Tom Marais is a diligent, humble and talented award-winning South African cinematographer and entrepreneur. Tom brings his unique creative vision and immense talent to every project and is able to adapt to the format as a visual storyteller.
An AFDA graduate and member of the South African Society of Cinematographers, Marais has trail-blazed his way across the local film industry with a series of beautifully crafted feature films, such as: Ballade vir 'n Enkeling, Hard To Get, iNumber Number and Roepman. The prolific cinematographer has a wealth of experience and already has three feature films scheduled for release this year, including: Free State, Hatchet Hour and My Father's War.
Tom has also filmed top television dramas, including: Soul City, Home Affairs, Intersexions and Jacob’s Cross. His commercial work includes clients such as: MTN, DSTV, VUZU, FNB, Nashua Mobile and Kilimanjaro Premium Lager, among many others. He was also one of the early collaborators to shoot music videos for South African musicians such as Lebo M, Skwatta Kamp and Klopjag.
Marais is a regular contender at the SAFTAs, having won two Golden Horns and numerous accolades at Kyknet's Silverskerm Festival, SASC Visual Spectrum and AFDA's alumni. A world class talent, it seems like only a matter of time before Marais breaks into the international film scene. We managed to catch up with him to find out, which films inspire him and discover his Top Ten Movies.
"It's like watching an Indiana Jones
film, set in space." [on Star Trek]
I can't watch movies without...
- Good sound and good images! Quality is extremely important to me, and I'm not referring to the latest and greatest gimmicky digital enhancements, but the way I believe the filmmaker intended for me to enjoy it.
Which famous people share your birthday?
- I am very proud to share my birthday with the one-and-only Mr. Jack Black! And one of my favourite and much appreciated film directors David Fincher was also born on the 28th of August. Also I am very lucky to share my birthday with a talented local beauty, actress Donnalee Roberts. [28 Aug]
What is the first film you remember watching?
- I can remember a trip to the Sterland in Pretoria to watch the movie E.T. by Steven Spielberg and I loved it so much that my Aunt Salie decided to spoil me with an actual E.T. doll!! Which I still have by the way!
What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
- No doubt: The Holy Mountain. Sad to say I got it from a close filmmaker friend and still not sure if it was a prank or not, but it is a holy load of s**t!
Which movies have made you tearful?
- Any blêrrie Pixar movie, the last one was Inside Out, I cried about 3 times! They are brilliant story-telling experiences!
Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?
- Locally? Let’s just go with one of the most starstruck moments in my career. I guess that would be when I met Ian Roberts on the Bakgat! film set. I was a huge fan of the SABC '80s TV show, Arende, in which Ian played the infamous character Sloet Steenkamp as I was growing up, so that was a big one.
What's your favourite movie line?
- I have never been very good at remembering movie lines, or lyrics or people's names unfortunately.
Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?
- Chris Pratt! Because... I guess I like his sense of humor, and I wish I had hair like his!
If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?
- The list of ideas is way too long. It would definitely be a popcorn movie, involving some kind of crazy adventure romance set somewhere in our beautiful South Africa.
Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...
Ten is obviously only scratching the surface, so I will revert to my "I Would Watch These Movies Anytime" list for inspiration. These are my top 10 movies I can watch no matter what mood I am in and no matter how many times I have seen it.
And now in no particular order...
- Back to the Future ...is such an interesting phenomenon. It's a film we all grew up with, enjoyed as children and now as an adult I watch it and I just marvel at the perfect execution of such an original story. In my opinion, the perfect movie! Robert Zemeckis is a genius and I watch all of his work. He's one of the few masters that really understand the art of telling a story through pase and camera movement, when to cut and when not to. When he builds tension, no matter who you are, you are sitting on the edge of your seat.
- Fight Club ...I think I watched this film about 7 times on the big screen, I was at film school and it melted my brain! I loved the cinematography and I guess just about everything else in that movie... crazy perfection!
- The Big Lebowski ...need I say more than "I'll take it away from you, stick it up your ass and pull the f**king trigger 'til it goes 'click'"? (laughs) I am a big Coen brothers fan, and love Roger Deakins who shot most of their films. This is my favorite comedy.
- Drive ...talk about how the score and cinematography can be in perfect harmony... tell a story without the aid of unnecessary dialogue. A masterpiece!
- The Incredibles ...can’t wait to watch this movie with my children over and over and over again. Too much fun.
- Princess Mononoke ...I guess this is my idea of the perfect fairy tale. Such a beautiful story, layered with real-life situations, under the veil of fantasy.
- There Will Be Blood ...probably the closest I'll get to ever watching an opera. I've never been so conflicted about loving and hating a main character like this, all at once. Loved the art direction and cinematography.
- True Grit ...my favourite Western, by my favourite cinematographer. It's also not a typical Coen brothers story line, but I loved how plain and simple the story is and just how beautifully it was executed.
- Star Trek ...I’m a really big sci-fi fan and this is one of my favourites. I wish there were more movies like these. It's like watching an Indiana Jones film, set in space. Also love the dynamic energy and I'll watch anything with Eric Bana in it.
- In the Mood for Love ...I think this is the first movie that made me consciously aware of how beautiful images can influence your mood and tell a love story, very creatively. This movie is the epitome of visual poetry to me.
Honourable mentions: Fifth Element, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Matrix, Amelie, Avatar, Contact, Fargo, Pulp Fiction, Se7en and Stoker.
Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.