Market Theatre
The impressive Victorian building which houses the Market Theatre complex in the Newtown Cultural Precinct.

Andy Stead

The Newtown Cultural Precinct in downtown Johannesburg, once an almost derelict no-go area, is increasingly popular as a diverse and funky location for filming movies, commercials and videos. Which is why Rous House Productions, a Killarney-based film and TV production company, recently chose the area for a series of corporate videos for Coca-Cola brands.

About 10 years ago the Newtown area had become a semi-slum overlooked by the derelict cooling towers and dark turbine hall of Johannesburg’s first coal-fired power station in Johannesburg. As corporate South Africa fled north, Newtown was suffering much the same neglect and rot as other sections of the increasingly empty central business district.

Then the City of Johannesburg Metro embarked on iGoli 2000, an ambitious programme to revive Newtown as part of a broader plan to regenerate the inner city. Since the implementation of the plan, Newtown has seen many major advances with the improvement of local attractions and the introduction of several new ones.

The main feature of the Newtown Cultural Precinct is the massive Victorian building which houses both the renowned Museum Africa as well as the Market Theatre. Visitors to Museum Africa will discover the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, Bernberg Museum of Fashion and Museum of South Africa Rock Art.

The large museum’s collection includes exhibits that lead patrons through the history of humankind and the struggle against apartheid. Adjoining the museum is the impressive Market Theatre complex which consists of the Main Theatre, Barney Simon Theatre and Laager Theatre. The Market has played an important role in South African history, hosting protest theatre during the years of struggle. Many great names started there careers and rose to fame at the theatre, including Athol Fugard, Mbogeni Ngema, John Kani, Winston Shona and Pieter-Dirk Uys (aka Evita Bezuidenhout).

The Rous House filmmakers were impressed by their experience of shooting in Newtown. “The processes were simple and we had great cooperation in getting permission to shoot in Newtown from the Gauteng Film Commission and the Newtown Precinct office,” says Luke Rous of Rous House. “Gauteng in general is a great shooting destination for corporates, as there is literally everything I need to make my shoot happen in what sometimes turns out to be only hours of notice.”

Rous House Productions has been in operation since 2007, and was created by producing and directing partners and brothers, Luke and Josh Rous. Josh and Luke are both directors of the company, but Josh is also a well known television and film director and has the daily drama Scandal for E-TV and a feature film Discreet released through Ster-Kinekor to his credit. Luke is the producer of City Ses’la for SABC 1, Ga Re Dumele for SABC 2 and Jabba Time (Working Title) for SABC 1.

Both Josh and Luke write, head write, direct and produce. Luke Rous explains how the corporate video came about: “After having competed in and won the Johannesburg round of the 48 Hour Film Project, our work was spotted by a Johannesburg based corporate events company, Creative Directions, who approached James Alexander, one of the actors we used in our short, to get in touch with us and get us to co-produce a number of corporate videos Coca-Cola were commissioning for the Coca-Cola Bottlers Convention of 2011.”

Rous House is in fact producing six corporate videos for the Coca-Cola brands of Coca-Cola itself, Sprite, Bonaqua, Power Play, Valpre and Powerade. “We were under heavy deadlines as we have to move into studio for a three-month back-to-back shoot for two sitcoms on 14t February, so we needed to complete work on the corporates in an extremely tight timeframe,” says Luke.

“With this in mind we took measures to assemble the same winning team from the 48 Hour Film Project and were pleased with how the shoot went. The camera operators were Nicholas Costaras and Brett Michael Innes, and the key cast were Linda Appie, Carine Rous, Anel Alexander, Meren Reddy, Atandwa Kani and Pierre Breytenbach.”

A variety of cameras were used on the shoot, including the RED, Cannon 5 D and Cannon 7 D. The cameras were sourced from Switchvert Media and Rous House Productions, who own a Final Cut Pro system and will do their own editing.

“The completion date for all these corporates is the end of March and the finished product will be exhibited at the Sun City Bottlers convention in early March 2011,” says Luke.

If you are looking for a location in Newtown for a film shoot, contact the Newtown Management District office on (011) 833-6323 or email communications@newtown.co.za for more information.