Now is your time

I guess every generation likes to believe they live in an exciting age and, broadly speaking, this is true. Every now and again, however, we need to remind ourselves exactly how fortunate we are. In this instance I’m referring to young South African storytellers – particularly those using film as their medium of expression.

Once the draconian restrictions on free expression finally crumbled with the Apartheid empire in 1994, a newfound desire to share stories from our country seemed to stir within us all. Not only the hitherto unknown stories from our past, but the rare narrative of forging a new inclusive nation on the cusp of a new millennium; a narrative we were all part of. Twenty years later we might rightly feel pangs of disillusionment, and the ‘rainbow nation’ metaphor feels a little threadbare at times. But make no mistake as to how unique the South African story is.

I still maintain that South Africa is the furnace in which fiery issues surrounding culture, history, race, class, otherness, inclusion, belonging, fear, forgiveness – issues that affect virtually every nation on earth to varying degrees – are being tested with more rigour and nuance than anywhere else. Major global stories like the European migration saga, or the ongoing racial conflict in the U.S.A, would do well to seek context from South Africa. I think we are more conscious, philosophical, and less encumbered by the way things have always been done. On the contrary, we live in one of the world’s youngest countries, making us predisposed to finding new solutions to old problems.

Of course, this analysis doesn’t necessarily imply that we need to be telling hard-hitting, factual stories that deal directly with South Africa’s unique history. Sure, there’s space for that. But I’m referring more to a particular mindset shaped by our unique experience; an outlook liberated from convention and infused with the belief that anything is possible.

Which brings me to my next point. Anything is possible.

Parallel to our social revolution, there has been a technological revolution that has dramatically reduced the barrier to entry for young film-makers.

When I was at film school in 2003/2004 (it doesn’t feel that long ago!) digital film-making was in its infancy – but we were still dependant on the costly facilities that only institutions could offer. Nobody I knew owned a camera capable of broadcast quality; we had to book one out from the store room for a day – if we were lucky.

Fast forward ten years, and the new iPhone can record video in higher quality than those clunky DSLRs we all stood in line for. Essentially, what would have required a van and a team and a week to create can now be accomplished in a day with a phone that fits in your front pocket. And that’s no exaggeration.

More and more feature films are being shot and even edited with palm-sized devices. The other day I watched a full-length horror movie created entirely with Skype, and was transfixed from beginning to end. That’s right – you can make movies without even lifting a camera. But even if you decide to walk a more traditional route, there is no shortage of free online tutorials that can upskill you in every aspect of film-making from make-up to special effects. Heck, you can even take college-level film courses for free via prestigious institutions like MIT and the British Film Institute. As Spike Lee pointed out in his recent talk at the Digital Edge conference in Johannesburg, you don’t need to go to film school to be a film-maker in the digital age.

And then of course there’s distribution – which is where the Jameson INDIE Channel comes in. Sharing your work wit the rest of the world has never been easier, particularly with platforms like ours in the equation. We believe wholeheartedly in the authenticity and fearlessness of South African creatives, and we exist to make that known to as many people as possible. In short, if you’ve taken the bold step of getting your ideas out of your head and turned them into a piece of video or writing or photography or art, we’d love nothing more than to help you find an audience.

The point of this post is really to just make you stop and consider how fortunate you are to exist at this partcular juncture of time and space. We live in a country overflowing with relevant stories that the rest of the world genuinely wants to hear. As a nation we are possibly more interested in the idea of developing our own distinct culture than anywhere else in the world. We are a young country, filled with crazy, inspired, hungry young individuals who march to the beat of their own drum.

We are free – free to do what we want, flipping the middle finger to the old ways. Twenty years since being reintegrated to the global community, we are finally over our inferiority complex and are starting to realise that, in terms of talent and creativity, we can go toe-to-toe with anybody in New York, London or Tokyo.

Add to this the fact that it’s never been easier to create and share your work with millions of people, and you ought to realise with blinding clarity that all the excuses we used to use have evaporated.

Your time is now, and we want to be a part of this revolution. Consider this an open-ended invitation to engage with the Jameson INDIE Channel at any time. Whether you’d like help in developing an idea, or sharing your finished product as widely as possible, we are here to participate in this great revolution.

Quit snoozing. Let’s do this!

Dylan Culhane is the Jameson INDIE Channel director, and a closet revolutionary. He loves sipping whiskey to the accompaniment of new ideas.