Meet Chess. The New Director Team at Ola! Films.

Turns out Paula Abdul was right, opposites do attract. Just over four months ago, two directors, who couldn’t be more different, decided to join forces to create a directing dream team of equal parts authenticity and fearlessness. Justice Mukheli and Amy Allais from Ola! Films are here to prove that two brave minds, really are better than one.

Justice and the School of Life

Justice attended Athlone Boys’ high school, and while the rest of us were watching Simba Surprise and couldn’t even keep our Tamagotchi alive, Justice taught himself Design and Fine Art in his spare time. Justice: ‘I enjoyed it so much I ditched all my other interests and only focused on design and illustration. I never went to any kind of advertising or art school, so a lot of what I know I learnt from mentors and the rest is self taught.’ Soon his photography and illustrations got noticed by advertising guru Neo Mashigo and so began Justice’s career in advertising, first at FCB and then as an Art Director at Ogilvy.

Amy’s Path Was Clear

Amy was always destined for great things in this industry. Fresh out of film school, after graduating from AFDA with majors in Directing and Editing, Amy directed a show on KTV which she now refuses to name (we really hope it was Simba Surprise). After abandoning the daytime children’s entertainment scene, she ended up joining Fresh Eye Films as a researcher and soon worked herself up to director, eventually becoming the founding partner of Ola! Films.

Justice: ‘I was in advertising and Amy was directing an ad I was working on with Ola!. I was doing a lot of photography at that stage alongside my two brothers.’ The photography trio was called ‘I See a Different You’ – a collective focused on conveying distinctly South African and African stories through a local lens. ‘Amy said I should try directing, as she noticed a lot of natural storytelling in my photos. I showed her a short film I directed and she even shed a little tear. To be fair, she cries really easily.’
Amy: ‘This is true…’

Justice’s first short film – ‘WarChild’

Amy’s Eye For Talent

Amy has shot everything from the lighter, more humourous ads, to the big financials. A quick glance at her film reel, displays a motley crew of delectably weird and wonderful characters. Amy: ‘Justice has an amazing eye and he’s extremely visual, while I tend to focus more on performance.’ Amy’s obsession with each of her characters has garnered her quite a reputation and a beautiful array of crazy, loveable and unique performances from her actors.

Amy’s most recent work is a music video, the first of a trilogy, for Original Swimming Party’s Biggest Curse feat. Moonchild Sanelly and damn, it gave us all the feels. Amy: ‘I wanted to make a music video because I spend my life making TV commercials. The moment Jeremy de Tolly played me their rough remix with a cellphone recording of Moonchild’s guide vocals, I knew this was the one.’ 

Justice’s Eye For Beauty

Justice is without a doubt a talented photographer, illustrator, art director and film director. Justice: ‘I approach my work with the vision of an Art Director and the skills of a fine artist. The result is my unique style that makes me the artist that I am. Art is my expression. It’s my contribution to the world.’

Justice and Amy started out their journey together by slowly collaborating on projects, with both directing their own work and commercials on the side. But about four months ago, the two knew they needed to make things industry-official.

Why Chess?

Amy: ‘It was the first and only thing I suggested to Justice, he said yes and we went with it. Like all good names there are many layers to it. We enjoy the strategy part of it and the ebony and ivory thing is obvious. And then there’s a visual iconography associated with it that we just love.’
iDidTht: ‘Do you guys sing Ebony and Ivory to each other a lot?’
Amy: ‘I would love to but Justice hates the sound of my voice.’
Justice: ‘Every time we call each other she starts singing, I can’t deal with it, it’s like listening to a dying cat.’
iDidTht: ‘Please sing Ebony and Ivory immediately!’

Without skipping a beat (and because we forced her to), Amy jumps in…

Justice: ‘I wish you could see everyone in the office’s reaction. Someone actually stood up and left…

What’s The Next Move?

Both Amy and Justice are passionate about creating real authentic stories, cinematic journeys peppered with unusual, yet honest characters. But ultimately the duo want to make their audiences feel something, whether that’s through laughter, sadness or just a connection with their work.
Amy: ‘Half the job of being a director is figuring out a way of staying true to your vision despite all the noise, chaos and opinions. But together it makes the job easier and better, especially in South Africa, where you’re so often speaking to these incredibly diverse audiences with so many cultural nuances.’
Justice: ‘We want to create work with substance and depth. It must have a realness and feel authentic.’

Check out their most recent PSA for British American Tobacco. This gritty and cinematic piece follows the journey of a pack of illicit cigarettes from manufacturer, through all of the various criminal hands it goes through, to finally being lit up by the end consumer.

Amy: ‘After that Tobacco PSA we looked at each other and went ‘f*ck this is so good, this is really gonna work’.
Justice: ‘For me this ticks all the boxes. We were not trying to create something that it’s not, it is as it is. It was a dream job for Chess.’
Amy: ‘Visually, cinematically and story-telling wise, it is right up our alley’.

The piece even received a Special Mention in September’s iDidTht Craft Awards, judged by Roanna Williams, Executive Creative Director at Joe Public. Roanna: ‘With challenging restrictions around cigarette advertising, Justice and Amy were still able to capture the storyline effectively. The combination of the POV style shots, fast-paced edit, soundtrack, performances and grade bring to our attention the harsh reality of what goes on behind the scenes of illegal trading.’

So how well do this unlikely duo really know each other? We got real authentic with ‘Most likely…’

1. Most likely to listen to Justin Bieber?

2. To become a Buddhist monk?

3. To buy everyone a shot at the bar?

4. To spend all their money on sneakers?

5. To drop the F-bomb?

6. To be the first to direct a feature film?

7. To forget to pay for the bill?

Quickfire Round

1. iDidTht: ‘Justice, one thing Amy can’t go without on set?’

A: ‘This is easy.’
J: ‘I know right?! Order and structure.’
A: ‘I was gonna say coffee!’
J: ‘Coffee is secondary. You can skip coffee for a good structure.’

2. iDidTht: ‘Amy, one thing Justice can’t go without on set?’

A: ‘Calmness, because the one thing he doesn’t like about me, apart from my singing, is when I get twitchy. Justice likes calmness which is consistent with order, because if there’s order there will be calm.’

3. iDidTht: ‘Best industry advice you ever received?’

J: ‘Speak to your vision.’
A: ‘Trust your gut.’

4. iDidTht: ‘What do you wish an agency would say to you while working on an ad?’

J: ‘It was amazing working with you and we look forward to working with you again.’
A: ‘We trust you now.’

5. iDidTht: ‘What do you dread hearing most from an agency?’

A: ‘We love it but…’
J: ‘Is that it?’

We’re pretty sure Chess will never have to hear those dreaded words from any agency. These two balance each other out perfectly, forming a complete picture, with a fresh angle and fresh proposition to directing. You’re gonna get real, authentic and you’re gonna get local – meet Chess.

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Executive Producer: Olivia Leitch

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

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