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Carly Barnes

Carly Barnes
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It’s in the doing

Ask anyone in the industry what their thoughts are on the topic of training and you’ll find you’ve lifted the lid of a spattering pot full of strong and contradicting opinions.

There are those who feel that a majority of graduates of the content creating variety are ill equipped to take on the title of professional filmmaker. They have too much ego, they have a poor understanding of how their role fits into a bigger production workflow, and they are generalists who are not exposed enough to the full scope of production roles at a foundation level.

These are some of grievances of many of the established players who meet graduates and entry level content producers at the threshold of the professional production industry. Despite these shortcomings there seems to be a consensus and a belief in the talent which exists in our country; creative talent which has the potential to shape fresh perspectives and master new technological tools.

A ticket to ride

From a parent’s perspective tertiary education is a crucial phase in preparing a child for employment opportunities. Having a degree in hand provides school leavers with a greater chance of job security as they set forth to create a livelihood for themselves.

Some argue that a successful career in the artistic realm is less dependent on a qualification and rather on the subject’s innate talent, drive and willingness to gain hands-on experience from a grassroots level.

Natalie Delport, CEO of Sabido eAcademy, says that the question of whether or not the successful pursuit of a career in the film and television industries requires a formal qualification, depends on the specifics of the job or career path in question.

“There are companies who hire based on one’s qualifications and others who hire purely on attitude. However, having a formal qualification could give the person more ‘bargaining power’ with regards to the package.  On the other hand, some companies, mostly the large organisations and government, would only hire employees who have formal and recognised qualifications.“

Animation South Africa chair Nick Cloete believes that tertiary institutions are under a lot of pressure to meet the teaching requirements needed for students to obtain a degree, and that there is a need for a kind of bridging education or incubator process to help graduates refine their respective craft and the skills associated with it.

“Training institutions can only teach so much. They have to make sure their students are technically proficient. They have to finely calibrate their programme to meet a certain score to be able to offer a recognised qualification,” he comments. Eugen Olsen, creative director at Refinery Post Production, adds: “The industry needs generalists with a niche focus..

In addition to the creative aspects of the job – cultivating engaging stories, framing beautiful shots and putting art onto screens – there are some crucial skills that are often overlooked in many traditional training programmes. Concepts like the business and economics of film and delivering a product to market are as – if not more – important in arming oneself for success in the industry.”

“All the decisions you make, from script to screen, are affected by where you are selling your product. You learn those lessons the hard way. It’s important to have a realistic idea of the industry while nurturing your creative dreams,” says Tracey Williams, director of post-production at The Refinery.  This is why so many people involved in content creation are of the opinion that – tertiary education or not – practical experience through internships and mentoring is a fundamental part of attaining the skills, etiquette and professionalism needed to earn a respected place in the industry.

“The best way to help young filmmakers is to allow them the opportunity to make content,” says Harry Hofmeyr, who runs the Maxum Media Accelerator, a hands-on film and TV programme aimed to upskill fledgling start-ups in the industry, run by Urban Brew Studios in collaboration with The Innovation Hub. “They need to pay their dues and make their mistakes.”

Check yourself

Instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in filmmakers as they embark on their journey into the professional world is viewed as a move in the right direction. However, many entry level filmmakers are faced with a healthy serving of humble pie as they step onto set with inflated expectations.

It is widely understood that in most professions the starting block is positioned at the bottom of the pecking order – and the film industry is no different. It is for this reason that Cheryl Delport of Footprint Media Academy says the institution has adjusted the curriculum, which is practically driven, to include aspects such as life skills training and time management.

Delport maintains that equipping students for a career in film or TV means constantly gaining insight from the industry on what skills are needed and these issues have been continuously raised in her feedback with those currently working in the field. Gina Bonmarriage, dean of AFDA Johannesburg, says the institution aims to stay abreast of current industry needs and market gaps through research, links to the industry and a committee of discipline chairs and experts. However there seems to be more collaboration needed if the calibre and capability of graduate film students is to be raised.

