News, 05 December 2018

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AFDA Johannesburg – Adam Thal

AFDA alumni and executive producer Adam Thal has achieved colossal success executive producing commercials in particular. He founded The Star Film Company over 15 years ago after graduating from AFDA with a BA honours degree in Motion Picture Medium, majoring in producing.

Describe the moment you knew you wanted to work in film and television?

I know it sounds clichéd but when I was about six I watched E.T. and I immediately fell in love with filmmaking. I took my dad’s handicam and would make home videos of everything. It followed me into primary school and then high school until I found out I could make a career out of it, and then pursued my passion as a business. It was only at AFDA that I found my passion in the production of the 30 second spot.

What exactly does the job of an executive producer entail?

The term executive producer in film is very different to executive producer in commercials, and so at present my role entails representing and marketing my stable of directors to advertising agencies around the country. I am also responsible for making sure the right teams work on the right jobs at the right time. I oversee my line producers on each project and try and put out fires wherever necessary. In this game you are only as good as your last job, so it’s extremely important to keep the quality and service level as high as possible every time.

As someone who produces both film and commercials, which do you prefer and why?

Commercials have taken over my life and the film side has taken a back seat, but with that said, I absolutely love commercial production. Every project is so different to the next one that we are always learning and exploring new things, places and people. Not many careers take you to Russia, Egypt, Kenya and Los Angeles to work.

You founded The Star Film Company, tell us what led to the making of the company?

I was sitting in a producing lecture in my honours year at AFDA, and my late business partner and I decided that we wanted to open a production house that didn’t follow the normal mould. We were young, energetic and hungry to turn the commercials industry on its head. We were very naive at the time, but I guess now with a company over 14 years old we did something right!?

What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?

Probably when my late business partner Ryan Poole sadly passed away in a car accident in 2007. I hit a point where I was contemplating closing down the company or continuing in his honour. Luckily that’s when fellow AFDA alumni Tristan Holmes became my business partner and we decided to push on even harder in Ryan’s honour. It was the hardest time that led to an exciting rollercoaster ride.

What has been your career highlight(s) to date?

Being able to shoot in some of the most interesting places in the world. Some of our commercials have taken us to Russia, Los Angeles, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and hopefully many more exciting places to come.

If you could remake any Hollywood classic with an African twist, which would it be and why?

I would definitely remake FAME because having gone to AFDA for four years and been on a campus with wannabe filmmakers and performers, I noticed the talent we have in this country that doesn’t get to shine. I am also a HUGE fan of musicals, and FAME with a South African musical twist in a South African setting would be amazing!

Who are your mentors? Why them?

One of my first mentors in this game was Deon Opperman. As one of the forefathers of AFDA he used to take Ryan and myself aside and give us one on one lectures. He was inspirational and one of the biggest motivations in us going out and doing our own thing. In life my biggest mentor is my father who has always guided me and in a non-pushing way led me on a track of running a successful business. He also backed me when I decided that I wanted to pursue Film Production as a business.

What advice do you have for young people wanting to follow in your career footsteps?

Follow your dreams and if you have enough passion, devotion and drive to being a success, then nothing will stand in your way. Also enjoy the rollercoaster rides. My wife gave me the best saying in life which sticks with me every day in business, “You have to experience the tough times in order to really appreciate the good times!”


AFDA Cape Town alumna Jenna Bass has done it again. Her second feature film “High Fantasy”, shot with cell phones and a nano-budget has been awarded the Best South African Feature Film award at the 39th Durban International Film Festival 2018. It comes as no surprise either that “High Fantasy” also received a second award at the festival for Best Artistic Bravery.

“High Fantasy” is about four friends on a camping trip in the Northern Cape, South Africa on an isolated farm who wake up to discover they’ve all swapped bodies.

From the get-go, their jovial antics are interspersed with cutting conversations about race, land claims, and gender relations. Against starkly beautiful desert landscapes, the group captures these debates on their phones (between performing party tricks and hitting joints). But when they wake up the next day, they've inexplicably swapped bodies. Now, the discussions from the day before take on painful, and potentially destructive, new meanings.

High Fantasy reverberates with a powerful realness that is grounded by breakout performances from Qondiswa James, Francesca Michel and AFDA Cape Town Live Performance graduates Liza Scholtz and Nala Khumalo — all co-writers of the script. Their performances transcend clichés so often associated with asking questions about what it would mean to live in another's skin.

With a raw style that's part Blair Witch and part Tangerine, High Fantasy probes apartheid's still-unhealed wounds and challenges the platitudes of a promised peaceful future.

In 2013, Jenna shot and self-produced her directorial debut, Love The One You Love. The film won 3 awards at 2014s Durban International Film Festival – Best South African Feature Film + Best Direction in a South African Feature Film.  AFDA Cape Town 2009 Alumni, Chi Mhende won the Best Actress award in Jenna’s film. At the Jozi Film Festival Love The One You Love” won best Feature Film.  

An alumnus of the Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program, her Zimbabwe-set short film, The Tunnel, premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals.

In 2014 Jenna joined forces with DoodVenootSkap, a hip-hop collective from the gangland territory of Lavender Hill, to collaboratively workshop the first Cape Flats a-cappella rap-musical, entitled 17. The project will result in a four-part mini-series, entirely in Kaapse Afrikaans slang, for community TV station CTV.

Jenna is the editor and co-creator of Africa’s only pulp-literary magazine, Jungle Jim, published in South Africa, and soon to be syndicated in Nigeria. In 2012, under pen name, Constance Myburgh, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing, the continent’s leading literary award.

AFDA DURBAN – Liana Hassim

Multi- award winning AFDA Durban honours (2016) alumna, Liana Hassim, spent a good part of 2018 in Honduras directing her debut feature film, “El Regreso de la Llorona”. A remarkable feat considering she only graduated in 2016.

Liana was contacted by producer, Monika Tuncbilek, who was born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents. Her previous film 'y Los Tamales' won the award for 'best comedy' at the Latin Film Festival in Ohio.

El Regreso de la Llorona is due to premier in October 2019 in cinemas across Central and South America, just in time for Halloween. 

The film, set in the coastal town of La Ceiba, Honduras, the Spirit of 'La Llorona' attacks a group of teenagers on holiday at the beach, after they rape and kill a young woman, named Maria. Instead of calling the authorities, they decide to hide the body. In the darkest and most violent night of their lives, one by one, each perpetrator gets hunted down by 'La Llorona,' avenging Maria's gruesome rape and death. 

La Llorona is a popular legend/tale in Central and South America. "The Weeping Woman" is a ghost of a woman who’s husband killed her daughters before drowning her. She now cries while looking for Amandiya them, causing misfortune to men who harm women. 

Liana has won three Simon Sabela awards, for her AFDA films Amandiya, The Halfway House and the dark romantic comedy, David’s Winter.



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AFDA is registered as the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance, and is a private higher education institution which offers higher certificate and degree programmes. It is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as a private higher education institution under the the Higher Education Act, 1997. Registration certificate no. 2001/HE07/012. Our programmes are accredited and we participate productively in the ongoing reaccreditation and quality assurance processes of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to ensure the quality of our programmes.
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