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Sibs Shongwe-La Mer lives by the words “give it all, no drop spared”.

Words that also account for this 25-year-old’s daily pursuit to make his entire life about art. His creative pilgrimage meandered through prep school plays and dreams of becoming a stage director.

Relentless self study was the driving factor behind his education in literature, art and cinema. However, it was the narrative and wild cinematic style of the 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that affirmed the artistic potential of film, and won his 14-year-old heart over.

Never one for a conventional education, Shongwe-La Mer made his first short film soon after he dropped out of high school. His second short film, Territorial Pissings, was produced with close to zero budget, and a crew you could count on one hand. However, it was selected for the developmental section of the Venice Film Festival.

Soon, everything changed for this Johannesburg-born urban nomad.

Suddenly, industry players he admired started to recognise his work, and so did the industry. His 2015 film, Necktie Youth – an uncomfortably honest glimpse at the lives of the (mostly overlooked) affluent, born-free generation – won the Grand Jury Prize (World Cinema Amsterdam Film Festival, 2015). It also won Best Director and Best SA Feature Film (Durban International Film Festival, 2015) and the TV5 Award (Carthage Film Festival, 2015).

“If I weren’t doing this, I’d likely be dead, on heroine or homeless. I couldn’t survive any other way. Imagining up worlds is all I’m good for.”

Getting recognition wasn’t easy. To find the means, and the teams to get the camera rolling took a serious amount
of work.

Every minute spent behind the camera was only made possible by an inordinate amount of time spent behind a computer screen, and at meeting room tables. But being the type of guy that takes every hurdle in his stride, nothing can deter Shongwe-La Mer’s pursuit to always create.

Nowadays, he also spends his days messing around with mediums outside of those he’s comfortable with, and is currently working on a debut novel. “Now I’m kinda hoping I can be a novelist when I do eventually grow up.” In true Shongwe-La Mer style, he is also working on a selection of artworks in Amsterdam, two feature films, and a television series with Macro Ventures in Hollywood.

This accounts for around 30% of the projects he is working on.

The rest? He likes to keep that for himself, and the joy of creating.

“If you want to succeed, you need to love the life you live, and be grateful for what you have every day.”