The chance to be creative for creativity and entertainment's sake as opposed to being forced to be socially responsible is an attraction of the US film industry. That's one observation that emerging filmmaker Cecil Matlou makes, having recently returned from spending four weeks at the New York Film Academy (NYFA).

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Cecil Matlou
"In the US, you are given space to be creative. You are not forced to be socially responsible. I liked the idea of making films purely for entertainment, without influence, while in SA we are forced by the funders to make social African films with a European approach," says Matlou of Johannesburg production company, Binary Film Works (BFW).

Highlights of the experience, for Matlou, included: "Knowing that I can compete with the world's best and still come on top.

I have met a lot of people that inspired me but being completely free to be creative and experimental in my films helped me a lot. I was not afraid to experiment and people where able to enjoy and laugh at the craziness of my films."

He said that it was quite beautiful to make what he liked without being told what not to
do. "I loved being free to experiment and to make people laugh."

How does he hope to use the experience gained in the US? "The experience was beautiful. Through my trip, my company BFW has opened a branch in the US with Mike Bowman, a classmate at NYFA, as our partner. We have also opened a similar thing in Tokyo, Japan with Koinuma Yohei. All these companies will be under the umbrella of Binary Film Works South Africa."

BFW US has bought the rights to Cruel Death, based on a true story and written by American M. William Phelps while BFW SA now own the rights to Soweto Story, a book written by Australia-based South African Oswald Brent. Both films will go into production this year. "We are also planning a surprise hit for the World Cup and hopefully I can raise enough needed cash for the projects."

Since his return from the US, Matlou has been busy fund-raising for his projects. Currently, he is producing a feature film with Andrew Williams, written by Jack Brislee of Shoe Box, Australia, and to be directed by Pieter Lombaard, his partner at BFW. He is ecstatic about this latest project, saying: "Our Australian partners are raising part of the budget. It is US$ 2 million and we have to come with the other half. That is for Soweto Story."

Since his experience, Matlou says he has since become "more confident in myself - I have convinced my partner that we don't need an Executive Producer. We are also shooting a documentary to be followed by a feature film. I am also in post-production with a short film called Sh*t - Life Sucks."

Two years ago Cecil and his partner at BFW co-produced Our House, a reality TV series with ZenHQ (Chris Roland), who owns the IP rights to the series. Our House has been nominated for a SAFTA - Best Reality TV Show. The winners will be announced on 20 February at the State Theatre in Pretoria.