Kyle White’s roadmap from being a call centre agent to a SAMA Award nominee
When you’re down on your luck, taking a risk can seem scary. But often what we see is that the most successful people are risk-takers and sometimes taking a leap of faith, can be the difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary one.
Port Elizabeth native Kyle White caught a bad break when, after a successful stint on e.tv’s 20Something, the work dried up, and to make ends meet he took on a job at a call centre, selling policies.
With a developing interest in filmmaking, the now Sama-nominated music video director bought an entry-level DSLR camera and never looked back.
Channel24 caught up with Kyle to talk about his recent Sama nomination, and how he went from call centre agent to calling “action!”, amassing more than 150 million views on YouTube
From Lady Zamar to Kwesta, Nasty C, Joss Austin, Rubber Duc and A-Reece, Kyle has worked with the biggest chart-toppers, connecting artists to listeners through visual storytelling.
‘I’m so grateful’
“Receiving recognition from the Samas is something you can only dream of when you start in the industry,” he tells Channel24 about the recent nomination.
Although three music videos he directed have been nominated in the category Music Video Of The Year, should one of those videos win the artist will collect the award.
“However, in a separate category for Best Produced Music Video, I have two music videos up for the award. Should one of those videos win then I will collect the award,” he explains.
The music videos nominated in the category are Nasty C ft Rowlene SMA and Whipped, performed by Tellaman, Shekinah and Nasty C.
About the incredible achievement, which Kyle credits as a career highlight, he says: “I’m so grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to create the visuals for such incredible songs.”
‘The director is integral in carrying the essence across to the viewer’
The origin of music videos dates back to the 1920s, but the medium regained popularity in the 1980s with the launch of MTV – before Jersey Shore and reality TV took over our screens.
The medium has gone on to play an essential role in defining pop culture, setting fashion trends, creating dance trends and bringing an otherwise unfamiliar song to mainstream attention and catapulting it to global success.
Kyle explains the music director has his or her hands on the production from beginning to end. “From creating the concept, producing, shooting, editing, and the final colour grade, the director, is integral in carrying the essence across to the viewer,” he says.
The most crucial part is the meeting with the artists or record label, he says. “The foundation that is laid will carry the spirit of the production forward.”
The next phase is pre-production, formulating a treatment or storyboards. He explains further: “This is essentially a visual representation of what it is that will be shot and how it will be shot. Once the client has approved your storyboard, you then begin with the booking of locations, cast, props, crew, and gear.”
Shoot day follows, where all the elements “hopefully come together smoothly,” he laughs. Then it moves on to editing and colour grading.
There are many working parts to a project, but Kyle says it can all come together relatively quickly, sometimes within a matter of days.
Although he credits his Sama nomination as a career highlight, he adds: “It’s followed closely by the opportunity to have worked with the country’s most talented artists.”
Unlike many other directors, Kyle did not have the opportunity to go to film school, and he is self-taught. “Most of what I know is from online platforms like YouTube. The nominations for the Samas have made all those late nights of studying worth it,” he says.
The road to the Samas has not been a smooth one, says Kyle.
After starting his career in radio at the age of 16, Kyle went on to enter MTV Base VJ search, where he placed in the top 5, and after moving to Johannesburg to pursue a career as a TV presenter, he was cast in e.tv’s 20Something.
When his run on the TV show came to an end, Kyle spent months without work and took on a job at a call centre.
When my last TV presenting job came to an end after nearly three years on the air, I felt extremely deflated, and after going to countless casting calls with no success, I was left in a position where I just couldn’t support myself financially anymore.
He adds: “During this period in my life, I knew that I had to keep myself together, persevere and believe that I would return to the industry that I loved so much. My biggest motivator at that time was my girlfriend, now wife, and mother of our little girl, Chanel. She was and is the driving force in my life and has always been there to pick me up when I have needed it. I’m very lucky and will forever be grateful to her.”
After saving up enough money, Kyle bought himself a DSLR camera, taught himself the basics of operating a camera and, as they say, the rest is history.
About the life lessons, he has learnt during the most challenging times in his career he says: “When pursuing any career or position you are most likely going to be competing against other talented and passionate people. The trick for me has been to not get caught up and compare myself to others.”
Looking back, he says he would tell his younger-self to ease up and not be so hard on himself, but laughs when he adds: “In retrospect, I probably wouldn’t listen.”
Kyle says: “I think that a lot of kids who have their eyes set on the end goal sometimes live with blinkers on and forget to enjoy the ride there,” he says.
When asked if we’ll ever see him back on our TV screens, he says: “I have many very fond memories of being in front of the camera from when I was younger. I do miss it at times, but I’m better off behind the camera.”
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