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A chat with the brains behind Story Untold ZW

Who is Farai Mudzingwa & what is the story behind the creation of Story Untold ZW
I’m a storyteller who is passionate about filling the information gap in Zimbabwe. Before starting Story Untold ZW, I was a writer at Techzim for 3 years and during that time, I realised there was a huge gap in Zimbabwe when it comes to access to information. When I left Techzim, I decided to start Untold ZW with the first episode airing on the 17th of June 2021.

I’m interested in making things that live beyond me – and whilst I’ve already done that in my half decade as a journalist – I do want to do that at a bigger scale now than I’ve done before. Time will tell if I can do it.

Why did you choose the name Story Untold ZW?
I’m bad with names and Story Untold was a working title I chose because I didn’t want to get stuck on naming the thing. It’s basically a name I chose to just get that part of things out of the way so I could get to making the content. It’s probably not the best of names because it confuses people a lot. Some call it Untold Stories, others Stories Untold, The Untold Story etc -haha!

Confusion aside, I do think it’s a name that clearly defines what we do which is find stories and individuals who are not being covered in Zimbabwe’s mainstream media and bring them to the foreground.

Is there enough documentation being done for Zimbabwean stories?
Far from it. There’s a huge gap and having worked in media for nearly half a decade I can understand why – it’s hard to make content businesses in Zimbabwe financially sustainable. Most of the funds that have gone into Untold ZW are my own and long term that’s a precarious position to be in. I think it’s fair to say that most of the stories being documented outside of mainstream media (newspapers/TV) are funded by NGOs who have a taste for certain stories which creates the gap we’re trying to fill with Untold ZW.

Walk us through the idea process to publishing the interview on YouTube
When it comes to ideation it happens in several ways. Sometimes I see something that piques my interest on social media, other times I randomly walk up to strangers at events and ask them what they do.

After that – the next phase is research when I then discover if I’m interested enough in that person to be able to come up with a compelling conversation. This is probably the most time-consuming part of the process and sometimes I just can’t find angles…

We set a shooting date and then once the episode is recorded, I take maybe 2-4 days editing it and then it gets to you guys on YouTube.

How have you managed to host an inspiring show on YouTube while doing all the work?
Thanks for the compliment. Most of it comes down to curiosity. Just trying to see how much one can do before being overwhelmed. Also, the vision I have for Untold ZW is specific and so setting that foundation alone before growing is quite important.

I think it’s also important to note that the internet makes stuff like this possible. Before you could make the interviews but there was nowhere to distribute them if TV and radio didn’t like it – which they probably wouldn’t like Untold because of the swearing and how long some of our episodes are. So being able to distribute via YouTube and these other platforms is quite great because there’s freedom to work on novel things and have the people decide if they love it.

What kind of equipment do you use for the interviews?
I’ve got some modest lighting rigs, mics and two smartphones I record with. Modest being the key word there – haha. It’s a minimal setup just to save on costs and setup time as well.

I think I’ll try to shoot on smartphones for as long as I can and then incorporate “real” cameras if I want to do things that are a bit more conceptual and complicated.

What do you believe makes a great interview?
Genuine interest in the subjects.

What are some of the lessons that you have learned as a content creator?
That’s tricky. Firstly – I get to meet people who are in all these different fields with different experiences so that exposure is quite eye opening.

Beyond that, I think I’m learning a lot about video editing, content distribution and digital marketing as we try to grow the brand and ensure the stories reach as many people as possible.

How have you managed to overcome challenges that have come your way?
So far there haven’t been major setbacks. With minor challenges like mistakes on set or in post-production once I’ve made the mistake, my embarrassment tends to ensure that I remember not to make a similar mistake again.

How can a content creator stay relevant when everyone is creating content?
I’ve never really thought about this because my goal has never relevance. I’m more interested in documenting things and capturing a moment in time – which I think Untold ZW is doing well so far.

That’s not to say relevance isn’t important because the more relevant we are the more of an impact we can make I guess but ultimately, I don’t obsess over that. I just explore stuff I’m interested in and make it available to other people who I hope find it as fascinating as I do.

How have you dealt with creativity blocks or impostor syndrome?
Creative blocks haven’t been a thing yet because at every moment there’s always 10-20 episodes where the questions are already clear and the only thing left to do is reach out to a person.

When it comes to impostor syndrome – that’s not really a thing I think about. Like I said before, I was a writer and so video is a new medium of expression for me. That being the case, there are obviously going to be days where the work just isn’t that great – that’s part of any learning curve. So, on the days I do make mistakes, I don’t think of myself as an impostor – I’m just aware of the affect that this is a new experience.

I think the hurtful thing about making mistakes on the job is that – the stuff I make is public facing so you really do have to live with the shame for a bit and I also hate letting the people I bring on down because they would have spared the time only for me to maybe mess up their interviews whilst others look great. But yeah, life goes on – we live to make another episode.

Interview highlights?
Mostly meeting people I otherwise would have never met or talked to in depth like we get to do on the channel. I guess the bigger one is when people reach out and they say the content is extremely helpful. I’m bad with taking compliments but that’s amazing – it means I’m achieving what I set out to achieve.

Any advice to content creator with few followers?
I’m not really big on giving advice. Who am I to do that, haha? I do think we have most of the answers within us if we listen closely. I suppose that could be the advice to creators. Listen to your instinct.

What is the future of Story Untold ZW?
The initial goal is to make 100-150 episodes. I think we can do that and the rest you’ll see as we experiment and grow. Trade secrets and all that – haha!

Are there any other things you do beyond Untold ZW?
There is one thing that’s worth mentioning. We recently launched a sub-brand under our media umbrella. It’s called A Shona Proverb and the focus there is on preserving the Shona language. Link: https://instagram.com/a_shona_proverb?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=.

We have over 400 pieces of content that we’ll share over the next year and a half. I hope it becomes a brand that starts conversation regarding our language and culture. I’m passionate about storytelling and many of those sayings/proverbs hold really deep meanings that even I don’t know so it will be cool discovering this along with other people.

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Published by tcndangana

The girl with an overactive imagination

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