In conversation with Blacksmith Collective

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Founders of Blacksmith Collective, Marcus von Geyso & Diogo Mendonça.

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Marcus von Geyso and Diogo Mendonça are the founders of Blacksmith Collective – a production collective specialising in content creation and creative problem solving. The company prides itself on going the extra mile to meet their client’s needs by formulating bespoke technological solutions for content purposes.

How did Blacksmith Collective come to be?

We worked together at Ogilvy and have always been entrepreneurs at heart. We didn’t really know what we wanted at the time, we just knew that we wanted to do things differently, and that’s when we came up with the idea of creating a collective – a unique business model that was created to ignite creativity by bringing the best creatives for the job onto some of the most exciting projects.

What kind of content production, if any, do you specialise in?

Our background is more in the brand and entertainment space, and we are well-known within this space. We are also really passionate about technology and innovation, and have become specialists in merging technology for content purposes which has led to us getting a lot more requests to do live-streams, work with robotic arms and custom-built rigs that we happen to own a few of. We carry the reputation of being the team to go to when clients don’t know if something is possible or not.

What have been some of your production highlights thus far?

We have been fortunate to have various highlights, but some that stand out are working with Intel and Absa to light up Johannesburg CBD with 300 light drones; our first international campaign for Visit Qatar; live streaming Oprah Winfrey with Facebook Africa as a client; working with Carling Black Label to reframe what it means to be a man in today’s society; and being the first African brand to use Periscope manager with Castle Lager and the T20 Mzansi Super league.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing producers in the industry today? How do you combat these?

The need for instant content does make it a lot more difficult to deliver high-end crafted work, as the reality is that it takes time to do good work. But, based on our experience, the best way to combat these is to have open and clear communication with client upfront as time does not allow for many reverts, thus we try to plan as much as possible upfront. Also choosing your work as well as managing the amount of work in the system, helps minimise the risk of putting out mediocre work for the sake of it.

With audiences favouring binge-watching on digital platforms, what changes have people in the business of film and television had to make?

The consumer has had a power shift and they are dictating the direction that film and television need to take in order for brands to reach their audiences. With there being so much variety and competition for audience share, it is important for content creators to understand and know their audiences and be more selective about them. Very few content pieces are able to cater for the masses these days – it’s about being niche and strategic.

Is there a place for both VOD and traditional broadcasters in the future? How do you see the two co-existing?

Content on demand is a trend that has been happening for years thanks to YouTube and social media. It is all about getting the content you want at the time you want it. Whichever platform can provide that will rise to the top.

What makes Blacksmith Collective different to other production companies?

We innovate, and push the envelope. We even build customs rigs to deliver on our creative ambitions. If we want to get a certain shot, we will make it happen. We tap into our vast network of more than 300 creatives, ranging from art directors to camera operators. We choose the teams who are best suited for the job. We try and stay away from only using in-house talent – this helps us continually innovate and generate new concepts.

You describe yourselves as a Production Collective, specialising in content creation and creative problem solving. What do you mean by ‘creative problem solving’?

The market has changed so quickly and forced many businesses to adapt to its demands, and often clients have great ideas and aren’t necessarily sure on how to execute them. We are often the team that clients come to when they need something to be executed that isn’t the norm – projects that push the limits or require a lot of creative innovation.

What next for Blacksmith Collective?

We have expanded and moved into the event space as we believe the future is in brands being experiential with content being a part of this, thus our next step is to become experiential experts while growing our business in the international realm. We have been fortunate to have two international projects already and look forward to expanding the business on a global scale.

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Chanelle Ellaya
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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