New York Film Academy Acting for Film grad DonnaLee Roberts is a model for on-screen performers seeking to build their own career, their way.
The prolific, award-winning South African performer-turned-writer/producer is now shooting feature-length adventure film Stroomop, in which she not only stars but also serves as co-writer and co-producer.
Stroomop is the directorial debut of Roberts’ frequent collaborator and fellow South African A-lister Ivan Botha, who shared the screen with Roberts in South African blockbusters Vir Altyd and Pad na jou Hart, which the team also co-wrote and co-produced.
Screen Africa reports that Stroomop is slated for a nationwide release on South Africa’s Women’s Day, Aug. 9, 2018, through the distributor Ster-Kinekor Entertainment.
Roberts, who holds South Africa’s prestigious Huisgenoot Tempo Award for both Best Actress and Best Feature Film, told Screen Africa that she did some serious water training in preparation for Stroomop, which follows five women on a whitewater rafting misadventure on the Orange River.
“My character finds herself in a situation where she must take the lead in rough waters,” Roberts said, “So it was crucial for me to be fully prepared for the challenges of filming on the river.”
At a moment when the eyes of the world are on Hollywood’s gender imbalance, it’s especially exciting to see Roberts leading the way both on screen and behind-the-scenes as a content creator. Roberts summed up her strong work ethic and inspiring outlook well in a previous interview with the NYFA Blog:
“In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”
Coming off the success of the popular South African television series, 7de Laan, and the feature film Klein Karoo, New York Film Academy 8-Week Acting for Film graduate Donnalee Roberts has greatly expanded her role in the South African entertainment business. Not only does the hard-working South African enjoy the artistic gratification of acting for the camera, she also loves running a business and exploring the integrated marketing and networking that goes on behind the scenes of her films.
Her critically and commercially successful romantic adventure, Pad na jou Hart (Road to your Heart), in which Roberts played the lead actress and was co-producer and co-writer along with Ivan Botha, has been seen by over one million people thus far!
Her more recent award-winning film, Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling (Ballad for a Stranger), which stars Roberts as Carina, had its premiere in Australia and New Zealand and had a nationwide release in South Africa. Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling is a romantic thriller based on the popular South African television series from the eighties. Not only did the series have South Africans nailed to their televisions, the film was highly acclaimed and was both a critic and box office hit, earning Tempo awards for South African Film of the Year. Donnalee also won Best Actress of the Year for both Pad na jou Hart and Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling.
Roberts’ goal is to continue to provide original content to her native country, which has recently seen a resurgence in its film industry.
“We have a wonderful supporting audience in South Africa that is extremely loyal to local content,” said Roberts. “I would love to have this audience grow and also keep on motivating our existing audience. As a filmmaker and storyteller, my goal is to not only make South Africans proud of the films and stories that originate in our country but to also make films that are so universal in their themes that they transcend language barriers and move people from all over the world.”
As an independent filmmaker one knows the importance of marketing your film correctly in order to reach its full potential. That is why Roberts and her team started a marketing division within their production company which specializes in making marketing personal and creating a need for people to want to see their film.
“In a country where we speak 11 official different languages and where we are at all times directly competing against international blockbusters, marketing has become essential. The South African film industry, specifically the Afrikaans language market films, is literally bursting out of its seams, and as a young filmmaker it is so exciting to be on the forefront of this endeavor!”
Her upcoming film, Vir Altyd (Forever), which Roberts stars and also co-wrote and co-produced with Ivan Botha, was shot half in South Africa and half in Mauritius. Vir Altyd is a romantic adventure film that takes us on a journey through the seasons of love and the true meaning of what ‘forever’ means. Roberts and her team are currently busy with post-production and the feature film releases nationwide on February 12th, 2016.
Roberts advice to those who are pursuing acting, especially current students is to CREATE. “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”
She strongly encourages actors to involve themselves more with writing and producing their own material.
“You should never stop learning and growing,” Roberts added. “Always have a spirit of growing.”
Donnalee Roberts and Blake Babbitt
Donnalee Roberts will be joining Blake Babbitt at the New York Film Academy’s audition and portfolio review event at the Davinci Hotel and Suites on Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg on September 5th at 18:00.
The Film Academy will also be holding auditions and portfolio reviews in Cape Town on Tuesday, September 8th.
After dreaming of studying acting in New York for ten years, South African native, Donnalee Roberts made her dreams come true with New York Film Academy’s8 Week Acting for Film workshop. However, Donnalee came to NYFA with an already blossoming career in acting and filmmaking back at home. Roberts is a regular on the popular South African soap, 7de Laan, where she plays the vibrant young waitress, Annelie. “It is amazing to play this part,” said Donnalee. “A lot of young girls can relate to the character.”
In addition to her work on the popular television show, Donnalee will star in the feature film, Klein Karoo. The film plays off the central location of the South African town, Klein Karoo. Landing the role was another dream of Donnalee’s, rewarding her the opportunity to work with a director she’s always admired and respected. Though, she wasn’t always lucky in her career. Donnalee spoke about perseverance and maintaining a positive attitude in the highly competitive field of acting. “You can go on 100 auditions and never get the part. It just means the part wasn’t meant for you, but don’t give up.”
Next, Donnalee will be playing the lead in a new romantic comedy, Pad na jou HART (Road to Your Heart), which she co-wrote and is co-producing. “I’m very excited about where the South African film industry is going.”
Aside from her passionate acting and filmmaking work, Donnalee is heavily involved with a charity called Children of Fire. The charity aids young burn victims in South Africa. For more information on how you can help in this cause visit their website: http://www.firechildren.org.