Above: cover design by Lindi Cameron of 4-6-11 Design

This year saw me working on two long-running documentary projects for the University of South Africa (Unisa). I once again had the pleasure of working with Dr Karendra Devroop with whom I had worked in 2012 when he was the director of the NWU’s School of Music. Karendra is currently deputy-director at the Unisa Music Foundation and approached me at the beginning of this year to produce two short documentaries, one on Unisa’s International Music Competition and another on their Community Music Project.

Above: filming pianist Ben Schoeman in Pretoria   

The Music Competition project took me to Bloemfontein earlier this year to shoot an interview with master pianist Lukas Vondracek from the Czech Republic. It was a pleasure to meet and interview Lukas in spite of the fact that we nearly missed him due to a mix-up with flight times and me dealing with a bit of a medical emergency -  I experienced severe lower back pain throughout the shoot that would later turn out to be a kidney stone…thanks to a handful (or more) of painkillers I was able to keep on filming. The project concluded a few months later in Pretoria during the final rounds of the National Wind Instrument competition and more interviews with famous musicians. Here I had the pleasure of filming the first South African winner of the International Piano Competition, Ben Schoeman. One thing that struck me throughout this project was the humility of the top musicians. One would expect fame and talent to produce the stereotypical prima donna personalities that the media loves to portray. However I never saw any of that during this project – they are all artists but also true professionals. And a lot of them are just really nice guys to be around!

Above: filming in Soshanguve township

The Community Music Project took us to Soshanguve township north of Pretoria and a newly-established Unisa music school. Just as it was the case with Karendra’s South African Music Outreach Project, this shoot afforded me the chance to meet some truly remarkable people who managed to find purpose and meaning in life through music, many times in spite of miserable everyday circumstances. Sometimes I think people would complain less about their otherwise privileged lives if they listen to more of these stories.

Above: Sony NEX-FS100 and Miller DS20 tripod. A perfect combination. 

These were my first big doccie projects shot with the Sony NEX-FS100. I simply love this camera. I had to wait for my new camera to arrive due to backorder issues at Sony, but my suppliers were kind enough to organise a demo camera for me for the first few days of the two projects. I expected some issues due to it’s manual DSLR-style lens, but there never were any. In my shooting style I prefer more static images and this camera is ideal for that (I bought a follow focus unit anyway…haven’t used it yet). I can’t wait to put more specialised glass on the front of this camera...soon.

I’m a creature of habit and I stick to what and whom I know for large projects. Audio post was again done for me by Pieter de Bruin at the Artema Recording Studio and as usual the results are awesome – crappy camera sound somehow becomes perfectly clean and balanced movie soundtracks when Pieter goes to work on the waveforms. OFM’s Yolanda Maartens (soon to be Brown) narrated and I just love working with her. Pieter and I established a technical workflow that allows me to preview visuals for Yolanda in the sound booth while Pieter records her narration. Although it’s probably crude by regular high end production standards our workflow works for everyone involved and gets the job done.

Above: Done. I love this part of any large project!