Multi-award winning filmmaker Uga Carlini has fast become one of South Africa’s most versatile and celebrated directors. She is also the founding member of Towerkop Creations, a film company that has been specializing exclusively in female driven heroine stories since 2010.
In 2017 Uga won Best Screenplay in the 2017 Writer’s Guild of South Africa Muse Awards; best documentary of the African continent at the AMVCA 2017 Awards, the International Humanitarian Filmmaker Award and Best Documentary at the Asia-Pacific Film festival. Her hybrid film “Alison” was also nominated in all five documentary categories at the 2017 SAFTAS. 2018 saw her win one of eight international filmmaker awards for filmmakers whose work stretch beyond the call of filmmaking duty at the 2018 WOW World of Women Film Festival.
Other highlights include “The #butterflyrevolution – 19 x 15” commercial spots (she directed, wrote, and produced in association with LEFT post production) and the award winning “Good Planets are Hard to Find” (a hybrid short). The feature version, titled, ‘With Love from Meton’ has become the world’s first hybrid documentary film to be partly funded by crypto currency. She was also crowned one of South Africa’s most Xtraordinary Women.
Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey so far.
Since I can remember, since those around me can remember, I wanted to make, tell and be MOVIES. I was four when I use to turn the sound of the television down, so I instead, could read the news and foresee the weather. Born producer, director, writer, actor… It didn’t last long, as very quickly, the ‘in bed by 8 – ASLEEP!’ rule was implemented when it became apparent my parents will never be able to watch the news or weather again, in peace, if I could help it. By the time I was 10, I have read every single fiction book during my school holidays that my mom could get from the library. After every book, the movie version followed, in my head for the moment. I would force Marlien, my best friend then and still today (the ‘best friend’ bit and ‘force’ bit) to listen to my pitches.
By the time my sister was born and got out of her nappies, Marlien could enjoy the odd ‘break’ as I would bully younger sis, who didn’t have a clue what I was on about, to sit through my what by then had evolved into ‘director’s realisations’. When I hit 14, being the last kid in my school to get a VHS player, I very quickly made up for the lost time, watching every single VHS video available to rent at our local video store. Sis got to see classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Shining at the ripe old age of 8 to my mom’s horror!
When I could finally leave school and study what I loved, I enrolled for a drama degree at Stellenbosch University. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, as my mom worked for them and part of the perk was that I could study for free. So off I went, finished my degree, eager to get the hell out of there so I could do my thing. And here I am! have every project of every single woman I have loved and respected for a very long time, long before they even knew about me, on my slate and soon, you will get to meet them too on a screen near you.
Tell us a little more about your Company, Towerkop Creations, and how it came about.
‘TOWERKOP/MAGICALHEAD (MAGIC) adj: An inexplicable or remarkable influence; producing remarkable results; an enchanting quality or phenonomen adj; producing surprising results colloq; wonderful, exciting. (HEAD) adj & v: the head regarded as the seat of intellect or repository of comprehended information; intelligence; information, mental aptitude or tolerance.
It also happens to be the original name of our house which still can be seen hand carved into a piece of granite in the 70 year old rock wall against the foot of the beautiful Fish Hoek mountain. When I researched the history of the house after we bought it, I found out that the reason why it was called ‘Towerkop’, was because an underground river runs through it, making the soil extremely fertile, especially for an ocean property. Even more so was the fact that previous owners and oldies from the area could remember how one could often year beautiful singing coming from under the Milkwood tree and around the house with no human to be anywhere in sight.
Even though I haven’t heard the singing yet, my heart hasn’t stopped singing since I moved in and TOWERKOP CREATIONS was born in 2010. Blessed with incredible projects on my company’s slate, I have the scent of fresh ocean air in my nose and beautiful blue mountains in my eyes, while to keep me company as I work. And to me, that’s what I need for the birth of Towerkop’s Creations.
You are busy with some very interesting projects. Please tell us a little more about that.
ALISON – Feature Documentary
SHE NEEDED A HERO SO THAT’S WHAT SHE BECAME.
Directed & Written by Uga Carlini
Produced by Uga Carlini
Associate Producer – Alison Botha
Development Producer – Amy Nelson
Executive Producer – Jan du Plessis & Karin Meiring
Raped. Neck slashed 17 times. Stabbed in the stomach 37 times. Disembowelled. Dumped on the outskirts of a nature reserve, dead – or so they thought. Ordinary people of extraordinary strength and courage are what jolts one into action and offer hope. Alison Botha survived to become such an individual. This is her story. A story of monsters, magic and hope.