A number of industry players cited some in-demand jobs which could benefit learners entering the highly competitive world of production. Editing assistants, production accountants, line producers, location scouts, production managers, compositors and on-set VFX artists were mentioned as being greatly sought after.

Kevan Jones, executive director of SACIA, points out that one of the great challenges facing the broadcast industry at the moment is the lack of people looking to pursue a career in broadcast engineering. According to an IABM report which was compiled based on input from SACIA: “The skills shortages were a consequence of many things, including significant reductions in training provision, dramatic shifts in technology, failure to attract new engineering talent and a lack of clear career paths and professional development for technical staff.”

The report goes on to say that: “The transition away from bespoke hardware to software-enabled products and networks also means there is a continuing need for crossover training and development. In particular, the current ageing population of broadcast engineers needs to develop skills in IT architecture and other technologies if they are to act as mentors and role models for new entrants to the industry.”

It would be valuable for first-year students and entry level filmmakers to understand these needs and gaps in the industry in order to better plan their developmental trajectory and work towards meeting realistic and practical industry deficits.

Sabido eAcademy emphasises the importance of attitude and discipline in preparing young learners for the industry. “No matter where we place our learners, the most important ‘discipline’, is discipline itself,” says Natalie Delport. “That is, punctuality, commitment, respect, integrity… all the life skills competencies that are so often overlooked by the higher education institutions. We teach our learners all aspects of production, and they have to choose a specialisation for assessment. However, since they have been exposed to so much, it’s the learners with the best attitude that get employed. The employers are prepared to train the right learners in the job that they have an opening for. We see this happen all the time.”

Next level

There are no shortcuts. And while institutions may have a responsibility to generate a better dialogue with the industry in order to shape their students more adequately for the turbulent landscape ahead of them, the accountability ultimately lies where it always has – with the individual. There are some qualities, such as problem solving, attention to detail, taking direction and being a team player, that are needed to be a professional in the field of filmmaking. Technical ability can arguably be honed and refined. But the ability to get stuck in where it counts and to soak up any knowledge and experience, in which a burgeoning filmmaker may be gifted, seems to be more valued among the industry workforce than an eloquent CV.

FILM DIRECTOR SPEAK: Gert van Niekerk

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This year Gert van Niekerk was nominated for a South African Film and Television (SAFTA) award for Best Director in the TV Soap category. Before taking his place behind the lens, van Niekerk was in the spotlight as an actor, which he believes has helped hone his skills as a director for e.tv’s Ashes to Ashes.

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

I am a trained actor and spent the first five years of my life on stage. Then I was lucky enough to get a lead part in the iconic Arende. I was dialogue coach for three years at Egoli… I still act when I get the parts. Discipline from theatre, patience and understanding from working with actors as a dialogue coach, as well as a curiosity to tell stories with pictures so that anybody can relate to them, has shaped me as a director. I have a good understanding of the actor’s side of things and what it feels like to stand in front of the camera when they say: “Action”.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SA TV SHOW TO DATE?

I obviously like Ashes to Ashes and my other favourite was The Wild. There is a great show on KykNet called Boekklub – one of the best ever made in Afrikaans.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

Watching people do what they do every day – the different way everybody reacts to the same stimulus. That’s what sets us apart and makes for great characters.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS?

I do. Bobby Heaney taught me a lot about directing and how to work with actors and crew and I still phone him if I get stuck. My best friend Sandi Schultz – she will slap me even when she knows I will be angry.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL CAREER MILESTONES?

The first big TV acting job. The first episode I directed on Egoli. The movie I did with Sandi and the story in Binnelanders where I acted opposite her. The job on The Wild. The day Clive Morris asked me if I wanted to do Ashes.

WHICH PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN?

