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9th October 2020
‘Fake it til you make it’
Title of film: PHFAT, Whatever You Like
Director: Paul Ward
Director and photographer Paul Ward turned the trials of his covid-enforced break from commercials work into creating this no-budget, yet stunning music video for South African artist PHFAT. We talk with the Cape Town and sometimes Berlin-based director about the importance of introspection when the going gets tough and learning how to steer his own ship rather than being taken by the tides

Whatever You Like

 

How would you sum up your childhood and where was it?

My childhood was pretty normal in most ways. I was born in Johannesburg, but in 1994, at the age of 5, my Mom relocated us to Cape Town, it was of course a very tense political time in South Africa, and being a single mom she moved us closer to her sister in Cape Town. Not that I was aware of the political status of the country, I was just excited to be by the sea. I was always quite academic, but at high school I was introduced to Art & Design for the first time, and found a passion to create I never knew I had.

Where are you currently based?

I’m based in Cape Town, but Berlin is my home away from home. Except for this year, I generally spend three to six months in Berlin during summer.  I am represented by Stink in Germany so now I get to spend time working there too.

 

Whatever You Like

 

You’ve only been directing for nearly four years – please give us a potted history to what led you to filmmaking.

In 2010 I graduated from Advertising college, and decided to take a year to dedicate to photography, I didn’t know what that meant, but although I really like advertising I knew I loved photography. By the end of 2010 I had become a prolific nightlife culture photographer in South Africa. Photography blogs were big then, instagram wasn’t big in RSA yet.

I slowly transitioned into shooting more documentary style images for brands, fashion campaigns. They were often small videos on the back of them, which I sort of faked it ’til I made it, and just told them I could do it. I had to teach myself Premiere etc… as I was a one stop shop. Just really bad event recap films, but in 2015 a director I met in Germany asked me to DOP/operate for a few short documentaries for him as he liked my stills, and this was my first taste of proper film making.

But in early 2016 I won what for me was a big stills campaign for Wrangler, I some how convinced them to let me direct the film they were shooting on the back of it, again fake it till you make it.

The Wrangler film turned out quite nicely, and later that year Kim Geldenhuys who had been guiding me throughout the years, asked me to join 0307 Films as a “Director”. I didn’t really understand what it meant at the time, but I guess he saw something in me. Since the day I job shadowed Kim when I was 15 years old, I had admired his work and his craft, so was honoured to be under his guidance at 0307, and then I guess I was officially a Director, with a huge imposter syndrome complex.

 

Whatever You Like

 

So you started your career shooting commercials?

Strangely yes, but I think there was a trend at the time for an authentic documentary aesthetic in commercials, and my photographs were telling those sort of honest stories, so all my first commercials were these stylised documentary narratives. When I had briefs that were out of that aesthetic I had to grow fast, but tbh I still prefer my work that I shot in this genre, it connects with me most deeply.

2020, a turbulent year that has impacted on all of us in different ways, some positive and some a whole lot of difficulties. How has it been for you?

My 2019 ended quite traumatically for me, with my parents both falling very ill, so I decided to take a break from commercial work for the first three months of 2020, and be available for family. This was before Covid was a thing, so my three-month break turned into nine months without shooting a job, which was very hard mentally and emotionally.

I think in the creative industry, we get so much self worth from work, which is something which is good when things are good, but when it’s taken away, it gets very dark. I certainly had to confront myself over the past months and work out who I was without work. It was a tough period, but coming out of it and working again, I feel it has had an overwhelming positive effect on me. I feel more energised, more focused and more like I’m steering my own ship rather than being taken by the tides.

What was behind your decision to make a music video?

When I was a documentary photographer, most of my work was self initiated projects, and I would just create all the time, obviously this is much easier as a photographer than a director. But for the past few years I really missed this side of me, and although commercial work was going great, and I was growing and being pushed. I was never creating something that I wasn’t briefed to create, something that could really capture your soul and vision as a director and I really needed this.

 

Whatever You Like

 

Please tell us about the whole creative process of making Whatever You Like.

The creative process was clear, the restrictions of no budget and self funding the project were exciting for me. I knew I had to go back to what I loved and what had got me here, documenting people. I, of course,  had grand ideas but I knew at the end the day the soul of the film would be the people, honest moments between people.

I asked Hana a 21 year old motion design student and friend to help me with the project, and she took up the role as producer. A DOP friend Deon Van Zyl, joined when he was available, but he was busy on jobs a lot of the time, which meant the set, which was mainly my apartment, was always very intimate. With the help of Hana and social media we cast real couples. And then we just set up the scenes, played them the song, and documented their journey.

What were the main challenges of the production?

