At Durban FilmMart in July Dolly Turner, president of the New York-based Turner Group,
suggested how South African filmmakers can advance into the American market,
specifically in terms of accessing film festivals in the US.
As a full service marketing agency providing branded entertainment, marketing, digital
and social media, experiential design and production, film festival consulting,
programming and curation, the company was instrumental in screening director Sara
Blecher’s Otelo Burning at film festivals in America.
“Sometimes people can relate to something artistic more than anything else. They
absorb other things over time but arts and culture are easily accessible and can have
the biggest impact in some aspects,’ Turner said.
She commented that filmmakers should be careful about the stories they tell as these
can influence audiences’ perceptions of a country either negatively or positively. “I feel
we all have choices in life and that they have long-term impacts. When you tell stories
about your culture and your experiences you have to understand that you are in reality
branding and marketing your country.’
Turner added: “This is an ideal time for Africa to show its richness; the richness of your
culture and people and your place in history. Africa is a growth market and a growth
country and I think the image of the continent is very important to maximising your
potential and how people do business with you.’
According to Turner, the images filmmakers portray can have a major impact on what
kind of interest their movies generate. If approached with a new attitude, inspiring
stories from Africa can benefit filmmakers and the continent as a tourist destination.
In terms of screening opportunities at film festivals, Turner encouraged filmmakers to
use a sales agent who can assess the world market and find distribution opportunities.
Before filmmakers start their festival process, they should find a sales agent for
individual territories around the world because that person is in the best position to
identify distributors who can help filmmakers negotiate and license their deals.
“Once the film has been released I can be helpful with an innovative distribution model
called TUGG that acts as a crowd source mechanism,’ she commented.
Otelo Burning caught Turner’s attention because the movie essentially has an uplifting
message. “I was specifically interested in Otelo Burning because it was a great coming of
age story that dispelled myths. I think it is a relatable story for youth globally. In the
movie, aspects such as jealousy, revenge and friendship are universal and the
production value was just unbelievable,’ said Turner.
She is of the opinion that audiences want to see movies that carry messages of hope. “I
think people want more authentic stories. Although cinema is entertaining I believe
viewers are looking for stories that are relevant to their everyday lives. And I think
people are looking for inspiration and hope when they go to the movies,’ she concluded.