FILM DIRECTOR SPEAK: Uga Carlini

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Uga Carlini directing a scene from Alison

President of Towerkop Creations, Uga Carlini is a South African award winning filmmaker. She is a writer, director and producer whose international career has grown in the United Kingdom, Australia and Fiji. She was voted one of 2012’s most extraordinary women of SA. Her feature film, which is currently on circuit, Alison, has won local and international awards among many nominations.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOU AS A DIRECTOR?

I have always wanted to make and be in movies, I studied drama and specialised in film making and acting, and then acted professionally overseas, doing workshops in different countries. I moved from actress to full time producing, screenwriting and directing when I went to Fiji, and wrote the syllabus for the university there, where we got to make movies for two years. I came back after that, Towerkop Creations was born and the rest, as they say, is history. One of my favourite quotes is Quentin Tarantino saying, “While you were studying films, I was watching films.” The best way to learn is to do. Nothing can give you what you learn from the team you work with, every story has new bridges to cross and it is those bridges that make you stronger as a filmmaker and as a storyteller.

DESCRIBE THE MOMENT WHEN YOU DECIDED YOU WANTED TO BECOME A DIRECTOR?

I think I was born with that moment. It was always my final destination.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

It is everywhere, and usually in the simple moments is where I find it. I love stories, I love South African stories. Inspiration is sometimes in the sound of the ocean, or in a moment with my boys. I am Inspired daily, even in the non-inspiring moments. When I watch a fantastic film I am inspired, when I watch a bad film I am inspired again, because it all adds to the melting pot of telling stories and inspiration is where it all starts, and it keeps me going.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS?

I have many. One of my greatest mentors was Paul Ian Johnson, the great screenwriter and my dear friend. My dad was one of my mentors who used to write me poetry from a very young age. My two boys are my mentors on a daily basis, my friends, and the love of my life. Sad moments, challenges, these are all mentors. The greatest mentors remain the stories we tell.

WHICH PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN?

Currently, with my business partner Dani Barnard from Baked Media, we are working on a hybrid reality show for VI television called Die Bergs, about a singing sensation. It will flight in April. We are also in development of some strong feature projects.

WHAT KIND OF CONTENT DO YOU ENJOY CREATING?

As long as it’s a story where I can do unique things, in a hybrid kind of fashion, I am happy. Feature films are my first love, even though I am absolutely enjoying the reality TV style that we are currently doing.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FUNNIEST MOMENT ON SET?

I think you cannot have one, especially with a heavy project like Alison, we actually laughed so much. As a director and as a producer it is very important to keep the humour on set, and laugh at ourselves, laugh at the funny things and even have a giggle when things get tough. Humour is my thing and my slate is very comedy driven now. I want to make people laugh for a long time and laugh with them.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT AS A DIRECTOR?

There at least a million every day, even if I am not shooting. The moment we closed finance on Alison. When the cameras rolled for the first time on set. When we got into our first international film festival. Becoming the first South African film to ever get in with Dances for Films. When my crew were nominated at the SAFTA’s. The moment Alison said yes. Winning the Muse Award. Winning the best African documentary. The nominations, the international awards we have won. It is also the private proud moments, when Christia nailed a moment as Alison, my incredible actors who were so brave with this project. My crew problem solving. The gratitude is never ending.

WHO IN THE INDUSTRY WOULD YOU REALLY LIKE TO WORK WITH?

I have been blessed to have so far worked with people I love and adore. The door is open to work with many fantastic South African talents… so far I have been humbled by our incredible local crew and the talent we have in SA.

IF YOU COULD PRODUCE AN AFRICAN VERSION OF A HOLLYWOOD CLASSIC, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

As much as I love them, a big dream would be that I would much rather make movies that become classics.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FILMMAKER SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

That I never had to sleep so there could be more time in a day to do the things we do, and that there was a limitless pit of money where budget wasn’t a problem. I think this would be a superpower that we would all love with all our hearts.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM SHOOT LOCATION? 

They say that if you do what you love, you haven’t worked a day in your life, and I see myself in that incredibly lucky position. I think telling the stories I really wanted to tell, producing my own stuff and now joining forces with Barnard, between the two of us and what we have on our slates and our plans – this is my dream shoot location. This is my ultimate African version of stories, this is my proudest moment, this is my funniest moment, this is what I enjoy creating content wise, this is my inspiration. This is everything you have just asked me in these questions, as all part of my dream, I get to be in my dream location every single day.

IF YOU WEREN’T A FILMMAKER, YOU WOULD BE…?

I would be dead. I would be miserable. There is nothing else.

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Cera-Jane Catton
Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.

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