13 Jun Revisiting Show & Tell with Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Jarryd Bekker, Daniel De Kock and Jake Bester
The second installment of our ongoing Show & Tell series took place on Wednesday, 11 June at Jozi Hub. Our guest speakers for the evening – Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Jarryd Bekker, Daniel De Kock and Jake Bester – shared insights on the topics of filmmaking, Afrikaburn artworks and agency culture:
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer | Filmmaker, photographer, musician
Currently, Sibs Shongewe-La Mer is less than two weeks from filming his debut feature film, Territorial Pissings.
Giving us some insight as to how this came to be, Sibs shared the ups and downs of his journey so far, which took a significant turn when he received his first guitar at the age of 12. Only a year later, Sibs had made his first record (for a fee of R100 to use a recording studio belonging to the brother of a friend) and began taking it around to various record labels hoping to catch his big break. It may have been ambitious for his age but it was through this act that Sibs first became aware of the idea of self-distribution – being turned down by multiple record labels led him to seek other avenues of getting his music heard, and he’s continued to do so.
Skipping forward to a few years down the line, Sibs was working at a film house (with no real interest in film just yet) when the tragic suicide of his girlfriend at the age of 16 left him in a strange and rather dark frame of mind. Making music and writing became incredibly cathartic for him, and out of this place came his first screenplay: The Kids Need More Hugs.
After being unable to get a production company on board to produce the script, and a few others which followed, Sibs put his pursuit of film aside for a while and began directing music videos when he was 19. A year later however, he decided that instead of waiting around for a production company to say yes, he’d use his time to independently produce the short film, Death of Tropics. It was the positive response this received that gave him the push he needed to film the first version of Territorial Pissings. The 40 minute film that resulted (shot entirely by Sibs and a crew of 6 friends on Canon 5Ds) was accepted into the Venice Film Festival, followed by a host of international screenings.
It was upon Sibs’ return to Johannesburg after a lengthy period of travelling when Ucuru Media contacted him, wanting to produce the feature length version of Territorial Pissings that is now underway. The scale of production that Sibs is currently in the midst of is quite daunting to him, but the fact that he hasn’t had to compromise on his vision is what makes it so rewarding. So, although it hasn’t been without its challenges, there has been an organic flow to the way the young artist’s journey has progressed. As Sibs puts it: “Good things happen when you work really hard at something.”
Jarryd Bekker and Daniel De Kock | Built an interactive artwork at Afrikaburn
Jarryd Bekker and Daniel De Kock told us more about their experiences at AfrikaBurn for the last few years – from creating a camera obscura in 2011, having a party tent with 3m x 3m beanbags in 2012, to a big empty lot in 2013 which they playfully titled “uneventful” because, although having reserved a prime spot in which to create an artwork, they were unable to secure tickets to go.
This year, together with a core team of Mechatronic Engineers who fell in love with AfrikaBurn while studying at Stellenbosch University, they built an interactive artwork called The Masheen. The starting point for this was the idea of “magical ways to communicate in the desert.”
In coming up with the concept, the key factors they considered were that the artwork needed to be interactive and theatrical, able to present communication in a novel way and it had to function as a landmark during the night.
The main body of the artwork is an arc of balloons and LED lights that stretched across the sky with a recording station at each end. Here, people could record messages and see a streak of light as the message was sent to the other side to be played to anyone within hearing distance.
In total, it took 6 months, R20 000, a lot of beer, 20 cubic metres of hydrogen, 150 balloons, 100 metres of LED’s, 1800 lines of code and 5 litres of cow birth lubricant (to seal the balloons – it helps to have a science teacher on your team) to make The Masheen a reality.
Over 5000 messages were recorded into a database at the end of it all, 3700 of which were somewhat intelligible. These provide a very real glimpse into the AfrikaBurn experience, acting as souvenirs which live on even after the physical artwork no longer exists.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the entire process was seeing people interact with the artwork in ways that the team hadn’t anticipated. The result of this is their decidion to make each project going forward an interactive one, and we’re already looking forward to what those might be.
Jake Bester | Executive Creative Director at Machine Agency
Jake Bester spoke about the ways in which Machine has cultivated and continues to maintain a great agency culture. “At an agency with an amazing culture, work doesn’t feel like a chore,” he told us. Since Jake and a partner started Machine a few years ago, the agency has grown to an employee base of 85 in Cape Town and more recently 25 in Johannesburg.
Jake emphasized that “Strong agency culture doesn’t make people want to do more for the agency. It makes people want to do more for each other.”
Sharing some insights on how to actually cultivate this type of environment, Jake took us through the following key points:
- Start with the small things. To create the best agency culture, simply take away everything that isn’t the best agency culture.
- Find a mantra for people to rally around. Culture is like a campaign, it’s got to have a thread that ties everything together.
- Be strict about who you invite into your home. The people you hire should buy into the culture of the agency, and they should be in it more for the work than for the money.
- Be consistent.
- Give people the opportunity to experience new things.
- Give people the opportunity to feel good about what they do, and let them see that their contributions matter.
A few in-agency initiatives that Machine has implimented include Apollo (a yearly competition for the most innovative staff idea), Wolves (a mentorship program for their young creatives) and Machine 13 (doing 13 group activities throughout the year to build relationships between employees). It only takes a look through their Facebook gallery to see that Machine is doing something right when it comes to culture, and if you’re not yet convinced, this is how they celebrated Machine’s second birthday:
Ultimately, the benefits of having a strong agency culture are threefold. It gets the best people to want to work for you, the most exciting clients to want to partner with you and, at the end of the day, it results in the best work.
It won’t be long until our next Show & Tell, so keep an eye out for the details!