Tag Archives: creativity

How well do you know your brand?

 

LEGO advert from 1981 with text 'What it is is beautiful'

LEGO advert from 1981

I’ve sat down with first-time entrepreneurs in Cape Town, young creatives in Johannesburg as well as colleagues in a global non-profit. When I ask them to describe their brand, their response is usually a string of positive words like this:

“It’s innovative”
“It’s friendly, for everyone”
“It’s cool”
“It’s trustworthy”
“It says quality”
“It’s brave”

The problem with this is that one brand can’t be everything. You might Continue Reading…

South Africa can learn from Rwanda’s Hillywood

Still from 'Finding Hillywood', showing young audience

I saw a film on Saturday that made me wonder what South Africa’s film industry is doing wrong. It was ‘Finding Hillywood ’, shown as part of the Design Indaba FilmFest 2014.

The documentary is about a festival that travels between rural Rwandan towns, screening films by Rwandan filmmakers on a large inflatable screen. These free public screenings seem to attract the attention of the whole town, especially the children. What surprised me, was their reaction.

The kids appeared to be mesmerized by the experience of seeing a story told in their language, Kinyarwanda. It made them identify with the characters in a way they hadn’t experienced before. The synopsis of ‘Finding Hillywood’ even states that “this is the first time they have seen a film, let alone one in their local language’. I wondered why.

Are there no TV dramas in Kinyarwanda that these kids had seen before? In South Africa, this novel experience doesn’t occur because SABC TV dramas basically cover every South African official language.

The novelty of seeing a film in their own language made the Rwandan audience look past the low-budget quality of the films. To this Rwandan audience what matters is novelty and identification, not production quality.

South African filmmakers aren’t as lucky. Most young filmmakers will tell you that their shortfilm won’t be taken seriously if they don’t sink tens of thousands into production costs. There are exceptions of course, such as using a mockumentary style. But in general, there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of money you spend on lighting and the impression of quality viewers will get from your film. As a result we don’t see South African filmmakers make thousands of cheap movies each year using the Nigerian film industry approach, informally known as ‘Nollywood’. Instead we see a handful of large films, usually funded by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) or foreign capital that promote nation-building or cater to foreign perceptions of South Africa. The NFVF isn’t even interested in the Nollywood model, presumably because they’d feel embarrassed to support low-budget films made purely for a local audience.

Still from 'Finding Hillywood'

Can we solve this problem? Is there a way to override the quality bias and have a film industry that creates more jobs by producing thousands of small films a year that South Africans will want to watch? I think it is possible, and I look toward music for examples.

What’s a better song, ‘Seven Nation Army’ or Michael Jackson’s ‘You Rock My World’? See, in music there isn’t that same correlation between production cost and quality. Because of the proliferation of music genres, there are more paths to success available to musicians than there are for directors. We need to cut new paths if we want to see more South African films. They could be B-movies. They don’t have to be projected on a big screen and they don’t have to be two hours long.

Why aren’t there posters of South African TV shows?

 

 

I was browsing eBay the other night looking for posters of TV shows I liked as a kid. But I realized that what I was looking at wasn’t what I really wanted to buy: posters of South African TV shows.

I did a Google search and couldn’t find any. But why would I expect to find it for sale? The SABC wouldn’t sell merchandise of its shows and private printers wouldn’t have the high resolution images needed to make a poster.

So what’s the solution?

We get local illustrators to create new posters of iconic South African TV shows. It could be done like the posters of Cape Town landmarks that 10and5 curated last year. Each illustrator has free reign to pick their favourite local show and design a poster for it. The Minimal Movie Posters style might be a good point of reference.

The first collection could be of TV shows. After that they can do classics of other art forms such as novels and plays. I wouldn’t mind owning a People are living there, Toorberg or Siener in die suburbs poster.

What posters would you like to see?

 

 

Lake of Stars could be even better

 

I’ve dedicated two previous blog pieces to what was cool about the Lake of Stars experience. Now in this final instalment, I’ll dish out some constructive criticism.  Here are three ways it could be even be better:

#1 Make it easier to get there

The big problem here is that flights, much like bandwidth, are still too expensive across Africa. A flight from Johannesburg to Blantyre costs R5,100. You know where else you could fly with that money? Milan.

There is hope though. 1Time has announced that it will offer flights to Kenya this year at a cheap R1,619. SAA currently offers the same flight at the might-as-well-fly-to-New-York -and-back price of R8,338. Hopefully we’ll see cheaper flights to East and West Africa in the next few years.

At half the price of a plane ticket, the festival organised a special bus from Johannesburg, but only two festival-goers made use of this. I was one of them. It was a trip full of highlights and trouble, but never dull.

I hope they don’t cancel the bus this year. If organized and promoted properly, it could become a jolly, music-filled bus ride,  similar to the MK Avontoer.

On the local level, transport could also be easier between the resorts in Mangochi .  If your lodging wasn’t at the festival site, getting home at night was tricky and unreliable. An hourly shuttle service could solve this.

 

#2 Make it easier to spend money

If you’re running a business, one of the things you don’t want is a shortage of ATMs and credit card facilities. There was only one ATM at the festival and when it inevitably stopped working, the only other ATM for miles was in town. To get to town, you’d have to pay for a taxi. So if you happened to be broke, as most ATM-seekers are, you’d find yourself in a proper Catch-22.

The only place I could find where you could pay for food or drink with a credit card was the Nkopola restaurant.  And even they treated a credit card transaction like a strange and inconvenient custom. Paying took a long time, and you had to do it at the front desk. Once the payment went through, a letter, not a receipt, was printed out for you to formally sign. It ultimately became amusing, something to joke about with the receptionist.

 

#3 Make it like Ibiza

Wait, hear me out first. I’m not suggesting it should imitate Ibiza’s electronic dance music or its island-of-vice reputation.  Lake of Stars should strive to have the cultural significance of Ibiza. In the same way Ibiza incubated the Balearic Beat in the 80s, Malawi could be the playground of an emerging sound. It could be a place where musicians showcase new material, learn from one another and compete. Sometimes, isolation breeds innovation. We’ve seen influential music scenes develop in peripheral places like Seattle, Manchester and Bellville. Let Mangochi be the next.