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Gezzy S Sibisi

Gezzy S Sibisi
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Gezzy S. Sibisi is a senior journalist at Screen Africa. She is experienced in print, broadcast and digital media. Her portfolio of work includes working as a lifestyle reporter as well as contributing business and education articles to The Times, Sowetan, and Daily Dispatch publications. As a freelancer, she has worked on content development for corporate newsletters, community newspapers, blogs and educational websites.

The making of Kenyan-German co-production Country Queen

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

The African continent is rich in minerals. Unfortunately, large mining corporations have exploited these resources for many decades now. This often comes at a high price for those who live in these communities and has detrimental effects on the environment.

Kenyan television series Country Queen highlights these harsh realities faced by many rural villages in Africa.

In 2017, with the assistance of German-based Good Karma Fiction, Country Queen was created in a writers’ room comprising 10 Kenyan creatives with diverse experience in visual storytelling.

Co-founders of Good Karma Fiction and executive producers of Country Queen, Waltraud Ehrhardt, Peter Obrist and Ravi Karmalker, spoke to Screen Africa about bringing the production to life.

“Our first creative writing workshop was in 2017 and lasted for ten weeks. In the end, we had the character manual and a rough third draft of the pilot episode… Our second workshop started around nine months after the first had ended. We had the task to critically revise what we had done and polish the third draft to become the shooting script. This process took around two more months,” explains Ehrhardt.

Brazilian-Scottish storyteller James McSill and Brazilian television director Carla Bohler helped facilitate this storytelling process and visual interpretation of the show.

“Apart from that, we had different experts in our workshops whom we bombarded with our questions. Among others, Dr. Linda A. Oucho and human rights lawyer Edwin Adoga Ottichilo,” Ehrhardt shares.

Kenya’s Oscar-nominated filmmaker Wanjeri Gakuru later penned the series together with Oprah Oyugi, Lydia Matata, Shirleen Wangari, Ian Kithinji and Kimani Waweru, with Kamau Wa Ndung’u acting as the series producer.

Story and Casting

When Eco-Rock, a prominent mining firm descends upon the quiet village of Tsilanga with its eye on the village’s vast gold reserves, it causes uproar in the community. Despite the villager’s scorn, cold-hearted mining mogul Vivienne, played by Nini Wacera, stops at nothing to get what she wants. When Nairobi IT girl Akisa (Melissa Kiplagat) returns to Tsilanga when her father falls ill, she takes on Vivienne in a fight for the land and the truth.

An elaborate casting process took place in October last year at the Nairobi National Theatre, with over 150 well-known actors and emerging talents auditioning to be part of the first Kenyan-German TV series production. “Akisa, our lead, played by Melissa Kiplagat, was called back twice to assure us that our gut feeling was right. Melissa had only played in a web series so far. Once we had the Country Queen ensemble together, we did a two-week camera acting workshop, which added some extra intensity and preparation for the shooting,” says Karmalker.

Production

Country Queen is produced by Good Karma Fiction in partnership with the Kenyan production company, Tililiz Pictures. The pilot episode was shot by DOP Andrew Mungai, under the direction of Vincent Mbaya, and took place from 7 to 25 January 2019.

While the pilot of the series is still in its post-production stage, the pilot trailer has captured the interest of Kenyan and global viewers.

“It had over 6,000 viewings on YouTube within just a couple of days without anything specific done by us and we received a load of feedback on social media, of which 99 per cent ranged from very positive to euphoric. Most of the people are thinking it will be a Kenyan movie and they are ready to pay for the ticket. Indeed we are creating a series with a truly cinematic look,” says Obrist.

“As executive producers and showrunners, we want to create a thrilling, dramatic and yet highly emotional series that breathes Kenya and Kenyan life and authenticity in every single moment,” adds Ehrhardt. “This became possible by the input of ten young Kenyan creatives from different backgrounds that worked on the pilot episode. Right from the beginning, we decided on original sets for the shooting to make the story even more real and tactile for the audience.”

While Country Queen was first envisioned as a telenovela, the team later thought a high-end drama TV series would be a better fit.

“High-end TV series today tend to go hand-in-hand with a cinematic look and in order to be able to comply with the technical requirements of international SVOD services you have to shoot in 4K,” says Karmalker. “We shot on two Canon EOS C200 cameras with Canon Cinema Prime Lenses, filming in Cinema RAW Light,” she adds.

For the pilot, editing was done by Kenyan editors Mercy Mkaiwawi and Aleks Kamau. However, for the title sequence and the trailer, Franki Ashiruka from the Africa Post Office handled the editing.

Financing

The development of the narrative and the pilot of Country Queen has been funded by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the projects have also been supported by the Deutsche Welle Akademie.

In late March, Good Karma Fiction marketed the series at the Kalasha Market in Nairobi, as well as at Series Mania in Lille, France. The organisation is still looking for more financiers for season one of Country Queen.

“We hope to have secured funding until the end of the year and can start preparing shooting immediately in 2020,” says Karmalker.

Through the universal storyline, the team behind Country Queen hopes to create awareness and affect positive change in African communities facing similar problems.

“Selling out and leaving your land to so-called great opportunities like gold mining is a short-sighted, destructive perspective for humankind and nature, and it doesn’t pay off. Instead, for example, organic farming can be a constructive and sustainable path to make a decent living. Country Queen will show viewers how to be courageous, fight for your land and your future rather than giving up and migrating to the cities,” Obrist concludes.

KEY CREW

Director: Vincent Mbaya

DOP: Dru Mungai

Editors: Mercy Mkaiwawi, Aleks Kamau, Franki Ashiruka

Sound: Alex Chege

Inside the making of South African Netflix Original series, Shadow

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Last year, American entertainment streaming service, Netflix, announced that it will be investing in original African content. The year 2018 saw the release of its first African original series, Queen Sono, executive-produced by Kagiso Lediga (Catching Feelings, Matwetwe). On 8 March 2019, a second original South African series – the action-drama Shadow – was launched on the global streaming service.

