Amy Allais likes “cool” brands. So it’s fitting that her film company should share its name with an ice cream.
Ola! Films was launched four years ago when Allais and business partner Olivia Leitch left Fresh Eye Films to set up their own production house.
With Allais as film director and Leitch as executive producer, Ola! has developed a reputation as one of SA’s up-and-coming advertising film houses. Since 2009, when it produced Vodacom’s “Single Ladies” commercial — in which a male dancer gives a spirited, if amateur, rendition of Beyonce’s dance moves — Ola! has been especially known for musical dance numbers.
Allais says: “It’s great to have a reputation but we don’t want to be pigeonholed.” On the other hand, “If they want to commission us, we’re not going to turn them down.”
Brands that have used Ola! include Nando’s, Twinsaver, Kellogg’s, Virgin Mobile, Wimpy, Knorr, Clover, Schweppes, Absa and Cell C. There is also occasional work from overseas, and from Africa and the Middle East.
Allais says she and Leitch have enjoyed a steady stream of work since going it alone. “I’m a risk-averse person and I was very worried about the future when we left Fresh Eye. But on the day I was clearing out my desk there, I got a call to say we had our first job.”
The company, based in Johannesburg’s Rosebank fire station building, employs only five or six full-time staff. Until recently, when it hired its first men, Ola! was wholly female. Allais says: “It was never orchestrated. It just turned out that way.”
Nevertheless, she says it used to be difficult for women to make their way up the film ladder. “When I left film school, employers all tried to make me do production and accounts. I wasn’t interested. Today, when we are hired, I like to think I am considered a director, not a woman director.”
The only thing missing at Ola! is major awards. The company is a past winner at the local Vuka! awards for charitable and social advertising, and Allais was short-listed for young director of the year at the Cannes international advertising festival. Ola! has also been short-listed at the local Loeries awards.
Allais says: “Awards aren’t the most important thing in life but, yes, it would be nice to have one or two lying around the place.”