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The Directors: Team Best

The Directors 58 Add to collection

South African directors on picking up a Guinness World Record for making the fastest film ever and getting shit done

The Directors: Team Best

Ten years ago, actor/writer/directors Bryan van Niekerk and Asher Stoltz decided to take on the commercial production industry. So they put a hundred bucks into a business account and drafted a code of conduct, which went something like this:

- Friends and family come first. 

- Take lots of holidays. 

- Make work we can be proud of.

- Be 'lekker'.

Jump to present day and Team Best has grown into one of the most prolific per-director commercial production houses in South Africa while mostly adhering to the above. SA’s original ad directing duo, Ash and Bryan, are performance and comedy specialists and were pioneers of SA’s foray into the digital content space with some of the country's most memorable and effective campaigns on their reel. Modelling their approach on director work-wives Tim and Eric and the Cohen brothers, Ash and Bryan believe in a hands-on, collaborative approach to tackling boards. (Incidentally, just like Tim and Eric, they could both lose a few kilos… and they’re exactly half as Jewish as the Cohen Brothers). They’ve worked in television, short format, digital content, commercials, features and even theatre and draw on their experience in front of the camera and in the writing room, to craft stories and memorable performances. With the incomparable all-round experience of producer Eduan van Jaarsveldt at the helm, the team focuses on creative problem solving, flexibility in terms of time and budgetary constraints and just being normal human beings.

Team Best has made ads for every sector of the industry from telecoms and financial services, to automotive and fast food. They’ve shot cars, kids, animals and tabletop, drawing on the skills of some of SA’s premium crew to create high-end productions for some of our country’s top brands. 

Name: Team Best

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Repped by: Team Best, Circus

Awards: Loeries, Pendorings, Assegais

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Team Best> There are scripts and there are scripts. Good dialogue, surprising situations - genuinely funny, smart scripts - are few and far between. It’s always refreshing to get a solid concept that is followed through with the purpose of actually making a difference to the client’s bottom line.

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Team Best> We start every treatment by going to the root of the board. Who is this for? What are we selling? Why? How big or small is the budget? How can we bring the idea to life within these parameters? We tend to get pretty academic about the concept, just to make sure that everything we’re bringing to the table aligns with the agency and client’s needs. We then find a central idea or hook that we build everything else around. We do all of our own research and start from scratch with every treatment and so that we make sure we engage with the boards and don’t copy/paste from old work. We pride ourselves on delivering exactly what we promise in our treatment.

LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Team Best> We called ourselves Team Best because there are three of us, working towards a shared objective. But also because every board is a collaborative effort between production, agency and client. When the ECD sees how we’re pushing to make a difference to their client’s bottom line, they let us play. When the client feels heard, the process is easier for everyone. And when it comes to our crew, we value and nurture every relationship equally, from the DOP to the art stand by, everyone is contributing and is therefore a vital part of the end product. Our crew are family.

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Bryan> I love shooting performance-driven comedy boards with a bit of edge.

Asher> Anything with cars. And food.

Ed> I like to play with toys.

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Team Best> We’re started our business when we were 24 so people still think of us as young and inexperienced. We’ve been doing this for thirteen years now and have made over 450 commercials. We know what the fuck we’re doing. Also that we only know how to do performance or comedy boards. We’ve done it all - beauty, table top, cars, food, kids, animals, kids and animals at the same time…

LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?

Team Best> Ya many, many times. We’re consistently cheaper than our competitors because our overheads are lower and we don’t pay for researchers and secretaries and sushi for lunch. In fact, some of our competitors have tried to ‘catch us out’ with cost consultants. Yawn. In our opinion, most cost consultants have not actually worked on a set. Clients would be better off employing an experienced line producer to go over the costs and reference the creative and see if it actually makes sense or not.

LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Team Best> We got a Guinness World Record for making the fastest film ever - from script to viewing in 10 days. We wrote am 85 min feature film from scratch, produced it on the fly (WE NEED A SWIMMING POOL WITH GOOD LOOKING NAKED PEOPLE TOMORROW) used social media to pull in cast, background cast and locations and cut, finished and screened the film within the time frame. And the film is pretty good.

LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Team Best> It’s impossible. Within our business, we work with trust and integrity at the centre of everything we do. We give everything we can and don’t have the time or energy to worry about our ideas being lifted, which inevitably they are. Often. But that’s on them.

LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Team Best> We mentor young talent from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented demographics as a matter of course. We believe that unique perspectives and voices are necessary in every industry and our mentorship is something we see as a sustainable, relevant contribution to the industry.

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time? 

Team Best> In South Africa, treatments are still presented. We feel that this is unnecessary. We also think that a lot of PPMs, wardrobe calls and even post-feedback meetings are superfluous. There is still a lot of streamlining to be done, but the pandemic has exposed a lot of the old school processes and how ridiculous they were. For us, the most important spaces to be physically present are on-set and in the edit suite. It’s impossible to explain timing to someone over email.

LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)? 

Team Best> We have to shoot EVERYTHING with 16:9, 1:1 and 9:16 formats in mind. We tend to shoot wider than final deliverable to give space for these digital formats. We just think that it’s important that agencies write format specific scripts - it’s pretty much impossible to shoot a decent two-shot in 9:16. How else can we tell this story? We’ll play out scenes so that they are native to format but trying to force a 16:9 commercial into a vertical format is a nightmare. But we do it all the time.

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

Team Best> We’re excited by new tech and try and incorporate wherever possible, however, we get a lot of energy from the visceral experience of being on set, interacting with actual humans and getting shit done.

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?

MTN - Everyday Gigs

This was a small budget job with an incredibly tight turnaround. It had previously been awarded to another production company, who couldn’t deliver on schedule. We were briefed a week later with the same deadline. Our approach was to shoot the tricks in camera using splices and a few plates. We had a lot of fun on the day throwing things around set trying to land the trick shots.

Hippo - Before you commit

We got to play with a range of characters, a great piece of music and a ridiculous puppet! We actually ended up manipulating the puppet ourselves as we felt like the puppeteers were technically proficient but we’re getting a strong physical performance of the Hippo. Although ad people rolled their eyes, this ad did incredibly well for the client in terms of memorability and actual sales, which is what we’re here for at the end of the day.

Hyundai - Seven Year Warranty

Because the setup was so simple and intimate, we wanted to elevate the look with the context, giving us a sexy car shot for our opening and closing. We chose a roadhouse parking lot for its retro, neon feel and to motivate the awkward milkshake.

We love the quiet measured dialogue between the characters. The silences work so hard here.

Land Rover - Springboks

Obviously it was great to work with our sports heroes for such an iconic brand.

Another super tight budget and as always, when working with celebrities who are there for sponsorship obligations, their time is a premium and they don’t want to be dicked around. We found a way to shoot this quickly, easily and beautifully and we’re really proud of the emotive voice performances we got from the players, through acall and response technique.

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Circus, Wed, 02 Jun 2021 09:00:00 GMT