The recent employment audit carried out by the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) on Gauteng companies in the audio-visual sector has confirmed that the role of women within the

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Vicci Turpin feeding a baby elephant
sector is significant, comprising 43.3% of direct employees, excluding freelance workers. In line with this, we spoke to several women - one who is one of, if not the only, woman DOP in the country - about how they believe they are making their mark and what route they've taken within the industry.

Vicci Turpin who is one, if not the only, woman DOP in South Africa explains that she started at a young age. "I loved cameras and studied a diploma in photography at PE Technikon and specialised in fashion in third year. I left PE to come to Johannesburg and worked for fashion photographer, Loius Fouche, who was tough and extremely talented. I then joined the film industry at an ad agency and was sent to train on Prime Cut to learn editing. I got onto set and then started loading cameras, moving up to become a focus puller on features and then a DOP."

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Kamohelo Mokoena
Nerina du Plessis, who is an art director, comments: "Unlike most art directors who studied at AFDA or Pretoria Tech, my journey started through photography, it taught me the discipline of light. Thereafter I did a course in television production where the knowledge of the process of television and the technical aspects became invaluable to me. I also studied advertising. Every aspect of my life and its process has got me to where I am today."

Thandeka Zwana, who is a line producer, comments: "Becoming a line producer was a natural progression. I started out in the industry as a production runner in 2004 with Nayanaya Pictures and worked my way up in production until I was line producer. My first line producing job came from working on 39 episodes of Hillside, a hospital drama for SABC2."

Kamohelo Mokoena, who is a production manager and junior line producer, says she has been involved in the industry for over six years. "In that period, I have mostly co-ordinated and am currently advancing as a production manager and junior line producer. I came onto Paradise Stop as a production manager and four weeks into production moved up to be junior line producer while still being a production manager."

Asked what the important aspects are about their work, Mokoena comments: "You have to be very organised and pay attention to detail. You need to understand your product and know your budget. You must be able to make deals, negotiate and you must be assertive."

Zwana elaborates: "Storytelling is my ultimate passion as it is with all filmmakers and there is nothing better than to see a vision realised. Good line producing, in my opinion, comes with a solid appreciation of a story and the vision of the director. Once this is understood, then it is my goal to make this vision possible. We often work on very tight budgets and a line producer needs to think laterally and creatively in order to achieve the end result."

Turpin maintains that a good DOP must be able to make quick decisions. "Decisions need to be made regarding the imagery and this also takes pressure off the director. You also need to keep the goals and storytelling in mind. A good knowledge of post production is also incredibly important. The most important thing however is passion."

Du Plessis states: "Colour and taste. An art director creates different aspects to make the story visually come alive."

Asked what their overall impressions are and what they would like to do, Mokoena responds: "What I know for sure is that there are not enough line producers in South Africa, and especially black line producers. Also there are many students coming out who just want to direct without having a proper understanding of production. Production is the foundation of understanding how productions work."

Zwana comments: "I would love to work on an African series of docudrama films. I love history and the way history impacts on our present. I recently came across an anthology of African history with truly random stories such as the story of a British prostitute who swapped favours for a claim on a gold mine in Mpumalanga during the gold rush...she became a millionaire! I would love to see these types of stories brought to life."

Turpin says: "I love what I do and the key is to follow one's passion. With being a DOP, you have to learn both the creative and technical aspects."

Du Plessis concludes: "They key is to absorb everything around you, be aware and take lots of pictures. Also always follow your instinct."