You are in video, but what do you actually do?

This is my first blog post in a long time and my first post on my new site, which was courtesy of the good people at Medium Rare and I am very unduly proud of. (Because all I did was write some copy and then let them do their hocus-pocus web stuff.)

I have some thoughts on the nature of the industry at the moment and especially on the nature of how skills or roles in the industry and I thought, let me share these…So, here goes:

Very often I am asked, “You are in video, but what do you actually do?”

To which I usually reply, “Talk on the phone and write things on my computer.  Sometimes I stand and look at a clip-board on set. And talk some more.”

Because, really those are the things that I do.  (It’s not great for my back, all that sitting, but that’s another blog for another time.)

Another way of putting it, is that I am a writer, director and producer.  Those are my roles.  If I was in the commercials or the features industry, it would be nigh impossible to be all three of those things in their entirety. But because I live in the beautiful world of video and documentary, I can. Because of the nature of my work and the way I have shaped the structure of my business, it is possible for me to play all three with equal vigour.

I am often asked if I COULD shoot and edit my own films.  I could.  It would just take a very long time and be shaky and frustrating. There is nothing wrong with shaky, but early on in my career, I realised what my strengths were.  (Every now and again I get confused about this, but generally I manage to stay on track.)  My skills lie with story-telling: extracting timelines of information that fit together to form a larger picture, be it through words, images, sound, numbers or dialogue.  I use this story-telling skill to tell the stories of brands, organisations, people, movements and even objects.  Sometimes it seems like my work is far away from story, but in fact, it is always about the basics: concept, content, character, delivery and relativity.

There is a growing trend in the media industry to diversify and be good at “everything” instead of specialising. Call me old-fashioned, but there is still so much value in doing one thing and doing one thing properly.  (Okay, technically I do three things and do them properly, but for the purposes of Substance Films, I have smooshed these all into one role.)

This approach also allows me the magical opportunity to work with other professionals: editors, photographers, camera operators, sound recorders and engineers, animators and sometimes even other producers.  On every project, we have at least four brains and sets of experiences giving input. This makes for better work and it stops me feeling worn out and used up at the end of the day.

This industry is challenging. Budgets are tight and standards are high.  A lot of the work I do is based on personal relationships with my clients.  These people have become my greatest collaborators and I need to be able to look them in the eye and know I have done my best for them. That means, sometimes, I need to get out of the way and hand over to someone else.




Paradigm Shift is looking for Cast

Paradigm Shift is an amazing organisation that we have worked with before and are busy collaborating with again.  Take a look at this Casting Call if you are in Cape Town next week.



We are local non-profit organisation looking for 4-6 people to play the roles of trainers/

facilitators for a training video shoot for an entrepreneurial development programme

with a pan-African audience!


! Ages: between 25-55 years of age

! Gender: both males and females

! Race: black (any African accent), white (English)

! Appearance: smart/professional look

Role: You will be playing the role of a Business Trainer or Life Coach, either facilitating

from the front of the training room, or interacting with entrepreneurs at their table

groups. !

Date of Shoot: 4-6 Feb (Thurs.-Sat.)

Time of Shoot: Thurs. 11am-8pm, Fri. 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-8pm

Payment: R 2000 per day, plus meals (except Thursday breakfast)

Audition Date: Thursday, 28 Jan

Audition Time: anytime between 5-7pm

Location of Shoot & Audition: Common Ground Church, Inner City Campus (51

Somerset Rd, Green Point)

Come to audition with a professional look, and we will provide you with a simple script to

read. We will cast the roles by Friday, 29 Jan.

If possible, please send details and photo of yourself, and confirmation you are

attending audition, although this is not required. Email:

*Please note that every role MUST be at all 3 days of shooting for the entire shoot.


Happy New Year! (And save water)

I hope you have successfully rung in 2016 in your own indomitable style.  Methinks this is going to be a fine year!

Along with a change in calendar this year, residents of the Western Cape also welcomed in Stage 2 water restrictions at the stroke of 12. Not quite the celebration we all expected, eh?

Anyway, like it or not, South Africa is in a drought and saving water in general is a good idea.

Over at the greenest little video house in town AKA Substance Films, we’ve been stressing about this mainly because our home veggie garden is a really important source of stress release (and salad) and we have a toddler who loves water (ahem, arrest me now, City of Cape Town, its all our fault!).

So, I’ve worked out some little things to do at home to save a bit of water and get more grey water into the garden without a “proper” system.  Our water use at the office is minimal so we started at home.

