Emilie Badenhorst – Director
‘I will always push to take this approach of working collaboratively with actors, even in the most time-sensitive commercial projects I tackle. Sure each project is different and asks for different outcomes, but there will always be a way in which I try to connect on an even deeper level with the performers to allow them to tell the stories with me.’
Q from Jabu for Emilie Badenhorst: You studied drama, what skill do you think it gave you in directing?
I feel like so many of my skills in this industry came from studying performance, from breath work, to other voice work, to improv, to choreography and blocking etc. But I would say the most crucial thing that I took away from those years was ‘a way of thinking and seeing’. Seeing each and every project or product as something that must be improved and find a deeper meaning, honesty or intention. It allowed me to never be just content with a performance, but push through difficult questions or new approaches with each performer, until you actually believe them. Even in the smallest little details or scenes that others might think as just a cutaway or a ‘quick’ moment.
Q from Jabu for Emilie Badenhorst: What is your favourite piece of your work from the past year and why?
Narrative-wise, it would have to be our new short film ‘’n Doop om Stilte’ / ‘Baptism of Silence‘ which is now on the festival circuit, because it opens up the conversation of ‘Where does toxic masculinity transfer itself from generation to generation in this country, that we are still seeing an increase in GBV?’. And also to be honest, the young men and boys we were able to work with and how much fulfilment and purpose they found during this project has meant more to me than any award could ever.
Commercially I would say the work I did for ‘Google Pixel X Women’s World Cup 2023’ in the UK starring Lauren James and local women footballers, because of our complete and utter organic approach in simply filming the footballers for who they are and how they live and breathed football. When someone opens up their world to you and that same world revolves around the sport you are both so obsessed with – there’s nothing quite like it!
Q from Nicole for Emilie Badenhorst: I’ve always been so inspired by your passion projects can you talk a little about your process of coming up with ideas and what draws you to those pieces of work?
That is so cool to hear Nicole and I LOVE this question! You know why? Because I am in love with where my inspiration comes from, it is so embarrassing but so exciting to me. Every single passion project, from films to music videos are based on my hometown, my upbringing, my friends, their lovers, my lovers, the spaces I associate myself with that are so often on the outside of mainstream culture and society, the problems, conflict and misunderstanding that lie in these spaces and then lastly, my church. I kid you not. I will sit down and not 10 minutes later, be overwhelmed with a visual and euphony tapestry of ideas and a drive of importance to craft them.
From there I just build playlists, mood boards, recordings and write down personal and vulnerable experiences. Often the things that you as a creative think ‘Ah I can’t write this down, it is too intimate, it is too personal’ – but isn’t that why we’ve been blessed to create, utilising those emotions and moments, then passing them on to a character, allowing them not to be yours anymore. Anyway, I am getting sidetracked. And often I would build different sensory worlds, not knowing yet where it would lead me, but soon an opportunity arrives and then we create. We tell that story, in whatever form it is meant to be told.
Q from Nicole for Emilie Badenhorst: You have such an incredible sensitivity for performance, can you talk a little about your process of working with actors?
Thank you for saying this, (also same to you Nicole). I believe the MOST important thing in working with actors when it comes to the process for me is trust. Connecting, bonding and allowing the actors to let you in and trust you goes beyond anything for me. I will spend time connecting with actors way before we start the shoot and simply ask them about their experiences or anything relating to the project and topic at hand. I will delve deeper and deeper into the conversation, prioritising it over any other time-consuming activity until I feel they will be able to play freely and give a very dear and personal part of themselves to the character that they will be playing.
Q from Nicole for Emilie Badenhorst: Can you talk a little about how women have helped you on your journey?
To be honest, both men and women have made imprints in my journey, but if I can be so forward to speak about you Nicole. You have actually made a really big impact on me in this industry. Not only by the complete selfless sharing of knowledge, the always-making-myself-available-if-you-have-any-questions, the detail and care with which you answer my questions that are seeking for knowledge, but mostly because I have gotten to know the industry as an extremely competitive space, and you completely debunked that stereotype for me. You have reshaped the way I understand and celebrate that we can as women flourish and create excellent work alongside each other, strengthening one another and being there for one another, because at heart, none of us belong to the exact same goal and project, we are all so different.
Lastly the women producers at ROMANCE and what they have taught me about endless love, support and fighting spirit. Ja, there isn’t enough space in this interview, to be honest.
Q from IDIDTHAT for Emilie Badenhorst: Almost two years ago now we spoke to you about your music video for Strangers and how driven you are as a director to tell stories about those not always represented in media or seen as ‘strange’. Has this shifted over the past two years?
No, this has not shifted in the slightest, on the contrary it has only been strengthened. This will always be part of my intention as a storyteller in the industry, to reveal how multilayered and complex we are as human beings, in the mundane and not-so-mundane moments of life.
Q from IDIDTHAT for Emilie Badenhorst: Your short film Ekstasis saw you working very collaboratively alongside your actors, does this happen in all your commercial work too or do you have different approaches depending on the project?
I will always push to take this approach of working collaboratively with actors, even in the most time-sensitive commercial projects I tackle. Sure each project is different and asks for different outcomes, but there will always be a way in which I try to connect on an even deeper level with the performers to allow them to tell the stories with me.
Q from IDIDTHAT for Emilie Badenhorst: If you had to choose a piece of work directed by Jabu and Nicole that you wish you directed, what would it be?
Off the bat none, because I could not imagine any of them being something that they aren’t in its totality. But I can tell you which I can appreciate most?