SOUTH AFRICA PRODUCTION: The new breed

With talent and inspiration coming from a multitude of cultural backgrounds, South Africa has more than its share of hot new directors setting the veldt on fire with their skills. Camilla Palmer reports.

Brent Harris Egg Films The former agency creative Harris was first represented by Gatehouse Films, where he directed ads for big brands such as Lucozade, before taking off to travel. After a stint in New York, the 31-year-old returned to South Africa, as Egg's second director, in December 2002. Since then he has directed Cricket World Cup sponsorship ads for SAA with Herdbuoys McCann Erickson and a run of TV spots for the fast-food chain Chicken Licken for Network BBDO. "There are heaps of opportunities for newcomers.

Production houses are really committed to their creative standards. They're not in so much of a hurry to make a profit on us," he says.

AK - TERRAPLANE

"It sounds like a cliche, but I knew I wanted to be a director - I always loved the movies," AK laughs. He's one of Terraplane's stable of young directors. After finishing his training in stills photography, the 33-year-old went back to basics and became a runner for the TV station M-Net, graduating to shooting and editing in-house promos. He says having that technical know-how has helped him enormously in his career as a director, making ads for Adidas and the Finnish insurance company Phojola: "I can do the donkeywork as well as have the vision and ideas," he says. But the most important skill is versatility. He warns: "Don't get typecast."

DANIEL LEVI - TERRAPLANE

Levi's career ascent now sees him represented internationally - he is currently shooting Massive Attack's new video in London, where he is soon to make his home. Not bad for someone who had his first ad break two years ago, helped along by agencies willing to take a gamble on an unknown director.

Since joining Terraplane, the 30-year-old Levi has directed ads for Nike and Xbox. He claims advertising's traditional "old guard" has had to rethink in the past decade. "Corporate-style ads don't work for the new, multicultural South African consumer. Building brands through film can be done in much more exciting and edgy ways," he says.

KEVIN FITZGERALD - SUBURBAN FILMS

Fitzgerald was "staggered" to be asked if he fancied directing while working on a photography shoot for the German agency Scholz & Friends in 1998. He said yes, and starting turning out fashion-oriented TV ads for a retail chain. The 37-year-old impressed Suburban Films and, since joining last year, he has made ads for Men's Health and the charity Project Literacy. "I want to make brilliant ads that tell a story in 30 seconds," he says. "South Africa is a great market to get started out in as a new director." However, he warns against a "double-edged sword", in that young talent can be taken for granted.

DULE ANICIC - FRESHWATER FILMS

Originally from Belgrade, the 33-year-old Anicic left his troubled homeland for South Africa in 1991 to work on film and commercial sets. Anicic directed pop promos until he got his first ad break, making an award-winning spot for South Africa's NedBank in 2001. Since then, he has directed ads for KFC through Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg and Cell C for Network BBDO.

"What I love about South Africa is the maturity with which is it is building its future. Because the market's much smaller, there are more chances to make your mark." Showing fierce ambition, he adds, "I'd work with the devil himself if he had the right script!"

GREG GRAY - VELOCITY

Gray learned his skills working for his fellow Velocity director Keith Rose - he spent six years as his first assistant director. To Gray it seemed natural to try his hand at directing, and he made his first ad - an award-winner for the South African rice brand Tastic - just eight months ago. Since then, he has been working non-stop, making ads for telecoms company MTN, Nike, Black Cat peanut butter and to promote the ICC Cricket World Cup. He's optimistic about moving on to global projects, but warns: "I wouldn't want to be hired just because I'm from South Africa, I'd want to get hired because of the talent I can offer."

THE work

Harris's Chicken Licken

AK's Phojola

Levi's Xbox

Fitzgerald's Men's Health

Anicic's Popular Mechanics

Gray's Black Cat

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