Keynote address - Big Fish Graduation celebrations

Programme Director allow me to thank the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking for inviting me to this celebration and to congratulate the successful class of 2012. It is always good to celebrate success, it motivates both those who are still looking forward to achieving and those who have achieved, but it also motivates those behind the success story, the educators, trainers and parents.
The work that you do enables this country to strive for a world class South African film and video industry that is representative of the nation, encourages development and is sustainable. Since the inception of the Film and TV Unit in 2003 and its subsequent relocation and renaming as Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking, this academy has proved very successful in understanding the dire need, not only for skilled people in the media, film, TV and art, but to also ensure that these skills are converted into well paying, economically viable opportunities. Big Fish's vision of a world-class/leading film school has come to fruition. Not only have they been successful in all their endeavours to date, but have furthermore extended their footprint and grown to meet the needs of economically deprived individuals in all nine provinces. It is reported that your graduates have a particularly high job placement record and the school, a very low dropout rate. This is the work that you are now keen to expand on. It has proven beyond doubt to be a model of excellence that should be replicated in many fields for other training providers.

What we as the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) are also particularly pleased with, is the development that Big Fish instigated in 2007, with the first incubators, to ensure that learners have a mentored space to further their talent and to have the opportunity of paid workonce graduated. This is now known as Little Pond. Through collaboration with other funders, they have been highly successful in this regard and are now opening Little Pond Film Hubs in four provinces with assistance from the European Union. This is admirable as no other film or arts school in South Africa has managed to achieve this and this gives students who have trained at either Big Fish's Johannesburg or Cape Town campuses, an opportunity to return to their home province and work amongst their own communities. The significant skills transfer andongoing growth of these hubs is, in our opinion, one of the most progressive and sound business models to come out of the training and NGO sectors.

The MDDA is a statutory development agency for promoting and ensuring media development and diversity, set up as a partnership between the South African Government and major print and broadcasting companies to assist in (amongst others) developing community and small commercial media in South Africa, in terms of the MDDA Act No. 14 of 2002. Our mandate is to create an enabling environment for media development and diversity that is conducive to public discourse and that which reflects the needs and aspirations of all South Africans. Section 3 (b)(iii) of the MDDA Act of 2002 provides that the Agency encourage the development of human resources and training, and capacity building, within the media industry, especially amongst historically disadvantaged groups. The Agency thus supports the work of Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking, as it is in line with the mandate of the MDDA. Its work will add value to the imperative of development of human resources and training, and capacity building, within themedia industry. We hope that the graduates from Big Fish and any other similar school will helpgrow the three tier broadcasting industry and more specifically improve our local content production and community television services.

Digital technology is constantly evolving. The Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy adopted in 2012 guides our country as we migrate to digital technologies. In our country, it is expected that Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting implementation will be fully launched in this year. We expect announcements on the DTT performance period. This is an opportunity for us to promote creativity and excellence in the use of the IT tools and communication networks. We must ensure that access to networks and ICT platforms is beneficial to the high quality and value of e-content which is produced and available. Quality content, its production and economic sustainability are fundamental requirements which require changes to the way markets operateand governments act. Our people are eager to usher in the full benefits of digital television in the country.

These benefits include the new multiple services channels for television programming that appeals to our people's cultural and linguistic diversity, content that informs, educates and entertains rooted in the goals of achieving a people-centred, development oriented inclusive information and knowledge society. Our digital content transmission will also cater for the needs of women, children, minorities and people with disabilities.

We need to ensure that the DTT process is not only about modernising technology, but that it also addresses the socio-economic, developmental and infrastructure challenges we face. It must assist us as we fight poverty, inequality and unemployment. Together, we need to create an information rich society where everyone, irrespective of religion, race, rural, gender, class, etc., is empowered to create, receive, share and utilize information and knowledge through digital content for their economic, social, cultural and political upliftment and development.

New people entering the industry now compared to 5 years ago, have many options regarding exploring opportunities, all you need is to be innovative and creative, thereby grow as entrepreneurs in content production, packaging, distribution, etc. Opportunities also exist in respect of infrastructure development, equipment, research and development, and the different platforms for distribution.

Prof Peter A. Bruck, the Chairman, World Summit Awards (WSA) which is a global UN mandated initiative to select and promote the world's best digital contents, held every two years, says,

"Our goal is to make the global knowledge society more inclusive. Today, the world is almostentirely connected. But in this ocean of products and services, quality e-content is hard to findand local solutions have difficulties to compete with mainstream solutions. WSA provides theanswer to this issue, by promoting local content with global relevance".

Content producers have even more opportunity to earn a living and run sustainable businesses with digital broadcasting, as many channels will need content. Content is a building block for aknowledge society. We need more of you to tell the South African story, using our own languages, from our own soil and perspective.

The film and television industry is huge, competitive, growing at an exceptional rate and produces future leaders in many respects. The industry competes internationally in areas such as providers of quality content, creative workmanship, and as a service region. Our country has a known history of film production and is therefore among the oldest film industries in the world.It is reported that over the past ten years, the industry has produced an array of award winning films, television series, documentaries and commercial. The commercial industry is booming ahead of its peers and has received favourable acclamation globally. Recently, we saw one ofthe local movie 'The Algiers Murders' produced by the Moments Entertainment Production, winning Best Feature film at the 15th Annual Detective Fest film festival in Moscow, Russia.Congratulations to the Moments Entertainment Production.

Having said all the above, I need to stress that it is tough out there, do not take things for granted. Do not suffer from the culture of entitlement. Yes, there a number of support programmes for the industry, from the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), MDDA support (in respect of community broadcasting), the Department of Trade and Industry (the DTI), the Department of Arts and Culture (DaC), SABC, Multichoice/DsTV, MNET, Etv, etc. It is important to perform at your best, to maintain your integrity and to bemindful of your personal brand - how people see you, and always knowing yourself and your place in this world. The competition is huge for these opportunities and many companies are looking at cheapest models of doing business. To succeed, you need to understand that the industry requires honesty, dedication and reliability in order for you to constantly be employed and to move up.

Your reputation is everything and you should never compromise this. It takes a lot of effort tobuild a reputation but it takes seconds to destroy it. Remember that it is inextricably linked to BigFish and to your family brand. If you are doing well and being a good ambassador for the school, then the school does well, and you do well by virtue of having trained here. Few of youget to where you are, it is your focus, passion and hard work that ensured you succeed.

Now that you succeeded, be humble and continue being hard working. Always remember those who have provided opportunities for you in your life. Be willing, when you are able, to help others. Lastly remember to plan your future, do a personal "SWOT analysis", have a vision and set yourself goals. You have now achieved the grounding, the ball is in your court.

I would like to wish Big Fish success going forward as a centre of excellence for learning and thus transferring these professional standards onto learners and graduates. Congratulations to all the graduants again and all the best as you enter the industry. We hope that many more bright stars join the Big Fish alumni in the future. In you, we want to see winners and nation builders.

I thank you.

Lumko Mtimde
Chief Executive Officer
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26 Apr 2013 09:39