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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.

Sierra Leone filmmakers join forces to document the devastating effect of Ebola in their country

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The 2014 Ebola outbreak, which left more than 30 000 people infected and over 11 000 dead, remains one of the deadliest health disasters in West Africa. While the plague is said to have begun in rural Guinea, it quickly spread to other countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone, challenging the already poor health systems in these countries, and slumping their economies and populations in just 24 months.

Out of the country’s darkest moments came great heroes and amazing stories of survival. The stories of these brave survivors are captured in a new documentary aptly titled Survivor.

“In Sierra Leone, we do not have Spiderman or Superman or Captain America as heroes, what we have are these men who are risking their lives to save ours. It can also be seen as raising the confidence bar in Sierra Leone. The lack of confidence in ourselves and our total dependency on the West for aid in everything can be overcome if we are able to see ourselves as being capable. It is my desire for the world to know that we did what we can and what we did as individuals and a country collectively was worthwhile,” expresses Arthur Pratt, a filmmaker and pastor from Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone.

Pratt is the co-founder of the Sierra Leone Film Council, the country’s first media-makers’ union. He is also the co-founder and manager of the WeOwnTV programme, an organisation which was actively involved in informing and educating the nation about the Ebola virus during the outbreak.

WeOwnTV, in association with the Sierra Leone Film Council, designed public service announcements which included short videos to help dissolve the many rumours and myths hindering the fight against Ebola. “The first video we did, titled Waytin ar For No But Ebola (What I Need to Know About Ebola), was designed to answer key questions that were considered issues by the general population such as: What is Ebola? How is it transmitted? What are its symptoms? What are the precautionary steps to take in case of a suspected case? The second short film was designed to specifically target the issue of lack of trust for the medical sector – which by then was resulting into an ever-increasing rate of infection as people sought traditional help rather than going to the hospitals,” informs Pratt.

However, in the film Survivor, Pratt decided to pursue a collaborative project whereby he led a team of 18 Sierra Leonean filmmakers to film in different parts of the country. The film, shot over two years, includes accounts from when the outbreak was at its worst, up until the country was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Making the film was also a personal journey for Pratt who says that he was sick and tired of the global image depicted about the Ebola virus in his country. “The Western countries were quick to lead with flashy headlines that presented a negative image of Africa playing into and contributing to the stereotype of dependency and ignorance. Most stories focused on the efforts of western intervention. Headlines missed the complexities. Yes, burial practices contributed to the spread of the disease for example, but our religious leaders and institutions were also instrumental in helping communities change their behaviours. Not to mention the omission of the massive contribution of African nationals in the fight. They were the foot soldiers of this war. There was an incredible spirit of volunteerism in my country that was missed. I needed to tell the stories of those brave men and women who without the much talked about protective gears and very little or no knowledge of the disease, braved the situation to help those dying and in need.”

In the film, Pratt sets out to explore his characters thoughts, struggles and efforts during one of the most frightening and deadliest times in Sierra Leone. “At the start, we were following many characters, and as the production continues, we began to focus on Mohamed, Margaret and Foday. We developed quite close relationships with them and also felt their stories each contributed unique elements to the story and how it is told,” Pratt says.

It has been reported that before Ebola struck, there were 136 doctors and 1 017 nurses serving six million people. During the epidemic, 488 of these health professionals lost their lives. Mohamed Bangura, a senior ambulance driver and Margaret Sesay, a nurse at the Emergency Ebola Treatment Centre, are two individuals that the film follows as they risk their lives to save those who are infected.

In Survivor we see Bangura carry a sick man on his back because the man lives at the top of a hill, on a treacherous route, that a vehicle cannot access. As a driver, Bangura is forbidden from touching sick people.

Sesay, who has worked with Pratt in various community outreach projects, initially was not working when the Ebola outbreak hit. She, like many other citizens, was afraid of contracting the disease and feared being abandoned by her family if she continued with her nursing duties. Pratt intervened, making Sesay recite her nurse’s pledge, and within weeks she was working at the Emergency Ebola Unit without her family’s knowledge.

The youngest person featured in the film is a brave 12-year-old boy, named Foday Koroma, who hustles through life and lives in the streets with his friends. The film shows the young boy and his friends desperately trying to rent a room when they are told to wait 21 days as most vacancies have been quarantined as a result of former tenants carrying the virus.

Pratt helps the young boy to return home where he finds his old and frail father. His father encourages him to go back to school before he succumbs to his death as a result of a long-term chronic illness. Koroma carries on living in the home he shared with his father while continuing with his schooling.

In darker scenes, health workers are seen carrying dead bodies and sick patients away from their homes as their families look on helplessly.

The film was shot on the Canon DSLR 7D, the Sony EX1 and the GoPro 4. A DJI Phantom 4 drone was also used to capture aerial views in some areas. “The Sony EX1 was very important in terms of the observational shoot, interviews and ambulance chase – the picture and sound quality is exceptional. The Canon 7D was a ‘ready-to-go camera’, as we used it when shooting in more volatile areas and it is easy to set-up and carry. For obvious reasons, the GoPro camera was used mostly in the red zones in treatment centres and with the ambulance team for pick-ups.”

