“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 teaching yourself mentality. My DP 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 posative 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.
SCREEN GRABS - ACE of HEARTS
The millennium has just struck and everyone thought the world was going to end. (Um…..nope! Sorry not this time).
I started the turn of the century as I would have like any other work day. January 1, 2000 I unlocked the doors to the video store for my work shift, eager to watch the arrival of “Gone in 60 Seconds”, “Gladiator” and “X-Men”. But…..who would have thought that just over 10 years later I would be working in the industry and producing movie.
After completing my sound engineering certificate at the end of 2001, I started my own company “Fatboy Productions” with a fellow studio associate. Music album recordings spurred on the need to shoot music videos. This was the platform that launched me into film and video. For a yearlong we shot music videos, TV series and corporate work. Eventually I found myself in a difference of an opinion in which direction the company should go, thus, I left the company to pursue my dreams and it was the best decision I could have ever made.
Being stuck with an uncomfortable amount of debt to pay off due to the company split, I travelled abroad for work and used the exchange rate in my favour. (What a plan even if I do say so myself!). After 2 years of work and travel between the USA, UK and Taiwan, long after the debts were settled, I decided to return home and applied for work at RT Concerts, and Entertainment Company that was in need of the audio and picture editing skills that I had to offer.
October 2004, I spurred on the need to further my knowledge about the film industry and decided to enroll myself into film school at the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa. Much to my disappointment the University told me that I could not be accepted due to the fact that my overall “M-Score” was too low. (HUH?)
Anyhow, I camped out on the steps of the film school and with a bit of luck the wonderful Karen Jordaan (secretary at the time) was willing to give me a chance and helped me fight the system. Turns out that even though my M-Score was just too low there was a loophole which worked in my favour that stated by having my tertiary education in sound engineering the University could not deny me further tertiary education. (Haha, I win!)
It was an interesting challenge to go back to study after working for some time. Most students had just come straight out of high school and were in that party varsity mode. It was like being 18 again. At the time I was an eager picture and sound editor wanting to learn more about the craft and trade, but there was so much more to be exposed to.
I aspired to push myself as far as I could go within film school and gave every project my best as this is what would be expected of me one day. Working in different positions and doing different jobs on various short films and features showed me what my talents were. I grew into writing, directing and producing of projects and was lucky to always have a dedicated crew by my side that believed in what we were creating. Film school for me was a great platform to launch myself further into the industry with what I was learning on a daily basis.
Reflecting back on those times bring back many fond memories. Having the opportunity to work on short films, feature films, Coca Cola TV game shows, various corporate work, 8mm film to DVD conversions, working in conjunction with a broadcaster on a MNET edit project, shooting on 16mm film and most of the time just flying by the seat of your pants. There are some amazing things you can get to do while at film school, because you are at film school….the platform to learn and make mistakes.
I had the chance to meet new amazing people that I still work with today like Christopher Grant Harvey, Gerrit Van Zyl and Barend Stofberg to name a few. Doing a variety of work only refines your talents and eventually you become bold and go to places that feel scary at the time but once you overcome those hurdles and feel smaller, only to attempt even bigger challenges.
So all in all, it has an interesting and unexpected journey in my life up until today but it has showed me what I can do if I put my mind to it. I treasure the fact of winning numerous awards for my work, maintaining above 85% average to pass with Cum Laude and receiving the “Best Academic Student” award four years in a row.
Thinking back will always make me smile……..BECAUSE…… they wouldn’t accept me in the first place?
This is one of many unexpected journeys that I will have and it has taught a valuable lesson: “Always believe in myself and not let anyone tell me “YOU CANT!”
The journey has just begun...........