Ginger Pictures: Continental Power-House In Audio Visual Productions
In 2008, Manu Lapiere, a director and director of photography (DOP) for more than 20 years and Julie Ah-Fa, a former brand manager and seasoned marketing communication professional decided it was time for them to pull together their rich pool of experience and start something unique. That decision birthed Ginger Pictures – a production company that has become the go-to company for agencies around Africa for best quality commercials, music videos, documentaries, TV shows, short and long features, among others.
Renowned for its skilled crew and cutting edge equipment, Ginger Pictures is based in Johannesburg, South Africa and has shot different commercials across 23 African countries.
In more than 11 years of producing TVCs for big businesses like Glo, MTN and Peak Milk, among other multinational brands, the production company has established itself as a prominent force in the Nigerian market. During the period, Lapiere has been particularly proficient with productions on behalf of Glo, shooting eight commercials – two in Nigeria and six in Johannesburg – for the telecommunications giant at the last count.
The quality of delivery has made Ginger Pictures and the man at the helms of its affairs the toast of clients. Little wonder, Lapiere is fondly called Igwe – a name of respect and honour for an Eze or titled king in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Responding to a questionnaire on the secrets that has taken the company this far, he says, “Ginger Pictures is a dedicated, passionate team of filmmakers – and we love what we do.”
Lapiere explains that beyond being a job, the passion for delivering only the highest standard in visual quality to clients is not negotiable for the company: “Even though I speak French, English, Italian and Dutch fluently, my favourite language is film. Having shot in more than 25 countries and islands around Africa, I have become comfortable with extremely demanding production environments.
“As a director, I thrive on the adventure and I’m driven by a never-ending pursuit of fresh storytelling techniques.
“Being a DOP on the jobs I direct, I always ensure that we deliver the highest standard in visual quality. Even when the budgets are tight, we always end up with a beautiful, high-quality commercial. That’s because we try to put most of the money on the screen, where it belongs. A key aspect to this is that we work with talented and passionate people who always put their heart and souls into the project.
“It’s this collaboration between dedicated people that makes each of our productions outstanding in the end.”
Knowing that the best advert of its brands is its works, Ginger Pictures spares no effort in giving the best value to clients irrespective of the budget. “Ginger Pictures always brings high production value to the project. Even though our budgets have become smaller over the years, we’ve always managed to make the best out of it. If you look at our projects, you would never guess what the budgets were. And if you did, you’d probably have to divide that number by two.
“Being a director and DOP is also a huge advantage, as our clients essentially get two for the price of one. Instead of paying for two salaries, they get a very affordable package deal.
“Due to my experience working in Africa, I’m pretty familiar with the different cultures which allow me to keep the projects and stories authentic. I can also work under any conditions and I thrive under pressure.”
The rich pool of experience that the company is able to draw from in the video production industry and the marketing communication industry respectively gives it a rich blend of expertise that balances its visuals with strategy.
Still on the company’s competitive advantage, Lapiere adds that “Another advantage is that my partner, Julie Ah-Fa, is a former brand manager. So, she has a perfect understanding of the risks involved in each campaign. She makes sure that we stay focused and that a commercial isn’t only visually attractive, but also meets the brand’s objectives. As I always say, a creative producer working intimately with the director is the key to the success of a TV commercial.”
Ginger Pictures’ service offerings are not limited to TVC production. According to Lapiere the company also provides clients with services in motion graphics, 2d and 3d animation, virtual reality, 360 video, stills photography, digital and radio advertising. As I’ve mentioned before, Julie’s experience as a brand manager really helps us to focus on the larger picture with the work we produce and ensures that we produce effective work for our clients.
“In South Africa, we also do service production for some of our international clients that want to shoot here. We’re very familiar with the lay of the land, and we know how to make our budgets stretch by working with the best, affordable crew and suppliers that are as passionate as we are.”
The nature of productions may sometimes require working under pressure, very short deadlines and at almost impossible settings. The company has a penchant for working well under these.
“Deliver under pressure” is my favourite saying, says Lapiere, adding that he does not need the comfort of shooting in South Africa where every facility needed to make a good film are within reach. Unlike some directors who must have their own art director or make-up artist with them when they are out of their country of origin, Lapiere is able to cope with any situation and enjoys working with the local crew. He achieves this by always travelling with a very small crew or sometimes making the journey alone.
Over the years, Lapiere has learned to adapt very quickly to any new environment and any situation. This explains why he is able to change the shot or the scene completely and find the best solution due to any last-minute problem while on location. The upshot has been several award-winning works which continue to generate interest.