Survivor recently had its African premiere at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in Cape Town and later went to China to showcase at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

“The reception was great. We came to Encounters first because we wanted the African audience. They seemed to understand the nuances of the humanitarian organisations and the communities they serve. They got the humour. We also had many medical workers who had actually worked in Freetown during the outbreak. They commented that they appreciated seeing this side of the story, that it was an important insight and they are now planning screenings of the film for their organisations,” Pratt informs.

Survivor will be broadcast in North America on PBS’s POV television series later in the year.

“We plan to premiere the film in Sierra Leone in November during the three year anniversary of the end of Ebola. We also have extensive plans to screen the film in communities around the country,” adds Pratt.

In conclusion, Pratt says that viewers can learn so much about African people in general, and about his home country of Sierra Leone. “Even though we can be poor, we are not naïve, and we are strong people. The world needs to understand that we agree that there are problems but in my view, they should not be used to negatively brand an entire nation. People should also look at themselves and at the way they interact with their own family and community and country. Our characters make complicated ethical decisions throughout the film. How would you react? What can these heroes teach us?”

TECH CHECK

EQUIPMENT:

  • Camera: Sony EX1, Canon 7D and GoPro 4 cameras

“The Sony EX1 was very important in terms of the observational shoot, interviews and ambulance chase – the picture and sound quality is exceptional. The Canon 7D was a ‘ready-to-go camera’, as we used it when shooting in more volatile areas and it is easy to set-up and carry. For obvious reasons, the GoPro camera was used mostly in the red zones in treatment centres and with the ambulance team for pick-ups.”– Arthur Pratt

KEY CREW:

  • Director: Arthur Pratt
  • Directors: Banker White, Anna Fitch, Barmmy Boy
  • DOP: Barmmy Boy and MJ Sessy Kamara
  • Producers: Anna Fitch, Arthur Pratt, Banker White, Barmmy Boy, Samantha Grant, Sara Dosa
  • Editors: Banker White, Don Bernier

By Gezzy S Sibisi

TELEVISION DIRECTOR SPEAK: Makere Thekiso

This month we chatted to director Makere Thekiso…

 

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

What has really shaped me is growing up in Matatiele, travelling up and down the continent, and embracing my Sesotho roots. I did not go to film school, but every day I am in class learning new skills, you never really stop learning.

DESCRIBE THE MOMENT, IF THERE IS ONE, WHEN YOU KNEW YOU WANTED TO BECOME A DIRECTOR?

When I was I was on set as a production assistant I knew this is what I want to do. I directed for over five years before I even called myself a director. I had already won numerous awards and had already done a few popular TV shows for DSTV. I was measuring myself against my favourite local directors, and I felt that I needed to grow more and be less worried about titles, and just focus on working on my skills set.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

I love photography, art in general, music, meeting different people, great conversations, technology, fashion, reading everything from blogs, books, Instagram feeds, Matatiele, being Mosotho, experiencing different things on a weekly basis to break my daily pattern, African cinema, Asian cinema, American cinema, fashion films and travelling. I am always looking for different things that will inspire me.

WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO IN THE FILM INDUSTRY AND WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS?

My business partner Jobie Bakama is my mentor even though we run Callback together. He spent a few years in Hollywood, so I get to pick up a lot of things from him, and because we work together on everything, we are constantly learning.

Anneke de Ridder (producer of Idols SA) groomed me when I first started in the industry. She helped us set up all the structures for our company eight years ago; she basically incubated us with Gavin Wratten, the director of Idols SA.

TOP THREE FAVOURITE DIRECTORS, AND WHY THEM?

Ousmane Sembene, he is the father of African cinema, he did so much with so little, and I can really relate with that.

Akira Kurosawa, he designed so many shooting techniques his work is incredible.

Steven Spielberg, he can move from a period piece to sci-fi, action and drama so effortlessly.

WHICH PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN?

I am currently in post with a short musical film that I directed in Ghana, and I am also wrapping up another short film titled Yvonne. Both projects are in post-production.

This year I am going to start pursuing commercials, I spent most of last year busy building my film portfolio and building teams around that. In the last seven years, I have directed a lot of TV shows, and I have put that on pause.

WHAT KIND OF CONTENT DO YOU ENJOY CREATING?

I really enjoy films that are the “Mecca” of storytelling, and I also love short form because you can really focus on the small details.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CAREER CHALLENGE TO DATE?

Running a business is a not for the faint-hearted. Having a business that has been running for eight years has been the biggest challenge, and I am proud and happy that Jobie and I are still standing. Being responsible for my team’s livelihood is a challenge.

The biggest challenge in our industry is for us as producers, directors and as creatives to own our intellectual property, so that we don’t work ourselves into an early grave.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER THUS FAR?

Just making a living out of what I love is a career highlight and having an impact on people through my work is an incredible feeling.

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

Even though not Hollywood, I would love to see Once Upon a Time in China, the African version. It would be great to see a Chinese-African action film with people flying wearing African attire, and it must also be dubbed into English with the lips out of sync – go the whole nine yards.

TOP THREE FAVOURITE FILMS OF ALL TIME?

  • Madadayo by Akira Kurosawa
  • Borom Sarret by Ousmane Sembene
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM SHOOT LOCATION?

