Nowness, British Council & BFI's "The Dream That Refused Me" (short film)

Jabu Nadia Newman

Park Pictures

What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
I think my first professionally directed work was my first music video called “Queenie” for FAKA feat. Angel-ho in September 2018. I co-directed and co-produced with a friend of mine Luvuyo Nyawose and we were fresh out of film school. We were all friends and it was just so much fun so it’s hard to see it as “professionally” but we did have a tiny budget, crew and multiple locations. We shot at my old primary school, my grandmothers house and worked with all our friends. The first work where I had a client and was commissioned to direct a project only came in 2020 and 2021.

How did you get into directing?
I was always interested in art as a child. I did art classes my whole life and was gifted a camera by my uncle as a teenager. This got me taking my own images and I became interested in telling stories through still and moving image. I then studied film and just found myself naturally attracted to the directing side of it. The idea of being a visual storyteller was the most exciting thing.

What is your most recent project?​
I just recently completed two Nando’s commercials, one for TV and one for online. At the same time I worked on an online and TV campaign for Adidas Open Forum. Both projects were so different and so much fun. I got to learn different aspects of directing from each brand and tell completely different stories.

What is the best part of being a director?
I think being in control of the narrative and having a say or an interest in every aspect of the filmmaking process is definitely one of the best things. I also really love that as a director you’re encouraged to bring your own ideas, thoughts, life experience or just simply your taste to the table, and the fact that people are interested in you because of these things is really cool. As a director you bring creatives together and act as someone who helps everyone have a singular creative goal while trusting individuals to do their thing.

What is the worst part of being a director?
I’m not sure if there is a “worst” part of directing. I truly enjoy every part of it, but maybe there are parts that are more difficulty. I think having to spend time away from family for away shoots and having to be available 24/7 can be difficult. I think it also takes a lot of patience especially when it comes to pitching. Losing a pitch is the absolute worst for me, it’s completely heartbreaking but as soon as another inspiring script or board comes along, that creative possibility is enough to make me get up and try again.

What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
Commercials are my current focus but I am always writing narrative work when I’m not busy.

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
I have two mentors, Greg Gray and Terence Neale, and from both I learn different things everyday. I think the thing that resonates most with me from my mentors is their work ethic and experience. It’s also just amazing to have such accomplished people to have around to bounce off ideas, ask questions and even shadow on set.

Who is your favorite director and why?
I think I go through stages of favorite directors. The first director I fell in love with was Pedro Almodovar. He was my father’s favorite filmmaker and I vividly remember watching all his films with my dad. I loved the drama, color, queerness and over-the-top comedy and camp-ness. It got me to understand that different directors have styles and I always felt that Almodovar’s style was so incredibly unapologetic and always centered around his culture, community, family and life. Right now I’m going through a Billy Wilder phase, as well as Alice Rohrwacher and Kelly Reichardt. I’m currently watching all their work.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
The easiest and quickest answer would be The Sound Of Music, my favorite film and a child. I love musicals and it was my mother’s favorite film so we watched it a lot together. I love Julia Andrews as Maria, a strong and rebellious woman character. The political themes blend so well into the music and its essentially a coming-of-age film too. The one movie that I think I watch at least every month is After Hours by Scorsese. I don’t know what it is about that film but I love the journey it takes me on as an audience member. I can watch it 100 times and still feel anxious, thrill, frustration and even suspense when watching it. Its lots of fun!

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa to activist parents who worked in unions their whole lives. I went to a Waldorf school and got to study at the University of Cape Town. In my first year I did politics, philosophy and economics but found I spent all my free time helping my friends who were studying film with their school work. I then knew that if I was spending my weekends shooting student films then maybe I should probably study film. I changed my majors but kept politics to keep my dad happy. During my studies student protests shutdown our universities and I decided to take a year off. I then quickly got into the industry and was trying to get onto sets wherever possible and my university friends were trying to create things as much as possible.

How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?
I think it’s been amazing to be forced to take a break and have time to just be at home. It’s helped me be more creative in a way, with limitations comes creativity, and given me time to write and imagine things I’d like to make. It’s also been interesting how zoom calls being an accepted and even sometime preferred means of communication has opened up doors regarding meeting with international people.

Contact

Park Pictures: Contact Head of Sales, Virginia Willams, via email | Founding Partner, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, via email
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