Dylan, what is your story?
Well, I guess it’s still being written like all of our stories. But up until now, it has been quite a varied story, all seeming to orbit around the idea of discovering and working with exciting creative, talented South Africans. It has been a journey through art, publishing and advertising.
You are with Native VML?
The Jameson Indie Channel was developed by Native before I got there. It is a typical Native project. What I love about the agency is that it has a very ideas-driven culture where great ideas come first and then they sort of find a way to work with brands. Without knowing too much of the origins of the thinking behind it, I know it was developed as a digital strategy for Jameson but it has become so much more than that, it is very much an ideas driven platform. The Indie Channel becomes this pool of fantastic content ideas. It’s really nice working in a company where everyone, even the programmers, are creative to a large degree. A lot of ideas gravitate my way and we try to develop them into something cool for the Indie Channel.
You are also a photographer?
Yes, I have never really been bold enough to call myself a professional photographer because it has always been more of a passionate aspect of my life that’s come to infuse into everything. More and more it has become a way of seeing the world. My photography is almost like a sketch book for bigger and broader visual ideas that I have. Taking photographs tunes me into visual awareness, sometimes the photograph is a means to an end and I will exhibit or publish it or something like that. Sometimes it is really just a sketch book for new ideas.
More more more?
The photography that I do, is for the most part quite experimental. Photography is an extremely well explored field. Everyone is a photographer to some degree now. I really push myself to do something different and fun, it is what keeps me going. Most of the time I work with multiple exposure. It’s all about super imposing two, three, four or five different view points of reality. Which is actually how we experience the world. I am sitting across from you Sandy, we are having a discussion. I am not looking at you through a three by four ratio frame focused only on your face and everything else is out of focus. I am talking to you, I can hear people behind me, I can see out onto the street, I can smell things, I can see across the road… I am absorbing it all at the same time, we all are. I think that is actually how we experience reality. Not in this sort of tunnel vision way. The work I do, even though it seems arty and abstract is really reinforcing a varied idea between Buddhism and Quantum Physics, it’s like this idea that reality isn’t a single dimension thing. There are multiple levels upon us at all times.
The other thing is to encourage people to see the world differently. To some degree my work is consequentially South African. Being a South African has produced this way of seeing the world because we live, to use a cliche, in the melting pot. Where there are multiple languages and realities that are all valid all of the time, at the same time. We have 11 languages, it is not like they are ranked in order, they are all equally important. So I do this mash where a new language is formed visually. As a South African I really see the world as this composite idea, very fluid, very intermingled. Rather than this fixed reality.
What is your creative process?
My creative process is very mangled, to be honest. I think as a creative professional which is what I guess I would consider myself, it is about taming that dragon, that process, that inspiration. To me it can flow in at any time, it can seep in through any crevasse. I typically just respond quite instinctively and spontaneously and rely very much on gut instinct. I know I don’t practice enough or streamline my ideas enough, but I suppose the journey is to try and manage all of those impulses in a constructive way.
Native VML and Jameson have together created a content platform for SA creatives?
Yes, it is called the Jameson Indie Channel. It has been running for about three years. I am quite new to it. It is the first time they have appointed somebody in my role, I am the director of the Indie Channel. It is focused predominately on Indie film making, but the way that I see it is that filmmakers are a lens into a whole range of other creative stories in South Africa. So filmmakers tend to be tuned into this idea of a story, finding stories and interesting people. I spend a lot of time building relationships with filmmakers and through these people, we will get to explore a whole spectrum of creativity in South Africa.
You got to interview Spike Lee?
Yes, that was amazing and very scary, but exciting. Native do a conference every year called the Digital Edge, Spike Lee was the main speaker. It was definitely the biggest interview I have ever done. He is quite an intimidating guy because he is very solemn and very straightforward and not very emotional, but very wise of course. So that was a lot of fun, we just had fifteen minutes with him. I really enjoyed it, he is a really really kind soul and a really nice person, I got a nice impression of him.
What did you take away from the interview, he is definitely someone with a lot to teach.
That is the thing, he has a lot to teach. I wanted to ask him for advice for young filmmakers in South Africa, that was the just of the interview. What emerged, and not in a way that he was trying to deflect from the question, but with this humility that he has he said that it wasn’t really for him to say as it doesn’t really matter what he thinks as it is up to young filmmakers to go out there and discover their own identity. I think that really stuck with me. We cant look to a Spike Lee as some sort of messiah who is going to lead us towards some holy land but rather we have to knuckle down and do the hard work ourselves.
We have so much talent in our own country, why are we looking elsewhere…
It is ridiculous, as I said that has been what most of my career has been about, finding and chatting with these interesting and talented creative people. There is just no shortage, I could do this every single day, 24 hours a day with a team of 50 and I still wouldn’t scrape the surface. I think with the Jameson Indie Channel that is what is already starting to happen. There is an established idea of who is doing exciting things in Cape Town and those people tend to crop up on the radars of a lot of different publications and platforms, we are really trying to dig a layer deeper and find those people who are writing songs in their bedrooms or making movies with their friends in their neighborhood or doing something which they might even think is stupid or insignificant, but who knows some of the greatest ideas started that way. We are really trying to discover these diamonds in the rough. What is very affirming is that with the Indie Channel, we have an e-mail address if you have an idea, a concept, a finished work, something you want to share, something you want to work on, send it to us. People have started to send links to their blogs and songs that they have recorded and little script ideas. It’s really exciting, some of it is really damn good. Nobody knows about these people, they are writing these things in their bedrooms, they are just taking a chance and they are better than they think.
The creative process is a tough one. As a creative myself I battled with the question of, at what point I call myself a writer. It is scary to put yourself out there. What do you say to young creatives who are trying to find their feet?
I think what I would say is filtered through the lens of this author I have been reading. Steven Pressman’s The War Of Art. I guess if you are asking these questions about yourself whether you are good enough, or if you can do it or if you should be an artist… the answer is most definitely yes. If those are the questions that are coming to you. The indication of that struggle within you means it is something worth fighting for. There is something within you, that you want to do.
Something I am trying to do is to put everything aside, put the title of writer and artist to one side. I spend too much time trying to categorize myself, am I a photographer, an artist, or a writer? You end up getting so strung up in that type of abstract naming discussion and what it really does is just hold you back from doing the work. Just sit down with your turntables or your sketchbook or your canvas or your computer, whatever it is. Just sit down and do it. Trust that, that magic of creativity that no-one can really define will flow through you. It is only going to find you when you sit down to do it.