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Chanelle Ellaya

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

In conversation with multi-award-winning director Rea Moeti

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Screen Africa spoke to multi-award-winning director Rea Moeti, director and creator of Showmax’s latest Original, the soon to be released coming-of-age comedy series Woke in Progress

Tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped you as a director?

I grew up as an only child, living with my grandparents. A lot of the time it was just the three of us, so I had to entertain myself. I think that pushed me to be a very imaginative child and explore myself creatively through art and craft, painting and drawing. I would call that the start of my storytelling journey.

As the creator and director of Showmax’s latest Original, Woke in Progress, can you tell us what inspired you to create this series?

I wanted to tell a story about two friends who are exploring the city together, inspired by my own experiences exploring Cape Town with a friend. I just thought of it in a different context: Maboneng in Johannesburg.

The series is set in the uber-trendy Maboneng. What informed this choice and what has it been like shooting in the area?

It’s this really colourful place where young people are together, being free and exploring themselves creatively. It’s chaotic filming in public, in the street, and trying to control the environment.

There have been a lot of spontaneous, unexpected moments with members of the public – but Maboneng has been very friendly and accommodating to us. We’ve had a very good time shooting there; it’s been fun.

What is it like working with Showmax?

Showmax have been a pleasure to work with. They have really pushed me and Emma [de Wet] as writers to be as creative as possible, to think outside the box, to think new and to think big. Working with Candice [Fangueiro], Shaamila [Fataar] and the team has been great. We’ve had such great chemistry as an all-female team.

It’s also been inspiring to work with their massive marketing team, which is also female-led. It’s been such a new, positive experience that’s been so encouraging and has got the best out of us.

Your previous works include the award-winning short film Mma Moeketsi and TV drama series Lockdown to name a few, but you have said that comedy is your first love. What do you love most about comedy?

I love comedy because it’s part of my childhood; that’s what I grew up watching. I watched a lot of television, especially animation, and it was always fun for me to be able to laugh and be entertained by all the ridiculous things animation is able to do, in slapstick ways but also in these magical realism ways.

I also liked watching comedy, especially characters like Steve Urkel and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and South African comedies like Sgudi ‘Snaysi and Suburban Bliss. There have been so many comedies that have shaped the South African landscape of entertainment and television and inspired me as a creative. I also like satire a lot; I like being able to make social commentary in funny ways.

Showmax and Netflix are investing a lot more in local content, why do you think that is?

A lot more South Africans have access to television than there are film and cinema goers, so it makes sense to invest in local content for the small screen because that is where a lot of South African consumers are. And it’s obvious that South Africa consumes local when it comes to television, so it would be a mistake for Showmax and Netflix not to recognise that.

In your opinion, what value do these digital platforms hold for emerging filmmakers and how can they best utilise these avenues?

The digital platforms are as emerging as the content creators are; they are newer than traditional television. To work with SABC and e.tv, you have to understand the system, which is very strict, with a lot of red tape in terms of how to become a vendor and make content there. Whereas with Showmax, there’s more fluidity and less red tape.

What in your opinion is the key to creating a successful television show in South Africa?

This is my first time as a creator and showrunner seeing the project all the way through from conception to post. I’m learning as I go, so I’ll only be able to say what the key is in retrospect.

One key I can say right now is people management. You need to be able to carry the vision through to the end, with flexibility at times, because you write something on the page and it’s not always what you see on the day, so you need to be flexible and work with what you have so you still have something successful when you’re done.

What next for Rea Moeti?

I’m making a feature film, so look out for that.

When you’re not on set, you are…?

I’ll find out in 2020 when I have more time off-set. I’ve been on set back-to-back for so long, and when I’m not on set I’ve been writing, trying to finish my feature film. For the past four years, I have been working myself to the bone and trying to take all the opportunities ahead of me; I’m really not giving myself as much time to rest as I’d like to, or to be as social as I used to be.

Promax Africa 2019 speaker line-up

The Promax awards represent excellence in the global media and marketing space, and are regarded as the most prestigious awards for creative endeavour in the field. On 7 November, leading South African and African creatives working in on-air marketing, branding and the design of video content will come together under one roof for the 2019 edition of the Promax Africa conference and awards. Award-winners will be announced at the close of the annual conference, which will take place at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg on the same day.

Delivering on its promise to inspire and challenge creatives year after year, the Promax Africa conference programme will once again present informative, original and alternative sessions helmed by leading players in the global media industry.

“It’s become everyday speak. Change, morph, reposition, rebrand, relaunch, reinvent. The eternal brand story! But how do you do it, and do it well? How do you make sure that it’s relevant for your entire audience? The answers are in the Promax Africa 2019 Re.Invent line-up. In one exciting day you can find inspiring perspectives on our industry with lightning-bolt sessions to spark ideas, solutions and of course, all possible ways to Re.Invent,” said Promax Africa chairman, Elouise Kelly in her 2019 letter.

“Each session, from the Keynote address, to the multiple discussion forums, are designed to provoke, challenge, teach and invigorate. Join some of the most creative thinkers, from different corners of the world and harness their insights to chart a future focused, trailblazing reinvention journey. It’s, quite frankly, unmissable!”

Promax Africa 2019 speakers include:

Michael Morgan

Raised on cartoons, video games and movies, Michael Morgan became a professional Animator in 2000, working in Video Games, Television/ Commercials and VFX Films.

