Making lots of movies

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The Film Factory has proved to be one of the most prolific film production companies in South Africa and is currently in development with another three films, Bakgat! 3, Wolwedans in die Skemer and Verraaiers.

Producer Danie Bester explains how Wolwedan in die Skemer came about: “As a young boy I was fascinated by my older sister’s obsession with a radio show of the same name. When I heard that the screenplay had been written by Leon van Nierop, I immediately asked Henk, our head of development to pursue a collaboration with Leon.

“Our film is based on one of the biggest Afrikaans radio shows ever. The Afrikaner nation was literally glued to their radios for years to find out who the murderer was, what secrets were concealed by the De Wet family and what mystery lay beneath the Hotel Nyala’s majestic veneer. We aim to target the original radio audience as well as attract a younger audience to the film.’

The Bakgat! franchise is very close to Bester’s heart. “This third installment plays off in England and sees the return of Wimpie and the gang. Bad weather, bad food and worse beer forms the comedic backdrop for great sports and romance. I am also very excited to produce my first trilogy.’

Verraaiers is produced with Bester’s partners on the acclaimed Roepman – Paul Eilers, Piet and Sallas de Jager. “I am very excited about this project too,’ continues Bester. “Verraaiers examines the immediate relations between friends, neighbors and family at the end of the Anglo Boer War when the Afrikaner court marshaled and executed other Afrikaners due to differing opinions about the war.’

The films have all been financed by part equity, the Department of Trade & Industry (the dti) rebate and product placement.

“It’s easier in some ways once to raise finance once you have a reputation for solid production and delivery. However, the budgets are higher which creates new challenges. I am a bit more careful in my approach to making films and generally do not rush in guns blazing. Passion and a great, supportive team are the key factors to making films,’ notes Bester.

He believes that one of the biggest tragedies for local producers has been that more than 65% of local digital screens have been converted to 3D. “In the past we had a small theatrical distribution platform but now even this has virtually disappeared in less than a year. If one wants to release on cinema form now on and you do not have prints, you are dead in the water. Obviously this is a very large cost that has to be carried by the production and investors.’

The other great tragedy is the fiasco at public broadcaster SABC. Bester maintains that this is the single worst thing that could have happened to the emerging industry. “So many people have been negatively affected by this single entity. I think we would have seen double the amount of films being made and massive growth for our industry if it was not for the failure of the SABC. The dti has literally saved the independent film industry.’

Bester stresses that making money in the film industry is hard. “Roepman has garnered some interest from international sales agents and distributors and we hope to convert this interest into future pre-sales and international distribution relationships.

“Ek Joke Net will go into profit but this was a brand building exercise from the start. We have already started with Ek Joke Net 2 and this will be released mid to end next year.’

SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – October 2011 (view here)

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