‘I never thought I could actually make a movie’

Daryne Joshua on the set of Noem My Skollie.

Just like a chess gambit, film-maker Daryne Joshua made a big sacrifice and is now starting to capitalise on it.

The director of Noem My Skollie says he never thought he could actually make a movie, but the film bug bit him at an early age.

As a young boy, his life revolved around soccer and watching movies on weekends – two things his family is passionate about.

He spent his early years living in Mitchell’s Plain before his family moved to Bridgetown, where he lived most of his life.

“I grew up in a soccer family. My grandpa owned a club in Bridgetown called Chelsea. I was part of the then Hellenic Academy. I always thought that was the route my life would take. I have always loved film though. My father, uncles and grandfather loved the movies and one of my cousins and an uncle regularly used to take me to the then Cine 400 in Rylands. On Saturday mornings, I would play soccer, and then go to the movies,” Daryne says.

Even though the former Norma Road Primary School and Livingstone High School pupil produced a mini-documentary about Robben Island while in Grade 10, it never occurred to him that he “could actually make a living from film-making”.

As life would have it, he had to endure a few curves in the road, before living his dream.

“I had a brief stint with information technology (IT) and discovered that wasn’t for me. Then I joined the City of Cape Town’s Come and Play initiative, and there I was involved with a lot of dramas. I later went on to study multi-media technology, at the then Peninsula Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology). One of my subjects there was video production. With this course, I had a broad design knowledge, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was there, for the first time, other than the time in Grade 10, that I touched a video camera. That’s when the bug really bit me – in 2001. My lecturers there, God bless their souls, they encouraged me to go into film-making, but cautioned me that it won’t be easy, especially for film-makers from the Cape Flats.”

After completing this course, he was told to either go to a film school or work as an assistant on set, to get to learn the tricks of the trade.

He researched some film schools, but was put off by the high tuition costs. He worked on film sets where he realised that people in the industry work hard for many years before making their mark.

Making another career change, he joined the Ajax Cape Town media and communications team, where he worked for two years.

“My mind was still on film, though. In 2005, I took a huge risk. I took out a loan, quit my job and took on a part-time job in order for me to study film – at the age of 25. I managed to cover the fees with help from some people. I worked extremely hard during that three years of study.

“I met a lot of people in the industry and made about 11 short films. After completing the course in 2008, I was told I could work on sets again to gain experience. At that point, I was wondering about the sacrifices made to be at a film school. A group of us who studied together – there are still four of us left from that time – then decided to start a business, knowing that it will not be an instant success.”

In 2009, Gambit Films started. The word gambit describes a chess move, where you sacrifice one of your pieces, with the plan to capatalise on that loss later in the game. In those formative years, they worked hard and “earned nothing”.

With support from Media Film Services, which gave Gambit Films “insane discounts” on the rental of its equipment, the fledgling company was able to produce short films.

“They used to give us expensive equipment, but the idea was to help develop us,” says Daryne.

The next exciting venture for Gambit, was working for the Suidooster Fees.

“The Suidooster is a big thing for us. It’s not always about business, but representing your people well. The Suidooster shows the diversity within the coloured community, and that’s important.

“The short films we’ve made so far have always been set on the Cape Flats. Yes, crime is a big thing on the Cape Flats, but there is also comedy and science fiction. I’m passionate about the Cape Flats. I might be a film-maker now, but I’ve been telling stories about the Cape Flats for a long time.

“I’m definitely not a special talent. I just proved it can be done. It is possible. What I hated growing up, was when people discouraged me from going for my dream. We have a wealth of stories on the Cape Flats, and that is gold.”

And what’s next for Gambit Films?

“We have a couple of films that go into production next year, and both are set in Cape Town. There’s also a television series on the way, and we are taking the Suidooster to new heights,” says Daryne.