Timmy Henny captures Cape Town as legoland

Capetonian filmmaker shows what Cape Town looks like from above in 'Mini Cape'

Watch 'Mini Cape', an excellent short film about Cape Town by Timmy Henny and read an interview with him below.

Timmy Henny, who are you?
I'm a director of photography who started off in the photographic field, but in the last few years I‘ve moved more towards film. I've shot commercials, music videos, documentaries and corporate videos. I just finished shooting a T.V. series for DSTV called ‚'Braai for Heritage'. The show travelled all over the country building 'gees' and celebrating our heritage by visiting heritage spots and braaing with a wide range of diverse South Africans. I am currently working on the video content for 'A Year in the Wild', which was initiated by Scott Ramsay, he is travelling to over 30 national parks around South Africa to document them. I am producing a video of each park highlighting their immense beauty.

Tell me about your film 'Mini Cape'.
'Mini Cape' was filmed in February 2011 as an extramural project to capture a day in the life of Cape Town - in miniature. I was shooting a lot of commercials and corporate videos and wanted to do something a little closer to my heart. Then I saw this video that a guy called Sam O'Hare shot of New York portraying it as a miniature city. I was blown away and thought 'well I can do an even better one of Cape Town!'. I spent about a month shooting in-between jobs and on my off days in the pristine Cape Town summer and I think that really adds to the colourful feel of the film. I have an immense love for Cape Town and even though I travel overseas every year I always get a little shiver down my spine when I catch a glimpse of the mountain through the aeroplane window. I wanted to create a video in honour of our Mother City.

Cape Town portrayed as a miniature city...what inspired you to do this?
It is a style that I am seeing more and more often. There's even a little section in the latest BBC documentary 'Human Planet' that uses this style. When I saw that I said to myself 'I have to get my video out there before everyone else starts doing it'.

What difficulties did you have to deal with while shooting?
The style requires shooting from high angles and the obvious challenge was: How do you get up onto all those buildings to get a load of different angles to make the film interesting? I sent out a mail to my contact list and everyone was very helpful in finding me access to rooftops and balconies all over the city. Then there were a few buildings that I really wanted to get onto and just lied to security and sneaked up onto the roof. I find the objects that work best are things like boats, helicopters and construction vehicles because they really give a sense of activity in a miniature world. There were still other buildings that I wanted to get access to that I just couldn't organise - for instance, the control tower at the airport. For some reason they think that a stranger with a camera might be a terrorist. Some miniature aeroplanes would have looked awesome, but there will always be more opportunities.

What was the highlight of your project?
I really enjoyed shooting most of this project but the highlight was shooting in Clifton. I got access to some of the roofs of the beachfront apartments on one of the most beautiful days in summer. I got some really great shots there and that part of the film really showcases Cape Town‘s beauty with the still turquoise water and silky white sand. One of my favourite shots are the guys carrying the piano across the road, which happened by chance. I was on the roof of the Fugard Theatre and suddenly they started crossing the road. I had to really rush to frame my shot and get focus. But that's the beauty with a project like this - you shoot and shoot and wait and wait but then suddenly the most amazing things happen.

How long did the project take you?
I shot it over the space of a month whenever I had spare time. It takes surprisingly long and a lot of patience to wait for the perfect moment like the dumpster tipping sand or waiting for the pirate ship to leave the Waterfront. I probably had about 300gigs of footage to sift through in the edit. As with all my projects, I also got to discover some new places in the city I've never been to. Editing took quite a while because I was really busy on other jobs. The editing process is quite laborious as you have to apply lots of filters to the clips and they take ages to render. So, Steve Jobs, if you feel like donating me a faster Mac please go right ahead.

Did you film it all yourself?
I directed, produced, shot and edited everything. I filmed it on a Canon 5D, a little camera that's taking the industry by storm. I also have a motorized tripod head that I imported from Tokyo that basically allows the camera to pan really slowly so when the footage is sped up it looks smooth. It took a little time and experimentation to master the technique but I'll give you a short breakdown. I basically use a tilt shift lens effect to create a shallow depth of field, then boost the saturation a bit and speed up the footage. But it's not that simple. The real skill is getting the right angle on your subject and knowing how to frame it properly. I gave a sample track to Ross and Myles McDonald from Hey Papa Legend Studios and they produced an amazing soundtrack for me in exchange for a photoshoot. I think that's how all Cape Town creatives should work - through a skill exchange. Everyone would be producing much better content and not always complaining about how they don't have enough funds to do something.

What did you do the film for?
I did it entirely for myself.

What's next?
My goal is to make films like this in cities all over the world. Next month I'm traveling to Europe and UK and hope to create mini films of Berlin, London and Dublin.

The film has been selected as a finalist for the San Francisco International Festival of Short Films - what are your expectations?
Yeah, how awesome is that! I actually had very few expectations when I entered it and then suddenly I got an email saying that I was a finalist out of over 1600 entries from all over the world. I'm not expecting too much though. I think that films that win festivals have evocative narratives that tell amazing and unique stories. I'm just happy to be one of the finalists and to have it screened in San Francisco. I've also entered it into short film competitions in UK and Germany so I'm holding thumbs.

Anything you would like to add?
We are so lucky to live in such an amazingly beautiful city and it makes filming easier when your subject is just so hot!

By Antonia Heil

Find more creative Cape Town stories in our section arts & culture.

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