I Knew Keith Rose
1955 – 2018.
A collection of memories from an industry that loved him.
Keith had such a profound effect on so many of us. During the many conversations I’ve had with various people over the years, whether it be at ad industry events or during interviews we wrote, it was always the same – Keith was the benchmark. The words ‘He or She worked with Keith’ or ‘Keith Rose shot that’ always had and always will have real meaning.
Now, after leaving full-time agency life and being able to view the industry from a distance, it will remain a highlight of my life that I had the opportunity to shoot with Keith, or ‘Keef’ as some called him. He was not a man to talk about himself and when you search his name his work and accolades will always be there, but not necessarily the memories and stories that we all have about him.
Shortly after his passing, I put a call out to his industry-family to share some of the memories and moments they have of Keith, and people answered. Reading through these and now sharing them brought a certain healing for me and a sense of celebration of the person he was. I hope it does so for you too.
Here are just some of the memories that you won’t be able to read in the press, or see anywhere inscribed on the many awards he won. These are by people who worked with him, knew him or even knew of him. May his life continue to live on and the lessons he’s left with us continue to help us grow as an industry.
– Julie Maunder
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to add your memories of Keith.
Keith Rose quotes:
On catering: “Just get a guy with a couple of sarmies”
On lighting: “If it looks simple, it’s generally good”
On another director returning to a meeting with powder on his nose: “Maybe the guy just had a prego roll!”
Able to reduce complex ideas to elegant simplicity, killer eye, and lots of fun, a titan has left us and with him, an entire chunk of our commercials history save the part that lives and burns on in all of us.
Bon voyage you crazy wonderful man, so sorry we couldn’t buck you up with some good humour at the end, but thanks for all the laughter and the toil.
Gerard Botha: Yes I remember you putting on your tool belt and you had to have 2 of everything like 2 dust offs and 2 multi-tools and 2 torches and Keith sneered
“Check Robo is strapping on his technology!”
Leigh Ogilvie: He once told me, in that idiosyncratic voice of his, at yet another point of my disillusion with the industry.
“You can clean the floor with these okes”
Then pointing to his mouth as if I didn’t know what it was, he said cautiously:
” You just need to smile a bit more”
Daniel Kaplan: Lovely tribute Robo. Captured the playfulness. I remember him ripping my “substandard” work to shreds and us staying up all night. Remedying it! Taught me what the industry meant. Trained my eye!
Julan Julan Briant: I remember the story when he went to the Loeries in his vintage Ferrari, broke down on the way and had to thumb a lift from others also on the way (who had a good laugh)…
“It’s hard finding words right now to pay tribute to a great man, and to describe the sadness I feel at losing my friend, Keith.
Keith had a spirit that embraced the world. It was big, it was generous, it was fierce, it was funny and it enveloped anyone whose life he touched. It manifested itself in a vision that shaped our industry and elevated it, again and again and again. He gave so much of himself in what he did, and to the people he met. In the past few days I have seen so many tributes from people whose lives he touched, and the gratitude, warmth, respect he inspired.
Though so highly revered, he had a humility about himself I have seldom seen. A virtual denial of his skill and talent. Always modestly refusing praise and acknowledgement for any achievements.
To me, Keith had the biggest heart and was selflessly kind. His incredible kindness and his brutal honesty got me through some very tough times – he knew when to comfort, he knew when to show tough love. But he always showed up, and there was always love.
I have so much to thank you for, Keith. You were my mentor and my friend. Your kindness knew no boundaries. When people in the industry fell, you stooped to pick them up. I was one of them. You were larger than life, saying the most outlandish things only you could get away with saying. You had this boyish mischievousness about you, always looking on the brighter side of life. We laughed together (in fact usually cried with laughter together), we even cried together. We worked hard and, in our younger days, we played hard.
My memories with Keith. So many. A richness of life experiences that have formed an integral part of the person I am – Christmas in the kitchen at his home, our love of food and cooking, hours and hours together on the road scouting. South Africa, Italy, China, Japan. The birth of his sons. Kerry and Richard’s wedding. Marie-Louise Rose, Rita, Kerry Rose, Richard, Roland Brown, Sean Rose and Luke Rose – you have been like family to me and Rozanne Rocha-Gray. We will always be grateful for the times we had together. My heart goes out to all of you, and we will be here for you always.
In our 30 years of friendship Keith and I had our ups and downs, and often our relationship was complicated, but what a hole you have left in my life Keith. I love you, I always will.”
“Keith, you had such a fierce reputation.
But working with you was so different to what I expected.
You wrote with ellipses …. and let sentences run on like your train of thought.
You didn’t rely on charm.
You gave rocks about agency protocol
And the correct way to spell anything
You didn’t need to spell right.
But you pushed me to get my writing right.
I love that you were warm and smiled with your eyes, despite the fact that you had done great work.
You were one of the best directors in the world. I was just a copywriter. In fact, I’d grown up watching the ads you’d made.
But you didn’t make me feel that way.
You were so human.
And the work you did was so human
And I love that I got to work with you
Not because you were ‘Keith Rose’. But because you were you.”
Grant De Sousa
“What to say that hasn’t already been said… For me, I’d known Keith from a distance growing up as a kid (My mother was best friends with Colleen and close to the family growing up). He was always spoken about as this genius filmmaker in the family. I hardly knew or even met. Just heard of stories how when they were kids how naughty Keith was. How he and some of his brothers once stuffed my mother’s car with straw and hid her beetle around the corner so she couldn’t find it and when she did was in for a surprise.
So one day I hear of this opportunity to go and meet up with Keith. So I pack my life in JHB up and go meet with him in CPT. It was my first time meeting him. I was dough-eyed and fresh out of film school. I knew f*^% all. He looked at me and asked where I saw myself. I said that I wanted to be a director. He just stared at me… I said (naively) maybe I could shadow him as a 2nd or 3rd AD. To which he replied, “maybe sweep my floors first for a bit, maybe make some tea”. I was furious, I left, genuinely thought I’d never be back. Suffice to say he called me back a few months later to film some birds for a big job he was doing. He made me spend 3 weeks with these little yellow canaries tied to a string repeating the same action over and over and over and over.
So Keith’s shooting a big job for Sasol in Velocity’s basement. Two units. Multiple cameras, multiple sets a circus basically. I’m now in Keith’s research department working as his lakkie on the shoot. Basically in the grand scheme of things a flea on a dogs back. A nobody, insignificant!
I get this call over the radio. “Grunter (Keith’s nickname for me in that distinctive voice of his) Grunter, come here quick” Here I’m thinking he wants me to run an errand or something. He pulls me aside to a dark corner of the set and says to me. “You need to learn to look at them in the eyes and say- NO!” And walks off… confused, bewildered and for a long time I had no idea what this was. What to do with it. So I parked it.
Years later looking back realized what this was. It was advice for my directing career. He took time out to think about me!? Ok, the advice may seem a little offside to most creatives reading this. But it was the single most profound moment working for him. It was the concept of maintaining the course. Keeping the nose of the ship pointing in a very specific direction. He was notorious for many things but I believe his vision in seeing the core creative concept and following it through. Was everything!
He was a mentor not only to me but countless others. A giant for sure. But deep inside had such humility about it. I remember having to film him for an interview or edit a piece of his son dancing for a home video and in both situations, he was so focused on details. It wasn’t a switch he could just turn off. It was ingrained. I think this persistence with detail drove many people insane. But like he always said, “1+1+1+1 eventually equals 100”.
R.I.P. Keith, my deepest condolences to the family. Lots of Love. Grant D…”
“I have so many wonderful memories of me and Keith. One of my earliest was around 1980 speeding down Monroe Drive. He was so proud in his Mustard BMW with the new rims that he got as a present. In those days the special rims were unaffordable and seemed super extravagant. It was the beginning of his penchant for cars and speed.
