the ploy to employment

According to Stats SA, as of the second quarter of 2013, there are 52,98 million people living in South Africa and the unemployment rate for the same period is 25,6%.

I have been saying for a while, I was going to address being a “good” employee in South Africa on Facebook.  And I have sat down a few times to write a bit of a rant about the young up-and-coming newly employable population in SA for a while.  Unfortunately, every time I sat down to write a rant about their attitude, or their sense of self-entitlement, or their slap-dash attitude, or their smartphone addiction, I realised that all of these irritating traits applied just as much to me when I was and up-and-coming employee, more than a decade ago.  Well, didn’t that put a dampener on my rant?

When I first became a teeny-tiny part of the film industry, back in 2002, I was lucky enough to land a job on an international feature.  I was beyond green; I was lumo green: terrified, learning on the job, desperate to please and did I mention terrified?  And I couldn’t understand why the production team gave me such a hard time.  Literally, tears every “day” (we were shooting nights), as they lambasted and abused me over the phone about something I had done wrong out of total ignorance (call sheets, DPR’s, time-sheets, call times, crew bookings, gear bookings, cast calls, you name it…).  I thought they were the devil and they hated me.  What I’m starting to grasp an inkling of now, is that they were just really busy and really frustrated with my attitude.

Yip, because despite being desperate to please and terrified, this didn’t translate into humility, but rather a slightly arrogant attitude and a penchant for pointing out when other people had made (what I thought were) mistakes, in an attempt to show my worth.  It couldn’t have been pretty.  And the “breaking” of me (I’m pretty sure we can just go ahead and call it that), that followed, wasn’t pretty either.  It wasn’t a great reaction to a less than great situation, but its what happened.  It took me years to get over it, but I might just have placed the last nail in the coffin of acceptance these last couple of weeks.

Because as I find myself becoming more and more of a “boss” person, I am having to find my own way to deal with up-and-coming attitudes.  How I navigate this process is a story for another time, but in the meantime, here are some hard and fast rules its NOT OK to break, if you wnat the job:

1.  Be on time, but don’t be a clock-watcher.

2.  Do your work with the most attention to detail and professionalism that you possibly can.  Especially the jobs that you believe are beneath you.

3.  Smile, take an interest in everyone you meet (yes, even the courier guy), make eye-contact and say thank you.

4.  Separate your personal life from your work life AKA Keep home at home AKA Be consistent in your work attitude.

5.  Do what you care about.  It shows in the way you work. No-one wants to employ the person who is only interested in that salary at the end of the month.  Or if you don’t care about what you do, work so hard and you do your job so damn well out of a sense of personal pride, that no-one cares.

6.  Listen and read.  First time, every time.

All of this is my opinion, based on my experience…here are a few traits other people think are important:

From here and from Forbes here.

What would your most important traits be?

Meantime, here’s an awesome pic of my cat, Radar Love..OMG, now she would make the worst employee EVER!





Africa Connected

You often hear of “interventionist” strategies to “save” Africa and our less “fortunate” groups of people.

You don’t often hear about a strategy to highlight poeple who have helped themselves and how they’ve done it.

When I saw Africa Connected it made me realise how important it is that REAL good news stories from Africa are highlighted and held up to the light.

Google is doing just that with this project…and rewarding those who submit handsomely for their ideas and achievements.  If you submit a story of how the web and Google has transformed lives in Africa, five stories could win 25 000 USD to growing that story as well as assistance from “Google Experts”.

Submission closes in 13 days, so if you haven’t already, you better get cracking…

Here’s the cool little video to explain the project.  Nice one, Google!

Substance Films 2013 Showreel

On this auspicious day, the 16 August 2013, we have updated our showreel.

Thank you to Danielle Sher, for her hard work and great eye in the edit suite for this!

Click HERE to enjoy.

Production Master Class – Lesson 2

Last night was the second in our series of 12 Producer’s Master Classes, funded by Wesgro and facilitated by Big Fish.

We did a split class, with the first half being presented by Monique and Chris from Kayos Casting and the second half by Lauren Groenewald from Plexus Films.