Morgan will present a session titled Animate Your World, where he’ll discuss his journey in the world of Animation and Visual Storytelling.

Tim Hughes

With a background in TV promotions, branding and marketing, Tim Hughes is global expert in creative brand strategy and founder of The Brief Doctor. Hughes previously ran strategy for Discovery UK’s in-house creative agency and is a lifetime achievement award-winner and former chairman of Promax UK.

In his session, The Brief Doctor: Your Prescription for Better Creative, Hughes will teach delegates how to jump-start their briefs and resuscitate collaboration in order to deliver Promax Gold-winning creative.

Lee Hunt

Lee Hunt is founder of Lee Hunt LLC, a New York-based consultancy focusing on brand strategy, on-air architecture, competitive analysis and personnel training for television networks and media companies around the world. A strategist, trainer, and industry thought leader, Hunt’s success in launching and positioning channel brands, in addition to his pioneering work in audience management have set many of the standards for our industry.

Hunt will present two sessions at this year’s Promax Africa conference: the first, titled New Best Practices 2019, is his annual Promax keynote in which he explores the best practices that are disrupting and transforming our industry. This year Hunt takes a deep dive into the opportunities for competing with and against both linear and streaming services.

Hunt’s second session, New Ad Sales Initiatives 2019, will look at the strategies, tactics, creative and most importantly, the success or failure of 6-second commercials, 30-second pods, LCI (Limited Commercial Interruption), JAZ (Just the A and Z), 2 x 20 (2 minutes of commercials/hour by 2020), Prime Pods with AI, Prediction Pods, Future Now, Absolute As, Shoppable Ads, Non-stop programming, and brand integrations.

Gavin Strange

Gavin Strange is a Director and Designer for UK creative studio Aardman Animations by day and by night he indulges in all manner of passion projects under the alias of JamFactory – from filmmaking to illustration, toy design to photography.

Strange’s accomplishments include author of motivational book Do Fly and co-founder of the contemporary design store ‘STRANGE’ with his wife.

In his talk, Graft, Craft and being Daft, Strange will share his stories and methods behind getting the most out of your time, conveyed via the medium of bright colours and animated GIFs. His presentation will focus on finding the energy and making the time to create things that matter.

Tebogo “Lepito33” Mogola

With more than a decade’s worth of experience on the frontlines of African entertainment content and creative production, SAFTA-winning creative Tebogo “Lepito33” Mogola is the former Senior Creative Manager for Viacom Africa and Co-Director of Sneaker Exchange.

In his session titled World Gold, Mogola – who is currently a partner at Don’t Look Down Productions – will showcase creative genius, inspirational thinking and straight-up insanity that should supercharge your work for the next 12 months.

Emile Rademeyer

Emile Rademeyer is Creative Director and Digital Placemaking Strategist at VANDAL in Sydney, Australia. Under Rademeyer’s direction, VANDAL combines the physical and digital worlds to enhance human experience and bridge the gap between art, advertising, digital media, content and culture. He further oversees executive curation of the VANDAL Art Gallery in Redfern, Sydney.

Rademeyer’s session, Augmented Reality is the Future of Advertising, will explore the idea that the future of advertising, art, entertainment, content and culture is in augmented reality. Showcasing impressive examples and case studies, the session will demonstrate how augmented reality alters human behaviour and will shape the future as never seen before.

Nokulunga Ncube

Currently the marketing head of department for local interest channels: Mzansi Magic, 1Magic, Mzansi Wethu and Channel-O, at M-Net South Africa, Nokulunga Ncube sets the portfolio brand strategy, drives viewer acquisition, retention and key partnerships for the channels.

Having previously worked at Ogilvy, JWT and Lowe Bull, Ncube began her career in advertising where she cut her teeth as a brand and communication strategist. She then moved on to brand management within the FMCG sector, working at Tiger Brands and Brasil Foods.

Ncube will speak as part of a panel discussion titled The State of our Art. The panel will feature five inspiring women who will offer their differing views on what is happening in the local and global market-place, and how this is driving each of them to find new answers to old questions.

Between them, they offer views from international channel marketing and on-air, local channel and local content marketing as well as Pay TV platform and content discovery marketing perspectives; on how their unique points of view and skill-sets are rising to the challenge of the ever-evolving industry and viewer landscape.

Pippa Tshabalala

Pippa Tshabalala is the On Air Manager for Viacom International Media Networks Africa, where she oversees the On Air team, producing promos and graphics for all the African brands. Tshabalala has a diverse background in television, animation, video games and academics, having worked as a lecturer, television presenter, magazine editor and a content and promo producer. Her accolades include speaking at TEDxSoweto, being named as one of Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans and being listed on BrandSA’s 40 under 40.

Tshabalala will speak as part of The State of Our Art panel discussion.

Samira Gerin-Singh

Samira Gerin-Singh is the Media Networks Marketing Manager for The Walt Disney Company Africa. Previously she worked as Head of the On Air and Creative Services department for FOX Networks Group Africa, responsible for National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, FOX, FOXlife and FOX Sports brands on the continent. She is a local and international award-winning creative, with over 14 years of experience working both in creative agencies and broadcast networks as a promo producer and later creative director.

Gerin-Singh has spoken at the Promax conference in New York in 2018, as well as at the Promax Africa conference in 2017 and 2018. This year she will present as part of The State of Our Art panel discussion.