Ashes takes up all my time at the moment… I try to direct at least one play a year … to keep in touch. I am a board member of the Theatre Benevolent Fund. I am a trustee in the complex I live in… I’m developing two projects with very clever writers … I try to see my father as often as I can … I have two friends, a partner and a dog. The other four hours I try to sleep.

WHAT ARE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE PARTS OF THE JOB?

Waiting.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR HAIRIEST MOMENT ON SET?

Patrick Shai asked me a question and I had no idea what the answer was…

WHEN YOU’RE NOT BUSY DIRECTING HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DOWN TIME?

I take my old 4×4 and go camping with the dog and a friend where there is no internet and no cellphone signal. I braai three times a day, bake bread over the fire and spend a lot of time staring into the bush thinking of absolutely nothing.

WHO WOULD YOU CAST AS YOURSELF IN A TV SERIES?

Marcel Schoeman.

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

Connie and Shona Fergusson.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS?

Doing what I do now… just better.

WHAT OR WHERE IS YOUR HAPPY PLACE?

Water… any water. River, sea… even a fishpond or rain makes me feel calm.

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

Knowing how it will turn out even before I get to the edit and slowing down time.

Tales of a San superhero

Namibian-born independent television producer and director Linda de Jager has been privileged to experience the natural beauty of Africa for a great majority of her life. Seeing more of the world only enhanced her appreciation for wide open spaces and wildlife in abundance. Now living in Johannesburg and having recently participated in an undercover investigation into the inner workings of rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park drawing on a recruitment pool in Mozambique, de Jager used her experiences in Namibia as inspiration to develop the first two 26-minute episodes of animated series /Gasa, which aims to create conservation awareness and spread the message: ‘protect what you love’.

The /Gasa character is a San superhero who travels to remote communities in Namibia telling traditional stories about animals with his imaginary lizard companion, ‘Mr Gecko’. “My point of departure remains that if you can merely rekindle the love of nature and animals already manifested in traditional stories – you can start a conversation about why it is important to ‘protect what you love,’” explains de Jager.

Connecting through comics

While on her travels to remote areas investigating the illegal wildlife trade, de Jager realised she wanted to be part of a constructive conversation with the youth of these communities. She remembers: “I asked myself: how do you reach the hearts and minds of children who have nothing and need to poach to feed themselves? The answer was comics and animation.”

The show is a stepping stone on the way to developing the story into a series of comics, as de Jager believes the medium is an effective one for reaching her desired audience and affecting real change. De Jager has seen this first hand through the experience of Pascal ‘Freehand’ Ricky Nzoni and Pitshou Mampa, two close friends from the Congo whose lives were changed through exposure to comics at a young age. The duo went on to become key illustrators for a comic book about Nelson Mandela and were therefore a good fit to come on board in the creation of /Gasa. “I knew from the outset that I wanted to work with them to give the series an authentic African feel,” says de Jager. Nzoni would take on the role as key animator and illustrator and Mampa as supporting illustrator.

/Gasa is aimed at African children of all ages, but has garnered a broader appeal than initially anticipated. “I wanted the project to be raw, childlike, naïve – and unpretentious – to speak directly to remote communities who may not be exposed to complicated visuals like children in the city. But now it just generally seems to appeal to a cross section of children,” de Jager remarks.

A truly African feel

Portraying a genuine and relatable Africa in the series involved a lot of research. The traditional stories which feature in the series were passed on to de Jager from Christiaan Fourie, an acquaintance who had grown up on a farm and had heard many of the stories first hand. Once a script was developed Tienie and Daniël du Plessis sourced a visual library of photos and created an initial storyboard which correlated to the script and was developed into a focused storyboard for the project. “Photo references were important because I wanted the relevant trees and animals to look like the real thing – as this is essentially edutainment,” says de Jager.

