Filmmakers ready to roll

Shaanaaz de Jager

DETERMINATION and hard work have paid off for Northern Areas filmmakers and business partners Clayton Thom and Warda Mallick.

Their company, Shoot97 Productions, has been involved in broadcast productions by local companies, including Nab’ubomi by Nelson Mandela Bay Pictures and Garbage Gallery by Fly Piggy Fly.

“Some of the larger productions we worked on were Crazy Games, So you Think you can Dance, SA’s got Talent, Amazing Race Australia and Amazing Race Ukraine,” said Thom.

They have also done “many corporate” productions for local, national and international firms.

The two completed their visual and audio productions studies in 2004, and then did visual productions learnerships. Since then they have been actively involved in the industry.

The duo first volunteered their time in the industry to gain the necessary experience and “more importantly contacts” to further their careers.

They worked on their first broadcast job, an e.tv documentary, The Road to Xnau, in 2005, which focused on a Khoi San ritual, and have since worked on many other documentaries broadcast in South Africa.

“During the early stages of our working careers, we filmed and edited weddings and other private events and did corporate videos. We gained a lot of practical experience and learnt a lot during this phase,” Mallick said.

Mallick, a former Bethelsdorp High pupil, and Thom, a former Paterson High pupil, attended the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in November 2010.

Mallick said it was “a real eye opener to see how huge the documentary industry is all over the world, not only supported by the filmmakers, but the public as well”.

“This is the largest film festival in the world and has been running for the last 25 years. We have made strategic networks and gained valuable knowledge that will take our projects to the next level,” Mallick said.

“Being exposed to the international market has already exposed us to bigger and better opportunities. The experience has given us a lot of confidence. We have also learnt that the international market is eager to work with South Africans and we have now made links to do co-ops with filmmakers from other countries.

“We also have found a new platform to present our local content. We have been invited to other international film festivals around the world next year.”

Both said the Eastern Cape had the potential to be “very attractive for any production” as it was very cost effective and had beautiful locations.

“The Eastern Cape is also rich in history, culture and stories waiting to be told. It is literally an untapped resource and industry for national and international investors and filmmakers.”

Even though the film industry has its quiet times, it is possible to survive.

“There are often quiet times but, fortunately, most of the productions that we do can sustain the business for a decent amount of time. We have a national network as well, which helps to sustain the business.

“Our target market does not include weddings and other domestic events, although we do take on corporate projects.

“Broadcast work in the Eastern Cape is not in abundance as in other provinces and corporate allows for a steady workflow,” Mallick said.

The pair also “craft and facilitate” training and development programmes — developing local aspiring filmmakers and introducing them to the industry.

They have spent about seven years in the industry and so cater for people who “want to learn more and gain more experience”.

Another of their initiatives was The Bay Film Festival in 2010.

“There is no film school in Nelson Mandela Bay that offers decent training and adequate experience. If productions require large amounts of crew, then we engage [their students]. We do this because we know how difficult it is to gain experience in the Eastern Cape.

“The industry in the Eastern Cape is very different from other provinces. Local companies tend to do everything in-house, from producing to post-production, which does not allow for specialisation, and hinders the industry by stifling growth.

“Freelance crew find it very difficult to survive. Companies like events specialists which do filming in-house with less experienced camera and editing people also add to the pressure for trained professionals to survive.”

Apart from running their film company they have been doing Goju-kai karate for more than two decades. Thom is a Godan (fifth dan) and is the head of Eastern Province Goju-kai, and Mallick is a Yondan (fourth dan).

They teach karate at Erica House Home of Safety and Westering Primary School.

“We practise both traditional and sport karate. We are also involved in refereeing and coaching,” Thom said.

They also actively compete on local, national and international levels representing South Africa.

“We practise our art daily and do not see it as a hobby, but as a way of life,” Thom said.

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