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South African Guild of Editors (SAGE) Press

SAGE is the South African industry body for all film and television post-production professionals.

Serious about colour: the SAGE acronym


Written by Rowan Cloete, S.A.G.E.

Deadline. As a post-production person, you have a deeply internalised understanding of the word.

It is never our friend, yet it is also sometimes that which inspires the best in us. It hones our thoughts and can force magic from the well where otherwise cerebral thought could have steered intuition into a quagmire of options and paralysis.

As I sit down to write this, I am in Phuket, Thailand, bent on having a vacation. And I have deadlines on my mind. My South African reality trails after me, an ephemeral chord that has me checking for Wi-Fi, teamviewer-ing and checking in on emails between the dolphin show and the Big Buddha temple. The world has become a place where intention can shine across seas, for better or worse. And I have a deadline to write this piece for you, which is just what I need to get it done.

I am passionate about the role of colour in story-telling. Yes, it is how I make a living. But every time a well-shot frame sits in front of me, and develops into something truly beautiful that delights the client and leaves audience suspended in belief, I am thrilled. To make the average beautiful, and the beautiful breathtaking, is a huge privilege for me (which I think I share that with the folks that work on makeover shows). When something leaves me it has hopefully become the best version of itself, and doing so honours the many hands that have contributed their intention and talent to the frames that I have been entrusted with.

Colourists are not celebrated publicly. Digital colouring is a young art and there are no special award categories for our contribution, either technically or artistically. Its inherent value – like editing – is invisible when done right and glaringly obvious when not. It is done in dark rooms with no windows (hopefully) and the best practitioners are not millennials, nor do they aspire to have many followers. It happens at the place where the artist and the technician are the same, and softly-glowing control surfaces are played like eldritch pianos to bring continuity, mood, focus and shine to the picture. We deal with the good, bad, or ugly, and where we start from determines where we end up.

Truly beautiful pictures develop from those that are well considered and executed before they reach the colourist. The sensible bring him or her on before they’ve shot the first frame. The dismissive let budget or time run out before the colourist gets to make the story shine. If picture is 50% and sound the other 50% of the movie (to paraphrase George Lucas), then colour must be an additional 50% – a secret sauce without which a movie nowadays will struggle to be a blockbuster, or a romcom, or a period piece.

The South African Guild of Editors is a voluntary, non-profit company which represents film and video picture editors, assistant editors and sound editors (and colourists). In its 20-plus of existence, SAGE has become a robust player in our industry. With a core body of 120 or so members, the Guild represents most of the best local post-production talent in feature film, TV drama, documentary, insert, on-line and sound editing (and colour). We count celebrated names like Megan Gill and Catherine Meyburgh amongst us.

I have been a member of SAGE for five years and have served on the executive committee for some of those. I joined SAGE with a desire to better understand the issues that affect me as a post-production professional, and to make a structured contribution if possible. Understanding that nothing in the guild comes as a rite of passage, it was with a few butterflies that I submitted work I felt was representative of my best efforts to the SAGE acronym committee this year (once a year SAGE members in good standing have the opportunity to apply for the use of the SAGE acronym after their names).

The SAGE acronym, S.A.G.E., indicates peer recognition by the guild of excellence in the field that it represents. It is the highest honour that SAGE can bestow on a member.  Being a SAGE member doesn’t mean that you can automatically write the acronym after your name on opening and closing credits. Only those members who have been awarded the acronym are allowed to use it.

The acronym application process aligns itself with the international standards set by the American Cinema Editors (ACE) and Australian Screen Editors (ASE) associations, making it a rigorous process for both the applicant and committee. According to the SAGE constitution, applications for acronym accreditation require that the editor:

  • Be a current member of SAGE, with a minimum of five years continued paid-up membership.
  • Have been a Full member for at least one year before applying.
  • Have at least five years’ industry experience as an editor.
  • Have demonstrated their ability to advocate the role of editors in the industry.
  • Submit a body of work that is considered to exhibit a consistently high standard of editing.

An acronym sub-committee, consisting of a minimum of three SAGE members who hold the acronym, review the applications and make recommendations to the executive. Successful applicants are accredited with the acronym and presented with a certificate bearing their name and the date of their accreditation. They can frame this totem and put it up in their suite, double their rates and always get paid on time (jokes!).

