Following a long career in television, South African Linda Korsten co-produced the hit Afrikaans-language musical, Liefling, before going on to direct her first feature film, Pretville. Also an Afrikaans musical, Pretville released locally in November.
WITH SUCH A FAMOUSLY MUSICAL FATHER (THE LATE OPERA SINGER GÉ KORSTEN) WAS IT INEVITABLE THAT YOU WOULD END UP DOING MUSICALS?
My father definitely had an influence on my love for music. I grew up with opera and other classical music in the house and loved watching musicals on stage and on film. Working in the SABC’s Afrikaans Light Music Department for four years gave me quite a lot of knowledge about the making of music programmes.
HOW DID YOU MAKE THE MOVE FROM TELEVISION TO FEATURE FILMS?
Paul Kruger and I met when I needed a cameraman for my children’s programmes and we have worked together since 2000. Nine years later we stopped producing children’s programmes for the SABC and Paul came up with the idea behind Liefling – Die Movie. He asked me to co-produce the film with him. After Liefling it was time for Pretville and Paul asked if I would like to direct as well.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR SETTING PRETVILLE IN THE 1950s?
Machiel Roets, composer of all Pretville’s music, sent a few songs he wrote to Paul Kruger, to see if he could use them in any way. These songs were written in the 1950s style. Paul immediately liked what he heard and started thinking of a film set in that era. He played the music to some of us, and we all loved it. The 1950s were great, such a fun time and what better than to re-live that era through film – a nostalgic trip for the older generation and a journey of discovery for the younger generation. The result was Pretville.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR FIRST FEATURE FILM DIRECTING GIG?
I’ve been working on children’s TV programmes for the past 32 years and am still busy with Carike Keuzenkamp’s children’s DVDs. It’s quite a mind shift moving from children to adults. But we did intensive workshops with the crew on Pretville. I also had time, during the filming of Liefling to learn more about film directing. I could make decisions on what to do and what not to do. Because I was also involved in the scriptwriting, it was easier for me to get my head around the process.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TELEVISION CAREER?
Remember the delightful children’s programme Pumpkin Patch? Louise Smit came up with this wonderful concept. I directed Pumpkin Patch from the first episode in 1986 until it ended in 1997. We worked incredibly hard, but also had enormous fun recording it. Snazzy Stories and Fun Factory were two other programmes that I’ll also never forget. The crew and cast were like a family and we invested so much love and passion into these shows. They also happened to be the last two programmes I produced and directed for the SABC.
PRETVILLE WAS A MASSIVE PRODUCTION – HOW DID YOU COPE WITH THE STRESS?
We worked on Pretville for almost two years. I am generally good at handling stress – the older I get, the calmer I become (sort of). The most stressful times on this film were during the filming and also just before the premiere in November. Because I also co-produced the film, there were so many things to think of. It was also very stressful when my mother became ill and passed away during the filming in March 2012. Luckily, I have a wonderful family who stood by me through that time. The kids would visit during weekends, and playing with my grandchild, Danelle, was a wonderful way to de-stress. The Pretville family (cast and crew) were incredible and did their best to make everything run smoothly.
WHAT WAS THE FUNNIEST THING TO HAPPEN DURING THE SHOOT?
It was when Willem Botha, who plays the postman, Hennie Hakkel, had to bump Rina Nienaber with his bicycle. The first take he did very well, but during the second take he bumped her so hard that she ended up sprawled on the pavement. I don’t know why but I can’t help laughing when someone falls. I cried with laughter, but also checked that she wasn’t hurt.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN PRETVILLE?
I would love to live in Pretville, especially if all the characters (the hairdresser, Pierre Lukuveer, Serah Somers, Ouma Sarie, Roeda Regyt) also really lived there.
IS THERE A STAR FROM THE 1950s THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO MEET?
I would love to have met Grace Kelly. What a beautiful, charming, graceful young actress she was!
DID THE SONGS FROM PRETVILLE LINGER IN YOUR HEAD LONG AFTER THE SHOOT?
The songs still linger in my head. I can’t get rid of them. They are really very catchy tunes!
DO YOU SING AND DANCE AROUND THE HOUSE?
I sing a lot, but dancing around the house after a knee replacement – NO!!
WHAT IS YOUR BEST EVER MUSICAL FILM?
The Sound of Music – it was released in 1965 and as a young girl I saw it about six times! My second best is My Fair Lady. These two musicals are, to me, the most wonderful classic musicals ever. The music is incredible. I still remember every song and all the words.
DID YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS IN THE INDUSTRY?
Louise Smit is one of my biggest mentors. I learned so much from her about the industry, especially TV.
ARE THERE ANY UP AND COMERS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK WITH IN THE FUTURE?
Yes, people who are not famous yet like Ferdinand Gernandt, who was our choreographer for Pretville. He is very talented in so many disciplines – scriptwriting, music, dancing – I think he will be a great director one day.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
I’m working towards retirement within the next three to five years with my husband, but who knows, there may be another film or two in the pipeline.
screen africa magazine – january 2013