It’s a feeling

There’s something special about the bush. Anyone fortunate enough to have spent time in any of South Africa’s bountiful game parks has known this feeling. An indescribable one-ness with the natural environment. Anticipation lurking behind every rustle of leaves or crackle of twigs. A sense that anything could happen, and is happening just beyond what you can perceive with your suddenly feeble-seeming human senses. There is a comfortable danger, in which the rules are instinctively understood.

Held against our everyday lives, this world feels more real. It brings you to an unavoidable, daily and up-close reckoning with life and death, and all of this is wrapped up in a unique and overwhelming experience of peace.

Thoughts about what that feeling is, exactly, were top of mind as I made my way by plane to Johannesburg.

We were headed to Madikwe, a massive and pristine reserve in the North West, right up against the Lesotho border. We’d been contracted to create a short teaser film to capture the essence of a magical lodge called Rockfig Madikwe.

Technically, we were prepared. We knew what we needed to cover, and had made all the necessary provisions in terms of the logistics of the shoot and careful gear choices. Even so, there was a lot that was completely outside of our control. We were on a tight schedule and had a lot of ground to cover, and much of the plan depended on animal actors showing up for the cameras.

I linked up with Chris in Joburg, who was taking care of the photography aspect of the project, and by the time we arrived at the gates of the Madikwe reserve, the last vestiges of a classic deep red African sunset were dying out on the horizon.

As we crossed the threshold, we were plunged into darkness, and the bush swallowed us whole. That feeling came flooding in.

Filming the feeling

The next morning we rose well before dawn, hoping to catch some wildlife during golden hour.

Shooting in the bush presents an interesting set of parameters when filming out of a game vehicle. You’re more or less fixed in place, and the engine needs to be turned off for every shot to avoid the micro-vibrations that would otherwise ruin the footage. Because you’re often not on completely level ground, turning the camera requires rotation on three separate axes. Then on top of all that, you have to be really quick when an opportunity presents itself.

What I landed up with was one camera with a long telephoto lens on a fluid head that gave me about 270 degrees of leeway so I could catch anything to the front or either side of me. This worked out well because Chris, the photographer, was free to do his thing behind me without us getting in each other’s way.

Another camera with a wider lens sat next to me balanced on a gimbal, which could be picked up quickly at any time without having to change lenses.

A quick hit-list for game drive shooting

Gear considerations that worked for me:

  • Tripod with a fluid head (You want to find a way to keep this nice and solid while the vehicle is moving)
  • A good telephoto lens is crucial. I used this 400mm Canon lens. Having that extra mounting ring on the lens itself is incredibly useful.
  • Gimbal with a second camera with a wider lens. You won’t use this nearly as much, but it’s great for establishing shots and in a pinch. Make sure you’ve got a way to stash the gimbal and camera within easy reach when you’re on the move. I used this lens, which is about a 35mm equivalent.
  • The rest is business as usual, NDs (Not the variable ones, because they suck) and plenty of batteries.

We set out into the inky blackness of the frigid pre-dawn with our guide, Honest, and almost immediately ran into a herd of elephants. It was still too dark for the cameras to really catch anything meaningful, but as these great African giants crossed the road and moved on, I relaxed a little. We were already making sightings and it boded well.

As the sun begins to rise in Madikwe, an entirely new soundscape envelops the bush. So it was that the sounds and songs of the new day found us settled next to a small crash of rhino, cameras rolling, at the outset of what was to be an incredibly memorable day of filming.

Honest, our guide, was a hell of a tracker and an absolute pro. We soon settled into a comfortable rhythm where he would track down the animals and then we’d discuss how to position the vehicle for the best possible shots.

In between game drives, we shot all of the lodge particulars. The luxury bits and pieces that make a guest’s stay what it is.

Choosing the feeling

Ultimately, we felt that the best way to show off Rockfig was to try to lean into what it offered at its core. It has extremely low fences around its borders that are barely noticeable. It is luxury and comfort integrated with the bush in such a way as to make you feel at all times that you are a part of the surrounding wilderness. That’s what we needed to communicate with this project.

The edit was a delicate balancing act of showing off just enough of the facilities and lodge to paint a holistic picture of the place, while still doing justice to the wildlife and wilderness that makes the experience what it is.

I wanted it to feel epic, but at the same time, peaceful. Immersive sound design and a quiet intro helped to usher in that peace and set the rhythm of this slowly building, breathing ode to Rockfig.

Did we manage to capture some of that feeling in the end?
You decide.

Play Video

Is video marketing important?

Speak to any marketing professional and they’ll wax lyrical as to the importance of video. However,  simply knowing that video should be part of your marketing tool kit doesn’t help implement it effectively.

At Sledgehammer Studio we’ve had the privilege of creating video campaigns for clients across the gamut of industries in Cape Town and South Africa. This has given us unique insight into why video marketing is a necessary tool for all brands – especially in 2022. 

In reality, there’s no one size fits all approach. Every brand needs to interact with the outside world in its own, unique way. Our goal is to empower you to find a video marketing approach that works for your brand, turbocharges your marketing strategy and redefines the way you communicate with your clients.

The Attention Economy

The way we each interact with social media is varied and arguably quite complex. Hate it, or love it (don’t worry, this is a safe space however you feel) the facts show that the world is head over heels with it, and that trend continues upwards.

In this ever-scrolling world, grabbing consumer attention has become cold hard currency.

So, the question arises: What is the most effective way to grab a scroller’s attention? The unsurprising answer is: Video. Before we can understand how best to use it, we need to understand why it is the most effective piece in the marketing toolkit.

