Face-to-Face with iDidTht: Featuring SJ from 7Films
You might recognise Director SJ from 7Films as the guy in the cool suit bagging some heavy metal at Award Shows. But just how seriously should we be taking a 24 year old millennial who is determined to change the world through film? Stand back cynics, he’s the real deal!
‘I back myself. As long as my head is in the game anything is possible. It’s already written in the stars, it’s just about taking it.’ – SJ
Siphiwe Myeza who insists on going by his ‘street name’ SJ because only his mother calls him Siphiwe, is obsessed with telling touching and authentic South African stories with beautifully crafted sincere characters. At 22 he walked away with Silver and Gold Loeries, making him the youngest director to win ever. In 2017 he won Gold at Cannes Lion, was the only African representative to be named as one of the winners at the YG15 awards and became the 1st recipient of the Young Guns Creative Choice Award. At that age we were still mourning the death of our Tamagotchi so excuse us while we reassess our life goals!
Damn, sit down David Beckham, SJ’s got this ‘dressing’ thing down to a T #RedCarpetReady
iDidTht: SJ, you’ve already had recognition the world over, is the dream to eventually go overseas?
SJ: I have a deep passion for South Africa and I want to build the industry here. I don’t believe in exporting local talent. And who knows, one day I might possibly tell a South African Oscar-winning narrative.
iDidTht: We can’t wait! Apart from directing beautiful commercials, one thing that is consistent in your work is the emotion and the sense of character. What drives you when approaching a job?
SJ: What guides me when directing commercials is the attempt to make them as sincere as possible. For me, it’s more important that each frame makes me feel something or creates a connection with the performance. I always look for a reaction in the rushes, before I go to the edit. If a shot doesn’t make me feel the…I use the word ‘tingles’, then it’s not ready. I always ask the team ‘from 1 to 10, how many tingles did you feel?’ So that guides all my work.
SJ demonstrating what it looks like to feel the ‘tingles’.
SJ explains that his love of film is not from an obsession with the craft, but rather the inspiration he receives from the language of film and what that allows him to do. He could have been musician, an author, a poet or a politician. Film is just a language he chose to learn.
SJ: If you look at Ali, he wasn’t just a boxer, he was an activist, he was a social commentator and that’s what drives me and that’s what I’m obsessed with and it just so happens that film is my language. To achieve influence through film is my aim, that’s what keeps me up at night and that’s what informs the kind of stories that I tell.
SJ is making big moves in the industry and is already a majority shareholder of the company he loves so dearly, 7Films. A quick glance at his reel proves that if anyone is on the right path to change the world with storytelling, it’s him! Here are some of iDidTht’s favourite picks from the SJ Reel – yup, these give us the tingles!
SJ: Surfshack and Johnny Walker are very close to me and Checkers is up there especially because of the experience of shooting that. That little boy is the strongest human being I have ever come across. He is completely blind, lives in a small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with his two brothers and he is always smiling. We put some cans (earphones) on him and it was like his world exploded, and he became very close to the sound guy, loved him. He knew everyone by touching your face or smelling you. That kid is unbelievable.
iDidTht: If you could tell a truly South African story, what brand would you choose to partner with?
SJ: Lion matches. There have been lighters, there have been vapes, there have been so many technological advancements but still in 2018 we use Lion matches…for braais, paraffin lamps, you name it. They have walked history with us. Matches are so primal but they are still here and still a very big part of our lives and so South African. I think I could totally write something super dope for them.
Lion Matches, if you’re reading this (of course you are), we highly recommend your marketing team contact SJ immediately!
Sending Down the Ladder
You’d be seriously mistaken to confuse SJ’s confidence or ambition for arrogance. If there’s one thing this young director is as passionate about as creating strong South African narratives, it’s giving back to the industry or what he calls ‘bringing down the ladder’.
SJ: The secret in supporting young talent in this industry is mentorship and there is a gaping hole when it comes to people willing to teach. I am blessed to have had Lourens van Rensburg (owner of 7Films), who really understood the notion of mentoring. It’s not about teaching someone the skill to be a director, it’s about building their lives, teaching them to be responsible business people and how to use their art form to support themselves and the people around them. We should be mentoring to create transformation, not cash cows.
And SJ has already started taking his own advice. He recently teamed up with Creative Director Nkanyezi Masango and founded Blackboard, a company focused on transforming the creative industry by inspiring disadvantaged high school students to participate in it.
SJ: Blackboard follows the philosophy we have about ‘sending down the ladder’, going to disadvantaged schools and teaching them about film and advertising and that it’s aviable career path. Obviously, the challenge is, because it’s Nkanyezi and myself, that we are very busy, but we’re trying our best and we appreciate as much help as we can get.
Category is: Cover Star
So what does the man who is going to change the world need to do next? Learn to pose of course! After all, we see quite a few magazine covers in his future. So we put him to the test.
Before SJ can even start our challenge, fellow 7Films director Dirk van Niekerk and Lourens van Rensburg, start helping to find SJ’s best light, holding the laptop up at the optimum angle and choosing the best background… guys it became a full on Skype photoshoot!
15 minutes later, after everyone is happy…we start.
iDidTht: Your first pose is for the cover of GQ.
Dirk: Take your shirt off!
iDidTht: Time Magazine Person of the Year cover pose.
Dirk: Take your shirt off!
iDidTht: Sports illustrated…
Dirk: Take your shirt off!
SJ: I have to…nah!
Dirk: Take it off!
iDidTht: *inaudible screaming*
SJ pulls Lourens into shot!
Well played SJ, well played!
SJ might be a young director, but he’s hit the scene hard and we couldn’t be more excited. His work is full of maturity, sincerity and depth and we are especially excited for his upcoming spots releasing soon, which he guarantees will give us more tingles than ever before.
Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Writer – Anne Hirsch / Art Director – Julie Maunder
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