Morocco, I hear the settings are incredible.

WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A BIOPIC?

Doctor Khumalo, Psyfo or Kwesta apparently I look like those three people.

IF YOU WEREN’T A FILMMAKER, WHAT CAREER WOULD YOU HAVE CHOSEN?

I studied law, so I think I would be a lawyer and depressed.

 

Cartoon Network launches the Africa Creative Lab

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Animation has long shaped the imaginations and aided the development of children. Taking another bold step in addressing the gap in locally relevant content which offers a viewing experience that resonates with its African audience, Cartoon Network is seeking fresh animation talent set to influence a new generation through storytelling.

Recently named the #1 Coolest Kids’ Channel in Africa at the Sunday Times Generation Next, Cartoon Network has launched a new initiative – the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab.

“We have worked hard, and had great opportunities to build long-lasting relationships with numerous influential networks, studios and animation associations in Africa, and we are fascinated by how the African filmmaking community brings creatives together from all over the continent. We want to tap into that inspiring pan-African exchange with this project. Through our years in Africa, we have been presented with an impressive number of talented African creatives, and from our experiences, we are convinced that it is important to launch these kinds of initiatives to reach talent,” says Ariane Suveg, head of Programming and Acquisition at Turner Kids Africa.

Entries for the first Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab opened on 7 June and will close on 31 August 2018. African creatives and African-based companies from across the continent are urged to enter and need to be 18-years and over to participate.

The initiative aims to encourage African talents including creators, writers, graphic artists and animation students to submit their works.

Interested creatives need to produce an English short-form animated comedy piece that is between one to three minutes long, and is targeted at children between six to 12 years old.

“All kinds of humour, including irreverence and randomness is welcomed, with the comedy being driven by engaging characters and unexpected stories. The piece should portray positive values such as the kid spirit, kindness, diversity and never-ending imagination, with a unique graphism based on any animation technics (2D, 3D, stop motion, mixing real footage etc.),” shares Suveg.

The presentation of the piece should also include a pitch of the story, a description of the main characters, storyline(s) and graphic intention, as well as any additional material including story-boards, animatics and videos that will further enhance the story pitch.

Ten projects will then be shortlisted in September, and the lucky finalists will get the opportunity to pitch their work to Cartoon Network.

Turner has once again partnered with DISCOP Johannesburg, where the last leg of the challenge will take place from 14 to 16 November. “Turner has been partnering with DISCOP since 2016 when we collaborated with Animation South Africa (ASA) as the official sponsor of the first-ever Animation Lounge. That same year, we also hosted the Turner Kid’s Pitching Competition, a first strong initiative to bring forward African talent…” says Suveg. “Last year, we sponsored the African Animation Network (AAN) Village, boosting AAN’s efforts to develop animation talent in Africa… We believe that the collaboration between Turner and DISCOP is an essential way for us to get straight to the heart of the new and fast-growing African animation industry, and we value the local importance of the festival highly.”

The two runners-up and the winner will be announced during the 2018 DISCOP Johannesburg event. The winner and runners-up will also be given the opportunity to get their project produced as a pilot with Cartoon Network Africa. The chosen project will then premiere on Cartoon Network Africa and its digital platforms in 2019.

“We are impressed by the African presence at Annecy this year, and we are happy to meet a new generation of creative minds challenging the future of animation in Africa. We are more than excited to get started on the applications for Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab!” exclaimed Suveg in conclusion.

 

The true story behind Kenyan medical thriller 18 Hours

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: In 2015 Alex Madaga, a labourer from Nairobi in Kenya, was a victim of a hit and run accident. Madaga was fortunate to survive the incident itself, only to pass away just 18 hours later when the ambulance carrying him was turned away at five different hospitals because he lacked the funds needed to be admitted and treated.

The tragic events that led to Madaga’s death and saw Brian Ochieng Odhiambo spend 18 hours in an ambulance attempting to save his life, made news headlines.

“I read the story on the daily newspaper back in 2015 when the story of the late Alex Madaga hit the news. My first impression was, how can this happen in Kenya’s capital city? How can an accident victim be denied admission on the basis of lack of money? It felt like a story that needed to be told, to serve as a reminder that such a situation occurred, and it should never occur again. It felt like holding up a mirror for our society and pointing out that there are avenues for change, many opportunities to make things right.” expresses Kenyan award-winning filmmaker, Kevin Njue.

Njue was inspired to pen down a film based on the brave paramedic’s ordeal, in an effort to inspire debate and seek change in the regulation of Kenya’s health system.

Odhiambo, the heroic paramedic, worked as a consultant to Njue during the development stage of the filmmaking process, offering invaluable insight into the life of a paramedic. Additionally, Odhiambo provided intricate detail on the events that cost Madaga his life on that fateful day.

In the film – aptly titled 18 Hours – Zach, played by Nick Ndeda, works for Raven Paramedics Services. While on duty, he receives an emergency call from a witness about an accident that happened along a highway; a pedestrian has been involved in a high-speed hit and run while on his way home from work. Zach then sets out on a rescue mission with his driver Mark, played by Brian Ogola.

