The Better Man Project

This year Men’s Health turned 20 years old. That’s two decades of helping the everyday man be better. To celebrate, we wanted to do something big. Becoming the best version of yourself can be a daunting task. It takes courage. We wanted to recognise men who, over the years, have risen to the challenge. So we commissioned four directors to create short films that explored this idea. Meet Shane Knock, Siphiwe Myeza-Mhlambi, Dirk Van Niekerk and Lourens van Rensburg. View their films below and vote for your favourite.

Shane
Knock

“The Desert”

Siphiwe
Myeza-Mhlambi

“Peanuts”

Dirk
Van Niekerk

“The Surgeon”

Lourens
van Rensburg

“The Arrival”

Shane Knock

“The Desert”

As a lover of all things wild, Shane’s adventurous exploration of what makes each of us who we are is rooted in using imagery and sound to convey an affecting message with artistic flair. A strong believer in making an emotional connection with the audience through imaginative storytelling, he is not afraid to confront and portray raw reality and lives for subtextual poetry found in the detail of everyday life. He won Best Film and Best Director at the 48Hour Film Project.

His first commercial, ‘A Good Drowning’ won Creative Circle Ad of the Year in 2017.

View his work here

Director Q & A

How did you get into directing?
I loved films, went to film school (because at that stage there were no written exams and all the assignments and portfolio work was practical), and quickly fell in love with the creative aspect of storytelling.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey? Who helped you along the way?
My folks have always been very supportive, as well as my wife, who has kept me pushing on and always encourages me to never give up. She has always been able to see what’s inside me and help me to try and find a way to access and express that into a cinematic experience.

What made you want to get into directing?
I’m someone who needs to do different things all the time. I can’t be stuck in a room at a desk in front of a computer all day long. I love the outdoors and the adventure of different experiences, with interesting and diverse personalities. Filmmaking seemed to be the route that held the most appeal.

Did you always want to be a director?
No, I actually wanted to become a plastic surgeon and received a bursary to study medicine, but chose the film route instead.

What did your parents say when you told them?
They were happy to support whatever my decision was.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
The whole process actually, and the way that the stories and film develop, from where they start to where they end up.

What’s your least favourite part?
Probably trying to get your work out there and getting people to watch it when they really are spoilt for choice, there are billions of videos available to them.

Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
There’s no such thing as a typical day for me.

Is it a competitive industry?
[Laughs].

What advice do you have for other young directors trying to make it?
If you have a passion for something and believe it’s what you want from life, then go after it with everything you’ve got.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Hopefully back to shooting long-form films and working on the first of my three feature films.

Who’s your favourite director?
It’s difficult to pick just one, but I’m a huge Clint Eastwood, Paul Haggis and Carlos Sorin fan.

Favourite movie?
Braveheart.

Favourite South African ad?
An oldie, but probably the old McGyver ad from the early 90’s or perhaps the VW Father-Son Roadtrip ad.

How do you stay inspired?
I draw inspiration from every experience in life. The best ideas and moments are all spontaneous and unexpected.

What’s your dream?
To die empty of all that I feel I need to creatively express to the world.

What’s been your favourite part about shooting this commercial?
I enjoyed the entire creative process, especially working with the rest of the creative team and the actor on how we were going to tell the story because there were so many ways to tell this one particular story.

How do you hope people will react to your commercial?
I hope people will be drawn in as they watch, that they feel they are watching a scene from a film and then are surprised by the end to find out it is, in fact, a commercial.

What’s the most important part of creating a good commercial?
Finding the magic that makes it stand out from everything else in the creative advertising space.

Do you think there’s a chance you might want to get rid of your old self in the future?
Oh, I’ve already begun that journey, and this film actually coincided very timeously with that personal journey transition.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’ve always had a sweet tooth, especially for any homemade delicacy.

How do you stay healthy?
I run in the mornings along the beachfront near where I live and also have two young boys who keep me very busy 🙂

What keeps you motivated?
My wife and kids without a doubt! They are the ones that keep me focused and motivated to keep pushing things creatively.

The country is going to be voting for their favourite Men’s Health commerical, how does this make you feel?
I really hope people enjoy watching the films and get something out of them for themselves.

