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Cera-Jane Catton

Cera-Jane Catton
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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.

Ugandan filmmakers meet, mingle and make a movie

The inaugural Uganda Filmmakers Networking Day was launched in December 2016. Born to boost the market, it will continue to be an annual event that brings the Ugandan film fraternity together. The first event was dubbed The Filmmakers Day of Fun in the Jungle where a short was shot and a means to empower an industry was formed.

Screen Africa spoke to organiser, actor, writer, director and producer Mutebi Andrew Elvis. This versatile filmmaker is putting the Ugandan Film industry into the spotlight. In 2014, Elvis founded Kiss Films Africa with the aim of supplying local Ugandan film content. In 2016 he was selected to attend the Maisha Doen Stichting screenwriter’s lab in Uganda. The lab is run by Mira Nair, the internationally acclaimed Indian director, screenwriter and producer who has put Uganda on the filmmakers map.

Elvis explains that filmmakers met at the Uganda National Theatre, from there they went to Roots Resort where they were afforded a day of film screenings, adventure activities and a competition where someone won three editions of the Harry Potter Collection. Filmmakers then spent the night in tents and cottages. “All departments of film including actors, directors, scriptwriters, editors, production managers, make-up artists, DOPs, distributors, and sound recordists were present,” says Elvis.

Late in the night, two screenwriters Mugabirwe Rogers Matelja and Lydia Nanyanzi came up with the idea for a short experimental film which they had to shoot before they headed to the capital Kampala on the morning of 18 December. “The experimental short Footpath was filmed using an iPhone 6S and nothing else and is credited to around 12 filmmakers who gave in kind craftsmanship,” explains Elvis.

He says the event is for filmmakers to come up with ways of working together and increase the number of film projects. “The idea is to bring various stakeholders in the Ugandan Film industry under one roof in a conducive relaxed atmosphere and map out a plan to increase on productivity as well as learn from each other,” says Elvis. “Ugandan filmmakers lacked an event on the social calendar that brings them together to discuss the key factors affecting the industry, as well as energise and discuss possible solutions in order to overcome them in the new year,” he explains. Claiming that the issues they face are “Issues of distribution, co-productions, and low levels of local film content on local televisions, and mapping out plans to access government funds and logistical facilitation to filmmakers.”

In 2017 the networking event will be held in the last week of November. It is a nonprofit event that Elvis believes will have a significant boost for the local film industry but says sponsorship is hard to come by and there is need to raise funds to facilitate it.

“The fruits of the event where the shooting of a short film, which is to be turned into a low budget feature film,” says Elvis. They already have a follow up plan to see that the feature is produced before the year ends and there will be a new film project at the next event. They are currently developing a website and approaching sponsors for it. The 2017 event will include an extra day for screening of local film content to the general public.

Beautiful, wonderful, delightful, remarkable News

In November 2016 South Africa was graced with Beautiful News and every day since, and every day for the next three years at 16h14 a Beautiful News story is published online. The two-minute videos poignantly share stories from across the country that unlike primetime news, are truly inspiring, motivating, and genuinely delightful.

The concept came from the creators of 21 Icons, a collective of like-minded people whose passion and interest in South Africa’s potential brought them together. 21 Icons celebrated South Africa’s most remarkable men and women over three seasons. “The experience of creating that project made it clear that South Africa is full of people whose stories are worthy of celebration. Beautiful News was born out of a desire to share them,” explains Anthony Hinrichsen, commissioning editor of Beautiful News and Ginkgo Agency.

Beautiful News aims to be the reminder of hope, “To remind South Africa’s people why we live here, and show the world why this country will fulfil the promise of the Mandela era,” he says. “We will show the selflessness, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the human kindness that binds South Africans together. This country and its people have so much to give and so much to live for; now we will tell their story, our story, together.”

Nelson Mandela was released from prison at 16h14 on 11 February 1990. Beautiful News stories are released at this time as a symbolic reference to the power and impact of the moment when it became clear that democracy was coming to South Africa.

“We find story subjects from numerous sources including community contacts, submissions from the existing audience, as well as online and offline research from our editorial team. It is the intention for Beautiful News to represent every kind of South African, from every province in the country,” explains Hinrichsen.

Beautiful News is too produced by Ginkgo Agency and is made possible with the support of their partner Mercedes-Benz South Africa.The films are all shot at locations that relate to the subject featured in the film in order to tell an authentic and engaging story. The crew predominantly used DSLR and mirrorless cameras with prime lenses.“These setups are best suited for Beautiful News as they are light, inconspicuous and can switch between video and stills,” says Hinrichsen. He explains that the crew on set make use of available light when shooting the stories, therefor dictated by location of the subject.

For recording sound they use pro directional mics, Hinrichsen says they give exceptionally good quality recording in the field. They also use lapels for on-screen interviews. They have a licensing agreement with Capasso where they source their music from.

The poetic news clips are edited using Adobe Creative Cloud: Premiere Pro for editing; Lightroom for photo editing; Photoshop for photo editing and logo design and corporate identity; Illustrator for logo design and corporate identity; and After Effects for video and photo effects. “Adobe Creative Cloud is efficient for shorter films and projects,” explains Hinrichsen. “The different programmes are interlinked, thus making the post-production process smoother.”

