Dan Mace talks filmmaking, Rasāsvāda’, and aligning art with commerce

A young creative and recent founder of JOE Films who is well-known for his work on YouTube, Dan Mace boasts a fruitful and ever-growing career behind the camera. He has raked in a multitude of impressive accolades, including three Young Director Awards at Cannes Lions, an African Crystal Film Grand Prix, and over 35 million views on YouTube. Not only is he a director, but Dan also writes, produces, and edits the majority of his work, setting him apart as a true visionary and all-around creative.

He was interviewed by Mark Sham, CEO and founder of Suits & Sneakers, at the FAME Africa conference in October 2021 with plenty of industry insights and nuggets of wisdom to share. Here are a few favourites.

Discovering the power of film

Dan claims to have grown up as the shy, ‘strange’ kid at school who would do practically anything to get out of standing up and speaking in front of the class. In high school when faced with the task of giving a speech, his glance turned to the TV set in the corner and the cogs began to turn. He asked his teacher if he could make a video instead and she conceded.

From there, he put together a video focused on ‘defending the indefensible and chose Jack the Ripper as his subject. Despite the reality being very much the contrary, the goal was to convince his audience that the well-known serial killer was actually not as bad a guy as he was made out to be, something he strived to achieve through visuals and by adding music and sound to craft an all-encompassing emotive piece.

“It was then that I realised what film could do and how convincing it could actually be. With that, comes a lot of power, and it’s important to use it in the right way!”

This first Dan Mace video solidified a love for filmmaking in the young teenager and spurred him on to turn his passion into a career, which ultimately led him to move to New York. While he learnt many lessons and collaborated with many incredible individuals within the industry during his time living in the Big Apple, Dan insists that South Africa is still very much where his heart lies.

“South Africa is where my roots are, where my family is. It’s my place and I’m glad to be back.”  

Starting JOE Films

Dan returned to South Africa to get married in 2020 and ended up being unable to leave for the States again due to COVID and lockdown restrictions. He made the most of his ‘entrapment’ by starting a film agency in Cape Town geared towards working on global campaigns and uplifting young, upcoming creatives. He named the agency ‘JOE Films’ after his beloved sausage dog.

“The purpose of JOE Films is to take it all back to creating film with meaning and adopting a story-first approach. The agency revolves around efficiency meets innovation and I’m doing my best to create a strong ecosystem of creatives, teaching them all about the power of aligning art and commerce,” Dan explains.

Dan highlights how he was inspired by the YDE concept within the fashion and design industry when opening the doors to his agency, which is set to launch ‘officially’ in 2022.

“Ultimately, I want to create a progressive space for young creatives where they can come to learn and grow. We’ll build them up and train them, give them the spotlight, and then eventually set them free to do their own thing and make their own art.”

Despite focusing on his own career, Dan is extremely passionate about ‘giving back’ to the industry, speaking about how accomplished creatives need to be deliberate about doing so, especially considering how scarce their time is.

Where to for newcomers to the industry?

Dan advises newcomers to FAME to be aware of the platforms available to them, spotlighting YouTube and TikTok in particular, and to learn how to create content that demands attention. He details four primary aspects of content creation that work together in this regard:

  • Relevance: Is the content relevant and speaking to the audience? Is it relevant to current times, ways of thinking, and trends? Is it going to be easy for the audience to relate to?
  • Engagement: Are you engaging as a creator by asking questions and managing your community? Are you present on an array of different platforms? Are you speaking on an eye-to-eye level with your fans and demonstrating a respect for their time? Are you making your content ‘human’ as opposed to striving for perfection?
  • Consistency: Consistency is the only way to build an audience. Decide how often you’re going to create content and put it out there and stick to it.
  • Commerce: You need to be creating your art and making money at the same time – otherwise it simply isn’t viable. You’ve got to scope out brand deals without over-branding. Find that balance and ensure that the people and brands that you collaborate with or promote speak to the kind of work that you’re putting out there and the people who are consuming it.

Dan also emphasises the importance of constantly improving one’s skills.

“You can learn anything on YouTube – and it’s free. If you want to learn how to use a camera and how to be in control of what you want others to see, you can do so in two days. Anyone can do it, and you don’t even need a professional camera to get started.”

As his final words of wisdom, Dan speaks about balance and the power of ‘Rasāsvāda’ – an Indian philosophy that revolves around attaining a sense of pure bliss through the complete absence of thought. Something that he uses to remain calm and focused on his work.

“All creatives need to find a space in which they can successfully silence the mind, even if just for a few seconds at a time. It’s truly blissful in those moments, and you’re sure to emerge feeling more awake and alive – and ready to make the magic happen!” he concludes.

Watch the full conversation with Dan Mace

More on Film here

FAME Week Africa

FAME Week Africa

FWA Connect bringing the Film, Arts, Media and Entertainment sector together by providing creative industry professionals on the African continent with news, trends and in-depth articles.

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