De Jager also relied on her relationship with self-taught animator Nzoni, who was able to uniquely contribute subtle African touches, like the position of the hands during cultural greetings, to the narrative. Together they were able to bring the story to life on screen. “I think the biggest challenge was understanding the environment in which the story takes place. The /Gasa character lives in the real environment and meets people from existing tribes or villages, so we had to do a lot of research to make sure the audience could relate to the visuals,” comments Nzoni. “An animator needs to live inside his own animation before even starting, allowing himself to feel the story before bringing it to life.”

Moving imagery

/Gasa was created using two animation techniques; frame by frame animation and cut-out animation. These were executed by Nzoni using different Adobe software for specific processes: Adobe Flash for the main animation and illustration; Adobe Photoshop for background painting; and Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects for post and editing. Paul Riekert of One FMusic created the underscore and sound effects for the production.

Self-funded by de Jager in its early stages, /Gasa soon thereafter garnered support from various sources including The Pupkewitz Foundation and the FNB trust in Namibia, which supplied some development funding; The Namibian Film Commission which funded the translations into five Namibian languages; the Legal Assistance Centre’s LEAD wildlife crime Advocacy Project in Namibia which screened the project in remote communities; the Legal Assistance Centre in Namibia; Namibian cultural experts Richard Shitwa and Samuel Bibombe; and Spoor and Fischer Trademark Patents and Copyright Specialists. The two-part series is currently being aired on Air Namibia international flights and will appear on Namibian commercial free-to-air television station One Africa Namibia in 2016. De Jager plans to create further episodes of /Gasa which feature other African countries, and to engage with more grassroots organisations with direct access and existing relationships in remote communities in Africa.

De Jager concludes: “Perhaps we are so disconnected from nature that we cannot see what we stand to lose on the African continent if we do not fight for our wildlife and our last wildernesses, but /Gasa does.”

Elements of Cinema: No sweat, no glory

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Sports scenes are a tough balance between hard hitting action and revealing moments of character development, both of which drive the narrative. In this scene from Modder en Bloed, a film set in 1901 South Africa, a game of rugby played out in a prison camp, symbolises tension between the Boers and the English in the Anglo-Boer war.

Sean Else on directing:

Sport in films has to be quite dynamic and well covered because audiences are so used to watching sports on television, which is covered from all angles and with many playback options. With Modder en Bloed we made sure that we covered the angles, but there is a lot going on within the characters and the games to drive the narrative. Planning and rehearsing the choreography was especially important in keeping the scene natural and realistic.

The game and movements were all written into the script and extremely important for the film. The rugby games are the chess game between the two ‘enemies’ and actually were our set battle pieces as the game of rugby becomes the metaphor for the continuation of the war between these two enemies within the prisoner of war camp. For crowd and character reactions from the side, we had stand-ins just run an eye line on the field after explaining the full choreography.

Adam Bentel on cinematography:

I hadn’t had much experience in shooting a sport film, so I had to do my homework extensively beforehand. I watched quite a few rugby games and did a lot of research into how filmmakers use the camera in relation to the action happening on the field. Rugby is an incredibly fast game with abrupt stops in the action. We chose to shoot the speed with a combination of hand held and dolly movements and then again to use hand held when the scene gets more intimate within the action. The first AC, Khyle Smith, wirelessly controlled the focus which further allowed me to get right into the action as it happened. Key grip, Alpheus Manaka had to lay six to eight straight tracks along the side of the field in a downhill fashion which made use of gravity to get the speed necessary to capture the fast paced running.

The entire film was shot using an ARRI Amira. It has an identical sensor to the ARRI Alexa family of cameras but it is considerably more lightweight and ergonomically designed for handheld shooting. I generally use wider focal lengths and watch the shoulders of the actors as they move. This allows me to predict most of their movements and keep them inside the 2.39:1 frame while still maintaining a frenetic feeling throughout.