Another memory is that of my father, who owned an advertising agency and used to love having Keith as an audience. Keith was enamoured and would hold onto every word my Dad spoke. Years later he always joked how the tables had turned and it was Keith’s turn to teach him.
Words cannot express this wave of sadness I feel for his family and knowing that I’ll never see my lifelong friend again. It has been a privilege, pleasure and an honour to know him and I will always miss that glint in his eye with the naughty boy smile.
Thanks for joining me!”
Gillian Freimond Rightford
“My second shoot ever was with Keith. My first was with Giaco Angelini. Keith was already a legend of intimidating standards. I was enthralled with their expertise, their craftsmanship, their desire to fight the fight for the best product. In years to come it was always a mark of relief, a badge of honour when Keith said yes to a script. You knew it was that good. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy (managing the conversations with clients who expected things faster, quicker or cheaper) and you knew he was not going to budge – much. But you also knew the end product would be worth it. He was gracious and funny and humble and unrelenting in his quest for perfection. I was not a close friend, probably more a suit in the process, but I learned so much of the art of what we do from him and why it matters. I mourn his loss and I mourn the depths of sadness of so many of my industry friends who worked with him far closer than I did, into the late hours, permanently pushing for greatness. I wish his family peace in their immense sadness.”
“There is very little I can add to everything that people have already said about Keith. Only to agree that he was a formidable force that pushed everyone to the ultimate creative boundary in everything he did… which only challenged and bettered them all.
We worked together on-and-off for a couple of years and some of my wildest and fondest memories of filmmaking are times spent with him, not to mention some of my hardest. We seemed to always be travelling with the projects we worked on and so we spent a lot of time in airports and airplanes together, which is where I got to catch a glimpse of Keith beyond the boundaries of Velocity and the renowned director.
He was a generous man who had the greatest sense of humour. I remember laughing a lot with him as he cast his view points on the places, spaces and people we encountered on our travels and our shoots. And he never held back on his opinions… especially if he was trying to poke a reaction out of a person or a situation. I learnt quite quickly how to read his sense of humour and I can think of countless times where he was standing back and surveying a situation and I would catch his eye and that naughty twinkle would be there… he had thrown something into the pot to see what the reactions and the responses would be. Keith… always turning things on their head to see what he could shake loose.
It is that twinkle and the wry smile that always sits with me when I think of Keith. RIP Captain.
Deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
“My memories of Keith come from a commercial I shot with him a while back, when at Ogilvy. It wasn’t easy. The client had put forward a significant budget but the production would be tricky to pull off. Pre-shoot there were debates, anxious producers on both sides, egg-shell-walking meetings with Keith and private, one-on-ones to reassure the client. The shoot itself was punctuated by much throwing up of hands, expletives, late-night huddles in the freezing cold and a general radio-active buzz of imminent total meltdown. Just the way it’s meant to be. Because sometimes that is what it takes.
The best creative people I’ve known have never pretended to be anything other than what they are, and Keith, on that shoot, was a frenetic, messy genius. I was young and only understood later. He was completely honest. He was honest when he didn’t ‘get’ parts of the script, he was honest when he thought a client’s request was wrong; he was honest when he thought you were talking sh*t. I remember walking into the first cut approval and he warned me that he “didn’t like lazy creatives with no opinions ”. Luckily, I’ve never been short of those but the pressure was immense.
Keith stood by what he believed in creatively. He was always himself – unguarded and unsanitised, for anyone. I miss that. And we sure don’t see enough of that brand of balsy these days. Thank you, Keith, for your honesty, bravery and full-on commitment. RIP.”
“Keith’s unassuming humility, brutal honesty and disarming lack of subtlety, such an undervalued yet devastatingly pure and powerful weapon in today’s shallow world of false news and half-truths, will forever live on in my head and heart as a reminder to stay true.
Most pointedly and movingly, I managed to find an old email I’d sent to the maestro on behalf of Net#work, congratulating him on his Hall of Fame accolade. His humble reply made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I re-read it today.
May it inspire you all.
Rest in Peace my friend.
I wish the family comfort and strength.
Mike & the Net#workers xx”
From: Keith Rose
Sent: Wednesday, 15 October 2014 6:20 PM
To: Mike Schalit
Subject: Re: Hall of Fame award
Jassis … What a mouthful.. Those words are better than any trophy… And penned by the wordsmith himself! No wonder you the man. Thankx so much for those beautiful words. I think I’ll cut them out and frame them and keep them forever! Keith
Sent from my iPhone
On 15 Oct 2014, at 12:08, Mike Schalit wrote:
The master, ek se.
It’s about time the Loeries officially sanctioned your ownership of the Big Bird.
What an awesome tribute to your skill and vision to invent – but even more significantly to your undying passion and humility to reinvent.
What a boykie.
And hey, you still give a damn.
You care. You push. You debate. You provoke. You laugh. You make mistakes.
But you don’t compromise.
So somehow you always end up pushing boundaries.
Even if you have to break a few budgets or hearts along the way.
Heh, each time you rise to the occasion, never have so many wannabees and pretenders to the throne been more pissed off, more consistently, over so many decades. Only because they wished they’d done that.
You have inspired a generation and continue to inspire a whole new generation.
Something worth far more than any prize or one-off masterpiece.
A lifetime of doing what you love, compelling people to love what you do.
Big hugs, a small “lchaim” and a humungous “SALUT”
Mike X & the Net#workers & the 140’ers
The Best of Keith Rose
(Video created to honour Keith when he was inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame in 2014)
“I had just joined Velocity as a new-ish director. It was a big deal for me because Velocity was, well, Velocity. And it was where Keith Rose worked. I came from agency side so obviously I knew about Keith, but in that way that you know about Lionel Messi, or Steven Spielberg. I’d probably been there for about three months and had only had one or two brief chats with the legend – it was down to me being nervous and, in retrospect, because Keith was actually more shy than people knew. It was a paradox about him that he could be larger than life but also quite introverted.
I was working late at the office on an edit. My editor had delivered a cut that wasn’t really popping yet, so I was trying to re-jig it. I thought I was alone, but then I heard someone quietly come into my space and it was Keith. He was also working late, as he often did. He asked me what I was doing, I told him, he watched the cut once, then mumbled a few tactful things to try and help me and left. I was a bit underwhelmed as I’d expected some kind of Yoda on the mountain top revelation.
Ten minutes later my phone rang with an unknown number. It was Keith, on the road home to Hout Bay. He started rattling off ideas so fast I had to write them down with a pen because I couldn’t type properly on my keyboard with one hand. He’d only seen the cut once but it was like he knew every shot, and he proceeded to rearrange the story in his mind, giving me a laundry list of good ideas that would prove to be essential to simplifying the story and making the ad come alive. “Move that close up of her earlier”, “Take out that big wide, you don’t need it.” I realised then how shy he could be, but also that he wasn’t just going to run roughshod over my edit the way another bigshot director might have done. Maybe he felt more comfortable doing it over the phone and not in person, but that was the day my relationship with Keith changed.
From then on I went to him regularly to get advice on things I was working with and to get the inevitable gold nuggets of filmmaking wisdom that he would casually throw out. And then he also started asking me my opinion, and that made me feel like a million bucks. Keith pushed us all – even the thought of him makes me want to push myself harder now. I spent nine years at Velocity becoming a better director in the brilliant light that he cast. I can’t think of anyone else who’s had the impact on our industry that he did. He was a by-word for excellence, scale and dreaming big. He was kind, generous, volatile, passionate, smart, outrageous and eternally young at heart. I often think back to that phone call and to what a true genius he was, and how he made time after a long day to delve into somebody else’s creative quandary. Thank you Keith, for your spirit and for all your help, and for showing so many of us the way. You were that Yoda on the mountaintop and there’ll never be anyone like you again.”
