New Afrikaans film has light touch


Principal photography recently commenced on a new Afrikaans feature film, Semi-Soet
(Semi-Sweet), which will be released by Indigenous Film Distribution in 2012. The film
was shot in the Cape Winelands and Johannesburg and was produced by James and
Anel Alexander’s Scramble Productions.

Semi-Soet was written by Sandra Vaughn and was directed by Joshua Rous. It stars
Anel Alexander (Discreet, 7de Laan, Stander), Paul du Toit (Liefling, Binnderlanders),
Louw Venter (The Most Amazing Show) and Sandra Vaughn (Getroud Met Rugby).

Semi-Soet came about when the Alexanders and Rous decided that they wanted to do a
film that was fun and entertaining. James Alexander explains that after their previous
film, Discreet, they really wanted to do something lighter. “We had spent a long time
researching which films do best in South Africa and the numbers clearly showed that
Afrikaans movies perform well and romantic comedies in particular. The recent good box
office figures for Afrikaans films also helped us secure funding more easily.

“Semi-Soet is loosely based on a concept by one of Anel’s university friends. After 18
months of writing and re-writes we finally produced what we think is a high quality
commercial script.’

The story revolves around workaholic Jaci van Jaarsveld, who will go to any lengths to
protect the boutique advertising agency for which she works from being bought and
dismantled by a ruthless businessman known as “The Jackal’. She convinces a drop-
dead gorgeous man to pose as her fiance for a weekend on a wine estate with hilarious

Wine estate

Part of the story is set on a wine estate and the producers secured Vrede and Lust
Wine Estate as a location for no fee. Alexander comments: “We were very lucky but it
took months of talking to various wine estates. The deal was pretty complex and we
worked at coming up with an agreement that was beneficial to both the estate and
ourselves. They were fantastically accommodating.’

Some scenes are shot in Johannesburg. “Josef Talotta from South Point helped us to
secure some great locations,’ notes Alexander. “Semi-Soet is a test production for
Josef’s new business which is called Shot on Site. Apart from South Point’s involvement
in massive inner city development and upliftment, they share our desire to showcase
Johannesburg as a world-class city which can look as good on the big screen as New
York, London or Paris.’


Asked how they raised the finance, Alexander responds: “Things are really tight in the
local industry and while you have a runaway success like Liefling, you also need to
consider that it is the exception to the rule. Based on an average of what local Afrikaans
films have achieved to date we finally decided we would spend just enough to access the
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) rebate and put together a budget of between
R3m and R4m.

“We also enlisted the help of Deloitte’s media division with Judy Prins and Newton
Cockroft. After working on the script for about six months and sending them
information, they compiled an investor pack and it took only four weeks to secure the
funding between private equity, a trust and the IDC.’

The film is shot on a RED One, a decision influenced by DOP Nick Costaras. He has
created a look that lies somewhere between The Ugly Truth and How to Lose a Guy in
10 Days.

Tough business

Alexander says that the challenges of making a film in South Africa are immense. “Every
single person on this film could not afford to work solely on it for their income. Everyone
in some way supplemented their income in preparation for the film, or made some kind
of sacrifice to be part of this project. While we are doing out best to pay everyone a
salary they can live on, many of the fees were deferred and this financial pressure made
it a challenge for everyone involved.

“Another challenge is the legalities and red tape in getting funding released. The money
has been available for months but appeasing all the parties that are contractually
involved has taken a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, Judy Prins and Paul Raleigh from
Film Finances SA and Guy Mcleod, our lawyer from Irish Inc Attorneys, were prepared to
burn the midnight oil to make the road as smooth as possible.’

The film is aimed at an Afrikaans audience but Alexander hopes there will be crossover
appeal. “The glossy look and feel of the film will hopefully pull in an English speaking
audience as well. We also believe that it will appeal to the more diverse 7de Laan
audience due the familiar faces in the cast of Diaan Lawrenson, Nico Panagio and Anel
Alexander. Semi-Soet also stars other exciting talents like Louw Venter, Jody Abrahams
and Corine du Toit. This mix helps us to appeal to an audience beyond the Afrikaans


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