New Blood at Bioscope Films. Meet Director Kyla Philander

Having only joined Bioscope Films about 6 months ago, Filmmaker Kyla Philander has already proven themselves to be a force of nature within the company. Kyla is above all else passionate about representing South Africa’s truth in their storytelling. Their work is testimony that they will not be moving through this industry quietly and we have never been more ready! *shakes pom-poms wildly*

Even from such a young Director (29), Kyla already shows immense empathy in the work they do and is driven to shift the way we portray body types, race and gender in advertising. Their authentic take would be an asset to any brand wanting to connect with the real South Africa, specifically through representation. Growing up, Kyla never felt that the person they were or the people around them, was being represented back to them on screen. Kyla is now determined to find truth in their work from beauty and fashion to performance, music and characterisation.

Kyla credits a lot of their childhood to the Director they are today. Raised by mixed race parents in Cape Town, Kyla has always been curious about identity politics and how identity is portrayed in popular culture. Their father and mother, both working in the theatre and entertainment industry at the time, ignited a passion for storytelling in Kyla. Surrounded by a vibrant mix of diverse family and friends, Kyla’s home environment was always accepting and allowed them to develop a respect and empathy for human differences from a very young age.

IDIDTHAT: You’ve expressed how problematic representation in advertising is, so why get into it?
Kyla: Ha, yes to be completely honest I’ve always had some ethical issues with this industry, however my bleeding heart won’t pay the bills. Now that I am here I am hopeful that I will be able to affect some change to the industry.

IDIDTHAT: ‘Change the industry?’ Lay it on us! In what way?
Kyla: We need to start portraying real body types and show different races in different ways on screen more. I feel South Africa is also still very conservative when it comes to gender classification. Not a lot of people know about non-binary identity and I want to shift and change things like that by putting people like that in my work. I love pop culture from Europe and America, and of course I will always take references from there, but I want to try and help create our own standard of beauty here in South Africa.

IDIDTHAT: What ad do you think successfully challenges this ‘standard of beauty’ that we’ve traditionally been fed?
Kyla: I love Fausto Becatti’s Edgars Beauty campaign and I wish I did that ad. For me it was the best ad of 2019. We saw gender fluidity, real skin, real bodies. It was perfect to me.

*Fausto also happens to Direct with Bioscope Films #Boom

IDIDTHAT: Congrats on your recent Special Mention for your Google commercial in the IDIDTHAT Craft Awards (only the best awards out there!). This was also the FIRST commercial you ever entered *bows downs* The judge noted how authentically and honest this story was told, how did you manage that?
Kyla: The agency and Google trusted me because I knew this world so well. My dad grew up in Elsies River, which was one of the areas we shot in. I know these people, I recognise them, they are my family. I didn’t want to bring in actors from some privileged environment where they have easy access to WiFi. I wanted people from the community, people actually benefiting from the initiative which is why we cast non-actors.I also love working with non-actors because there is a truth in their performance.

Judges Comments: ‘Kyla Philander‘s film for Google is just really sweet and super authentic. It has a great real feeling to the treatment and the cast … and just feels like a nice honest, refreshing take on the power of connectivity… without trying to be overly emotional or manifesto-like and dramatic. Simple and well told and leaves you with a great feeling about the initiative.’
Judge: Ryan McManus, Regional CCO at VMLY&R South Africa 

IDIDTHAT: Apart from killing it in awards, in such a short time you’ve also managed to shoot 8 spots for Ackermans!
Kyla: Yeah, they’ve been a great brand to work with! They’ve also given me the opportunity to start looking at body types and beauty differently. I’d love to do more of that, representation is so important. Real people need to see themselves on screen.



IDIDTHAT: Apart from representation what else drives you as a director?
Kyla: It’s very important to me to approach work with empathy. But it’s also about the environment you as a director create. This industry is so used to this weird hierarchy on set that promotes intimidation and I think that is such a toxic energy. It’s not just the script we write, but it’s the environment we put our performers and crew in. Everything needs to be considered and respected, even from the language we use, and if you haven’t considered that before, I will make you. Because simply put, things need to change and we need to promote fair and safe environments everywhere to ensure that people who have previously not felt safe to tell their stories, now have the freedom to do so. And that’s why I am so blessed to be with the Bioscope family because they are very mindful of respect. 

Kyla’s journey with Bioscope Films has only just started now, but even back in 2014 their quest for truth lead to their work being selected for presentation at Design Indaba as part of Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s project 89+, recognising young innovators. And, as if that’s not enough, Kyla’s documentary film ‘Promise Land Fallacy’ was screened at Encounters Film Festival 2017 and the National Arts Festival 2018.

To contact Kyla or Bioscope Films email

Contact Bioscope Films:

Executive Producer | Daniel Kaplan

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

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This Editorial is paid for by Bioscope Films. Want our studio to create content that puts your agency/company/kickass ad you made in bright lights for the whole industry to see? View or editorial packages or contact and we’ll make it happen! #Boom