You’ve shot a prolific amount of work both commercially and personally and yet are still in your 20s. What attracted you to filmmaking in the beginning?
It’s a funny story actually.. When I was in my early teens, I was super shy and dreaded the terms ‘speech’ or ‘presentation.’ When we were asked to do a talk for class, I got creative and filmed the whole thing ‘vlog’ style instead. The class really enjoyed it and from then I was always known as Dan, the guy that films things. This opened up a lot of small doors when I was younger to film music videos for classmates, surfing clips, small entrepreneur films; you name it and I was there to film it. After that, I was able to save up and buy a more professional (in those days) ‘HD’ cam and a little editing set up. I left school and never really stopped making films of all scales till now where I am predominantly directing TVCs.
Did you go to film school or did you learn on the job? What was your lucky break?
I tried out the film school route but only lasted a year and a bit till I realized that what I was doing before was, for me, a better learning curve. So I started off my first little content creation hub with some partners called ‘If Not Why Not,’ which was so rad. We went on to do all kinds of projects that really guided my career.
Please describe your childhood.
Wow… Big question, haha. A young curious surf rat with an extreme interest in classical music. Yep, I was pretty confused, but always had a fire burning to succeed in something.
What’s your usual creative process – do you brainstorm in a team or work initially by yourself on ideas?
My producer V and I have this special way of shouting out different ideas until something sticks. After that, it’s a long stream of whatsapp voice notes super early in the morning or late at night when inspiration strikes. After that, I work with a researcher and we move through everything pretty systematically.
Do you work out your detailed treatments or shots lists or do your films tend to evolve considerably in the edit?
No, we develop pretty locked off shot lists after the ideas in the treatment have been won. If you have a solid understanding of the shots you need for the edit, you can better them on set once you are truly in the moment. For me it always tends to work out that way. I can drop shots to move and save time if I understand all the cutting points.
You have a knack for capturing the core spirit of some of your characters – commercially the girl in Vodacom is a great force and so too is the totally captivating boy in your wonderful film Gift. Is this positivity something that attracts you to the brief in the first place or do you write some of the scripts yourself?
Positivity is an angle I have always taken with my personal work so yeah it’s definitely what draws me toward a board or script upfront. Once getting deeper into it, if I feel that there are parts of the script that should change, I’ll rewrite and suggest it to the creatives. All the films I write alone though are in the positive world.
Do you work usually with a small crew – a lot of your work tends to feature many locations so we’re assuming you have to be quite nimble to move quickly.
You can’t always keep it to small, but I definitely prefer a tight group of likeminded HODs working together to make something rad. When I work quickly and we’re always on the move, it feels like I can keep going for longer.
What’s your favourite film that you have directed and why?
That’s always a tough one for me; depends on the day you ask and how I’m feeling work-wise. Today I feel like my favourite film on my reel is ‘The Sound of Silence’; I made it a few years ago with a couple of mates and the whole process was so raw. It was a beautiful journey through the Transkei that lasted a couple weeks.
What’s in the pipeline?
It’s been a super busy year for me so I’m taking a time out for a month or so now while work is slowing down and going to work on some strat for my YouTube stuff, getting my channel dusted off and pushing out content again. I also want to create one or two of the short films I have written over the past couple of years. Then after that I’d like to start off the new year with a bang. There are a couple TVC’s in the pipeline as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I own the world’s fattest sausage dog. If anyone has any slimming tips, he’d be hugely grateful!