There is a full in-house crew that includes an editorial team, production team, shooting crew, media managers and editors that source and create Beautiful News daily. Every day they are in production with the duration of filming dependent on the story, subject and location of the shoot. “Shooting in the field brings with it its fair share of challenges,” says Hinrichsen. Including weather, lighting and location changing daily and all offering a different dynamic. “Scheduling at times can be challenging as we are dealing with individuals who lead full lives and are not always available to shoot,” he adds. Despite this, every day at 16h14 on the Beautiful News platform and distributed across News24 and 24.com, a beautiful video is uploaded giving viewers a reason to be proudly South African.

“The response has been remarkable. People are looking for positive stories that remind them that South Africa is a country we can be proud to call home,” says Hinrichsen. “Having only launched in November 2016 the uptake has been faster than expected, and it is continuing to grow.”

The hope is that Beautiful News creates positive conversations that bring people together. “It strives to remind everyone on a daily basis that South Africa is full of remarkable stories and incredible potential,” says Hinrichsen. “The world often feels chaotic and out of control; the aim of Beautiful News is not to ignore or disregard this, but to remind us all that, as bad as things get, we are surrounded by good people doing extraordinary things.”

Anyone can contribute by submitting a story idea to the Beautiful News editorial team. “The public can get involved by sharing stories or contributing their own,” explains Hinrichsen. “Furthermore by supporting the people featured in Beautiful News.” You can help them to continue doing the work that made their story special in the first place.

Securing the precarious trade of hiring out film equipment

The film industry nets billions for the local economy, last year the famed filming location of Cape Town had contributed more than R5 billion by May. Despite these lucrative figures local filmmakers are fraught with budget constraints and the profession of leasing film kit worth hundreds of thousands to the public is not quite as profitable. In an economically tight industry the rental equipment market is vital, yet the security of these companies is quite insecure.

Last year Screen Africa reported on separate incidents of theft at three major gear rental facilities. At the time they had thousands of rands’ worth of equipment stolen by clients who presented fraudulent credentials and then absconded with the gear.

In one incident a man picked up a large consignment of gear under false pretences from the Cape Town facility, Cine Photo Tools. In the second, a similar incident took place in Johannesburg at Puma Video. What was taken from Cine Photo Tools included a Canon 5D Mark 3; four  Canon lenses; a Sachtler video tripod; two 1tb WD hard drives; a 32gb CF card and two Canon batteries. Taken from Puma Video included a Sony NEX FS-700; six Canon lenses; two Metabones E-mounts; a Swit charger; camera batteries; UV Filters; Chrosziel trays, Tiffen polariser; a Bon 7” HD Monitor; a Vocas Follow Focus and O’Connor 2060 head and legs.

Screen Africa assisted in creating awareness and alerting equipment rental companies in general to be extra vigilant and tighten security measures when renting out gear to unfamiliar clients. Outside of these incidents how often does this occur and how do these companies thwart the enormous risk of renting out expensive gear?

Screen Africa spoke to a couple of industry heavyweights who were both directly impacted in last year’s pilfering.

Henk Germishuysen, MD of Puma Video says his biggest security concern is staff safety. “There are a few, but staff safety is paramount. We try to ID everyone that comes through the gate but it’s not always possible.”

Marius Van Straaten, director of Visual Impact SA says his greatest security concern is, “First a full armed robbery where a team of criminals clean us out with a truck and a well organised approach. Secondly, absconsion. In this case the ‘client’ will open an account with all the right credentials and book high value kit​, never to return it.”

Prior to the 2016 theft, Germishuysen says they were hit in July 2015, almost exactly one year earlier. “The first time ever that we had actually handed equipment to a ‘client’ who then absconded, to use the insurance term, with the kit. But it was massive fraud and identity theft because all the paperwork checked out,” explains Germishuysen. “Only after putting a private investigator on the case did we discover the extent.” He says they have also had incidents where they have rented kit to clients whereby the equipment was then stolen from them while in their possession. “The June 2016 incident is a case in point, in that we had no control,” says Germishuysen. “The equipment was with the client, on set of an SABC comedy-series when it was stolen. So there was nothing we could do really.”

Van Straaten says they were targeted once, at the same time as Photo Hire in Cape Town. “We fortunately got the kit back using CCTV images and social media to create awareness,” he adds. Now Van Straaten says that with new clients they no longer allow the first couple of rentals to be of high value. “We have increased and improved our CCTV cameras and lighting. So the footage is admissible in court​,” he explains.

Germishuysen says that they had already beefed up security after their 2015 incident. “It became a necessity to request current certified ID’s from all new clients as well as requiring a refundable deposit for the first rental. In addition to all the other measures we had in place,” says Germishuysen. “This is now an insurance prerequisite as well, if the person collecting is not the applicant or an employee of the applicant, we receive confirmation from the client who the person will be that is collecting and make a copy of their ID too,” Germishuysen says.