Adam Bentel on lighting:

We chose to build the rudimentary rugby field in a north/south line to enable us to keep the sun on either side of the field which allows for a certain amount of contrast with hardly any front lighting. I also relied heavily on the yellow/white beach sand that they games were played in to bounce the sun back into the players’ faces. Gaffer Manny Chonco was constantly at my side advising me on the sun direction and cloud movements and his team had an array of 12×12 unbleached muslin bounces for closer work.

Quinn Lubbe on editing:

In this film we had to focus on highlighting the action but also each character’s arc and progression. I think it’s important to cut the scene as the director and actors played it while shooting and then cut down from there. Very often if you cut something out of a scene before watching it in its entirety you may cut out a moment that, in the context of the scene, works very well. Obviously, pace is critical in a sports scene, so we had to trim down to heighten the action. What was particularly challenging with this scene was that there weren’t any commentators, as you might have in a modern sport’s film to drive the tension, so we had to make use of spectator reactions to build tension and drive the game forward.

Stian Bam on performance (Willem Morkel):

I was never a good rugby player and that worked well for my character. The rugby they played back then also differed quite a lot from the rugby we know today, therefore not using a modern background was a challenge. We were also lucky in that the game itself was treated more as a battle and therefore the preparation was more towards getting the stakes high enough.  Physically we aimed to be fit enough to run and play a full day of shooting. The great thing about acting is that the situation dictates the scene.  If your homework is done, and you play the scene and what is needed in the scene, the character will be there.

Francois Coertze on performance (Os le Grange):

For my character it was all about the showing of his strength combined with a softer, gentle side. Being an active sportsman, I’ve been exposed to various sporting codes in my life.  It’s all about digging into the old archives and taking out some unforgettable moments and feelings I had at that specific moment. The biggest challenge was fighting the sand element and keeping it out of my eyes so I could focus on where I was going. Timing was another challenge – when to rush in, when to hold back.  Being an important scene in the movie, timing of this specific movement made it tricky to be on queue every time.

FILM DIRECTOR SPEAK: Philippe Lacôte

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Last year Philippe Lacôte’s debut feature film Run was selected to represent the Ivory Coast as a contender in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 88th Academy Awards. Lacôte is a filmmaker from Ivory Coast, who has produced various short films and documentaries.

How would you describe yourself as a director?

As a director, my stories are strongly rooted in reality. I like to set scenes in places without stopping the life that’s going on, and let the real life support the fiction. In the end, we don’t know which character comes from fiction or which comes from real life.

Do you have any mentors in the industry?

I was living in the south of France when I made my first short film, Sleepwalker, which was shot on 16mm black and white film. The sound engineer Fabrice Gares and I decided to go to Clermont-Ferrand and show the film during the festival. We managed to rent a theatre outside the official screenings and tried to invite some professionals… the day of the screening, there was only one spectator in the theatre, a man who sternly watched the film until the end. When the screening was over he came to me and encouraged me to continue. So this man was my first ‘mentor’ and my first spectator at the same time. Then there were others, people who passed on the craft of filmmaking to me.

What is your favourite African and international film, why?

It’s difficult to make such a difference between films. Obviously there’s a political one, but not an artistic one. When I look at a film, I never look at it according to its nationality or to the continent where it comes from (unless the nationality is essential to catch the film), but according to the poetic world the director proposes me to enter into. There’s a film called The Lost Necklace of the Dove by director Nacer Khémir. I like it a lot, because everything in this film becomes possible, in terms of imagination as well as for the story. It’s a philosophical tale about all the meaning of love in Arabic language, and the director isn’t afraid of opening all kinds of ‘narrative doors’. And I also like all of Ozu’s films. And the films by Andreï Tarkovski, whose work and reflections on film have accompanied me during years, to the extent that I put on stage his diary, read by French actor Denis Lavant (Mauvais Sang, Holy Motors).

Where do you get your story ideas from?

From everywhere… They can come from quite insignificant details. And then they sort of crystallise, become persistent… I’m a big press reader. Most of the time I stop on still images, rarely moving images, which I wish to extend narratively.

