#CreatepreneurAfrica Neil Schell, A story of visually connecting continents

 

Director and producer, Neil Schell,originally from North America and spanning a film and television career for three decades, arrived on Africa's entertainment scene and made a world of visual impact, beyond continents when he teamed up with renowned Kenyan actress Scolly Cheruto. 

As managing director of Cheruscopic Productions, the team has reached phenomenal heights. Currently, they are in development of an animation  African superhero series called MAXUS, Mogaka na Chema, a Kiswahili comedy, as well as OASIS, a co-production with Canada and South Africa supported by the Canadian Media fund and the National film and Video Foundation in South Africa

Neil  Schell has featured in renowned international shows like ‘ The Watchmen’, ‘A Team’ and Fringe. Bridging the continental gap between North America and Africa,  as a mentor and business partner at a leading production house in Kenya,Cheruscopic Production.Combined talents  brought together creative wonders like 39 episodes of a Kiswahili comedy called LokoLoko and thirteen episodes of an English drama, Twisted, as well as 26 Episodes of an English drama called Monica amongst many others.

He is passionate about sharing skills in ongoing actors and apprentice workshops with continous workshops between tight schedules.

A recent social media post by Neil Schell that caught the attention of the #CreatePreneurAfrica research group was an Actors Core Group 2019 course for actors to produce their own projects an take charge of their roles.

It reflected the boom stage of the film and television industry and the constant need for quality content.  It was a call out for actors aspiring to produce their own works and launching a career without ever looking back.

The #CreatePreneurAfrica team reached out regarding a feature film project in development, #SHUJAA, Kiroho Mtoto….#LANGUAGEREVOLUTION regarding a ‘warrior’ lead role envisioned to be played by none other than Lupyana Kihaka, a Tanzanian actor.

#CreateprenuerAfrica – Proudly Tanzanian Actor – Kihaka GND

Neil Schell came on board and agreed to support the project. Cheruscopic Productions were brought on board to join the #LANGUAGEREVOLUTION  as the executive producers of  #SHUJAA, Kiroho Mtoto_Mtoto wa kiroho kurudisha ulimwengu wetu #Warrior_ Spirit child taking back our earth… envisioned to be ‘the feature film of the millennium’

#Language revolution!
“Úshujaa  : Mtoto wa kiroho kurudisha ulimwengu wetu
#WARRIOR
*spirit child taking back our earth

Meet  the passion of Africa, beyond continental borders  #CreatePreneurAfrica Neil Schell

Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life?

My passion is to tell stories with the purpose of connecting Africa with North America so the people of both continents begin to understand each other more. Right now there is this huge misconception between their inhabitants.

How did you find your passion and how old were you?

I wanted to be a part of the film and TV industries when I was around 16 years old.   But it took me a while to find my place.  It’s kind of been a continuous discovery over the past 4 decades.

What about your passion appeals to you the most? 

The freedom to create, to communicate on a large scale about things that matter and with that communication being able to inspire others to improve conditions for themselves and others.

What drove you to make money from your passions?

It  came hand-in-hand with wanting to reach as many people as possible.  The film and TV industries are the vehicle to achieve my passion and at the professional, money-making level the most people are communicated to

When was the first time you were paid for your passion?

 Way back around 1983.

  What kept you going when you thought about giving up?

Just somehow knowing that I was meant to do this line of work.

What motivates you every day to be even more successful?

The excitement I have for the projects I am working on.

What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?

I would have to say, “I know you couldn’t see it in me then but I am glad you can see it in me now.”

 What advice do you give to aspiring creatives who look up to you?

Be persistent and professional and never stop learning.  Enthusiasm is contagious. Spread it!

CreatePrenuerAfrica – Kenya’s Sheila Munyiva – award winning movie RAFIKI

Sheila Munyiva made world headlines after her role as Ziki in the very first Kenyan feature film to be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival: Rafiki by Wanuti Kahiu . Starring together with  Samantha Mugatsiashe , they received standing ovations and well deserved international recognition..  

The crux of the film challenges societal convention,tackling taboo subjects.Rafiki was applauded internationally but banned locally in Kenya's web of colonial-era law structures in a paradigm of homophobia that condemned the film for promoting lesbianism.