Systems that Puma Video have in place to ensure the safe return of their equipment include thorough kit checks. “Kit is always checked by us prior to collection by the client. It is the client’s responsibility to check, and the opportunity is there for them to check that it is indeed working before taking it onto set,” says Germishuysen. “Just in the past month we had two instances where, one client checked and another shipped kit straight to set without checking. The client who checked brought back broken kit. The other client said their piece of kit did not work. But because we do our checks, no issues arose.”

Visual Impact ensure the safe return of their equipment with a 24/7 check in, an excellent HD CCTV system that is remotely accessible via IP. Van Straaten says “We have armed response, a number plate recognition system and a couple of other secret measures that should not be published.”

When renting out expensive and sometimes fragile equipment, damage is an equal risk factor for those incurring the major costs. When claiming from insurance are these companies at greater risk of theft or damage? Screen Africa asked which they claim more from. Van Straaten says they claim more from damages, adding that “Unfortunately damage is often negligence.”

Germishuysen says that damage is a huge problem. “Lucky for us, it has mostly been contained below the excess threshold, so we get the client to pay for these kinds of damages. One has to pass some responsibility to the client. It makes them look after the equipment as well, he adds. However in the last two years he has claimed more for theft.

“The onus rests with us to minimise risk as much as possible by the procedures we put in place,” says Germishuysen. “The difficult part these days are that because of all the processes, once you have explained to clients what it is we require from them, they want to run for the hills. But we do explain that while it is a huge amount of red tape, it is a once-off exercise. Usually the ones who comply with the least amount of resistance are the clients who are serious. So in a way it is a type of elimination of the chancers,” explains Germishuysen. He says “Another tough one is that our insurance is the biggest salary earner in the business but we can’t afford not to have it. At the same time it feels as though it is becoming more difficult for us to do business.”

​Van Straaten says, “One faces risk with criminals and at times with clients. ​It is a high value game with increasing risks, but with thorough new client vetting and checks, risk is largely reduced.” He explains that their infrastructural security reduces risk. “Evaluating the crew’s competency to avoid damage is essential and sending out competent rental technicians reduces risk.”

These companies put a lot on the line to afford filmmakers the opportunity to create their projects without committing to the high cost of gear.

Urban Brew Studios to move to Brightwater Commons

Urban Brew Studios announced that they will be moving to brand new state of the art facilities at Brightwater Commons in Randburg, by early next year. The Moolman Group has been tasked with turning ten-thousand square metres of the shopping complex into the ultimate space for the production house, a division of Kagiso Media.

Urban Brew Studios new facilities will include amongst other things; trendy office space for almost 300 staff members, 12 television studios, dedicated audio post production and music compilation facilities, a business centre and meeting rooms
Kagiso Media Group Head: Shared Services, David Katz says, “Kagiso Media, owners of Urban Brew Studios and its BEE owner KTH are intent on gearing Urban Brew Studios up for the next generation of content creation in Africa. With more than 25 years in the entertainment industry, Urban Brew Studios is well respected in the industry and will have new facilities to match this level of expertise.’

The production house will take over the historical cinema and bowling alley area, with 10 of the existing movie cinemas being converted into studios and two brand new larger than normal studios being built. Operations Manager at Brightwater Commons Frans Fourie says deconstruction on site will begin as early as next week.
Fourie adds, “We’re excited about this agreement and view it as a major driver for other future development of Bright Water Commons. Our vision sees further investment in this area of Randburg over the next few years.’

Acting CEO of Urban Brew Studios, Richard Tsai, added “While we value our three decade legacy, we have our eye firmly on the future and will now have the facilities to match our visions.’

Urban Brew Studios will to take up their new office space between September 2017 and February 2018.

Sound in the New Year 

It may seem late in the year to sound it as new but the Chinese version was only celebrated on 28 January. Over the past year in the sound design and film industry there were many new technologies and formats changing how we look at the world of audio. While advances were not celebrated as universally as say new televisions, the market is still large, and growing. Screen Africa caught up with a couple of industry experts to discuss sound trends in 2017.

“On the one hand vinyl is outselling CD, and on the other companies are developing UHQ 32 bit wireless speakers. So it’s old versus new,” says sound engineer Louis Enslin, the owner of Produce Sound in Johannesburg. “From a post-production point of view, I think immersive audio will continue to become more prevalent in 2017,” he believes that will be the case too for VR.

“We foresee a steady increase in immersive formats like Dolby Atmos™ and Auro 3D with a trend towards these becoming mainstream,” says sound engineer Stephen Webster, the founding director of TheWorkRoom Audio Post in Johannesburg. Webster explains that the implementation of these technologies arose in SA cinemas with four around the country last year.

“We expect to see a vast increase in the already introduced VR content, as personal VR devices become mainstream and industry VR workflows stabilise and become more readily accessible,” says Webster. Enslin agrees that enhancements in VR are definitely on the cards and says Adobe is set to introduce a game changer.

“Over the last couple of years, Audio over IP is coming of age with many more people seriously considering utilising an audio interface using this connectivity. Brands like Focusrite, RedNet and DigiGrid have been working hard to get studios to consider using ethernet for moving audio around the studio. I would expect to see AoIP take even more market share in 2017,” says Webster.