Which five film characters would you invite to a dinner party?

The couple in Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop Mambety. The young man as interpreted by Mangaye Niang, who came back 30 years later to recognise himself on screen in A Thousand Suns by Mati Diop. Jack Torrance, the character played by Jack Nicholson in The Shining; Harry Powell, played by Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse, which actually makes six. Guess it would be quite a crazy dinner party…

What does the future of film in Africa look like to you?

The future of film in Africa is new screens opening in countries where there are none, and many countries are in this situation. The problem is these screens are connected to Hollywood blockbusters’ pipelines. Will films telling something about this continent’s imaginary have access to these new screens? Will the states organise a repartition of the revenues from the screening of Hollywood films allowing other films, I mean allowing African directors to shoot their films? And how, as a director, can I be not disconnected from my audience if these new screens don’t show African films? This is, I think, the next challenge.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my next feature called Zama, a street gang drama inspired by a true story. The project is part of the Torino Film Lab, which is a very challenging place for scriptwriting. Zama is the story of a post-war gang leader, whose members where aged eight to 20, and who was lynched in the streets of Abidjan last year. The scene was filmed and posted on Facebook. Zama will tell his story: how he lived, how he died, how he fought against a giant Scorpio… My intention is to continue to tell the history of violence in Ivory Coast.  Shooting will take place in August 2017.

If you could shoot a film anywhere in the world, where would it be?

In Ivory Coast, in the MACA: the jail of Abidjan, surrounded by deep forest in the outskirts of the city.

What do you do when you aren’t making movies?

When I’m not making movies, I’m searching for a way to make movies. This is because I’m also part of my film’s production process. I don’t make a separation between making films and creating the conditions that will make the film exist.

What has been your proudest moment as a director?

It will be the next scene that I will shoot, which is the opening scene from Zama: a fire burning on a wasteland; a herd of cows passes, led by a child, to drink in the lagoon. A young man with his body tattooed all over walks out of the water, surrounded by three policemen…

What is your favourite one-liner from a film?

“I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

What songs make up your most recent music playlist?

The music I listen to is often linked to my work, and to atmospheres I’m searching for a film. These days it’s Saeta by Miles Davis, a sort of military march with trumpet that could accompany a battle quite particular, where enemies confront through mystical powers.

If you could produce an African version of a Hollywood classic, what would it be?

Scarface by Howard Hawks. Or one of Fritz Lang’s Hollywood films, Moonfleet.

Seriously surreal

South African Breweries’ #BeTheMentor campaign, conceptualised by creative agency Joe Public, went live in November 2015. The ad encourages people to serve as mentors to South African youths and features a man in his 20’s reflecting on some of the less than wholesome decisions he made in his younger days. It drives home a powerful and necessary message about underage drinking while at the same time effectively captivates its young target audience by using abstract visuals and surreal imagery.

Bomb Commercials director Teboho Mahlatsi was a natural fit for the advert, drawing on his background working on educational TV drama Yizo Yizo to deliver the concept successfully. Visually, Mahlatsi decided to explore a very new space where the story was not told in such a literal way. “I divided the narrative in two halves with the memory scenes shot and represented in studio. In the studio space I wanted to create this highly art directed and abstract conceptual imagery,” Mahlatsi explains. “All the realistic stuff where he is walking around was shot outside in a literal space, an actual street outside.” The commercial was shot at the end of October and first week November 2015 in and around Johannesburg.

The agency had presented what would become the ad’s voiceover but gave Mahlatsi creative freedom on the visuals and delivery of the concept. Mahlatsi gave the beautifully written voiceover added impact by having it performed in a rap style with a stop and start rhythm to give young people an easier way to identify with the older mentor. “The primary thing is to not to come across as preachy, and that was also a big thing for the agency – that the older guy is kind of cool and he’s not a parent. He’s not being judgemental – he identifies with his younger self. He’s more of a brotherly figure.”

