Director Kyle Lewis Dabbles In Offbeat Aesthetics
Having worked on a bunch of iconic music videos and groundbreaking commercials, director Kyle Lewis no longer needs a lengthy introduction. The range of work on his reel is pretty darn impressive, and he seems to have no trouble bouncing from colourful and inspiring films straight into dark and impactful ones. Beyond that, it’s the consistent tension between the raw and the staged elements in each piece that has us replaying them over and over again. This has become something of a signature style of his; balancing organic and clean-cut shots.
We chat to Kyle to find out what makes him tick:
The First-Ever BMW X2: Because normal should never be ‘in style’.
When did you realise you wanted to work in film? And why? How did you go about pursuing this passion?
My dreams of being a director started really young. I owe my passion to my late father, Matthew. Every Friday he would pick me up from school and we would watch horror films before my mother came back. I remember being completely taken by the experience which led to my love of film and filmmaking. From that moment, I would shoot short films on our family camera to develop my craft. But the true turning point came when I was sixteen and I shadowed filmmaker (and fellow Egg) Sunu Gonera on one of his early short films. He told me where to study and how to hustle and the rest is history.
Who or what inspires your work, and why?
People tend to inspire me more than work. I’m so inspired by Africa, the raw original talent that exists in everyone on the continent pushes me to be innovate and think broader. It’s not just creative people that inspire me, it’s the everyday people that exist in such an unaffected and beautiful way. It’s truly my greatest attribute to be from Africa and I wear it as a badge of honour.
Would you say you have a signature style, or are you aiming for a broad range of work?
I’ve always worked against having a distinctive style as I always want to prove to myself that I am capable of different aesthetics. Having said that, without trying, I have developed a voice and a look. I love the juxtaposition of organic versus clean-cut imagery.
Riky Rick ‘Exodus’
What was your first big brief? How did you land it, and how did you approach it?
I still feel like I’m waiting on that BIG brief. But I’m in such an incredible position to be working with brands I always dreamt of working with as a young boy. It’s surreal and I definitely don’t take it for granted. Every new brief that comes in could be your BIG break, so no job is too big or too small.
You have worked with some big names. Any highlights you’d like to mention? What made each of them interesting / challenging / rewarding?
A highlight of mine was working with Riky Rick; I admire him and his stance on creativity. He doesn’t hold back and that inspires me greatly. Being able to create without boundaries truly molded me in to who I am as a film maker.
You shot Destiny for Casper Nyovest. Tell us about the concept, and then executing it. What were the special effects / software you used?
Destiny came at a time where I was trying to evolve my aesthetic and tackle something I hadn’t done before, which made it a standout project for me. The effects where all done Blake Prinsloo from Static Black Media. We have been friends for years and have grown in this industry together so it was a beautiful moment where we could both show off our skills. He created everything from scratch. I’m a technophobe so I left it up to him; he immediately got what I wanted and managed to create some standout visual effects.
Cassper Nyovest ‘Destiny’ [Feat. Goapele]
Tell us about finding funding. How could we (as brands, as organisations, as government, schools…) get better at supporting the industry?
Funding is by far the trickiest part of what we do. I feel a lot of frustration when I see incredible filmmakers unable to push themselves without that support. The number of incredible stories that will never be seen in this country is crazy. I wish and hope organizations will start recognising the incredible talent we have here. When funding does happen, there are so many rules and regulations put on a filmmaker that often their true voice is never realised.
You have won and been nominated for a bunch of awards. Does it hold any significance to you, that your work is being recognised?
Awards are always secondary to the work. As clichéd as it sounds my true reward comes when I’m entrusted with bigger, more creative jobs. In that case the awards do help. But if I could give any advice, I would say do the films for the love of it. Awards can cloud why you are doing what you are doing in the first place.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I just finished off a great project with BMW that I’m very proud of. The client and agency were incredible and really broke the mold of traditional advertising.
Nasty C ‘Bad Hair’
Tell us about the gear you use. What do you work with, and why?
I’m a sucker for a Phantom Flex and an Alexa. I believe half your work is done with a beautiful set of lenses and a reliable camera. But having said that, I enjoy mixing it up and trying every new device on the market to truly find the correct voice for a specific project. Technology is ever evolving so I want to always keep in touch with what is going on, whether it’s the smallest and cheapest camera on the market all the way to the high-end cameras.
You are represented by two agencies in South Africa and one in the UK. How does it work when you have an agency? What is their role in your work, and how does it help you focus on the creative?
I am a scatterbrain so having an agency helps me focus. I am only as strong as my team. Having representation internationally helps me understand various markets and ways of doing things. But my heart belongs to Arcade Content and Egg Films, who have given me the support and nurture that I needed to be where I am.
What do you watch / read / listen to?
I spend hours and hours watching commercials from every country and admire the different approaches and techniques. It inspires me and pushes me as a filmmaker.
Nike ‘Unlimited Fight’
Standard Bank ‘Make One Day #Today’
What will your main focus be moving forward? Are you looking to specialise, or broaden your skills?
My goal has always been to create a feature film, so I’m harnessing my skill set and experience to eventually create a film I am truly proud of. It’s in development so watch this space…
Any advice for emerging filmmakers, specifically here and now?
Understand that this is a hard road and nothing happens overnight but dreams are valid and they can come true if you stick to it. Go out and shoot on whatever you can. Develop your voice. Eat, sleep and live it. And if you don’t have access to a camera, then write, write stories or scenarios. Keep on developing, even if you are just observing another person, learn from them, understand them, feel what they feel. Because at the end of the day, we are storytellers.