25/09/2021 Carmen Amos

Transformation – A situation, stagnation or incubation?

The topic of transformation in our industry is a hard one to tackle and one in which everyone has an opinion and garners much debate around the ‘best solution’.  Like most sectors in developing countries, there are several obstacles and challenges preventing us from making sustainable change. Some of these issues include lack of training and sufficient resources, proper skills development programmes and a lack of POC mentors within our relevant heads of department.

I think in my 6 years of working both in-house and on set, there has been expansion and exposure with regards to diversity and inclusion. Perhaps not at a level that we’d like to see just yet, but I do see it coming. There are so many talented folk who are so eager to step up to the plate, they just need that opportunity to expand.

 Transformation       

Julia’s story is the perfect example of how we can start diversifying our industry from the ground up to support sustainable transformation. In 6 short years, Julia transitioned from intern into the role of Head of Research at Juice Film, where she continues to thrive through passion, preparation and an amazing sense of calm.  

“I would say upon entering the industry, I didn’t know any peers who were also starting out, so navigating a network of people, finding, or identifying a mentor, especially a person of colour who could be an inspirational person in the industry was a huge challenge.” – Julia Joy Menezes, Head Of Research 

As a young woman of colour, being able to advance in her career through a supportive culture combined with learning, experiencing and applying strong work ethics, is something she is extremely proud of. 

 “A personal accomplishment is the level of self-belief and confidence I have developed on this journey. As I transitioned into Head of Department, there was so much freedom to create which allowed me to direct the energy of my work into something that goes beyond just the job.”

A Deep Dive Conversation with the CPA Transformation Committee – with Zayd Halim and Martin Jacobson

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser 

Together with Zayd Halim from Patriot Films, our very own Martin Jacobson talks about the early plans to make sustainable transformation possible and more accessible. We get to know some of the first hand challenges we are facing in our industry and the solutions that are being proposed by the CPA Transformation Committee. 

How did you get started in the industry?

I’ve always loved film and decided to look at it as a means to earn a livelihood early in my life. I studied filmmaking and worked as an extra, part time, to gain experience before looking for employment in the industry. I started in television as a PA & Camera Assistant, working on tv content and documentaries before switching to film, commercials in particular.

Transformation

What risks are worth taking?

In a business sense as in life, every stride forward comes with some form of risk. Be it a mechanic looking for a bigger and more well positioned work shop or a pop-up stall owner looking to upgrade to a boutique shop.

In order to progress one needs to look at measured and calculated risk and I believe with the correct planning, these risks are worth taking.

Would you say you run a ‘diverse company’ – what does that look like?

Yes, we have an interesting mix of people at Patriot. We’re from different backgrounds and cultures but share a common enthusiasm for the craft of filmmaking.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date?

Deciding to start my own business.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Pre-Covid, I would say winning awards for our work locally and internationally but that’s all changed. Seeing how Covid related complications and lockdowns have decimated thousands of SME’s, surviving this Covid storm as a business owner and getting back to work safely (with the help of the incredible CPA team) was quite a highlight.

Best piece of advice you’ve received?

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It’s Wayne Gretzky’s (Ice hockey legend) famous saying. It was cheesy coming from a close friend but it was the absolute right advice I needed in a moment of doubt.

Do you think that there has been progress in our industry with regards to transformation, diversity and inclusion?

I’ve seen progress in our industry over the span of my career.

When I started in the industry I recall being one of few people of colour working in production in Cape Town. Crew lists were predominantly white with only a handful of black HODs. Things have progressed steadily but I believe inclusion is something that we need to keep in mind in order to give opportunities to a broader spectrum of people especially young, eager South Africans.

Any advice for young people wanting to pursue a career in film?

The advice I’d give young people when it comes to pursuing a career in any industry is to do some research and see what the career path entails.

The film industry for example, is generally not a standard 9 to 5 industry. It’s project based for most parts and therefore doesn’t generally conform to standard working hours.

So understand the career path you’re looking to pursue.

Please tell us about your role in the TRANSFORMATION COMMITTEE.

It was an honour to be tasked with taking the baton forward on the Transformation committee, along with Martin, by the CPA EXCO.

We were tasked with finding ways to make our crew lists more inclusive and address BEE in the film industry. It is quite a broad spectrum so we decided to put our focus this year on formulating a clear plan forward for local production companies who want to address BEE and acquire a BEE scorecard as well as a production training programme which we’re hoping to launch in time for the coming international season.

It’s been quite challenging during these Lockdown periods but it’s been an absolute pleasure working with it with Martin who is really passionate about what we’re doing.

THE MARVELOUS MARTIN JACOBSON

How did you get into this industry?

