iDidTht introduces Anton Visser & Zayd Halim’s newly launched Patriot Films.
Director Anton Visser and Producer Zayd Halim have been collaborating on some of South Africa’s most loved commercials since 2011. The dynamic duo have accumulated enough awards to put any LinkedIn profile to shame and they’ve now launched Patriot Films, a commercials production company based in Cape Town. I loathe using the word ‘bromance’ but there is undoubtedly something romantic between them. Not in the ‘I want to wear your skin’ kind of way, but a definite respect, love and admiration. Their unspoken connection allows them to also zigzag seamlessly into a spontaneous comedic jazz riff that even Miles Davis would struggle to keep up with. And of course, both are incredibly accomplished, serious players in the industry. But who exactly are the men behind the accolades, and would you actually want to work with them? *cue CSI theme music* We went to investigate.
The director/producer team have been working alongside each other for over six years at Velocity Films and since their first commercial campaign collaboration, for First For Women, they have never looked back. Anton originally hails from Bloemfontein, but don’t hold that against him, he rose above this adversity and now speaks quite fondly of the experience: ‘Bloemfontein in the 80’s and 90’s was quite an oppressive environment, but if you were slightly different, you could be part of this counter culture, and as a kid, that for me was really powerful and cool.’
And here I thought Bloemfontein was all about biltong, boerewors and rugby. Zayd seems eager to also share his thoughts on this topic:
I have no idea what anyone is talking about anymore, so I encourage us to quickly move on…
After receiving the obligatory call-up, Anton joined the army for a year, or as he calls it ‘boy scouts on steroids’, and thereafter headed to Stellenbosch to study Psychology.
Anton: ’But I just didn’t have the spiritual reserves to solve other people’s problems, so when AAA came to do a road show, I decided to study copywriting instead.’
Zayd: ‘Yeah, from saint to sinner…’
After completing his studies, Anton joined the team at Jupiter Drawing Room and soon realized he had a knack for writing comedy scripts. He left advertising and even presented Going Nowhere Slowly, a travel show, on TV. Anton: ‘They had done a pilot with a bunch of comedians but realized they needed a straight character to give the actual information of the towns. So somebody told them about me and yeah, I was like ‘Hi, welcome to Beaufort West.’ By the sounds of it you’d think he’d have his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by now, but alas, his acting career was short-lived. Anton:‘I then just started hustling, inching my way up the cliff face and directing as much work as I could.’ He then joined Velocity as a permanent director which is where he met Zayd.
Zayd: ‘I’m Cape Town born and bred. Growing up as a person of colour under apartheid, I never thought film was something that I could do. So my story is the exact opposite of Anton’s story.’
Anton: ‘Listen, I don’t know if I actually ever shot at you.’
Zayd: ‘You probably still will…’
They laugh, take the comedy beat and simultaneously sip their artisanal orange juice. Zayd: ‘After high school I finally figured out that in this post-apartheid South Africa, with new beginnings, I actually could join the film industry. My parents always raised me to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to, so it felt like the right time.’ He worked part time and put himself through a small film school in Hout Bay, which closed down shortly after he left. One can only assume it was because they produced their star pupil and there was no point in continuing…
Anton: ‘Yeah, I imagine it was kind of like Trump University’
Zayd: ‘Haha! That’s exactly what it felt like at the time, but it did give me some insight into the industry.’ After gaining experience with Big Blue Productions for a few years, Zayd wanted to venture more into film and joined a crew agency and started working at different production houses as a PA. Zayd: ‘I really enjoyed the nuts and bolts of putting a production together – figuring it out, problem-solving.’ He then joined Velocity and quickly worked himself up from coordinator, to production manager and finally a fully fledged producer.
Anton: ‘So, I was looking for a producer in 2011…’
Zayd: ‘…And we just fit together’
Anton: ‘Zayd’s first big job as my producer was a mammoth campaign for First For Women. There were three ads and one was these guys eating Mentos and they drink coke, and all the coke comes out of his ears and mouth. So we built a rig – a latex face for the guy, with hoses that came up his neck and into his mouth, to then shoot coke out of his mouth. It was amazing!
Zayd: ‘It was the first time it was ever thought of, created and manufactured, all for this ad.’
Anton: ‘So if we’re gonna get sincere for a moment, I was super impressed with Zayd. It was a beast of a job, with a lot of technical stuff and he dealt with it amazingly. And then I knew, this guy knows his business.’
I briefly pause as I expect them to do that typical macho guy thing where they get all grossed out by emotion, but they seem totally unfazed, as if complimenting each other publicly is completely normal. I have never wanted to hug two men as much in my entire life! But how well do they really know each other? It was time for the Bestie Challenge.
Rules of the best game ever: They have to guess how the other person would answer the question.
