When Things Come Full Circle

I left part of my heart in South Africa.

How could I not? One of the defining times of my life and career came in the early 1990’s when my CBC boss, Les Lawrence, asked me to lead a project. It was to help South African radio and TV journalists prepare for their post-apartheid role as journalists in a newly democratic country. 

Sylvia Vollenhoven was one of those senior S. African journalists.

Sylvia and Madiba

Brilliant, tough-minded and gifted, Sylvia blazed quite a trail before and since the Canadian workshops. She worked as a television host-interviewer and executive producer at the South African Broadcasting Corporation,  then established her own production company, VIA-Vision in Africa.

Tim Knight was born in England, raised in S. Africa, but became an Emmy-winning producer, then executive producer and lead trainer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

blog-photo-tim-when-i-first-met-him

Blog Photo - Tim and S. African journalists

Tim broke his self-imposed exile in Canada to lead several of the CBC’s S. African workshops. Through this initiative, he met Sylvia.

“Tim was one of the first TV Trainers I encountered as we prepared to ‘hijack’ the SABC and turn it into a public broadcaster,” Sylvia says.

Two years ago, Tim decided to return to S. Africa permanently and practice his skills as a journalist and trainer there. I was both glad for Tim and devastated. Tim, over the years, had been my own trainer, mentor, book editor and friend. As if recognizing my heartbreak, Tim spent his last week in Canada at my family’s home.

blog-photo-verandah-tim

~~

Life sometimes takes wondrous turns.

Back in  S. Africa, Tim started work with the production company of his former trainee, Sylvia Vollenhoven. There, he became a producer, writer, trainer  — and conscience.

“Please take good care of Tim,” I’d asked Sylvia when Tim first returned to S. Africa. But anyone who has worked with Tim knows he can be infuriating at times, as he pushes you unrelentingly to find the heart of the story. It was no different for Sylvia and her team.

“Some days we were tempted to walk away from his rigorous questioning and unflinching commitment to the demands of the story. But it is extremely inspiring to work with Tim, especially because he brings an outside perspective to the unfolding South African story… a narrative that has become almost part of his DNA by now. We are very fortunate that he has made South Africa his home.”

Blog on Sylvia  Tim 2016

Last week, Sylvia contacted me with great news: A VIA film has been nominated for one of S. Africa’s highest honours in film and television. The film, Emo Adams – Tall, Dark and Afrikaans received two nominations and Sylvia, Director and Executive producer, credits Tim’s contributions.

Blog on Tim and Silvia Emo Adams_3  Photo by Retha Ferguson

The story is about an outstanding S. African performer, Emo Adams.

The experience was special for Sylvia – her son, Ryan Lee Seddon, a cinematographer, and partner Basil Appollis and Tim were all part of the team.

Blog on Tim and Silvia Emo Onstage Spotlight_01672.jpeg

“Tim helped us move from a good concept, through a challenging process (punishing deadlines & modest budgets) to a potentially award winning story. 

“The credits list him as Script Editor. But as usual he played the role of Mentor, Devil’s Advocate and Story Coach.

“I think it is so amazing that things have come full circle. This is the first time that Tim and I have worked together.”

There are many ways of coming home.

Bravo to everyone involved with this production and my best wishes.

 

 

 

 

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51 Comments

Filed under A Good Home, Film and TV Awards

51 responses to “When Things Come Full Circle

  1. Kudos to Tim and Sylvia. You’re being a good sport about it and sharing Tim. 🙂 He sounds like a good mentor.

  2. Thank you Cynthia! It is really special that we maintain these connections and stay close even after all these years and the great distance.

    • Gosh, Sylvia. We’ve been through so much – together and apart. I look back on the years just before apartheid ended, and the first decade after, and all the work we did back then, and some days I can hardly believe how much energy we had. Mind you, you have not slowed down. Thrilled at your upcoming book and theatre launches! Wow.