I guess the mindset shift from commercial process to what can you make with nothing was the hardest part, but once that was done, it was very easy and smooth. But letting go of the safety nets of normal production is easier said than done. Of course making a film takes a lot of people but I think my treatment made it easy and exciting for people to want to invest their time and energy in the job, which allowed for a great post production team to join the project.

With such a limited budget – how did you adjust from working with commercial budgets to a labour of love?

Initially I didn’t limit my  treatment to any budget or production constraints, and I had a lot of big ideas, but the treatment also captured what the soul of the film was to me, and as the process unravelled and shots and ideas were not possible, I just had to stay true to what the core emotion of the film was. One thing I realised early on is that although I might not have had money I had time, so I just leaned on that, shooting a lot of the commercial myself over many nights not just two full shoot days, working around the cast’s timings, and even doing initial selects of the footage to help the editor be as effective with his time. 

 

Whatever You Like

 

You have a strong relationship with colour – do you work with a regular colourist?

Maybe because of my photographic background colour and grade is always so key to me. Most of my work had been done by two colourists, Ricky @ MPC LA and Nic @ Strangelove in Cape Town. Nic graded the music video and we did it over a number of sessions with lots of time between them, again a luxury commercial work would never allow for.

What’s next?

As I write this, the music video hasn’t even been released yet, so I have no idea if people will resonate with it, or if it will “do well”, maybe it’s the weird year we’ve had, and self talks I’ve been forced to have, but the process seams more important and rewarding than the feedback of a project atm. And the process of making this was truly rewarding.

SO although I’m shooting commercials again, the next music video is in preproduction, it’s for a relatively unknown African artist who I fully believe in, and can’t wait to make something to the powerful song he has created.

 

Paul Ward website

@iampaulward

Credits

PHFAT,  What Ever You Like

Written & Directed By Paul Ward

Producer : Hana Jayne Sho

Dop : Deon Van Zyl

Additional Camera : Paul Ward & Hana Jayne Sho

Editor : Xander Van Der

Colourist : Nic Apostoli

Post : Strangelove Studios

Title Design : Daniel Ting Chong

 

EPHĒMEROS

Director : Paul Ward
Producer : Martina Schieder
Executive Producer : Jo Barber
Production Co : 0307 Films
Drone Pilot – Wesley Green @ BigBird Cinematography
Drone Camera Operator – Jonno Searle @ BigBird Cinematography
CGI : Gavin Coetzee @ WickedPickels
Editor : Xander Vander @ Strangelove Studios
Composition & Sound Design : Simon Kohler @ Field Sound
Colourist : Ricky Gausis @ MPC
Make Up : Alice Coloriti
Fashion Stylist: Gabrielle Kannemeyer
Garment made by Nicholas Coutts.

 

Samlam, The Plan

Agency : The King James Group
Production Company : Giant Films
Executive Producer : Emma Lundy

Director : Paul Ward
Producer : Martina Schieder
1st AD : Carey Lagoe
DOP : Adam Bentel
Additional Camera : Deon Van Zyl
Drone : Big Bird Aerials
Focus : Nicholas Turvey
Production Designer : Wendy Fredriksson
Wardrobe : Elton Campbell
Make Up : Merle Titus
Grip : Roderick Dean-Smith
Gaffer : Marcel Shimba
Editor : Xander van Der
Online : Charmaine Greyling
Post : Strangelove Studios
Grade : Nic Apostoli
Music : Field Audio

 

Puma, Outperform

Agency: PWJDTC
Production Company: 0307 Films
Director Paul Ward
Dop: Deon Van Zyl
1st AC : Kevin Schnider
Gaffer : Rob Wisniewski
Editor: Xander Vander
Music: Sibot
Colorist: Deon Van Zyl
Post: Static Black
Stylist: Gabrielle Kannemeyer
HMU: Sian Bianca Moss

 

Kärcher, Bring Back The Wow

Agency : Antoni Berlin
Production : Stink Berlin
Service : 0307 Films
Executive Producer : Martina Lülsdorf
Producer : Beate Ehlert
Service Producer : Martina Schieder

Director : Paul Ward
Dop : Zack Spiger
Editor : Xander Van Der @ Strangelove Studios
Composer : Simon Ringrose @ Say Thank You
Colourist : Ricky Gausis @ MPCLA
VFX : Slaughterhouse Berlin

 

Toyota, Rami Anis

Agency : Dentsu
Production : REJELL / STINK
Director : Paul Ward
DOP : Jamie Ramsay
Editor : Saki Bergh
Colour : Ricky Gausis
Sound & Music : De Falcon

 

Wrangler, The Wild Way Home

Ft. James Kingston & Magdalena Sieczarek

Words by Harry Baker.
DOP: Micheal Ceary / Deon Van Zyl