The Callsheet met with the three men behind Collective Dream and discussed the future of the studios and the company’s plans going forward.
The men behind Collective Dream, the company that bought the facilities that housed Waterfront Studios, are director Sean Else, his father-in-law, PE businessman, Danie Halgryn, and actor brother-in-law Rudy Halgryn. Sean started Mozi Records in 2005. He discovered and signed some of the biggest names in the Afrikaans music industry, including Bok van Blerk and Lianni May.
Sean directed 2011 blockbuster Platteland, which was financed and co-produced by Collective Dream. The company is run with Sean as creative director, Danie as the CFO and
Rudy, who will act as the company’s international director. The trio hit the ground running: in addition to two commercials, cleaning out the studios, strategising for the future and moving their lives and families to Cape Town, they also have two more feature films in pre-production.
Danie explains that it was not their intention to buy the former Waterfront Studios, “We were going to build something like this in Pretoria, and we decided we wanted to do our own post. We don’t want to have to deal with anyone else’s time schedules, so we decided to set up our own studio. It was at this time someone told us about Waterfront Studios, revealing that the company’s a business rescue, and suggesting we come and have a look at their facility as there might be equipment, or stuff for us to buy. When we arrived we looked at it and we thought, ‘but we could actually turn this company around’.
We decided there and then to buy it free of any sort of governances or liens, so we bought the equipment and then we rerented the facility.” Rudy adds that they re-appointed staff after an extensive interviewing process. Sean believes that having contented, productive staff on board is important to them.
Since making their successful bid for Waterfront Studios on 23 December 2011, Collective Dream has been hard at work. They have already upgraded three Flames to the latest 2012 software and are now in the process of acquiring a Baselight. They have also been busy with the actual studios. They started work at on 3 January 2012.
Sean said: “The big thing for us was to settle in quickly. The immediate need was to clean house. The studios were in a mess, so we started working out logistics for fixing it - half of Studio 2 was a storeroom, so we’ve created space for a technical workshop and a workshop for building sets and storing lights, to make it more functional and cleaner.”
They have also had an architect in about a redesign of the building, as they look to create a space that reflects the company’s vision. Rudy added: “We did a massive Cadbury’s commercial in the first week of January. The clients are still coming to us with commercials and we’re able to facilitate that. We’ve just finished another commercial.”
Sean explained that they are open to doing work across a variety of genres, saying: “The name Collective Dream is not just about making features, post, sitcoms or soaps; the space lends itself to what you want to create in it. It’s nice for us to have this facility with the post in place, with three great stages, and in a great location. With the artists we have over here and the potential anyone can come in here. With future media, we’re going to see more and more productions and channels springing up. Everything starts as an idea, and here we will be able to see that through from idea to end product.”
Danie explains that they are aware of the challenges facing the film industry as a result of digitisation, “We understand that post is busy dying, we understand that people are telling us eventually the lab will have a natural death, but we’re managing the process. For the previous guys, it took too long for them to start changing into doing their own production. We understand production. We don’t have any gearing in this company so we didn’t have to take huge bonds to buy this place. The stuff is paid for and we’re going to take this thing forward with Sean running our own stuff. Anyone that wants to produce or co-produce, can come and speak to us -we’re out-of-the box thinkers.”
The forward thinking nature of the company carries through in their commitment to training. Sean said: “We’ve started doing cross-training at Collective Dream, putting young guys on the Flame and matching them to the skill sets.”
Danie elaborated: “An example is the guys in the film lab, it’s my understanding that in three or four years their jobs might be obsolete, so we’ve talked to them, and asked every single one of them which machine they would like to be cross trained on. They need to choose different machines to cross-train on for the sake of their career.”
Danie has a deep passion for training, and is involved with the National Education and Training Academy (NETA). He is keen to incorporate this passion to Collective Dream, “The problem with training has always been placing people. I can place people here at the studios and train them myself. I don’t know how we’re going to run it down here yet. I need to go speak to the Setas to find out what we have, what we need to get the unit standards, what we need for the facilitators or are we going to be the company that is the unit standard. Training is a high priority for us, but not in the immediate future.”
The trio are excited about their plans for the facility and the future. Rudy explains that they hope to collaborate with production companies on projects, saying they’re looking to work with a variety of production companies on film projects. Danie, the self-styled “calculator” explained: “We were extremely surprised at the reactions when we went out there and said we want to take on equity shares in film so come and speak to us. People are so surprised that we offer equity investment for film and handle the post-production as a condition, and I think in the first week we had something like 11 scripts.”
He explained that his financial background along with Sean and Rudy’s knowledge of content and creativity will contribute to their decisions about the projects they will get involved with. Sean said they are thrilled with the success of Platteland (by the middle of February, Platteland had already earned R8.2 million, and is doing incredibly well in DVD sales).
Collective Dream will also be making international projects in future. Sean believes the stories generated in South Africa are of a high quality and need to be made in such a way that they are accessible to a wide audience. He said: “We have focused on the Afrikaans market in the past, but the stories are universal. I’m going to continue with my record label (Mozi Records) up in Joburg. We’ll be flying up and down all the time. A story and a film are universal, Platteland worked because of the relationships with the artists, but any Afrikaans movie can fail if the narrative is not right.
For us to focus on the English market - the international market - same rules apply. Content is king and the basis of that is narrative, so I just want to make sure that’s right.” The trio spoke about a grand opening of Collective Dream in the coming months, describing a facility that is building on the best of what was already established by the old Waterfront Studios, as well as moving into other areas of the industry. Ultimately, it is their hope that they can enrich the Cape Town industry, shifting the focus away from service and towards original content creation. Their plans for the future are ambitious, but with their combination of business acumen, creative passion and the easy relationship between the three, this family run business looks set to move away from the acrimonious past of the former tenants and become a major player in the South African film landscape.