Mfundi Vundla, acclaimed producer and creator of the popular South African soap opera Generations, addressed a group of Witsies at the Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU) leadership round-table this past Wednesday.
The Hollywood trained script writer started the talk with a detailed anecdote about his robust life. Vundla told the audience how he was a promising scholar in his youth but was expelled from Forte Hare University for his involvement in underground political activity.
After a series of fortunate events Vundla was able to complete his tertiary education in the United States of America, receiving a BA degree in political science and English from the University of Massachusetts and subsequently a Masters from Boston University.
As a scholar in modern English literature, Vundla wrote his first play in 1975 with a close friend. “It was a horrible play, a very bad play because all it was, was speeches rather than dialogue,” he said
Vundla went on to write a second play, this time on his own. His second attempt proved more fruitful and his play was produced off-Broadway in New York. “Critics come in and look at your play … you can be destroyed there. The play did ok enough for me to be asked to write another play,” he said.
Vundla’s talent for writing was soon noticed, which resulted in him moving to California to work under the mentorship of acclaimed writer David Milch-the creator of the popular Police television drama series NYPD Blue.
“How I learned to write was through reading the scripts of American television shows that were in production,” he said. Vundla said he had not attended film and television school, but that he had always wanted to learn how to write films.
After 1994, Vundla returned to South Africa with ambitions of creating a drama series and documentaries for the South African Broadcasting Cooperation (SABC), but was asked to create a local soap opera.
“I knew nothing about soaps. So I asked my wife to fedx me books about Soap operas from the States and I studied those books tirelessly,” he said. Vundla said for several months he watched soaps, deconstructed them and studied their structures.[pullquote]“I knew nothing about soaps”[/pullquote] It was through his months of hard work, that Generations came to life. Twenty one years after the first episode aired, the soap is still one of South Africa’s most watched soaps.
During the round table discussion, Vundla imparted some leadership tips to the room filled with young eager minds.
He placed great emphasis on the importance of a good work ethic. “If you work hard you can make it,” he said “It’s important to do what you love,” he advised
Vundla also emphasised the importance of creating your own path. “There is no how to book to be successful like Mfundi Vundla. You can learn from me and then curve your own path,” he said.