One-eyed Jack is the communications agency behind some of South Africa’s most well-loved brands, as well as the country’s best events such as The Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards, KZN Rage Festival, Ballantine’s Boiler Room, Rocking the Daisies (until 2017) and #VW VIVOnation Festival.

At the helm is founding member Manuela Dias de Deus who now runs the agency with her business partner Darren Sandras. Over Women’s Month, the team got to thinking about all the female artists they have had the pleasure of working with over the years and still they were struck by the fact that, although they have worked with many, the likes of Lady Zamar, Shekinah, Sho Madjozi, Moonchild, Babes Wodumo, DJ Doowap and comedians Celeste Ntuli and Tumi Morake, they realised that so many event line-ups have a male bias and that female artists aren’t given an equitable share of the bookings. One-eyed Jack hopes to shine a light on this issue and contribute to a change going forward.

Get to Know Manuela with this quick Q&A

SS: Who is One-eyed Jack?

Manuela : We’re a specialist entertainment marketing agency that’s made up of seven incredibly talented, beautiful human beings. Our expertise covers PR & communications, brand marketing, sponsorship rights management, launches & activations.

SS: What got you started in this part of the entertainment business?

Manuela: I’ve always loved music, festivals and everything celebrity. When I started out in PR a number of years ago, I had the pleasure of working on The Kora All Africa Music Awards and something about the experience ignited a spark in my soul. It dawned on me that I could merge my love for entertainment with my career, so I moved to the UK, worked on Glastonbury, V Fest, Reading Fest and the BAFTA’s and then came back to SA charged with starting my own agency!

SS: What has been your biggest lesson working in the entertainment business?

Manuela: There are passion-projects, and there are income generators. The difficult part is letting go of events/projects that you love, but don’t make business sense to work on.

SS: What is your most memorable event and why?

Manuela: We loved creating the #VW VIVOnation Festival! As opposed to simply running the marketing campaigns as we do on so many other events, we conceptualised it, curated the line-up and produced it along with Mushroom Productions. It was in working with Mushroom and Katlego Maponyane that we ensured a balanced gender mix on the line-up, which is something we always try hard to do.

SS: We all know about the glamour of the industry but behind the scenes can be another aspect entirely, long hours and high pressure so what keeps you in the game, passionate about what you do and on top?

Manuela: Sheer determination to succeed, an inherent love for the business and passion for the industry is what drives me, but what keeps me in the game is the sense of achievement when we’ve created something meaningful. We also pick our suppliers carefully and give business to people that we like, as we’re often on site with them for days, so if you love them like family it enriches the experience.

SS: This year has brought a lot of issues on gender equality to light, is something that your side of the industry can do to change that, to play their part?

Manuela: Just being aware of it is a good start. We’d also like to encourage people to go check SA’s female talent and book them for your events. There are so many extraordinary artists in our country; comedians like Celeste Ntuli who has been nominated for Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards in numerous categories for so many years but has never won. Comedy may be a male dominated industry, but the likes of Tumi Morake and Nina Hastie are spearheading change for the up-and-coming acts like Gilli Apter and Khanyisa Bunu.

SS: What advice would you offer to other women who are wanting to start their own business and particularly to those who want to get into the entertainment industry from a marketing and communications perspective?

Manuela: My advice is to start small, figure out what you’re good at and what projects not to take on. Hire carefully. Build a solid team of people with completely different skillsets, but all who fit your culture. If I’d want to sit next to them at the dinner table, I’d hire them.

SS: What is next for the agency? Any exciting festivals or events we should be attending in the coming months?

Manuela: If you’re a matriculant then I’m sure you already have your passport to Rage Festival this November. The rest of our events are still top secret as they haven’t launched yet but keep your eyes on our social media pages for hot news as it’s released.
Twitter: @OneEyedJackSA
IG: OneEyedJackSA