Behind the scenes

Making magic on screen takes a lot of work. Check out some of the behind the scenes photos from “The Desert.”

Siphiwe Myeza-Mhlambi

“Peanuts”

SJ is from the bustling city of Johannesburg but has made Cape Town his home. After his studies, he joined 7Films, which has moulded him into the director he is today. He is now a majority shareholder of 7Films, which is an award-winning production company, rated 2nd in South Africa. In his debut-directing year, his work won him a gold and silver Loerie at the 2016 Loerie Awards. At the age of 22, he was the youngest winner and was ranked 3rd in the country. He won Gold again at the Cannes Lions Awards in 2017. He was voted one of the 200 Young South Africans by The Mail and Guardian, which recognises talent and leadership. His work in the film and commercial industry earned him a place at the YG15, Young Guns 15 – an international awards show for the world’s top creatives. He was the only African representative to be named that year and became the first recipient in the history of YG15 to receive the Creative Choice Award. He is an ambitious, risk-taking individual, who is quick to learn and who adapts well to any problem that arises. He is inspired by real stories and real characters and believes reality is stranger than fiction.

View his work here

Director Q & A

How did you get into directing?
I studied directing and writing and once I graduated I started my own company. A few months later Lourens, director and founder of 7Films, offered me an intern position, which I decided to take. I then sold my assets and bought a car to move to Cape Town, I did the grovel work and the rest is history.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey? Who helped you along the way?
My journey was interesting. I made a lot of mistakes, took a lot of risks and learnt a lot. I was fortunate enough to have an experienced mentor in Lourens who guided me through the process. I do think he enjoyed watching me suffer at times and threw me in the deep end more than once! But, looking back, I’m sure it was for my own good.

What made you want to get into directing?
I wanted to change the world and I think film is one of the most powerful mediums.

Did you always want to be a director?
I always wanted to be a storyteller, directing is just a language, which I discovered later.

What did your parents say when you told them?
[Laughs] Well, I didn’t really tell them anything! My parents thought I was going to study something else. When I went to my orientation week, there wasn’t much they could do, they just said I better know what I am doing.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
The editing process is my favourite because that is when you really see your dreams come alive.

What’s your least favourite part?
Pre-production is the worst. I am insecure, so I hate pitching my ideas because I hate losing. And spell checking is the bane of my existence.

Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
Non-existent [laughs]. My producer schedules when I can take breath. Most of the time I have a job in production, a job in post and I’m taking briefs. When I am not busy with my own jobs, I am managing other jobs in the company and pretending to listen to my mentor and my partner.

Is it a competitive industry?
Extremely, it’s subtle but very real.

What advice do you have for other young directors trying to make it?
Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Put those 10 000 hours in, back yourself and run your own race.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Retired…JOKES. I would love to see myself in the feature film space, working on an international scale. Also, I would like to expand the company, 7Films, across our borders.

Who’s your favourite director?
God [laughs]. He created the world and directs destinies. Reality truly is stranger than fiction. I really enjoy Martin Scorsese, Chris Nolan, Ryan Coogler and David Fincher.

Favourite movie?
That is not a fair question, [laughs], but if I had a gun to my head it would be between Training Day and Seven.

Favourite South African ad?
It was an ad for SABC 1, “Ya Mempela”, in which they reversed the roles of people. The white people were black and the black people were white…that spot was ahead of its time and reigns true today, more than anything.

How do you stay inspired?
Getting away from the noise and appreciating the quiet moments. Time with family and getting away from work sometimes, and just being young does the trick. I guess staying in touch with where I come from and remembering why I decided to do this in the first place.

What’s your dream?
To change the world and leave a long-lasting legacy that lives for generations after my time on earth.

What made you want to get involved in this Men’s Health project?
It was a challenge for me and an opportunity to do something out of my comfort zone. I really enjoyed the concept and the opportunity to start writing again. As a company, we felt it was really different and brave for the brand and all of us wanted a piece of that pie.

What’s been your favourite part about shooting this commercial?
The freedom.

What’s been your favourite part of the process?
The colour grading. It was just so exciting to have time to plan, and it came out better than I expected.

How do you hope people will react to your commercial?
I hope they laugh. I have never done comedy before this, so even a giggle will do.