The ad was shot using an Arri Alexa and for Mahlatsi the most important thing was using a prime master lens to produce a crisper, more cinematic image. “I come from that school of thought of creating more cinematic images with an epic feel. It needed to really be epic in this ad and I think the lenses were able to do that,” he comments.

Key crew members who worked on the production include executive producer Gavin Joubert, producer Marc Harrison, line producer Maurice Dingli, DP Jamie Ramsey, production designer Dimitri Repanis, and stylist Trudi Barklem. The offline edit was carried out by Andrew Trail at The House Post-Production while the online edit was handled by Ministry of Illusion.

Small SA crew produce virtual reality short

Atmos is a two and a half minute virtual reality (VR) film which tells the story of humanity’s flight from earth. The film was directed by Matthew Nefdt and produced by Rose Lovell, with audio by Andrew Sutherland.

Nefdt’s curiosity about 360-degree video and virtual reality began when he purchased an Oculus Rift Developer Kit and it is currently his main creative focus. He previously studied Video Technology at Durban University of Technology and has directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials as well as designed mobile games.

Atmos was originally developed as an entry into Samsung’s 60 second VR film competition, ‘There in 60 Seconds’, which ran at the end of 2015. But after reading the fine print and realising international entries were accepted but not eligible to win the competition, Nefdt withdrew from the competition but continued with production. “In hindsight we realised this enabled us to make a better product as we could make the film with a long enough duration to actually tell a story rather than show just an immersive experience,” he remarked.

Atmos was shot over a few days in November 2015 in Port St Johns, a town on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape which offered suitable landscapes to match the film’s sci-fi based narrative. “I have always been intrigued about the dramatic rock formations on the beach there; they always felt alien-like to me,” says Nefdt.

A small team worked on the production, partly due to necessity as Atmos was a self-funded project, but also due to the nature of virtual reality production. “Making a VR film is completely different to traditional filmmaking. Because you are shooting full 360 degrees, everything is visible and recorded in the shot. All crew, lighting and equipment on set must be removed in post. That is why we chose to shoot under natural lighting with minimal crew,” explains Nefdt.

The film was shot with six 4K cameras mounted to a Freedom360 rig. Audio was recorded with a Mitra binaural microphone and the footage was stitched together and processed into a 4K panoramic image. From there the team was able to edit and composite CGI with some additional VR plugins with the post workflow. Much of the CGI was rendered out of game engine Unity 3D. Nefdt was also responsible for stitching, editing, compositing and grading on the project. “I started the post while we were still in the Wild Coast. Our edit suite was my MacBook Pro in a round mud hut in a rural village,” he said.

Atmos is available as a free download on www.africard.tv and is best viewed using a VR device.

The film is compatible with Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Google Cardboard. It can be streamed online via YouTube and Facebook, which now support 360 video.

Akin Omotoso awarded Best Director at AMVCA

At the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), Spitfire Films’ Akin Omotoso received the award for Best Director for his movie Tell Me Sweet Something. Held at the Eko Hotel and Suites on Victoria Island, Lagos, on 4 and 5 March, the AMVCA rewards the most outstanding performances in the continent’s movie industry, and is held under the auspices of MultiChoice.

Omotoso’s DOP on the film, Paul Michaelson, was also awarded the Best Cinematographer Award. Tell Me Sweet Something was nominated for seven awards at the event, including Best Film and Best Editor.

Produced by Robbie Thorpe, the film stars Nomzamo Mbatha and Maps Maponyane.

The Foundry debuts Modo 10

Software developer The Foundry has launched the Modo 10 series. Built on a next-generation 3D modelling, texturing and rendering platform that enables creatives to iterate freely, the Modo 10 series is poised to deliver valuable new feature sets in a series of three instalments for a single price.

