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The Directors: Zee Ntuli



Darling Films director Zee on personal connections to ideas, crafting epic experiences and the exciting future of storytelling

The Directors: Zee Ntuli

Zee Ntuli is a director, art rebel, filmmaker and writer.

Zee's passion and love for storytelling and cinema is revealed in his approach which is equal parts story and style; humane and aesthetic. As a writer and director that works in long-form and commercials his work has a distinctive edge.

Name: Zee Ntuli

Location: Johannesburg

Repped by/in: Darling Films


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

Zee> Scripts written with passion and love attract me. You can feel it when a script and an idea has been crafted with love and care. When the DNA of a job is strong, it’s always exciting to jump on board, regardless of genre or tone.

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

Zee> I try to start a treatment by finding a personal connection to the idea, characters, world or emotion of the spot. When I can tap into my own experience in some way shape or form, the process of treating become fluid and organic.

LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Zee> I am of the opinion that the more information we can digest regarding a job, the better. The work we do exists at the tail end of an involved and lengthy process. It feels vitally important to acknowledge and factor strategy and context into my approach.


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

Zee> This is a tricky one and while I know it’s a bit of a cop-out answer, I don’t believe you can rank the relationships a director has with their team. Our work is a truly collaborative effort, and the heavy lifting required of each team member varies dependant on the job’s unique requirements.

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?

Zee> I am most drawn to intimate human pieces, especially work imbued with poetry. That said, I truly love to craft epic experiences and explore worlds with scale and visceral impact.

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

Zee> I think I am often taken rather seriously, regarding the tone of my work. I love a little fun as much as the next guy.

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

Zee> I have never worked directly with a cost consultant, I leave that for the grown ups.


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

Zee> We were flown to Ireland to be immersed in a whiskey brand, this involved sampling whiskey at 10am. We solved this problem with whiskey.

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

Zee> Once the heart of the work is agreed upon, this serves as a compass, aiding to navigate every other decision. Provided there is consensus on the heart, I embrace the collaborative process.

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?

Zee> I am fully in support of diversifying our industry, as well as entirely open to mentoring and apprenticeship.

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? 

Zee> I’m now better at asking “Can you see my screen?”

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)? 

Zee> You always want to try to ensure that your work is received in the best possible light regardless of the format. While we prioritise the primary objective, we pay careful attention to the other requirements and always work to be considerate of this.


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

Zee> I find the future of storytelling incredibly exciting. That said, I most often find myself tackling more traditional narrative structures.

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

Zee> Assupol


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Darling Films, Tue, 21 Sep 2021 12:50:57 GMT