ON A FILMMAKING WAVE: Dan Mace on location shooting his short film Fighting to Save Zanzibar’s Sea Turtles

Dan Mace fell in love with filmmaking when he realised it had the potential to give voice to his thoughts. The budding young filmmaker chatted to Screen Africa about everything, from where he finds his inspiration, to winning two awards at the Young Director Awards at Cannes Lions 2016, and why he loves sharing his work on YouTube…

How did you get into filmmaking? Has it always been the plan?

I have always perceived things differently to others and when I realised that I could fill the void between the two by creating a visual moving art form I was sold. Film directing has given my thoughts a relatable voice or point of contact to speak to a large group of people. When I was around 15 years old I got sent to Madagascar on a surf trip with O’Neill (my surfing sponsor at the time) and being the only kid with a video camera I decided to film everything. In the end I realised that I had spent more time on the land filming the local architecture and culture than in the water surfing with everyone else.

I taught myself to edit on one of the first Final Cut packages and produced a really drawn out 40-minute documentary. This is where it all began; using a camera to tell a story in the way in which I chose to see it – which is generally a positive, inspirational light. I finished school and started studying at a local film college in Cape Town, but found that they just put film into a box and you had to stick to all these guidelines which I just couldn’t get right so I left after about a year and entered into the world of YouTube and online filmmaking. I would film anything from outdoor trance parties to three-year olds’ birthday celebrations to get money together to be able to create a new film for my YouTube channel called DanTheDirector and to pay the bills of course.

Slowly but surely I started to progress and make films about more pressing issues and always highlighting an inspirational element. It was not long till I started getting pretty awesome work through my channel where I had the ability to direct freely (both films that won Silver at theYoung Director Awards in Cannes this year were YouTube projects of mine). This is just the beginning of the ladder for me as a director and I hope to expand from YouTube and be able to speak to larger audiences in the near future.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Cape Town, South Africa filled with arts that are deeply rooted in our heritage from amazing music, film, photography and theatre. To me I believe it’s the diversity of sounds and music we have at home. Film is like music for the eyeballs and what better place to learn about visual rhythm than a culturally rich South Africa. There are also endless stories in Cape Town; inspiring and honest ones.

That’s why I guess I focus on telling inspiring stories no matter where I am in the world.

Congratulations on the two silver awards you won at the Young Director Awards at Cannes Lions this year, what projects were the wins for?

There were two categories that I got nominations in. The one was ‘Changing the World Frame by

Frame’ where I got two nominations and one of my films, Mine Detection Rats, won silver. And then the Short Film category where my film, Gift won a silver as well.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

The highlight for me has been watching the idea I had of being able to create films that inspired me and on top of that being able to make a living doing so, come true. It was a just a little while before Cannes where I took a step back and thought to myself, ‘wait a second, things are actually starting to come together here. This is epic!’. My ultimate goal in this industry would be to carry on making films that inspire me to keep on keeping on.

What has been the toughest job you’ve worked on so far?

I’d say the first ever music video I made; my first budget job as I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, to be honest, and everyone was looking at me as the director to know what the hell was going on, but I didn’t have any answers. The video didn’t turn out too badly in the end actually, but it was a HUGE learning curve for me and I’m stoked I did it!

What kind of content do you enjoy creating?

Definitely inspiring stories. The ones that inspire you to be more you. I like to find people that are different from the rest, the ones going against the grain, but at the same time creating change of some sort. I believe that the more people I find like that around the world will inspire my future projects in hope of making a deeply moving feature film based on true events.

Do you hope to cross over into feature film making in the future?

For now I am just super stoked to be making short films in hope that I will slowly learn to master the art of a compelling short story. If I reach that goal I will then definitely move into the longer format filmmaking business, yes.

You have a large YouTube following; what is it about the medium that you love?

YouTube is an awesome platform because it is free as well as widely accessed by millions of people around the globe . It is the perfect platform to be able to share your ideas freely as well as engage with large audiences that are on the same page as you. Most of my work comes through people recognising my work from YouTube and Instagram.

Top three favourite directors?

Darren Aronofsky, Sam Brown, David Fincher.

What is your dream shoot location? And why?

Dream shoot location would have to be doing a deforestation piece in the Amazon. I guess it’s just a place I have always wanted to travel to and a really interesting topic.

When you’re not making films, you’re?


If you weren’t a filmmaker, you would be?

A musician of some sort.

If you could choose anyone to play you in your biopic, who would it be?

Jesse Eisenberg

What next for Dan Mace?

Seeing the quality of all the other directors’ films at the Young Director Awards this year was a big eye opener for me and has really given me the push to keep diving deeper into my scripts and to put in that extra effort in the referencing and pre-production phase… you know, the small things you overlook. I think that’s what truly separates a good film from a great film. I am redoing my entire Brand ID and focussing on utilising film in the best way possible, which for me is in the ‘Changing the World Frame by Frame’ category, as well as focusing on my YouTube channel by sharing relevant and engaging content with people that care.

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Chanelle Ellaya is the editor of Screen Africa. She completed her BA Journalism degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2011. While writing is her passion, she has a keen interest in the media in various capacities. Chanelle is an avid social media networker and a firm believer in the power of social and online networking. Between writing and tweeting, she finds time to feed her love for live music.


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