Kitchen sink:

We inserted a very high tech rectangular bucket in one sink.  All of that random water usage (rinsing veg, washing hands, general sluicing) goes into that sink and is caught by the bucket.  This generates about four buckets of grey water for the garden a day.  Luckily for us its not far, because lugging the bucket is a bit of a pain.  Especially because after you’ve saved all that precious water, you are slightly obsessive about not spilling a drop.


We use earth friendly detergents so even if there is a bit of dishwashing liquid in there, its no worries.

Bathroom basin:

Another rectangular bucket affair. Same story but I deposit this into the garden out of the bedroom window usually…too far to walk.



Largest rectangular bucket, also known by the toddler as the “tiny barf”. With this, we catch the “red water” that flows as the shower is warming up.  I also keep it in the shower while I’m showering and try to catch any excess.  I’m trying to have super quick showers so often the toddler reckons bath time just wasn’t long enough and then its over to the “tiny barf”.  She splashes and plays in there for ages. This leaves me with a large bucket of water in the shower, which I use to flush the toilet throughout the day – and negates any parental worry about the child not being visibly clean. Works a charm and guilt levels descending.


As I continue with my earth-saving endeavours, I’ll post more embarrassing phone pics and lecture you further. In the meantime, you can read all the ins and outs of the water restrictions here.

Happy New Year, folks!


The bacon revolution

I was recently approached by an international documentary team to quote on creating their film trailer.  They are based in the States and putting the finishing touches onto a documentary about the Paleo lifestyle.  Its quite common for productions to get another editor/production company to then cut a trailer for them. They do this because either they are totally snowed under and can’t think about a trailer or they realise they are too close to the film and its best to bring in a second set of eyes and ears, or both!

The project hasn’t moved forward for us as yet, but the topic of the film got me thinking. Food has become a major issue in middle class society. In fact, it has become, I believe a major dividing point for many.  Ever since Tim Noakes turned around and publicly changed his mind about carbs, everything we have been told about food seems to have changed.  Well, maybe it started even before Prof. Noakes, with Jamie Oliver, taking us to see how the lamb you eat is slaughtered in Italy (as opposed to the UK) and then taking on the British government’s lunches for kids.  Some would have us believed it started with a guy called Banting that no-one had ever heard of but everyone now speaks oh-so knowledgeably about.

I’ve been privileged to observe in close up, the change in mindset of Cape Town’s fitness elite – from anti-fat and high carb to pasture-reared meat and ditching the croissants in favour of coconut oil. And despite the zealous look in the eyes of those “converted”, it is hard not to appreciate the benefits of a plant-based diet, eating animals that have been raised and slaughtered respectfully and cutting down on refined sugars and flour.

From a totally different perspective the “fat revolution” has changed the way nutritionalists treat eating disorders (and here Cape Town is leading the world in its approach). It has long been believed that over-eating and bulimic episodes can be “triggered” by white flour and sugar and finally there is proof. I personally believe that a more holistic and thoughtful approach to food in general, will speak to fewer young girls turning to anorexia as a coping mechanism.

Lastly, I am deep inside the belly of the “mommy wars” around food. Once you have a child, you realise that everything that goes into both your and their body, needs to be interrogated.  This can lead to some serious OCD-level obsession, high volume debate and also total exhaustion (on behalf of desperate mothers). The bottom line is you want the best quality stuff going into little bodies, before they become sallow and polluted like the rest of us.  The level to which you choose to take this quality control is, of course, up to you. For me, it changes daily depending on our levels of patience (me), cooperation (child) and availability (blergh, I hate supermarkets), but we generally try not to ruin the young one’s gut before we absolutely have to.

Anyway, all this bring me to my original point, which is, food used to be the dividing point between the haves and have-nots, but now it appears amongst the “haves” we are further dividing ourselves around differing beliefs about the necessity of organic fruit, home-made tomatoe sauce and venison bone broth.  While I am always keen to dive headlong into a diet as free of preservatives, pesticides, colourants and flavourants as possible, doing the work that we do and spending a lot of time with less privileged people, it does sometimes feel in very stark and crazy contrast.

Read more about the Paleo film here.

Follow the Sugar Free Princess here.

And check out Cape Town’s hottest food spot, Bacon on Bree here.


Looking Back / Looking Forward

Hi There!

We’ve been really really busy over here at Substance Films.  Hence our very lengthy silence (since, ahem, Christmas!).  But we’ve been working on some really worthwhile projects.  And that is our only excuse!

Take a look at one of the videos we recently made for WWF South Africa here.

More of this awesomeness coming soon!




Its time for a little break…see you in 2015!



bustin down the doors


So, its that time of year again: the trees are getting buds, the sun rises earlier, one thinks twice about donning one’s wetsuit when surfing Muizenberg and over in the video industry, we are all panicking because its quiet as hell.

