Original Is Never Finished

Meet the South African director behind adidas Originals’ award-winning ad, Terence Neale

Terrence Neale

With an all new chapter of the ‘Original’ campaign, the iconic ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra, which has become synonymous with Original, is remixed and reimagined and features adidas Originals global brand ambassadors: Kendall Jenner, Playboi Carti, 21 Savage, Young Thug and James Harden.

The cast of cultural connectors spanning the worlds of music, style and sport is directed by our own Terence Neale, South Africa’s first ever director to take home a prestigious Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. 

In a Q&A interview, Terence talked through his creative process and repeatedly stressed that success takes hard work. “Nothing comes easy but South Africans understand the hustle. You just need to keep pushing.” 

Given that this has been created and produced almost exclusively by a South African outfit, where do you think we're playing on the global level?

Many of the people involved on the adidas job are South African. Jan Jacobs, one of the founding partners of the agency Johannes Leonardo, the creative team of Matt Edwards and Wes Phelan, the post supervisor and co-owner of Blacksmith Iwan Zwarts, my producer Rozanne Rocha Grey and the entire production team and technical crew.

On a creative level, it’s never been a question of whether South Africans have the talent, but we tend to live in a weird shadow thinking that the rest of the world is better than us. It’s unjustified and something we really do need to get over. The talent has always been here. We’re from a politically- and culturally-charged country which is stimulating and inspiring. South Africans have a lot to say and because the world is becoming so much smaller with technology, and information being so easily accessible, we’re getting more and more exposed, and it’s much easier to get our work out there. I think there’s still a lot more amazing untapped stuff in South Africa that we haven’t even begun to explore yet that is going to push us even further creatively.

Shooting in South Africa is always preferable for me – budgets go so much further here, and our crews are incredible, which makes for very high production value. All of this really does translate to what you see on screen in the final product.

Terrence Neale

What is it like working with such high profile talent?

To be honest there are times when working with celebrity talent can really suck. Creating good work takes time to craft and perfect, and with high profile talent, the focus of the entire shoot tends to shift towards the whole celebrity aspect, like security and logistics, and this can compromise your actual shooting time. Saying that, however, I totally understand why a brand would want to associate themselves with celebrities, and the influencer culture is definitely a new sense of currency we have to accept going forward. Kendall Instagrams one shot of herself and the adidas logo on set, and it reaches 83 million followers. As limiting as it may be for a director, I’m definitely influenced by popular culture and I’m a huge fan of so many of the artists that appeared in this campaign. The music and culture of the artists are responsible for inspiring many of the ideas. Mark Gonzales and Snoop are two of my childhood idols so it was really surreal to work with them, they are definitely the artists who blew my mind the most.

What next for you?

You mean other than sitting around waiting for Rihanna to call me for her next music video? I’d love to say a feature film I’m developing, because it should be, but I’d be lying. For now my commercial and music video work seems to be taking up my time and that is where I’m focusing. I really do need to set aside time to start working on personal projects.

Any parting words or advice for aspirant young film makers and directors?

It’s never going to be easy. Actually it never gets easier, it only gets harder. But if you love what you do, just keep hitting your head against the wall, keep shooting, keep making work, keep learning from your mistakes. Where it counts try stay true to yourself, be original and don’t copy. There are going to be times when you’re going to do shit that you don’t necessarily want to do to make a living, but use these opportunities to grow and learn.

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