Director Thati Pele’s road to 2023 has been eventful and, at times, contradictory. Recently known for her directing work on the Netflix teen drama ‘Blood and Water’ and the original series ‘Savage Beauty’, Thati is now switching gears from long-form to continue again as a commercial filmmaker. With a proven track record as a strong storyteller and a Volkswagen campaign that showcased her versatility in both performance and comedy, Thati has joined Patriot Films where she is destined to craft stand-out commercial work.
Something that directors don’t traditionally add to their film reel is the way they make those around them feel. From the first moment we met Thati, we were immediately taken by her infectious calm demeanour. She is considered, self-aware and exudes a ‘capable hands’ energy, which, to be honest, is a massive understatement, especially considering her impressively multifaceted background.
Thati wasn’t always aware that she would one day become a great asset to the South African directing pool. In fact, when she began her professional career many years ago, it was with studies in mathematics and statistics, followed up with some time working in marketing. This analytical background would later prove to be invaluable to her as a director, ‘Filmmaking to me is a perfect balance between creativity and organisation, both things holding everything together to ensure the best outcome. Creativity is wonderful to have on set but I also have to be analytical and level-headed to ensure that I not only tell stories, but tell stories that sell products.’ Says Thati.
Eventually the film bug bit and, almost a decade ago now, Thati made the jump from marketing and applied to the prestigious Graduate Film Program at NYU. It is here where she hit the ground running as a director and her work was immediately noticed. Thati’s short film, ‘Lerato,’ earned her the titles of Best Director at the New York Fusion Film Festival and the New Talent prize at CICLOPE Africa in 2019.
Returning to South Africa Thati began her commercial filmmaking career at Giant Films where she quickly built an impressive reel filled with big brand work that was both performance strong and visually captivating. In 2022 Thati took some time to direct the hit Netflix shows ‘Blood and Water’ and ‘Savage Beauty’, both shows quickly becoming critically acclaimed and essential local viewing.
Now Thati is back to dedicating her time and talent to commercial work, signing with Patriot Films. She says of the move, ‘Patriot’s work has always held a special place my heart, mainly because of their unique blend of lightness and seriousness that they bring to each project. Their genuine passion for what they do is palpable, reflecting in the incredible and enjoyable experiences they create for their audience. What truly attracted me to Patriot was their undeniable talent and commitment to their craft, evident in the quality of their work. As I transitioned my focus towards my commercial career, joining Patriot felt like coming home—a place where I can have fun, embrace challenges, and consistently bring out the best in my work, an aspect I deeply cherish and appreciate.’
Thati is definitely not joining Patriot empty-handed and comes with a full, rich reel of work, below some of our favourite spots.