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Jenna Bass, darling of SA film

2015-05-10 15:21

The co-director of Doodvenootskap’s new video, Jenna Bass (28), lifted the award for best local feature at last year’s Durban International Film Festival for her offbeat and compelling urban love story about a dog handler and a phone sex operator in Cape Town, Love the One You Love. It was her debut full-length movie. We hit her up on email to ask her about her thoughts on making music videos.

ARE MUSIC VIDEOS USEFUL FOR YOUR FEATURE-FILM CAREER?

I actually wanted to be a music video director before focusing on feature films. I was obsessed with music videos and used to get my friends with satellite TV to tape random sections of MTV for me on VHS. I see in music videos a really exceptional part of my schooling as a film maker. They were a chance to experiment with so many different styles and ideas. And because they were so often incredibly low budget, I had to do so much myself, which pushed my ingenuity. As a lot of young film makers do, I did a lot of them for free for my showreel.

MTV CEMENTED THE TV ERA OF THE SHORT ATTENTION SPAN. HOW HAS IT INFLUENCED FILM MAKING?

These days, even a music video can seem too long by YouTube standards, and we really have to up our game to hold people’s attention. To be honest, as much as I have come from a background of classical film making and narrative structure, I would like to see this change reflected more in our film-making styles – because we must reflect where our audience’s minds are at, and that is often a crammed and complex place, full of influences and distractions. I’d also love to see that experimental spirit that made music video directors such as Spike Jonze, David Fincher, Michel Gondry and Jonathan Glazer so exciting when they moved into features. Instead of drawing a line between the playground of videos and the ‘grown-up’ world of features, I think there should be more of a crossover.

HOW WAS LOVE THE ONE YOU LOVE RECEIVED OVERSEAS?

It’s a constant fascination how people in different countries, not to mention people as individuals, see the film so differently. The film has screened in a variety of places, from Korea to France and Sweden, and each of those audiences responded in a way that leads me to think they see very different layers in the film – I suppose what has the greatest relevance to them. You’d think the film being largely about love would mean that everyone would get it in the same way, but that’s not true at all.

WHAT ARE THE KIND OF AUDIENCE QUESTIONS YOU’VE RECEIVED?

I get asked ‘What is love?’ a lot, or to explain love … I usually tell people that if they’ve seen the film, they should know that they really, really don’t want my advice.

YES, IT’S MORE LIKE A HAUNTING OR HORROR MOVIE. SO HOW IS THE NEXT FEATURE GOING?

I’m still working on my Karoo Western, Flatland, for next year, but in the meantime, I am working on a new story about a private-security company that employs only immortals. It’s called Midnight Soldiers. That’s really exciting. I’m thinking of setting it in Joburg, which would be a new challenge for me.

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June 16 2019