Friday, February 20, 2015


Thomas Edison arguably invented film. So it's all his fault.
As I'm travelling to work on the set of a friend's short film, working for free, for long hours, with a crew of kids who show up late cause they're hungover, or make stupid suggestions because they're high, while I'm literally 100% completely & utterly, can't-even-buy-cheap-bodega-coffee-until-next-Wednesday broke, but I still enjoy my day, it occurs to me that I must be mad.

I'd better be pretty damn sure that I love what I do when I do it for free when all I should be doing is selling my body for money. But I do love it. & everything will be fine. Film is some sort of labour-intensive drug & I am an addict. Film is magic and storytelling can change everything. The world tells too many crappy stories and I want to tell better ones.

That same day, I am privileged & blessed to be put in touch with an established director, via a friend of a very thoughtful friend, who turns out to be the pitch perfect mentor for me right now (I've never really been a good mentee, because I guess I've never really done anything I cared about as much). He completely bursts my bubble, confirms what I kind of already know & helps me re-adjust my focus, assuring me it will never get any easier or any more sane, but giving me a practical heads up to help me get where I want to be, if I'm sure I really want to get there. "To start off," he says "is there any way I can persuade you to go back to law?". He's only half joking. I completely share his sentiment, but I couldn't persuade myself, not even for a second (well, maybe for a second). I can't do anything else. Not now. It's like marrying someone your parents disapprove of but that you just know is the one. Despite all the ups & downs you know you'll have, you'd be a fool to pass her up. You have to jump in headfirst & just make it work.

So in other words, I am now a film school graduate, and the world is a big and daunting place. Where do I begin? Where will the dictates of rent money and visa requirements take me? Will I be lucky enough to do some good work in between the paying gigs I have to say yes to? Who knows. But for now the Big Apple is our home & we are all in. All I ever wanted is film & Mareesa. Now I have both, so I can't complain. I just have to figure out a way to keep them both happy while paying the rent. Easier said than done, but who ever wanted an easy life?! ("me! Me! Pick ME!" yells the voice inside. I ignore it.)

Onward & upward as I try to do something meaningful & truthful while getting paid enough to keep a roof over the heads of the offspring Mareesa & I certainly won't be able to help ourselves having. Everything else is a bonus.

It's a lucky thing my interests lean so strongly towards low budget, independent film & Mareesa's mission is to start a non-profit from scratch. If we end up being rich, know this - it is because of God's grace, not our common sense.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Riding the subway in New York is like going to the movies.

I've based at least two characters directly off photos I took of strangers in the subway (yes, I'm that creepy guy), and been inspired by tons more.

So I guess it was inevitable that the subway made it's way into my thesis film.

I love riding the subway. I will miss it so much when I go back home. Sure it's dirty and full of urine, sure you occasionally have people going on homophobic rants at every guy that passes them (issues...) or yelling out repeatedly about presumably traumatic past events ("I'm ON my WAY to the BRONX!! They HAVE iDENTified the KILLER!!" <silence> "I'm ON my WAY to the BRONX!! They HAVE iDENTified the KILLER!!" That one was really really sad...), or asking for money to feed their family which is also really really sad, but A) you don't have to drive a car, ever B) barring some occasional stop-missing, you can mostly daydream / read / write / cry / secretly listen to Taylor Swift to your heart's content and C) you'll never be in a tinier space with a wider range of human specimens anywhere in the world - that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how much sleep you had - which is usually little, hence the crying & listening to Taylor Swift, but it's a remarkable and treasurable thing.

So to recap: I am terrible with directions and I hate paying for gas, paying insurance, paying for 6-month checkups and tire replacements or having to pay attention while travelling from my home to anywhere else. So subways - however hygienically unwise - are a godsend to me. And the perfect resource for any writer.

More pictures from my movie!!!

Ugh - these screenshots are making me realise how badly my film needs some good colour grading.


The search for a home in New York was very traumatic & one that binds every New Yorker - barring the stupidly rich and famous - together. From epic application requirements to sky high prices, finding an apartment in New York will cut you down to size.

We'll live in Brooklyn, we thought. That should be affordable. If Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg are too pricey, we'll aim for Park Slope or Cobble Hill or something nice like that, we thought... By the time New York apartment hunting was done with us, we'd be happy to have a roof over our heads at a price we could half afford in any corner of the five boroughs. Mareesa used to joke that we'd sleep under a bridge if we could just get here. From our safe white middle class bubble in Pretoria, we had no idea how close we'd come to eating those words.

It was quite an experience, but I'm so grateful for it. Even if we had five times the money we did, we learnt firsthand - for the first time - what discrimination feels like. As a foreigner with no social security number, realtors and landlords alike look at you like you're about to rob them and skip the country with their hard-earned goods. It sucks. Also, as a married couple, finding a roommate to share with is no easy feat. Understandably. It's a weird setup.