Bron Schultz

As Content Discovery Manager at DStv, Bron Schultz works within the newly formed Content Discovery team defining and delivering new ways to guide customers to the content they prefer by personalising customer journeys across all available platforms. Previously, Schultz has worked as an Executive Creative Director, winning awards both locally and internationally and leading multi-award-winning teams to stretch their imaginations and problem-solving abilities to deliver ground-breaking campaigns.

At the Promax Africa 2019 conference, Schultz will speak on The State of Our Art panel.

Jasco Broadcast Solutions and Memnon complete Nelson Mandela Foundation digitisation project

Jasco Broadcast Solutions and Memnon recently sponsored the digitisation of almost 200 tapes for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Jasco is currently involved in a three-year project with the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) to digitise 150,000 hours of content. To undertake this mammoth task, Jasco partnered with Memnon – a Sony-owned company based in Brussels – on the SABC digitisation project. A global leading provider of services to digitise, restore, preserve and provide access to recordings of any format, Memnon has been in the industry since 2005 and to date has digitised over 3 million hours of content worldwide.

The Nelson Mandela digitisation initiative

One of the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s (NMF) founding principles is to create, protect and preserve a Centre of Memory about Nelson Mandela. The Centre of Memory contains an archive of Mandela’s life and times, works, and writings.

“Whilst touring the facility, Razia Saleh – director, Archive & Research, NMF – mentioned that an Australian foundation had donated tapes of Nelson Mandela, documenting, amongst other things, Mandela’s visits to Australia and his interactions with the Australian nation,” explains Maximus Magwaza, Account Manager, Jasco Broadcast Solutions. One of the tapes in question documented Mandela’s visit to Melbourne, Australia, on the invitation of a group of boys hoping to promote world reconciliation on 8 September 2000.

The tapes hold great value for the NMF and South Africa in general, but they needed to be digitised. Knowing the state of content libraries in Africa, when presented with the opportunity both Jasco and Memnon agreed that the Nelson Mandela Foundation digitisation initiative would be a project worth sponsoring.

Undertaking the initiative

A lot of time was spent verifying the inventory and what could and couldn’t be digitised: “The tapes were finally collected from NMF and sent to Memnon early this year, where they went through the digitisation process. This included processing of a test batch which allowed for the quality and formats to be agreed upon, checked and signed off by the NMF.”

A total of 195 tapes were identified as being suitable for digitisation. These were made up of VHS, Betacam, DigiBeta and MiniDV tapes. “The tapes were in pretty good shape, out of the 195 only two failed to digitise,” says Magwaza. The hard drive with the final content was delivered late in September and was formally handed over to the NMF at a special event which took place on 15 October.

What next

Despite having a fully operational plant at the SABC that is geared to accommodate bulk projects,  Jasco Broadcast Solutions is looking at the best ways to cater for smaller capacity projects – like the NMF digitisation initiative – in different formats (video, audio, film or image).

“The beauty of digitising content is that it opens up opportunities not only to preserve history, but to make it more easily accessible to the world at large and to ensure that it doesn’t remain a long-forgotten memory, but lives on for generations to come,” comments Magwaza.

In conversation with award-winning director Quentin Krog

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Screen Africa spoke to award-winning director Quentin Krog about his journey to the director’s chair, his process when directing Die Byl, and what is next for him as a filmmaker…

Tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped you as a director?

Being my dad’s 20-year-late laat-lammetjie and my mother’s only child, I never had the constant companionship or presence of brothers or sisters at home. My folks divorced when I was still a toddler, and I ended up living with my mom. So, growing up, I had a pretty lonely childhood where the TV was my constant companion, my babysitter and my favourite form of entertainment. My mom also allowed me, from a very young age, to watch movies that were totally inappropriate for my age. She’s always been very progressive and liberal-minded in that regard, so naturally I was always fascinated by the medium. I’ll never forget being superbly young and being moved to tears by the death of a grandfather in scene of a movie that was on TV. I can’t remember what the movie was but I’ll never forget that moment. I think those early years had a lot to do with shaping and informing what would become my future career.

You majored in stage acting at the University of Stellenbosch, tell us about your journey to the director’s chair?

I think it was in my second year when my dad asked me to help him with some safari footage he had filmed on his new video camera – a Sony Hi8 Digital Camcorder. The camera came with some really primitive editing software on a CD and a fire wire cable that allowed you to digitise the 8mm footage from tape to hard-drive. I started messing around and cut together my first amateur doccie featuring my dad’s safari trip with his friends. The bug bit me really hard and there was no turning back after that. I filmed and edited everything that came across my path after that. Needless to say, my dad never got to use the camera again. From there onwards, I juggled acting jobs with shooting videos for friends and colleagues, eventually starting a small little side business.

Having directed well-received feature films and television series, which do you enjoy more and why?

Feature films are definitely more of a director’s medium; you get more time and focus to craft the screenplay, more time to compose the visuals and fine-tune performances. It’s definitely friendlier to the director. TV, on the other hand, is more of the writer and producer’s medium for all the obvious reasons, whereas the TV director has to compromise on pretty much everything, every day. So naturally I would gravitate towards films more, if the luxury and privilege presents itself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy TV. I do; it’s just a totally different mind-set and work fitness level. It’s like running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace!

