Carien Loubser shares absolute true-life lessons she’s learned making TV shows.


A film crew can come across as an obnoxious, confusing and even snobbish collection of souls to an outsider. 

First of all – on a film set people use a different kind of language… they use lingo such as “clean speecha take in which there were no errors during dialogue recording. If only real life were that simple… 

If you’ve never been on a film set, you are most likely be surprised to learn of the raw life behind a camera that is totally different from the glamorously packaged final end product you see on screen. 

Witnessing the making of a tv series or movie first hand, you will also come to find that it consists of ‘long periods of boredom punctured with short periods of terror’.  

Editing on screen
Editing on screen

Opening Act 


Finding one’s way in this circus of organised chaos is quite interesting, to say the least. You need to know your place and you need to focus, really focus; everything is measured in timeevery second counts, in fact – every minute costs tens of thousands of Rands

Time becomes your most valuable commodity, and besides your available production budget, time determines the true success of the end product. Time invested and lessons learnt 

There are many rules, some rigid and others unspoken. It is a hardcore business, but you will live an unhappy life if you can’t find space to work in good faith.   

 In this process of finding my way through the chaos, I’ve learned that life, in general, is very similar to life on set – the same principles apply everywhere.  

Zelda la Grange with Madiba for the documentary A Glorious Human Achievement: Nelson Mandela set to be released internationally in 2020
Zelda la Grange with Madiba for the documentary A Glorious Human Achievement: Nelson Mandela set to be released internationally in 2020

Act One 

Everything starts with a good script, concept or story. It’s crucially important for a producer/director to decide why you are making a particular movie, series or documentary.

You will end up spending hours, weeks, months, and sometimes years on a project. When dedicating so much time to a productionyou need to do it for the right reasons.   

I personally choose shows about people I believe and their stories that I feel need to be told. A lot is determined by the way you look at things.   

We also live in an age where you have much more access to the world than a couple of years ago. It’s easy to copy other people’s work and ideas. But you can never copy the intention behind the work, or the real creativity that was put into making something spectacular.   

On set

Act Two

Once you have your concept or story, I believe the second most important step is to figure out how you’re going to make it different from any other show or movie you’ve ever seenYou have to trust your gut.

Sometimes it’s risky, because you can’t explain your gut in a directors treatmentreport, proposal, pitch or story arc. You just have to close your eyes and be brave. You have to be fearless.   

When you’re young, you indeed are fearless. The world is your oyster. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and the greater the risk, the greater the reward.   

As you grow older realities kick in, everything comes at a price, you have all sorts of responsibilities and insecurities, and suddenly you are scared of making mistakes – you are now paying a price for your failures. 

Carien with Michelin star Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen
Carien with Michelin star Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen

Third Act 

There is no success story that does not include failure or pain. Planning is key. Quality is not negotiable. If you know what you’re doing, it is possible to create beautiful work. Impossible is not a fact, it’s just an opinion.  

Ultimately, it is what you think that makes you who you are.  

Screenshots from Republiek of Zoid Afrika
Screenshots from Republiek of Zoid Afrika

Fourth Act 

Collaboration is everything. You have to build solid relationships. As in life. Beautiful faces are everywhere, but beautiful minds and good hearts are a little harder to find. A TV series or movie is one big collaboration.

There are so many different departments, expertise, skill sets and workflow processes that each has to allow space for the other. 

A production is about stories and structures delicately woven together. You have to let the sun shine on the people around youThis probably is the rarest attribute I’ve encountered in this industry which is very competitive, but also in life in general.   

This brings me back to the beginning, the resolve – why are we doing what we’re doing. We recently finished a documentary on the life of Nelson Mandela – a global world icon and simply the most famous South African ever.

 The one thing that stood out for me was that he has found his true calling, and no matter what, he stood by his principles and beliefs

He dedicated his life to his fellow men and he truly believed in the power of collaboration. You have to have faith that things will work out, maybe not as you planned, but just how it’s supposed to. And whatever your unique process… 

Compassion rules 

Resiliency rocks 

Learning is a must 

Hard work pays off 

Good character always matters 

Fade Out 

And that’s a Wrap – end of shooting