Meet #CreatepreneurAfrica  Kenya’s rising star-  Sheila Munyiva

Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life?
I am driven by making a difference. Growing up, I would look around and see so many things that I thought were unfair and that if done in a different way, things would be better.
As a child, there’s not much that I could have done but now as a young black woman, all the power rests in my hands and I can make a difference.
My true passion in life is acting, activism and filmmaking. These three to me are very closely related and are mediums that allow you to truly make a difference.
How did you find your passion and how old were you?
I found my passion for activism when I was really young. I was the girl who spoke up every time I saw an injustice happen and I was the girl who encouraged others to speak up and allow no one to put them down. My passion for acting and filmmaking came about when I was 18 years old.

A friend of mine invited me to go on set as an extra for a TV series and when I walked on set, I was in awe. At that moment, a switch turned in my brain and I realized this was what I needed to do. I went back to college the next day and changed my course from Mass Communication (at the time, I was studying to be a news anchor) to TV and Video Production.

What about your passion appeals to you the most?
The fact that I closely get to work with people. I love to study people to know what makes them tick, what makes them happy and how I can help.
What drove you to make money from your passions?
I realized that I could make money from the industry and that I could support myself and my grandmother. Being an orphan in Kenya is not easy so when I realized I was able to make ends meets from my passions, I was driven to do more.
 When was the first time you were paid for your passion?
The first time I got paid for my passion was the first time I went on the set that changed the course of my career. I remember I was given fare money and a packet of chips 😂 and that to me was everything.
What kept you going when you thought about giving up?
I kept going because I realized how far I had come. My life has been full of ups and downs and every time I thought about giving up, I saw the little me and how far she had come and I knew I couldn’t let her down.
What motivates you every day to be even more successful?
I am motivated by my progress and growth, I am motivated by incredible women like my mother and grandmother, Sir Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was one the president of Libya, Nomzamo Mbatha a great woman, actor and speaker and my friend Moana Luu who is the head of Essence magazine.
What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?

Looking back, I realize it might have appeared that the odds were indeed against me, but that was no reason to talk down and discourage me. What if you dimmed my light? There would be no Sheila Munyiva.

What advice do you give to aspiring creative's who look up to you?
To live a creative life, you must loose your fear of being wrong. Trust your gut and take risks, eventually, it does pay off.

#CreatepreneurAfrica- Riaan Hendricks, prolific South African filmmaker on the “Ramothopo the Centenarian” journey

A multi-award winning, Cape Town's prolific film director, Riaan Hendricks weaves into a rich tapestry of storytelling moments engrossed in the delicate elements of his creations. He wavers on motions of a constant struggle to engage audiences with emotional landscapes of life characters and stories into the beyond of everyday lives. His latest film follows the 110-year old Ramothopo and his 99-year-old wife, Anna.

Ramothopo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He initiated his ‘sterling directorial debut’  into the world of documentary with ‘A Fisherman’s tale in 2004.

His celebrated work constantly pushes the boundaries laid out in the documentary genre. Riaan is currently completing his Masters in Film at the Universtiy of Cape Town( UCT).

Skype: riaanhendricks | Twitter: @filmseason
Vimeo: riaanhendricksfilm | Facebook: riaanhendricks

A Fisherman’s Tale (2004) “…reminds me of the art of Picasso and Diego Riviera, who had used their art to animate the condition of the working people and their dignity”
– Professor Ben Turok, 
Independent Newspapers.

His film “The Devils Lair (2013) was received critical acclaim and was played on almost all the continents receiving multiple film awards.

 

  • Best Documentary World Cinema Award at the New Zealand International
  • Documentary Edge Festival 2014
  • Best Documentary Feature Award SAFTA’s 2014
  • Best Documentary Feature Editor Award SAFTA’s 2014
  • Jury Special Mention Documentary, Luxor Film Festival, 2014
  • Best South African Documentary Feature, JOZI FILM FEST 2014
  • Best South African Feature Documentary, Screen Excellence Award, 2013
  • Jury Special Mention at the 24th Festival Cinema Africano Asia Latin Americana, 2014

Meet CreatepreneurAfrica’s  profound South African filmmaker, Riaan Hendriks

Riaan Hendricks is a filmmaker. A beekeeper. Publisher of Docstreet Radio (www.soundcloud.com/docstreet).
What is your latest film all about?

