Film Director Norman Maake returns to directing commercials, joining the team at Figment Films

Director Norman Maake is no stranger to the industry. He’s been responsible for directing various films, TV series, mini-series, documentaries and commercials. With his finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary South Africa and his love of big cinematic ideas, Norman gave us the juice on his return to commercials directing and his new home at Figment Films.

But first, some insight into how most of our Skype conversations kick off. Warning: You’re about to come face to face with some thrilling hard-hitting journalism, buckle up.

Norman: I’m in Joburg…
iDidtht: We’re in Cape Town…
Norman: Yeah, it’s cold here, I dunno what’s happening?
iDidTht: It’s windy here…
Norman: I wonder if it’s still flooding in Durban?
iDidTht: Dunno…
Norman: Winter hey?!

And now back to our regular programming…

Norman spent the first three years of his directorial career traveling the world with his debut film, Soldiers of the Rock, which played at over 100 international film festivals. A pretty illustrious introduction to the world of filmmaking and it didn’t slow down there. When he finally unpacked his bags back in South Africa he settled in as a commercials and TV Director, putting his name behind some of SA’s most loved and talked about shows including the drama ‘Skeem Saam’, ‘Entabeni’, ‘Unsung Heroes’ and the 13 part coming of age comedy for Mnet – ‘It’s Complicated’. He’s now found a home at Figment Films which is a perfect fit as it houses a range of Directors who work both in long form and commercials. His latest feature film ‘Love Lives Here’ is a romantic comedy centered around a modern woman with strong traditional values who’s been unlucky in love. The film explores uniquely South African relationships and features a star-studded cast.

‘Love Lives Here’ Movie Trailer

iDidTht: You look really relaxed for someone who’s just come off of a feature film.
Norman: Haha, that’s why you do comedy.

iDidTht: You’ve directed everything apart from the kitchen sink, but ‘Love Lives Here’ is such a beautiful authentically South African story, what inspired you?
Norman: I grew up in the townships in a time where we were being integrated as a country. It’s almost been three decades of watching the new South Africa evolve. What has impacted me is the little things in how we’ve changed along the way, what we’ve become and this idea of what being South African means and trying to embrace that. For me that’s authenticity, and it should always be present in my work. I also come with a strong cinematic background so I always try to merge the two. Whatever story I’m telling I try to be authentic about it and evolve cinema.

iDidTht: How do you think the film industry has evolved with the country?
Norman: We’ve always been a small industry but I feel creatively we are growing and things are starting to happen and happen fast. We are quickly becoming citizens of the world but we need a voice and I think that voice is gonna come from a movement, not from singular Directors or Producers. I think it’s going to come from all of us being inspired by the risks we take in order to be unique. Even though we’re always aspiring to be international, we are unique in what we say and where we come from and I think we are starting to embrace that.

iDidTht: What excites you about directing commercials vs. directing features or series?
Norman: To me, filmmaking, whether features or commercials, is always about culture – both have the power to inform our culture and the power to move and shift trends etc. A commercial is an opportunity to put an idea into the world; either it’s going to sell a product or position a brand by telling stories, but at the same time, it talks back to culture, just like films, which to me is the most exciting aspect.

Director Norman Maake Did That Ad

Whether it’s comedy or drama, Norman always pays attention to authentically portraying who we are as South Africans. He obsessively searches for honesty in his locations, storylines, settings and characters. Passionate about creating contemporary work that South Africans can see themselves in, Norman is a performance Director with a strong cinematic approach, eager to constantly challenge and evolve filmmaking.

Simba ‘Mapha’

Hansa ‘Vuyo’

White Star ‘Braai’

iDidTht: If we were to ask the actors you’ve worked with to describe you as a Director, what do you think they would they say?
Norman: They would say I am the nicest Director they’ve ever had, haha, true story. I love actors with all my heart, because they go through so much. To connect with another character you borrow from yourself and it’s a very vulnerable place to be in. As a Director I’ve learnt over the years that sometimes it’s not about what you want, it’s also about what your cast brings and then it’s about giving them the space to do what they need to.

iDidTht: Emerging from a lengthy stint filming longer formats, what would you say, apart from this moment right now with us, have been some of your career highlights?
Norman: When I just started out in the industry I got to do second unit on the film Catch a Fire. I got to shoot with the main actor, Derek Luke, and spent an entire day with him. He told me we were going to make a movie together.
iDidTht: OMG so you’re besties now right?
Norman: Haha, no.
iDidTht: But you have his phone number right?
Norman: No, guys I never heard from him again…
iDidTht: Okay, Derek, if you’re reading this (of course you are) please contact Norman immediately. He’s waiting to make that film!
Norman: Thanks guys! I always get so starstruck. Once I was in Hollywood and I met whatshername, Stone? Um?
iDidTht: Emma Stone.
Norman: No, um…
iDidTht: Sharon Stone?
Norman: Yes!
iDidTht: Show us a photo of the two of you immediately!
Norman: No guys, I couldn’t get one because I was too busy fangirling!
iDidTht: Ms Stone, if you’re reading this (of course you are), please contact Norman immediately to arrange a photoshoot. Thank you. Wow Norman, we’re really sorting things out for you. Hey, what’s that behind you over there in the corner? A guitar?
Norman: Yes, I tried to learn it but I gave up. Fun fact, I used to be in a Kwaito band called VIP.
iDidTht: Shut up!
Norman: Haha. It was while I was doing my Honours at AFDA many many years ago. We even released a single called Naledi.
iDidTht: Were you a singer, because, well you were obviously not the guitarist.
Norman: Yes, at one point we were recording in the same studio as TKZ, but after we released our single things kind of fizzled out.
iDidTht: That’s never a good sign. Look, would you like us to sort out your Kwaito career too?
Norman: Yes please!
iDidTht: Done.

Below, have a listen to the band VIP’s first ever single gang, featuring the angelic raps of Director Norman Maake.

Once we finished invoicing Norman for the incredible PR work we had done for him it was time to sign off. There’s no denying that Norman is passionate about connecting with our country and its people and has a wonderful way of translating that onto screen. He has a knack for local situational comedy, the ability to make people smile at themselves and ads his contemporary African vibe to everything he touches. We can’t wait to see what great things lie ahead for this gem of a man, that is if he doesn’t drop it all to pursue his emerging Kwaito career. But in the end, there’s one thing that will stay with us forever and something nobody can omit when talking about Norman. He has the most infectious laugh we have ever come across.

So much joy! 😂😂

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View Figment Films on iDidTht
Executive Producer: Di du Toit

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

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