The great sprawling, changing city of gold is the chosen home of the award-winning actor, writer, director and producer. It is here that he makes movies because "film is amazing".

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Damon Berry is so much more than just a pretty-faced actor. This quirky, Joburg guy is also a writer, director and producer, an energetic mix of everything that embodies the film industry.

Standing at 1.7m, and blonde with blue eyes, Berry is not only held in high regard among his peers but also has the accolades to show for his hard work and dedication. He has written and directed four stage plays and four short films. His short film Sex Drive was nominated as a New York Minute Film Festival finalist in 2007, while Supermama won the Off-the-Shelf Film Festival Best Comedy award in 2008. He has also completed two feature film scripts – Get Lucky and The Adventures of Supermama.

Wearing his producer's hat, he won the Actor's Centre Film Festival Best Producer award in 2005 for his short film Between Doors and received good reviews for Blue Valentine, which was screened at the Durban International Film Festival in 2004.

Speaking about what attracted him to the film industry, Berry explains: "There is something wonderful and satisfying about a well-developed story that plays out for 90 minutes on film. For the most part, stories created for television come to an abrupt end when the following season fails to be renewed and not because the story arc demands it. That bothers me. Theatre is fantastic, but it can only reach a limited amount of people. So I suppose the correct answer here is: because film is amazing."

He has been a professional actor for about 18 years. "But," he says, "In some ways it feels like I'm just getting started."

Telling stories

For Berry, the best part of the industry is "being engaged in the craft of telling stories and performing characters", which is something he can never take for granted. The worst part for him and probably many others in the profession is the constant pressure of working on low budgets. It takes its toll on the creative process and ultimately affects long-term sustainability in the industry.

"It is my feeling that should the fantastic governmental incentives and funding opportunities fall away some day, only a handful of players would survive and continue to make films in this country," he points out.

About that government funding, Berry adds: "I had the good fortune to receive support from the Gauteng Film Commission some years back on a short film called The Adventures of Supermama. [Thanks to the GFC], we completed the film and it ended up doing very well."

Over the past 12 years, Berry has also fiercely supported over 10 first-time independent filmmakers, helping them to complete and distribute their own short films. He was a co-producer on the Quickies One Minute Film Series, a film festival and television show in 2002 and 2003 for which more than 60 one-minute movies were made by industry professionals and beginners.

About his current project, he says: "We are locking down the final investors on our adventure / comedy feature film The Adventures of Supermama. We're almost there." It is an expanded version of the short original.


As an actor, Berry says that the most prestigious production he has worked on is the award-winning South African co-production Black Butterflies, "but that's not to say that working on a film like Starship Troopers Marauder doesn't have its perks. There's something satisfying in knowing that I've exploded to death on an exploding alien."

Other acting credits include the Disney feature film Zenon and his television work includes Unsung Hero, Zero Tolerance and the BBC mini-series To the Ends of the Earth. He was also the lead in the comedy short SA/X, which won the Toronto Best Student Film award in 2005.

And as a movie buff, Berry says he's a huge fan of the Coen Brothers and their crazy film The Big Lebowski. It is a favourite that he returns to time and time again. On the local circuit though, he's a fan of "the sprawling and chaotic Jerusalema. And they shot in Hillbrow... that takes balls. Respect!"

Apart from acting, Berry is also a voice-over artist. He's been behind the mic for over 10 years, during which time he has done numerous radio, TV and corporate and character reads, including the muppet Neno in the educational television series Takalani Sesame. His stage work includes The Glass Menagerie, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Amadeus and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

About Joburg, Berry says: "Joburg is a fantastic city that attracts a lot of talented and interesting people. The opportunity to collaborate with unique, powerful and exciting people is a constant factor.

"Johannesburg is a wonderful African city that is equal parts functional / dysfunctional, world-class / wannabe, stinking rich / horrifically poor, as well as picturesque when it wants to be... and that adds up to living and working in a very interesting place. And the fact that Joburg is one of the most malleable cities in the world means that you need to always keep on your toes; what was true two years ago doesn't necessarily apply today."