This process is by now fairly well established for story editors, but a colourist submission presented a new challenge to the existing modalities. My attempt was the first colourist submission it had to consider and it left the committee intrigued, but not satisfied. Recognising that some adaptation was necessary to accommodate my submission, I was given opportunity to rethink the existing presentation format and submit my work again.

Understanding that at its heart, the guild celebrates the editor as creative force, I focused on presenting scenes from features I had worked on in a side-by-side, before/after format. In one case the creative use of colour to establish milieu and continuity was shown to have furthered the narrative considerably. In another, the ability of the grading environment as a vfx tool was demonstrated. The selects were supported by a written submission detailing what was achieved and how. Technical proficiency and artistic sensibility should be evident when the nodes are peeled off. A contact sheet of all the shots of each feature before and after the grade was also presented and showed that colour follows story in having a discernable thread and a unified whole.

This approach, I believe, will be the blueprint for coming colourist submissions. It worked for me! The committee felt the required boxes were ticked and henceforth I will be Rowan Cloete, S.A.G.E.

As a final thought, this is a huge honour for me – made greater by being the first colourist to receive the right to use the acronym. In the short term I will use it to keep starting conversations with other editors and colourists about the importance of affiliating with a professional body like SAGE – if you don’t take yourself seriously, you have no chance of convincing a producer. I might even write an article or two about it. In the longer term, perhaps a visa application?

Jetlag is taking its toll and I have a ferry to Phi Phi Island to get my family onto in the morning, so this piece must now fizzle to a close (besides, I am on deadline). From there, we might take a day trip to James Bond Island. I hope the grade in the movie has served it well, as I will be sure to compare it to the real thing when we get there.

Rowan Cloete is a colourist, editor and actor. He is a member of SAGE, SAGA and a SAFTAs judge. When he is not bound to a deadline in a dark room, he rides a mountain bike in the sun and will hopefully one day soon finish his BCom degree.


Encounters Rough Cut Lab announces call for documentary submissions

In partnership with Refinery Cape Town and the South African Guild of Editors (SAGE), the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival invites South African filmmakers to submit their documentary films for the 2nd Encounters Rough Cut Lab (RCL) to be held in Cape Town from 29 to 31 May 2019.

A maximum of three South African projects, consisting of one director and one editor, whose films are in post-production, will be selected to spend three days working on their film with internationally experienced homegrown editors Megan Gill, Ronelle Loots and Khalid Shamis. Projects will receive world class expertise and insight on story and technical challenges.

Prizes will be generously awarded by The Refinery in the form of free days for Grade or Online.

This call is only open to projects with an assembled rough cut.

Submissions Details:

  • A one-page synopsis maximum.
  • A biography of the director and editor.
  • A post-production schedule and predicted timeline for completion.
  • An online screener link and password to the viewable rough cut.
  • A one-page document from the director and another one-page document from the editor outlining the difficulties experienced with the film’s current structure and/or problematic areas in the story.
  • A write up of what has been achieved up to this point. No less than five weeks must have been spent in edit prior to the lab.
  • Films need to be independently produced, non-commissioned and feature-length – 70 mins or above.
  • All available footage accessible on a USB 3, firewire or thunderbolt hard drives.
  • Indicate software and software version used.

Send to: kamva@encounters.co.za with Rough Cut Lab in the subject line.

Submissions Deadline: On or before 4pm (South African time), Friday, 19 April 2019.

Any submissions that do not follow the strict submission details and page limitations will be disqualified.

The National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) will provide travel and accommodation funding for RCL participants living outside of the Western Cape. Participants are responsible for applying for their own funding with the NFVF. SAGE will be available to assist the RCL participants with their applications process if need be.

Quinn Lubbe on composing music for film

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Quinn Lubbe is an editor and composer, whose score for Modder en Bloed was nominated in 2017 for a South African Film & Television Award (SAFTA) in the category Best Original Music Score – Feature Film. Additionally, Lubbe has composed scores for Raaiselkind and Ellen: The Story of Ellen Pakkies, and edited films including Vuil Wasgoed and Wolwedans in die Skemer, as well as the TV series Getroud met Rugby and Hartland.


