Johannesburg-based production company Welela Studios is in the process of completing three feature films for release this year, two of which have the potential for international distribution.
Snare is a crime thriller set against the world of rhino poaching while Angel of the Skies, which comprises about 60% computer generated imagery (CGI), is based on the true story of South African Air Force pilots who fought in World War II.
Both Snare and Angel of the Skies will be marketed at the Cannes International Film Festival in May.
The third film in Welela Films’ slate is the Afrikaans-language madcap comedy, Die 100m Leeuloop.
This brings to four the number of films produced by Welela since late 2010, the remaining film being “n Saak van Geloof, which went on theatrical and DVD release last year.
All the films utilised the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) rebate.
“If it weren’t for the dti rebate none of these films would have been possible,’ says Welela Studios’ producer, director and writer Diony Kempen. “Welela moved into feature film production when public broadcaster SABC crashed and drastically reduced its local content commissions.
“Our first feature film was the Darrell James Roodt-directed Meisie, which was shot in an experimental way with absolutely no budget. Then we made Jakalhsdans, which did a fairly sizeable box office of around R3m. After that came ’n Saak van Geloof, which was well received and is reaching its true potential on DVD release.’
First of its kind
On the subject of Snare, Welela Studios producer and writer Andrew Worsdale maintains that it is the first film of its kind in South Africa.
“There have been lots of spectacular wildlife documentary films shot here, mostly by foreign crew, but there’s never been a locally made crime thriller about rhino poaching. However, Snare is not meant to be a message film – it’s a crime thriller although the anti-poaching stance is intrinsic. The logline for the film is: “Begin to fight back.’’
Kempen notes that the inspiration for Snare was something the team stumbled upon. “We wanted to start making thrillers and happened to interview someone from an anti-poaching unit for one of our TV shows.
“Jaco Botha, Andrew (Worsdale) and I wrote the screenplay for Snare. This project started small but then we realised it was going to be much bigger. It was an extremely difficult shoot because apart from the challenging logistics of the remote location, we would have literally only two minutes to film the rhino once they’d been darted by the game rangers.’
Kempen describes Snare as a small movie about a big issue that has “amazing production value’ within this framework.
Shot in anamorphic to capitalise on the panoramic vistas at Bela-Bela, Limpopo, the film was between 20% to 24% more expensive than other Welela films, largely due to the prosthetics required to re-enact poaching scenes. It was also the first film in the Welela slate to be scored. Gio Hohn composed the music.
Snare releases in South Africa by Nu Metro on 21 September.
Worsdale explains that writer and director Chris dos Santos approached Welela to produce Angel of the Skies for him. “Chris is an incredibly talented visual effects artist who had written this fascinating script about a real-life South African pilot who was recruited by Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) for World War II duty.
“Angel of the Skies is the name of a bomber airplane that the South African pilots flew. Part of the film was shot at the War Museum in Johannesburg and at the South African Air Force Base at Waterkloof.’
Meanwhile the comedy, Die 100m Leeuloop, which was directed by Kempen and co-produced with Coleske Artists, was conceived and written by Robbie Wessels and his brother Hamilton Wessels, after working with Kempen on “n Saak van Geloof and several of his music videos.
Screen Africa magazine- May 2012