When Helen Raine couldn’t find a job in the film industry, she ambitiously co-founded a production company of her own. She now runs Motion City Films and has directed work for brands such as Elle, Kia, Adidas, Sprite, Volkswagen and Jameson.
Raine is using her directing skills to raise the profile of women in the industry, after discovering at a late age that sexism is rife. “I grew up in a family with four daughters and I went to a girls’ school where they raised us to believe we are equals, so I never expected sexism and it was quite a shock when I encountered it,” she says. “There are a lot of challenges that come with being a female director in a male-dominated industry, so a lot of the work I’m focusing on seeks to further the women’s agenda.
I collaborate with female filmmakers whenever I can and it’s quite an exciting time for us. We all shout a little bit louder now.” Last year she made a pro bono video called Voice Notes From South African Women about giving yourself a voice, and she is working on another project to combat violence against women.
Becoming a filmmaker wasn’t initially on her agenda, as she studied law and politics for a career in international relations. But she missed the drama she had taken as an elective subject and enrolled at AFDA to study acting and scriptwriting. “After that I realised there were other people who were way better than me and I was more comfortable on the other side of the camera, so I started making videos,” she says. With her colleague Kim Hinrichs she produced music videos and uploaded them to the MK online channel, and won a competition that provided the cash they needed to continue and raised their profile. In 2010 the pair started Motion City Films in Cape Town and have won several awards, including a bronze and two silver Loeries. Raine is enjoying the chance to work with brands that realise they can engage with consumers better if they become braver and more inclusive, like Adidas, which addresses lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.
“I think brands are feeling more responsible for the messages they put out because consumers don’t want to be spoken at, they want to be spoken to,” she says.
— Lesley Stones