“The African continent presents opportunities both for Netflix and filmmakers and we are actively searching for fresh differentiated stories from the African continent. We are committed to giving passionate local content creators a worldwide platform to share their vision, and offering consumers around the world unique and diverse stories they can discover and enjoy anywhere, anytime and at the same time. This is just the beginning of our investment in Africa,” said Netflix in a statement.

Shot in Johannesburg, Shadow is a proudly South African production, written by Gareth Crocker, and co-directed by Crocker and Fred Wolmarans. The eight-part action-drama series follows a crime-fighting, supernatural vigilante named Shadrach ‘Shadow’ Khumalo, played by rising South African star Pallance Dladla (Isibaya, Hard to Get). In addition to Dladla, the show’s cast includes Amanda Du-Pont, Khathu Ramabulana and Tumie Ngumla. The series is the latest production from Johannesburg-based independent film and television studio Motion Story.

Shadow is inspired by the sense of helplessness we all feel when faced with injustice in our lives. While we may not be able to defend the vulnerable or take on the criminals that plague our communities, Shadow can. He’s a kind of avatar for our primal brains. Someone unafraid to take action regardless of the consequences,” says Crocker.

The series follows Shadow, a former task force specialist and detective. Having been struck by lightning as a child, Shadow is now, as a result, resistant to physical pain. Initially he uses his condition to his advantage, in order to thrive in his career. However, after a devastating personal tragedy, Shadow takes on the darker role, as he travels deep into the underworld of killers and mercenaries. In this dark world he is forced to face his past, and soon discovers that feeling no pain is the most painful thing of all.

“In so many respects, Pallance’s character is the person we all wish we could be. He doesn’t stand on ceremony, cares little of what others think and has the courage to do what is right – regardless of the ramifications. And yet, even though his character seems cold and reckless on the surface, beneath that veneer is someone who cares intensely about his country, his friends and his family,” shares Crocker.

The series was cast and shot in Johannesburg last year with at least 80 per cent of the show filmed on location. “From the roofs of buildings, basements and bars to places like the Soweto Cooling Towers, penthouses and street scenes, we took great care in trying to move our characters through the city as much as possible. Johannesburg is, in fact, one of the show’s main characters,” comments Crocker.

Writing and pre-production of the series spanned roughly six months each, while post-production took almost an entire year. “My partners Chris and Colleen Lawrance, Phillip and Fred Wolmarans and Nick Keulemans are all equally responsible for Shadow. We’re very fortunate in that by and large our studio handles all aspects of the show: from breaking the story, writing and pre-production, right through to filming, post-production and final material delivery – virtually everything is done in-house,” says Crocker.

Shadow was shot on the Sony FS7 camera with Sigma cinema lenses. Most of the series was shot using a shoulder rig and gimbal stabiliser, with select scenes shot with camera cranes and dollies and very little work based on the tripod. Drones were also used for aerial shots throughout the production.

Crocker expands: “Camera choices and lighting were made according to the pacing of the scene and its dramatic needs. For scenes that required a voyeuristic or dream-like feeling, the camera would be mounted on a three-axle gimbal stabiliser, and for the more visceral fight scenes it would be mounted on a shoulder rig and harness. Various drone shots of the city were critical to establish and ground the show in Johannesburg.”

He adds, “From cross-cuts and fades to J-cuts and L-cuts, all editing decisions were always made in service of the story, its mood and tone and the pacing of the scene in question. There were several creative montages and a number of visual effects used to help heighten the tension.”

On Key Sound Studios was responsible for the sound of the series, a job which Crocker says “went way beyond clean audio, music and Foley effects. Much of the sound is designed around emotion and character headspace. What you see on screen and what you hear are not often the same thing, but the audio elements and the visuals combine together to build an emotional experience for the audience.”

In terms of special effects, the series made use of rotoscoping and compositing as well as match-moving and green-screening. Stunt sequences consisted of live stunt-action and various clean-plate effects.

Crocker says that budget constraints did limit the production; however, he hopes that the series punches above its weight in the international arena. “We hope that audiences will be moved by Shadow and inspired by what we’ve tried to create. Not just in terms of the show itself, but from a business perspective, as well. We’ve proven that with desire, belief and hard work, it’s possible for an independent production to be picked up by a major global player like Netflix.”

KEY CREW:

Producer: Phillip Wolmarans

Writer: Gareth Crocker

Director: Gareth Crocker and Fred Wolmarans

DOP/head of special effects: Nick Keulemans

Editor/technical director: Fred Wolmarans

Inside Ogilvy’s social media performance division, Social.Lab SA

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

In 2013, award-winning advertising, marketing, and public relations agency, Ogilvy, envisioned the promising future of social media marketing – and as a result, bought an 80% stake in social media agency Social.Lab. Social.Lab operates in numerous major cities around the world including New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Singapore, Dubai and Amsterdam.

Since then, Social.Lab has become the fastest-growing company in Ogilvy’s international network. With Social.Lab’s focused approach to the strategic use of social media as a business tool, Ogilvy has been able to enhance its offering to further support clients in their digital transformations.

“There have been many highlights in the partnership between Ogilvy and Social.Lab over the past few years,” says managing director of Social.Lab SA, Christophe Chantraine. “Perhaps some of the most memorable are the global account wins that have been achieved with Social.Lab. Some of these include the Nespresso global social account as well as the BMW global social work. Another key milestone has been the set-up of the Real Time Marketing Centre for Philips, which is a unique internal social performance marketing centre in the Philips headquarters in Amsterdam.