So why Patriot?
The Brothers in Charm’s faces suddenly light up as we start talking about their recently launched production company, Patriot. After a combined 36 years in advertising, where they gained invaluable experience and expertise, they realised it was the right time to venture out on their own. Patriot Films is the logical next step for these two, a company that is nimble and manoeuvrable, yet simultaneously offers real value to clients.
Zayd: ‘Besides being patriots of South Africa, we are also patriots to the creative, patriots to the concepts, patriots to what we get and how we deliver.’
Anton: ‘It feels cheesy to say out loud, but we do believe that a patriot fights for an idea.’
Zayd: ‘The great thing about working in a smaller production house is that we’re more manoeuvrable, especially when it comes to time. Anton can come on board and work on concepts with creatives earlier on and we can give more of ourselves to a project.’
As if their passion for each other and their new company isn’t enough, they’re also all about giving back. Zayd explains that the film industry in Cape Town has always been predominately white dominated, and that Patriot, in its own small way, would like to start igniting a change. Can we get an amen?! Their company’s vision is to train people with limited opportunities and possibly employ them later on. By offering would-be storytellers, lighting designers, camera operators or film makers some hands-on experience and a much deserved break, they hope to start seeing a long overdue shift in the industry.
A is for Anton
Alongside some of the top agencies, Zayd and Anton have created a body of work that reflects major experience and a true understanding of the craft. Anton’s portfolio is filled with a veritable buffet of beautifully awkward and endearing characters. Who can forget the Chicken Licken duo in ‘Singing Burger’, the weird and windswept colleagues from Stimorol ‘New Guy’ or my personal favourite, Wimpy ‘Family’? But Anton’s talent lies not only in the characters he creates, as a director he fleshes out each moment, each frame, each silence and transition. He searches for something remarkable in the places that most people won’t even dream of looking and he’s not afraid to be inventive with his scenes.
Anton: ‘I’m known as a comedy guy and while that’s something I enjoy, I think I offer a lot more. I’m a storyteller first. For me the same principles apply to comedy as they would to drama or anything else – you have to have interesting characters, some kind of story tension, a clear through-line, a rewarding arc, and you’re teeing up some kind of ending – whether it’s funny or emotional. How do you get the marrow out of a story, y’know? So I’d like to be seen more as a storyteller, and to do more of that kind of work.’
When you have the pleasure of binge-watching his commercials, you realise Anton has a pattern of weaving together often enchanting or magical narratives, which is evident in his Warburtons ‘Uncle Huey’, Yellow Pages ‘Golden Plunger’ and many more.
iDidTht: ‘Okay so Anton, what ad do you wish you did?’
Anton: ‘It’s called Evil Beaver. Google it’
iDidTht: ‘What are we going to find if we Google ‘Evil Beaver’? What sick game is this?’
Anton: ‘Nah, just turn your safe search off… I’m kidding!’
iDidTht: ‘Just send us the link…’
Anton: ‘It’s such a great tonal exercise. It’s so left field and sort of anti-advertising. Then there’s another one you should Google called…’
iDidTht: ‘Evil Beaver 2?’
Anton: ‘Ha! It’s a Stella Artois ad called “Pilot”. I guess it’s what would be classified as a “big visual ad”, but really the heart of it is that it’s a character story. The characters they created, then the casting, the performances and timing and all are perfect. Without that spine and enjoyment it could have just been an expensive period piece.’
Okay, so now that we all know Anton a bit better, let’s find out if Zayd will survive the ‘How Well Do You Know Your Director Challenge’?
iDidTht: ‘Describe working with each other in one sentence.’
Zayd: *silence* ‘One sentence?’ *more silence*
Anton: ‘Dude, I’ve got it down to one word, so yours better be good.’
Anton: ‘Well this is awkward…’
Zayd: *awkward silence*
Anton: ‘Let me go first. Reassuring…and that’s all you want from a producer.’
Zayd: ’I’ve got it! Eye opening…it’s been such an experience. Just learning and working with Anton. It’s been amazing.’
iDidTht: ‘Guys, you know how we need to end this interview right?’
Anton: ‘Actually, we really have to get going.’
Zayd: ‘Yeah, we need to go live our lives.’
iDidTht: ‘But, we’re iDidTht, you have to, please. ’
Zayd: ‘Fine, but then you have to let us go.’
As we unlock the exit doors and bid farewell to our new friends, we can’t help feeling like we’ve just spent an hour in the warm embrace of talent, experience, charm and kindness. We wish Patriot Films all the best. And to answer our initial question – yes, this is definitely the producer/director duo you want on your team. Karaoke not included.
*Find our more about Patriot right here, right now.
Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Writer – Anne Hirsch / Art Director – Julie Maunder
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