In the last three months, Frieze Films’ rising star Malo 8 has directed commercials for three major cellular brands: MTN for MetropolitanRepublic; Cell C for Ogilvy Johannesburg; and Nokia for JWT.
The Cell C and Nokia ads mark an evolution in Malo 8’s style. While he took a different approach to each, both commercials are large-scale visual collages rather than the performance-based storytelling he’s built his growing reputation on.
“I work a lot with fine art and video art,’ says Malo 8, whose alter ego Dumisani Phakathi is a former Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year. “So on these vignettes, it was exciting to be allowed to interpret the script more than usual, beyond the confines of a traditional three-act structure. It allowed me to be a lot more impressionist.’
The briefs for both spots revolved around depicting subcultures and street culture, which immediately made Malo 8 feel at home.
“One of the most exciting things in any country is people doing new things in the streets indifferent ways,’ he says. “The possibilities are endless in terms of how to represent that visually and emotionally. You have the freedom to work with performances, but within such amazing settings. As much as the ads are about people who look and act interesting, they’re also about the places in Joburg, about urban culture and its architecture, about the story behind the spaces.’
Malo 8 admits that it was a balancing act between the settings and the performances. “I wanted the locations to be more than locations but I also didn’t want the ads to to feel like they were just about cool places,’ he says. “Vignettes can get too pretty or too cool for their own good, so it was about negotiating that line and keeping a bit of grunge in the work.’
For Malo 8, the key was “to shoot the vignettes so that they feel like you’re there. The important thing was to find that seamlessness between the performance of the actor, the wardrobe and the place, so it didn’t look contrived. I wanted everything to look found, to feel like we found the people in those places.’
Cell C’s captioned Be campaign was conceptualized by Ogilvy Johannesburg’s creative directors Alan Edgar and Louw Le Roux. Malo 8 worked closely with DOP Alard de Smidt and producer Saskia Finlayson to shoot more than 40 locations over the two-day shoot.
JWT’s Theo Clarke was the creative director on Theme, Nokia’s dialogue-driven Qwerty campaign, which was shot by Willie Nel.
Both spots were edited by Paul West at Deep End Post Production.