The 2012 SA’s Next Top Filmmaker competition winner was announced at a gala screening of finalist films on 11 October. Top honours went to Nompumelelo “Mpumi” Tshabalala from Vosloorus for her winning reality format Look at Me Now, which stars socialite and cross-dressing sensation IkoMash. Tshabalala conceived and directed the film under the mentorship of Anton Burggraaf from Ochre Moving Pictures.

Look At Me NowShow host IkoMash, director Mpumi Tshabalala and fashion offender Nicolas Ndlovu on the set of Look at Me Now.

SA’s Next Top Filmmaker is an industry corporate social investment initiative originated by General Post’s Kirsty Galliard and partnered this year by Quizzical Pictures, Endemol SA and Ochre. The three companies gave mentoring staff and resources to make the films a reality, each within a budget of R5 000.

This year’s competition standard was extremely high, says Galliard. Judges were hard-pressed to choose three final candidates from 15 semifinalists, from over 70 submissions. Aspirant filmmakers displayed an excellent understanding of the medium and the genre across the board. This year’s genre was reality TV and the finalists were allowed two months to work on their films.

The competition wrapped up on 10 October, with a panel of independent industry professionals choosing the winner. First up at the screening event was Tebogo Kgakoa, mentored by Quizzical Pictures. His pilot film Above All Ls explored the thrills and spills of learner drivers hoping to get their driver’s license, trying for the umpteenth time. Then there was Mondli Magenuka, mentored by Endemol SA, who mixed celebrity with pathos in his reality show entitled Dinner with the Kids. But in the end it was Tshabalala who stole the show with Look at Me Now that had the audience guffawing at the antics of IkoMash who arrests unsuspecting male fashion offenders in malls and gives them an instant makeover.

Watch Look at Me Now:

This is the first time Tshabalala has directed her own film. “I was very nervous but in the end it worked out,” she says. “I learned a lot. But the most important thing I’ve discovered is that you have to know what you want and how you want it done. Only then can you really go for it.”

“We are thrilled that Mpumi won,” says Burggraaf, Tshabalala’s mentor and executive producer of entertainment formats at Ochre Media. “She’s a great talent with a singular vision and you could see that oozing from the screen. The film has all the right ingredients: it’s pacey, provocative, alternative, confident, sassy and laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s also very simple. You get it immediately, and that just makes it a brilliant format.”

The competition brings together the best that the industry has to offer with additional participation from Digitalfilm (camera, lighting and grips), Finetune Audio (final mix) and The Bladeworks (grade and online).

“You can’t get better this this,” says Stan Joseph, Ochre Media’s CEO. “It is an unprecedented grouping of support for a young filmmaker. We feel privileged to work alongside industry players who have given time and resources to this brilliant project. And of course we are extremely grateful to the crew on Mpumi’s film who braved some fairly freezing weather!”

Burggraaf agrees. “It’s a unique initiative that we are proud of. It’s important to find way for our industry to grow and SA’s Next Top Filmmaker is an opportunity to raise the bar for everyone.”

That they have. Watch out Mzansi, these talented young filmmakers are going places.