Alumni Profile: Mandilakhe Yengo
“I am in-house director and assistant director on many of the TV shows that we work on here at Penguin Films. Penguin Films also has a junior sister company called Paw Paw Films, which is basically the developmental side that Penguin established way back. I am one of the shareholders with Paw Paw Films as well.
I did my undergrad in BA Film and Media, and then after that I did my Honours in Television Production. I was busy doing my Master’s, but ended up not completing it because I personally felt as though I needed more industry, hands-on experience. The moment I did that, I kind of got scooped up by the industry and so have been trying to work my way up the ranks as much as possible. I also started acting in some of the shows because I also did drama as a second major; I felt as though acting and being on set work hand-in-hand. Having knowledge of the actor’s process and what they do allows the director and the actor to speak the same language. I signed with an agency to try and flex my acting muscles doing acting, voice overs and so on. I also managed to work alongside Reabetswe Rangaka, who just won a SAFTA for best supporting actor. He was someone I looked up to and who was somewhat of my mentor when I was studying, and in that way shaped the direction I wanted to go in in terms of showing me what it means to study drama but also do the behind-the-scenes work. I tried to use as much of my time outside of class to do on-campus work as well, like recording plays at Michaelis.
I’m a very introverted person, but working in this industry has helped me get out of my shell and learn how to communicate clearly with others. Again, it has allowed me to meet new people all the time and share ideas and world issues with them through the work that I do. Being on set means that you’re on the frontlines, and experiencing that chemistry with the actors is incredible. If I think back to 10-year-old me, I would never believe that I would’ve reached this stage in my life.
The UCT Centre for Film and Media department obviously introduced me into this world, and gave me the opportunity to see and learn from different people and different issues that are happening in the real world. It broadened my horizons. Even now, I’m trying to get back into and explore the UCT Libraries because the histories and resources stored there are so rich and there are so many stories locked there, waiting to be told. I would never have thought about that had I not been in an institution like UCT, where everything I need is just right there. It’s still a very big part of me.