So thank God for Gazino Scott, the super laidback Jamaican brother who took us in with very few questions asked - and gave us a chance to prove that we really can and will pay the rent on time every month, even though we are from Africa & don't have an American sugar daddy. Gazino has since moved out, but our new roommate is just as nice and easy to live with. We try to forget that we used to pay a third of what we pay for our room in Brooklyn than we did for a whole apartment back home. Now we're just glad to have a place to come home to. We live in New York, after all, so who's complaining?

And we really lucked out in terms of location. Although we had all sorts of panicked ideas about where we'd like to stay, the man upstairs had our backs as always. We chose our neighbourhood - Prospect Leffert Gardens - because we had no other options but, had we known what we know now, we could hardly have chosen better. We're just 3 blocks from the Park but, being on the non-Park Slope side of it means prices are super reasonable and our neighbours are way more interesting. We're really close to the Q - arguably the best line for getting into Manhattan - and the 5 runs a few blocks from our house straight to NYFA Battery Park campus. It's a great, green, clean neighbourhood full of families (and all the noise you become accustomed to in Brooklyn - which I presume is much the same for the fancy pants in Manhattan).

Ironically, we're mere blocks from the street in Flatbush that we were initially so freaked out by - you know, the one I joked about and got outed as a racist over. It's true. I come from a white suburban bubble and I was a bit freaked out by the sheer urbanness of geniune Brooklyn. Now my bubble seems embarrassing and extremely limiting and I hope I  never get stuck in it again.

It's really great in terms of life experience, and really fun once the privilege bubble bursts. It's so funny how I ever thought I was poor back home. Hilarious. Hopefully I'll never take all the extraordinary opportunities and and options I've been given for granted again.

Anyway - this is home now. Even when we're both earning actual money again, and if we're fortunate enough to still be in New York, we'd like to get our own place, but likely still in Leffert Gardens, cause you can't beat being so close to the magic that is Prospect Park while having so much jerk chicken all around you.

Where we started:

Used to sleep on an inflatable mattress, now we have a real bed!
These days we have furniture & drawers

Where we are now:

Our apartment is quite lovely, really. We decorated it as an act of faith / defiance when we genuinely thought we'd be going home with our tails between our legs. Worked out well.

We only share this with one other person!

This is an enormous kitchen by NY standards.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mixtape 1

Before leaving home, I tried to think of creative ways to stay in touch with the friends and family I wished I could bring with me, but knew I wouldn't actually email often / ever. This blog was one way. Another was by sharing Seasonal Mixtapes via Dropbox (if you want to join the Mixtape folder, download Dropbox, then hit me up with an email).

Making mixtapes is one of my very favourite things in the world (guess who I inherited that from). I put way too much thought and effort into them, but rarely regret it. They're a great form of second hand self expression.

Here is my first mixtape from New York (although it's half from South Africa too): it is both for Summer (down South) and Winter (up North). More specifically, I guess it is about leaving South Africa and coming to New York. It is the music that has marked our cross-continental transition so far, for better or worse. Sometimes for no other reason than the fact that I couldn't stop listening to Emmylou while packing.

Yes, I listen to a bizarre amount of Lorde and Beyonce on the subway. Yes, the bonkers Heuwels / Mandoza collaboration makes me proud to be an Afrikaan. Yes, The National knows my heart. Yes, it ends on quite a bit of sadness and melancholy, with only grace notes of hopefulness. Moving is hard. But fret not - winter did end and Spring (with its compilation) is already taking root.

I'll leave it to you to piece the story together, if you wish.

Summer Down South:

  1. I Need My Girl - The National
  2. XO - Beyonce
  3. Rose Quartz - Toro Y Moi
  4. Falling - HAIM
  5. Flashbulb Eyes - Arcade Fire
  6. Afrikaan - Die Heuwels Fantasties & Mandoza
  7. Pyramids - Frank Ocean
  8. This Place - Vampire9000
  9. Emmylou - First Aid Kit
  10. Goodbye, Goodbye - Billy Bragg

Winter Up North:

  1. Outside Digging - James Vincent McMorrow
  2. New York - Cat Power
  3. Step - Vampire Weekend
  4. Age of Adz - Sufjan Stevens
  5. Retrograde - James Blake
  6. Don't Swallow the Cap - The National
  7. Close Watch - Agnes Obel
  8. A World Alone - Lorde
  9. Victory - Janelle Monae
  10. I'll Be Glad - Shannon Stephens
  11. Hou Aan - Die Heuwels Fantasties

Sunday, March 30, 2014


So, after my Hunting post, someone online called me out as being racist, which was bizarre, and also a major bummer in my first few, emotionally excessive, weeks in NY. I'm not sure if it was the observation about the high volume of Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights (which is just a fact - & a fascinating one at that!), that I called East Flatbush awful (for which I apologise - see explanation below), the ridiculous map at the head of the post which was posted (if you read the whole blog) to make fun of its gross over-simplification, or my own gross over-simplification about the safety / desirability of neighbourhoods in Brooklyn (basically, the further it is from Manhattan, the more likely it is to be dangerous) - see apology below.