“More recently, the developments of new propositions around e-commerce and influencer marketing have been very exciting. These are initiatives we soon hope to bring to South Africa,” Chantraine adds.

On 22 February 2019, Ogilvy’s Social.Lab established its very first African office in South Africa: a social media performance division specifically focused on helping African businesses make the most of the digital revolution.

The launch of Social.Lab SA was held in conjunction with a two-hour conference at the Ogilvy offices in Bryanston, titled ‘How social media is fuelling the e-commerce economy.’

“We observed globally that social platforms are delivering double the volume to e-commerce sites compared to what they did two years ago, and that they accounted for 76 per cent of direct and indirect (influenced) online sales,” says Chantraine.

Speakers at the conference expanded on how social platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have capitalised on this substantial increase in online viewership and social selling by rolling out advertising formats that encourage online commerce conversion.

According to Chantraine, South Africa’s online spend is predicted to reach R60 billion by the end of this year, with a projected annual growth rate of 15% by 2021. “This represents only a fraction of the value of the country’s retail sector as a whole, and indicates immense potential for growth and opportunity.”

Chantraine says that the launch of Social.Lab SA has been on the cards for quite some time. Just last year, Ogilvy SA sent several of its staff members to train at the Social.Lab head offices in Brussels. These staff members now form part of the eighteen social-media experts – composed of SEO and SEA, programmatic and display experts – working under Chantraine for Social.Lab SA.

Chantraine, who previously had led the social media team at Social.Lab’s Brussels headquarters, now heads up Social.Lab SA.

As a result, he has spent ample time familiarising himself with the African market and its online potential. He shared some of his findings on Africa’s digital status:

e-Commerce is on the rise

According to Chantraine, social-media platforms are becoming leading marketing tools in South Africa – and as a result, they are increasingly being employed to build brands and drive sales.

“From Facebook or Instagram with their Collection and Dynamic ads, to Snapchat and its recent Amazon partnership, or even Pinterest’s ‘Shop the Look’ feature, social selling is slowly taking over and it’s here to stay.”

Africa versus the rest of the world

While high data prices still remain a challenge to South Africa’s online trade, millennials are finding creative ways to help solve these connectivity hurdles, says Chantraine.

‘Journeys to Connectivity’, a Facebook-commissioned study done by D3 Systems which looked into the online patterns of young people in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, identified these as some of the creative workarounds used to stay online and continue to make use of the social market:

  • Unreliable network: Over 86% of users have complained about experiencing spotty network coverage – as a result, 38% combat this problem by having multiple SIM cards;
  • Load-shedding: About 31% of users have reported unreliable electricity supply – this has motivated over 34% of mobile users to turn their phone off until it is needed;
  • High data cost: High data costs have led to more than 67% of users needing to recharge each week – to save on data, consumers have opted to turn off their mobile data connection off until it is needed.

Content + Social Media Expertise = Campaign Success

With Social.Lab being a social-first marketing organisation powered by Ogilvy’s strategic and creative muscles, the new social performance division will help Ogilvy SA combine top-drawer creative content with extensive paid-social media expertise.

“Launching Social.Lab in South Africa answers a need for agencies to consolidate advertising, activations, direct marketing, digital, PR and social media. We bring these capabilities together – fittingly per client and brief – to develop integrated, dynamic content strategies that make brands, sales and customer value grow. Our conviction is that social has a transformative power for business when you combine creative content and sophisticated distribution,” Chantraine concludes.

 

The making of coming-of-age musical war drama, Kanarie

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

On 9 June 1967, the Defence Amendment Bill – which made military service compulsory for all white males – came into effect in South Africa. During the apartheid regime, this became a kind of rite of passage for many male youths, some of whom were as young as 17 years of age.

Charl-Johan Lingenfelder undertook this journey as a young man when he was recruited by the South African Defence Force (SADF). While struggling with the gruelling military training, he found a safe space serving in the SADF’s church choir and concert group, also known as the Kanaries (‘Canaries’). His story is now being told in the award-winning film Kanarie, produced by Marche Media.

Kanarie began when co-writer, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, told director Christiaan Olwagen his personal story one day, on their way back from the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn. Christiaan was so intrigued by the concept of the Kanaries that it haunted him for a long time after that. Months later, after presenting a different project to channel, Christiaan retold Charl-Johan’s story and had the whole room in tears. At the end of that meeting, they told him that Kanarie will be made,” explains Jaco Nothnagel, marketing manager at Marche Media as well as 2nd AD and casting director of the film.

Olwagen shared the news with Lingenfelder, who happily agreed to come on board as co-writer and musical director of the film. Olwagen helped turn Lingenfelder’s tales into the film script.

Roelof Storm and Jaco Smit co-produced the film, with Smit additionally acting as first assistant director. The production team also included line producer Elmarie Botha, production manager Verene van der Heyden and Annemarie du Plessis, who acted as the production coordinator.

“It was a small team, with a limited budget, but we all knew from the start that we were part of something special. It was an extremely ambitious film – with big musical numbers, numerous locations and logistics to take care of. But the team was perfect for the job at hand. We couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else,” says Nothnagel.

Casting

Schalk Bezuidenhout plays the lead character in the film, delivering a compelling performance as 18-year-old Johan Niemand (a character based on Charl-Johan Lingenfelder) from the small town of Villiersdorp.

Nothnagel says that Bezuidenhout was their first choice for the role of Johan Niemand: “We saw him do stand-up a few months before casting started, where he actually joked about being in the school choir. There were quite a few physical resemblances to Charl-Johan at that age, so we asked him to come and audition for the role, and he blew us away.

“He threw himself into the role… There were piano lessons and choreography sessions that he had to endure, but he always just wanted to give more and make sure that he was doing the story justice,” adds Nothnagel.