“I’d like to tell you a story about Keith Rose.
For those who didn’t know him, Keith was a Director at Velocity. Not just any Director, he was The Director. A man who created some of South Africa’s most iconic ads. Allan Gray’s “Beautiful” being one of them.
One year they traded their epic Loeries parties for more intimate dinners with agencies. I was at FoxP2 at the time when we went to a little dim sum bar on Long Street. I sat next to Keith and we spoke an endless amount of shit on a variety of topics, obviously covering our best and worst ads. I complimented him on all his work, and he just said: “I just like to make stuff”.
I was about to pitch him this ‘great’ proactive idea (because it’s Keith Rose and why the hell not?) when I decided to ask him for a piece of advice instead.
He said, “Get to work and start your FU Fund.”
“An FU Fund?” I asked.
To which he replied “Your Fuck You Fund.”
“Put a little away every month and prepare. At some point in your life, someone is going to demand you do something that you don’t want to do. Something that goes against your vision, or just pisses you off. At that point, you can say “Fuck You” knowing you have something to fall back on.”
That was Keith. A man with vision, purpose, and the ability to say “Fuck You” when it meant compromising on the work that made him a true legend of the game.
Allan Gray ‘Beautiful’ directed by Keith Rose
Steph van Niekerk
“Getting the call that Keith Rose liked your script and would come in for a treatment, is one of the highlights of any creative’s career. The first time it happened, I was really nervous to sit across the table from the legend himself. I shook his hand with sweaty palms. We went through his treatment and were looking at some references when the debate started about how raunchy we could go with said family fried-chicken brand. At one point in the argument, he called me a prude. And I called him an effing pervert. I was shocked. The words just slipped out of my mouth. Did I really call Keith Rose that? Turned out that slip was the start of a friendship based on mutual respect and endless teasing. Keith liked to be challenged. He made me feel heard and valued, even when I was a junior. But he also wasn’t scared of telling me when my ideas were kak. He made me a better writer. Even if it meant rewriting the freaking VO forty freaking times. I think that is the thing about Keith, he made everyone he worked with better.
It breaks my heart that in the end, no one could make things better for him. I count myself as blessed and honoured to be among those whose lives have been touched by the Keith Rose Magic.”
Paige Nick and Karin Barry
“He was no ordinary man.
He devoured life. Swallowing large chunks of it whole, refusing to chew.
No ordinary man.
He lived enough life for ten people.
Fame stuck to him like glue.
Part myth, part legend, part of us all…”
Keith Rose, you made Karin Barry McCormack and I rewrite that copy for that Allan Gray James Dean Legend ad maybe 20 times. We would have rewritten it 900 times if we’d known how relevant it would be now.
You made us all better at what we do. RIP you legend.
You were no ordinary man for sure. It doesn’t seem real or fair.
Love Paige and Karin
Allan Gray ‘Legend’ directed by Keith Rose
“My dearest Keith
I could never call you dear to your face, as you probably would have laughed at me, thinking I was trying to manipulate you into shooting that shot you never liked.
But you have always been dear to me, even during the times you called me girly, or worse, Marianne and not Mariana.
But I never corrected you, as it was insignificant info in the light of the bigger picture we were busy creating, together.
When we got to work with you, it was serious and the expectations were high. Our nerves were usually shot, because you didn’t come cheap.
Good things never do.
But you set the bar so high, we had to stand on our tippy toe to reach where you were at.
On my first shoot ever with you, I fought with you over a guy wearing make up. You told me it was just to accentuate his features and that one would never see it through the lens. I asked to see through the lens and your face said it all. I was soooo scared of you. But I always knew that behind the bad remarks and putting the agency far away in the VT tent, there was a genius, wanting to create, without barriers and budgets and creative wannabee interference. I learned to respect that and I eventually learned to just let you do your thing. Those were the best films. The ones you did without our interference.
This girly will miss you dearest Keith. I will miss your negative remarks, your nervous laughter when an edit was finally approved, I will miss your passion, your love for story telling, story crafting. I will miss your oddness, your amazingness.
Nobody will ever be able to replace you. You have been unique in your character, vision, your approach, your fearless attitude, your standard.
Farewell my dearest Keith.
“I met Keith In 1980 and we went on to do many commercials together. He was an assistant cameraman at the time. He was naughty, cheeky, and so, so wonderful to have on set. He always made us laugh and brought a light quirkiness to the set. He had a huge presence and energy. Once he set this focus points, he always went on the frame up shots…He would quietly call me over to view his shot. It was usually beautiful. He had an amazing “eye”… even then. After the shoot, we would sit and chat and often went back to my flat in Yeoville or to Rocky street and Rumours…. We never tired of talking about all aspects of filmmaking.
He was fiercely ambitious and always openly stated that he was going to be a director/cameraman. Somehow we all knew he would achieve that goal. I went on to produce with Giaco and Keith joined Feldman Cornell. I remember burning with resentment that they signed him. He was arguably our fiercest rival….and together with David Feldman they started making award-winning (and beautiful) spots. So although we usually quoted against each other, Keith never made it personal and there was mutual respect. When Giaco and I relocated to Cape Town in 2003, Keith and Barry opened up their company to embrace us for a year. That takes a special kind of person. And special he certainly was. After Giaco passed away I was proud that Keith gave the tribute speech at the Loeries. During that very difficult time he called a lot and communicated with me on such a profound level. I was mired in grief and he provided some balm for my soul. I remain profoundly grateful for that. To say I admired him, does not cover the feelings I felt towards him. Yes, he was an incredible talent, and he achieved success at the highest level, but add to that a humble, self-effacing man with a huge heart. I have yet to meet someone who does not like Keith…. he had very few enemies …. and that is a huge achievement in our business.
Some believe there are three kinds of death…the third one is when people stop using your name. I believe Keith will be remembered and spoken about for a very long time.
Keith, say hi to Giaco up there and may you two continue to shoot the light.”
“I have so many stories about Keith. We were inseparable for many years.so there are so many, but one stands out now. When he was in Toronto working on an edit for a job he had done. We were walking on queen street ( a cool shopping street in Toronto) and we came a shop with a big Spiderman outside the store, one that you blow up, like a balloon. Keith said he wanted that Spiderman for Sean, Sean loved Spiderman. So Keith goes into the store and asks for the Spiderman. The guy in the store, says no ways can he have it, it’s not for sale. Then Keith asks if the ship stuff to South Africa? The guy says no, but he can give Keith the name of places that will. Keith, in Keith’s way says nothing, gives him that Keith stare and proceeds to walk around the store buying all sorts of goodies for the kids. Brings it to the counter and lays it all on the counter. The guy says cash or credit card, so he enters all the goodies and it comes to $3600CAD. Keith says and how much is the shipping and the Spiderman? The guy looks at Keith, like he is mad, and says that they can organize shipping at a price and will give him the Spiderman for $1200CAD. Keith buys it all and leaves, the store, the guy is dumbfounded.
Only Keith could have got away with that, He was so determined and would never give up, that was the Kefee. Nothing would ever stop him and he would never take no as an answer. Geez, I cannot believe he is no longer with us. But I was so lucky and fortunate to have him as a friend, we spent a lot of time together and he taught me so much.”
“I remember back in the day when I was a young Art Director at Network BBDO and every profound piece of work from our industry had Keith Rose written all over it. I dreamed of working with Keith then. I dreamed of working with him for many years after founding Joe Public. Sadly, for some reason, this will be one of my dreams that was never meant to come true. Having not known Keith and not worked with him personally, I can only speak to his work. From BMW,s Mouse for Hunts, to Investec’s Rice Fields for Network, to Alan Gray’s Beautiful and everything beautiful in between. Each frame spectacular. Just like the Rose of Soweto was and will forever be the super middleweight champion of the boxing fraternity, Keith was and will forever be the super heavyweight Rose of our advertising industry.
