‘Weird’ open design festival kicks off

Julia Anastasopoulos and Ari Kruger speak about their web series, Suzelle DIY, at Creative Mornings at the City Hall.

The Fourth annual Open Design Festival at the City Hall kicked off last week, and as an introduction to the theme this year, which is “Weird”, guests were introduced to the creators of Suzelle DIY, Julia Anastasopoulos and Ari Kruger.

Ms Anastasopoulos, an actor from Oranjezicht, plays Suzelle in the web series, who gives viewers hacks that they could use in everyday life.

Suzelle DIY is the brain child of Ms Anastasopoulos and Mr Kruger, an animator and film-maker, born while playing around and experimenting with tutorials.

“At the time, we didn’t really know that it will develop into something like this. We watched You-Tube tutorials and we thought, ‘imagine someone comes across this weird DIY character’,” said Ms Anastasopoulos.

Mr Kruger said Ms Anastasopoulos was also really good at DIY. “Julia is really good, she can really do all those things.”

Suzelle DIY went viral after the 11th episode, called “How to make a braai pie”.

Eventually, Ms Anastasopoulos and Mr Kruger were approached by broadcasters and different brands who wanted to partner with Suzelle DIY.

“We realised that we tapped into something and everyone wanted to watch. We tried to establish how this would work for us. We decided that we could make a business of it, then we started a production company. It was quite a hectic time.”

The couple then started Sketchbook Studios in neighbouring Woodstock, which produces Suzelle DIY.

“When we look back, we think that we made the right choices. We made decisions based on what Suzelle would want. Once we understood how we wanted it to work for us we decided to ride the wave,” said Mr Kruger.

We partnered with Helen Zille and Tim Noakes.

“We were approached by publishers and made a book.”

Mr Kruger said the book was a challenge for them. “We wanted it to be an extension of the Suzelle brand, but it was difficult to get her visual character into a book. It was also difficult to come up with 74 hacks when we usually spend a week coming up with one.”

Mr Kruger and Ms Anastasopoulos also introduced new characters to the series, such as Marianne, Suzelle’s best friend, and Ryno the Game Ranger, a new web-series by Sketchbook Studios.

They are also piloting a new series, called Tani’s Wedding Diary, an eight-part series, in which Ms Anastasopoulos plays Tani, a completely different character from what she is used to, which she described as “quite scary”.

Mr Kruger said the content of Tani’s Wedding Diary relates to him and Ms Anastasopoulos, because they are getting married soon and the show deals with ups and downs Tani is experiencing while planning her wedding.

Ms Anastasopoulos said Suzelle has become real to the viewers, who always look forward to new episodes, which are released at least twice a month.

She is real to many people, and to us. When I watch her, I really feel like it’s Suzelle and not Julia, said Mr Kruger. “We want to make South African comedy content. That’s what we are about.”

The Open Design Festival will hold a series of talks, exhibitions, workshops and interactive experiences during the course of the event, which runs until August 21 at the City Hall.

The event, in partnership with the City, explores how design links with a sustainable, inclusive society through innovation, community building and education. Events and exhibitions are free.

For more information visit www. opendesign.com