The M-Net TAG Awards present a win-win situation for all involved and the benefits exceed any other film awards programme, according to some of this year's contestants who have entered a public service announcement (PSA) into the hotly contested competition.
The annual awards encourage both established and aspirant creatives to make a television commercial for a charity or cause that is close to their hearts in the form of PSAs that are then aired for free on M-Net and DStv.
Alice Toich from Vega in Cape Town, one of the newcomer creatives behind the Blair Witch Barbie commercial made for the charity Plastic Pollution Prevention, said: "Everybody wins; the person making the commercial gets much-needed exposure as does the charity that desperately needs recognition and support, as well as the viewing public who get to see the finished product. It's a triple-layered slice of cake."
Amy Shelver, the producer and copywriter from Numb City Productions responsible for Chalk Ghosts, made for the House of Resurrection Aids Haven, said: "A visual story is often more powerful than a written story and in a country where literacy levels are so low, the power of television is underestimated and reserved for those who can afford to tell their story or sell their brand.
"The TAG Awards subvert the elitism of the industry and allow for human tales to be told through organisations that serve society, but would never ordinarily be profiled on TV — this is done using the creative skills within the industry.
"The TAG Awards are pioneering in that they create a platform for creative experimentation by industry professionals, but match it with much needed exposure for NGOs, NPOs and CBOs. It is also an opportunity for young filmmakers to get a foot in the door and be recognised."
It is a sentiment echoed by this year's M-Net TAG Rising Star winner, Duduzile Mkhize of Rise Above Films, who made the PSA Missing Children for Missing Children SA.
She said: "The TAG Awards are important because the selected PSAs can be broadcast to a larger audience and the message reaches more people.
"It amazes me what we can achieve if we put our minds together without budgets and just with love and passion. And I would like to think my love to help is bigger than my love for awards."
In the professional category the overall winner this year was Exchange Life. It raised awareness for LifeXchange, which aims to transform the lives of youth at risk through a combination of mentoring, support networking and extreme sports. It was directed by Stephen Geldenhuys for Media Village Productions. It also won awards for best direction, best cinematography, best concept, best sound and best editor and was nominated in best script category.
Geldenhuys said: "With crime, poverty, alcoholism, joblessness, hopelessness and fear running rampant in South Africa, the only real way to make a change is to start at the roots.
"It is the only way to target the next generation who can make a change and make sure they don't slip through the cracks and follow the same cycle of violence and crime all over again. It is a call for us as people to reach out to one another, put away our prejudices and help somebody who is helpless. It also deals with an issue that, in some way or another, affects every single person in South Africa. The answer isn't to build more prisons and rehabs — but to stop the cycle before it even gets to that point."
My Son The Flyer, made by students at Afda in Cape Town for the Ster Kinekor Vision Mission eye care project, won the overall award in the newcomer category as well as awards for best direction, best cinematography, best editing and best sound design. It was also nominated for best script.
Since its inception in 2005, Vision Mission has screened the sight of over 248 900 learners from previously disadvantage backgrounds across the country and provided spectacles to 12 000 learners.
It was a commercial that certainly wowed the judges and bodes well for the future of the South African film industry.
One of this year's judges, John Culverwell of Sonovision, said: "The cinematography and grade was professionally achieved. However, the direction and performance of the young boy was the aspect that stood tall. I did not think that I was watching a newcomer's piece, but rather found myself fully emerged in their suspension of disbelief. It was a seamlessly produced all-round exceptional PSA."
It is industry goodwill that underpins the huge success of the M-Net TAG Awards each year. Although M-Net and DStv donate millions of rand of airtime, the estimated cost contributed by the industry to making the TAG entries is more than R50-million a year. Professionals donate time, equipment, facilities and experience from their own resources.
The top-scoring 30% of commercials entered into the 2012 M-Net TAG Awards will be broadcast on M-Net. Visit http//tagawards.dstv.com
Read all about the M-Net TAG Awards on the following three pages