On the wish list we asked what they hoped would be coming out in 2017. “Native Pro Tools support for immersive formats like Dolby Atmos™ and spatial audio formats like Ambisonics (including B-Format)” says Webster. “Affordable home theatre systems for all. TV set sound is generally bad,” adds Enslin.

While Enslin says the sound of 2017 is organic, Webster says “Immersive audio formats bring a new experience to the listener, with Dolby Atmos™ fast becoming the international standard. There is a change in the way we experience sound with the focus moving away from the kind of sounds you will hear but rather how you hear them and their spatial existence.”

On a favourite quote or best piece of advice on sound: “There’s no right or wrong. There is preferred and not. If it sounds good turned to 11, then so be it. Trust your ears,” says Enslin. “Sound should be experienced and not heard,” says Webster.

On a favourite piece of equipment: “Our favorite piece (or set) of equipment currently is our Dolby Atmos™ set up. This allows us more creative freedom, giving unprecedented freedom of the placement and movement of sound within the movie theatre. The speakers completely envelop the audience on the sides and overhead to give new dimensions to the soundtrack, which in turn gives the audience the most exciting sonic experience possible,” says Webster.

“Wow, there’s so many,” says Enslin. “My Manley Vox box pre amp and Manly reference mic, because it makes even me sound good,” he concludes.

In November 2016, Adobe unveiled Project VoCo, which is being called the Photoshop for audio because it could do what Photoshop does for images, allow you to rearrange and change elements of an audio recording, and add elements that weren’t there to begin with. In San Diego, Project VoCo was shown at Adobe MAX and while these technologies are not yet part of Creative Cloud, many sneak peeks shown at previous years were later incorporated.

Project VoCo has caught the attention of the industry for a variety of controversial reasons. When recording voiceovers, dialogue, and narration, with this tool you will have the option to edit or insert a few words without recreating the recording environment or bringing the voiceover artist in for another session. Along with VoCo they gave a look at the Syncmaster, a tool which notes that music is an integral part of video, evoking emotion and mood. Syncmaster can help video editors and motion designers to sync a key moment in a video to the perfect moment in a song. These were just previews of future technologies from Adobe’s research lab and may or may not be released as a product or product feature.

Trends this year are not slowing down, from virtual reality to the growing theme of authenticity in the stock music industry, advances in noise-cancelling and truly wireless headphones, and the 4K-video content of the audio world with the introduction of high res audio files.

Realism and authenticity will be the theme of 2017. Old is in and the futuristic impressions from the past are here with VR, immersive setups and tools that are changing the sound of the future.

Green is the new orange

Sustainability could play a leading role in the film industry as the fad for both local and international studios to incorporate green production practices that lighten their environmental impact is cast.

While studios lead the way and set the tone, it is up to the individual to change the shape of the demand. One such individual is doing just that in KZN. After ten years of being in the film industry, Elle Matthews, producer at Green Shoot Films saw the immense waste that happens around productions, and in 2008, after watching An Inconvenient Truth decided to re-launch her production company Tidal Wave Productions as Green Shoot Films, an environmentally conscious film production company. “I needed to do my part within my own profession,” she says.

Green Shoot Films works on local and international productions consistently conscious that every action they take, and inspire others to take, makes a difference. “When we undertook our new business plan for Green Shoot Films we decided to implement basic principles for greening our productions, including conserving fuel and energy, avoiding toxins and pollution, saving water and preventing landfill waste,” explains Matthews. “The most important change has been bringing about a massive shift in mind-set, so we started with our own production office. Email and electronic scheduling replace printing, and Skype or phone calls substitute driving and flying to meetings wherever possible. Energy efficient lighting replaces conventional globes, and recycling is key to everything we do from inks to electronics. We even stock chlorine-free toilet paper and paper towels.”

They too advise all crew to keep that green mind-set throughout and therefore implement changes from individual to individual. “We also brief our film catering companies to make sure they source organic, locally produced products wherever possible, and have replaced plastic bottled water with a tap water dispenser and recyclable paper cups on shoots. Any fresh food left after a shoot goes to a local church or charity,” says Matthews.

Even the Art Department is made conscious of reusing and recycling throughout the construction, rigging and wrap processes. “They are encouraged to rent sets, props and plants instead of buying, to choose wood from trees grown in sustainable forests when building, and to use eco-friendly paints, adhesives and cleaners during set construction,” says Matthews. Adding that the appointment of an eco-consultant helps cast and crew implement sustainability practices by sourcing green vendors and products, disseminating information and resources and working with department heads to green their departments.

“Before every shoot we consult with the gear hire companies to establish how they can work to ensure the most eco-friendly equipment during filming. The most obvious way is replacing film cameras with HD cameras. If you have to use traditional film, there is the option of shooting in 3-perf, which uses 25 per cent less film and processing chemicals. Lighting is easier to green than Grips, although there is a lot the Grips Department can do in terms of recycling. With lighting, our favourite green source of light is the sun – we use natural light wherever possible and it always looks better. It’s been standard practice on our shoots for years to opt for CFL and LED lights, to turn off all lighting that’s not in use, and to use dimmers to reduce energy use between bright shots,” explains Matthews.

