Chatting to Ryan Kruger, director of SA Indie Film Fest

Chatting to Ryan Kruger, director of SA Indie Film Fest, SAIFF, about what it means to be an independent filmmaker, his experience as a director of SAIFF, advice for screenwriters, and a short masterclass.

The SA Indie Film Fest (SAIFF) combines the excitement of the creative free spirit of emerging and experienced filmmakers with the goodwill of international cultural exchange. It blends the love for world knowledge with critical thinking; if we accept another culture’s movie-style, we can accept another culture’s point of view. SAIFF includes all genres as well as a wide array of formats – from short films to documentaries as well as music videos and VR.

2022 will see the fifth edition of the SA Indie Film Fest (SAIFF) directed by Ryan Kruger and Berneen Cereska.

SA Indie Film Fest, SAIFF
Image courtesy SA Indie Film Fest, SAIFF.

In 2019 I had the pleasure of chatting to Ryan Kruger, SA Indie Film Fest director.

Kruger is a respected, award-winning  South African music video and short film director and a prolific artist. He is best known for his music videos “Doors” – Prime Circle and “Hush” – Monark as well as his short films “The Man Who Beat the Man” and “Fried Barry”; the latter of which is currently in production as a feature film adaptation.

Ryan, what do the words “independent filmmaker” mean to you and how did the SAIFF become a reality?
Simply put: an independent filmmaker is someone who makes movies independently – free from a large studio or production company. However, this term has come to encompass an entirely different spirit and approach to creativity. Indie filmmakers are at the forefront of innovation and creativity within the film industry. They take technical and creative risks that would otherwise be impossible in the high-stakes worlds of commercials and studio features.

That same spirit of independence and a do-it-yourself attitude is what brought SAIFF into reality. We wanted a festival that celebrated this outsider approach to filmmaking and shows audiences a different side to cinema compared to what they’re usually accustomed to. I called upon friends in the local film industry that shared my passion for indie filmmaking and we had a brilliant response from filmmakers around the world.

What is it that you brought from last year’s experience as a festival director to the second edition [2019] of SAIFF and what can we expect from this year’s event?
We were excited and energised by the feedback from audiences and filmmakers about our 2018 edition. We put plenty of care and effort into the first year, so it was very rewarding that it was a successful one. Although we still want to stay true to our indie roots, we have expanded for our 2019 season to feature more films, more award categories and a bigger jury.

This year [2019], we have some great new additions to the jury including actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Kim Engelbrecht and Sibs Shongwe-La Mer. We’ve also partnered with SA HorrorFest in adding a new award category for Best Horror Film – the winner of which will be featured in this year’s upcoming SA HorrorFest. Additionally, we have a new festival director, performance artist Berneen Cereska. Besides these new elements, we’re holding the festival again at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town and audiences may expect more brilliant indie cinema among our talented filmmakers.

What are independent film festivals, in general, and SAIFF, in particular, succeeding at doing for filmmakers?
Short form projects like short films, music videos, short documentaries and VR films have an undeservedly brief shelf-life compared to larger productions. Even on the online circuit, your work can very easily get buried in the noise – not to mention the lack of spectacle that comes along with watching a movie on a cellphone instead of in a cinema.

Indie film festivals provide a greater sense of occasion and excitement that these projects deserve. They’re viewed in a true cinema setup as the filmmakers intended and their hard work is suitably celebrated. We pride ourselves on our esteemed jury, who make their official selection from hundreds of submissions. Only about 10% of submitted films make it to the official selection and even fewer get nominations or awards. This ensures that we showcase only the cream of the indie crop – which is great for audiences but even better for the hard-working filmmakers who get their work recognised.

Although SAIFF is not as big or prestigious as some of the larger festivals like Cannes or Sundance, we have a very high standard of work among the indie realm and we hope this translates to greater recognition for these brilliant filmmakers.

You are well known for your international movie experience and your unique directing style. In one sentence, what makes a memorable film?
For me, a memorable film combines technical brilliance and bold creativity into something we didn’t know we needed to see.

Do you have any advice for screenwriters who are looking to produce and submit their own material to SAIFF?
Filmmaking is all about collaboration. Even the best filmmakers aren’t able to go it alone. Lots of creatives are guilty of this but as a screenwriter; you shouldn’t keep your work to yourself. Share it with as many people as you can until you bring together like-minded creatives who will help you make it a reality.

(With thanks to James C Williamson from SAIFF for facilitating this interview. An interview for BizCommunity.)

SA Indie Film Fest Masterclass – Ryan Kruger

For this year’s edition of SAIFF find here the relevant info.

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13 Replies to “Chatting to Ryan Kruger, director of SA Indie Film Fest”

  1. Very interesting interview. The whole idea of the Festival sounds interesting. Are you going to attend? In any case, I liked Mr. Kruger’s definition of a memorable movie. 🙂

    1. Sweetie 🙂 🙂 So good to see you, and thank you!

      Yes, Ryan Kruger’s definition of a memorable movie made me think of some of your film suggestions.
      It’s too soon to speak now, Jo. This year’s SAIFF will take place at the end of November.

  2. Oh! Forgot to ask. Are you going to tackle movie scripts next? It sounds complicated, but what you really need is one good idea. And in my opinion you’re full of good ideas. And you’re such a good writer.

    1. Jo, you always know how to motivate me 🙂

      I finished a second 100-word stories book. 117 if I keep it to this odd number. Banat, Crisana, Maramures and some more Transylvania.
      And I still work on that historical trilogy. That must happen. xx

      Movie scripts are an art on their own. I think I should study the craft first 😉

  3. I love independent film festivals, they always provide interesting and unique content. The SAIFF sounds like a great one. Thank you for sharing this interview with the festival director, it was a very interesting read!

  4. Me too, Blanca. There’s such an incredible energy about them.
    SAIFF is in its fifth year. The organizers did an incredible job keeping it running.

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