Composing music for film is incredibly fulfilling because of the powerful impact that music has in supporting and driving the story. As a composer, you’re starting with a blank canvas with a guideline from the director and editor through reference music and discussions that you’ve had based on the offline edit. Although that can be daunting it is also very rewarding once you start creating music to picture and experiencing the impact that the music you’ve created has. Each project is also very unique, even though it may fall into the same genre as a previous project and this allows you as the composer to constantly change and grow.


My dream was always to write music for film and television and I originally wanted to study music after school. By chance, I walked into the TUT Motion Picture Academy open day when I was researching tertiary institutions. I had studied music throughout my school career, but realised that in order to write music for film, I needed to understand more about the storytelling process. So rather than study music, I decided to enrol at the Motion Picture Academy at TUT. It was there that I was able to write music for some of the short films that were being made by my classmates and leaving film school with some of my work to show (although it was quite modest) definitely helped me to promote myself.


I use Logic Pro to compose and mix in. For my sampled instruments I use EastWest Composer Cloud as well as various Kontakt sampled instruments. Logic is built for composing and although there are many DAWs to choose from, I’ve always preferred Logic because it is very stable. I’m also a Mac fan, and Logic isn’t available for PC. As far as the sampled instruments are concerned I think that EastWest’s Hollywood Orchestra virtual instruments are some of the best out there.


Although the workflow is usually the same in terms of viewing the offline and discussing the film with the director and editor, the process of creating the music can vary drastically. With each film being unique in its storyline, setting and characters, the music will reflect that and will call for different approaches in the instrumentation, orchestration and tone. Being a pianist, I tend to sketch a piece on the piano and then build it from there, orchestrating the different parts depending on what is needed for the scene.


For Blood and Glory (Modder en Bloed), I spent an entire day composing a piece of music that on the piano worked really well with the scene. I then started to orchestrate it and when I came back to it the next day, I realised that I had composed a piece that would’ve worked well with a sweeping scene in a Disney film. Not quite ideal given the subject matter of the film. I knew that I had to start from scratch, losing a day’s work in the process, but sometimes it’s necessary to scrap something altogether, rather than try and salvage something that might take you in the same direction again.


I think the biggest misconception is that anyone who can compose or play music, can compose music for film. Film scoring is more about understanding story and supporting narrative than creating beautiful music. As a composer you want your music as a supporting role – you don’t really want people to notice the music while they’re watching the film. It always has to be about the film, not about how much you can shine as a contributor.


Time is always a big factor in completing a project. It takes a huge amount of discipline to sit down each day and write a certain duration of score. It’s often an exponential process in that the going is really slow in the beginning when you’re trying to establish your themes and you tend to write more music towards the end when you have your themes and sub-themes. You’re also under a lot more pressure towards the end and you have to hit a deadline, which for some people works well – I’m one of those!


Understand how story works. Ultimately it is all about the story that is being told. Understand how what you want to do supports that story and enhances it. Every person, from the production designer through to the VFX team, is creating elements that will tell the story and fulfil the director’s vision. So if you want to write music for film or television, start by taking a feature film or short film that you know well and write the score to it. Then compare it to the original and see what works and doesn’t and why. Also, work on as many projects as you can, even if they don’t pay at first. It really is a case of, “practice makes perfect”.


SAGE recommended rates and annual analysis

The South Africa Guild of Editors (SAGE) has published an annual rate card of
recommended salaries for editors for the last 14 years.
SAGE stated that these rates and conditions should be considered negotiable; this is
a guideline, not a rigid set of rules.
You can download the rate card as a PDF.

The tables on the rate card represent a broad spread of possible rates. As providing
a useful guide to all these variables is highly challenging, SAGE has elected to use
broad categories.

SAGE has also, for the last year been running two webforms on their website. One

collects job offers from producers, the other collects reports of job offers from

The organisation has subsequently made deductions about the average offer being

made, as well as educated guesses about the industry as a whole. This is the first

year SAGE ran both forms, and this is their first analysis released to the public.

You can download a PDF of the analysis here.

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