Additionally, the film features an array of local talent including Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Dawid Minnaar, Tinarie van Wyk-Loots, Johan and Lida Botha, Albert Maritz and Martelize Kolver.

Casting for the choir group proved to be more challenging than expected, says Nothnagel. “Initially we were to only cast the eight ‘lead’ characters. We soon realised that it would be a bit more complicated than that, for a few reasons. Firstly, we had to find actors that were experienced but would look the part. These boys were 17 or 18 when they were conscripted. Then, once we found the lead, we needed to be sure that, relative to each other, they will still look the part in terms of age. We went through about 13 rounds of auditions and call-backs until our ‘Bungalow 8’ were cast. Wolfgang (the love interest) was the last character to be cast.”

The Story

Kanarie tells the story of Johan Niemand, a young man with an emerging interest in creative performance and a love for British New Wave music. His unique interests don’t sit well with his male peers, which makes him a constant target for bullies at school.

In 1986, at 17 years of age, Johan, like many others before him, gets conscripted for military service. While serving, he auditions for the South African Defence Choir and gets accepted by the Kanaries.

Although the Kanaries are not called to the border, they undergo the same training as the rest of their military group, while also rehearsing a performance programme that they later tour the country with.

While on tour, members of the Kanaries are constantly reminded of their role in serving the country and representing the church. However, when Johan develops feelings for a fellow choir member, he begins questioning everything he knows about himself, including his sexuality, religion, and his role and purpose in a world of oppressive political structures.

“Marginalisation, identity, acceptance, oppression; Kanarie offers a different perspective set against a very problematic background in our country’s history. The film asks questions about toxic masculinity and the origin thereof in our society today. Many conscripts came back from the army changed, but never discussed it. On the flipside, the camaraderie in the army is something that you don’t find in any institution today. Finding your true self and being unapologetic about it probably stands central in the film,” says Nothnagel.

The Production

Kanarie was shot within five weeks at various locations in and around Cape Town, including Villiersdorp, where Charl-Johan Lingenfelder actually grew up. Budget constraints resulted in the team shooting their border scenes at Kaalbaskraal on the N7, instead of at the actual barracks in Valhalla, Pretoria.

DOP Chris Vermaak shot the film on the Arri Amira with Cooke lenses to enhance the 80s look and feel of the film. “It’s a lighter camera, and because it was all shot with Steadicam, it was the best choice, and also the best quality for what our budget allowed,” says Nothnagel.

Sound and Motion handled the sound design and final mix, while Madoc Post and AfterDark Post Production worked on online and grading, respectively.

The Accolades

The film won the Best LGBTQI film at the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival. Internationally, it was honoured with the Best International Film, Best Narrative Feature, and Best Director awards at the 31st Out On Film Festival in Atlanta, USA. Kanarie will continue its festival circuit run in 2019 at the QueerScreen Mardi Gras Film Festival in Sydney in February.

“All of the awards were really astounding. We are beyond proud of what the film has achieved. It proves that we are telling an important story and that the film might have a long life after local release,” comments Nothnagel.

Kanarie had its local release on 19 October at Ster-Kinekor cinemas across South Africa. An agreement to sell the film in various territories, excluding Africa, has been signed with Breaking Glass Pictures, who will be officially distributing Kanarie in North America from June this year.

“We are very excited about the possibility of the film being shown in these territories, especially the USA,” says Nothnagel.

“I think the army-element resonates with the Americans, but as I said, the fact that the story has so much heart, and that it tells such a personal, yet universal story, adds to the success of the film and how it has performed overseas,” he concludes.

KEY CREW

Director: Christiaan Olwagen

Producers: Roelof Storm and Jaco Smit

Writer: Charl-Johan Lingenfelder

DOP: Chris Vermaak

Editor: Eva Du Preez

Sound: Charl-Johan Lingenfelder

Honda refreshes with JR music video collaboration

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Honda, a Japanese public multinational conglomerate corporation primarily known as a manufacturer of cars, recently revealed that – according to current statistics – its brand is not as appealing to the public as it aspires to be. In a bold move, the company decided to take a homourous approach to these grim findings with a new campaign titled, Were Not Fresh.

Late last year, Honda launched the Honda Amaze in a creative, collaborative project with one of South Africa’s most popular hip-hop artists, JR. The collaboration includes a song and supporting music video that aims to showcase how Honda has “refreshed” its brand’s image.

“What made this campaign so remarkable is that Honda, via their agency DDB, took a massive leap of faith in poking fun at themselves and thereby winning the trust of savvy contemporary consumers,” says Arcade Content producer, Will Nicholson. “They didn’t pretend to be something they’re not – instead they embraced the insight that they’re ‘not fresh’ and used this as a great angle for humour and honesty, which studies show younger audiences, in particular, really appreciate.”

Business-savvy musician JR produced the campaign song and stars in the music video, which gives viewers a peek at how business deals are done in the music industry.

The tongue-in-cheek video begins in the boardroom, where an over-zealous agency creative is trying his best to convince the Honda team that this music video will improve their poor “Freshness Barometer” rating. The clients are not convinced – that is, until the high-profile rapper enters the room and takes charge of the presentation. JR impresses the Honda team, clinching a five-year contract and the keys to a new Honda Amaze.

The video continues with scenes from JR’s “daily life” as a musician and Honda ambassador. This includes shooting a music video while cruising in the new Honda Amaze, as well as a photo shoot to showcase his new ride.

“The concept was to create a music video that pokes fun at how often celebrities are used in contrived and insincere ways to try sell products,” Nicholson explains.