BEYOND THE LIGHT BARRIER –Sci-Fi drama with romance elements
FOR THEM, HEAVEN WAS NOT A PLACE ON EARTH.
Director & Screenwriter – Uga Carlini
Produced by Michael Murphey
The real life story of Elizabeth Klarer, South Africa’s controversial, often ridiculed First Lady of Space. Inspired by her cult following autobiography, ‘Beyond the Light Barrier’. From her death bed, this trailblazing meteorologist has one last chance to convince anyone who’d listen that the love of her life, the alien Akon, will come for her as he promised before the Light Barrier separates them forever.
THE KEEPER OF THE WHITE LIONS – Drama
Director & Screenwriter – Uga Carlini
Produced by Ileen Maisel
Based on the captivating, suspenseful memoir, ‘Saving the White Lions’ and the other best seller in the series, ‘The mystery of the White Lions’, The Keeper of the White Lions tells the story of White Lion conservationist Linda Tucker perilous struggle to protect the sacred White Lion from the merciless and mafia-like trophy-hunting industry, armed only with her indomitable spirit and total devotion.
FROM METON WITH LOVE (formerly known as GOOD PLANETS ARE HARD TO FIND) – Feature Documentary
SCIENCE? FICTION? OR THE GREATEST SCIENCE FICTION LOVE STORY OF OUR TIME?
Director & Screenplay – Uga Carlini
Producer – Uga Carlini
Executive Producer – Georgia Court
Wiesbaden 1975. Renowned meteorologist and environmentalist Elizabeth Klarer is chosen along with 22 of the world’s top scientists to attend a top secret meeting on the future of our planet where she presents her findings. Following her talk, Elizabeth, one of South Africa’s most enlightened and outspoken figures, is rushed to the UN and the House of Lords in London, where her prophesies and insights astound the world, especially when the source of her incredible knowledge is revealed.
POPPIE – Dramady (developed)
NEVER JUDGE A HOBO BY HER COVER
Director & Screenplay – Uga Carlini
Ex hobo turned car guard, Poppie, has a financial surprise in her bank account as big as her dream of going on an around the world trip. As she’s about to put her dream in motion she is diagnosed with an aggressive strain of Motor Neuron Disease. But this old gal has a few more tricks up her sleeve and is nowhere near ready to go ‘gentle into the good night’.
I HAVE LIFE – Drama
To be adapted for the screen and directed by Uga Carlini. Based on the Penguin best seller by the same title, ‘I have life’ is based on the real life triumphant story of Alison Botha, a woman who refused to become a victim. The courage which allowed her to move beyond severe physical and emotional trauma and to turn a devastating experience into something life-affirming and strong, is an inspiration to people everywhere..
Who or What has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
It’s ongoing. Sometimes it’s something someone said, a song I hear, a poem I read, a movie I watch. Something I don’t want to be. Somewhere I’d like to go. A dress someone wore to the Oscars. The earthquake in Haiti. My Italian aunt. Memories of my grandmother Lettie. A card. Trips. Holidays. Fights. Love. Flossie. It changes. It can be seasonal, emotional, coincidental…
What is your personal “motto”?
Life is short, eat dessert first.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. – Mark Twain
Beware of people with smiles that light up quickly, but drop away like black eels as soon as you turn away. Avoid those who maintain minds so narrow that they can see through a keyhole with both eyes. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Who or what is your inspiration and why?
My son Roka and what he teaches me. Life.The mountains behind me. The ocean in front of me. Kindness around me. My rose garden. Renovating. Chocolate. A purrr. A nuzzle. A warm hand in mine. A movie. A moment. A smile. A Florence and the machine’s ‘Shake it out’. A Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the mirror’. My boxer. My cats. My mom’s stories. Friends. Stolen moments. Beauty. Words that weave through my soul. Thrift stores. A poignant movie. Amelie. Neytiri. Little Miss Sunshine. The small things!
Your favourite daily affirmation?
I repeat. Life is short. Eat dessert first.
Your favourite quote
To leave the world a better place, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. ~Martin Luther King Jr
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.
A small body of determined spirits / fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission / can alter the course of history. ~Ghandi
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. ~Nelson Mandela
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead
Which book are you reading now?
The one in my head….
Which book can you read over and over again?
Women Who Run with the Wolves, The Invitation, The House of Spirits, Wuthering Heights, Like Water for Chocolate and The Hollywood Reporter.
One piece of (general) advice that you’d like to share…
Either people get you or they don’t. Life is too short to have to keep on explaining yourself.