Yolandi Franken is a film and TV producer, TV-host, and an industry all-rounder. She started studying and working in the film industry almost exactly 21-years ago now and although it’s a difficult industry to be in love with due to its inconsistent nature, she still wouldn’t change it for the world. Her job has enabled her to meet some amazing people and travel the world. She has worked in China, Hong Kong, South Africa, India, Dominican Republic, and the USA and she will forever be thankful for the opportunities that were presented to her and the people who helped her grow.
She was a producer of three feature films; Turbines, Tabernacle 101 and Streets of Colour, a two-part documentary series called Yols Discover, two TV series; The Fast lane and Miss Multiverse Australia, and hundreds of shorter format stories (music videos, short films, TV Ads, Corporate videos, etc.) Many of these got accepted into countless prestigious film festivals, some even winning some awards. These productions are available worldwide on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Tubi, Google Play, Apple TV, and many more. Tabernacle 101 also had a US cinema release and The Fast Lane was aired on television sets throughout South-East Asia.
She’s currently a part of WIFT (Women in Film & Television) Australia and is Co-Chair of their NSW Committee and Chair of their National Virtual Arm where she’s involved in organising face-to-face and virtual events and workshops with industry leaders, educators, suppliers, funding bodies and guilds. She personally had the privilege to work with Disney, Niki Caro, Mandy Walker ASC ACS, Steph Power, Jill Bilcock, Bonnie Elliott, Arri, all the amazing people on the WIFT Australia Board, and many more.
As a secondary passion, she also works in front of the cameras. She hosted Teal Wings, Indie Film World, Yols Discover, The Fast Lane, Miss Multiverse Australia, and Miss Multiverse International. Some of these are available on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and some aired on Television. As far as acting goes, she’s had a number of smaller roles in Australian TV-series and Films and even a tiny role in the Hollywood Blockbuster, Kingsmen – The Secret Service. In her younger years, she was also a model but she ended her modelling career after representing Australia three times on a world level in Mrs. Globe, Mrs. World, and Miss Multiverse.
In 2014 she started a charitable film festival called Cause Film Festival which she ran for three years before passing on her role as Festival Director to Suki Foster. The festival is still running and has housed some of Australia’s most talented filmmakers and actors. Furthermore, she was actually nominated as “Australian of the Year” in 2015 for the work she does in the community and for various charities.
FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Yolandi to discuss her journey in the entertainment industry and here’s what went down:
What is your motivation as a filmmaker?
In short, giving audiences an escape from the real world. I just want to give the world more stories to love. But I also love the process of creating films, both creatively and the generally considered “boring side” of producing. I don’t have a creative mind that can create something from scratch, but I have an absolute passion for creativity and the creative industries. So being a producer allows me to apply what I am good at in order to bring the creative works that I love to life.
What generally inspires your interest?
I believe in being true to yourself, and for society to be true to itself. For me, if there is a story that I connect with, I feel passionate about bringing that story to the world. If it is something I believe in, something I feel will make a difference in the world, or just simply make people laugh and have fun, I want everyone to share in it.
I have to come clean here, I am a workaholic. But I also have an intense love for life and want to live it to the fullest and experience everything. Shows that I host and produce, such as the Yols Discover series is something I create so that I can not only entertain others, but it also gives me an opportunity to do the things I love and want to explore. Because trust me, being a workaholic, I will never otherwise get an opportunity to do the things I love.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Well, Producing is really the non-creative part of the process, but it also doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT to be creative. This only applies to scripted content, but one thing that frustrates me is that I am not naturally creative. I have so many great ideas for films, but I do not have the ability to flesh out the details of the story. I am therefore always reliant on others to write the story for me, or for scripted stories to come to me.
Luckily on Streets Of Colour, I had an amazing writer and director, Ronnie S. Riskalla. It is actually his story, but I was there from the start to brainstorm with him and had the opportunity to be part of every draft. See, I cannot create something from scratch but I can add pieces and I can comment on what I like and don’t like. He was generous enough to allow me to do that.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to viewers what they want?
A bit of both. This is showBUSINESS. If you create content that people don’t want to see, it is not good for business. So the more you can create what people want to see, the better. Saying that I am always trying to be original in the approach or to add something original. You still want to be distinguishable from other similar content. I will however never create something I don’t like or don’t agree with.
Occasionally there will be a project that, in reality, you are making for yourself and to scratch a tickle within yourself. For these projects, you don’t want to consider what people want to see and whether it ends up being successful or not, is not the priority.
If you could tell your younger film making self anything, what would it be?
Study accounting. Don’t even taste filmmaking, because it is like a beautiful addiction that you can never escape. No in all seriousness, I would say to not be scared of failing and rejection, the quicker you can become desensitised to that, the faster you will grow in the industry.
What was an early experience where you is learned that filmmaking had power?
I can’t recall a specific film, but I remember realising when I was very young that the seeds that get planted in films and TV Shows can make a big difference – in a good or bad way. Seeds that get planted while you are absorbing the content you love will grow much bigger than seeds planted when you are being preached to. People don’t realise the power that content has.
Can you tell us more about your latest project?
I currently have a handful of projects in early and late development. But I also have Streets of Colour in post-production. This is the project that I am most proud of in my career. The story, the acting, the look, everything has exceeded my expectations. It is not done yet, and it was made on a small budget but it just comes to show that if the story, acting, and sound are good, you don’t need fancy visual effects and crazy external factors to make it amazing.
It has a fantastic set of cast and crew and stars AACTA and LOGIE nominated actor Rahel Romahn. In my opinion, one of Australia’s most talented gems. It was written and Directed by Ronnie S. Riskalla and we had an award-winning DOP, Zacharee-Peel McGregor. Depending on what happens in the cinema and distribution world, it should be released in 2021.
Here’s the synopsis of Streets of Colour: “after being blamed for the death of his best friend in a racist street fight. Tez a 23-year-old drug dealer loses custody to a son he’s never met. He must now find a way to get his life back on track and get his son before it’s too late.”
We also just started filming the third edition of Yols Discover which will come out on Amazon Prime (and maybe a few other platforms too).
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Live in the moment”. I sometimes struggle to do this because I am always thinking about what is next and seldom reflect on what was achieved or what greatness I am experiencing at the moment. But the times that I do live in the moment, I feel great and peaceful and content. I am currently working on doing that more often.
What advice would you give to a newbie filmmaker who wants to make it in the industry?
Get experience and get credits, no matter what else you have to sacrifice to get it. That is how you learn and that is how you get your name out there. In the film industry, the first thing people want to know when considering someone is what credits they have and what the projects were (not where they or what they studied). Secondly, this industry is all about networking and who you know, so make yourself visible. If you are always at the front of people’s minds, you’ll be the first one they call for a job. But don’t be annoying or harass people either.
What are your future plans?
I just want to keep creating bigger and better projects that get seen by more and more people. It’s simple. If I can make a difference in the world through the stories I help tell, I’ll die happy.