You only have to have seen one of Timothy Hay’s videos to know that he is a truly talented filmmaker. He and his team recently walked away with first prize in the coveted My RODE Reel 2020 competition for a three-minute documentary they produced called Amanzi Olwandle.
Ballito-based Tim is absolutely passionate about cinematography. He lives and breathes film and the evidence of this passion and his dedication to the craft lie in the incredibly high quality of work he continually produces. And now it’s paying off. We caught up with Tim to find out more about the film that won him first place and $20 000 cash in the My RODE Reel competition, which tells the story of a man named Avuyile Ndamase (who plays himself in the film) who lost his 15-year-old brother Zama to a shark attack 10 years ago.
Tell us a bit about the story behind Amanzi Olwandle. Why and how did you choose this specific story?
I was drawn to the story because it is about loss. We have all lost or will lose someone we love in one way or another. There is a simple beauty to death that I wanted to show in the story. This was based on a true story and I simply showed another way of dealing with loss. We are still connected to people who have passed on through the things that connected us in the first place, whether it’s the ocean or simply doing things that remind us of the connection. I lost my father as a young boy and every year I go for a swim in the sea on his birthday. This connects me to him. In the film, I wanted to show how Avo (Avuyile) uses the ocean and the old habits they shared to bond the brothers in spirit. I also chose Avo’s story because I love the ocean and surfing and, when I met him and shared my ideas and how I would film it, he seemed super happy to get involved.
Is this a competition you’ve always wanted to enter?
The RODE Reel is a competition I was interested in for years. I have entered many competitions throughout my career and won a few. RODE Reel seemed like an impossible one to win because of the huge prize money and number of people who enter every year, but I was keen to try either way. So I put together a shot list, gathered a super rad film crew, scouted Salt Rock beach for two excellent young actors, packed the car to the roof and headed to Transkei to create some magic!
Talk us through some of the challenges you faced during filming.
Filming a short film like this comes with many challenges. Normally you would have a large budget, film crew and plenty of time. We had a small budget, smaller crew and no time. Firstly, no parent wanted to loan us their child for a weekend! Eventually I made contact with Salt Rock lifeguard named Linda who teaches kids to swim and surf to keep them off the streets (I feel another short film coming here…). He found me two amazing young men willing to star in our film and their parents were excited for them to act. Once that was sorted, we needed a trailer because we had limited car space with six bodies and tons of gear. I loaned one from a friend and we were finally off to shoot … just two weeks before the deadline. Another challenge was weather and surf conditions but, lucky for us, the weather gods were in our favour.
How did you feel when you found out you’d won?
I was actually asked to do a Zoom call a few days before to discuss the film with the guys from RODE. We chatted about how and when we shot the film and all the challenges and the team and then, at the end of the conversation, they told me I had won! I was so shocked and confused. I didn’t know what to say and just kept asking if it was a joke. Eventually though it sunk in and I was overcome with gratitude and pride. Like I said, I have entered many film competitions, created some shockers and some rad pieces of work and won maybe five out of 30 of them. I’ve worked my ‘bum off’! What I take from that is that hard work does pay off and only through the years of failing and learning did I manage to get this one right.
Tell us about your film making career thus far and what comes next. I never studied film, but always found it interesting and exciting. I couldn’t afford a camera when I was younger and just played with mates’ cameras. Life took me on a strange but necessary journey when I moved to the UK where I filmed for Youtube. It was quite strange actually, as I struggled to find anyone keen to be in front of the camera – so I was forced to film myself! Back home I got a job with ESA (Extreme Sports Angling), where I learned the fundamentals of film making and story telling.
I started my production company, Hellmot Productions, freelancing for just about any production I could get involved with. It wasn’t easy, but I learnt a lot about what kind of work I love and where I wanted to go. I started a motorbike show, Journey to the Roof, which aired on Supersport once a month for three years and while filming I worked on other projects. In 2016, while filming for BMW, I was involved in a car accident that changed my life forever. Doctors didn’t believe I was going to live through the first operation but thank God I was fit and healthy from training for three years for the Roof of Africa. I spent a month in hospital and a few years doing rehab. The experience changed and inspired me in both my career and life, and I accepted and put my all into every challenge that has come my way. My goal for the future is to work on a feature film.
I would like to be part of the entire process from start to finish and specifically work on stories that touch people in some way. We are all story tellers in our own way … whether its a bedtime story to your child, a campfire story with mates or simple gossip … we all tell stories. For those of us who work in film though, we get to tell stories in ways that move the soul.
Text: Leah Shone