By default actually.  I was a student, completing my final year at university.  A close friend of mine’s mother, had a friend from Avis Car Rental, who was assisting a Feature Film to find drivers for their upcoming film in Cape Town.  This was before there was a recognised film industry in Cape Town and before there was any real crew base here.  Anyway, I interviewed, took the job, and juggled my final exams and the film simultaneously!  I obviously impressed them enough, as they asked if I would come back with them to Johannesburg for the 2nd part of their filming, and the rest is history.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

There really have been so many as there have been so many years gone by.

In my early years, being catapulted into location management on Feature Films where there was no real crew base or mentors to look to, I had to learn on the job.  So when shooting in some remote area in Transkei, with trucks taken down a steep road made to access the location, I had to consider how to get them out.  So it was heartening to devise a plan and hitch each truck to a huge tractor which assisted them up the hill – and to see it work!

And then days later in a similar situation, but where there was no large tractor available, I devised the plan to hitch 3 small tractors together to pull the trucks up the long winding landscape. It was pure joy to sit back and watch them traverse up the landscape.

And some years later, taking a convoy of some 8 trucks and trailers for my first time to Namibia, a 3 full-day journey from Johannesburg, watching from the back of the convoy, as the vehicles made their way down the very long straight tarred desert road into Swakopmund – that was fulfilling!!

Of course opening my own company, Juice Film in 2011, was an enormous highlight too!!  But those early days of innocence and exploration, provided so many highlights and adventure.

What is your greatest strength or skill?

I would love to say it is knowing how to work with people in order to create a team ethos that produces results. 

As a location manager I always felt that I needed to do the work, no matter how dirty it was, if I was expecting others to do that work too.  It taught me to remain humble and respectful of others, and to understand that we as a team can do so much more than we can as individuals. I also learnt that by showing others that kind of respect,  that is how they end up really respecting me. I learnt to love the people I worked with, and they learned to love me too, and together we created the most wonderful team in longform for years and years to come

And as I progressed my career, I learned that positions of power are to be used responsibly. 

As an Executive Producer, and company owner, I have never given up on the idea that I am no more important than the most junior person in our team, and to treat that person with the respect that they deserve, first and foremost as a human being; and to let them know that.

Transformation

Best piece of advice you have ever received?

My father was an honourable man who taught me endless lessons.

It was not so much advice he gave me, but lessons that he taught that ultimately served to be stronger than advice.

The first lesson was at 4 years of age.  My slightly older brother and I were in our tree house and were shouting racial slurs at a time when Apartheid was strong, and in a town where Apartheid had a very strong foothold.

That night, the lady came to tell my father what occurred, and I would imagine that 9 out of 10 fathers in that particular part of the country at that particular time would have dismissed that lady with disdain.  My father chose rather to punish both of us in a spectacular way, which set the benchmark as far as our family moral values were concerned. 

He taught us that everyone, no matter the colour of their skin, creed or religion, did not deserve our disrespect, and hence deserve our respect!

Many years later he told me the story of a friend from years ago, who in the early years of leaving school, borrowed money from him.  And never returned it. He went on to tell me that he saw this person at some point years later, and that person purposefully crossed the road to avoid my father.  He told me never to be that person.  To always be honest.  To always be honourable and to always do what it takes, so that you are always able to look someone in the eye.

What would you say are the greatest differences in what the industry was then VS now?

Honestly, I would say it is all about speed. 

The intensification of speed in production has emerged in various ways.  The internet created a world where things could be done faster.  Location presentations that used to be couriered and could take anywhere from 2 to 3 days to reach its destination before getting feedback, now get sent in minutes.

Then came the financial crisis of 2008, and with that we saw the shrinking of budgets.  With that came pressure to compress production into less prep days and less shoot days, putting enormous pressure on production to expedite the same quality and often bigger scale, in shorter time frames.

And the internet of course has enabled this process.

We now have to expedite speeds that were never required in the 80’s or 90’s and only really came into play as we rolled into the 2000’s.

What is your headline for your life?

Hard work reaps results! But don’t forget that living life itself is more important than only working hard.  Find the balance!

What words of wisdom would you give a young person wanting to get into the industry now?

Run Forest Run!! 

No, I would tell them this is an industry to be respected like no other industry that I know of. 

As an industry it will also show you equal respect if you are able to rise to the levels it requires of you, show the commitment that is needed, and if you have the ability to execute at the demanding levels that is its norm.

I would tell that young person, if you have that kind of commitment, and you want to be in film, go for it.  You will meet the greatest people you could dream of meeting, and be challenged in the greatest of ways.

Keep pushing through the barriers preventing us from having a fully diverse and inclusive industry. Together we can achieve the great transformation that our industry requires.  

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