By Charndré Emma Kippie
Janez Vermeiren, known as one of South Africa’s most loved TV personalities and hosts, has taken the plunge, branching off into the video content creation industry. Along with business partner Peri van Papendorp, he successfully launched Filmer.tv – Africa’s first film and content crowd-sourcing platform that offers brands a direct line to a network of skilled African creative professionals. Yes, times have changed – Video Content is King!
The Filmer.tv platform gives brands and agencies the chance to collaborate with a community of local filmmakers and creators to generate fresh thinking and all types of video, stills and creative content in a faster, more affordable way. To date, Filmer has worked on a variety of interesting projects for top companies such as Universal Music, Huletts, Cipla, and Sanlam – to name but only a few.
Congratulations on the launch of Filmer.tv. How’d the idea for this business come about?
My business partner Peri vP and I had been discussing, for many years, how the content creation landscape across the globe was changing. Digital content creation was on the rise and globally people were starting to consume more and more video content. We also realised that the cost of creating content had come down drastically over the past few years due to access to technology, and the emergence of a new crop of filmmakers that were capable of producing the same high level content more affordably. Unfortunately, in the South African filmmaking industry there has always been this funnel to finding work, and it was really difficult in the past for creatives to connect with leading brands, clients and creative agencies.
Our discussions, from the onset, involved creating a platform that could level the playing field and give filmmakers an equal chance to pitch on briefs for the biggest brands and agencies, but at the same time give clients the opportunity to access the most talented African filmmakers to help them produce more affordable, efficient and locally relevant content. We started developing Filme.tv well before the pandemic, and when Covid struck we knew we were onto something special because we had built a platform that was geared towards remote working, and with marketing budgets being cut clients would suddenly be more open to this new way of creating content.
You’re a TV personality who has branched out into many fields – how did you get to this point in your career?
Everything has been a natural evolution for me from the first day I started out in the media industry. I worked successfully as a model/actor for many years, but the plan was always to look ahead and launch my own modelling agency, which I did with The Circle Models in 2007. I had a natural talent for acting and this helped me book over 100 international TV commercials, which then led me to a career as a TV presenter. Once I started working as a TV host the dream was then to become a producer, and after a couple of years honing my skills in the TV industry I took the leap of faith to launch my own TV production company. As a TV producer I was exposed to the abundance of filmmaking talent in Africa, and with the TV industry being disrupted by streaming platforms, there was an opportunity to pivot and innovate. The idea was simple – create a platform that helps democratise the filmmaking industry in Africa and that’s how Filmer.tv was born.
Why do you think video content is king?
The internet changed everything. Due to smart devices, connectivity and platforms like YouTube and Netflix, people can now watch what they want, when they want. During the Covid lockdowns, video content consumption skyrocketed and there are now so many options online when it comes to viewing great content. This really excites me because from a filmmaking perspective this means more content creation opportunities for the industry. Our Filmer crowdsourcing platform helps bridge the gap by connecting clients who require effective and authentic content with a community of talented African filmmakers and other creative professionals.
Your new business venture took off even during a pandemic. What challenges did you overcome as a co-founder?
When launching something new and disruptive the challenge is always adoption – How do you get people to try your platform for the first time? In many many ways it was fortuitous for us to launch Filmer.tv mid pandemic because we solved many of the challenges caused by the pandemic. Our platform offered clients a more affordable content creation model that was also more efficient due to the remote working functionality. Had we launched Filmer.tv prior to the pandemic it would have been way more challenging to get clients to test the platform for the first time.
What 3 tips could you offer for making quality video content that sells?
- To create effective video content it’s vital that it resonates with the intended target audience.
- In the South African context, with all of our cultures and languages, you need to make sure your content is locally relevant by speaking to the local nuances, styles and tastes of the audience you are trying to target.
- The storytelling should also evoke some form of emotion (nostalgia, joy, empathy etc). Find a human element in your story. Don’t make it all about the brand, but rather hone in on the human side of the story.
In your field, one has to cater to many brands and agencies. How have you learned to manage your time effectively and execute your vision for each of them?
Within Filmer.tv, my business partner and I have a good understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. Peri is the Creative Director at Filmer.tv and manages the creative processes within the business. I focus more on sales, client service and new business development. This helps divide and conquer, but also allows us to play to our strengths. We manage all types of clients from creative agencies to brands to NGO’s and even individuals. Filmer is perfectly positioned to service the requirements of all of the above mentioned clients because you can enter the platform at any stage of the production process. If you’re a small brand/client that doesn’t have an agency, you can enter the platform from the ideation phase, or if you’re a creative agency that’s already developed a concept and script, you can use Filmer to find the best director or production house to execute that piece of content for them.
What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?
My why in life is 100% my family. Everything I do is to make sure I can share the most amazing memories and experiences with my family.
My why from a Filmer business perspective, is to bring some positive change and innovation to the filmmaking industry in Africa. We have an abundance of talented African creative professionals across the continent that are hungry to showcase their talent and skills, but don’t know how to. Many of these filmmakers would previously never have been able to connect with the biggest brands, agencies and clients, and now for the first time through Filmer they can. Helping open up the industry inspires me to keep pushing forward because as a former filmmaker I know how difficult it is to find work and connect with potential clients. Our platform offers an entire community of creatives the opportunity to fairly win jobs for the biggest brands and agencies across the continent. Who knows, hopefully many of our skilled filmmakers will one day go on to do great things internationally. That would most certainly answer my “Why”.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far?
I’ve read and continue to read so many books that inspire and teach me. Just before we launched Filmer my business partner sent me a gift – That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph. Everytime we hit a hurdle with Filmer, that success story keeps me going. I’m a big fan of autobiographies and there are so many life and business lessons you can learn from other people’s trials and tribulations.
A few of my other favourite titles in no particular order are:
- Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark
- Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- Bitcoin billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects?
I often do free MC work or influencer work for various NGO’s and charities, but nothing on a permanent basis. To keep myself balanced and happy, I’m a big believer in physical exercise and connecting with nature. Weekly, I’m on the beach with my family or running my dogs on the mountain. I run, gym and play tennis and get very frustrated if work prevents me from my daily exercise routine.
Do you have any advice for future generations of video content creators who aspire to be entrepreneurs?
The best advice I have for filmmakers looking to take the next step, is to never stop creating, never stop dreaming and never stop trying. Write those scripts, shoot that free music video, produce that short film, conceptualise that new idea, and knock on all of those doors. Many doors will be slammed in your face, but if you’ve got an innovative idea, all it takes is one lucky break and you’re off!