Modo 10 offers a toolset that enable artists and designers to create high-quality content for games, virtual reality, product design, creative media, and film and video projects. The launch begins with the Modo 10.0V.1 instalment, which allows artists to create content and be confident that their assets will look virtually the same in Unity or Unreal Engine.

“With the Modo 10 series, we’re introducing artist-friendly tools that streamline and automate complex tasks, leaving artists and designers free to explore their creativity,’ says Andy Whitmore, chief product officer at The Foundry. “We’re talking about a toolset that paves the way for maximum creativity in the content creation process, enabling the development of addictive real-time experiences, innovative product designs, compelling images for advertising, and engaging film and video content.’

Modo 10.0V.1 will be available in the second quarter of 2016 and will be followed by V.10.1 and 10.2.

Triggerfish Story Lab selects eight finalists

With support from the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Walt Disney
Company, Triggerfish Animation Studios’ Story Lab initiative aims to develop African
storytellers to produce animated content for an international audience.

“Stories are the lifeblood of our business,’ says Anthony Silverston‚ who heads
development at Triggerfish. “We know that there are many writers/directors on the
African continent with talent who have not had the opportunities to create stories
for the world market. Our aim is two-fold: to identify exceptional talent and to
provide them with the right opportunities and support through our network and
infrastructure – with the ultimate aim of going into production. We have a long-term
vision to create a slate of original feature films and to expand into television series
production.’

After launching in July 2015, the initiative garnered 1 378 entries from 30 African
countries and produced a shortlist of 35 feature film and TV series projects. The
selected project creators then attended a two week masterclass in Cape Town
hosted by Orion Ross‚ vice president of Animation & Digital Content for Disney
Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Pilar Alessandra, a Hollywood
screenwriting instructor and expert in pitching and story analysis. In December
2015 the final eight projects were announced.
Silverston comments: “Picking the final projects was extremely difficult because
there were a lot of factors to consider and our experts – both international and local
– all had quite varied feedback. I think this pointed to the fact that there were a lot
of worthy submissions, any of which could credibly be developed into a successful
project. I’m excited by the final slate and I’m still hoping that there are ways for us
to remain involved in the development of the other projects too.’

The final feature film participants are: Ian Tucker (South Africa) for Dropped;
Wanuri Kahiu and Nnedi Okorafor (Kenya/Nigeria) for The Camel Racer; Naseem
Hoosen (South Africa) for The Wild Waste; and Kay Carmichael (South Africa) for
Lights. The final TV series participants are: Malenga Mulendema (Zambia) for KC’s
Super 4; Mike Scott (South Africa) for Bru and Boegie; Lucy Heavens (South Africa)
for Wormholes; and Marc Dey and Kelly Dillon (South Africa) for Ninja Princess.

For 28-year old participant Naseem Hoosen the Story Lab process has felt like
coming home: “So often creative people can be guarded about sharing our ideas
(often rightfully so) but the Story Lab helped break down so many of those
barriers.’

Hoosen believes his project, The Wild Waste, made the final cut because the story
is accessible and speaks to his personal experiences growing up in South Africa.
“There’s a strong afro-futurism influence in there and I think it offers the animators
a chance to do something original and beautiful,’ he says.
TV Series finalist Mike Scott, a 33-year-old seasoned animator, says the Story Lab
is a fitting platform to take his project Bru & Boegie, which has been in
development for about 13 years, to the next level. “I’ve been punting my own work
for about 10 years now and this is a major opportunity to give an IP a great chance
at becoming a fully-fledged TV show or movie.’

Silverston says Triggerfish is aiming to have initial story pitches ready for the
Annecy International Animated Film Festival and then move into the next phase of
development, but notes that the development of the features will take some time.
“We’re likely to be working on the scripts for the next couple of years. In February
we’re all getting together in Los Angeles for two weeks to workshop the projects
with Disney experts,’ he comments.

By Carly Barnes

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