  3. Would love to see that film! Wonderful story, and what a good feeling for you to be connected to that history.

    • I can hardly believe that I was privileged enough to do all those things, Diane. I think that’s what Hamlin’s finding the stories did for me: reminded me of the great, fabulous life I had. That was a blessing. (That and a bossy doctor who ordered me to “write!”)

  4. What an incredible life you are leading!

    • Cindy, I LED a remarkable life. Now I am living it — in part — via all the fabulous things that people like Sylvia, Tim, my family and you and other bloggers are doing. So keep doing them!

  5. Kudos to Sylvia and Tim…so wonderful to know that he is still lending his considerable expertise and rigorous standards to the continuing narrative of post-apartheid South Africa. Thank you, Cynthia for keeping us in community in spite of physical distance and the passing years!

    • Glad to be able to keep you updated on these special folks, Andra. As I often say: These days, I’m travelling the world through the rest of you and your adventures, so be sure to adventure well and have fun!

  6. You’ve had such good adventures and met such interesting souls, Cynthia. I love knowing there are some decent, like-minded pioneers out there:). Changing the world.

    • Indeed there are, my blogger-friend. Being a gifted writer/journalist yourself, you have also met some exceptional people who are doing great things, often not realizing at the time how important these things will be to someone else. I think each of us makes history in some small way.

      • Funny-I used to think that the holy Grail was to make a big mark on the world. The older I get, the more I want to just have a positive effect on the lives I come into contact with, be they five or 500,000 :-). I’m still glad your sphere of influence continues to grow.

      • The film and TV industry gave me a big award and a young TV anchor asked me what was my biggest achievement. I said (paraphrased) “raising two strong, decent young women – my daughters”. A long pause followed. I was expected to refer to one of my big career achievements, and had blown the answer (smile). But for me it’s so true.

      • Oh, I love that answer. In a world of ego, you gave them gold instead:).

  7. Such interesting and inspiring people, thank you for introducing them to us, Cynthia.

  8. Lesley Knight

    Tim…Mentor, friend…and my father.
    Thank you again Cynthia & Hamlin for everything you have done.
    You both mean the world to him as well.
    I look forward to seeing the story that you brought to life.
    Peace & love
    Amandla

  9. How amazing to have been a part of such an important historic time. What a story.

  10. What a lovely article- very interesting people!

  11. This is a heart warming post Cynthia, good luck to all those involved with the film and the nomination, I hope they do well. Your life has been so interesting and its a pleasure to read of your involvements and memories.

  12. Les

    Wonderful to hear good news about 3 of the best people in my life. It was great to be a small part of the story all those years ago. May the circle be unbroken.

    • So generous of you, Les. Thanks for replying to the call from Bishop Tutu and company and leading the CBC into this very important work. You played a crucial role not only in launching the work and as the overall leader of it, but by going to S. Africa yourself. I believe that we make history by our action/inaction. You acted. Bless you.

  13. leeMck

    A very important and solid foundation laid by a team of courageous, talented and “gritty” pioneers paving the way for those who follow in their footsteps to continue to build and expand upon into the future. What a legacy! Congratulations!!!

  14. Thanks for posting this. We hear too little of the positive things that come out of South Africa, so this was cheering.

  15. Margaret Mair

    And so life circles round and round and sometimes comes back to us in a big, warm hug. A wonderful story, Cynthia.

  16. Congratulations to all concerned in this project. Thank-you very much for this post Cynthia.

  17. What a great story–I love all the connections and the ways talented, committed individuals work together to create something no one of them could do alone.

  18. Tim sounds like a wonderful mentor, Cynthia. Knowing how hard, and when, to push or encourage to get the best work from someone, especially a team, is a skill few managers have. That is a beautiful story. Congratulation to all!

  19. What an inspiring story. It’s wonderful to hear that after so many years in the trenches, this man did not lose his sense of commitment and high standards.

    • He’s been fighting the good fight for a long time, Jason, and supporting media rebels in tough times. Sylvia and I are but two of many individuals in the media industry whom Tim supported, through thick or thin. He went to bat for me on several occasions during my career… some I knew of, some I guessed at.

  20. Such a good news story, Cynthia. Wonderful. 🙂

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