A new SABC3 series offers a heartfelt uncovering of life’s journey from a female
perspective and looks at where women turn to for sustenance and inner resilience.
Commissioned by SABC Religion in November 2011, I Am Woman – Leap of Faith,
went on air on 1 April in the Sunday 9am slot.
It is produced by former radio talk show host and founder of the Life Stories Family
Archive Project, Lisa Chait, together with Lauren Groenewald and Miki Redelinghuys
of Plexus Films.
Groenewald explains that the mandate from SABC Religion was to explore courage,
humanity and everyday experience, partnered by spiritual expression and reflection.
“These stories are everyday stories that speak of life as a journey and explore a
different spiritual reference deep within each of the 26 women featured in the
Series commissioning editor Yashika Singh adds: “The programme explores in-depth
the journeys of women who have made a significant leap of faith in their lives to
emerge stronger and more courageous. SABC Religion realised that there is a greater
need for women to share their stories on the public broadcaster, to inspire and to
empower citizens and to be role models to other women who can ultimately grow in
their awareness of endless possibility.’
In 2009 Chait approached Plexus Films to partner her on the series. She had written
a treatment called Leap of Faith in response to a commissioning brief put out by
Groenewald continues: “Lisa’s angle was that women so often come to a point in
their lives, through choice or force of circumstance, where they take a leap into the
unknown and as a result their lives are changed forever. That defining moment of
change and its consequences is what interested us.’
When the SABC called for submissions Chait wrote the initial idea for the series and
researched 13 women’s stories in just three weeks.
“After Plexus agreed to partner with me Miki Redelinghuys deftly weaved the concept
and content into a treatment meeting the SABCs specific requirement,’ says Chait,
who also presents the series. “We were told they loved it but it was never officially
commissioned at that time. However, we always held out hope and Lauren
Groenewald was incredible in the long haul liaising with the SABC and staying with
the project. She kept it alive from our side. In the meantime we all got on with other
“The series was officially commissioned and contracts signed towards the end of
2011, with a request for 26 episodes. Supported by Antoinette Engel, I set about
finding the balance of stories. The research still continues while we shoot, package
and broadcast episodes.’
Sourcing the subjects
As a broadcast journalist and producer of many years standing Chait has an excellent
network of individual contacts and women’s groups (formal and informal) which led to
some great content options.
“Antoinette Engel, who is supporting research as well as doing a fine job as
production manager, also tapped into her networks with good results. Word of
mouth, online research and social network messaging have been invaluable,’
She notes that it is an extremely easy task to find inspirational women in South
Africa and everyone the team contacted, formally and informally, had a person or
two to suggest.
“The phones are still ringing and emails are coming in with suggestions. So the
stories are incredible and boundless. Our series, however, is not about profiling
inspirational women per se. It is about locating a definable moment of change. We
have a definite angle that requires more work and research. The challenge for us,
and one that we embrace, is to “find the leap’. Something specific, measurable and
filmable that layers our series beyond that of a simple profile.’
On the road
Llewelyn Roderick, Izette Mostert, Lauren Groenewald and Benitha Vlok are the series
directors. DOPs are Karen Landsberg and Tim Wege (on some episodes)
Production commenced in January this year and continues until the end of July.
It takes about 2½ days to shoot a 24-minute episode, each episode focuses on one
woman’s story. Post-production is done in-house at Plexus Films by Tanja Hagen on
an Final Cut Pro editing suite. Stef Albertyn is doing the final mix off site.
“All shoots are dynamic and we have to be fluid. We sometimes find out extra bits to
the story in loco and have to move quickly and smartly to incorporate these. Mostly
it’s about our subjects and secondary characters (friends, family and colleagues
whom we might interview), being there for us at the times we agreed and still being
willing to share. So far we have had minimal problems – everyone is keen. The
weather has aso been good to us too but of course we are going into winter,’
Locations include Groot Winterhoek Mountains in the Western Cape, White River and
Bushbuckridge in Mpumulanga, Cape Town and its surrounds, Mitchells Plain, Camps
Bay, the Bo-Kaap, a heritage farmhouse just outside Malmesbury and the Eastern
Groenwald points out that the team has been extremely heartened by the way
women have opened their hearts on camera, willing to share their deep selves and
details from their lives, often not told before.
“Each of our directors also brings his or her unique talents to their episodes with a
broad stylistic template that we work from. We have also gone to great lengths to
reflect a broad and varied selection of women – from the poorest communities to the
wealthiest and everything in between.’
Screen Africa magazine- May 2012