Matthews says they too replace polyboards with environmentally friendly alternatives. For smaller productions this includes biodegradable foam board or recycled board painted white, along with foldable white, silver or gold reflectors. For bigger productions Media Film Service offers eco-friendly white board alternatives to polyboards. In the USA they’re using Myco Board as a green alternative to polystyrene.

Regrettably going green is not yet simple, “And it probably won’t be until the film industry as a whole adopts more green practices,” adds Matthews.

With a number of pending studio projects on the table, Green Shoot Films is looking for a green film studio for a feature film currently in development, “It would be amazing for us to be able to shoot in KZN in an eco-friendly film studio,” hopes Matthews.

Internationally, Vancouver Film Studios claim they became the first carbon neutral film studio. They are an eco-conscious and self-sustaining enterprise by recycling; by using less water and not buying plastic water bottles or straws; by using energy efficient LED lights; by incorporating a community garden; by composting; by going electric with vehicles and installing charging stations to encourage electric vehicle use.

There are interesting case studies emerging from the growing pool of productions that choose to go green, and the result is always the same: reducing waste and seeing financial benefits in the process. One international feature film saved £18 000 simply by abandoning disposable plastic bottles in favour of water coolers.

Universal Pictures and Focus Features are further international examples of film studios committed to reducing the environmental impact from filmmaking actions. NBC Universal developed a Sustainable Production Programme which empowers its film divisions to integrate sustainable best practices across their productions. Sony Pictures employed a full-time independent contractor, Earth Angel, on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 set and accomplished a 52 per cent waste diversion rate from landfills. This blockbuster is touted as the most eco-friendly film in the history of Sony Pictures and saved an estimated $400 000 by going green.

It is unheard of to have a studio without a green room, could it soon be unheard of to have a film production that is anything but entirely green?

Love in the limelight

The local version of Married at First Sight (MAFS) has been commissioned by A+E for Lifetime Africa, and Oxyg3n Media has brought the show to life in South Africa.

“We had an overwhelming response to our call for entries with close to 300 singletons all wanting to take part in the series,” says Rebecca Fuller-Campbell, executive producer and content specialist at Oxyg3n Media.

MAFS is a social experiment that is proving to be a rating hit around the world, having been licensed to more than 25 territories. Their aspiring singles put their hearts in the hands of a team of experts to select a partner for effectively an arranged marriage. Three couples then meet for the first time at the altar. After the wedding and honeymoon, the married couples move in together and start their new lives. Cameras document every moment as experts analyse the relationships until six weeks later when the couples have to make a decision to stay together or file for divorce.

The producers select a number of specialist experts who will work with the individuals before, during and after the filming process. For the South African version, these include: Neo Tshireletso Pule – a counselling psychologist; Dr Shingai Mutambirwa – a recognised sexologist; Paula Quinsee – relationship specialist; and financial expert, Winnie Kunene. Unique to SA, Fuller-Campbell explains that the SA series is the first to include a financial adviser. Considering 40 per cent of all marriages fail for money concerns, it is an expert that surely the rest of the world will incorporate.

Pre-production in this format takes a lot longer than filming, it began in May 2016, where over a five month period specialists narrowed down the finalists. The process is rigorous as this is a legal marriage and the production teams are not simply casting an entertainment show. Fuller-Campbell says there are interviews with all the specialists, blood tests, sexual health tests and myriad matching techniques and assessments before final selection takes place. Participants, despite agreeing to be on a reality show, are taking part in a social experiment.

The series was shot on location around the country; with finalists from Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The location includes the couples homes and work as well as the 1Life offices and sponsored wedding venues: Chez Charlene Wedding Venue; Midrand Conference Centre; and Pheasant Hill Wedding Venue.

MAFS SA was shot from September through to the end of November 2016. It was filmed using a Sony A7S Mark II, shot in 2K and delivered in HD. “The decision was made to shoot the entire series on the Sony A7S II, and it was a good one,” says DOP Chris Corbett. “The camera would capture a natural image for the day to day run and gun shooting, problem free, and could be pushed to its limits for shooting the high-end look to the weddings that we wanted to achieve.”

A cinematographer with a drama background, shooting the weddings for MAFS with a similar high-key lighting approach was to prove an interesting experiment and process for Corbett. He explains, “You don’t have actors who can hit a mark in perfectly engineered light, or are able to call cut and readjust your set up for a close up on an emotional mother-in-law. Yet the approach that we wanted to follow was to ramp up production value as much as possible and have our audience transported into a scene from a film, but where real life was unfolding.” With previous seasons of the series as references, Corbett wants South Africa to have the best-looking syndication of the programme that has ever been seen.

In order to achieve this, Corbett says he took the approach of treating the weddings like their own mini feature films. Furthermore he acknowledged and aimed to solve the challenges in prep. “We recce’d our sites and took the time to design lighting plans that would work first time. We needed each of the venues to feel natural, and the lighting design was to mirror that. We needed to make a handful of HMIs and Kino-Flos work for 20, 30, 40 characters,” he says.