Zach and Mark find the injured man bleeding profusely from his head and not moving – they manage to get him into the ambulance. The two men are later joined by the victim’s wife Sabina, played by Sue Wanjiru. Together they set out to different hospitals in a race against time to save the victim’s life.

Rejected by those who are meant to assist them, Zack makes every effort to keep the man alive. After spending 18 hours in the ambulance attempting to save the man’s life, he is finally admitted to a hospital but dies shortly thereafter.

18 Hours – written and directed by Njue – was shot on the Sony A7s, in and around Nairobi and Machakos in Kenya in just 12 days. “We filmed on the Sony A7s mainly because of its performance in low light. The camera is tiny compared to others which was a bonus for our handheld style,” says Njue. “We wanted to achieve an ‘out of body’ experience with the feel of the film through our handheld documentary style,” he adds. Production and post-production were handled by Rocque Pictures.

18 Hours made its debut in Kenya late last year, which included a marketing campaign with Kenyan athlete, David Rudisha to advocate for better emergency response in the country. The film was also instrumental in pushing for the Kenya Health Act of 2018 which states that health facilities should administer necessary immediate health care to prevent death or worsening of a medical situation.

“The highlight of the film so far has been the reception it gets from the audience wherever we have screened. More so, the impact it has had on the health policy push in the country,” Njue comments.

The film will kickstart its festival run with the upcoming Zanzibar International Film Festival, which takes place from 7 to 15 July 2018. “Zanzibar is the first festival screening. We had to start here because it was where we first screened our first short film back in 2014. It is our second home. As for other festivals, there are several lined up within the year,” Njue concluded.

TECH CHECK 

EQUIPMENT

  • Camera: Sony A7

KEY CREW:

  • Writer/Director: Kevin Njue
  • Producer: Phoebe Ruguru.
  • Editor: Mark Maina
  • Sound: Ronald Mugambi

 

Inside the making of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class ad

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: In 1990, Mercedes-Benz released an iconic commercial aimed at showcasing how its vehicles are engineered like no other. The ad told the story of how Christopher White survived a crash that saw him lose control of his Mercedes-Benz after a moment’s inattention and plummet the equivalent of 30-stories onto the jagged rocks below – a crash that he survived only because he was wearing his seatbelt and driving a Mercedes-Benz.

It has been thirty years since White’s almost fatal accident but he remains devoted to the car brand that saved his life.

Mercedes-Benz recently launched its new S-Class – the brand’s latest foray on the road to autonomous driving. In the new commercial, which takes the form of a documentary-style content piece, White revisits the route that nearly ended his life, this time driving hands-free in the new S-Class.

Advertising agency, Net#work BBDO has been working with the Mercedes-Benz brand for ten years now, says creative director Tim Beckerling. “We’ve created so many great campaigns with Mercedes-Benz over the years, and this one certainly stands out for the whole agency/client team, as it is steeped in so much advertising history and heritage. What a privilege to revisit one of South Africa’s most iconic advertising stories, with the future facing ambitions of the brand right at the heart of it all.”

While the original 1990 spot was a re-enactment of White’s incredible story of survival; Beckerling says that it left the viewer unsettled and wanting more. With this in mind, Beckerling and his team decided to delve deeper into White’s story in the new commercial.

“We sold Mercedes-Benz a simple idea in the form of a newspaper headline ‘Famous Crash Survivor Returns to Chapman’s Peak in Autonomous S-Class’. We asked them to take the leap and imagine those very words on the front page of a newspaper, not only as a description of the idea but as the ambition for the project. To create something newsworthy, not advertising but rather a rich, dramatic story that people would be transfixed by, with the brand at the heart of it. They instantly saw the potential and gave us their full support on the project,” Beckerling shares.

As the starting point Net#work BBDO hired a private investigator to trace White’s whereabouts. Efforts were also made to find the production team that was involved in the original spot. “We spoke to a number of people involved in the production of the original ad but as you might guess, many of them have moved on and since retired. We managed to get Willie Sonnenberg on a radio interview recounting the filming of the original ad, done by Sonnenberg Murphy Leo Burnett, in the early 90’s and the impact it had on the market at the time. We also had chats with Keith Rose, the director of the original piece, very early on in pre-production,” informs Beckerling.

Cape Town-based production company, 7 Films, shot the new spot with Lourens van Rensburg directing. “Tim and myself go way back. We both love anything that is fast and has wheels. We’re passionate about motorsport and cars. We are proud to call ourselves petrol heads. We’ve been wanting to work on a project together for a while now and finally I got a phone call from Tim telling me that he has an idea that we can collaborate on. That’s where it started,” comments van Rensburg.

Beckerling briefed van Rensburg on the concept, while the private investigator managed to track down White: “We managed to locate him in East London and explained the concept to him. He is a loyal brand ambassador and absolutely loves the brand. He was keen from the beginning to be involved in this project,” says van Rensburg.

During pre-production, Van Rensburg and his team soon discovered that shooting the ad would come with its fair share of challenges. “Our greatest challenge was trying to close off Chapman’s Peak Drive. Thirty years ago when the first commercial was made, you were able to lock off Chapman’s Peak easily. Today there are bylaws and restrictions that we have to adhere by. The Parks Board were incredibly helpful and so was Schalk Bloem and his team. We had very little time that we could be on the road. We were not able to close the road completely. We had a rolling lock off which meant we had to keep moving and we couldn’t stop. That made it quite challenging having other cars on the road.  We had to stay within all the safety parameters and obey the rules of the road. Normally when we lock off the road, we don’t necessarily have to obey the rules.”

