Top3Tuesday: Erica Brumage

Erica Brumage

Erica Brumage has been directing commercials for eighteen years. Previously a dancer and choreographer with one of South Africa’s leading ballet companies, she created and directed a number of works for the stage including contemporary adaptations of classics such as Euripides’ Medea and Buchner’s Woyzeck.

After making a short film based on “The Suit”, by Can Themba, she began directing television commercials. Her first commercial won her a prestigious New York Gold Award, and she has since directed spots for some of the world’s leading advertising agencies (Saatchi & Saatchi, BHH London etc). She is represented for commercials by Groundglass in South Africa and Giraldi in New York.
Erica’s theatre background and passionate love of film inform her intelligent and sensitive style, which encompasses evocative sweeping landscapes and intimate and tender performance pieces with graceful ease. Equally at home with cutting-edge styling or tongue-in-cheek humour, her work cannot be defined as a particular genre – rather she is able to intuitively identify and then build on the essential character of each brand, bringing something unique to each script and treatment.

Alongside her commercials commitments she is currently developing a number of long form projects including a television documentary series, a feature film and a multi-disciplinary theatre production.

To gracefully wrap up our Top3Tuesday feature series for 2016, we caught up with the multi-talented film director and indulged in cinematic banter while finding out about her interests and inspirations.

3Let the Right One In

Let The Right One In. Tomas Alfredson

I’m never inclined to watch horror films, least of all vampire movies, so my choice of this film is a measure of how impressive I found it and how long it has stayed with me. Tomas Alfredson’s beautifully crafted 2008 film “Let the Right One In”, in which a young boy who is bullied at school becomes friends with a vampire who protects him, is for me a film where form and function are perfectly aligned. The exquisite cinematography is also rich in metaphorical meaning, creating remarkably layered nuances and subtle emphasis through the position and movement of elements within the frame.

The usual inevitable violence of a vampire movie is present and yet elegantly communicated by Alfredson’s brilliantly mastery of the power of the point of view, with some of the most gruesome moments shot in coolly detached, remote wides and often simply forming a narrative background to the tender eloquence of the two young protagonists. Its gorgeous Cold War – Scandinavian aesthetic is never self-conscious or intrusive, but gives the film a fine visual texture and colour palette which underlines the emotion and is deeply satisfying to watch. Quietly paced, brilliantly lensed, with understated and pitch-perfect performances especially from its young actors, it’s truly a cinematic joy.

2Goya’s Dog

Goya's Dog. Francisco Goya

I’m a huge fan of Goya, especially of the satirical social commentary of his later work with its rich human insights. If there was one painting in the world I could choose to own, it would be this one, and it’s difficult to explain why I find it so profoundly moving.  Perhaps it’s simply because the dog, so very alone, seems to be waiting and hoping with such trusting and poignant determination for something – a beloved master? divine intervention? that we know will never come. Even the legendary art critic Robert Hughes said “We do not know what it means, but its pathos moves us on a level below narrative”.

Its composition is so contemporary, the mood so delicately balanced between hope and hopelessness; in an arrangement of simple shapes and muted colours it somehow manages to encapsulate, with exquisite economy, the futility of belief.

The enigma of the narrative is frustratingly hypnotic. What is the dog looking at? Why do we only see its head at the bottom of the frame with the great weight of the emptiness of the sky above? What happened before and after this moment and why did Goya choose to capture it? It’s as if perhaps if one were to look for long enough the action would continue, and the answer would reveal itself.

I was lucky enough to see it at the Prado, where its curator Manuela Mena once claimed that there is not a single contemporary painter in the world that does not pray in front of The Dog, and Spanish painter Antonio Saura thought The Dog “the world’s most beautiful picture”.

1Stainless Steel Aloe Beakers

Erica's Stainless Steel Beakers.

I’ve always loved stainless steel as a material and my favourite design era is the 60’s. I bought a set of these Aloe beakers at a Mid-Century Modern store many years ago because they made me so shamelessly nostalgic for my childhood – they reminded me of the Highveld ranch style house where I grew up with its bagged brickwork, batiks and slasto paving, and of ice cold cool drinks in crisp metal beakers on hot summer afternoons. The owner of the store saw I was smitten and quickly upped the price – they were so expensive I had to buy them slowly one at a time!  I love their simple lines and graphic detail, their heaviness and beautiful craftsmanship, and I’ve never seen any others like them. Aloe was just a simple old-fashioned South African brand in those days but I love them more than my cherished “designer” classics, and if my house was ever burning down I’d rescue them first along with my photographs…. and of course Goya’s Dog!