Thank you for giving us a few moments of your time and welcome to the SA Creative Network.
- 1. Africa Light/Gray Zone is a stunning short film. For those who don’t know about it, please tell us a little more about the project and what inspired it.
The production of the film was important to me, just to get my mind out of the commercial work I am usually confronted with. My intention to make this film was just based on an impression. Once I saw “The Cell”, directed by Tarsem Singh, and I was fascinated by the shots of Jennifer Lopez walking through the amazing landscape of Namibia in the opening scenes. The scene that was taken in the Death Valley near Sossusvlei was just breathtaking! Step by step, I wanted to know more about Namibia and got in touch with some people there who told me everything about the country and its social-economic situation. I recognised that it is similar to the economic and racial problems of South Africa. Finally, I started to conduct more research on the German occupation of Namibia, the communities, the poverty, the declaration of independence, the question of property and realised that identity is one of the major issues: It’s all about tradition vs. modernity. You can find more details on the film’s website: www.africa-light.com.
To keep it short, I initiated the production of the film together with some talented friends who supported me with regard to producing, music composition, sound design and so on. The film might looks like a TV commercial on first sight and it deals with many issues such as advertising, commercialisation, branding or corporate design. But this is just one relevant side. Because I am into advertising, it was important for me to show the contradiction of the wonderful nature of Africa and the process of influencing African people with products from the so-called first world. Africa has not always been just a beautiful continent. It was and still is seen as an important market, too. Tourism is one just of them. And what was the colonisation in the past, it seems to be the advertising today. It’s all about creating images and imagination, not only to the outside, also to the Africans themselves. One of the moments I’ll never forget was the United Colours of Benetton T-Shirt a male San wore proudly and his huge interest in Motorola cell phones when we shot a dance scene. On the other side, I met many European people dreaming about endless romance and freedom in Africa. There is a wonderful David Bowie music video that tells a similar story. It’s called “Let’s Dance!”
- 2. What successes has the film seen, where has it been screened?
Africa Light/Gray Zone has been screened at many international festivals all around the world, such as in France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil, France, China, US and South Africa at the likes of the Pan-African Film Festival in Cannes, the Ischia Film Festival, the Human Rights Film Festival of Barcelona, and more. This year, it has been awarded at the Long Island Film Festival in New York.
- 3. What are you working on at the moment and what are your hopes for the future?
Recently, I have spent my time working on commercial projects, so I have been working as a creative director for German advertising agencies on projects for big brands like Telekom Germany and T-Systems. Currently, I focus on more challenging, creative projects. So I work on TV / On Air Designs for the biggest TV broadcaster in Germany, the ZDF (German Channel Two). Additionally, together with a Los Angeles-based production company, I also spend my time producing music videos and TV commercials. And as a creative consultant, I care about print and web design projects for Deutsche Post, DHL, O2 Living New York and Glaceau vitaminwater.
For the future, I would like to spend more time working in cities like New York or London. I am working in Berlin now, but it is time for a change. Although it has diverse contradictions and contrasts, I especially love NYC and its inspirational effect. Obviously, I need just a few seconds there and my mind seems to fill up with ideas. The entire city is like an awesome book: You read it and you can’t stop loving it, even when it makes you fear! London is almost the ‘quiet opposite’ of New York. It’s not that kind of overwhelming and it’s not pushing you to the limit (maybe only in a financial way). But for me, the most-talented illustrators, designers, filmmakers and animators live and work in London. So I love the British graphic design scene! There are just so many studios or agencies making sophisticated, outstanding work and I especially love the Saatchi Gallery and its bookstore.
- 4. What advice would you give to our young budding filmmakers in South Africa, looking to do what you do?
My strongest advice is: Do not become a specialist. Do not focus on one thing that seems to be important to you – be an open-minded all-rounder. I never regret going this way and I have recognised that it is important to be able to work in many fields of creativity. For me, filmmaking is just one aspect of my work. I think creativity should not only be separated into film, design or animation. For me, it’s a hybrid – it’s everything together. A film needs aesthetic eye-catchers, an individual look and feel, a unique design and it also needs visual and special effects. So you can’t say, “I am focusing on film and design doesn’t matter to me.” The most successful directors, like one of my biggest idols, Tarsem Singh, also have a great interest in photography and design. Some of the best artists and designers in the world, like Matthew Barney, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham or Floria Sigismondi, are great filmmakers too. We need more people like them, so let’s do it their way!
- 5. Where can the readers view more of your work?
If you have a look on www.tinoschwanemann.com you can find some pieces of my work. The links to my blog, my Twitter account and so on are also included there. Feel free to check them out!
Africa Light/Gray Zone (trailer):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z_09uRZU-Y
Africa Light/Gray Zone Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/africalightgrayzone
Other work: Bang &Olufsen TVC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0o_t12Wo7s
GSG 9 (TV series) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRqEpMy_pXA
Vimeo Channel http://vimeo.com/user4701419