While the video employs popular stereotypes synonymous with hip-hop culture such as flashy jewellery, press attention and constantly being accompanied by an entourage, it also rejects unrealistic and excessive flourishes. For example, in one scene, JR refuses to wear an unnecessarily oversized jacket – making a profound statement on how he, like the Honda brand, is also trying to remain honest and real.

The music video was conceptualised by DDB creative directors Nicola Wielopolski and Conan Green produced by Arcade Content’s Julia Schnurr and directed by Lebogang Rasethaba.

“As consumers become more and more discerning, we as storytellers and marketers need to catch up with their demands, be more honest, clever and creative with how we tell stories,” says Rasethaba.

Sticking to the hip-hop aesthetic, the Were Not Fresh music video was shot by Deon Van Zyl on the Red Epic camera. Post-production duties were handled by the Postmodern Company.

Impressively, most of the action –including converting a Honda dealership into a boardroom for the opening scene – was captured in a just one day.

The video was released on 10 October 2018 and has received positive feedback on social media, earning the hashtag #WeStillFresh.

Art director Masonwabe Ntloko was impressed by the immense positive impact the music video has had on the campaign and the brand: “I love how it says everything the consumer needs to know, but in a fun way and in a language we all understand – music!”

“Young audiences in particular smell BS from a mile away, and don’t like to be ‘sold’. So this video is clever in that, from the very opening shot, the brand doesn’t claim to be cool – in fact, it brazenly admits it’s ‘not fresh’. Audiences appreciate this level of honesty, as if they’re invited in on a joke, instead of being presented a fake advertising façade,” concludes Nicholson.

KEY CREW

Director: Lebogang Rasethaba

Producer: Julia Schnurr

DOP: Deon Van Zyl

Editor: William Kalmer

Sound: Sean Jefferis

Showcasing SA’s legacy-makers and influencing the next generation of legacy-thinkers

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Liesl Loubser, founder and former CEO of marketing agency HDI Youth Marketeers, turned 60 this year. To commemorate this milestone, she decided against a big celebration and chose to reflect on the concept of one’s legacy through the project, The Legacy Stories, 60 Seconds of Impact.

“In celebration of my 60th birthday, I did not want to host yet another party. I decided instead to create a platform on which to champion the stories of 60 people that I mentored or have been inspired by during my years in business; people I believe are legacy-makers in their own right,” explains Loubser.

According to Loubser, these legacy-makers are people who have inspired her through direct relationships during her years in business, as well as those who have had an impact on the brand HDI Youth Marketeers and who have lived values that inspire others.

“Legacy-makers are people who use their success to improve the lives of others, who use their influence to open doors for others and who use their talents to make a difference in the world,” she says.

After retiring from the agency, Loubser and her former colleague at HDI Youth Marketeers, Nika Smit, launched a social enterprise called The Change Collective which has helped launch The Legacy Project.

Smit comments: “Liesl and I came together with a mutual purpose: we wanted to create a profit with purpose enterprise and use our ideas to make a difference. And so, in late 2017, The Change Collective was born. The Change Collective is a community of brave minds, tackling the world’s biggest social problems in the most innovative ways.”

The pair has since developed a large bank of concepts that will be taken to market when the business officially launches in 2019. However, they decided to fast-track The Legacy Stories video series in 2018 as it coincided with Loubser’s 60th birthday.

The Legacy Stories, 60 Seconds of Impact

The list of featured legacy-makers has been separated into five categories, namely Entrepreneurship, Business Innovation, Education and Youth Development, Social Cause and Legends in the Making.

A total of sixty legacy-makers have been selected for the Legacy Stories, 60 Seconds of Impact inaugural experience – a video series that features entertainers and artists including Danny K, Bianca Le Grange and Andre Prinsloo; entrepreneurs and business people such as Sylvester Chauke, Suzanne Akerman and Cornelius Koopman; innovators like Anthony Bila, Kim August and Marie-Claire Mclachlan; social and educational warriors such as Thobile Chittenden, Leoni Coetzee and Lipalesa Kolane; as well as legends in the making that include Carmia Annandale, Felix M and Zanda Mchunu.

Through the project, these inspiring individuals share insights from their personal journeys with the aim to motivate the next generation of young South Africans. “It’s key to try and shift the paradigm of many young South Africans and emerging entrepreneurs who are unmotivated or crippled by anxiety, fear and a lack of guidance,” Loubser says. “It’s our belief that having a community of people around to mentor, guide and believe in you makes the world of a difference. Every person will leave a legacy, good or bad; our narrative is to inspire young South Africans to make it a positive one.”

Smit has been involved in every aspect of the project, from strategy to ideation and project management. She comments: “In the social cause space, where resources like time, budget and people are often limited, innovation goes a really long way in finding smart solutions and stretching resources.”

Rhode du Plessis developed the look and feel of the project, with Lara Petersen taking care of the copy and social media handled by blogger Kenny Jules Morifi-Winslow. Kim August was the appointed influencer and public relations liaison, while Chantel Gregersen carried out the project coordination.

Sunshine Studios came onboard as a partner, with inserts shot at their Johannesburg and Cape Town studios. Production was handled by Indie Village, with Anthony Bila directing and Pierre Leeflang on edit.

“We had a total of 36 hours of footage that had to be edited down to one hour in total (or 60 one-minute stories). We also edited an additional 16 trailers and content pieces for our social media platforms, giving us a total number of 154 hours of editing.”

An online launch took place on 20 September and saw the project reach over 2 million people on Facebook alone. “The success of the launch in September has inspired the announcement that 20 September will now be National Legacy-Makers Day and the programme will continue for years to come. The team, along with key collaborators, are currently busy with phase two planning,” concludes Loubser.

