The SA Film Academy: moulding the next generation of filmmakers

18 December 2018

Earlier this year, Jody Adams – a Marketing Graduate – was helping an NGO with their social media accounts but decided on a new path and ventured into the world of film-making.

Having landed an internship with Film Afrika Worlwide, under the training mantle of the SA FILM Academy, he was placed in the production department on the top-rated kykNET soapie, Suidooster, at Atlantic Film Studios (AFS) based in Montague Gardens.

Jody had ambitions and wanted to be a production assistant – a job which includes assisting on set props, office work and running errands.

The latter would prove a bit difficult to his aspirations.

“Without a (driving) licence you cannot become a production assistant. Another word (for production assistant) is a runner. The line producer can ask you anytime to go get something and you need to get into a car,” Jody says.

Fortunately for him, around June this year, The SA Film Academy, together with Homebrew, kyNET, AFS & Suidooster – based at the Atlantic Studios – was exploring the idea of establishing an in-house driving school to assist the countless young people in the industry battling to get their driving licences.

SA Film Academy Training Manager Karabo Malefo tells FILM Cape Town that one of the biggest impediments to employment and career advancement in the film and Television industry is a lack of a driving licence or the access to funds for the required professional training.

That gap, Malefo says, gave birth to the Filmgro Driving Academy which is aimed at ensuring the young people entering the TV and film industry have a free and equal opportunities to access professional training required to obtain their driving licences.

After hiring full time professional driving instructor Sibo Xhaxhane and a vehicle donated by Suzuki, the FILMGRO DRIVING ACADEMY was off the ground.

“He has been fantastic with the trainees. We have achieved 11 driving licences in just 4 months. We are going strong,” Malefo says.

Jody was the first to obtain his licence just a month after the FILMGRO Driving Academy was established, paving the way for him to potentially move up the chain.

“I can actually apply for other jobs which require a driving licence. I believe with this I can progress because I always want to be the best at something. I love this industry and I want to do my best,” Jody says.

Just like Jody, Kaylan Andrews did not have her driver’s licence until two months ago.

Kaylan works as a receptionist at Atlantic Studios. She has to take a bus, train and a taxi to get to work. For her, the driving licence she got in October represents independence, opportunity and an end to dependency on others to take her to where she wants to go.

“My brother still doesn’t trust me (with the car) yet but I don’t have to wait for him,” Kaylan jokes.

“This was an excellent opportunity for me and I’m grateful. I can now apply for jobs that require a driving licence without being discouraged.  Previously when you apply for jobs they say ‘you must have a drivers’ licence’ and you can’t do that because you don’t have one.”

Kaylan Andrews

Jody and Kaylan are just two of many young people who have benefited from programmes run by The SA Film Academy.

The Film Academy – founded in 2006 – has trained and placed about 2200 trainees and interns in over 220 local and international productions over the last decade. Some 220 of the academy’s current trainees and interns are presently doing in-service training on 23 productions.

A priority focus of FILM Cape Town is to create a fully transformed industry that celebrates and makes the most of the incredible diversity the city boasts.

This means creating jobs and opportunities for all of the city’s residents and drawing on Cape Town’s diverse mix of cultures and communities.

The Film academy’s chief executive Seton Bailey says when they started 10 years ago, they identified that transformation was an imperative because pre-democracy the industry was dominated by white people.

There was a need for a bridge between education and employment in the industry, he says.

“We felt that potentially what the industry offers is an opportunity for people who are so called disadvantaged from an education perspective and haven’t had access to a tertiary education,” Bailey says.

“The demographic has shifted incredibly but the biggest challenge remains emerging management and HOD (head of department) status. We are as mindful of that as anyone else and also young suppliers in the industry. In other words, why aren’t there more servicing companies owned by black people and operated by black people?

“That is something we are constantly trying to do, to blend people, putting people on film sets (letting them become crew and HODs) and also helping them to develop as small and medium enterprises supplying the industry. “

Malefo adds that in order for them to achieve that the academy has a strict induction programme to prepare trainees for the gruelling hours working in the industry.

It also places importance on continuity by ensuring candidates are placed in environments where they can learn, grow and become experts in that particular field, growing in the same department, from production to production.

“We have a relationship with most, if not all the servicing companies in Cape Town and Johannesburg as well as the small production companies that do TV.”

The SA Film Academy with its trainees, worked on the feature film Riding with Sugar – partly funded by the National lotteries Commission to the tune of R2.5 million – just recently wrapped here in Cape Town.