South African director Bonginhlanhla Ncube and his family form both the cast and
crew in a new short film, Something is Wrong With Kelvin, which is selected to
screen on the opening night of the Independent Mzansi Short Film Festival on 25
Holiday turned horror flick
Most people prepare for a summer holiday by signing up for spinning classes,
stocking up on sun screen and packing their cars with beach paraphernalia, but
the same cannot be said for the Ncube family. Bonginhlanhla Ncube along with
wife Nokuthula Mguni and sons Shaun (nine) and Ashley (18) spent the days
before their family break at a forest lodge in the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal
learning the script for a short horror film.
“My son had been telling me how he wanted to break into the industry as an
actor and a crazy idea just hit me: how about we write a short film and when
we go on holiday, we’ll take a few days to shoot it. In three days I had a script,’
says Ncube, better known as Mr B.
Unlike most films, which require months of rehearsing, planning scenes and
scouting locations, Mr B’s short film had to be constructed in a slightly backwards
fashion. Their pre-determined holiday destination, a log cabin situated in a
thicket of dense trees, would have to serve as the location for his film and the
concept would have to be developed around it.
“I visualised this place and looked at some pictures online. It was full with thick
trees and I thought: This would work really well for a horror/ thriller film,’
remembers Mr B, who was delighted when he arrived to find a setting that
matched the dark and mysterious plot he had built his script around.
The family of four rotated between being in front of and behind the camera.
When a scene required that they all take part in the action, they would position
the camera, get into character, press record, and clap their hands (instead of
using a clapper board) for each new take.
Working with family comes with its positives and negatives, explains Mr B, who
at times had to contend with a cranky nine-year-old, made to trade hours of
carefree sea-splashing for the role of boom operator.
“Imagine me trying to tell my wife what to do,’ says Mr B through a playful
giggle, “but everybody understood and I kept reminding them what we were
doing. We need to support our son; he can’t be the only actor in the film. We
need to support him with our performances. That helped everyone get into the
right mind-set… except my youngest son. To this day, he still insists he wants to
go on a real holiday.’
Overall the experience of creating a film brought the Ncube family closer
together and Mr B comments: “We’re sometimes in isolation in our everyday
lives, but to be in a weeklong project which we are working so hard at, at times
almost getting on each other’s nerves, it really brought us together as a
“I shot a film in six days, with a family of four. We had one light, one camera,
one boom mic, one sound recorder and one tripod – five items – and we shot it,’
says Mr B, whose ability to improvise, which went as far as casting a
neighbouring holiday-goer in a cameo role, made it possible to complete the
Mr B believes that with today’s evolving technologies and smart phone
capabilities, anyone is in a position to create a film, if they really want to.
Though a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR camera was used to shoot the film, one
slow motion scene was shot using his camera phone and was modified slightly
to be included with the rest of the footage.
“You don’t need a huge camera; they have the same sensor size as a 5D. Most
DSLR cameras are really good with light; they open up and pump light into the
subject. You don’t necessarily need extra light, unless you want to motivate
something. That’s how good they are. If you have that, and a small decent
sound recorder, you can shoot a film,’ explains Mr B.
Not only did Mr B write, direct, produce and act in Something is Wrong With
Kelvin, he edited the film and has enlisted industry friends and film students to
assist with the final nuances in post-production.
“After I did a rough cut I started showing it to friends, I shared it with Geo
Hoehn who has done scores for a number of international productions. He
wanted to score it and some students from AFDA are assisting with composing,
sound design and final mix. I feel so excited and overwhelmed, but I think what
sells the film is the story behind it,’ concludes Mr B.
Mr B hopes that the film will be picked up for distribution by one of the local
broadcasters and, dependant on its reception at IMSFF, screen at a number of
film festivals. However, his initial goal for the project remains the most
significant: to offer his son a unique opportunity to express his talents, explore
the potential of his dreams and showcase to South African audiences, his ability
as an actor.