As a professional video-maker (yes, I can call myself that after being in the industry for 12 years and owning a company for six), my absolute worst part of the job, is drumming up new business. I’m really lucky because 90% of the time, business comes to me through referrals or repeat clients, but sometimes, I have to put my big-girl bikini on and paddle out.  Which is what I’ve been doing this week.

I did the usual – call all the old clients, see what’s cooking and make some inappropriate jokes. Call all my friends, talk a lot of rubbish to them and at the end of the conversation, drop in a word about needing work. Nothing happened.

I realised I needed to bring out the big guns, so I waxed up my longboard and googled “Cape Town Advertising Agencies”. What came up was a whole bunch of old names and a whole bunch of new ones. This is Cape Town, after all.

I got really amped about all the small, new agencies, because I figured its cool to work with entities that have just started out – they’re more willing to take risks and more excited to make connections. Oh, how wrong I was.  My calls were 100% screened by small agencies. (In fact, one receptionist, informed me outright that they NEVER needed video production services….right.) So, I gathered names and email addresses as a consolation prize and set about crafting the “howzit” email. Hit send.

Then I called up all the big agencies and easily extracted all their producer’s names and details.  I wrote a “wazzup” email and off they went.

In all, I sent out 14 emails.  No replies. No surprises there.

The next morning I set about following up.  I called all the newer agencies first (we all know there are only two people working there fulltime and the owner is also the designer and and and…), thinking we could have a fun chat and get to know each other.  Boy, was I mistaken. All my calls were screened, except for one. And, to be honest, I wish they’d just told me he was busy or some other lie. It went something like this:

Me: Hi X, this is Yvette from Substance Films.  I sent you an email yesterday about us – we make video and I’m just reaching out to say hi and introduce you to us.

X: Who says “reach out”?

Me: (slight pause) Ha ha, of course, no-one does. Well, you know, X, I was just vibing an advertising vibe with you, but now that I see you are actually a cool human being, we can speak plainly (ie. let’s bond).

X: Where does that term actually come from?  Why do we even use it?

Me: Yeah, ha ha, whatever, buzzword bingo, aint life weird etc.

X: I saw your email, but you know, I’m busy, so whatever. To be honest, we don’t get many video briefs “through our doors”.

Me: Ok cool, well you know where we are now, if you need us.

X: (Then proceeds to lecture me on how to market my business using terms such as “point of difference” and “top of mind”.)

Me: (Attempting to control grinding of teeth) Thanks for the lecture, just one question…who says “top of mind”? (No – I didn’t say that, but oh how I wish I had.)

And that was the end of that.  X hopefully felt better about himself, because you know, sending out a newsletter is the most innovative form of soft marketing that exists and he definitely thought it up himself and I was left, well, speechless.

Shortly thereafter, I got a reply from one of the big agency (KingJames) producers, telling me she was on a shoot and then in an edit, but let’s connect when she’s done.  You know, like anyone with sense and dignity would do.

Because, honestly guys, I’m not trying to ruin your lives by introducing myself. I’m not some hardcore telemarketer reading from a script. I’m just a surfer girl with a couple of moves I’ve been working on and I’m genuinely excited to share them with you, so that when that brief does “walk through the door”, the client thinks you’re a total pro because you’ve already got a solution all lined up.

For now the wind may be blowing onshore, but the time will come when the sea is like glass and the waves are peeling.  And there’s nothing quite like paddling out with a new friend.

Surf’s Up!


Frozen in Time

A little winter special for all of our loyal clients – even those we haven’t met yet.

Looking forward to hearing from you!






susan sontag

This weekend I was delighted to read this from Brain Pickings, Brain Pickings is a truly exceptional collection of diverse, multi-disciplinary musings and curated reading material, mostly with a cultural bent. You should check it out…

“In 1978, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jonathan Cott interviewed Sontag in twelve hours of conversation, beginning in Paris and continuing in New York, only a third of which was published in the magazine. Now, more than three decades later and almost a decade after Sontag’s death, the full, wide-ranging magnificence of their tête-à-tête, spanning from literature and philosophy to illness and mental health to music and art, is at last released.”

You can buy Susan Sontag’s complete Rolling Stone interview as a book now from:


I love this quote on being a writer from Susan Sontag and think it applies just as much to filmmaking…

“Giving full attention to the world, which includes you … that’s what a writer does — a writer pays attention to the world. Because I’m very against this solipsistic notion that you find it all in your head. You don’t, there really is a world that’s there whether you’re in it or not.”

Susan Sontag


just a (smart) thought…

via PostSecret