zimbabwean means a whole lot of things, especially nowadays, I think. It means being able to understand the separation between what it means to be a person who was born in Zimbabwe or of Zimbabwean  heritage and defining your pride separate from all the mess that exists. To say that we are not that mess. Yes, we might be in that mess. But that's not who we are. We have stories to tell we have. Like, I always try to explain to people that we laugh like we are not sad all the time. Like we don't wake up in the morning on our lives that are hard. So let's all gather in the kitchen and be sad about it. No, yeah. We are resilient. And we keep fighting and we keep hoping and we keep moving. And to me that defines what it means to be somebody.

 Vongai: I'd say. It's so interesting because Zimbabweans are really really funny. And I think it's this thing about like, I think The more struggle or pain you're in, you find ways through it. And that's where the jokes come from. 

Gideon : Yeah, definitely, you've got to, if you don't, if you take yourself too seriously at times, because I, I know, like, especially like Zim social media, there's always talk of, you know, policing, how people react to things, and so forth and so on. And I'm like, one of the toughest things is, Zimbabwe has been in a funk for a very, very long time. And people did take it seriously at some point. But you can take something seriously for so long until it digs at you and it eats you up in this ability to be able to use humor to keep surviving and keep moving on. It has helped it definitely has helped I, I always talk to people about that. If stand up comedy in Zimbabwe thrived because Zimbabwe was terrible, like at some point. Yeah. And yeah, we we grow and we get better.

Vongai : Yeah, definitely. I remember the first time I was in the OG Drama Book Shop, you know what I'm talking about, right? The  original Drama Bookshop in New York before, you know, it had to be sold and then re moved somewhere else. I was looking through, I think it Eclipsed had just come out. Or it was on Broadway. And so I was like in Drama Bookshop, looking through plays, and then I see a Eclipsed by Danai Gurira. And I was like, Oh, awesome. I'm gonna buy a copy. And then next to Eclipsed, that's when I'm seeing like the Convert , In Continuum. Familiar. And I was like, just in awe. Actually, no Familiar wasn't there. Because Familiar I had to get online, because I think at the time it hadn't been published. But I knew of Familiar because it was off Broadway around the same time that Eclipsed was on Broadway. So I pick up In continuum and the Convert, and I just go to one of the tables that they have in Drama Bookshop and I sat down at a chair, and just literally, I only had the money for one play, and I was gonna buy Eclipse. So I was like, let me read the other two. And I just kind of voraciously read the other two. And I just remember feeling so inspired, encouraged, and just in awe. Because I think it was like, No, in both of them. I saw Shona. And I'd never seen Shona in a published play in the UK or in the United States. In the United States in this case, and I just was like, wait, what we can do this what I never seen this. This is so cool. And as I'm reading the dialogue, my I guess my multilingual brain is working. So like the Shona portion of my brain, which I had not used in months, switches on and I'm like, take like, I'm just like, taken away by these characters. And just like knowing what they sound like, what the situation is, I think it was like In Continuum, which was a co written with Nikkole Salter funny I love you. You've collaborated with collaborated with both of them. You're amazing. Anyway, um, in, Danai’s portion, I think there was a two women who are complaining that magesti aenda, which means the electricity has gone and instantly when I read that I just like it took me back to my upbringing in Zimbabwe. And I was like, oh, wow. I had this hunger of finding other people. And I felt that same way again, when I read your two plays that you kindly sent me. And I'm just like, reading the Shona soaking in the Shona hearing it in my head and just being like, wow. Before I actually, you know, make my point with what the question is, sorry, speaking tangents. You do this really great thing in your play descriptions, which I, I just want to absolutely commend you for. So I read. The first one that I read was, I think, every Sunday, it's called, 

Gideon : One more Sunday. 

Vongai: One more Sunday. And under the descriptions before before you describe each of the characters and their roles, ages and all of that stuff. You said all the characters are BLACK. And I cackled Yes, like Yes. You cannot butcher this. He has said this in all caps. There is no casting a non-Black person for this role. I'm sorry, not going to cut it. 

Gideon : I learned the hard way. Trust me. I learned the hard way.

Vongai : And the other thing that you did that I just thought was so incredible. You mentioned in Family riots. You said there's some dialogue in Shona, but you won't be translating it because the audience is just going to understand what it means based off of the context. And I was like THAT, yes. Amazing. I have a friend who is a playwright. And she's Turkish. And I was in her reading for a play. And she just, it was actually at one of like, one of the main Off-Broadway places, not gonna mention them on the podcast, I can tell you off off the record, she had some people come to the reading, and they were giving her feedback of like, well, we didn't understand it, because it took place during the Turkish coup, and if we'd had more information and exposition da-da-duh, and she was like, but I'm not like. She was just frustrated that she had to dumb it down. And at the same time, that was the same year that Roma came out on Netflix. And in Roma, I forget. I forget the filmmakers name, it's probably really obvious. But he doesn't dumb it down for the audience to say, Oh, this is what was happening in Mexico at the time, you just see the scene play out. And if you're interested enough, you will do the Google search and be like, oh, oh, that's interesting. He was reflecting this part of what was happening in Mexico. And this is what was happening with the upper class. And this was happening with the low. Oh, this is interesting. So I just loved and appreciated that you were like, No, I'm not going to dumb it down and translate it for these people. They're just going to figure it out.