My latest film is titled “Ramothopo the Centenarian”. It’s story of what it takes to return the love and care to 110-year old Ramothopo old and Anna his 99-year-old wife – who for generations played a vital role in their family and community.

In her younger years, Anna spent her younger life as a prophetess and healer. Leprosy was amongst many of the sicknesses she knew how to cure. She assisted many barren women to have children.

Even the mentally ill were lined up at her door for help. It’s not easy to judge her age from gauging her intelligent conversations. This woman she is strong – and surpassing 100 is nothing new in their family.

Their home was always a refuge to those in need of help.

Ramothopo was a preacher over hundreds of people. It’s his feeble state that compelled his granddaughter to spend more time with him in what seems to be the last years of his life. She’d leave her Cape Town family behind and journey the 1800km trip with 2 year old Anushka to attend to Ramothopo – whom she calls her dad. Her own dad passed away when she was still very young.

The film itself is a heart-warming experience. We all have a Ramothopo and an Anna in our lives. And if time permits – we too will find ourselves where they are. After watching the film – you’ll never look at life quite the same again.

How did you finance the film?

This is one of the most expensive films i’ve made in recent years. It’s also my longest. The cost cannot be translated into cash value – since it’s entirely funded with passion, handwork, and perhaps diligence. Usually, you’d go out and look for money before you film – or when you are in the edit. This film, however – was never meant to be a film. Initially, I was merely taken by the contrast between my two-year-old daughter and her interaction with her great-grandparents. I chose to film it for memories keep shake.

However – the more I filmed, the harder it became to confront the themes as it manifested itself.

I’m of sound mind and healthy body. To confront the realities of feebleness, old age and the dependence on love and care is the hardest I’ve ever filmed. Yet it’s in the very struggle of processing the themes and translating it into meaning that a film gets born. From experience, I know that is how all my films are done. It’s in your heart where the film gets born.

Thus every time we went to Botlokwa, i’d film. And the more I filmed – the more the humanness of feebleness, madness, and love emerged.

A life experience that changes you often makes a good film. This film changed me. I could not walk away from it without translating it into cinema and be titling it “Ramothopo the Centenarian”.

Where to from here?

Well, the film was finished a few days before the Encounters International Documentary Film Festival. The festival itself has always been the home ground of South African documentary cinema. So I’m thankful for their continued support of my work over the years. But with the Ramothopo, I truly thought that this time around they will be rejecting my work!

The film has possibly the longest documentary film shot that I know of. It’s a black and white film. It’s about old age. Yet, the maturity of their film selection and their ability to appreciate documentary cinema implies that South African documentary has a great future under their curatorship. So long live Encounters!

Obviously, we’d like to have the film broadcast. It is the centenary year of Nelson Mandela. If ever a film reflects the lives of our ordinary aged and feeble – this is the one.

I’m hoping a broadcaster will pick it up – so that we can translate some of the sweat, blood, and tears into bread, butter and attend to some requests their granddaughter has for her grandparents.

What advice do you give to aspiring creative is who look up to you?

It’s in the heart. That’s’ where it starts. Follow your instinct – even if it makes little sense. It’s not supposed to make sense – you are a filmmaker, not an actuary. If the final product has no resonance with your audience – move over to the next film. It’s a combination of your external physical craft and your internal filmmaker’s voice being honed. If the festival or funder rejects your work. Cry loud. Wipe your tears soldier. Eventually – it will all come together. You have to explore and discover through your cinematic choices who you really are.

And you have to push it. When you are young – it’s easy to close doors with your restless passion and vocal conflicting ideas. It’s fine. Let them close the doors. If you are able to stand up for what you believe and go hungry for it. Do it. It will only shape your character resulting in better work down the line.

When was the first time you were paid for your passion?

My first real paid job was when the National Film and Video Foundation funded my 26-minute documentary “A Fisherman’s Tale (2003).” When you consider how these guys are developing our industry, making huge financial investments in our development as film-makers – often granting us the license to explore our medium: regardless of its commercial value. We should applaud them for it.

Storytelling is an act of culture – their commitment ensured great vibrancy thereof. Furthermore, they managed to create a conducive environment to grow our talent and industry. If only our public broadcaster could come to the table in the same way. Could you imagine what positive impact that would have on the emergence of South African cinema?