|In Focus with Tristram Atkins|
Tristram Atkins is a socially conscious, passionate and talented filmmaker. He completed an Honours degree in Arts at AFDA, the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance. Over the past few years, he has worked on over 20 short films, specialising in writing, editing and producing. One of his best films to date, "Ongeriewe", was selected to compete in the Festival de Cannes Short Films in 2006. Since then it has gone on to compete at various international film festivals, including winning Best South African Short Film at the Durban International Film Festival in 2006. Tristam talks to us about community, self-esteem, mentorship, and his views on success.
1. Tell us more about the work that you do as a socially conscious artist- what are the key themes that you address, and why?
I write, edit and produce videos and films. As a freelance videographer I work on various projects. For the past two years I've been working on issues and events that cover labour, climate, economy and gender. The binary themes of 'alienation' and 'connection' seem to recur in all my work, including my writing. I suppose it has to do with how I view the world. I've always regarded myself as an observer of events and have often felt disconnected from others while growing up. I've come to realise that its a strength. Its what motivates me.
2. Do you think mentorship is important and required in our so-called previously disadvantaged communities? If so, why?
Any type of mentorship is important. Mentorship is part of our learning process. Without it, we'd be making the same mistakes those before us have made. Black communities have historically been at a disadvantage in terms of the quality of education received as well as the processes attached to it. Therefore its vital that those imbalances are addressed and mentorship is vital to this process.
3. How important do you think it is to nurture self-esteem and self-awareness?
I can not stress enough how important a good self-image is. I've often found that even though I've had the tools, skills and intellect to live up to my potential, what held me back was the belief that for some reason my abilities are inadequate. You have to nurture the image of yourself. Ultimately it is the difference between success and failure.
4. Any ideas on dealing with peer pressure? Do you have a story to share?
I quit drinking and smoking in 2003. It was a tough time especially when hanging out with friends. I lost some friends along the way as a result of my decision, but if I hadn't given it up, I definitely would not have been where I am today. Discipline is a very personal tool. Your peers, as strong as the bond might be, often don't value your dreams and aspirations as much as you do. You've got to ask yourself how important success is to you. You define what success is and how its measured. Then set the bar and go for it. Discipline is your shield from the world's temptations to lure you away from your dream.
5. For those facing challenges or adversity at home and having to perform at school or university, any ideas?
Once you've chosen the path to your dream, what keeps you on that path is your commitment. Times are going to be tough. We all experience problems. If its something that can be remedied, seek help. You'll need all the support you can get. Don't keep it bottled up. Ask for help. That's what projects such as these are for.
6. Who or what do you look to for strength and guidance?
My dreams guide me. Its when I don't dream, when life seems to get me down, when I'm reminded about all the reasons why I could fail that I draw my strength from my wife, my family, my friends and the belief that I have been granted a purpose in this life, which is to connect people.
7. How do you define success, and what is your own yardstick in this regard?
I've found that my definition of success has evolved as I go through the various stages of my life. Right now success to me is seeing my wife smile, being able to take worries away from my parents and siblings, having the freedom to follow my dreams, a certain level of comfort and knowing that somehow I have made a positive impact in the way someone thinks and behaves.