Approaching each environment pragmatically meant that Corbett would move in hours before the weddings were to take place, set up according to their lighting plans and tweak thoroughly. “We had to allow four different operators to shoot in any direction; enough Sony A7S Mark II’s to cover the moments that we needed to without anyone missing a beat. From ceremony to reception, we had to strike our lights, and hustle to the next locale, the luxury of pre-lighting the reception venues was not one we had,” Corbett describes.

“We motivated the sun, stuck our big HMI’s through exterior window sources and filled in the gaps through clever placement of Kino-Flo’s. Some of the practical lights were tweaked to allow for a better filmic quality, but for the most part we wanted to build the lighting from the ground up,” explains Corbett.

The reception venues were shot at night, and presented their own set of challenges. “Creating moon-lit sources through softening 4k, 2.5k and 1.2k HMI bounce off soft-sided silver polly boards and adjusting with appropriate scrim and CTB gels meant that we could ensure a massive silver-blue exterior key source that would allow the operators on the night to shoot against it in any direction and still capture a quality image. Warm sources in the interiors from the heavily diffused Kino’s meant that our participants were glowing in the already beautiful wedding venues,” says Corbett.

The series was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. Fuller-Campbell explains that they used the graphic elements produced for the international format. This was the case with the music, 50 per cent was in line with the format created for MAFS and the remainder was sourced from Audio Network.

A romantic at heart, Fuller-Campbell says “It was emotional interviewing people putting themselves out there to find love, and heart breaking that we couldn’t help them all.”

FILM DIRECTOR SPEAK: Daryne Joshua

South Africa’s official entry into the 2017 Oscars for the Best Foreign Language Film award is Noem My Skollie, the directorial debut of Daryne Joshua. His experience encompasses editing, animation, sound design, media and communications. He is patriotic and philanthropic with eyes that welcome the world and all it has to offer. This passionate young filmmaker is certainly setting the course for stardom.

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

I was born and raised in Cape Town and grew up in various parts of The Cape Flats for the first 30 years of my life. This in a way means I mostly grew up in and between middle to lower class so-called coloured and black communities. Which in a way means, I’m an expert on understanding the kind of problems suffered by them – because I was one of them. And I suppose this shaped the kind of content I’m attracted to as well as my genreal appraoch as a filmmaker/director. I love stories centred on the common South African man or woman finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

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

My childhood was dominated by a few things – football, comics, TV and film. Weekends were basically – playing football on a Saturday morning and then going to the cinema for the matinee double bill at CINE 400 in Rylands where we (friends and cousins) watched the most recent Hollywood blockbuster coupled with some random B movie. It helped us stay out of trouble (which surrounded us on a daily basis). And I guess that’s where my love for cinema began. But I’m going to say the movie Jurassic Park made me want to make films. I think I was 13 years old at the time and I was just blown away by how real the dinosuars seemed! From that moment I just needed and wanted to know more about how films were made. But being from the Cape Flats I didn’t really believe I could become a filmmaker. It was only in my early 20s that it started to seem possible.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

From everything and anything around me I guess – music, photography, books, art (in general), conversation, the internet etc. But if I must narrow it down – it’s mostly just by people. I love listening to people’s stories – from all walks of life. I’m a great listener, haha (my mother will argue differently).

DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS?

Not really in a film directing sense. I think it’s a real problem in our industry – and I only speak for Cape Town (as I’ve never really worked extensively in any other part of the country). But we at Gambit Films are trying to change that and have taken on some young aspiring directors that we will mentor over the next few years. Having said that – I did have mentors in a genreal film business sense. People like Rob Carlisle (founder of CFX), Jaco Loubser (founder of Homebrew Films) and Simon Hansen (founder of Inspired Minority) – I learnt a lot about the business from them in the ealry part of my career. Currently I’d count David Max Brown (producer of Noem My Skollie) amongst them.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL CAREER MILESTONES?

Graduating from film school (AFDA). Straight away starting a film and TV production company (Gambit Films) with a few of my favourite people in life. Turning it into a successful venture which has created almost a hundred permanent jobs in our local industry as well as many consistent freelance ones. Gambit Films producing Cape Town’s first Afrikaans soapie, Suidooster for DSTV and Kyknet. Lecturing on Cinema and Film Studies at Cape Peninsula, University of Technology. Writing the SAFTA winning short film Nommer 37. Directing my first feature film (Noem My Skollie). My first feature film being chosen as SA’s Oscar submission.

WHICH PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN?

At the moment I am in prep with a film based on the true story of Ellen Pakkies (A mother from Lavender Hill, Cape Town who took the life of her own drug addicted son). We start shooting in February. I’m also involved in the feature film adaptation of the short film Nommer 37 – Nosipho Dumisa of Gambit Films will be making her feature film directing debut. And then last but not least – there is a US based science fiction project that I’m currently attached to.

WHAT KIND OF CONTENT DO YOU ENJOY CREATING?