Beckerling conducted on-camera interviews with White, while art director Steven Tyler gave White driving lessons in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. “We wanted to achieve something real and believable. We didn’t want anything to be overdone. We wanted the audience to experience this like Christopher did,” tells van Rensburg.

“Chris was happy and eager to be involved, but he thought we were just making a film about the old story in slightly more detail. He had absolutely no idea that the car was going to be doing the driving for him until just moments before it actually took place. The film is a real representation of his shock and fear around the prospect of this as it happened in the moment and his trepidation really come across on screen,” adds Beckerling. After much convincing, White finally lets go of the steering wheel and the new S-Class drives him safely on the route that nearly cost him his life.

The new commercial was shot on the Arri Alexa Mini, with aerial shots captured by Timeslice Photography. “We wanted it to feel like a modern day Netflix documentary or series… We decided right up front that we were going to do everything on camera. No post-production, no nothing. That obviously made it more challenging but I believe the end result was worth it,” comments van Rensburg.

Additionally, archival footage was acquired from White along with a few others, as well as from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). James O’ Sullivan was responsible for editing. “We managed to secure James as our editor. He is an unbelievably young and talented editor who comes from a film background. We wanted an editor that could tell that story in a specific way and he was the perfect choice. The amount of archival and raw footage he had to go through was a great challenge. We believe that we could not have done it without him,” shares van Rensburg.

The spot was released toward the end of May 2018 and by the first week of June it was awarded Creative Online’s Editors Pick and the Best of the Week title on BestAdsonTV.com. The commercial was also featured as a Cannes Contender on Shots.net and popular SABC3 lifestyle show Top Billing did a behind-the-scenes feature on the ad.

“If there is ever a measure of success for a piece of carefully calculated creative work it is to go all the way back to the start and remind yourself of the objective. Ours was to make headlines and we have achieved that with aplomb. We’ve had kind words from people all over the world, from those who remember the original spot and those who weren’t even born when it first aired,” notes Beckerling.

“Hopefully the take out for the everyday South African is that the technology available in every Mercedes-Benz is designed with one critical thing in mind, their safety,” he concludes.

TECH CHECK

EQUIPMENT:

  • Camera: Arri Alexa Mini

The new S-Class commercial was shot on the Arri Alexa Mini, with aerial shots captured by Timeslice Cinematography

KEY CREW:

  • Director: Lourens Van Rensburg
  • DOP: Lourens Van Rensburg, Mike Ellis, Luke Van Rensburg
  • Sound: Zahir Isaacs
  • Editor: James O’Sullivan
  • Executive producer: Nina Van Rensburg

 

FibreCo to boost broadband connectivity in Kroonstad

Internet connectivity in Kroonstad will benefit from a substantial enhancement as FibreCo Telecommunications completes its roll out of fibre in the town, making reliable high-speed broadband connectivity more accessible to the community.

Given that only 5.4 per cent of households in the province have access to the internet at home, while only 9.9 per cent have access at work, it’s clear that there is an urgent need to hasten access to high-speed broadband connectivity. The third largest city in the Free State, Kroonstad is the first city along the FibreCo national fibre route between Johannesburg and Cape Town to have fibre rolled out in the town.

The FibreCo Kroonstad connectivity project, is the first in FibreCo’s town connectivity strategy which plans to connect many more towns along its 4000km national fibre route.  The biggest challenge to universal broadband is infrastructure cost. “FibreCo’s open access model in Kroonstad allows any number of service providers and operators to buy connectivity without the large capital outlay, making it significantly more affordable than if they were to build the infrastructure themselves,” explains Simon Harvey, CEO FibreCo.

True to its open access wholesale model, FibreCo works to enable ISPs, WISPs and Mobile Operators to provide high-speed broadband services to their customers.  Access Global is the first ISP to partner with FibreCo in Kroonstad and their first customers are already benefiting from access to reliable high-speed fibre broadband services. It is a great honour to be the first ISP associated with FibreCo in Kroonstad. We are driven to maintain client satisfaction with all our products and services. We strive to ensure that all our clients are treated with integrity while being efficiently and effectively serviced,” says Hennie Roets, executive director, Access Global Communication.

In support of our Government’s National Development Plan; e-Services Strategy and recognising the need to provide high-speed broadband services to underserviced areas in line with government’s SA Connect Policy, FibreCo contributes to socio economic developmental areas such as e-learning and e-health through working with provincial and municipal partners to connect them to the FibreCo network.

“FibreCo has already provided high-speed broadband connectivity services to clinics in Kroonstad, one of which is the first clinic to ever receive direct fibre through a fixed fibre termination,” says Sammy Mafu, business development executive, FibreCo. “Together these clinics service over 30 000 people monthly which is central to national government efforts to get the National Health Insurance off the ground.”

FibreCo has also installed a fixed fibre node at the Moqhaka Municipality, making it the first Free State municipality with its own dedicated 1Gbps ready fixed connectivity node.