The first half was about casting for features and commercials and because I have a little experience in that field, it was fun to reminisce…like about the time I had to find a sign-writer for Lord of War and I managed to find an awesome guy in Cape Town, who really WAS a sign-writer (a dying art!), but when he arrived he was so short, he couldn’t reach the sign.  Ha! Not popular with the boss that day…

The second half of the session was about casting for documentaries and very interesting to me.  Lauren showed us some of her latest SABC series as well as some films she has recently produced as examples.  (You can catch the I am Woman series on Sunday at 09h30 on SABC 3. Its an inspirational show!) She discussed the treaty that is established between a documentary-maker and their characters early on and highlighted some ways in which this changes and develops.  She also told us what makes a good documentary character:

Someone the audience will care for;

Someone with a unique point of view;

Someone who has encounterred a journey or struggle that the viewer can join them on;

Someone who can reflect on their own story and experience.

This was truly, very interesting to me and a very worthwhile lesson for me.

Muizenberg Festival 2014

blog so quiet for ages, and then “boom”, I’m back!

As part of Cape Town World Design Capitol 2014, Muizenberg will be holding its very own festival!  YAY!

Here’s a short teaser animation from the likes of the idomitable Marcel Duvenage and Carlos Francisco.

Check out the Facebook page for more details!

I’m telling you, Muizenberg is Where Its At!

Market yourself!

So, last night was my first class in a six week, 12 module Master Class in producing.  The course is sponsored by Wesgro and facilitated by Big Fish. I am lucky enough to have been given a sponsored spot in the class, so even though I dread the drive to town on a Tuesday and Thursday evening, when I could be practicing my back-bends, I’m also delighted at the opportunity.  As Grant says, “maybe this is just what you need!” Ha!  That’s because he doesn’t have to go…grumble grumble…

Anyway, there I was with my hair in a pony-tail and a note-book and pen (no Iphone!!!) and it was actually very cool to be amongst fellow filmmakers, who are all just after the same thing – to make kick-ass South African films. Just that energy alone was enough to have me driving home singing and feeling inspired.

I mostly picked up tips on pitching from the lecturer, Savo Tufegdzic.  He equates the confidence you need to sell yourself and sell your film to being “that” person in a club that has no problem picking up whoever they want.  I kinda equated that to being the most drunk, but turns out its the same thing!  We had a laugh about this when I raised it in class, but I was thinking about it this morning and its absolutely true.  Whatever your poison, it gives you the chance to be yourself without all the “what if” voices in your head…and that’s the edge you need to pitch well and memorably.  If you ask me, that is.

To pitch well, I kind of have to pretend I am someone else who isn’t stressing about my current client project and how to make a R 50 000 budget into a R 100 000 budget and why the Final Cut keeps quitting and if we need a new offline edit suite…but you know, when I forget about all those mundanities, I remember why I got into this game in the first place and it leaves me…driving home singing and feeling inspired.

A really good place to be.  Thanks Universe!  Thanks Big Fish!  Thanks Wesgro!  (Thanks Florence + The Machine!)

6 August 2013


Rhodes intern blog posts

A million words

Her dirty blonde hair was hidden under her black peak cap. Her face wrinkled and tired, evidence of the days she spent standing in the hot, South African sun. Her mouth formed a welcoming smile, showing her chipped front teeth. People call her “Annie”, she told me. I met her after I made the almost 900 kilometre journey from Grahamstown to Cape Town. An eager, third year television student from Rhodes University, I had never set foot in Muizenberg before. After getting lost because of my terrible directional skills, I finally made it for my first day interning at Substance Films. Making a short film was one of the tasks we were given. This is where Annie comes in.

I noticed her outside the Muizenberg clinic where she has worked as a car guard for the past 19 years. Her charismatic nature draws you in, and she quickly became the subject of the short film. She has been homeless for over 20 years, and carries her belongings everywhere she goes. She’s one of those people who has been through hardship, but doesn’t make you feel sorry for her. What struck me most about Annie was how optimistic she was and how she truly cares for the wellbeing of others. Countless passers-by stopped to chat with her, and her animated personality made her all the more likeable. People like Annie are so thankful for the simple things that the rest of us often take for granted – a bed to sleep in, water to wash with, or food to eat.

It was Annie who reminded me of the humanity in people we often discard. And it was Annie who reminded me why I decided to study television in the first place. It has been said that “if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million” (Troy Olson and Jeff Loquist). Video has the ability to capture something special, a slice of life, if you will. If you peel back all the analytical layers of the media studies courses that Rhodes so prides itself in teaching, then you find a human essence which becomes hard to explain. Studying television has pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve met the most interesting people I’ve ever come across. Video makes it possible to share that experience with others. My week at Substance Films has undoubtedly solidified my future career decision to share millions of “words” with millions of people. It seems idealistic… But I can dream, can’t I?

by Katharine Holmes


Annie, could in a nutshell be the reason I’m studying journalism, specializing in television. I love people. I love how complex, how “story-filled” they are. I pass so many people each day and I forget sometimes, despite my love for them, that they all have a story. So when I have the opportunity of getting to know someone there’s no such thing as asking too many questions. I love watching someone be who they are. It sounds weird but closely watching someone’s mannerisms, watching a raw self unfold is, I think, one of the most beautiful things.  Many times during the day, I think we’re so busy doing things in a socially acceptable way, saying the rights things that our social selves seem to dominate conversation. Seem to dominate our lives. It’s thrilling watching someone introduce you to another self. Another part of their whole. The one you don’t usually get at a quick glance.