Gideon : Yeah. Yeah. And that's the way you kind of learn. I always feel like every every playwright who is coming outside of the US, you kind of find your footing as you go, you slowly get comfortable in who you are. And because you realize that it's the space, the theater world in the years, I always feel like, it's a space where people literally have to claim who you are as a creative. Who you are as a writer, and, and I don't want to lie to you it wasn't. It was one of the things where I had so many incidences. I remember, Family Riots, we had to do it on campus at USC. I remember, asked if they could just cast anyone who wasn't Black. And it was one of those things, because they literally were saying that Oh, we don't have and that was true. They didn't have any, like they didn't have enough Black actors on campus. 

 Vongai : And that speaks to their programs, because they make it difficult for us to get in. Yeah. 

Gideon : Exactly. That was the thing where I was I was unhappy. And what made it even more difficult was the fact that in my year, we had three people of color, right? So there were two Black people. And that meant that. And we are all like just, we all write plays that have only Black people. So that meant they needed close to about 12 to 14 Black actors. And I was like you telling me that you don't have 14 like actors, which we can put in these shows. To the point that they even add to go to the MFA actors and then to alumni, undergrads, it was like, it was a nightmare. But I think the biggest thing that I learned out of it was just to just stand your ground and know that, hey, this is the story that I'm trying to tell. Like, I even like translating words, I was like, No, this is I put these words in and these lines in for a specific purpose. I am going to let that story speak for itself. It’s a world that has been built in a certain I always think that that theater world has been built in a certain way. It's a system that is built in a certain way that every person who is coming in with something different. And I've seen it with all those young Black contemporary playwrights who are making it like who are breaking down doors, they've had to come with something completely different. And something where they're redefining, you know, not necessarily theater, but they're redefining how to be able to tell stories, and force their way in. And that's great. And that's what it should be. That's what it should be. 

Vongai : This is why it's important that we're there that we're not only creating and having our own Black theatres and African theaters, but also being in these other spaces that probably have more exposure. That way people know Oh, okay. There are these types of stories to be told. I just want to point out to our listeners and fellow people in the arts, that Gideon is there fighting for us and there there are so many other Zimbabweans and Africans and Black playwrights and writers who are there. And you know, who have I guess, on the outside, quote, unquote, ‘made’ it but on the inside of things Please know how difficult it is for them. And that in the end, you know, it's tough. You're fighting with producers and directors. And sometimes compromises are made that they didn't want. But it's it's, it's choosing between, is the work ever going to be seen? Or do I just like wait until the right time to show it the way that I want it? It's really tough. I don't think there's a black and white answer to that. And so with that said, How does it feel to be a representative of Zimbabwe having this like. I guess, unconscious pressure, where people like he's made it, apinda (he’s in there). He's waving the flag. And suddenly you speak for all of us, when really you just want it to be Gideon who's telling stories about Mbara and Zimbabwe and his upbringing, but suddenly, you are the voice of all of us.

Gideon: I think that's the biggest thing that I realized is I, I've never I guess, viewed myself as a representative. But then I also do understand that it's not about how you view yourself, but it's sometimes what people see you doing. And I think the thing that has always maintained a certain level of perspective for me has been, I have such high expectations for myself, that the one of the things that scared me is whenever people say that I've made it, like, yeah, it's such a tough thing for me to accept, because I feel like I'm on the path. Like, I think that I understand that gives me calm, that makes me realize that you know what, I know exactly what's supposed to happen. And where I'm going is that I am on a path, there's a path that I've set out, and they have specific goals and specific aspects about my life. And specific benchmarks that I need to hit that I think that okay, cool, I am getting there. And as long as I'm achieving my goal, which is being able to tell these African stories that are different that can change people's perceptions. And, you know, for me, I feel like slowly but surely, I'm getting closer and closer to my goal. And the biggest thing I do want to say is COVID happened. So when COVID happened, it gave me a different perspective. I don't want to lie I changed the way I was thinking because when me and my partner found that we were having, we're having a baby, it was one of those things where I was like, Okay, cool. Now that  is sort of like. I mean, not necessarily an added pressure thing, but I knew that okay, since we are in Zim, it means that the way we have to navigate has to shift because we had both come from the US. She was she was working in Texas, and I was in LA and I was like, Hey, I'm gonna go to Zim and then figure out my stuff, and then I'll come back, you're gonna come with me, or you want to stick around, she's like, nah let's just go. And then when we come back, we’ll both do it together. Um, so being here, and then realizing the kind of like freedom to create, that I have. It has kind of made me understand that, oh, my goal is not just to tell stories, but to also share skills, guys, and the young people that are around July, right now currently, I'm working with this. With these young boys, they have this company called College Central. They produced a web series last year that was called. I think it was last year or last year but one. That as called Wadiwa Wepa Moyo (What the heart wants).  It was a hit series locally. People loved it. People were obsessed with it. And I got connected to them via somebody and that person was like, hey, do you guys want to help. Do you want to help them out, craft their season two and what not. And we spent the past like six, seven months working on that writing the script outlining everything. And we've been in pre production for the past month and a half now. And that has given me a new frame of focus, which is there's a level of actual impact that I can make on the ground. Which is share skills, show people that there is a reason why all these shows that we watch on this very like on these network TV and Netflix and all that. There's a reason why they do it because there is a process that they take and now being able to introduce that process that I learned when I was working in writers rooms and all that to these like to these young boys and how much they just taking it in. It's just redefined kind of like what I think I need to do, and it's been really, really good.