Seun Babalola: A catalyst for hope and change in the presentation of Africa to the world

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Founder and executive producer of Do Global Productions, Oluwaseun ‘Seun’ Babalola, is the filmmaker behind the youth documentary web series SOJU Africa. She is also a consultant for Collective Industry Conventions Africa (CICA), which will soon be launching the first UNICON Africa event – a creative convention that Babalola will be co-hosting in Nigeria.

Babalola was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, but has roots in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and has always been surrounded by her family from both African countries. This, she says, has inspired her desire to showcase a fuller perception of Africa to the world. Her web documentary series, SOJU Africa, has just completed its first festival run, which included screenings in Lagos, Nigeria, and Accra, Ghana.

SOJU

The series has screened in over eleven countries and was the winner of the 2017 Black World Cinema Afrofuturism Film Competition in Chicago.

“The broader concept of SOJU is that it’s a portrait of youth culture in today’s Africa, through the lens of young Africans in African communities. The goal with each episode or interview is to start a conversation. What I believe is important right now is for Africans to learn more about each other. Take a step back, look at where we are, how we got there, what’s changing and how we can adapt in order to progress,” shares Babalola.

Through the series, Babalola has managed to travel across Africa and meet with various young people to discuss issues of identity and entrepreneurship, while also tackling social and community matters affecting the youth of today.

“I try to discuss everything that’s swept under the rug. Let’s talk about sex positivity, misogyny, homosexuality, depression, etc. Let’s also talk about innovation, growth, cool scenes and exciting people, basically, everything that makes us who we are. I like to show people who are finding joy in defining their identity for themselves, and bettering their surroundings through that identity,” she says.

The making of SOJU has given Babalola exclusive access to African youths and their stories, their insecurities, dreams and perceptions. “There have been times where I tell other Africans about SOJU, and I will get asked why I left America to come to Africa. Why wouldn’t I? Obviously, when I arrive, my privileges are being seen, but it’s disappointing that as Africans, we have so much to offer and often lack the confidence to stand behind it. We have to change that!” urges Babalola.

Babalola says that SOJU has not only helped shift the mindset of African youth, but has also empowered her to be part of the transformation of building towards the development of a thriving and progressive continent.

“The best responses to the series that I have heard are people who tell me that they’ve been sitting on an idea and watching the series has made them want to create something of their own. I’m one person with a subjective vision; someone else is going to tell their story or reach another community in an entirely different way. We need that variety because that’s what’s going to normalise our diversity, that’s what’s going to provide context and nuance to our existence, and in time, it’s what’s going to create change.”

CICA

As a consultant for Collective Industry Conventions Africa (CICA), Babalola is currently preparing to co-host the UNICON exhibition in Nigeria on 17 November. CICA consists of 14 comic and animation houses in Nigeria that have existed for the last decade or more. “They have a lot of great content, and so it’s more of a collaboration. Two colleagues and I have been working as consultants and are doing our part to bring U.S. partners on board to help grow the mission.”

Through her involvement with CICA, Babalola and her team aspire to provide a structure for creatives in Nigeria to help them copyright their work, as well as to distribute and make money from it.

“We have panels and workshops that will discuss building your business, copyrighting and legal trends, as well as skill-building and distribution. There’s also a lot of opportunities to learn and network. When you attend you don’t automatically become a part of CICA, but you will be able to speak to and network with the founders and group members,” shares Babalola.

UNICON attendees will be exposed to the world of Nigerian comics, animation and video games, as well as emerging technologies in the industry. Convention activities will range from gaming competitions and exhibitions, to screenings and panel discussions.

MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy heads to Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Earlier this year, MultiChoice Africa launched a call to all aspiring African film directors, DOPs, sound professionals, and scriptwriters. Those selected would get the opportunity to hone their craft in a year-long, funded programme supported by the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF).

“The film and television industry has not developed at the same rate as other industries on the continent, and not for a lack of talent, passion or imagination. It is true that we are abundantly blessed in these areas, however the space given for this expression has at best been limited and at worst been relegated to the fringes of the mainstream economy, leaving in its wake unfulfilled dreams, unexplored talent and unwritten stories,” shares MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy director, Cheryl Uys-Allie.

In an effort to change this and to unlock the true potential of Africa’s creative industries, MultiChoice Africa has launched a pan-African initiative that will provide important training and on-the-job placements for young African creatives.

The initiative was launched on 30 May 2018 with a call for applications for the MTF Academies based in Kenya for East Africa, Nigeria for West Africa and Zambia for Southern African countries.

MultiChoice went on to launch the three regional academies in these countries from 8 to 10 October this year.

MTF Academy director for West Africa, Femi Odugbemi, comments: “We need interventions like the MTF so that emerging filmmakers are better equipped in the creative processes that have scholarship and technology at their foundation. We must consciously build capacity so that our next-generation filmmakers and producers can also create wealth and create employment by being entrepreneurs as well.”

During the launch of the MTF Academy in Kenya – held at the MultiChoice Kenya headquarters in Nairobi – Information and Communication cabinet secretary, Joseph Mucheru, praised the initiative, saying: “I am thankful to MultiChoice for the immense investment they are putting into making sure that we have the right skills being developed and these will be useful for television, film and other industries.

“This will go a long way in ensuring that jobs are being created. I hope the class of 2018 will be an inspiration to future generations who aspire to be in this industry,” added Mucheru.

The final applicants were chosen through a shortlisting process which resulted in 60 students selected to participate in the 12-month training programme.

The MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy is aimed at young people who do not have tertiary-level education. Courses at the academy are taught by local industry experts in partnership with recognised institutions to ensure the credibility and professionalism of the qualification.

The year-long programme will culminate in a graduation event. Pan-Atlantic University in Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta University in Kenya and the Zambia Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM) are the three learning institutions that have partnered with the initiative.