Click here, for the 2016 STATS SA General Household Survey.

Inside the making of 3D-animated TV series Munki and Trunk

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Sunrise Productions is a Cape Town-based computer animation company known for its popular production, Jungle Beat, a 3D-animated series that has been shown in over 180 countries around the world.

With the international success gained from the show, Jungle Beat creator Brent Dawes decided to create a spin-off series titled Munki and Trunk, with director Sam Wilson at the helm. “For years, the Sunrise shows were all written and directed by Brent Dawes… As the company expanded, they needed another writer and director who understood Brent’s style, so they brought me in. I worked with Brent writing Munki and Trunk, and I took over directing the series when Brent went on to new Sunrise projects,” shares Wilson.

Much like Jungle Beat, Munki and Trunk is a dialogue-free, 3D-animated television series catering for kids aged 4 to 7. The show features various animals and is centred on the unusual friendship between an energetic monkey and an endearing elephant, aptly called Munki and Trunk.

“The series actually started out as Season 4 of Jungle Beat. After we began production, we realised that we were limiting ourselves, because every Jungle Beat episode has only one character. To make the show really appealing, we knew we had to have multiple characters, and show their personalities and quirks and give them real friendships and make a real world. So we took two of our most beloved characters and turned their relationship into the heart of the show.”

Munki is described as a vine-swinging force of nature; he is impulsive and full of energy. He is also always hungry for bananas as well as awesome adventures with his best friend, Trunk.

Trunk, on the other hand is a lovable, optimistic, big-hearted elephant who loves to play and support all her jungle buddies.

“The biggest discussion we had at the start of the show was around the friendship between Munki and Trunk. We were working with some very experienced writers from the UK, and they were pushing for some conflict between the two characters because conflict is the heart of all drama. To his credit, Brent insisted that Munki and Trunk would never fight. Whatever the world threw at them, whatever misunderstandings they had, the two main characters would stay firm friends. I think that was the right decision because it became the anchor of the show. Munki and Trunk is about friendship, and having someone around that you can always trust,” Wilson explains.

Munki and Trunk was created and animated using Autodesk Maya. Fur, dust and liquid effects were done in Houdini and rendered using Mantra. “We wanted to create a world that viewers could really immerse themselves in. So we have characters with detailed fur, visual effects, and complex lighting and rendering. It’s not photorealistic, but it’s much closer than almost any other animated TV series,” says Wilson who also credits their unique camera angles and lighting set-ups in effectively capturing the story. “We also have an in-house recording studio, so we were able to create a detailed foley for every episode, which really helped the immersion,” he adds.

It took Wilson and his team just over two years to complete the series. “The biggest overall challenge was the mammoth scale of the project, and catching all the necessary fixes and aesthetic tweaks within the tight production schedule.”

Overall, Wilson describes producing the series as a labour of love that he is truly proud of and hopes that it shines through to all young viewers and their parents. “The series has been an epic production. Look at any episode, and you can see how much work we’ve put into every detail, and because we care so much, we’ve had to make tough decisions. We re-animated two completed episodes because although they were funny, they didn’t have the sweetness and the heart we were looking for. But it’s been worth it. The highlight of the production for me was working with so many talented and dedicated people, at both Sunrise and our production partners Infinite Frameworks,” Wilson shares.

Tasania Parsadh from Nickelodeon saw a clip of the show while on a studio tour at Sunrise Productions during the first Cape Town International Animation Festival. She immediately fell in love with the concept and remained in touch with the Sunrise Productions team. Since then, NickToons has clinched a deal with the production and made Munki and Trunk, Sunrise Productions’ first South African animation acquisition.

The series consists of 52 episodes, which run for seven minutes each. The first episode aired on 2 April, and the show has since been screened across Africa.

“So far, Munki and Trunk has been shown in around 30 territories, including across North Africa, which is fantastic news, and now that the full series is complete we’re expecting it to spread a lot further,” Wilson concluded.

TECH CHECK

Munki and Trunk was created and animated using Autodesk Maya.

KEY CREW:

  • Director: Sam Wilson
  • Producers: Tim Keller and Matt Brown
  • Executive producers: Phil Cunningham, Jacqui Cunningham, Hugo Day, Rupert Day
  • Animation directors: Greg Murray and Denis Deegan
  • Sound designer: Matthew Gair

Tulips and Chimneys brings new Hendrick’s Gin TVC to life

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: It is 5pm after a long day at work and the routine task of travelling home in peak hour traffic leaves one feeling even more exhausted. If only we could escape the ordinary and set out on a journey so unusual and refreshing, that it feels utterly enchanting.

‘Undeniably peculiar, utterly delicious’ is the tagline for the new Hendrick’s Gin spot – a phrase that Cape Town-based animation studio Tulips and Chimneys brought to life in a visual fantasy that embodies Victorian surrealism and dreams.

Director Ree Treweek and her team have been great admirers of the Hendrick’s Gin brand aesthetic over the years and being approached by their company’s UK representatives, Strange Beast, to pitch on the campaign was an exciting opportunity and a great achievement for the Tulips and Chimneys brand.

