2 May 2024 ///

The Quest of Learning with Rising Film-Maker Masedi Ranyane

The future of film-making rests in innovative hands. Masedi Ranyane is an emerging film-director and cinematographer, already endowed with an instinctive vision that reaches into the heart of story-telling; though, this is just Masedi’s beginning.

Motivated by the rich storytelling as told by filmmakers such as Melina Matsoukas’ ‘Queen & Slim’ or Barry Jenkins’ seminal work, ‘Moonlight’, Masedi’s focus is punctuated by emotively charged narrative-building brought forth by lighting, movement and characters that depict the very truth of feeling and being – in which each single shot is as a powerful and deliberate as the entire swathe of moving imagery. Being informed by this lineage is most evident in Masedi’s impressive mastery of the music video format, as an expert in deriving the essence of a story from the framework of soundscape. As one of the most important visual formats for engaging with the current paradigm of creative expression – cutting one’s teeth with music videos can be an unmatched terrain for creative tutorship. 

For young creatives, there is an intuitive ability to find what is real in a world that so often demands only our surface-level attention; it is the defiance of a film-maker like Masedi that showcases a different path forward. Now, under the auspices of award-winning production company, ‘And.’, Masedi is headed towards an impactful future in film-making guided by its founder Rob dos Santos. The time for South African directors is precisely right now.

Masedi Ranyane – Showreel

The creative process is always part of how Masedi engages with the world around him and in fact, he reckons that the process rather than any medium, predates his love for film-making, as Masedi explains that “my journey to film-making started really early. I was creative from a really young age. As a kid, I was obsessed with customisation. When I would be given a toy, I would spend the day disassembling it and putting it back together in a new way, in a way that felt more like it was my own. My parents still joke about it today – that I was just breaking toys, but there was a purpose to it! Film-making is a consequence of wanting to make things in the way that I see them. I began shooting my friends skateboarding, off our phones, and then taking those videos and customising them, so we could have these works that were our own.” 

Initially encouraged by his parents to follow the initial plan to become a software engineer, Masedi’s creative path soon beckoned. This decision to leave his hometown of Bloemfontein for film school in Cape Town has been guided by his parent’s championed support – and Masedi shares that film school provided him with an invaluable breadth of exposure, “when I started with mapping out my process, I was more interested in photography, and telling a story with a single image. That evolved into videos and editing, and it was really being at film-school that my mind was opened. Being exposed to different kinds of film theory taught me how much variation is involved in telling a story with moving images; whether it’s through colour, angles and lighting techniques, each element contributes to the narrative.”

As evidenced by the body of work that won Masedi the award for best music video at the South African Independent Film Festival in 2023 – Dali’s ‘Ahhh’ is a portrait of Masedi’s emotionally driven focus as a director. Swift movements and angles, undivided attention to lighting and a singular focus on defining the mood of the video – Masedi shepherd’s the song’s trajectory through every feeling on the spectrum. It is a high-art to have a song and its accompanying visual appear to be born so synergistically. As Masedi notes on how he has come to find his own language, “I think my evolution has come out of shooting as much as I can. The more I’ve shot, the more I’ve figured out what I like and what I don’t like. I think experimentation is really important. My style of shooting is rooted in realism – I want to tell stories that feel natural, so that viewers can connect to what I’m trying to relay. My style of directing is also very technical and I work very closely with the camera because I’m also a director of photography, so my initial love for photography remains involved in my process –  as image is vital to me and is where I excel.

The future is a process of changing hands between generations. For Masedi, the creative landscape of South Africa is predicated on the point of view of young visionaries – guided, as he is, by leaders of the space such as And. – Masedi shares that “I think there is something really unique and powerful about the point of view of young directors and creatives. We have an instinct for communicating with a younger audience, and that we are equipped to tap into expressing the current culture. I’ve witnessed our generation learning at such rapid rates, and I think that is a unique kind of experience that lends itself to the creative process.” and that “And. has been really supportive – they’ve seen a light inside of me that they want to help bring out. It’s unmatched to have people in your corner that want to nurture young talent in South Africa to be the best that they can be.”

The production of art, culture and creativity can be a competitive landscape, but more than this; its successes hinges on collaboration. I ask Masedi what inspires him, and I couldn’t anticipate a more pointed, singular focus on his part as to what fuels his creative drive, “I’m inspired by collaboration. The idea of customisation is still exciting to me, and when mixed with collaboration – all these perspectives converge from different people and come together, to bring about something completely new; an end product that bears the mark of each person involved. I think having multiple personalities and characteristics infused in a body of work is really inspiring.” This understanding, of the inherent community-drive in creative production, marks South Africa’s landscape as especially ripe for fruition. ‘Ubuntu’ is etched into the foundations of the nation’s visionaries –  ‘we are because of each other’.

Rob comments on And.’s focus for film-makers in South Africa, our eyes are international. The work we are concerned about is not in servicing international clients, but in having South African directors make incredible international work in South Africa, for overseas brands.” So what is it, from Masedi’s perspective, that informs such boundary-pushing storytellers such as that we are seeing emerging from South Africa? To which he says, “we are such a diverse nation. We have different cultures, different environments – and I think this uniqueness is already a kind of living art form, because of our diversity of approaches in life. I think this sets us apart, and that this strengthens our ability to tell original and interesting stories. I want to see South Africans push more to tell our stories; we have the resources and capability to define our own kind of creative culture, whether it’s film-making or any other discipline.”

Masedi photographed by Callaghn Robertson

Masedi photographed by Kea Dituanyane

As far as Masedi goes – well, it’s as far the hunger of being an autodidact trailblazer will take him. This, I think, will be stratospheric. It’s in his willingness to be shaped by the teachers and lessons surrounding that marks Masedi for greatness – finally, as he shares that “I’m focused on having my voice heard in the industry – and to be involved in whatever can teach me or shape me, in this ever-learning process. Every project shows and teaches me something new, and I want to keep using that to develop and build my voice.”

Follow Masedi Ranyane’s work HERE
Follow And. HERE

Written by: Holly Beaton

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