Music Video Director Turned Commercials Director Adriaan Louw Joins Giant Films

If you’re in the ad industry you may not yet have heard of Director Adriaan Louw, but do not fear, we’re at your service. Over the last few years Adriaan has been trekking all around Africa shooting award-winning music videos for bands like Major Lazer and content for the likes of Nike and Adidas. But now this badass Director, with his finger firmly on the pulse of African youth culture, has joined the big guns at Giant Films to take on the world of commercials directing.

Adriaan has an authentic documentary style approach to filmmaking and a passion for sharing an honest South African youth culture narrative. Look, if Giant Films signed him he must be legit, but we did ourselves a flavour and met up with Adriaan while on a shoot in London (read: we Skyped him because the Rand ya’ll).

Skater Boy Rockin’ up MTV

Adriaan is a Cape Town-born filmmaker who began his career documenting youth culture with a focus on music, skateboarding, and fashion. Although he would never admit it, we imagine him to have been one of those effortlessly cool boys at school, the kind pop star and eyeliner-wearer Avril Lavigne so eloquently sang about. Adriaan started touring with bands across the country as a photographer and apart from the obvious 90s allure of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, for Adriaan it’s always been about telling authentically cool South African stories.

It wasn’t long before Adriaan started directing music videos which lead to him developing a distinct filmmaking style that grabbed the attention of bigger international bands and brands who all wanted that special Adriaan flair. Nowadays Adriaan, who is still effortlessly cool and charming we might add, although no skateboards in sight, mostly uses his photography as a research tool for his filmmaking. Whether photographing a beach in Senegal or shooting for Nike on a rooftop in Jozi, essentially Adriaan is documenting his unique perspective on Africa’s youth culture.

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.

Highs from the Louw

What really sets Adriaan’s work apart is the feeling that you are a part of it, as opposed to looking at it. He manages to capture moments and people in an honest, accessible and always very cool way. More cinematic directors may create the most beautiful visuals but you aren’t in them, you are looking at them. Adriaan’s style of documenting a generation in Africa is something quite unique and would be an exciting addition to the ad industry. Here are some of iDidTht’s favourite picks from the Adriaan Louw reel.

Riky Rick ‘I Can’t Believe It’

Major Lazer ‘All My Life’ (feat. Burna Boy)

Major Lazer ‘Particula’

Nike Women ‘Out of Many, I Am 1’

The Giant Move

iDidTht: You’ve recently signed with Giant Films, why the move and why them?

Adriaan: An industry-friend of mine said I should talk to them a few years ago, but back then I was still figuring out what my style was. Now I feel I have something to offer the advertising world. So the time was right. It’s really great to also finally work with a group that’s female-run. Emma and Cindy go out of their way to make sure you get what you want in terms of your vision. Giant Films always makes sure it’s about the craft and that’s what matters to me now.

Will the Real Adriaan Louw Please Stand up

iDidTht: For a photographer, there are shockingly few photos of you online. So we Googled you and Adriaan, there is one man who is stealing all your shine online. This guy, Dr Adriaan Louw.

Adriaan: Wow!
iDidTht: Look, he’s on both sides of you, it’s haunting. He must go! And you only have one photo online and it’s the SAME IMAGE! The same photo just one in black and white and one in colour. Come on Adriaan!
Adriaan: I hate being in front of the camera…
iDidTht: Um, no, no we get that… You don’t even have avatars for your Skype and WhatsApp. Do you even know how hard it is to stalk you!

We can’t wait to see what Adriaan’s unique documentary style approach to filmmaking brings to the world of advertising and we’ll definitely keep Googling him to find out (and hopefully find more photos)! You should too.

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Executive Producers: Cindy Gabriel / Emma Lundy /

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

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