Warren directs his future in the US

15 Oct 23 | Profiles

Lights, camera, action… former Joburg man is making his mark in the world of film, television and digital-based media.

Expat South African Warren Burley is driven by his passion for the big screen. An international, award-winning director and sound engineer, Warren has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, specialising in film and TV. “I have been lucky enough to work with some of the greats in the world of film and advertising,” he says. Born in Johannesburg in 1975, Warren grew up in Ormonde and attended Sir John Adamson High School. He later completed an online master’s degree in music and post-production through Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Warren married his high school sweetheart, Madeline, in 2006 and they have one son, Brandon (15). The family moved to Eastvale, California, a small town east of Los Angeles, in December 2014.

“We chose to move to the US to further my career in the film and TV industry. I felt I had reached the ceiling in the SA industry and it was time to spread my wings. After a visit in 2010, we were inspired to make the move,” says Warren.

As with a move to any country, Warren’s journey was not easy. “My pursuit of a career in sound mixing in studios proved quite challenging and it took almost two years to secure my first sound job. Recognising the need for a different approach, I decided to pivot and established a production company, Post and Jam, in 2016,” he says.

Post and Jam, which offers comprehensive services in the film and TV sector, was launched with a simple strategy in mind. “I embraced every opportunity and adopted a continuous learning mindset. When faced with unfamiliar tasks, I either assembled a team of qualified professionals or acquired the necessary skills myself,” says Warren. He also proactively reached out to potential clients. This dynamic approach helped him get a foot in the door. “Physically reaching out to potential clients seemed to surprise many Americans, as door-to-door interactions in the area are quite uncommon,” Warren explains. With his financial resources rapidly depleting, Warren says he secured his first client ‘in the nick of time’.

His turning point came when he successfully filmed a commercial for his local water district. “It garnered significant acclaim and, as word spread about my expertise, I became the go-to professional in the water industry for social media videos and commercial campaigns,” says Warren. Building on this momentum, he expanded his scope of work to include reality shows and films, which led to further growth and the diversification of his client base. “By embracing versatility, persistence and a willingness to learn, the company started to thrive in the competitive US market.” While certainly challenging, Warren says the journey has been ‘ultimately rewarding’. “I am proud of the progress we have made in establishing a strong presence in the film and TV landscape.”

A natural progression

Becoming a Hollywood director wasn’t on Warren’s radar. Rather, the process happened naturally as he immersed himself in the intricacies of production and post-production processes and continued to expand his knowledge. The result was a noticeable shift in how people perceived and sought his expertise.

“My dedication to mastering every aspect of the filmmaking process positioned me as a trusted authority in the field and I was approached to direct commercials and reality shows for various clients,” says Warren.

This marked a significant turning point in his career. “By continuously refining my skills and staying attuned to industry trends, my directorial journey began to unfold, opening exciting opportunities for me to showcase my artistic vision and expertise.”

TV reality shows he has directed include Life Unfiltered, Hollywood Disclosure, and In the Dawg Hause, a hilarious, non-scripted reality show that shares the everyday crazy life of the Marter family and their family-run doggie daycare business in Connecticut, New York.

“I recently signed contracts for two shows coming out next year – The Leap and Name that Movie,” says Warren, who has won numerous awards during his career, including one Gold and two Silver 2023 Telly Awards, and various Loerie and Cannes Lions awards.

The annual Telly Awards showcase the best work created within TV and across video, for all screens, says Warren. They receive more than 12 000 entries from five continents and 50 countries.

“Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies and publishers around the world.” He was also a 2022 NATAS Pacific Southwest Emmy Award nominee (Commercial Campaigns) and a 2021 Daytime Emmy Award nominee. “I didn’t win, but I will get them next year,” he says.

Covid-inspired podcast

It was being confined to a hospital bed, fighting Covid-19, that saw Warren undergo a ‘significant period of personal reflection’. This ignited his long-held ambition to establish and manage his own podcast – South Africans Abroad.

“Compounded by my deep fascination with the narratives behind people’s departures from SA and the intricacies that accompanied these journeys, I became resolute to transform this passion into a reality. It was also one of the motivational factors of my healing process.”

South Africans Abroad was officially launched on March 17, 2022, broadcasting an interview with SA actor Nick Boraine. “We now have more than 6 500 subscribers and 10 000 downloads. What started as a hobby turned into a full-time gig. I love listening to everyone’s stories and sharing their journeys to entertain and educate others.”

His ideal future would be owning a farm, on which his studio could be built. “I would also like my documentaries to be featured on a national broadcast network.” Talking about SA, Warren says he misses his family and friends and the culture the most.

“South Africans are a rare breed and I miss the sense of humour.”

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