Elena Ioulianou is a South African producer who is proud of her heritage. After growing up in Johannesburg, Ioulianou has had success making films both in South Africa and internationally. However, her resume is full of projects that are designed to better her native country.
One of these projects includes the PSA Ruby’s Story. The film is shot as a point of view of a young girl’s perspective and experience of being taken through the trafficking ring. It was broadcast on numerous national television stations and used on talk shows such as GauTv to raise awareness about human trafficking in South Africa and the world as a whole. Ioulianou worked with the incredibly well-known Nigerian actor Fabian Lojede, who played the role of the Trafficker.
“It was always going to be difficult to encapsulate the horror of human trafficking that is happening in today’s world. Watching the performances made it feel uncomfortable and real. We hear many stories every day of horrifying events, yet sometimes we become desensitized,” said Ioulianou. “Our objective of Ruby’s Story was to make the audience feel uneasy and hopefully propel the viewer into helping or finding out more information on how they could potentially help.”
The film was created for Inhuman Trade and The National Freedom Network. Ioulianou had previously worked on a campaign for 1:Face Watch to tackle the issues of hunger and Aids in South Africa, and the transition seemed fitting.
“There is always going to be something special about using the resources you have to fight for a cause. Although we received tons of support I don’t think there will ever be enough support for a global cause like this,” she said. “Emotionally it took a toll in me after all the research I did my heart was in a million pieces. Our world can be a very dark place sometimes and I still really struggle with this.”
Some of the images are difficult to watch, but you can watch Ruby’s Story here.
Ioulianou was the head producer with Moviworld at the time. She used this position to also work on an iEC commercial. This campaign was for the Independent Electoral Commission with the purpose of encouraging the people of South Africa to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. The commercial was a series of vignettes showing off the beautiful landscape of the South African soil and, better yet, the people of South Africa.
“I have to say this was one of my favorite but most challenging commercials,” she said. “The production traveled all over the country visiting places we had never seen before and we met interesting individuals while learning about their lives in South Africa.”
Ioulianou worked alongside Neal Sundstrom, who directed the commercial. The two had worked together on previous commercials with Moviworld, including Ruby’s Story.
“Elena is quick to learn, extremely dynamic and very hard working,” said Sundstrom. “She is incredibly passionate about film and commercial work and is always very willing to take on new challenges and responsibilities. We at Moviworld are totally confident that Elena is valuable asset to the film and commercials industry not only in South Africa but abroad as well. She is constantly thinking out the box. She is brilliant at not only the production side of business but in marketing, acquisitions and development of films.”
The IEC Cool Campaign was broadcast on national television for a period of six months, and Ioulianou’s work truly made a difference in the elections. Ioulianou has had a lot of success, and worked on award-winning pieces, including a film nominated for an Academy Award. But despite everything she has achieved, she doesn’t forget where she comes from.
“This commercial was entirely street-cast which made for an exceptional experience as we didn’t know if our cast would have a strong or any ‘on camera’ presence at all,” she said. “This spot made me more patriotic to be a South African than ever before.”