Karien Cherry Did That

Remember the guy who invented the shoelace in 1970? Well, it was Harvey Kennedy and he made nearly two-and-a-half-million dollars from his invention (about fifty billion dollars today). Unfortunately iDidTht wasn’t around to document Harvey’s rise in the shoelace industry. But we’re here now and Karien Cherry from Giant Films has our attention. Look, she’s no shoelace inventor, but her body of work precedes her. Yes, that ad you love – Karien Cherry did that!

It’s an anomaly that some of us didn’t know that Karien directed the ads below. Maybe she’s too humble? Maybe she’s too busy actually working to promote herself on Facebook? Either way, here are just a few of iDidTht’s favourites from Karien’s reel.

Yup, Karien Did These

Sanlam ‘Tax Free Experiment’ Campaign

New Balance ‘Baby vs Dale Steyn’

‘Project Phoenix’ Documentary Short

SPCA ‘Family Swap’

In the last two years alone, Karien has accumulated some serious metal for her work, including awards from One Show, Crystal, Loeries, Bookmarks, SAFTAs and more. But obviously most importantly (to us at least) she received a ‘Special Mention in the iDidTht Craft Awards’ by Jonathan Beggs, Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi. Beggs on New Balance ‘Baby vs Dale Steyn’: “The outstanding TV commercial this month is not a TV commercial but an online piece for New Balance. (…) It’s beautifully handled by Karien Cherry from Giant Films. Directing celebrities and kids (and cats) is a lot harder than watching them!”

Karien’s Road To Success

Karien was born in Malawi, raised in Zimbabwe, has a South African ID, an American driver’s license, married a Brit, speaks Afrikaans, English, Shona and French and completely beside the point, but equally intriguing, especially if you’re a millennial, has recently deleted Facebook off her phone. She’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, and we think the key is in her work.

After school, Karien spent 5 years traveling the world as an actress with a performing arts troupe. She eventually decided to swap the theatre planks for the director’s chair and enrolled at AFDA Cape Town. It was during her honours in Writing and Directing that Karien first met director Ian Gabriel from Giant Films. Karien: ‘He came to give a lecture there and he was just so cool, chilled, approachable, a real breath of fresh air. I decided there and then that I was going to be his friend.’ We laugh, because that’s kinda cool, in a semi-creepy, but non-threatening, yet totally stalkery, kind of way.

With Ian’s background in theatre, the two immediately hit it off and during her final year at AFDA, Karien was interning at Giant Films. Karien: ‘I always say I did a degree at AFDA in film making and then I did another degree at Giant in advertising.’ Karien researched for Ian for three years and assisted on his feature film ‘Four Corners’. Oh, by the way, she has the most credits on that film, six to be exact #DropsMic.

Her first piece of directing work with Giant Films is still one of our faves.

Alice Phoebe Lou ‘Rebel Rose’

Karien: ‘Yeah, I love that one. It felt very me, very much my style. A lot of the work that I get to do is kind of spontaneous, off the cuff, documentary stuff, which I love. But when I get the chance to create visual imagery, like with Rebel Rose, there’s a certain aesthetic which I naturally gravitate to. I love cinematic visuals that have a grit and life in them. Beyond that, regardless of what genre I’m working in, there has to be truth that I can resonate with.’

Karien: ‘If I shot the most beautiful commercial, but it didn’t make you feel anything, I would be gutted. I want to make something that resonates.’ And that brings us to her latest work that you definitely know about, hold onto your remotes, because yes, Karien Cherry did this too.

Know more. Judge less.

When media owners start promoting themselves on their own platforms, most of us flip the channel or roll our eyes like ‘we get it, we’re already here watching, enough!’ But when eNCA hit us with their latest campaign, tackling bigotry, we turned up the volume. Karien: ‘When I got the scripts I couldn’t believe it. It was just so amazing. I didn’t need to sell toilet paper! It was definitely the most challenging work of my career and the highlight.’

eNCA ‘Runner’

eNCA ‘Car Guard’

eNCA ‘White Sotho

eNCA ‘Baby

Karien on ‘The Carguard’: ‘With this one it was really important to me that you were immersed in his world. So my treatment for that was all about his character and being in his space.’
Karien on ‘The Runner’:
‘On a craft level this was great because we got to shoot an action scene! I mean it was probably one of the best days of my life.’
Karien on ‘The Baby’: ‘I will never reveal how we got that baby to stare straight into the lens for that long!’

The ads have sparked a lot of debate and for a client to knowingly run a campaign that will polarize and undoubtedly offend parts of its audience is commendable. Karien: ‘They wanted to tackle prejudice and yes they’re getting heat, but they’re taking it because these conversations must be had, these ads have to be done.’ The six ads (some still to be released) were shot in three days…that’s about as long as it took us to binge watch Game of Thrones and somehow we look a lot less fulfilled than Karien.

iDidTht: ‘You worked with ECD and owner of BrandLab Mark Fisher on this campaign, what was your approach?’
Karien: ‘It’s about ‘know more, judge less’. So from a creator angle, we said to ourselves from the beginning that the biggest mistake we could make was to judge our audience. So the whole way through, we questioned if we were making a judgement about what people were going to think or say. We focused on being true to the core of the idea. It was about constantly checking our own prejudices and stereotypes. We knew people were going to be offended and so you consider who is okay to offend.’

Best Truth Game Ever

What keeps popping up during our time with Karien is her obsession with finding the truth. Karien: ‘In the words of Santu Mofokeng ‘I find beauty without truth unsatisfactory.’ For someone so focused on truth, we thought we’d put her to the test with our ‘Never have I ever’ questions…

1. Googled your own name?

2. Online stalked someone?

3. Wanted to faint during a pitch?

4. Kicked someone off your set?

5. Told the agency it would be fine when actually your head was exploding?

6. Told someone in the industry you loved their ad when you didn’t?

7. Totally pretended that awards aren’t important?

8. I wanted to strangle
Mark Fisher?

iDidTht: ‘Complete the sentence: ‘The power of film making is…’
Karien: ‘…filling in the subtle degrees of experiences that reveal our lives to one another’. Charles ​D. ​King said that, but I’m stealing it.’
iDidTht: ‘Woah, that’s deep.’
Karien: ‘Beyond that, for me, the power of film lies in its ability to affect an audience member beyond their conscious thinking. The best films don’t operate on a cerebral level, they move your soul, and stay with you once you’ve left the cinema.’
iDidTht: ‘We really like that! Can we take a picture of you looking pensive in a cinema and then write that on the photo so it’s officially your quote?’
Karien: ‘Sure, let’s do it!’

And with those words of wisdom from a dynamic director, we leave without paying for the bill (thanks Giant Films!). But Karien’s disarming authenticity and her determination to reflect the truth in her work stays with us. And now we know. Karien Cherry did that!

View Giant Films

Contact Giant Films

View Giant’s Profile on iDidTht
Executive Producer: Emma Lundy

Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Writer – Anne Hirsch / Art Director – Julie Maunder

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