That’s a difficult question. I guess anything that entertains and enlightens at the same time. Be it television or film. I’m also not genre specific. I love telling a good story – that is all.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FUNNIEST MOMENT ON SET?

I have too many lol. But there’s a story where one of the grips thought it was funny to, at random times, fart just as the AD said action. Then at one point I guess he was trying too hard and he passed a bit more than gas, if you know what I mean. To everyones amusement, he had to leave set promptly to clean up.

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

That would be nearly impossible to answer if I chose to think about it. So, the first one that comes to mind without properly thinking about is – Raiders of the Lost Ark. No wait, The Godfather. Or maybe Heat. Okay, last one – Rear Window. 

WHO WOULD YOU CAST AS YOURSELF IN A TV SERIES?

DJ Mouton of Noem My Skollie. I would’ve loved to cast some international A-lister, but none of them will pull off a coloured English accent, let alone a South African one.

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

Locally, probably AKA. I’d love to cast him in one of my films. The man’s a star. I think he’d do well with the right material. Internationally – Daniel Day-Lewis and of course Charlize Theron.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM SHOOT LOCATION? AND WHY?

Tokyo. I love the city and its people.

WHAT OR WHERE IS YOUR HAPPY PLACE?

On the beach with my wife and son.

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

That’s easy. I would love to have the power where I can slow down or speed up time. Or better yet – the power to increase budget.

SA takes on Hollywood with Last Broken Darkness

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A global story, based in America and shot in South Africa with an almost entirely local cast, has been scooped up internationally. Last Broken Darkness (LBD), a post-apocalyptic Indie sci-fi feature film has been selected by Spotlight Pictures in the USA for worldwide release in 2017.

LBD is a story of the world destroyed by meteor showers where few survivors remain, including the protagonist Sam (Sean Cameron Michael, Black Sails), who has lost his wife and son.

Sam is forced to survive underground with his lifelong friend Troy (Brandon Aurett, Elysium, Chappie) and a young yet powerful Rose (Suraya Santos). They find themselves on the run with a crew of unkempt yet armed rangers while being hunted by mutated creatures, bandits and cannibals alike.

LBD is about friendship, courage and the will to live. So convincing were our local talent that Dos Santos says “The actors did an amazing job in bringing across American accents and every sales agent who approached us for distribution rights was convinced that the film was shot in America with an American cast and crew.”

LBD was brought to life in conjunction with DS Films Entertainment and Karoo Films. It was shot entirely in and around Johannesburg, including Springs, Pretoria, Kempton Park and the CBD. Principle photography started on 6 May 2015 for 26 days with the majority of the shooting taking place by night.

Director Christopher-Lee dos Santos takes us through the making of this film, which follows his début feature about South African pilots in World War II, which was released in twenty five countries. Dos Santos chose to shoot on a RED Dragon with Zeiss Primes as he says the combination gave him the perfect look for Last Broken Darkness.

“Through extensive research it was found that the RED Dragon’s 6k sensor boasted a high dynamic range, and when equipped with the low light optical low pass filter, allowed for the film to be shot and lit with practical lights such as flashlights, lanterns or natural light sources instead of the conventional way of lighting scenes,” he explains. “This allowed for the post-apocalyptic world to be captured in an authentic manner and not having to over light scenes,” Dos Santos adds. He was very specific in his choice of lighting characters with practical lights as much as possible and this camera allowed for that to be done. In addition, the RED Dragon was chosen for its ability to shoot at a high resolution which would assist in the addition of VFX and to ensure the highest quality of viewing.

The film was primarily lit with practical lighting (flashlights, lanterns, diffused light bulbs, and china ball lamps) and natural lighting. “At times 1.2k or soft box LED’s were used to light backdrops to provide assistance where needed,” says Dos Santos. “The use of practical lighting was utilised so as to embrace the darkness of both below and above ground to create the illusion of a larger than life post-apocalyptic world,” he adds.

Dos Santos describes that the look and feel of the film took on two opposing colour palettes for representing life below and above ground. Below the ground Dos Santos aimed for a post-apocalyptic look with a de-saturated colour palette. His original treatment was to take colour out, de-saturate the image and not crush the blacks but instead lift them slightly to create a milky texture in the darkness. “The use of varying hues of reds and oranges conveyed the urgency and danger,” he explains.

When the characters emerge from below the surface Dos Santos chose to push the whites in the picture so as to give the viewer a sense that the characters had not been exposed to sunlight for a long time. “The use of a lighter colour palette and expansive landscape shots assisted in creating the feel of a large and empty world which although dangerous still held an undercurrent of beauty and hope,” he says.

Dos Santos utilised leading lines both above and below the ground to attract the audience’s attention unknowingly and create a sense that the world was far larger than what was taking place directly in front of screen. “This was done to create a living dynamic for the characters to play in,” adds Dos Santos. “The world was as much alive and a character as the characters that lived in it,” he says. These techniques combined give the film a cinematic look while encompassing the feeling of the end of the world, lonely and filled with dangers.

The film was cut in Adobe Premiere on a 4k RED R3D raw timeline at 24fps using the original R3D files from the RED Cameras. No proxy files or ProRes were utilised.

