5 MINUTES WITH... An Overseas Producer

As part of our ongoing '5 Minutes With...' series, we recently spent a few moments chatting with Gavin Schneider of Gavin Schneider Productions. Based in Cape Town, Gavin Schneider Productions is one of South Africa's leading production companies, regularly working with a wide variety of international clients. Here at LPA we have a close-knit relationship with Gavin and his team, having collaborated together on a number of projects over the years including shoots for Orange and Vipnet. Our producer Lauren even flew out to Cape Town earlier this year to work with Gavin on a shoot with LPA photographer Nick Daly. She took these great 'behind the scenes' images!

Here's what the man had to say...

Can you tell us a little about your company, Gavin Schneider Productions?

We offer professional production assistance & facilitate advertising, catalogue, editorial & video shoots in Cape Town, South Africa. We are supported by a dedicated team of full time office staff and regular freelancers during our busy season. Our newly refurbished 300 sq. offices offer a casting studio, boardroom & lounge facilities with Wi-Fi & internet .

How did you get into the industry and set your own company up?

After studying and receiving a diploma in Marketing & Tourism, I decided to continue my passion for photography. I was an amateur portrait & lifestyle photographer and was fortunate to be given the opportunity to production manage and photo assist many top international photographers through a few production companies in Cape Town in the early 90’s. I had the opportunity to assist fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh full time in Paris which I turned down to pursue my zest for production & promote Cape Town as a location for all international shoots.

So what's so great about shooting in Cape Town? There must be an endless source of amazing locations and fantastic weather, what's the down side?

Fortunately, there are not many down sides to producing in Cape Town, which is the very reason clients return year after year. Cape Town is favourable in every aspect of production – offering incredible landscapes, white sand beaches, mixture of modern & European style architecture, experienced crew, extensive equipment & unit support, and a wide variety of international and local models. With the present rate of exchange, Cape Town remains a good value destination with reasonably priced accommodation.

The only downside is the limited amount of flights from the UK & Europe directly into Cape Town – fortunately there is no time change – so no jet lag!

What is the most challenging shoot you've produced?

The recent Louis Vuitton Celebrity Campaign with Bono & Ali Hewson, by photographer Annie Leibovitz was a logistic challenge. Initially, the Masai Mara area in Kenya was confirmed, which unfortunately was flooded prior to the shoot. We were notified days before the production that a new location had to be sourced. We scouted Namibia, which was too dry & desert like for a bush safari brief. Fortunately we have great contacts who assisted in organising accommodation for the team & to shoot at Tswalu, which is a private reserve in the Kalahari. We relocated a group of 40 clients & crew from US and Europe including local support. Many private charters were organised by Gavin Schneider Productions, who worked round the clock, to ensure that everything ran smoothly.

Any stories where something went a bit wrong but you saved the day?

We produced a shoot for an Eastern European cosmetic company and advised the client to complete a carnet for the product entering SA. On arrival at CT International Airport, the customs officials confiscated the entire shipment as our client decided not to take our advice. Fortunately, I personally meet our clients on arrival at the airport to ensure a smooth transfer, but was faced with an emergency to clear the cosmetics for the shoot the following day. It was New Year’s Day & as a gesture for the New Year I organised that the customs officials on duty would receive all the cosmetics on the team’s departure, if they released the product for the shoot. It was a good start to the year!

What advice would you give to anyone that wants to get into the industry as a producer?

It takes a lot of commitment, dedication, long hours and hard work

What's the best/worst thing about your job?

Best thing-working with highly creative people from all over the globe and the involvement of being part of the process.

Worst-Long hours and spending less time with my family

Who are your favourite South African photographers?

One of my favourites is David Goldblatt, a photographer noted for his portrayal of South Africa during the period of apartheid and more recently country landscapes. I cannot ignore my Wife, Romi Stern who shoots many children’s fashion campaigns and Ulrich Knoblauch, one of our ex photo assistants, who has become a successful fashion photographer. We all loved the Olympics here in London, but from an outsider perspective, how did you find it?

South Africans are extremely passionate about sport and are a great sporting nation – we were hugely impressed by the London 2012 Olympics who undeniably hosted the “Greatest Show on Earth”. We are proud of our athletes who produced incredible results at the Olympics. Prior to the Paralympics, we produced a shoot for GQ USA featuring our very own, Oscar Pistorius with world famous Photographer, Mark Seliger. Some of your work comes from the fashion/editorial industry, how do these shoots differ from advertising shoots?

The budgets for editorial are low compared to advertising expenses . The type of high fashion editorial models have a different look to the commercial, lifestyle, advertising shoots. In addition, the number of clients & crew on set for advertising campaigns far outweigh editorial shoots If you weren’t in the industry you’re in, what would you be doing?

I have always dreamed of owning a Boutique Spa Hotel

If I had one day in Cape Town, how would you recommend I spend it?

An early morning sunrise trip up the cable car for a coffee on Table Mountain, recently nominated one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature. Followed by a peninsula tour through Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Simonstown, Cape Point & Chapmans Peak Drive. Ending with sun downers on Clifton Beach & dinner at the Grand Café & Beach Bar restaurant.

What is your favourite blog?/website

For informative local travel insight and up to date news & trends relating to Cape Town

Cape Town Tourism 2 Oceans Vibe

What's your most overused phrase?

“Never assume anything”