Tell us a bit about your work on local crime series Die Byl… What drew you to the project?

First of all, I really enjoy working with producers Jaco Smit and Herman Binge, along with their company Marche Media. I’m also a big fan, and friend, of head writer Leon Kruger. That and the fact that I’ve never really worked in the detective genre so intensely, so I looked forward to the challenge of show-running, reinterpreting and rejuvenating the series. An almost-deal-breaker was the fact that, at 73 minutes, each episode is feature-length and they wanted to produce 14 of them in 18 weeks. I’m based in Jozi and I wasn’t willing to stay away from my family for that long to shoot in Cape Town. Luckily, Jaco agreed to bring two other directors on board, in the form of Liezl Spies and Leon Kruger, to share the heavy workload. So I directed episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 12, 13 and 14 – and the rest in between ended up in the highly-skilled and capable hands of Liezl and Leon, who did some really amazing work.

What approach did you take when directing the first episode?

Due to the nature of the shooting schedule, being constantly out of order and grouped in location blocks, there was less of a focus on ‘episode one’ and more of a holistic approach to the whole series. I do, however, always try make a point with the 1st AD of not scheduling episode one scenes within the first week or two of shooting. Mainly to allow us, as a creative team, to find our groove and settle into a style. So that by the time we get to episode one scenes, we’re already in a confident and clear flow, which translates to making a good first impression on the audience in the first episode. As far as stylistic approach goes, it’s a very dialogue-heavy series, so my main aim was to always keep the scenes alive and moving, whether that be via dynamic blocking and camera movement or just engaging and rhythmic performances. When we scouted the main location for the detectives’ office, the first thing I told the art department was to break out 80% of all the dry-walling and open up the place. This allowed us greater freedom of movement, as well as lots of depth and layering for camera. Then it was just about making the look, feel and tone much darker than before. 

True-crime/murder content has become a consistent favourite with viewers locally and globally, why do you think that is?

I reckon it appeals to the darker side of us all in some sort of weird and fascinating way. Also, as an audience member, I personally always enjoy trying to figure things out before the characters do, so I think that mystery-solving aspect makes it way more interactive for the audience. That could be part of the main appeal.

You’ve worked on some of SA’s most-loved TV series. What, in your opinion, is the key to creating a successful television show in South Africa?

For me the most essential ingredient is a good set of scripts. A great story with layered characters, all set in an engaging world. If you’re missing any of those ingredients, or they’re not developed to their fullest potential, then you’re already dead in the water before you’ve even rolled a single frame. For me that’s really the most challenging part of the whole process, wrestling with the scripts and fighting with the writers and producers for the best version it can possibly be, sometimes even right up to the last minute before we roll on the scene. And, more often than not, the bulk of this crucial phase usually ends up taking up most of my precious pre-production time, and then I’ve got scraps of time and attention left for the actual shoot prep. But once I’ve got a proper handle on the scripts, it’s all imprinted in my mind and then it’s really downhill from there.

What next for Quentin Krog?

I’m on a bit of a creative break at the moment, busy developing and pursuing some of my own ideas for the first time, ideas that I’ve been aching to do for many years now. I’m also keen to get some producing credits to my name. The extra time at home of late is also giving me some precious time to hone my dad and husband skills with my wife and two kids. We’re also currently expecting a third little one early in 2020.

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

In high school, I was really into music, so much so that I was pretty sure I wanted to be a rock star. My dad, however, was not so keen on the idea. I was the lead singer of the high school rock band… such great memories! I also had three different bands during my university days in Stellenbosch, which all faded into the background as my love for filmmaking grew. Currently, I have five of my old guitars hanging on the walls of my office – so, if all else fails, I guess I’ll have to dust off the old acoustic and warm up the vocal chords again!

Buddha in Africa provides a unique perspective on Chinese soft power in Africa

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Set in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Malawi – against the backdrop of China’s increasing influence on the African continent – Buddha in Africa documents Malawian teenager Enock Alu’s journey and the inner battle he faces as he is torn between the contrasting worlds of his traditional African culture and the Buddhist value system that he was raised within.

Through Enock’s journey and the orphanage he calls home, the film provides a unique perspective on Chinese “soft power” in Africa today. “I was actually living in Malawi when I first came across this story of the Chinese Buddhist orphanage. I had been working as a freelance video journalist producing video features for Reuters Pan-African magazine programme Africa Journal and this was the last story I did before returning to South Africa,” comments director Nicole Schafer. “I was working on a story about orphans at the time that Madonna was adopting her second child.”

China in Africa                                 

At the same time Malawi and other parts of Africa were experiencing a rapid influx of Chinese investment and Chinese nationals – following the formalising of Malawi’s diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. Schafer says that she felt this story would be a fascinating lens through which to view and engage in the debates around the implications of China’s involvement in Africa.

“While most debates around ‘China in Africa’ at the time was focused on the so-called ‘colonisation’ of her economies and natural resources, this story showed a unique aspect of China’s cultural influence on the continent. I was struck by how this orphanage was strangely reminiscent of the Christian missions during the colonial era – only here African children had Chinese names and instead of learning about the West, they were learning about Chinese culture and history. I felt the orphanage would be the perfect metaphor to explore the growing relationship between China and Africa, but also as a mirror of Western colonialism.”