How do you go from the idea to the execution? What’s involved?
You have an idea, write it up and then throw it all away because all of it was not great. Once you have all the bad ideas out of your system, write 6 more versions.  Once you have a script that works, you create a treatment and start planning out the world of the story. Once that is done, you prep your crew and go make magic.  You then sit in post and realise all the mistakes you made on set, go home and cry a bit, then back to the edit suite and make magic again.  Eventually you see your baby come alive through grade and sound design, and finally take a step back and say “Wow! Did I really do that? I was lucky on that one”

What’s the most important part of creating a good commercial?
Being aware of your audience.

Do you think there’s a chance you might want to get rid of your old self in the future?
I do it every day.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
I plead the Fifth (my mom still thinks I am an angel).

How do you stay healthy?
I play sports regularly. I enjoy boxing and I play soccer.

What keeps you motivated?
My future self keeps telling me not to give up.

The country is going to be voting for their favourite Men’s Health commercial, how does this make you feel?
[Laughs] That’s a tricky one. I am not sure how to feel, but I know that I am proud of them all.

Behind the scenes

Making magic on screen takes a lot of work. Check out some of the behind the scenes photos from “Peanuts.”

Dirk Van Niekerk

“The Surgeon”

As a young professional, Dirk van Niekerk’s passion to create compelling stories combined with his creative flair makes this award-winning director someone to keep in mind. With accolades such as a Silver Lion at the Cannes International Film Festival, Gold at the Loeries, and a Gold Craft Award for Cinematography and Directing, as well as other recognitions, it’s safe to say that Dirk is a well-rounded director. According to the Loeries Official Rankings 2017, he was ranked the #1 cinematographer in the Country.

It goes without saying that Dirk has an eye and passion for the camera, and is certainly learning to handle both. Behind the camera, you’ll find a passionate creative with a lot of joy and love for film, art, real stories and the people he works with.

View his work here

Director Q & A

How did you get into directing?
I actually started out as an actor. Throughout school, I found myself acting in plays, short films and TV commercials. But when I first discovered a camera, that’s when I truly fell in love with filmmaking – I spent all my time making films. I think I even made a video of me doing the dishes one time. Then, I got lucky with a full sponsorship to film school, I spent a year at SAE Institute. Immediately after that, I was referred to work for a small agency doing online content. The content we created grew bigger and bigger. Next thing I knew I was directing my first TV commercial at age 22 and I haven’t looked back.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey? Who helped you along the way?
There were a few people that helped me along the way. In the beginning, it was the Crous Family, Henk and Christa Crous – who talked me out of a student loan and sponsored my higher certificate course at SAE – stepping into my first lecture at film school my dreams had come true. Next, it was my former producer and classmate, Michelle Nel. We worked together at my first agency job. Together, we produced and directed TVCs and we were fresh out of film school. I know, right?! Something wasn’t right there. But we took each project by the horns, gave it our best, and even managed to grab a small award or two. And finally, 7Films, who have helped me develop as a young director and really push myself in the industry.

What made you want to get into directing?
Once I understood what directing was, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a director. As a kid, I loved running off on my own playing with my toys and imagining I was in a magical place somewhere. I loved creating little stories and living inside my imagination. Directing allows me to do that too – it’s the same-same but different. I still get to use my imagination, dream up concepts and stories and characters, the only thing that’s changed is the medium, and the toys…the toys are much bigger now. Ultimately I’m still that little kid running around in the forest with a stick. Except it’s a camera or a script now.

Did you always want to be a director?
Not really, I always wanted to act and be in movies. But then I discovered a camera and that changed everything. Then, I wanted to make films, and that meant I had to be a director.

What did your parents say when you told them?
Growing up, my step dad always supported my creative side. I was a bit of an artist and an actor in school and I think he always knew I’d be doing something creative.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
SET, SET, SET! The first actual time you get to see the project come together, and working with all your awesome crew.

What’s your least favourite part?
“Killing your darlings” getting too attached to shots or scenes and having to cut them out. But it happens and sometimes it’s for the better.

Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
I’m a night owl, so If I can, I usually wake up late and spend my mornings working at home, equipped with a good cup of coffee and a smoothie. I’m usually working on treatments, ideas, research, edits, or I’m at meetings – the work changes every day and it’s one of the things that I love about my job. Then, when the workday is done, I hit the gym for an hour, come home and make dinner. In the evening, I’m my most creative, I usually put on some ambient or classical music and get straight back into my treatments etc. This is my favourite time to work. Then I usually get to sleep at about 12/1am.

Is it a competitive industry?
Extremely, but it’s awesome! Seeing other filmmakers produce awesome content inspires me to be better, you can always learn something from your competition, I think we motivate each other.

What advice do you have for other young directors trying to make it?
Create content and push it out there. Do what you can to get noticed, let people see your work, your talent and your potential, so they can believe in you as much as you believe in yourself.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Hopefully, a successful director that gets to create as incredible content as some of my heroes in the industry.

Who’s your favourite director?
Hmmm…it’s really to say…but perhaps I’d say Denis Villeneuve, director of Arrival and Sicario.

Favourite movie?
Worst question ever [laughs]! but going with something moderately recent I would say Sicario.

Favourite South African ad?
Bells, The Reader.

How do you stay inspired?
When I need to be inspired I head for nature, my earphones and classical music

What’s your dream?
To be a successful director and cinematographer, create awesome content and eventually write and direct my own feature film.

How do you hope people will react to your commercial?
A little chuckle will do great.

What’s the most important part of creating a good commercial?
The script. Ultimately, a good script is the foundation of a good commercial, from there it’s team, budget and prep.

Do you think there’s a chance you might want to get rid of your old self in the future?
Oh, I hope not…I hope I can maintain a happy, healthy mind and body.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
SpongeBob SquarePants

How do you stay healthy?
I try and eat healthy 80% of the time. I also gym about 4/5 times a week.

What keeps you motivated?
People, music, film and life.

The country is going to be voting for their favourite Men’s Health commerical, how does this make you feel?
Well, I’ll be voting for SJ’s. But what I love about this campaign is that they are all so different and the voting might come down to a genre preference. What do we win if we get the highest vote?

Behind the scenes

Making magic on screen takes a lot of work. Check out some of the behind the scenes photos from “The Surgeon.”

Lourens van Rensburg

“The Arrival”

Lourens van Rensburg started 7Films. He loves telling stories because he can’t spell.

View his work here

Director Q & A

Why did you want to be a director?
I got into directing so that I could tell people what to do and get away with it.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey? Who helped you along the way?
I am completely dyslexic and suffer from ADHD. In 1974, when I went to school there was no such thing as dyslexia, you were either lazy or stupid. I was very fortunate because lucky for me my dad’s best friend placed a stills camera in my hands and that changed my life. I decided to go to film school and then got the opportunity to travel the world. I met the most beautiful girl in the world and decided to marry her and have the greatest kids.

What made you want to get into directing?
I was dyslexic and suffered from ADHD, so I thought I couldn’t do anything else.

Did you always want to be a director?
I could not spell other occupations.

What did your parents say when you told them?
They recommended the circus.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
I get to tell people what to do.

What’s your least favourite part of it?
Spelling.

Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
I don’t have to spell.

Is it a competitive industry?
Only if you have to spell.

What advice do you have for other young director’s trying to make it?
Learn how to spell.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Still telling people what to do.

Who’s your favourite director?
Alejandro González Iñárritu

Favourite movie?
Birdman

Favourite South African ad?
Right now, it’s the Chicken Licken ad.

How do you stay inspired?
I’m learning how to spell.

What’s your dream?
To one day be able to spell.

What’s been your favourite part about shooting this commercial?
Telling people what to do.

What’s been your favourite part of the process?
Not having to spell.

How do you hope people will react to your commercial?
I would hope to put a smile on the face of people.

What’s the most important part of creating a good commercial?
Telling people what to do.

Do you think there’s a chance you might want to get rid of your old self in the future?
Yes, because he can’t spell.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Spelling.

How do you stay healthy?
I don’t.

What keeps you motivated?
My wife, Nina Van Rensburg.

The country is going to be voting for their favourite Men’s Health commerical, how does this make you feel?
Nervous.

Behind the scenes

Making magic on screen takes a lot of work. Check out some of the behind the scenes photos from “The Arrival.”

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