The rise of Shona, Connie Ferguson

Shona and Connie Ferguson

Shona and Connie Ferguson

EIGHT years after starting Ferguson Films, Shona and Connie Ferguson have positioned themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the TV industry.

Ferguson Films, which Ferguson co-owns with his wife Connie, has made a convincing bid to take over Monday night TV with the latest addition to its stable, The Throne.

The soap premiered last Monday on Mzansi Magic at 7PM and joins the production company’s other hugely successful show The Queen, which is screened at 9PM on the same channel.

Alongside the likes of Rockville, Unmarried and Igazi, The Throne is also expected to be a firm fan favourite.

“As soon as Connie and I felt we were comfortable with our levels of knowledge, we launched the company while we were busy with The Wild.

“Being part of something that changed the face of TV — and particularly of soapies in this country (SA) — was a huge learning curve and when it ended, we didn’t want to go out there and find jobs again,” Ferguson said.

Although the couple started Ferguson Films in 2010, their first production was only commissioned by M-Net three years later. The result was Rockville.

“When M-Net commissions a show from us, we have to create a budget for it with every single line item we pay for identified — from the tea lady to the guy who carries the lighting. This is then given to the broadcaster, who approves it and then pays it to you, as the producer.

“In that process, a key thing is that the production company takes all the risks and liability, which means that should anything go wrong, it falls on you,” Ferguson explained.

He said he and his wife were both executive producers and they had to pay their salaries from that budget as well, which is separate from the production mark-up.

“It’s a process that gets harder with every project. But you have to be a tough negotiator because problems arise every single day. Something always goes wrong which means you lose money every day.

“If you’re not careful, strict and tight with your money, you’ll end up losing your production mark-up, which means you’ll be shooting the show on a loss.”

As the company’s financial manager, he has to run a tight ship and is also expected to make sound financial decisions that will benefit the company and its employees.

“Another thing we’ve managed to do is own all our own camera equipment and consumables which helps keep costs under control. We’ve also ensured our longevity by building up a fleet of vehicles, which we hire back out into the projects we do.”

Despite the difficulties and stress associated with being a business owner, Ferguson relishes the strides they have made in a highly competitive industry.

“But I must say that we’ve worked hard at our management skills so everything keeps ticking over nicely. There’s a huge difference between running a production and running a production company, which is a corporate function, governed by corporate regulations and rules.

“That means you pay your taxes, do your audits and all those kinds of obligations.”

With the success of their previous work, the Ferguson empire and the expected success of The Throne, it is clear why Connie is enjoying life as an entrepreneur.

“It’s a big surprise how far we’ve come in such a short time,” Connie Ferguson said of their early success.

“If you talk to other producers who’ve been doing it longer, they’ll tell you how long it takes to break in. It’s a very tough and competitive industry, so we’re pleasantly surprised by how well we’ve done.”

Working with her husband as her business partner, she admits, was challenging in the beginning, but they now work well together.

“We’ve had to learn to work together. I had to learn to understand him as a husband and father, and then as a businessman. They may be the same person, but those parts of him deal with situations very differently,” Connie said.

She says the respect they have for each other allows for easier transitions in between the different roles they have and makes for a seamless working relationship.

“Because we respect each other so much, we’re able to allow each other the space to deal with certain situations. This sometimes means swapping leadership roles.

“In meetings, for instance, if there’s a point he’s driving that needs to be addressed, I allow him to do that. In that moment, I recognise that he needs to be heard. By the same token, he gives me the same space to handle other situations.”

Their success is largely due to their partnership and vast industry experience. Connie has been on South African screens as the beloved Karabo Moroka in Generations since 1994 and has also featured in Soul City and The Wild.

With their company enjoying an average annual growth rate of 16,5 percent for the past three years, this TV power-couple certainly have the Midas touch. — Online