So there I was being introduced to another part of Annie. The person beyond the green/yellow bib. The person, who like she says, cares about other people when they are down. “I can’t stand to see someone else sad”, she said. “I’ve been through hell and back and I don’t want anyone else to experience it”. And when someone says they don’t have anything to give her, she responds saying “It’s not about that, it’s about keeping people safe”. This is Annie. Annie has been a car guard in Muizenberg for over 19 years. I must have seen her in Muizenberg because I have been staying here for over 12 years now, but I‘ve never really looked at her. Seen her. Seen beyond that green/yellow bib she wears.  In fact, I never even saw the bib. But on Wednesday, 26 June 2013, I saw her. Now, I don’t in anyway think I know her entire life story (although she did give me quite a bit to work with), but I now know a little bit about her. I know if her eyes become green to “back off”, I know how seriously she takes her job, I know she really just wants a room to come back to.  A room which still has what she left in it the morning she left for work. I know that she, in spite of her situation, thinks that because she is able to keep her “stuff” dry, that, that is a blessing.

Some people hesitate as they unfold. She didn’t. Every “throwing of the hands in the air”, every chuckle, invited you into another part of her. A part, which like the place she lived, was open to everyone. It’s like she was, like she is, a part of Muizenberg’s story. A story, just waiting to be read.

  • Annie is a woman myself and Katharine Holmes (another intern) interviewed and filmed when interning at Substance Films. 
by Robyn Wertheim.
Watch the video Robyn and Katharine made here:

Variety is the spice of life

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour.”

Ever wonder who wrote that?  Well, its a quote from William Cowper’s Poem “The Task”, written in 1785.

Poor William was offered the job as the Clerk of Journals in the English House of Lords, but cracked under the strain of his studies and had to be institutionalised. After recovering, he took life a little slower and wrote some famous poems and hymns.  Many of which we quote today without even knowing it.

His poem “Light Shining out of Darkness” gave the English language the idiom, “God moves in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform.”  He also wrote a number of hymns, which I recognise from school, but couldn’t really sing from memory anymore.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say, was that at Substance, we truly subscribe to the belief that variety is the spice of life.  We love to have fingers in many pies.

For this reason, in 2011 we expanded our repertoire of services, to include multi-media campaigns.  Our service providers also grew to incorporate some old-hand experience in advertising, as well as new-school digital and PR friends.  Since then we have produced multi-media campaigns, for amongst others Sonke, The SafetyLab, Grassroot Soccer and the Prevention in Action Project.  I have really enjoyed the multi-platform, cross-cutting approach as well as the introduction to strategy and expanding my repertoire of media.

I believe the power of story-telling carries across all media and is pretty universal really, so its been fun to invite clients to take life a little slower with us and make some magic together.

If you are looking for some campaign direction or just want to make the story of your brand sing a little louder, give us a call and let’s chat.

‘Til next time!


Busy times

Over the last few weeks, Substance has been awash with proposal writing, quoting and conceptualising.  The saying is so true, there is indeed a time to reap and a time to sow.  And we are sowing furiously!

Amongst all of this, we have also done some “real work”, as our tattoo documentary starts to take shape in the edit suite, under the watchful eyes, ears and fingers of Jessica.  Originally the documentary was going to be entitled “SIX Skin”, but I’m leaning towards the title “Common Ground”.  The phrase comes from an interview with legendary tattooist Paul Booth, who says of meaning in tattoos “there are things that come up to be common ground, not matter if you are a lawyer, a doctor or a machinist…”

Another favourite quote of mine is from tattoo historian, Lyle Tuttle.  When I asked him what he thought of the tattoo reality shows, he replied: “they’re a finger down the throat to me!  Its a bunch of silly asses, being silly asses…”

These are just a few of the highlights I can’t wait to share with the world when “Common Ground” is all done. Its still a little while a way, but I’m excited!

And, back to the proposal writing I go!