Interview with Producer Irene Reynolds Schier (Siyaya – Come Wild With Us!)

“Siyaya – Come Wild With Us!” was the winner of BEST DOUCMENTARY at the March 2022 ENVIRONMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We, at François Odendaal Productions, FOP Films, want to open the eyes of the children and youth to the wondrous natural world and re-connect them to nature. Now, after the pandemic that had kids even more locked up indoors, we think it is more important than ever.

The talents in the films are all from local communities in and around the nature/national parks where we film. A lot of them have not been exposed to wildlife living at their doorstep. Some are also scared of certain (harmless) creatures such as geckos. Only by showing them, they learn or they may overcome their fear. Thus, knowledge leads, ultimately, to appreciate Nature and start to care for and protect it.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

The TV-Series, Siyaya – Come wild with us! has been on the market for several years. Now, we have these three new series out that play in South Africa, but also venture outside of the country to Namibia and Botswana or even in the Southeast of the United States. We also were able to introduce three episodes that focus on dinosaur fossils found in South Africa, connecting it to local folklore legends.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Experience Nature!

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Time, time, time. However, we were lucky enough to get the filming done before the pandemic hit. Thus, we had all the material ready to edit. It was a bit of a challenge and getting used to working online on the films, but we time, we developed a technique. Also, there is great software out there, that makes it quite easy to work jointly on a film. I believe that our editing team and the director adapted very quickly and well.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was wonderful to see and hear that in the feedback clips that we are on the right track with the Siyaya series and this format. We want to produce fun, entertaining but also educational shows. On the other hand, I was also impressed to realize that the reviewers picked up on the fact that some episodes address serious problems, such as climate change, plastic pollution, man-made wildfires, but that we were able to transmit these problems in terms for the kids to understand, offering at the same time some solutions. It was good to see that the audience was aware of this.

Overall, it is fantastic for us to see that we get our message and our intentions across to the audience.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Probably in my teen years, thinking about an editing career (called, cutter at the time). Then, way into mid-life, I got the chance to join FOP Films and jumped right in.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

A Brazilian movie called “Central do Brazil” from 1998 produced by Walter Salles starring Fernanda Montenegro. A cranky middle-aged woman and a young boy who just lost his mother, are traveling across Brazil to find the child’s father. During the journey, they form a friendship.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think getting feedback from various reviewers is very helpful. Otherwise, we are so new to the world of film festivals, so still gathering experience.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

This is an extremely easy site to submit a film to a wide range of festivals. The platform has a clear structure, filter and sorting features, and is very easy to use. Further, one can prepare a number of film projects on the site, save them, and when time is ripe, register a film for a given festival. The prices are reasonable too.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Caprese salad.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes, we have a new production in mind.

We would love to produce a Siyaya-Come wild with us! series that focuses on the coastal and marine environment around the world – a Siyaya: Coast to Coast. Thus, we’d love to film with kids not only in South Africa but also, for example, in Mauritius, Madagascar, Maldives, or even in USA or Indonesia.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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