Vongai:   I'm going to thank you. If no one has thanked you, I want to thank you, thanking you here. And now.  

Gideon : Aww .You know, it's fun. I enjoy this. 

Vongai : So with now being a dad, before I forget happy early Father's Day, because as we're recording this, I believe, Father's day is this weekend. You have gone further than your ancestors ever did. And I, and it's, and it's so interesting, the way you bring in the themes of Western Christianity kind of colliding and conflicting with indigenous practices, but you've gone further than your ancestors ever did. And now you have your son, who's also looking at you as representation. How, how does that feel kind of being in the beginning of saying, Okay, this is where I've come from. And, you know, these are the stories I have to share and to give, and also knowing that you're helping lay the foundation for the next generation, and like you said, giving back to these groups of boys and these groups of people who are also learning from you.

Gideon:  Oh yeah. And it's, it's a, I have a daughter. 

Vongai: Oh sorry, you have a daughter. I don’t know why I said son.

Gideon:  I always wanted to have a daughter like, that was one thing that was always clear to me, like, I always wanted to have a child. And when we found out we're having a baby, it's, it did change kind of the way that I viewed things, but I don't. Like I understand kind of, like the cliche of like, I completely changed my perspective about things. Yeah, all that. But I think the biggest thing that it did, it made me reflect on kind of like, what the bigger picture is, with regards to establishing systems that she can be able to benefit from. That it's not just about the end product, it's not just about the fact that like, I'm able to then produce something or I'm able to write a show and make it, but how can I be able to help create those systems that will allow her to be able to thrive if she decides that she wants to get into this industry. And, and I've started to believe that the only way to be able to create the systems is by equipping people with knowledge. Because if you equip people with knowledge, people understand that. Oh, okay. For us to be able to produce a good quality piece of work, we need to have time we need to resources, we need to have abcdefg. And when you are able to do that, it then allows people to be able to create systems that facilitate such work processes. And for me, that has become such an obsession, because I always tell people, people always ask me this question like, what do you like? Do you miss being in the US? And I'm like, the thing that I miss about being in the US is the convenience, right? 

Vongai : That's, my mom says. 

Gideon : Like, that's all not anything else. Yes, I do miss my friends, I do miss my family. I do miss like the people that I was really, really like that I'm really, really close to to this day. But the biggest thing that I miss is the convenience of doing things. I know that if I want this, I can just make a call, I can just order on an app if I need to do ABCD. If I need to access something, I know exactly where to go. I know exactly who to approach to be able to achieve ABCD. So I think, for Zim that's kind of like where my mind is shifted from just being like, Hey, we need to produce something, hey, I'm writing a place I need people to be in it. Instead of that to like, hey, I want to like I am thinking about producing a bunch of short films. So I'm taking in five writers. And over the next six months, we're going to be working on short films, that you all are going to then pair with directors that will be working with somebody else. And then we'll produce these short films. So it has helped widen my scope that it's not just about individual things, but how much more of an impact can you be able to make? How much can. And I learned this the biggest thing I'll be honest is I took to heart. Issa Rae talked so much about networking across the table. I took that to heart because I realized that I had spent my life trying to reach out to people that really didn't want to reach down to me. Yeah. And I was like, You know what, I'm going to reach across the people around me, the people that nobody really cares about looking at. And the best thing I do not want to lie to you the best thing that I've gotten out of fear has been, I've literally been able to understand identify, like a whole entire team of young people. Who I’m like if we need a costume design. Oh, so and so is there. If we need a director oh that person is there. If we need a DOP that person is there. If we were in theater if we need a director. So that has been great, because I've seen new skills just continuously grow within the industry. And it's, and it's so under the radar, but it is so much there. And it's just been great.

Gideon's Origin Story
Life at grad school
Nurturing local Zim Talent