‘Paula’ takes over reins at film school

The dean of the African Film Drama and Art (AFDA) campus in Observatory, Diaan Lawrenson.

The African Film Drama and Art (AFDA) school of performing arts in Observatory are proud to announce well-known South African soapie star, Diaan Lawrenson, as the new dean of their campus.

Diaan, 41, had stolen South African hearts for 13 years as Paula van der Lecqde Bruyn in 7de Laan, which is one of the country’s longest-running soap operas, until she left three years ago.

Diaan had been teaching and mentoring aspiring new film students for three years at the campus, before she was appointed in her new role of dean at the beginning of April.

“It’s a big responsibility, and an exciting new phase for me, and I am thrilled to accept this new journey that
I am going on,” she said.

AFDA chief executive officer, Teresa Passchier, says they are extremely excited and honoured to have Diaan as the new dean of their Cape Town campus.

“Diaan comes with an immense depth of experience and wealth of knowledge in the South African film and television industry,” she said.

Diaan is also a former AFDA alumni. She graduated from the Johannesburg campus 18 years ago with an Honours degree in writing and acting.

“When I studied at AFDA, it was mainly a practical course, though today the students are prepared for the creative economy. Academics, research, practical outcome and business forms part of the student readiness,” she said.

Diaan was born in Johannesburg, and she became passionate about the performing arts at a young age, when her grandparents encouraged her to act. That passion led her to the National School of Arts in Johannesburg in Grade 9, where she completed her schooling.

As an actress, she has 22 years experience in the industry, working as a student on professional productions, and acting in many plays, movies and television.

One of her first roles in television was a short stint in other classic soap opera, Egoli, where she played Merle, a dancer at the Rainbow Club.

Her first movie role was a small role in the 2003 biopic, Stander, which was an American production shot in South Africa, and starred American actor, Thomas Jane.

Even though she has also worked in production in the company that she co-owns with her husband and fellow actor, Jody Abrahams, many South Africans know her from 7de Laan.

“I loved my time there, I am really grateful for it. I met a lot of wonderful people in an amazing environment and story line and I made a lot of connections with people who took me in other directions,” said Diaan.

Even though she left the show three years ago, she says the secret to its success and longevity, are the stories and characters they created.

“The characters were everyday people who ran coffee shops, worked in clothing stores, and some of them were lawyers. The audience could relate to them,” she said.

Diaan has settled with her family in Mowbray, and even though she has been teaching for the past three years, and has been appointed recently as the new AFDA dean, she still found time to act in a few movies. She starred in Raaiselkind, Susters, and Table Manners, all of which were released last year.

Diaan is encouraged by our entertainment industry: “Our industry is growing, there are new voices, and new talented people who are writing, directing and producing.

“As long as we do not try to copy or imitate other foreign industries, and focus on our South African narrative and what we have to offer the industry, it will grow,” she said.