Celebrating influential and exceptional women behind the scenes - Catharine Cooke (The River Director)

24 August 2021
She's been in the industry for many years and continues to pull boss moves!
Catharine Cooke Article Billboard

We're still celebrating phenomenal women this women's month and not only the ones that are excelling in front of the screen but those who make the magic happen behind the scenes as well. 

We had the amazing opportunity of asking the amazing Catharine Cooke who is a director on The River a few questions regarding her career and being a women in a tough industry, how she managed to not only pull it off but also extremely be successful at it and this is what she had to say:


How did you get to being a director in one of the biggest Telenovelas in the country and what kind of challenges did you come across if any?

I had been in the industry for some time and had developed a very good reputation doing drama /action and thriller TV shows. Johnny Barbuzano who was then the  lead director of The River suggested me to Tshedza Pictures and they decided to take a chance on me, lucky for me. The challenge I faced was that I had never done a soapie or  a telenovela before and it’s a very different beast to crafting a drama series, but with the help of an outstanding production team, cast and crew, we flourished. so the genre was fairly unknowto me at the time. The pace we had to shoot at was another big  challenge as this made it all the more difficult to maintain the high standard


What's the best part of your job?

That I get to practice my art form every single day and that every day on set the possibilities present themselves for me to be a better director and creator. It’s my absolute joy that I get to live in a creative world and thank my lucky stars it’s not a 9 to 5 office job.


Do you think there are enough women in this field of work and why do you think so?

I would love to see more women in the field, I find great satisfaction, now that I have surpassed the 10 000 hours of having been doing this as a career, in mentoring young women with the same dream. One of the things that I am concerned about is that there are so many young people who think that they can break into the tv and film world quickly, it takes time and a great deal of persistence. There needs to a greater respect given to story telling and then you can start to  perfect the art form. 

1629990840 27 catharine cooke  3


What's the best thing about being a woman and being able to call yourself a director

Thank goodness for the continued feminist fight that has allowed me to be in my field as a director and a woman 


You have been directing for many years and have worked in amazing productions loved by many, what do you think has been the one thing that has kept you loving this and continuing to do it for so long? 

It’s the excitement for me about continually evolving and chasing my dreams not only on a local platform but on an internationally stage and that’s tangible for me now. I think the co-productions between MNET and international distributors has set the bar much higher for local productions and has allowed creatives to start thinker bigger and that our work will be seen by a much wider and discerning audience.


What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Girl from St Agnes and Reyka are absolutely the highlights to my career. Both of those were achievements in directing that made me feel incredibly proud and more confident in my own abilities and proved how far I could stretch my creativity. It was thanks to Quizzical Pictures that I got to do these jobs and even more wonderful that they were the production house that gave me my first big break into directing so many years ago • 


Who do you look up to? 

I love directors that have a particular style and a strong voice that you can absolutely see a mile away, similar to Wes Anderson and the Cohen brothers. There is a particular way that they tell stories, off beat and out the box thinking. This makes for a very impressive body of work and that to me is key.

Liesl Tommy has inspired me lately simply because she is Cape Town born and is now becoming internationally acclaimed female director. I will always be inspired by my mentor which is Donovan Marsh. He was the person that gave me a break and pushed me off the edge when I needed to fly. We all need someone that allows you to feel that you can do anything and build your confidence. 


Do you have any advice for young women who aspire to work behind the scenes as well?

Having an acting background really helps having empathy with your actors and will give them more trust in you. You don’t have to know everything about the technical side of it all but it helps immensely when you do, so there is more clarity with your crew. Then, find a mentor who inspires you and immerse yourself in the arts to stay creatively alive: poetry, theatre, music, painting and just keep your imagination alive • 


Do you think today, women are celebrated enough in this amazing field of work

There’s always space for more celebration of women achieving in their careers and or fields of choice 


What is your superpower

I respect every person’s expertise on set and I work from my heart space not my ego, which is the only way I know how to  be truthful to any project.


Thank you so much for the interest and celebration of women behind the scenes.