The Amitofo Care Centre

At the Amitofo Care Centre (ACC), where Buddha in Africa is shot, Malawian children are given Chinese names and taught to read and write Mandarin. There, these children wake up at 04:30 am to pray inside a Buddhist temple and they are masters of the art of Shaolin Kung Fu at a young age.

Our guide into the world of the Buddhist orphanage is Enock Alu – one of 300 children growing up at ACC. At the age of seven Alu was one of the first children to be recruited from his village and offered a place at ACC, when founder Master Hui Li – a Buddhist monk from Taiwan – opened it in 2003. At the time, Enock was living under the care of his grandmother after his mother passed away and his father had left and re-married another woman. While in his final year of school, Alu is torn between trying to hold onto his Malawian roots and the opportunities afforded to him by his Chinese upbringing.

“The first time I met Enock was when I was doing a short video feature and I asked them to identify one or two of the kids who I could profile and so they introduced me to Enock, who was one of the star performers and the top of his Kung Fu class. He was only 12 years old at the time, he was fluent in Mandarin, and I was captivated by the story of this young Malawian boy with dreams of becoming a Kung Fu film star like Jet Li,” explains Schafer.

Two Contrasting Worlds

About a year and a half after first meeting the young boy, Schafer returned to the ACC to start development on the film, and wanted to know more about how Alu and his friends were making sense of themselves between two very contrasting worlds: “I was surprised to learn that Enock knew very little about his personal history. He had never even seen a photograph of his parents before,” says Schafer, “and so the first part of filming very much involved initiating a process of reflection into his past… I always imagined that at some point some form of conflict would present itself between these two very different cultures and worlds Enock inhabited. And so I was very much focused on observing his shifting relationship between his community in the village, on the one hand, and his new Chinese family, on the other.”

Additionally, Schafer says that she was also interested in capturing the boy’s experience of feeling like an outsider in terms of his longing to belong to his village community as well as the challenge of fitting into Chinese culture – “and then the realisation that comes towards the end of the film that he will never completely belong to either of these worlds.”

Financing

Buddha in Africa was shot sporadically over a period of five years, with Schafer travelling to Malawi for two to three weeks at a time as she acquired funding. “Most of the footage used in the film was shot in the final year when I had more resources to shoot on my camera of choice and by then I had established a solid relationship with all the characters in the film,” she comments.

The film was financed predominantly through ‘soft funds’ from various local and international film grants, with development funding coming from The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), IDFA Bertha and Hot Docs Blue Ice Funding. Production funding again came from the NFVF, IDFA Bertha and Hot Docs Blue Ice Funding, as well as Chicken and Egg Pictures, the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, the Alter Cine Foundation and AfriDocs. “It took seven years to secure all the funding from when I first pitched the film at the Durban FilmMart in 2011,” Schafer says.

Gear

Due to budget constraints, Buddha in Africa was shot on several different cameras, depending on the available budget at the time of shooting. “It was only in my final year that I was able to afford the Canon 5D Mark III, which was ideal for the low light conditions I was working in,” comments Schafer, who paired the camera with a combination of lenses – a 50mm prime, a 17-40mm wide and a zoom lens. “I also had my old video camera that I used for sound and could capture the radio mic feed on one channel and the rifle mic or, when I had a sound assistant, the boom, into the other. It was quite cumbersome spending 12-18 hour days with all these cameras, lenses and mics, but I got the hang of it. Well, I had no choice really!” Schafer adds.

Post-Production

Editing on the film was done by Schafer with the help of a team of assistant editors “and some input from editor Catherine Meyburgh, up to the rough-cut stage,” she says. “That took about three years after filming ended completely. At this point, I was able to secure the interest of a Swedish producer from Momento Film who came on-board as a co-producer to support the final stages of post-production. This enabled me to work with two very good international editors who refined the story and turned our rough-cut into a film.”

The final colour grade and online was done by The Monk and Priest Post in Cape Town: “This was an award that I received through the Cape Town International Film Festival Works-in-progress pitch. Without this, we would still not have a finished film,” comments Schafer.

Festivals and Awards

The film had its world premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary film festival in April, and opened the Encounters Documentary Festival in Cape Town and Johannesburg in June, where it received a Backsberg Encounters Audience Award. It was also in the official selection at this year’s Sydney International Film Festival in June.

Excitingly, Buddha in Africa was awarded the coveted Best SA Documentary award at the recent Durban International Film Festival, which means the film automatically qualifies for Oscar consideration. “The journey of making and completing a documentary can be a long and challenging process and it is very meaningful to have this affirmation and recognition here, at home, at the Durban International Film Festival, where we first pitched the project several years ago,” comments Schafer. “With regards to the Oscar consideration – we are thrilled and immensely grateful to have the opportunity to be considered for an Oscar nomination.”

Still to come, the film will have its European premiere in the Official Competition at the Visioni dal Mondo, Immagini dalla Realtà International Documentary Festival in Milan and the Afrika Film Festival in Belgium in September. In October Buddha in Africa will open the Afrika Filmdays Festival in Munich, followed by the UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival in Florence. “There are several more local and international festivals pending for the rest of the year,” adds Schafer.

Buddha in Africa is an international co-production with Momento Films in Sweden. Paris-based sales company CAT and Docs is representing the film internationally, while AfriDocs is the African broadcast partner. Additionally, the documentary has already sold to several territories and been broadcast on NHK in Japan and ARTE in France and Germany.