Classes began in October with two weeks of orientation and formal training is now underway. During the 12-month training programme, students will:

study cinematography theory and the practice of film;

undertake practical application of learnt practices in cinematography;

embark on internships with production houses that have productions running on the M-Net and DStv platforms;

be given the opportunity to pitch a production idea to leaders within the industry;

produce a high quality long-format television production.

“In addition to the training, the MultiChoice Talent Factory students will produce two one-hour films for broadcast on our local M-Net channels. By the time they leave our academies, our students can see their names rolling across the closing credits on screen! This is a truly life-changing opportunity,” explains Uys-Allie.

Apart from the training initiative, the MultiChoice Talent Factory will host masterclasses aimed at industry professionals. Furthermore, the MultiChoice Talent Factory Portal will go live in mid-February 2019. The portal is an online platform that will act as a one-stop shop for work, people and content regarding the African film and television industry. The portal will also include a networking section for people within the industry to sign up and market themselves and their works to an African and global audience.

Maharage Chande, the Northern Region director at MultiChoice Africa, concludes: “The key to the longevity of our culture, industry and storytelling traditions, lies in the opportunities we create for established creative professionals to exercise their craft while simultaneously mentoring the next generation. The MultiChoice Talent Factory is a critical link to realising this dream. It is through this lens that we celebrate our investment in the development of future creative leaders, the local economy and reverence for the art of storytelling in the African tradition – truly giving agency to the MultiChoice vision of enriching lives.”

Sew the Winter to My Skin documents the last years of John Kepe

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SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

John Kepe was an infamous thief in the Eastern Cape in the 1950s. The criminal mastermind lived, undetected, in the Boschberg caves for over a decade, collecting stolen items including over a hundred sheep, cooking utensils and clothes, redistributing the goods to the poor black and coloured community of Somerset East. Kepe’s legacy still haunts the slopes of the Boschberg Mountains.

As a teenager, writer and director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka lived in the small town of Somerset East which is where he first came to know the story of John Kepe – a Robin Hood of sorts who’s legacy would later inspire him to make the film Sew the Winter to My Skin.

“I have carried the desire to make this film for many years now. I started writing the screenplay in 2016, and it took us just over a year to raise the finance. My research was growing up in Somerset East, absorbing the history, living with the people who inhabit the space and the legend,” Qubeka shares.

Producer Layla Swart comments, “John Kepe is a little-known folk hero in the small town of Somerset East. I think the power of the film medium is that one is able to canonise figures like Kepe, whose story would never have been documented and known had it not been for Jahmil growing up in this town and being determined to tell his tale. I think it is important for us as filmmakers to explore our heritage and identify the stories of the past that contribute to who and where we are today.”

Sew the Winter to My Skin documents Kepe’s final mission before his capture, piecing together the story of the legend from multiple perspectives including that of the locals, farm labourers, white farmers, the town militia and a journalist covering Kepe’s trial.

Primary production commenced in 2017, with 90 per cent of the film shot in Somerset East and Cookhouse, where Kepe resided.

The film’s stellar cast includes, Ezra Mabengeza, Peter Kurth, Kandyse McClure Brenda Ngxoli, Bok van Blerk, Antoinette Louw, Zolisa Xaluva and Mandisa Nduna. Ezra Mabengeza plays the lead role of John Kepe with Peter Kurth as General Botha. Other critical roles in the film include Kandyse McClure as Golden Eyes, Brenda Ngxoli as Mole, and Dave Walpole as The Scar-faced Kid.

Sew the Winter to My Skin was shot over five weeks by DOP Jonathan Kovel on the Arri Alexa Mini camera, with Vintage 74 Hawk anamorphic lenses.

“I was looking for an image quality that exuded the spirit of the period the film is set in, which is 1948 to 1952. I didn’t want a pristine, contemporary look at all. So began a long quest that started with the camera team at Media Film Services, and ended up with us calling on Vantage in Germany to give us the wildly marvellous, anamorphic Vintage 74 series of prime lenses. As expensive as these lenses were to rent, they were also the best investment, the producer and I made for the film. That and the amount of time and effort we spent crafting the dialogue-less script,” comments Qubeka.

Post-production duties were handled by Refinery Post Production and Visual Effects Cape Town, while the sound was done by Barry Donnelly from Audio One.

Sew the Winter to My Skin had its international premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Canada and will have its local premiere at the Cape Town International Film Festival and Market where it has been selected as the opening film. “This is the film’s local premiere, and we are very excited by this. We feel the themes of the film are apt for this city and are honoured to be opening the festival. We are currently in discussion about the film’s local cinema release, but it will likely be this summer,” she said.

So far, the film has been well-received by festival-goers and film critics including Screen Anarchy, Hollywood Reporter and Cinema Scope. Furthermore, it has also been chosen to represent South Africa at the 2019 Academy Awards, with the selection committee describing Sew the Winter to My Skin as “an unmistakable, bold South African voice that tackles historical and contemporary issues, in both South Africa and the world.”

Qubeka remarks: “The selection of South Africa’s official entry for the Academy Awards is done by a jury of our peers and that makes it even more special. It’s a vote of confidence from our colleagues and fellow filmmakers. I cannot express how proud and humbling that feels. That in itself is a big win for us; anything else going forward is just gravy!”

The film is also expected to showcase at the Busan International Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival later this month.

“This is a universal story exploring timely and relevant subject matter. We all need heroes. We believe it will resonate with individuals from all walks of life,” concludes Swart.

Sew the Winter to My Skin is produced by Yellowbone Entertainment with support from the Department of Trade and Industry, National Film and Video Foundation, the Department of Arts and Culture, and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.