His work punched.
Rest In Peace, Keith.”
BMW ‘Mouse’ directed by Keith Rose
“As a youth I distinctly remember; being absolutely terrified every time I watched that Mercedes-Benz hurtle off Chapman’s Peak, crying every time I watched a little elephant wander around the desert, laughing every time I watched David Kramer saying veldskoen, cheering every time I watched a bunch of dogs racing along an obstacle course in slow motion, and being in awe every time I watched that Golf GTI fly through the air. Unknown to me at the time, Keith Rose put me through all these emotions.
Many years later I had the privilege of working for the Keith, and he made me feel those emotions all over again. Only this time the circumstances were very different. Assisting him in creating and crafting the masterpieces that only he is capable of, he had me; terrified when he sauntered into a review, crying every time he trashed my ideas, laughing every time he explained something in that high-pitched Vaalie accent, cheering (internally) every time an idea I put forward saw the light of day. And, most of all, he had me in awe every time I saw the genius of his brain come to life in the final product.
The Rosemeister was one tough ball-bag and we will all miss seeing more of his work.”
Mercedes-Benz ‘Chapman´s Peak’ directed by Keith Rose
“I write this tribute, through tears, for a man that I, like so many, believe was truly exceptional. Keith occupies the same space in my mind as Dan Wieden and David Droga. I suppose when I really think about working with him it leaves me on the floor at just how much he taught me. He was, and is, one of my true heroes.
Keith had this amazing ability of taking an idea, that you believed was pretty great and making it dramatically better. While the rest of us measure our contribution in inches, you can measure Keith’s in miles. He had an incredibly clear vision of how a story needed to be told and kept everyone on a project true to that vision. He never got distracted by all the strong opinions, the noise of clients and creatives, unless they were making the work better. This should be the number one character trait in all creatives but I have never met one that had Keith’s vision or ability to hold a whole team to that vision.
While most of us run away from complicated problems on a brief, Keith ran towards them and seemed to, almost effortlessly, solve them in an interesting and unexpected way. He created a culture around him where people were challenged and engaged. And made everyone perform at a level they didn’t realize was possible.
But I guess the two qualities I valued most in him were firstly his loose grip on reality. He was never distracted by petty things like, “can we actually do this” or “is that even possible”. He knew he operated in a world where magic is possible and so he did the things some of us can’t even dream of. Secondly his inability to compromise. How many of us sat on a set with him, half a day past what we had a budget for, while he removed a tree that was killing his shot? Or rebuilt a studio so that the light could be in just that spot? I will miss his dedication to excellence more than I can express in words.
In spite of not being very tall, he carried so many of us on his shoulders and lifted us to a height most of us couldn’t even imagine before working with him. I am so sad he is no longer with us and I am broken at the tragic way he was taken from us before he needed to be. I am also reminded that as I mourn his passing there are many that were so much closer to him and my love goes out to all of you for your loss.”
(Picture: Keith Rose on set – Investec ‘Racing’)
“I worked for Keith Rose exactly 20 years ago (1998) as his Production Manager.
The team at that time comprised of Keith, Colin Howard (Producer), Greg Gray (AD) and Mike Hoyte (Scout and Keith’s Guy). Corvette (that was Keith’s nickname for Jordan Knight) joined us on some of the projects.
The two standout jobs for me that we did during this time were Mercedes SLK “Mannekin Pis” and Investec “Racing”. And the memories come flooding back.
We travelled to Rome to shoot ‘Mannekin Pis’ – I couldn’t believe my luck as I was included (and it was my first time in Rome). Kerry Rose joined us, thank goodness for another girl around The Boys.
Keith was the most generous person to be around – he took us out for dinners, we went to Cinecitta studio’s (and I learnt some history on Fellini), we walked through the Rome streets at night, laughing.. We shot for about 4 hours one morning – I remember going off to find coffee for the SA crew and agency and when I returned, the set had wrapped before breakfast.
Investec Racing was a job that nearly made me leave the film industry. It grew by the hour – pushed forward by Keith. It was a monster that became a very beautiful piece of work. It taught me how much stress I can take, how to become more efficient and a better manager.
Keith had a very naughty sense of humour, he loved to tease and of course, I was perfect bait. He made us laugh (mostly at ourselves). He pushed us all, all the time. He was the King of commercial directors and you did whatever it took to make it work, hell you were in The Rose Team. He exhausted us, drove us to the edge but always the result was worth it. He always delivered the most beautiful work.
RIP Keith although I doubt that will be the case.
You will be teasing, laughing, pushing the bar and making beautiful pictures wherever you are.
(Picture: Shooting in Rome – Mercedes SLK “Mannekin Pis” Greg directing Italian cast who could not understand English while Keith watches on)
Oh and then the Loerie’s in Sun City that year…”
Investec “Racing” directed by Keith Rose
“I remember the first time I worked with Keith Rose. It was the biggest job of my career thus far and I was nervous and a little star-struck by the legendary man. He was unsure of me the whole way through the production process, friendly, but with his trademark inability to hide how he really felt, as if to say, “Who the fuck is this guy”? He would review and double check every decision that we made down to the most granular detail, like he was the Creative Director, Client and Director all at once. Watching him work was like watching a Netflix series that grips you and just won’t let go. Exciting, unpredictable and fascinating. A man truly at the top of his game, that you couldn’t help learning valuable lessons from with each passing second. We reached post-production on the job and he sent me off to do the Audio Design on our spot after a full 24hr overnight Grading Session, a process that if you ever went through with Keith, you’ll know a level of obsession with detail few others ever will. Inspired by him, the Engineer and I put our hearts and souls into that Soundtrack and many, many hours later we nervously offered up what we had done. He called me back almost immediately, and for the first time during the whole production he used my name out loud. “Tim, it’s fucking awesome!”, he said. To this day, when I attack that specific part of my job, I try to achieve the same level of craft and attention to detail that Keith inspired in me during that process. To always up my game and really give a shit about what I am doing. And when I first present something to a room full of people, I try to make sure that if he were there, he’d approve.
RIP Keith Rose”
“Keith worked hard.
When Keith developed a script into a commercial, Keith breathed that script. That story. He would always be thinking of the best possible story with endless possibilities to execute. While he was driving fast, while he was sleeping and sometimes not sleeping and then the next morning after a late night at the office, he would announce that the story idea changed. Again.
He was the force.
He was the firecracker behind you with a long or a short fuse. Work days with Keith would start before sunrise and not really end. While prepping a job, you would go home only to sleep and then straight back to the office. And when arriving at the office in the early mornings, Keith would already be there. In the boardroom. Looking at his pictures. Hundreds of pictures fastidiously laid out in an order that only a few of us learned to understand. His thinking. The pictures were postcard sized and covered the 7meter boardroom table, the boardroom glass walls and sometimes we brought in more tables to accommodate the thinking.
“A Picture describes so much detail…gets everyone on the same page” Keith would explain. “Look, look at the light in this one… Look at the way he is dressed or her expression, pointing at another picture, now when you show someone this picture…they will understand what you would like to achieve in a shot…or maybe they will not.”
I once asked Keith if he would ever make a feature film and he answered: “There isn’t a room big enough, maybe a warehouse…” pointing at the pictures.
For Client and agency presentations the selected pictures were stuck down on 1meter by 1meter cardboards. “Keith’s boards” the team called them. The weight of the presentation bag would cut into my shoulder. You never dared to stick a picture skew or cut a border frame too thin around a picture on one of those boards. When you disappointed Keith, you were the one that felt it. Keith’s eye to perfection and straight lines were uncanny and he could guess the length of a room by a thumb suck. He sized and measured everything up. He never used the gifted laser measurer. Just pointed with it.
When in an agency or client presentation, I would be amazed and teary-eyed proud, because even though I would have been part of the production from the beginning, I would hear Keith’s version of the commercial’s storyline. He was incredible to watch and listen too while describing every detail and character with so much enthusiasm he would go red in the face.
In another time Keith would have been the storyteller by the fire, the circus ringmaster. A Showman or gatherer of weird and never been seen before creatures. He would have been a time traveller or magician. A King.
Keith never stopped planning or thinking about the job and what had to be done. Days leading up to a shoot, we had meetings. Briefings. Rehearsals. Fittings. Changes. More changes. Every detail was scrutinized. Questioned. Another crane was ordered. Lists were made. Keith checked that everybody checked on each other. Nothing was left to chance.
When the shoot day came, Keith would arrive. He would walk onto set. He would walk around on his own. Sizing up the location. Quietly look at the set. He would blow his nose and clean his glasses and then without looking at a camera, announce that the whole unit had to move to the opposite side. It was all in his shot. You could never be completely prepared or sure with Keith.
I am incredibly aware of the massive fortune I received to have been mentored by Keith. He taught me how to look at things in a different way, through the lens of a camera and at life. He taught me how to size things up. Mostly people, but also what was important to me. He was generous. He was sensitive. He had an incredible sense of humor. He taught me how to be fierce and to stand my ground. He believed in me. He taught me that ordinary would just never do and to always take a ladder on a location scout, to see beyond the wall. The perfect location or camera position was always on the other side.
I am forever thankful, Keith. For your time you gave me. I will always look beyond the ordinary because of you.
Assistant Director / Rose Team
2007 – 2014”
“I first met Keith Rose over 20 years ago as a young clueless runner at Velocity. He arrived in a loud & large American car. I would later be ordered nonchalantly to move this giant piece of art around the parking lot (with my 8 months of driving experience). Never again did I fear my mothers station wagon. It was one of many times my inexperience would be challenged by Keith. A man so foreign to my upbringing that I constantly had to reinterpret & recompute my position and understanding.
“It’s shit” was his response to my finest day of location scouting & photography. My interest in photography became a love of framing, squatting, climbing trees, tiptoeing and leaning over to find the “other way” to do it. I became one of the smallest cogs in some of those iconic ad’s – something I’m still proud of to this day.
We would stumble upon each other many times in the forthcoming years but I was always greeted with that welcoming & knowing sparkle in the eye.
Thank you for pushing and prodding me to be better. You were a tour de force and will be sadly missed. RIP Keith”
“A true Legend.
I’m truly honoured to have had the privilege of working with you and being a part of your team. You always pushed us to do our very best. What an inspiration and mentor to me and so many of us.
RIP Keith Rose “
“I was lucky enough to start on Keith’s team in 1997 as his Production Coordinator when Michael Hoyte had decided he would rather focus on location scouting. Linda Eedes Bogle was his P.M and Colin Howard was his Producer. When I first started on his team I was a bit naive and had no idea who he was. Needless to say, I had my wake up call after working on my first production with him. I was fascinated with his research and his mind and it made me feel alive and want to achieve more than expected on his productions. I still revere his work and consider all the productions I worked on with him as trophies in my career.
Some of the work I got to work on were Japan Tobacco, Investec “Racing” & “Grain of Rice Campaigns”. The Investec Racing Campaign was the first time a Client had invested such a large budget in a TV Campaign. Chris Bass who was his Art Director at the time was inducted into the U.K Art Guild after the “Grain of Rice Campaign”. Dentsu, the Japan Tobacco Client came back to shoot with Keith repeatedly and Keith’s big heart, he generously opened his home and would entertain in the kitchen tantalising our taste buds with his culinary heart.
I went away to U.K for 2 years and when I returned, I was lucky enough to walk straight back onto the team as one of his P.M’s and got to work on the Molson Beer Campaign whereby he ‘re-created the first moon landing’ and did a spoof of a hockey game between America and Canada.
Keith did nothing small. He was always humble and I remember he did not enjoy being ‘in front of the camera and being interviewed. The Oppenheimers came to film with him twice.
He always stood in his vision and he knew what he wanted and he was admired and respected for that. I have so many memories of moments on his shoots that I will always hold close to my heart.
I am sorry that your demons got the better of you. You are sorely missed. I am truly grateful I got to experience your creative genius and have a small part in helping create your art.
R.I.P. Keith. Condolences, to Kerry, Marie Louise, Sean, Luke and Roland through this time.”
“One of the biggest men I’ve ever met. A giant with a huge generous heart and a laugh that was instantly contagious. Your spirit is far too big to be contained in such a small space. Fly free Skeef. You are so much a part of those you inspired and you live inside all of us who were lucky to know and love you. You are loved and with us always. Thank you for your love. Legend xxxx”
“To have been in the presence of Keith Rose, was to have been in the presence of creative greatness. My career was inspired and indeed created by Keith – I was so fortunate to have enjoyed a very special relationship with this man. He pushed me hard, had no time for compromise nor mediocrity – instead his work filled your head, the screen, your heart.
Keith was one of the founders of the South African film and advertising industry that put this country onto the world stage. His vision, his artistry and the scale at which he operated, was unsurpassed. Not only did he give birth to many of the past and current filmmakers, but all that passed through his door, schooled by him, were indelibly shaped by his vision. The teams he built around a project, from location managers to art departments, lighting teams, editors, animators, were exceptional. When he worked he weighed in on everything, pushing the creative industry – and ultimately the marketing industry to achieve more.
He pushed the boundaries – beyond the boundaries – always, never afraid of a helicopter or four…
Keith – thank you for being you – a one of a kind, delightful and determined human being.”
Tristyn Desmarais von Berg
“Keep the sentence’s short. Make sure that each sentence communicates an idea. No fluff!
Straight out of film school, calling myself a director he laughed and pointed to where the kitchen was and how he liked his tea. Between 2005 and 2012 I worked as Keith’s creative assistant. He was my mentor, and I was his apprentice. I owe much of who I am today to working and learning from not only him but the world he forged around him.
I wish to pay tribute to this man – a force of nature.
When you worked at Velocity Films you realised you were working in a world-class office. You appreciated the standard of excellence by the people around you. You fed off their passion and brilliance. It felt like every day you were meeting with the most incredible talents in the world. Into his office, his personal glass-walled fiefdom, came the grips assistants’ and global agency chairmen. Each came with the expectation to be inspired, challenged, invigorated.
Scripts came in from all over the world. They came for a piece of Keith, and they got so much more than they ever expected. He began with the script, and layer by layer, photo by photo, wardrobe by wardrobe he collaborated pushed and pulled those around him to dream bigger.
Fuck, was he a craftsman! Obsessive, compulsive, practical, visceral. He was the son of a miner, he was a grip, a gaffer, a dop, a director haha a wannabe fashionista! Man those haircuts!
I can’t begin to describe the character the generosity the passion that Keith gave to the world. I can’t give anecdotes without writing a biopic which even then you wouldn’t believe…
When a brilliance is so pronounced it creates its own gravity. You orbit around it. Keith was Velocity Films and so much of South Africa’s greatest advertising in the last 30 years was produced by the people who lived, learned and worked with Keith.
I am one but one of them.
My thoughts extend to all those whose lives he touched, to my old Velocity Family, who I miss very much. My heart opens and pours all its love for Marie Louise, Roland, Luke, Sean and Kerry’s family.”
“Keith Rose was the Golden Director during, what many believe, was the golden age of television commercials. Both locally and globally, he was the go-to guy when you had something special. Almost single-handedly, he dragged South African TV production to a level where it was benchmarked against the best in the world.
He was less of a talker and more of a doer. While excited Creatives babbled on about their brilliant storyboards, Keith barely said a word. An arched eyebrow or a nod of the head was about the most you could expect. His genius was that he could articulate a complicated idea into a single memorable visual. He spoke in pictures that seamlessly joined together to tell an idea in breathtaking simplicity and beauty.
He was a mentor to hundreds of people in the industry. Sometimes, without him even knowing it. He was impossible to copy but was always held up as the ultimate point of reference.
Keith never over-intellectualised or lost himself in the latest buzzwords. His work did the talking. And if you wanted to fiddle with his edit, you better have had a damn good reason.
Wherever Mr Rose is now, I guarantee he’s perfectly framed. And the lighting? Well, obviously, it’s perfect.”
“Keith Rose had the most unbelievably mercurial visual intuition that I think I’ve ever encountered in a director – for many reasons – the chief one being that I could never fathom where it came from in such a seemingly unlikely person. His grasp of visual abstractions was truly astonishing – and lightning-like. He was impossible to work with and reduced me to tears many times. But he had an absolutely perverse way of making me collapse with laughter at the most utterly inappropriate things – on reccies or after hours – in a mischievous schoolboy way. I can honestly say that watching his ability to be in control of literally dozens of aspects of a huge production simultaneously – was perhaps the most educational exposure to the entire process of filmmaking I ever had – if not one of the most frustrating.”
“I mean I don’t even know where to begin, I have many fond memories… this may be a bit of a ramble.
I am at a loss for words, even as I write this. Your bark was bigger than your bite… and your cheeky smile won us all over.
Thank you for taking a risk on me all those years ago and giving me (many opportunities) to work with one of the greats. A visionary that I still hold talent up against. You were one of the few people who got away with calling me Khand. But it made me happy that you did.
Some of the best work I ever did was under your direction, and you made me better.
Thank you Keith. Heartfelt condenses to your entire family. You will be missed”
“These are the words that have made the most sense to me over years.
I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not.
I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbours, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.
Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
“I’m so sad to hear we have lost such a great hero of filmmaking and creativity. My heart goes out to Keith’s family and the many, many people who loved him so much.
I first met Keith at a party in Yeoville, back when production co’s had parties in Yeoville.
Depeche Mode or something was thumping out and the air was thick with smoke — ’80s hotbox stuff. I was absolutely in awe of his work with Brian Searle-Tripp, Willie Sonnenberg and John Hunt et al. Suddenly, there he was, the great Keith Rose, just standing there doing what he did best — watching, scrutinising, contemplating.
Imagine his annoyance when his broody gaze was broken by this half-ass junior art director, who strode over and said, “Are you actually Keith Rose?”
He said, “Ja.”
So I said, “I love you, man.”
Well, that didn’t make us instant BBFs but at least he didn’t punch me.
Working with Keith was always a proper education. Like commercials bootcamp.
For a guy who had every reason to behave like a big deal, Keith was an incredibly humble, generous and kind human. Of course, he was incredibly tough, too, but all for the right reasons – he only ever cared about the end result. Everything else was a side show.
Keith’s colossal talent helped build businesses, careers, reputations and, not least, a positive, creative image of South Africa in the eyes of the world.
Keith’s death is like a punch to the heart, but it’s what he left behind that will live on forever.”
“When we had started Left in 2006, Keith Rose was already Keith Rose.
As Left grew I wanted to work with the best, and for me, he was the best. The first time I met him was very brief. I was in a grade with Adrian and Keith popped in and the main thing I remember was him telling Adrian, watch out for those reds, they bleed like hell on tv
I was even more intrigued by him after that and became more determined to work with him. I put it out there into the universe and so with the help of that and, specifically Leigh Ogilvie, telling him good things about me, I finally got to work with him
So, I don’t know if he had changed by the time I started working with him, but none of what I had heard was true. It did always feel though, like he already knew the answer to his questions. What I found though was that he was a collaborator. He would listen to me, or more, was really interested in what I thought or had to offer. If you feel valued as an editor, or any creative, it empowers you to do even better and you are up for any challenge, and he did challenge me.
He is probably the cleverest, most knowledgeable filmmaker/storyteller and I’ve had the privilege to work with. I’m incredibly annoyed that all that knowledge he had is now lost because so many people still could have learned from him. All he wanted to do was make the best ad possible by any means. He kept challenging himself. That’s why no one Keith Rose ad looks the same. When fearless like that and taking chances, he was gonna fail at times, but most of the time he succeeded because of the honesty of his intentions.
I feel immensely grateful that I had been given the opportunity to have worked with him. I learned a lot from him, obviously, but he helped me more in remembering why I was drawn to making films, editing and telling stories.
I have already missed not being able to work with him, which for me was more than just work, and now I’m stupidly sad that I would never again get that opportunity.
All the very best Keith Rose”
“I, like the whole advertising industry, was reeling yesterday in shock at the tragic news of Keith’s death.
He indeed is iconic and a legend and his contribution to the industry both through the standard of his work and his mentoring of directors, producers and crew. Working at Velocity and particularly in Keith’s team is a right of passage and a badge of honor.
My relationship with Keith is for the most part personal, although Heather and I (heatcasting) did some casting for him.
I knew Keith in his David Feldman days and in fact, it was through him I was introduced to David. David and I went on to have a relationship for 2 years.
Barry moved here when he and Keith started Velocity Films. Barry and I met and when we got married Keith was Barry’s Best Man. We had Caitlin and Lerat came into our lives and we were blessed to have a second daughter.
So basically it was because of Keith that I now have my beautiful daughters (and of course had a very long marriage)
Marie-Louise was a good friend of mine and I was instrumental in them getting together. They went on to have Sean and Luke and Roland Marie-Louise’s son gained a father.
Although we had not seen each other for years our lives and history were so intertwined.
Keith and I were buddies, I had almost a brotherly relationship with him at one time. We partied hard both privately and at The Loeries and had some heady days in Cannes. I was fortunate enough to be there when he won his first Gold Lion. (And I believe South Africa’s 1st though I stand to be corrected) (The days before Barry red-carded me from Cannes due to my sterling performances and my awards for being the last man standing at the Gutter Bar.lol)
He used to call me Squeeza which somehow morphed into Squeezeme,
which he would bellow (as much as Keith bellowed) when he would see me unexpectedly.
I am eternally grateful having had Keith in my life. Who knows what my life would have looked like had I not met Barry.
I mourn for Marie-Louise, Roland, Sean, Luke and Kerry and family.
My heart goes out to his family and friends. I know some of the ex Velocity staff are bereft. My friend Nicola who was integral to Velocity and played a big role in its success over a span of over 20 years, but knew Keith for years before that. Yoli v d Merwe and Karen B who I spoke to yesterday and are in shock. Barry who is sad, it was like a marriage,
although you get divorced subsequently doesn’t erase your history or the good and successful times you’ve had. The list of people who worked with him at Velocity is too long to mention. My love goes out to all of you.
Thank you Keith, hope you have found peace and hope you have an aerial view of the industry mourning.”
Pete Khoury on behalf of the Creative Circle
Creative Circle Mourns Passing Of Industry Legend Keith Rose
“Keith was a giant of our industry.
He pushed all of us, his team, the agency and the clients towards greatness. He did whatever it took to create spectacular work – not to just get the job done. It is something that I always admired about him. Especially in this day and age where what we do has become so commoditised. In my opinion, Keith was not just an amazing director, he was an amazing DOP, producer, art director, gaffer and even an engineer at times, if the job required it.
He once needed to put a crane on a heritage site to get the shot. And that was the shot he wanted, nothing else. The city refused permission, but this didn’t stop Keith. He got a bigger crane, the biggest crane I have ever seen and placed it on the other side of the building, off the heritage site, just to get the shot.
Keith always reached for the iconic.
He was always trying to do something no-one had done before or looked at in a certain way before. His crafting was amazing to watch and he pushed us all to get there. And sometimes when you push things the way Keith did, you fail. On certain jobs, in his efforts to reach the unprecedented, he failed spectacularly. But his epic achievements far outweigh his failures. He would rather fail in this way than do something ordinary. And that’s what I loved about him.
Keith also helped build our industry into what is today; not just the film industry, but the advertising industry at large. Personally, he opened my eyes to the way things should be done when I was just a junior in this industry and it forever changed the way I did things.
Maybe it’s a bit unfair that because of him I expect more out of everyone else that I work with; because I have seen the best in action. And I am very grateful for this.
Thank you Keith for your role in who I am today. I am sure there are many people out there that would say the same. You challenged us. You supported us. Everything about you was epic. We are all poorer without you. I hope that in the years that come we can all hold the bar up to your standards in the work that we create.
Your legacy lives on, in all that knew you.”
(Picture: Keith Rose – Loeries Hall of Fame 2014)
“It doesn’t feel like words on a page will be enough. Words on a page were almost immaterial when it came to Keith. As a writer you obviously always have a vision of what the words would become but Keith always made them so much more than you ever imagined. That of course, was his genius. Through his storytelling he made you think deeper and feel more. Never afraid to challenge you to go beyond the expected. To the extent that he helped define an era and our entire industry. And the best part is that it was always done with a touch of irreverence. I often smile at the memory of this time when a client asked what the performance would be in a certain very nuanced moment. Keith smiled mischievously and said: “That’s where he does his ‘I’m a champion’ look”. RIP Keith Rose.”
“I’m so heartbroken about this. Keith was and remained a very big part of my advertising journey – from near and far. From work we did on Coke as a trainee (him reprimanding me even though I was in effect ‘client’), the Velocity Films story is such an integral part of who I am and the work that defines my perspective to a very large degree. Rest in perfect peace Keith. May your soul rise and find its centre.”
“Twenty years ago, an industry colleague said this to me about Keith Rose: “Keith is an absolute genius. He can slap a lens of his choice on to the camera, walk it 50 metres down a road, place the camera pointing in the direction he wants it, and know exactly what the shot looks like without having to look through the lens.” I never forgot that description of him. And so, when the time eventually came and we had a board deemed worthy of the man, we called him in. That ad was Allan Gray Beautiful, and by all accounts was the film that redefined us, altering us forever as an agency. I know for a fact that Keith has done this for many a creative and many an agency. He is the central, feisty figure behind so many of South Africa’s most-iconic advertising films and for that we thank and salute him; the grand maestro.”
“Oh boy, Keith was a gift. You gave him a script and he always made it better than you, at least I, ever imagined.
I always have this image of him in my mind, of a smiling man, curious eyes, always gracious and kind, no matter how junior or senior you were.
He made some of our country’s greatest films. But, more importantly, he bought light and brilliance into every room he entered – with his work, with himself.
I wish strength, peace and understanding to his loved ones.”
CPA Executive Committee & Members
“The advertising production community has been plunged into shock and grief today, following the news of the untimely death of acclaimed commercial director and DOP, Keith Rose.
Rose’s commitment to creative excellence, to sharing his tremendous talents and to pushing the boundaries of commercial filmmaking to their limits made him one of South Africa’s most-formidable directors and his career, which spanned over four decades, was celebrated both in SA and abroad. Shots Magazine selected Rose as one of the “100 Advertising People of all Time”, while Campaign Magazine identified him as among the top five directors globally.
In addition to being an icon in the industry, Rose’s work often captured the imagination of the public who delighted in the commercials he directed, many of which are now part of advertising folklore. Who can forget the elephants crossing the desert to “He ain’t heavy” for IBM or the little white mouse running on the steering wheel of a BMW, which saw Rose inducted into the Clio TV Hall of Fame?
While Rose was part of a prolific group of South African directors who put SA advertising on the international map in the ’80s and ’90s, his career did not end there. Instead, he continued to be a creative force in the industry until very recently, and he never lost his unique gift and passion for making great advertising.
In addition to being a remarkable and talented director and cinematographer, Rose was also known for giving generously of his time and for mentoring a new generation of directors and producers, who accredit much of their success to working with and learning from him. He was a hard taskmaster but also a good guy with a big heart.
Rose’s most-enduring legacy will be that it was he who pushed our industry, and everyone in it, to do more and be more than they thought possible. He was a driving force whom others saw as an example, whom they sought to emulate, and he changed the way commercials are made in SA. His longevity and relevance transgressed generations and will live on through those he inspired.
As we pay tribute to Keith Rose, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his friends and to our industry, which is feeling the weight of a great loss today.
RIP, Keith – we will miss you.”
IBM “He Ain’t Heavy”
“Keith played a huge role in changing the course of my life, as he did for so many of the vast Velocity family (past and present), future directors and all filmmakers who were fortunate enough to have witnessed the “professor” at work.
He was not like any other film director that I have ever worked with, and I have worked with many. Keith was always special. He was a film genius. I still sit in awe thinking of all that the mighty man achieved and I don’t think there’s any filmmaker out there who does not envy the spectacular array of work and the hundreds of awards that Keith won during his illustrious and magnificent career. He identified good ideas and he made them better. He earned the respect of every advertising boss and every client who understood that, if Keith Rose was interested in shooting their commercial, they were likely to strike gold.
Much of his work was iconic, rewarded by his induction into the New York Clios’ Hall of Fame, shortly followed by his induction into the Creative Directors Forum (now Creative Circle) Hall of Fame, and then his Financial Mail Lifetime achievement award, and being listed in the SHOTS Top 100 best directors of all time (worldwide), his induction into The Loerie Hall of Fame, together with his Loerie Lifetime Achievement Award, followed — and, of course, there was his huge haul of Gold Cannes Lions and the scores of Loerie Grands Prix that grew to so many that they were used as doorstops at our two offices.
With every award he won, during a career that spanned nearly four decades, the more humble he became. He didn’t like the big stage and he shied from being showered with praise, choosing to rather get on with working on his next project. He never thought of film directing as a job. He looked at it as passionately crafting another work of art.
Beyond his genius, Keith, like any successful businessman, did not take to fools; he was a man of few words but, when he spoke, he did not mince any and he would eat you up and spit you out if you did not deliver to his high expectations. This teaching led to the development of the many who worked under him. He always spoke to you, not about you. Underneath, he was a real softie. He always had time for everyone, from the runner to the client. He didn’t like to send messages or emails. He’d rather talk to you face-to-face. If anyone was going through an emotional time, no matter what status you held at Velocity or elsewhere, he’d be the first to call or make a hospital visit in traumatic times. He cared about his people and, beyond that, he cared about the industry and every crew member in it.
Not many clients knew how or why Keith Rose made their brands so much better but the simple reason behind it all was because he cared about every single frame in every single scene that he shot. He made sure each 1/25th of a second counted towards making that advert a standout work of art. He would start crafting his projects for months before the camera rolled and never stopped crafting it until the last minute in the schedule. In edit suites, he would work into the early hours of the morning, pushing the editors and colourists to nipping and tucking the cut until he was 100% happy they had tried and tested every best possible way to communicate the story. Many couldn’t keep up with his pace and so many left, all of whom proudly display that experience in their CVs.
I think I speak for each and every one of us that had the privilege of watching this genius at his craft, that we cannot thank him enough for what an influence he had on our lives, our careers and most of all for what he did for South African film as a whole. His talent caught the attention of the world and all the industry gained from it in some manner or form, whether you worked at Velocity or not.
Velocity was Keith. Keith was Velocity. His showreel attracted the business that he shared with the many film directors, producers and crew. He was proud of the people that poured their guts into building the great brand that Velocity became and, when he left, the company was no more. Velocity just wasn’t Velocity without Keith.
There is so much more to say, so many stories and so many incredible commercials to remember him by and remind you of all that he did, but I think everyone needs little reminding of the industry giant that he was and all that he achieved. His legacy will remain in the hearts of all that admired him and I, for one, will be sure to continue mentoring all filmmakers using Keith Rose as the example of how to succeed as a director. He is the benchmark.
Our love and thoughts pour out to Marie Louise, his beautiful children and all his family and friends as we say goodbye to Keith and thank him for all he did for so many of us. His work will always remain as a reminder of the genius he was.”
“Keith Rose was the most-gifted filmmaker I have worked with; it came naturally to him. He couldn’t always explain what he wanted to do or why he was doing it, but he knew what to do and some of the best advertising brains in South Africa had the faith in him to let him do it. He changed the face of advertising in SA and allowed us to compete on a whole different level.
Not only was Keith an incredible filmmaker; he was generous in so many ways. He had a profound influence on my life and I owe so much of my success to him. He took me in when I was a naïve 23-year-old, showed me the world and awakened my passion for food, beautiful things and, of course, advertising. Not to mention corrupting me a bit along the way.
Keith seldom chose to work with the most-experienced people but instead worked with the young and passionate, people who were inspired by him and totally committed to him and his work. This is why so many filmmakers have been influenced by him.
I will always remember the incredible six years we spent together; he was a remarkable person.”
“What to say about Keith Rose?
Reading the tributes and the praise and the respect people had for him, on these pages in the last few days, it’s difficult to think of anything that hasn’t already been said or written about the man.
He touched so many peoples lives did Keith Norval Rose.
Advertising great, visionary, leader, innovator. Determined, dedicated, stubborn. He was all of those things.
But, to many of us he was more than that, he was our friend, I even knew his middle name.
Back in the day a couple of us got to calling him The Doctor. I don’t know who came up with that name. It was back in the Warburton and Hill days, the early 80’s, down in Wynberg Studios – Steve Gordon, Miles, Jeremy, Tim, John Wedderpohl, Jurie, Vincent, one of the guys he worked with started it, and for me, the name, or the title, stuck. He was The Doctor.
He was The Doctor because when it came to fixing things – framing, composition, colour, lighting, making ads, he just knew how to do it, how to light it, where to put the focus, how to make the picture talk to you. Somehow, he just knew how to make it perfect. And the Doctor, he wouldn’t stop until it was perfect. He pushed and he pushed, he was relentless in his pursuit. He wouldn’t, he couldn’t back off until it was right.
For him, filmmaking was instinctive – he had no formal training – he was the boykie from Krugersdorp, Like his brother Bernie, he was a schoolboy champion long-distance runner. Proud of his roots, never shy to tell you where he came from. He was actually a humble man, generous to a fault.
We travelled the world together, partied hard, laughed, lived, fought, cried. fought again, and I would cry some more, and then, after not talking for a few months, we would just pick it up where we left off.
Oh, you’re in town hey? Come over for a braai, would be good to see you. Bring the kids, they can swim, we’ll watch the rugby.
He didn’t bear many grudges.
He was critical of things he didn’t like. Oh boy, he called it as he saw it, he didn’t hold back. Most of all though, he was critical of himself. He pushed and he pushed.
Us camera guys, we all learned so much from him, and I know many other people in this business did too. The way he framed pictures, where he chose to put the focus, how he lit stuff. He was not conventional. He had The Eye.
He rarely spoke about his success, his awards, or his talent, he was so self-effacing, it was ridiculous.
He aimed high, he once said to me, in that West Rand way of talking he had, ‘you shouldn’t want to just be the best in South Africa, thats bullshit, you should aim to be the best in the world…’
And in the telescope of time, he was.
Keith, Doctor, bud, with your passing, you’ve left a big hole behind you. I know your family was so precious to you. Rita, Marie Louise, Kez, Sean and Luke, Bernie and Colleen, I am so sorry for your loss.
Keith was a great man. He was a legend in every way, and sometimes, legends do fall.
Rest easy Doccy.
You were much loved.”
“Not quite sure what to say…
It has been one of the greatest privileges I have had in my life to have known and learnt from such a master.
Thanks for all the faith you had in me, and, above all, for all the stories.
RIP Mr. Rose, my friend.”
“Memories of Keith Rose san – Keith san, 本当に 本当に ありがとうございます！
To celebrate 50 years of being in business, AOI Pro. published a special type of encyclopedia that we called the AOIpedia. It’s an incredibly thick book. It includes our company’s history, screen grabs of our most memorable spots, and a selection of writings from a variety of Japanese advertising and film industry leaders about their memories of AOI Pro over the past 50 years.
I remember asking Barry to ask Keith if he would be so kind as to write something about his own personal memories!
Keith san was only one of two foreigners to have been asked. The other was a gentleman from Taiwan. These are Keith san’s memories!
Keep in mind we did our first job together in 1997. Apartheid ended in 1994. No one in the Japanese advertising industry had ever filmed in South Africa, let alone with a South African director. I honestly think we (although technically I am not Japanese) were the first Japanese that Keith san had ever interacted with. To him, the whole process was both fascinating and frustrating. For me, to be the sole gateway of communication between these two extremely different cultures and languages was something that to this day I remember very vividly. I was constantly being accused by the Japanese side of taking sides with the South Africans. I thrived on the challenge of bringing these two warring parties creatively together. Colin Howard who was the amazing producer can attest to this! 🙂
I am to this day proud to say that the JT “Ah Delight” campaign went on to win a silver in Cannes in 1998, when the festival was only two categories, FILM and PRINT. Also consider that as a small company from this far away country called JAPAN, we were beyond elated to have won a lion at the internationally recognized best of the best, Cannes! Without a doubt, this would not have been possible without Keith’s love for true film craft! The film craft was like nothing else anyone had seen on Japanese TV. His direction, framing, composition, lensing, camera movement, production design, edit, and sound design, every aspect, simply groundbreaking in Japanese advertising.
I had worked with other foreign directors before this but no one who impacted my early career and left such a lasting impression for the love of craft as much as Keith san.
Keith san, 本当に 本当に ありがとうございます！”
“I can’t believe it Mr Rose… It’s too sore for words. You were my friend. You were my mentor. You were my fierce leader. I will miss your guidance. I will miss your voice. I will miss going out on the road together and the very many times that we locked horns. I always did everything to show you that I was capable and you always did everything to show me I could do more. If you called me right now and said let’s go, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I was very privileged to be by your side.
You constantly pushed us all beyond what we thought was possible, everybody knew that. You were the special one. I’m so sad that you never got to see just how deeply you impacted us all.
You were like a father to me and I will always strive to honour your name. Thank you Meneer. I will miss you forever.
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
“I was privileged to work with the legendary Keith Rose on the Absa -Human Spirit TVC as Agency Producer at The Jupiter Drawing Room, Johannesburg. Like most Creatives and Producers one of my aspirations was to work on a job with Keith Rose. I had heard the larger than life stories about the Man, his relentless commitment to creativity, always pushing boundaries not even afraid to disagree or challenge Clients on their creative expectations vs what raw creativity was. Well, he brought the fire and I will admit as daunting as he seemed, I prepared myself mentally to deal with the legend as I was of the belief that I am ready to learn and work with the best of the best.
Keith was not just director who only focused on the creative output, he was also deeply involved in production planning, scheduling, and was also aware of what his quote included. That impressed me very much as that displayed that he valued the production process too and the effort of his production team. Keith’s creative energy was indescribable. He was able to translate Absa Sponsorship properties, not in the conventional way but through children who work hard, are inspired and never give up to achieve their dreams.
I am grateful that in this lifetime I was privileged to have worked with Keith Rose. May his soul rest in eternal peace and may his family hold on to all the good memories they had with him.”