Buddha in Africa will be broadcast on AfriDocs, the free-to-view VOD platform and broadcast documentary strand, across Africa in December.

SASC Visible Spectrum Awards – winner announced

The South African Society of Cinematography (SASC) celebrated the industry’s top achievers at the 2019 edition of its annual Visible Spectrum Awards (VSA) – held on 14 September at Stark Studios in Johannesburg.

The South African Society of Cinematographers was established primarily to advance the art and science of cinematography, as well as to encourage, foster excellence, artistic perfection and scientific knowledge in all matters pertaining to cinematography. The SASC launched its prestigious Visible Spectrum Awards to celebrate the outstanding work produced by the best of the best of South African cinematographers. The 2019 event showcased and celebrated the craft, innovation and style of the country’s top cinematographers, both established and emerging.

Award sponsors this year included Sony Professional Solutions, Puma Video, Panavision, Southern Lighting Solutions, Visual Impact and more.

The winners of the 2019 Visible Spectrum Awards are:

BEST STUDENT – sponsored by DU Films

Louise Kathleen van der Merwe awarded a Gold Certificate for Simply Ben

SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIETY OF OPERATORS AWARD – sponsored by Stark Films

Adi Visser awarded Gold for Strike Back

ALTERNATIVE – sponsored by Postmasters

Rick Joaquim SASC awarded Gold for Makeup is Art

Charl Fraser SASC awarded Gold for Unrivalled Launch

Tiyane Nyembe SASC awarded Gold for Ford Thabang

MUSIC VIDEO –sponsored by Southern Lighting Solutions

Justus de Jager SASC awarded a VSA for Blick Bassy – “NGWA” music video

Motheo Moeng SASC awarded Gold for Blick Bassy – “Woñi” music video

Deon van Zyl awarded Gold for Petite Noir – “La Maison Noir” music video

DOCUMENTARY/ SHORT FORM – sponsored by The Camera Platform

Warren Smart awarded a VSA for Mafia Fisheries

Warren Smart awarded Silver for Coming Home

Warren Smart awarded Silver for Prelude to Perfection

WILDLIFE – sponsored by Puma Video

Boris von Shoenebeck awarded a VSA for Madagascar – Africa’s Galapagos

TV DRAMA/ SHORT FILM – sponsored by Visual Impact

Jamie D Ramsay SASC awarded a VSA for Beast

Giulio Biccari SASC awarded Gold for Origin

Rick Joaquim SASC awarded Silver for Haatklop

COMMERCIAL (CORPORATE) – sponsored by Panalux

Willie Nel SASC awarded a VSA for Outsurance – Linda

Eugenio Galli SASC awarded Gold for Visa – Africa Soccer

Eugenio Galli SASC awarded Gold for Tata Steel – We also make Tomorrow

COMMERCIAL (PRODUCT) – sponsored by Panalux

Eugenio Galli SASC awarded a VSA for Chicken Licken – Bootless Bandit

Jamie D Ramsay SASC awarded Gold for Chicken Licken – Robot

Willie Nel SASC awarded Gold for Continental – Spiderman

FEATURE FILM – sponsored by Panavision

Tom Marais SASC awarded a VSA for Hunter Killer

Jonathan Kovel SASC awarded Gold for Sew the Winter to my Skin

Justus de Jager SASC awarded Gold for The Lullaby

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER – sponsored by Sony Professional Solutions MEA

Tom Marais SASC awarded a VSA

STEWART FARNELL AWARD – sponsored by ARRI Camera Systems

Fanie van der Merwe SASC awarded the Farnell Trophy

In conversation with award-winning director Nare Mokgoto

Screen Africa spoke to visual artist and director Nare Mokgotho…

Tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped you as a director?

I studied fine art and, after art school, started working in advertising as a copywriter. After a few years at places like J. Walter Thompson, Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi, I traded agency life for a position as a creative researcher at Velocity Films under Peter Carr, who remains my executive producer at MassÏf. In research I learned from some of the best directors in the country, but also discovered what kind of work resonated with me.

Tell us about your journey from copywriter to director? Was directing always the goal?

Directing wasn’t necessarily a goal, but it was certainly a dream. I think being on commercial sets while I was a copywriter made it more real, and I became convinced that directing was something I wanted to pursue. As I mentioned, I spent a number of years as a researcher, which were invaluable for my trajectory.

What kind of content do you enjoy creating and why?

I really enjoy conceptually-driven work, particularly stories that lend themselves to subtlety and require some level of nuance. I always remember the substance of films, commercials, literature and artworks more than I might the formal properties. Techniques can change so quickly, but I think ideas and stories are far more constant and are always on trend.

What are some of your personal favourite projects that you have worked on?

I don’t know if I can narrow them down. They’ve all been beneficial in some way, particularly the most challenging ones.

You took home two awards – for Showmax’s “Zero Bucks Given” and Rapid Lion’s “Wreaths” – at the recent YDA, congratulations! What does the win mean for you as a director?

Historically, the YDA has been good at foregrounding the careers of young directors. The YDA has often helped set up young directors for a career in the industry by affording them greater visibility. For me, the wins mean that people in the industry have a greater sense of the kinds of things I gravitate towards, like performance-driven storytelling injected with subtle inflections of humour.

What, in your opinion, makes an award-winning and successful brand film?

There’s little substitute for a good, simple idea well communicated, or a great story well told. These stay with audiences more than anything else.

Apart from directing, you are a visual artist. Can you tell us more about your work as a visual artist?

I’ve been working as part of a collaborative artist duo for the past 10 years. Broadly speaking, our practice uses everyday black urban experience as a primary departure point. This is a way for us to think through popular education spaces, collaborative infrastructures, oral histories, knowledge dissemination systems and the kinds of things that might be considered worthy of intellectual consideration.

What are you currently working on?

A few projects that have me excited. I’m presently pitching on a major car brand commercial and on another great comedy spot for a top retail brand.

Any plans for a feature film in the future?

Yes, but not in the immediate future. You could say I’m currently laying the foundations and flirting with some ideas.

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

A visual artist. I’m fortunate because I get to do both alongside one another.  

Inside the making of Kings of Mulberry Street

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Set in the early-80s, the heart-warming feature film Kings of Mulberry Street follows the adventures of Ticky and Baboo, two nine-year-old misfits who take on the town bully.

Written and directed by Judy Naidoo, the film is set in the fictionalised Sugarhill District – inspired by the KwaZulu-Natal towns of Verulam and Tongaat. Naidoo, who grew up in Verulam, holds the film particularly close to her heart: “Whilst pursuing a short filmmaking course in New York City, a lecturer who saw some potential in my work encouraged me to tell my own stories,” she shares.

“He encouraged me to tell stories that were personal to me. At that stage I had no ideas brewing in my mind, but on the long flight back from the US the story for Kings of Mulberry Street emerged. I dreamt up the characters of Ticky and Baboo – they were largely inspired by the weird and whacky kids I once knew growing up. And being a strange kid myself, I could see myself in both those characters. The rich and colourful world of the Indian community in the 80s, as well as Indian cinema and songs from that era, all provided the inspiration for this story.”

Kings of Mulberry Street tells the story of two unlikely friends, the young Indian boys Ticky and Baboo, who have to find a way to overcome their differences in order to defeat the local crime lord, Raja, who is threatening their families. Spirited and fearless, Ticky escapes the realities of his daily life by living in a Bollywood dream-world. Baboo, on the other hand, is timid, academic and apprehensive. “It is a universal story about innocence and a tribute to the love between friends,” says Naidoo. An old-fashioned, colourful comedy misadventure made for the whole family, “the story of Kings of Mulberry Street is akin to a matinee feature,” she says.

Making their acting debuts are the brilliant young talents, twelve-year-old Aaqil Hoosen (Ticky) and nine-year-old Shaan Nathoo (Baboo), who play the leads in the film. “Casting the two leads took approximately six months,” says Naidoo, who was very hands-on in the process.  “We found the Baboo character quite early in the casting process, although we only cast the role a couple of months later.” Casting Ticky proved to be more of a challenge, sending Naidoo and her team to public schools across KwaZulu-Natal, where they eventually found the perfect fit after a lengthy process and many call backs. Interestingly, he (Hoosen) happens to be from Naidoo’s hometown of Verulam.

Rounding out the cast are Thiru Naidoo, Rizelle Januk, Amith Sing, Neville Pillay, Keshan Chetty, Hamish Kyd, Kogie Naidoo, Kimberly Arthur and Chris Forrest.

Shot on location (Verulam, Tongaat and surrounding areas) in KwaZulu-Natal in just 29 days in June 2018, Naidoo says that as with most films, budget and time were the biggest challenges encountered when producing Kings of Mulberry Street, especially when you factor child leads into the equation. The lead child actors underwent an intense six-week acting and dance rehearsal period to prepare for the film’s dance scenes. “There are strict time constraints when working with children, and it makes scheduling particularly challenging,” comments Naidoo.

Drawing inspiration from the vibrant and interesting lives led by the Indian community residing in KwaZulu-Natal in the 80s, as well as Bollywood cinema and songs of the same era, Kings of Mulberry Street is visually dynamic and rich in colour – “in a retro way,” says Naidoo.

“Between DOP Greg Heimann and myself we had decided on a certain look for the film, but we were very open to things developing organically from there, which they did. We had very specific references in mind, which we referred to from time to time, but we were flexible and adapted to what was required on location.”

Shot on the Red Dragon, Naidoo describes the shooting style as “largely free and loose” to allow the actors some degree of freedom, especially the child actors. “At times it was very challenging as the spaces we worked in were tiny and to fit the actors, the crew and the equipment in one room was a bit of a mission to say the least. We also shot on rooftops a lot, so safety was a big concern for us,” adds Naidoo.

Kings of Mulberry Street was edited by Quinn Lubbe (5:25 Productions), while sound design and final mix was undertaken by Janno Muller (On-Key Sound), with C.A. van Aswegen (FiX Post Production) handling online and grade.

As a multi-award-winning filmmaker, Naidoo is no stranger to the local and international festival circuit. Her debut feature, Hatchet Hour (2016), scooped numerous awards, including Best Director and Best Picture at the New Hope Film Festival in Pennsylvania, as well as the Best Foreign Film Award at the LA Femme International Film Festival. Her plans for Kings of Mulberry Street are no different, with the intention being to have the film travel to festivals worldwide.

Kings of Mulberry Street is a film that ultimately inspires children to be themselves, to believe in themselves, and to understand “that we are not limited by our circumstances,” says Naidoo. “It is a universal story about innocence. It is a tribute to the love between friends. While the antics of Baboo and Ticky will impress and amaze the children watching it, it will profoundly reconnect the adult viewer, via nostalgia revisited, to how cinema informs childhood. Like the movies that took our breath away as kids, Kings will sweep us off out feet and make us all feel young again with its cracking Durban-Indian wit meets hilarious Bollywood mimicry and some of the oddest dance moves in cinema history,” she concludes.

The film has enjoyed a successful theatrical release in South African cinemas beginning 28 June. Kings of Mulberry Street is distributed in South Africa by Indigenous film Distribution.

Key Crew

Director: Judy Naidoo

Producer: Judy Naidoo

Co-Producer: Bianca Isaac

Line Producer: Alan Shearer

Director of Photography: Greg Heimann, SASC

Production Designer: Edward Liebenberg

Editor: Quinn Lubbe

Sound Designer: Janno Muller

Music Composer: Brendan Jury

1st Assistant Director: Francois Coetzee

DFM2019: ‘The Working Writer’ masterclass with Sean Drummond

At the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), running concurrently with the 40th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban, writer and producer Sean Drummond helmed a masterclass titled ‘The Working Writer’.

Drummond, who wrote and produced the award-winning feature film Five Fingers for Marseilles – which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival – is the co-founder of production company Be Phat Motel and the founding manager of the Cape Town leg of the well-respected shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival. An early lover of the written word, Drummond graduated from the University of Cape Town with Honours in Screenwriting. Additionally, he is a 2011 Talents Durban alumnus – a 5-day intensive development programme for emerging African filmmakers that runs during DIFF in collaboration with Berlinale Talents – making him a fitting host for this masterclass.

During the masterclass, Drummond discussed his 15-year journey as a screenwriter, encompassing many challenges, failures, wins and most importantly what he’s learned through it all. Drummond says that for him, in order to succeed in the industry, relationships are key as “filmmaking is the most collaborative art form – no film is made by just one person”. He continues: “It’s all relationships…because it’s about who you want to work with, who you want to go on a journey with, who do you know that’s going to open that first door, who do you know that’s going to keep opening those doors but most importantly, who do you want to work with for potentially 10 years on a project… If you don’t like each other, you have to at least respect each other.”

Drummond also shared some key insights on screenwriting through his personal process:

  1. Research: Think and learn about the world of your story as much as you can. Travel if you can, talk to people who know more than you do.
  2. Fill your story bank with all that you’ve learned during your research phase.
  3. Outline your script as much as possible: Outline the perspectives of all your characters. Outline character arcs – including each character’s hopes, dreams, desires and wants.
  4. Think on a logline. This will help you to talk about/pitch your film to people. It also acts as a beacon to come back to when you lose your way while writing.
  5. At this point, send what you have written to people you trust.
  6. Think seriously on their feedback and how to incorporate it if you agree.
  7. Write your first draft.
  8. Rewrite until you are happy: Be prepared to cut. Ask yourself “how can I make this better”.

DFM 2019 is currently running until 22 July, while DIFF will run until 28 July.

 

 

 

DFM2019: KZNFC talks micro-budget filmmaking – challenges and solutions

On day-one of the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM) – currently running until 22 July at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban, South Africa – the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC) presented a session on micro-budget filmmaking in KwaZulu-Natal and the challenges that local filmmakers face when making these films.

The major outcome of the session was the announcement of the KZNFC’s ‘Made for TV’ or micro-budget film programme. The initiative was launched after the commission conducted research on micro-budget filmmaking in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The KZNFC’s research found that the made-for-TV/micro-budget film industry in KwaZulu-Natal faces the following challenges:

  • Poor story quality
  • Lack of reliable skills
  • Development and production delivery turnaround times
  • Lack of administrative capacity
  • Slow improvement in quality
  • Informal production process
  • Unreliable distribution methods
  • Flooding by Tier 5 practitioners

These findings led to the birth of the Made for TV initiative which is the brainchild of the KZNFC’s Film Fund. The objective of the Film Fund is to stimulate the growth of the film industry in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, solely targeting KwaZulu-Natal-based companies and companies producing films in the province. The Film Fund provides, Development Funding, Production Funding, Marketing and Distribution Funding, and Markets and Festival Funding.

KZNFC Production Development manager, Simphiwe Ngcobo said that the Made for TV programme is a “quality boost” initiative – on behalf of the KZNFC and its Film Fund – specifically targeting micro-budget films. With this in mind, the KZNFC has reserved an impressive 40% of its funding budget this year for made for TV/micro-budget films.

Scope of the Made for TV programme:

  • The initiative aims to empower KwaZulu-Natal-based filmmakers to create TV films of competitive quality.
  • The programme will address the issue of low-quality films produced through financial, structural, mentorship and resource support.
  • The programme will encompass a specific call for Made for TV film proposals.
  • Over a period of 12 months, successful applicants will refine their proposals, develop scripts, and produce and deliver TV films of 60min in length. This process will be guided by industry professionals, practitioners and the KZNFC’s production and development team.

Ngcobo said that all this couldn’t be done without the programme’s vital industry partners, namely the SABC, KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF), and the Durban Film Office (DFO).

For more information visit the KZNFC website.

The DFM is the industry arm of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), currently taking place at various venues in and around Durban until 28 July.

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