As a filmmaker, Adriaan has worked with international acts including Major Lazer, Jess Glynne, Mabel, and Riky Rick and regularly works with sexy brands like Nike, Vans, RVCA, Puma, and The Fader. His music videos have won several awards, including MTV Africa’s music video of the year for Riky Rick’s “Nafukwa” (2015) and a nomination for Best New Director at the 2018 UK Music Video Awards.
iDidTht: There’s none of that ‘shiny or polished Africa’ stuff we so often see in ads in your work, you just seem to be documenting the Africa you know, and it’s damn cool.
Adriaan: Thanks! I definitely think there is a documentary filmmaker inside of me. I love trying to capture South Africa and the rest of Africa and what’s trending. Portraying youth culture in an honest way and trying to represent those cultures, people and scenes authentically are very important to me.
iDidTht: Moving more into the commercials side of things, which perhaps offers more parameters or even limitations, how do you keep that authenticity in your work?
Adriaan: I’m at a point where I want to explore both sides of the craft. So yes, I’m flexible because that’s the approach of many emerging filmmakers – the make it yourself, do it yourself attitude. I don’t want to lose that. Without sacrificing my aesthetic, I want to spend more time on the setup of my shots, the art direction, the colour palettes etc and that’s what the opportunity to direct commercials affords me. It’s very exciting being in a position where these two worlds can meet; the can-do attitude and the deep consideration of the craft.
iDidTht: Your work shows a real intimacy with your subjects or actors, how do you create that connection?
Adriaan: Something that photography really taught me, especially street photography, is that your approach to the people you’re shooting is very important. But the other thing is the size of your camera. The best piece of equipment to document the world with is, wait for it…a cell phone camera.
iDidTht: Shut your mouth!
Adriaan: Ha, it’s true! With a small camera, you can shoot photos of anything and anyone and nobody will care. As soon as you bring out a 5D with a long telephoto lens people suddenly change, they behave differently. So the challenge for me is always ‘How do I make a camera become invisible.’ It’s about connecting with the person you’re shooting. The more intimate you can be with that person, the more the camera becomes invisible, the more authentic the work will be. I think that if you’re good at what you do you can make any camera seem really small, because of your approach to people. That’s our job as directors.
iDidTht: You really seem to have an understanding of SA’s youth culture and how to authentically reflect that on screen, where does this obsession with youth culture come from?
Adriaan: When I started shooting in Joburg a couple of years ago it was incredible to see how the youth were finding their own identity, especially in the city. I became obsessed with sharing these people’s stories with the world. I wanted to document it all and at the same time show that South Africa is as cool as the rest of the world, if not cooler. Over the last few years, I feel that South Africa and the rest of Africa are really starting to set the benchmark globally for what is trendy. Even here in London, there’s a real buzz about what’s happening back home. It’s amazing to be part of that.