TECH CHECK

EQUIPMENT:

  • Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
  • Lenses: Vantage Hawk V-Lite Vintage ‘74 Anamorphic Lenses

KEY CREW:

Producer/Editor: Layla Swart

Writer/Director: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka

DOP: Jonathan Kovel

Sound: Barry Donnelly

Ford South Africa launches new range with cross-media marketing campaign

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

GTB Africa, a Johannesburg-based creative agency, under the WPP Group, has been handling the Ford South Africa account for more than five years. The agency was recently tasked with developing an innovative campaign for the launch of the new Ford Figo, Ford Fiesta and Ford EcoSport.

With each car launch came a separate multi-channel campaign that included TV, radio and tapping into social media platforms in a fun and creative way that fully engaged viewers.

GTB Africa’s art director, Candice McLeroth comments: “The vision for the Ford brand is to keep it relevant. It is something we keep in mind when coming up with our campaigns, which is why we try and utilise different mediums in innovative ways.”

FORD FIGO

The campaign for the launch of the new Ford Figo includes a music video titled Ka Mzolo. The video was initially released via Instagram stories and is part of a collaborative campaign to give a platform to various up and coming innovators. The video showcases these young creative entrepreneurs, who use Instagram to build their personal and business brands.

“It was important for us to showcase and give a voice to very talented up and comers. And what better way to show off their talents than creating a piece of content that was made by up and comers for up and comers. After all, just because you don’t have a name today, doesn’t mean you won’t tomorrow,” shares McLeroth.

The music video allowed viewers to interact with the featured personalities through their Instagram handles which were embedded in the section of the video that they featured in.

The talented group of individuals featured in the Ka Mzolo video included singer and songwriter Rhea Blek; founder and creative director of women’s wear brand BAM, Jacques Bam; crew leader of BMX Maniacs, Hloni Ramaila; make-up artist Orli Meiri; founder of dairy-free ice cream brand YOCOCO, Sinenhlanhla Ndlela; founder and creative director of ownURcrown, Nikiwe Dlova; creative director of PHINDA Furniture and Interior Design, Siyanda Mbele; photographer Obakeng Molepe; and the Bambanani Brass Band.

Following a successful launch on Instagram, the video was adapted for various mediums including YouTube, radio and digital billboards.

Arcade Content’s Zandi Tisani, directed the Ka Mzolo music video, she expands: “The brief was to identify a group of young and dynamic people in various fields and create a music video that would allow them and their craft to shine.”

“I wanted to create a fantastical world that was both authentic and otherworldly. The music video is a loose take on the Alice in Wonderland narrative and each step further down the ‘rabbit hole’, so to speak, involved interacting with our makers. I wanted it to feel like a dream, that is both familiar and strange, something we took even further with unusual grade and colouring,” she adds.

“I think this campaign will resonate because it features people who are not part of the line-up of usual suspects. I feel like that communicates that Ford is not just looking to leverage major influencer followings but is invested in helping creatives develop a following of their own. I think in general people love seeing the underdog win.”

FORD FIESTA

The Independent State of Nandi Twitter series – directed by Egg Films’ director Zwelethu Radebe – was produced to promote the all-new Ford Fiesta. The 4-week episodic campaign was released on Twitter every Monday and Thursday in June and July 2018.

The campaign was a social media marketing success, with its first episode gaining over 14 000 votes, 350 retweets and nearly 2000 likes.

GTB creative director, Neil Lindsay expands: “Launching the all-new Fiesta required something a little different that resonated with our very independent and vocal Fiesta audience. This resulted in us creating an engaging ‘choose your adventure’ style Twitter series – The Independent State of Nandi. The series consisted of eight Twittersodes that were released twice a week. Each episode ended on a cliff hanger, giving the audience 24 hours to vote on how the episode should end.”

In the series, Nandi (Lebo Borole) embarks on her first long-distance trip in her new Ford Fiesta. On her journey she encounters some difficulty and Twitter users get to help her out by voting for the outcome of the next Twittersode.

“This feels like the future of advertising,” said Egg Films’ executive producer, Colin Howard. “Where storytelling isn’t limited to 30-second TV commercials and the audience can be more involved more than ever before.”

FORD ECOSPORT

For the bold Ford EcoSport range, the creative team decided to cater to the urban adventurers with a television commercial titled Go Wander, Go Further – also directed by Radebe.

“The vision of the ad was to show that with the new EcoSport we can help our urban adventurers explore their cities, discovering new things along the way. Enter the Go Wander, Go Further TVC that follows three friends who got caught up wandering their city,” shares McLeroth.

To intrigue viewers, Ford decided to kick-start the launch of the Ford EcoSport with 6” and 10” videos that lived on YouTube bumper ads and pre-rolls. These were then promoted through Ford’s social media accounts. The end result was a 30’’ television commercial targeted at its EcoSport audiences.

However, following the TVC, Ford realised that there must be a more engaging way to utilise traditional platform viewers for greater engagement. Lindsay explains: “As we are an integrated agency, we believe in more than just creating a TVC. As most of us are on our phones while watching TV, we decided to capitalise on second screen users too. While the TVC played, you were fed a social post that unpacked more of the story in the TVC.”

This was done by producing a series of TV ads that tell viewers only half the story and entice them to explore the rest on their second screens.

Speaking about the Ford project, Lindsay concluded: “The launch campaigns for each of these cars have been very successful. Each campaign is completely integrated, with some mediums being up-weighted depending on the audience. Each of the channels in each campaign supported one another by delivering one campaign message from brand love, all the way down to dealerships. The one thing that remained consistent over all the campaigns is that with Ford you can Go Further.”

The Ford campaigns were conceptualised by GTB’s executive creative director Nick Liatos, creative directors Nico Botha and Neil Lindsay, copywriters Sophia Basckin and Leyash Pillay, and art directors Candice McLeroth and Martjie Louw.

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