I think the person may have misread the tone of my blog, and misunderstood my intentions, but they were right to call me out. I don't believe any of my comments were racist (it's kind of racist to read race into my comments about neighbourhoods, but let's not go there), but I do believe I was insensitive, and for that I thank my offendee for calling me out. I found it disproportionately embarrassing (I was still pretty weepy at the time and was having some culture shock issues as it was), but I did learn from it.

I made sweeping statements about certain neighbourhoods which were intended to be an exaggerated, comical depiction of the ups and downs of NY apartment hunting. I do see how those sweeping statements would be offensive to people who actually live in those areas, know people who live in those areas or make a living in those areas. I also see how my statements may reinforce annoying stereotypes that inhabitants of those areas likely spend their lives having to disprove. For that I genuinely do apologise. It annoys me when people make unintentionally condescending presumptions about South Africa (or Africa in general), but I do try to remember that I have many blind spots of my own (case in point), laugh at their ignorance and enlighten them with more accurate information. (Other times I confess I make up ridiculous stories which they will hopefully repeat to the next South African they meet...).

So I apologise for my insensitivity. I won't update my blog, because I said what I said, even if I said it badly, and I learnt from the experience. Which is what I'm here to do. I appreciate being called out on it.

Also, I love Brooklyn (all of it) and everyone who lives there. It feels far more like home than Manhattan (which is fun in a different way). I admire those who come from edgy neighborhoods (and let's be honest, some are more edgy than others), and would love to know all their stories, because I'm sure I have no idea what their lives are like. To be frank, I probably grew up quite sheltered and spoilt, but there's nothing I can do about that except try not to be ignorant about how others grew up. I'm probably also a white hipster gentrifier, but there's not much I can do to help that either, except try to be a considerate, rather than a presumptious, version of that. I do want to live in a neighbourhood where I feel my wife could walk home safely from the subway at 2AM, even though I come from a country with notorious violent crime rates (the difference is; in South Africa, we know how to be street smart. Here; we're still learning).

Anyway, as long as I'm learning, I'm grateful. If any of this came off insenstivie, let me know. I'm still learning & I want to know. Thanks for the lesson, New York!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


One of the things I love about filmmaking is how it forces a wildly diverse cacophony of people to pool together their talents (from the creative to the technical to the administrative and the financial) and create an alchemy that will produce the final film.

At NYFA, the diversity is heightened, as students come from all over the world to follow the tradition of the American Dream. We're all like Leonardo DiCaprio in that cheesy moment from Titanic (I know, I should be more specific) where he goes all bananas after seeing the Statue of Liberty (which I can see from my classes). Let's hope we don't end up like Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street (which I can see from the other side of my class).

My class of 18 aspiring filmmakers hails from across the globe:
  • 2 X Dominican Republic
  • 2 X South Africa (I'm not the only 1!)
  • 1 X Brazil
  • 1 X China
  • 1 X India (like Slumdog Millionaire, but just the millionaire part) 
  • 1 X Italy
  • 1 X Japan
  • 1 X Kazakhstan (not at all like Borat!)
  • 1 X Korea
  • 1 X Mexico
  • 1 X Newfoundland, Canada (it's a tiny island that only belongs to Canada because they killed Europeans for it - I presume)
  • 1 X Russia
  • 1 X Sweden
  • 1 X Taiwan  
There are only 2 born & bred US locals in my class that I know of
  • 1 X Queens, New York
  • 1 X New Jersey (which is practically another country)
& 3 that we're born elsewhere but raised in the US:

1 X Dominican Republic --> Bronx
1 X Dominican Republic --> Brooklyn
1 X Mexico --> California 
This makes things very exciting, and also makes small talk very easy - "So, where are you from?" is an easy & logical introduction to any conversation, followed by questions about the weather there, the film industry there & then some good-natured complaining about how cold New Yorkers are, how expensive everything is here, how you can't really drink the tap water and how hard it is to find decent accommodation. That's how New York brings the world together - by making us all suffer as one.

There is also a wide array of film taste. When asked to name on our favourite films / directors, the answers ranged from Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese (me, proudly), Quentin Tarantino (2 girls & 1 guy), Christopher Nolan, Woody Allen & Guy Ritchie to Pearl Harbour, Fast and Furious (1 through 7), and the Harry Potter franchise.

For real, though, it's a great bunch of people, all as illogically addicted to film as I am, regardless of whether they came of age in Stockholm or Siciliy, Moscow or Mumbai. A global community of passionate individuals who will, as part of my film crews, either make my short films awesome or screw them up completely. Fun times. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


More detailed updates are (most likely) coming soon, but for all those who have been reaching out in concern after our last blog update; we are doing fine, thank you!

We're still hunting but we're positive and crying considerably less (which is not at all, actually).

Sometimes, we do feel like this:

And, sometimes, we feel like this:

(although in New York, there are so many people truly dealing with homelessness, it would be very disrespectful to place ourselves in the same category. We are akin to travelling gypsies at best).

But mostly, we're in New York, we're on an adventure, we're together & we feel like this: