Alumni Profile: James Honiball
BA Film and Media Studies (Screen Production Stream); BA (Hons) Screenwriting and Documentary Film Making Year of graduation, 2012. Worked a year and came back 2014.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a nerd and a passionate storyteller/daydreamer and cinephile. I am always up for a challenge, if it be learning how to pilot a small airplane, to getting my certification in Bareboat Sailing, every day I aim to learn something new.
What are you most passionate about?
I enjoy video editing, but more specifically colour grading and the way colour can be used to subconsciously shift the meaning, feeling or effect that the film has on the audience. I see it is a wonderful challenge in that a good colourist’s work isn't seen, but felt.
Where have you worked since graduating from UCT?
I worked at multiple companies such as Penguin Films, Okuhle Media, Lightpost Media, Homebrewfilms, Manmakesapicture, to name a few. The nature of the industry is as such that you join in on short contracts or projects and move on to another project with another company as the projects arise and your contact list increases. It is not uncommon to have worked for more than 5 different companies or clients in a single year. Currently I have immigrated to the USA and am in the job market here. The thing that I have noticed in the job market is that companies are no longer looking for single role actors, they are looking for Digital Content Creators/Producers that are not only video editors but cinematographers, producers and directors in one person.
What, would you say, have your biggest achievements been since leaving the department?
My biggest achievement since leaving the department was successfully positioning myself as a professional colorist/grader that companies recognised and I was fortunate enough to have done work on multiple high profile national broadcast television shows on a regular basis, as well as NGO documentaries that left a measurable impact.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are is to do what I achieved in South Africa again here in the USA. Establish myself as a reputable hard working colourist. If Technicolor would just answer the phone…(joke) This is a thing to keep in mind though, the film industry is a very localised industry and you have to keep establishing yourself, because the work you had depended on the group you were a part of at a particular place. People say it is about who you know, but it is more a thing of getting out there and telling people who you are, so that they know.
How would you say your degree assisted you since leaving university?
I always knew filmmaking was what I wanted to do and I applied with prior knowledge and some skills in this. My degree, helped me refine those skills and gave me the opportunity to investigate different avenues within the film industry. If it wasn’t for my degree, I might not have discovered my passion for colour grading. The theory courses helped me appreciate filmmaking at a much greater depth than that I had understood before. I might be biased, but the film department has some of the best Lecturers you can find in this field. In short, I could say that my degree gave me the confidence to produce more meaningful content.
What was the most important lesson you’ve applied since leaving UCT?
Working within the Screen Production Stream, I learned invaluable lessons in team dynamics and in what way management and de-escalation of those attributes can make or break a project. The industry is a very close proximity environment and learning EQ skills from those experiences has helped tremendously.
What is your fondest memory from your time at UCT/the department?
Many of fondest memories from my time at UCT was down in the editing suites at Baxter TV Studios, where Alan Johannes would kindly show me various lighting setups within the studio and the inner workings of the productions, from setting up live camera systems to hands-on experience with the equipment there. Again the quality of the people who are associated with the Film Department is unmatched anywhere else in South Africa.
What advice would you give incoming students?
I would say that a course in Small Business would be of an advantage, because the industry is moving to smaller and smaller crews and shorter duration contract work. Some skill in starting and maintaining a business would be a plus. I think it is important in the 1st semester to have an idea what stream you would be going into and to work very hard in getting accepted for it, the competition is fierce. Try and be as knowledgeable of the newest technology, such as virtual reality video and 360 video and working with drones. The new era of storytellers are very much self-starters and extremely independent, in that you would need to learn how to be a one person show with an almost immediate turn around.