“When we first started our company one of our first goals was to craft a campaign for Hendrick’s Gin as we’ve long been admirers of their Victoriana Surrealist aesthetic which is so aligned with our own style and creative ambitions. You can imagine how delighted we were when our representatives in the UK approached us to pitch on the campaign,” says Treweek.

After a successful pitch, Tulips and Chimneys worked with American creative agency Quaker City Mercantile (QCM), to create the animated spot for the Scottish brand. The team brainstormed a few ideas which led to the conceptualisation of the spot’s main theme of Escape – an invitation to escape the conventional and embrace the delectable.

“The client wanted us to depict how a mundane necessity like commuting could become a fantastic adventure should you go against the stream and approach it in a different way. This concept was so much fun to work with and since the Hendrick’s brand lives in such a surreal space we really had a lot of freedom in terms of how we wanted to tell this story,” explains Treweek.

The team reworked Hendrick’s existing animated material which is rooted in Victorian surrealism and 2D animation. “Hendrick’s existing animated material, is beautifully designed, and relies on a particular 2D cut out technique. We decided to work with that and enhance it by incorporating a greater sense of depth between layers so that we can move through space. We focused on producing bespoke 2D animation, rather than puppeteering still images, which differentiated it slightly from previous spots. The combination of all of this with atmospherics and beautifully composited lighting really pushed the mystery and mood of the spot,” Treweek explains. “When compositing, we added a subtle grain to the film. An overall colour grade using muted blue tones, red highlights and green shadows gave the film a vintage look. We made use of vignettes, dust and scratches, film burn, light leaks and other imperfections common in old film stock. Making use of the depth of field added a ‘real world’ feeling to our shots, and helped us to create a seemingly limitless Hendrick’s environment.”

Two main characters stand out in the spot – a gentleman and lady who both make a great transformation during their journey. We follow their journey home, which turns out to be quite the adventure as the different creatures they meet along the way bring wonder, surprise and great delight. “It was important that our two hero characters stood out against the other commuters, so we spent a lot of time crafting the moment when they shed their ‘work skins’. I love the colouring of our heroine and the string of butterflies that pull her along. They were animated in such a way that they had some interaction with other commuters,” Treweek says. “In our brainstorms we also wanted the environments and architecture to be characters in the spot… You’ll notice a building that behaves as a clock while others behave as pistons, our lead characters are swallowed by their homes, an alligator and a swordfish. We wanted to add subtle surprises that the viewer would only see on repeat viewing.”

Throughout the journey the lead characters follow a mischievous winged Hendrick’s bottle, bringing the two main ingredients, roses and cucumber into the mix. “We weaved their leading botanicals; roses and cucumbers into our designs in such a way that they complimented the environments and the personalities of our characters. We liked the idea that the botanical elements can also be portrayed in such a way that they have personality: a cucumber for instance is dressed in a suit and hops through our cityscape,” explains Treweek.

The Escape Hendrick’s Gin ad first aired in early May and has received rave reviews from leading commercial review sites including Ads of the World, Best Ads on TV and Adeeve to name a few. The spot can be viewed on YouTube, Vimeo and on the Tulips and Chimneys website.

Cape Town filmmaker wins inaugural SundanceTV Shorts Competition for South Africa

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: We all have a secret hope that when the time comes, our funeral will draw a large crowd of loved ones, who mourn and share heartfelt sentiments about the valuable contribution we made to their lives and the world.

However, this is sadly not always the case; when no one is there to mourn your loved one, Ted – the professional mourner – is there to assist.

Good Mourning is a dark comedy that looks into the life of a professional mourner who loves his job. However, one day Ted is challenged by a disbeliever, Sandrine, who questions his morals and ethical standpoint, and the conversation takes an unlikely turn.

The self-funded short film, created by Ian Morgan, recently won the inaugural SundanceTV Shorts Competition in South Africa and will have its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in London, which takes place from 31 May to 3 June 2018.

Morgan comments: “After coming from advertising, where it has predominantly been about creating beautiful images, the film was originally intended to be a project to prove to myself that I still could direct characters in highly dialogue-driven scenes. To have it selected as the South African SundanceTV winner is a massive honour. It is great to know that there are people out there looking for the type of narratives I create. I love the dark comedy genre, and I think it is a genre that South Africa needs to start exploring more.”

Morgan’s journey with SundanceTV began earlier this year when his pal and the lead actor in his short film, Paul Snodgrass, informed him about the competition. The pair had been entering the film into a number of local and international festivals and thought they’d try their luck with the SundanceTV Shorts Competition.

Submissions for the competition were open from 1 March to 15 April 2018 on the South African SundanceTV website. To enter, films had to be submitted by the producer or director of a film, who could provide proof of residency in South Africa. Films were to be no longer than 15 minutes and had to be delivered with English subtitles if English was not the language spoken in the film.

The Jury Prize was judged on a number of criteria, including creativity, entertainment value, original storytelling and production values. The jury was headed by Mike Plante of Sundance Institute and included Harold Gronenthal from SundanceTV Global; Aletta Alberts, executive head of Content and Third Party Channels at MultiChoice; and Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film.