Dos Santos explains that the greatest challenge faced was being able to pull off an international standard comparable to that of a Hollywood film, while being constrained by an extremely tight budget. As is the case quite often in Africa, and in this case, Dos Santos says, “My challenge was to fight tooth and nail to keep an international standard of quality in every decision from pre-production to post-production.”

The purpose of the film, aside from creating a story to entertain and inspire audiences, Dos Santos explains, was to show that young up and coming directors from South Africa can stand toe to toe with their international counterparts even when provided a fraction of their budgets.

“The reward and entertainment comes towards the end of the production as the film comes together,” adds Dos Santos.

“The greatest reward has been the unbelievable response from buyers and distributors who clamoured to purchase the rights to distribute the film and their utter disbelief at the cost at which the film was made in comparison to international productions.”

The film is attending the European Film Market at Berlin Film festival this February where it is being sold for international distribution by DS Films Los Angeles based sales agent, Spotlight Pictures. It will also be premiering at the 42nd Annual Boston Science Fiction Film Festival this February with invitations for more festivals later in the year to confirm. Contrary to the film depicting the end of the world, it is fast putting a spotlight on SA talent.

Key crew:

  • Director: Christopher-Lee dos Santos, Producer and Executive Producer: Diony Kempen
  • Music Composers and Sound Design: Geo Höhn and Richard Höhn
  • Director of Photography: William Collinson
  • On set Sound Recorder: Hendre Jacobs
  • Art Department: Nerina du Plessis and Luarnae Roos
  • Special Effects Makeup: Stella Kalymnios and Menio Kalymnios
  • Wardrobe: Amalia Uys

A glass half full

Behind the scenes with Flash Forward Productions on the TVC for Tetra Pak’s Milk for Change campaign

Tetra Pak partnered with Feed SA for the Milk for Change campaign to entice donations of long life milk for underprivileged families. They created a commercial highlighting a South African community hero who acts as a catalyst for change, with the aim to inspire people to make a difference through one small action.

Tetra Pak briefed Flash Forward to create this viral video that embraces their slogan “Protect what’s good,” explains Ryan Peimer, CEO, director and producer at Flash Forward Productions. They were responsible for the conceptualisation of the commercial, the scripting, pre-production, post and delivery. The result reached an audience of more than five million people, and raised nearly 60 000 litres of milk which could feed 80 000 South African children.

“Flash Forward Productions originated the idea to create a story in the form of a viral commercial that revolves around an ordinary relatable young South African professional named Kabelo,” explains Peimer. “A middle class graphic designer who, throughout his journey, plays a huge role in brightening up people’s lives by doing small acts of good that have an impact on those around him. Having come from a previously disadvantaged background, he has worked his way into a stable middle class lifestyle; a man not only extremely talented in the world of design and conceptualisation but a man who understands that in order to receive, one needs to give.”

Peimer wanted to create an inspirational and uplifting short that was driven by a first person narrative, the protagonist and community hero narrates the video by sharing what excites him and ignites him, subtly stirring a similar result in the audience. “The measure of who we are, is what we do with what we have,” his voice over says. Derived and sparked from Peimer’s life journey, Kabelo touches on how too many people are focused on themselves, therefore they miss out on the magical moments that pass them by on a daily basis. “Sometimes it’s not all about us, it’s about noticing an opportunity to make a change,” Kabelo reads.

“Our aspirational character embraces positivity at every turn and stands strong in his belief that the smallest gesture could brighten up someone’s day,” explains Peimer.

The commercial was filmed over two days in Midrand, The Creative Counsel, and Cube apartments in Johannesburg. It was shot on the Sony F55. “I personally love the cinematic look of that camera; especially for high-end medium budget viral commercials,” says Peimer.

For the exteriors the shoot was lit using 12 X 12 scrim frames to bounce natural light. For the interiors they incorporated a more practical light to add colour to the pictures. Peimer explains that no sound was recorded on set and all sound design was done in post-production. The offline and online edit was cut on Final Cut Pro.

“Time constraints and unpredictable clouds are always a tricky factor when shooting exterior,” describes Peimer. “Especially when you’re aiming to cover your money shots over magic hour (sunset). Having said that; I’m extremely passionate about emotionally moving pieces like this; so shooting every scene was an absolute pleasure for me, having the end product in mind throughout,” he concludes.

The video depicts that despite hardship and adversity, Kabelo’s innate mission is to give back daily in some way. As the commercial progresses, you see that throughout his busy everyday life, he still has time for people in need, not only through kind financial gestures, but through the selfless giving of his time.

The commercial reached 350 000 views in its first two weeks. It closes with the line: “The greatest lesson I’ve learnt in life, is that money is not my power, my power is my ability to inspire.”

Key crew:

  • Producer/Director: Ryan Peimer
  • Writer: Ryan Peimer
  • Production Co-ordinator – Faith Ziqubu
  • DOP: Clive Sacke
  • Lead Character: Selo Molemidia
  • Online Editor: Ryan Peimer
  • Art Director: Devin Riseley
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