“Ace of Hearts” is a psychological thriller that delves into a police investigation of murders that occur and the killer is still seems to allude the authorities. Two detectives, John Cramer (Drikus Volschenk) and his partner Tebsane Masa (Tongayi Chirisa) have been assigned to solve the case. John's experience of the murders in the case take its toll on his family when his wife gets obscurely abducted leaving him with no choice but to play a hand of chance, against all odds, with the killer.
MAKING THE FILM - Concept to Completion
In 2007, all 3rd year students were given the opportunity to write and pitch a short film to one of the biggest local broadcasting companies in South Africa: M-NET. This was part of an initiative entitled the M-Net Edit. 3rd year students from around the country would go up against one another to see which 4 scripts would be mentored and funded by the broadcaster.
Having a script selected and commissioned is a film makers dream as they give you budget and guarantee that it will be broadcasted, should it live up to the expectations of the broadcaster. So the writing begins. I opened up Final Draft and the typing began and eventually I had a 22 page script that I would use for the pitch. Going into the pitching session was probably one of the most nerve racking moments in my life. I opted to do my pitch first and got it out the way. I walked out of the room not knowing if I made an impression or completely sucked. A week later notice was given to the film school that my script and 3 others had been selected. I almost fell over.
Each script was allocated a budget of approximately US$5,000.00 (Five Thousand US$) to make a film. As a student this is large amount of money……but not for me. I had massive ideas of what I wanted to do with the film. The producing and networking skill kicked in. I knew I wanted to shoot Ace of Hearts on 16mm film even though I had no knowledge of how. Back to the “teach yourself” mentality. My DoP for the film, Gerrit van Zyl and I researched "how to shoot on film" and studied the theory of how to make this reality. The next problem that I faced was to actually “afford” to shoot on film. 16mm Film stock is a costly medium at $200 per 400ft. (11min approx) besides the fact of renting the camera, lighting and grips needed to do the film justice.
I set out on a mission to find the extra finance and film stock. I approached Kodak South Africa in Cape Town and pitched the idea that it was an M-Net production and told them exactly what I had in mind for the film.....something big! Kodak said they would come back to me. 3 weeks passed by without a word until one day I received an email saying “Christmas has come early, within the Kodak group the manager of Kodak UK & Ireland has granted you your wish and will sponsor you 15 rolls of 16mm 500t film stock as requested”. How amazing is that?
Having acquired the film stock it paved the way to shooting on film. With a positive attitude of beg, steal, borrow, lend and fundraise we managed to get the remainder of the finance together to pay for the equipment, cast, catering, locations, and, and, and......! Ace of Hearts was officially underway. Completing a hectic 2 week shoot gave us all the footage we needed and it was off to Film Lab for processing and telecine. Having done so much previous television work through Video Lab made making a deal for telecine an amazing move. I managed to get an 85% discount. What a saving!
Post production of the uncompressed 1920x1080 files was officially underway. The edit took about a month and a half to complete and hand in for evaluation. M-Net was completely satisfied with the film and booked the broadcast slots. At the end of the day we made the film for approximately US$15,000.00 (Fifteen Thousand US$) excluding sponsorships. Ace of Hearts is a 40 minute short film that was conceptualized, written, produced, directed, filmed on 16m film, processed, edited and delivered on schedule. Success.