The numbers don’t lie.

A recent HubSpot study shows that whatever way you cut it, video is the most engaging social medium.


Why is video so engaging?

Video allows us to quickly and effectively communicate information, making it incredibly useful for the viewer, and the best way to communicate your brand message in creative, useful and interesting ways.  However, it is the ability to humanise these messages which truly sets video apart.

Why is this? Well, humans are geared to connect with other humans (your blog) – and video is the closest thing we have to ‘real’ human connection online (at the moment).  We need not look further than the meteoric rise of TikTok to get a sense of that power.

Video is a powerful tool

Video killed the radio star, sure, but it also broke the traditional sales funnel. The bottom line is that sales matter, and if we’re honest, the traditional sales funnel is obsolete in the attention economy. This is because we just can’t control how potential customers interact with our brand when there are so many more touchpoints of communication.

This might be a scary prospect for some, but it also presents a great opportunity: to reimagine the sales funnel as a sales ecosystem. The malleability and versatility of video makes it a brilliant medium to construct multi-pronged video campaigns across platforms, both online and offline, that actually engage.

Why does this work? By crafting a content ecosystem of practical, inspiring, informative and human-centred video as part of your marketing strategy, you have all the ingredients you need to cultivate hyper-engaged audiences into brand advocates – rather than relying on once-off need-buys.

As the ancient Sledgehammer proverb goes; “if you cultivate and nurture – you are nurtured by your cultivar.”

How can your brand create the content ecosystem?

The content ecosystem looks to empower and uplift your audience, rather than being purely brand-centric.

At Sledgehammer we work with our clients to build three tiers of content – inspire, nourish, attract – to forge a formidable content arsenal that goes beyond the brand.

These three tiers allow your brand to highlight its unique selling points, personality and value proposition, whilst championing the needs of your audience.


These films celebrate your brand’s USP. Anything from explainer to consumer review films.



The aim here is to create brand evangelists. These films, therefore, give an insight into what your brand cares about and stands for. From interviews with key personnel to a showcase of your latest upliftment project – the human touch is critical here.



This tier offers value to your community. Think recipe or How-to videos. 


Your 2022 Video marketing Strategy awaits

So what’s next?

Your brand crafting consistent content that helps engage audiences and ultimately create brand advocates.

We’re here to help, let’s talk.

Why Story, Why Documentary?

Storytelling is a fundamental human thing. It’s been around since the dawn of language, and it’s not hard to see why it’s important. In a very real sense, if I tell you about that time I got mugged, you’re going to think twice about walking through that same spot alone at night. Stories are instructional by nature. They have valuable lessons in them, so it makes sense that we’re literally wired to relish a good story. 

Enter creativity. Now, we’re using imagination to fabricate a story that is built around the teaching of some or other lesson. Timeless fables are great examples of this.

This same basic principle applies to stories in every form; every novel or biography, every article, every film, no matter how simple or complex. The good ones will leave you with something that helps shape the way you see the world.

This story, the one you’re reading now, is about the stories of other people, and the very material value of capturing these in the medium of video.

Storytelling in the documentary format

Documentary as a style occupies its own spot on the visual storytelling gamut. You’re collating existing stories into a grander, meaningful narrative.

Let’s talk about what happens when you put someone in front of a camera. Sure, for the first five or ten minutes there may be some jitters, it’s par for the course. What happens next, though, is magic. Your subject opens up. It’s a tingles-inducing moment.

There are a few things at play here. Probably most importantly, we’re simply giving them the stage. This is something that a lot of people don’t experience very often in day to day life. Everybody has stories to tell, it’s just that often, they don’t get the chance. When they do, they can become quite passionate.

Barend, speaking from a rooibos collective in a warehouse deep in the Cederberg, had powerful things to say about the heritage of the tiny town of Wuppertal. He captured the feeling of the place in a few words when he said that this was a place where you could “touch the silence”. If you fancy a gander at some of that interview, watch Chasing Lines, a short doccie we produced for WESGRO.



For the viewer, watching somebody speak from the heart about any topic is something, again, we are hardwired to connect with.

We can see how this becomes quite attractive from a marketing perspective. If a brand wants to humanise itself (and it does), this is the way to do it.

With documentary, we can pull on the threads that take us in the direction we want to go, often discovering other valuable avenues in the process. That’s the beauty of the medium, the stories are authentic by definition, we merely guide them in a direction that is useful.

Let’s recap for a second:

Strengths of documentary interviews

  • Unscripted content makes it inherently authentic
  • Humanise the topic or message
  • Opportunity for relevant unexpected information to come up organically
  • Presents real people for the viewer to connect with
  • Gives the subject space to open up, share their story, which can have often surprisingly moving results

The value of trust in video marketing

Let’s start with a caveat: No story is completely trustworthy. Even when care is made to remain objective, biases are bound to come through. That can’t be completely avoided.

Still, when it comes to video marketing, documentary is without doubt the most trustworthy tool we have in our kit, and any brand not making use of it is missing a trick.

We mentioned authenticity – it goes a little deeper than that.

Documentary can’t actually function without some element of truth. While we as creators have a lot of power to influence the direction of the message throughout the process, fundamentally it falls apart unless your subjects truly believe in what they are talking about.

This is something viewers intuitively understand, and it represents an opportunity for any brand with a meaningful value proposition.

You’ve probably seen those terrible testimonials where people have clearly been paid to appear on screen and tout the miraculous benefits of some or other product they may never have heard of. They just don’t work because we don’t believe them.

Now that you’ve inwardly vomited reflecting on that, have a look at this by comparison:



Which brand would you trust more?