Figment Films – For the Love of Craft

Figment Films is a production company that is home to a trio of diverse directors, divided in their background and approach but unified in their attention and consideration to the craft. No longer wanting them to merely be a Figment of our imaginations (apologies), we meet them in real life where all meetings in Cape Town take place, a very instagrammable and oh-so-craft coffee shop.

Figment Films is focused on commercial, narrative and long form development and was launched by Director Robin Goode and Producer Di du Toit in 2015. In 2017 commercials Director Gregg Bailey joined the team and in February this year, long form Director Oliver Hermanus jumped on board.

Robin orders a cup a Five Roses tea, Gregg opts for some Rooibos, while Oliver sips on some Mint tea, all uder the watchful eye of Producer Di. This drinks order alone would give you enough material to write a very interesting treatment for this interview scene.

Left: Director Gregg Bailey | Middle in moon-boot: Director Robin Goode | Left: Director Oliver Hermanus

As directors (and also as people who order tea), the three Figment Directors are all totally unique in their perspectives and creative approach. Oliver has a rich background in directing features which influences how he approaches commercials, Gregg and Robin both have backgrounds in advertising which means they get the business of the ad and Robin is also currently directing a feature film.

iDidTht: Your journeys have all been so different, how do you approach the work at Figment?
Oliver: I can get very bogged down by the process of long form work because it’s so laboured by a certain level of detail in honesty, performance and character. Commercials allow me to experience genres in a sense that I wouldn’t normally. It’s a holiday away from the isolation. On commercials, there are a lot more people who you are counterpointing ideas and decisions with, so it’s a more inclusive process. But it’s also enriching and stimulating in a different way. I get to explore my ideas about certain things that I never do in film.
Gregg: For myself and Robin, coming from an advertising background, we get excited about the idea. Being on this side of the fence as directors, the idea is still king for us. Even for Oliver, because in features there is a central thread that runs through the whole movie and it’s a single thing that you focus on from beginning to end. From an advertising perspective, when I see a good idea I get excited regardless of where that script comes from.

iDidTht: Apart from the idea and a good cuppa, what else are you all three passionate about?
Rob: The willingness to push and break through the expectations. We try to elevate the work to something else and we add value by crafting.

The Figment reel is, like their directors, diverse, but whether it’s the treatment, performance, location, framing or post-production, the team always carefully oversee every aspect of the process with a sincere focus on the craft.

iDidTht: Working so closely together, how would you all describe each other’s work?
Gregg on Robin: Robin is very careful with the handling of the core idea and not killing it. Every shot and all the music and cast and every frame is pushing that idea forward to get you to the point where you go – ‘Wow that’s a successful commercial!’ With Robin, the handling of the idea is so good from an advertising perspective. When I watch his commercials I know exactly what it wants me to do or feel or what it’s trying to sell. Sometimes it’s on an emotional level, sometimes it’s more direct.

Sanlam ‘Genius’

Telkom ‘Prodigy’

ABSA PSL ‘Rivalry’

Oliver on Gregg: I’m from a world where the biggest sin you can commit is to fall in love with the picture over the character. In a movie, if the audience loses sight of the character or doesn’t care or feel for the character, you fail. This is a cardinal sin. But Gregg has a visual language in his work that I really enjoy. I always wonder how he does it or where a certain reference or inspiration comes from. I firstly try to make sense of the people and he makes sense of the visuals. He wants to execute that big idea in a very visually dynamic and interesting way. In a way that made me panic when I started out in commercials. I think that’s his strength – that bravery, excitement and wanting to play with visuals. There is so much detail that goes into crafting his images and Gregg really knows how to put a picture together.

Business Day ‘Education’

Scouts ‘Learn it Young’

Adidas ‘My Club’

Robin on Oliver: Advertising has so much bubblegum, but when I look at Oliver’s work it’s authentic in its intent and its honesty. It feels very human. In the world of plastic that is a great trait to have. The more human your stories and ads feel the more connection there is. It’s intimate. I think he gets that from his features and being inside the minds of his characters. He can make a scene tell more than the sum of its parts. He can make you climb into somebody’s head in 20 seconds because he shoots it in a certain way and he understands how to do that. I think a lot of ads try that but he does it very well and effortlessly.

Encounters ‘Theft’

MTN Business ‘Coffee’

The Endless River ‘Trailer’

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know all About You

iDidTht: Although we feel we’ve covered your choice in tea, there are one or two things we’d like some more insight on…Figment are you ready?!
Figment: (Inaudible screaming)

Q: Di is most likely to get arrested for…

Q: Oliver is most likely to become…

Q: Robin is most likely to retire in…

Q: Gregg is most likely to win a…

iDidTht: Does Figment have any plans on growing even bigger or is this the team for now?
Rob: We’re small and independent and we want to focus on pushing the craft, but not letting the beast get bigger than the work. We focus on what we do and put the money where it’s needed in the production.
Di: There’s no bullshit.
iDidTht: Spoken like a true Producer!
Di: Ha! It’s not an ego-driven thing, for us it’s about team work. If we’re working with certain agencies it’s because we really want to work with them and they want to work with us and it’s not because we have to. We always said that we couldn’t grow bigger than we could handle. And it’s very important for us to remain personal.

iDidTht: Di, let’s talk business- why should an agency or client call up Figment?
Di: We don’t over-quote. We are very considerate to the budget. Scripts with us will never be glossed over. We work as a team and we don’t just come and deliver something to you, we work with you. We will never over-promise and under-deliver. We will promise what you need and what you want but we will always give more. We will never ever just give the basic.
Oliver: We are the best quality at the best price- call now!  Haha!

Well there you have it! These Figment filmsmiths (if that’s not a word, it should be now!) are all about the craft and there’s a careful, often painful consideration that goes into every aspect of film. As Di says, ‘there’s no bullshit’ and with them, what you see is what you get and we gotta say, what we see is pretty damn refreshing!


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Executive Producer: Di du Toit

Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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