Ginger Pictures has a great track record with its clients because “we love what we do. We always ensure that our clients get the best value for every cent spent with us,” says Lapiere.
“From a creative point of view, working closely with the ad agencies is crucial, and the earlier the agency and production company are working together, the better. With Julie’s experience in marketing, and being an amazing producer – she always finds creative ways to stay within budget.
“Julie and I can be quite pedantic sometimes, and we end up being labelled as perfectionists, but we won’t rest until the job is done properly. From development, all the way through to the final edit. We are there, every step of the way ensuring that the film is as spectacular as it can be and that the brand’s message is communicated clearly.
“The quality of our work is always improving over the years as we get more nominations and win more awards as the years go by.”
In recent years, Ginger Pictures has made some award-winning commercials for clients that generated conversations. Lapiere has this to say about a few of them.
“We shot a commercial on Djino. This is a pan-African commercial in Johannesburg and Durban. We had a special effects team for the powder explosions and we enhanced it in post with 3D to make it visually more impressive. Djino is an explosion of freshness and happiness, and we had a lot of fun shooting this one.
“We did another for Top. This is also a pan-African commercial for a soft drink. Throughout the years, the taste of Top remains the same and it accompanies people through life, from the smallest to the greatest moments. So, we recreated a historic piece from the 60s till today. As we were following the same family for 50 years, the challenge was the re-enactment of the scenes and finding a cast which looks like a family over the years. Obviously, we had to work with the best special effects make-up artist to make people younger and older. This commercial was shot in Johannesburg.
“Yet another commercial we shot is Africa Millions. For this pan-African commercial, we used a French director who came from Paris to shoot in South Africa. Post-production was dealt with between Johannesburg and Paris to achieve an amazing result of real life and realistic 3D animation. This commercial won an Emerald Award (Bronze) at the African Cristal Festival 2014 and Best Commercial and Best Director at the Grand Jury de la Publicite Africaine.”
He speaks further on the company’s award-winning productions:
“XXL was another commercial. This was a saga of four commercials, with the same funny character who sees his “powers” tenfold thanks to XXL energy drink. We shot the commercials in Abidjan and delivered all of them in less than two weeks. We were awarded two Emerald Awards (Bronze) at the African Cristal Festival 2016 for two of them.
“Orange wanted an action movie to reflect the speed of their 4G internet. From the agency synopsis, I added exciting stunts to make it look really fast and breath-taking. We had to cast a Parkour actor from France and bring him to Dakar to be able to create the stunts I had in mind. It was an epic shoot with some great actors. This commercial was shortlisted at the African Cristal Festival and had 100,000 views on Youtube in less than 24 hours.
“Also, we did a commercial for Peak Milk. This beautiful commercial follows a little boy in his dream in which he is a superstar, is super clever and super strong. We see him walking in a passage hall of fame where we see pictures of all his amazing stories (he’s on the moon, a fireman, a top scientist, with a sports trophy etc). He arrives on the stage of “The Kid of the year” TV show where a host and a full theatre welcome him. When the host presents him to the crowd, we hear a distorted voice which brings him out of his dream. He is actually day dreaming while drinking Peak Milk, and his mum brings him back to reality. Very sweet and clever script for a milk and we had a lot of fun shooting with this kid.
Ginger Pictures did not stop there. The company also produced a film about an eccentric and fashionista mum who loves to cook, and enjoys to mix fine dishes with fun for Jumbo Arome. The production focused on the way the mum dresses to match whatever dish she is cooking as she surprises her husband and children with the quality of her delicious food and the beauty of the dishes.
The company has also worked on many jobs for Vodacom in the DRC.
For these works and many others, Ginger Pictures has been recognised at several high-profile international awards.
The company won 3 Emerald Awards at the African Cristal Festival (African Millions in 2014, XXL in 2016), 4 Awards at the Grand Jury de la Publicite in Abidjan (Orabank, Africa Millions), an Audience Award at les Creatives Festival in the Indian Ocean Islands (THB Beer) and a Silver prize at the internal FCB competition for best African TVC (Tigo Facebook).
Lapiere is a proud member of the South African Society of Cinematographers (SASC). He has won several awards as a DOP, including the Excellence Award for Best Cinematography. Many of the feature films, music videos and documentaries he has worked on have received recognition in international festivals such as Fespaco and in local awards ceremonies, such as SAFTA.
On a parting note, Lapiere acknowledges that recognitions and awards give him and the company a feeling of satisfaction because they are the result of hard work, dedication and close collaboration between the agency and the production house.
For Further enquiries visit: www.gingerpictures.tv
Or contact: Julie@gingerpictures.tv