April this year was a momentous month for the team at Giant Films. Partners Ian Gabriel, Cindy Gabriel and Emma Lundy launched Giant95 – a fresh new offering tapping into the zeitgeist of the next generation of filmmakers, set to answer a call for quick and agile filmmaking solutions in Joburg. We met up with Cindy and Emma, and Giant95 Creative Producer Allison Swank and Giant95 Director Thati Peele to find out the ‘why, who, what and where’ of Giant95.
Cindy breaks it down: ‘Giant95 will cultivate a future culture within the Giant Films family in Joburg. The Directors from both Giant Films and Giant95 will crossover on rosters depending on what briefs come in, which will in turn offer invaluable opportunities for mentorship, development and collaboration between everyone within the Giant family.’
Whether it’s traditional commercials, short films, music video, documentaries or content pieces, for Giant95 it’s all about the attitude in their approach to the work. Allison, who shares Cindy’s passion and sensibility around developing talent, adds: ‘It’s a lighter can-do approach to filmmaking with an agile mindset which also means we are nimble in the way we work.’
iDidTht: Look, we’ve heard rumors that Giant Films is doing pretty damn well, so why Joburg and why now?
Emma: Well, currently the lion share of our work for Giant Films comes from Joburg agencies, so seeing as we’re working in Joburg daily, we felt that this offering would consolidate and build on our long-established roots in the city.
Cindy: There are so many exciting Directors emerging that have a fresh view on filmmaking and we wanted to create a home for them and create a place to exchange and share ideas. Ian has been mentoring and guiding generations of filmmakers, and there’s a real excitement from our Giant Films roster to continue in that spirit to support and collaborate with the Giant95 roster.
Thati: Something very special is happening in Johannesburg right now – culturally and artistically but especially with the young generation of creatives who have the ability to access that space really quickly and move on projects quite lightly. I think that is probably the best way to define why we are in that space. You’ll also find there are so many different continental voices in Joburg that it feels like a lot of what’s happening on the continent has microcosms in Joburg and that adds another layer to it. It’s very special.
Allison: I moved to Joburg from New York almost 5 years ago and have never looked back. I teamed up with Director Adriaan Louw in Joburg and we have shot some of our best films here. The raw talent and brilliant creativity in the city captivated our international clients and kept them coming back. Adriaan and I found our home in Giant Films. It’s a big honour for me to live and work in Joburg and to head up ’95.
Cindy: Ian tells the story about ‘Giant’ being the last movie that James Dean made – he died in a road accident eight days after he finished shooting, and it was also one of the first movies that Dennis Hopper made. So ‘Giant’ was the movie that saw the baton of cool passing from one generation to the next. So back in 1995 we thought that Giant was a good name for our edgy film company, with Ian as one of the very few Directors of colour in the commercial industry at that time. Now Giant95 references the year Giant first launched in 1995, that’s its origin story and I think it gives Giant Films fresh validation and renewed purpose with the combined rosters representing four Directors of colour, and four women Directors in our pool of eight. So it’s really an origin and a legacy story. And this is just the beginning, there is plenty of work to be done.
After Allison and Cindy had been wandering around Victoria Yards, a short walk from where Giant Films first opened its doors, they decided then and there that that would be where Giant95 would be based.
Cindy: Joburg is very much who we are and where Ian and I come from and this feeling of coming full circle, in our old neighborhood, is very important to us.
Emma: Timing has been fortuitous – Thati was standing by and ready to shoot for FoxP2 as Giant95 opened its doors, and our most recent signing, Thea Small, just finished shooting her first piece, featuring Sho Madjozi.
We caught up with Ian to hear what he had to say…
Ian: What I’m loving most is that we have fresh opportunities to collaborate with and provide meaningful mentorship to our new Directors – and that culture has just kept spreading through the company. On most of our shoots we make sure that there’s a collab between one of our more experienced Directors and our newer Directors. A lot of the collaboration happens up front at the idea and discussion stage when we all work together to deliver the best possible creative for the job. Between us there’s a great openness and diversity providing a real fresh and interesting take on so much we can embrace that threads through all our creative endeavors. Thati helped me out on my last job, which had a two week turnaround, and we had a lot of fun working together on that.