The Storyteller Foundation – Building toward a better South African Film Industry

The newly established Storyteller Foundation’s goal is to honour the legacy of 7Films Director Siphiwe ‘SJ’ Myeza by looking to positively shape the future of the film industry in South Africa. The Foundation has carefully curated a programme that aims to support exceptional talent by providing mentorship and practical experience in ALL aspects of film directing within the advertising industry. We knew something inspired by SJ’s life would be incredibly special so we hit up the Founders of the Foundation from 7Films and the top folks from ad agency 99c, to find out more.

A Foundation to fill the cracks

There is certainly no lack of talent within the South African film industry, in fact, the current amount of film graduates far exceeds the number of available positions within production companies. 7Films Director, Lourens van Rensburg, took us through the typical process that a graduating film student would undergo when entering the industry, explaining: ‘More than often a few of the top film students will get earmarked by production companies and generally speaking enter into their research departments for 2 – 5 years. During this time they will gain very little practical experience of what it’s like working as a director. For some, especially those with fewer resources at their disposal, this period sees them falling through the cracks. Many of these post-grads end up running out of money and therefore running out of opportunities, inevitably ending up choosing a different career to survive – which means we’ve lost them and their talent for good.’ 7Films Executive Producer, Nina van Rensburg and Lourens, both felt that one way to stop the bleeding of talent in this country was to fundamentally change this model to rather emulate that of the medical field – with a greater focus on practical experience. Knowing how invaluable relationships in the industry can be, the team also added an intimate mentorship element to the programme to guide and support the young talent.

Three-pronged mentorship

A production company, agency, and brands have now partnered up to offer one talented film student the opportunity to learn and experience all the aspects of the business, which according to the founders, can ultimately only lead to creating better work.

The programme will be led by 7Films, who has partnered with ad agency 99c, who then, in turn, approached their clients, Spur and Shoprite to also come on board. Together, the dream team, who all worked closely with SJ, will financially cover the chosen film student’s studies and all accommodation and associated costs for an entire year. Over and above that, the young talent will be signed as a director with 7Films for a year, where they will be closely mentored by Lourens and Nina. They will then have the opportunity to gain work experience within the 99c agency, giving them an understanding of the business of advertising. Shoprite and Spur will open their doors to give the talent a chance of experiencing production-specific meetings that relate to the agency, giving them an understanding of the business of business.

By the end of the year, the talent will take all the skills they’ve learnt and will direct a commercial for the clients – a rare opportunity for any young filmmaker.

Gotta have what it takes

The talent that will be selected through this programme is somebody that shows drive, ambition, and passion, an incredible gift for visual storytelling and is currently enrolled in a local film school. The end goal of the programme will be to shape this talent so that they will end up shaping the future of the South African film industry.

SJ would have wanted for someone to stand on his shoulders and to show that, despite where you come from, with talent, hard work and dedication you can achieve anything on a world stage. I think he would want that person to do creatively, from a storytelling point of view, better than what he did and I would imagine on a personal level he would want us to help them not make some of the mistakes that he made in this industry. I think if we can get that right, it would be amazing.’ – Lourens van Rensburg

The individual chosen by The Storyteller Foundation will be announced early in 2020.

The Future of the Foundation

The idea of letting SJ’s legacy live on through other people is truly special. And according to 99c Production Director, Hylton Heather, the foundation aims to not only change one person’s life, but ‘Hopefully, the next year it can be two people, and we can gain momentum and start creating real depth in terms of nurturing talent from a grassroots perspective across the board.’ The entire team were adamant that the idea doesn’t just live with 7Films, 99c, Shoprite or Spur, but rather that this programme should act as an inspiration to every agency, production company and client to commit to coming on board in the future and as Nina adds ‘Just imagine how amazing the South African advertising industry would be then?’ and we couldn’t agree more.

Contact if you would like your production company, agency or brand to participate in The Storyteller Foundation’s programme.