DAVID FELDMAN was South Africa's top commercials filmmaker. He launched the film careers of David Cornell and Keith Rose, both internationally acclaimed directors, and he fought hard against South Africa's negative image abroad to promote the country's long-established film production industry.
A former ad-man, Feldman took the now well-trodden path from advertising agency - Ogilvy & Mather Rightford, Cape Town - to starting up his own commercials production company in 1983. At one time he was a shoe-buyer for the Truworth Group, before becoming marketing manager for a local retailer - a move which led to an approach from Ogilvy's to join as an account manager working on business for a number of fashion houses and retail chains. Well-liked and widely respected, he is described by one former colleague as 'a terrific account man, not least because he spent more time down in the studio with the directors, concentrating on the creativity, than he would upstairs'.
Feldman launched his production company, Feldman Cornell, in Johannesburg with only one director - David Cornell. The company became known as David Feldman Film Productions after Cornell moved to the US in 1986, where he is now one of the world's leading commercials directors.
Two years ago, Feldman - by now an executive producer - picked up South Africa's first ever Gold Lion award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, the advertising industry's equivalent of the film business's Oscars. The award-winning commercial was for Mercedes-Benz, a film entitled Chapmans Peak.
This commercial was produced for the South African advertising agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Johannesburg, with whom Feldman worked on more than 40 commercials. The agency describes him as 'one of the country's best producers'. His other creative landmarks included ads for Van Staden's River Bridge, for Pretoria Portland Cement and for ISM's Elephant Project.
Aside from championing creativity in commercials and managing numerous productions with a stern financial eye, Feldman was also known for his ability to spot new talent. He was widely credited with single-handedly instigating South Africa's 'second wave' of directors who, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as the director Leslie Dektor, have since moved on to international success.
He discovered, and launched the commercials career of Keith Rose - another director cited as proof of a creative renaissance in South African advertising. Rose, who left Feldman's company to join Velocity Films, Johannesburg, last year, directed a striking BMW campaign in which a mouse ran along and turned the steering wheel of a BMW 318i. It won two Gold Lions at Cannes last month.
Feldman was in Cannes only two weeks ago. Along with a fellow South African producer, Peter Gird, he recently set up Film Service Afrika, a joint initiative to market South African talent and offer production services to the growing number of film crews shooting there on location. He was also discussing a film project which David Puttnam was considering filming in South Africa.
After the festival, Feldman spent last week in Germany promoting the South African commercials industry before returning to Johannesburg. It was at his office on Tuesday that he and his accountant, John van Staden, were fatally shot, the innocent victims of a tragic domestic incident involving one of his staff.
Described by associates as a meticulous man who passionately believed in setting the highest business and creative standards, his friends lament the fact that he will not now be able to see the re- emergence of South Africa on the centre-stage of world advertising.
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