Amusingly, Morgan received news of his win via an email, which he accidentally trashed, while busy on his current projects. “As I was super busy in post-production on a few adverts I had directed, I got to work early to check my mails and started deleting the ones that were not job-related. I then stopped and thought to myself did I just see the word SundanceTV. I went into my trash, and there was the mail that said my film, Good Mourning, was selected. I went into a little bit of a shock. I didn’t even have time to process that there was a prize until my producer said, ‘Hey dude you are going to London’,” he laughs.

Commenting on the film, Mike Plante, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival and president of the competition jury said: “Good Mourning is funny and compelling yet unexpectedly poignant. It makes great use of a very creative story idea and a pair of immediately engaging characters.”

MultiChoice came on board as an exclusive partner for the inaugural Shorts Competition in South Africa and as a result, Good Mourning will be broadcast on SundanceTV (DStv channel 108) later this year.

Marketing director at AMC Networks International, Victoria Spitalieri had this to say: “We’re incredibly excited to broadcast Ian Morgan’s film on SundanceTV Global later this year as well as to premiere Good Mourning at an event during the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in London. We’d like to thank all of the South African filmmakers who submitted entries as well as our partners who generously supported this exciting initiative.”

“At this point commercials fund my passion for narrative storytelling, and it would be great to be able to make more films in the future. As mentioned I have a number of ideas in the pipeline, but ultimately it all comes down to funding. It is not a case of if it will happen, but more of how soon,” Morgan concludes.

Ksazobalit music video looks at the bright side of land reform 

“I wanted to tell a positive message on the topic of land, from seeing so many negative tweets based on fear and uncertainty, I wanted to explore another side of the coin, which is positive and uplifting where different races break together.” – Thabang Moleya

Land reform has been a hot topic in South Africa for some time now. While the subject is often met with fear and uncertainty undercut with hope by many, the Ksazobalit music video gives us a glimpse into what this might look like – when done right.

Hip-hop artist Cassper Nyovest takes on the role of a successful black farmer living harmoniously with his white neighbour.

Director Thabang Kagiso Moleya has developed a good working relationship with Nyovest through the years. The pair recently worked on a KFC commercial together and after hearing the Ksazobalit song, Moleya decided to pitch his idea for the video to Nyovest. Nyovest was completely sold on the unique and impactful message and agreed to the project.

Talking about the creative concept, Moleya says that he is often interested in the conversation that South Africa is having and he tries to find ways to lend his voice to it. “This is one of those current and on-going conversations, and I wanted to make a video where people can imagine themselves being land owners and not just having a big celebration on the land but also being prosperous on that land, together.”

The video was shot in Hartebeespoort in the North West Province, over two days. Aerial shots make up a large part of the visual, aptly capturing the abundance of land and the beauty of the vast farmland. Nyovest takes on the persona of a proud, wealthy farm owner donning the distinctive khaki attire while carrying out traditional farm errands. Animated farm workers in blue overalls are seen dancing and rhythmically moving in celebration.

Television personality and choreographer, Somizi Mhlongo makes an appearance as a truck driver delivering goods at the farm.

“I wanted to tell a positive message on the topic of land, from seeing so many negative tweets based on fear and uncertainty, I wanted to explore another side of the coin, which is positive and uplifting where different races break together,” shares Moleya.

Besides Mhlongo, other well-known celebrity friends of Nyovest can be seen throughout the video. In another scene when Nyovest hosts a lavish lunch on the farm, the rapper and his mates are seen enjoying a meal outdoors, while his nosy neighbour is spying on them. Nyovest then invites the neighbour over and they all feast together and enjoy each other.

Media personality, Pearl Thusi makes a grand entrance in the final scenes. Thusi comes in riding a horse while wearing a striking red, flowy dress. She later holds a triumphant fist up in the air, and the video ends with the words, ‘We Are Ready’ appearing on screen.

“I wanted to reflect a future where women are in power, one of the most striking images is a woman on a horse, so when I pitched the concept to Pearl Thusi, she loved the messaging behind it. Pearl’s red dress, in the video, is symbolic of the bloodshed from the lives lost when the land was taken,” Moleya expresses.

The video is shot on the RED Dragon with Arri Master Prime lenses. “I wanted to capture a beautiful summers day. We maximised on early morning and late afternoon sunlight for the epic wide shots, and of course, for the horse riding sequence I wanted a strong back light on that scene, to make it feel dreamlike.”

Post-production duties were handled by Upstairs Ludus.

The video was strategically released on Freedom Day and received over a million views on YouTube in its first week online, while also skyrocketing to number one on iTunes SA.

The music video concept has been highly-praised by several political figures including former Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula; South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa; and EFF leader Julius Malema.

“The response has been amazing. I also set out to tell a narrative which was not just entertaining but impactful, and I am grateful to have had the platform to tell a narrative that made people talk about something important,” Moleya concluded.

TECH CHECK

EQUIPMENT:

  • Camera: RED Dragon
  • Lenses: ARRI Master ºPrime lenses

The Ksazobalit video was shot on the RED Dragon with Arri Master Prime lenses

KEY CREY:

  • Production company: Studio Space Pictures and Seriti Films
  • Director: Thabang Kagiso Moleya
  • Producer: Alessio Bettocchi
  • DOP: Jitem Ramlal
  • Production manager: Shanell Sutra
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