Good evening to our invited guests, family and friends, AFDA Durban staff, and lastly, the class of 2016. My name is Jessica-Paige Smith, one of the 2016 graduates, also known as J-P for short. I will try my best not to make Mr Green nod off and share with you, a few epic moments that our incredibly talented year experienced over the past three years on this honourable occasion.
When I was asked by Mr Quinn to write this speech – first things first, a cup of coffee was made with the question in the back of my mind, “what the heck am I going to say?” After hours of staring absolutely puzzled in front of the computer, as we did with many of our group document questions and readings, I made another cup of coffee and decided to just stop overthinking it and speak from my heart.
I recall our first day of varsity so clearly and the great uncertainty of what it was going to be like studying with an entire class of alternative, ‘artsy-fartsy’ ‘creatives.’(I guess that’s why I majored in Producing) What I didn’t realize, is that I was one of them. We all sat in the actors’ studio, completely petrified, but overwhelmingly excited to start a new chapter, while being given the opportunity of producing our own short films, television shows and live performances. It was a challenging year of sleepless nights at AFDA, hours spent painting flats, amateur costume blood, sweat, tears and of course, many blossoming relationships that, I must add, are still going strong today – Ash and Dan, Row and Britt!
One thing that we all didn’t sign up for was including cultural relevance in every single production we produced, where we would try to weave in some form of cultural relevance through the costumes that the performers wore, or bring in some Durban slang. In saying this, it was one of the most informative aspects in our learning narratives, by researching about the country and city that we live in, thus forming a greater sense of pride and appreciation.
Second year truly began to test our friendships with one another, as we began to specialize in our chosen schools and disciplines. Producing a production each term was no easy task, especially in third term, where our production teams were chosen by the staff. I recall this term actually being one of the best terms, where we were forced out of our comfort zones and learnt how to deal with different team dynamics, diverse personalities and become even closer as a year group.
Third year included copious amounts of cursing, coffee and cigarettes, and let us not forget – VALA. This was when we REALLY had to get our shit together! In saying so, it was a year that I can definitely say was where we not only created our finest works yet, but truly grew as unique individuals, ready to face the ‘real world.’ We were given the opportunity to pitch in front of industry professionals who absolutely burnt us to shreds, but gave us constructive criticism, as well as years of knowledge and wisdom – even if it meant re-pitching three times before we were green lit, we did it!
One of the two profound lessons that I believe AFDA has taught us is to take risks, be it within the narrative of our productions, challenging camera angles, or pulling a guerrilla on a location, while accepting failure as a learning curve. A beautiful quote by J.K Rowling perfectly encapsulates this point, where she says that, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” I forgot to in-text reference there, sorry Miss Venter! Over the past 3 years of trial and error, we began to accept that our mistakes (or failures) became our ultimate lessons in preparing us for third year and life after university. With that, we learnt the importance of team work, where our common saying, “teamwork makes the dream work!” proved to be true!
On behalf of the class of 2016, I would like to thank all our remarkable lecturers for dealing with us and educating us at such a high standard on the exciting industry that we have chosen to pursue; the administrational staff for ensuring that everything ran as smoothly as possible – Miss van Niekerk, I do not know what we would have done without you after the DCP hacks and projection issues; our security staff for protecting us and Princess, for keeping our campus clean and being our Queen Diva of AFDA. I would love to elaborate on each and every lecturer, but I’ve been told that I’ve got the “gift of the gab” by Mr Quinn.
To the class of 2016, let’s not forget one another! We have no excuse with social media these days! We are the future of our industry in Durban, so let us make it a place to GO TO. I wish you all the brightest, most enriching, and successful futures and I encourage you to take risks with an unshakable confidence in order to grow – Remember that failure is okay and that we can always count on one another to pull us back up. Lastly, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes YOU come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world NEEDS is people who have come ALIVE.” Live with passion!