Howard James Fyvie is impressively passionate about making movies. This comes across in the very descript and insightful response to our questions. Fyvie and filmmaking partner Greg Kriek on Last One’s Out, made the feature film with a measly budget of 50 000 ZAR.
Last One’s Out was invited in 2015 to be part of South Africa’s official delegation at Cannes film festival market. Producer/director Fyvie does not disclose in the interview exactly how they managed to get their pale bums into an airplane and across the ocean but he was quite descript about the overall experience.
One can only assume, when you are passionate enough you will make it happen, like our South African Mzungus have. Enjoy the Q&A!
[TN]As a writer and/or producer what is the most treacherous part of making a movie?
[HF] Everything… making movies is one massive challenge. The difficulties are manifest and they get into every single facet: from your own motivation and self worth right down to trying to learn a new software program in a few hours to make a deadline. It’s all in there. It’s one massive challenge, and unless you’re driven by a passion and vision bigger than the difficulty, that challenge will consume you and paralyse you. I could chat about this for hours…
[TN]What is you goal when making a film, is it to deliver the entertainment factor or deliver a strong message?
[HF] It’s about being moved emotionally: either laughter, joy, fear, thrill. We strive to make entertainment that connects with audiences on an emotional level, and hopefully – influences them in a positive life-changing way.
[TN]How did you guys initially react to all the rejection of your first script and how many attempts did it take before your realised that it’s time to move on?
[HF] Initially, you kind of just don’t believe that people aren’t as interested in your script as you are. After about 6 or 7 formal pitches, we realised we were running out of time. That’s when we had to have a hard chat and scrap the first idea.
[TN]Please explain your process of writing a script aligned to a limited budget – surely there are other production facets in mind that would leave you doubting your story while writing?
[HF] Writing a script on a zero-budget is no different to writing a script on a massive budget: at the end of the day the fundamentals to a good story remain the same: they’re all about flawed characters trying to solve problems in their worlds. The budget stuff is just the cosmetics.
Start out by saying, “I have to write something that will excite me, move me and make me passionate to see this film.”
Then, work on your plot / characters / emotional core.
After that, ask yourself – Okay, now, how can I actually pull this off with no money at all. Literally, zero.
Then, take the surgeons knife and trim your initial concept down to the core level. You’ll often find that the IDEA is the same, but the execution of that idea can be done two ways: one, on a MASSIVE budget level, and 2 – on no budget. At the end of the day, the idea and the emotional core – will remain largely unchanged. Understanding this is crucial in making anything. MONEY WILL NOT MAKE IT BETTER.You and your team, make it better.
[TN]How long and what was your process of gaining trust within the South African indie filmmaking community?
[HF] Traditionally – gaining trust takes years, and it takes great work and great people skills. I mean, we’ve been working with people for about 10 or so years since I moved to Cape Town. However, you don’t need to wait around in order to start making things. Rope in strangers, rope in new comers – they can judge your character and your work straight away once they meet you.
[TN]Why did you choose film to express yourself?
[HF]Film is the greatest combination of all the art forms. I love the visual arts: photography, in particular, and yet I love the sonic side of things too, being a musician and a singer. Adding to this the fact that film allows you to IMAGINE and DREAM – and then see these things become a reality… that is unparalleled.
[TN] Besides the ridiculous budget, what makes Last Ones Out different to every other Zombie movie?
[HF] To be honest, LOO isn’t a zombie movie. It’s a road movie/ drama about broken characters trying to understand each other. The zombies are very far and few between – and don’t feature much at all. What features – what is unique – is the characters, the setting (African locale) and the ending. It just happens to have zombies. 🙂
[TN]How did you keep your cast and crew motivated?
[HF] Faith. You have to believe in the project yourself, and then communicate that to them on set all the time. You have to be exceptionally aware of their needs, and constantly give little speeches, show them footage that looks good, make sure there is food on set (even when there wasn’t food, which was often), and in general – you have to, at all times, maintain a positive, can-do attitude. They need to trust you 100%, trust that “These guys know what they’re doing, and everything is going according to plan”.
Thankfully – Greg Kriek and myself were 100% a team, always backing each other, always there for each other. That guy is a soldier. And only afterwards, once we got back to my place where I was editing, would we open up about how tough the day was.
Sometimes, we would just sit in silence for a while; there wasn’t anything to say. It was that bad. I mean, at one stage, our DOP was running during a take, in the dark, down a corridor, filming zombies chasing a flare… He fell headlong onto the floor, smashed his hand, the lens and entire camera system nearly trashed… he went to the hospital the next day and I carried on shooting that scene that night… That was just one day… We had stuff breaking in the middle of a take, we had our follow focus antenna get lost in a giant field of grass (that we were already shooting in illegally), we had the sun setting before we were anywhere near finished, we had actors just not pitching, we had crew members attempting to smoke weed during filming, we had times when we filmed with completely broken cameras… I mean, it’s a challenge. And the whole way through – you can’t let that show. Not ONE moment. You have to be above all of that – and keep moving. It’s about vision. Luckily, God was involved in our film and the miracle of pulling this whole thing off cannot be understated.
[TN] Now that you’ve been invited to Cannes with Last Ones Out, what is your next move?
[HF] Last Ones Out was invited in 2015 to be part of South Africa’s official delegation to the Cannes Film Festival’s market, the Marche Du Film. Myself and Producer/Lead Actor Greg Kriek had no cash to go, but somehow managed to be there – we paid for ourselves, stayed in a the cheapest accommodation we could find – cramped 1 bedroom flat 1 hour outside of town, stayed with a Welshman (Greg slept on the floor between the cupboard and the bed, I slept on the bed next to the Welshman. We used the toilet as the cupboard. It was nuts). That time was special. We got to meet people in Cannes and understand the business side of things.
Back in SA, we’ve had a few people making us deals to try sell Last Ones Out – at this stage, we haven’t chosen anyone yet because the film is only now being released and we want it to grow in profile before we hand it off to others, who will not be as passionate about driving it as us at this stage.
However, whilst Last Ones Out is being released independently throughout festivals, Greg and myself are actively working on acquiring budget for our next film. I’ve written an action comedy, along the lines of Tropic Thunder, and we’re currently trying to get that thing going. We’ve applied to the KZN Film Commission and will be meeting with them whilst at the DIFF.
“Wako” is a feature length film from award winning director Zziwa Aaron Alone set in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Director Zziwa Aaron Alone co-directed “The Superstition” with Paresh Gondaliya which went on to win a number of international awards. Wako tells the life story of a young hustler \ going through the criminal underworld to save the life of his cervical cancer-stricken sister. See the official trailer below…
On the anniversary of the violent Soweto youth uprising of June 16th, 1976, an affluent group of adolescent friends living in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa are startled by the live-streamed suicide of a young girl in her parents’ family home. A year and some months after the incident, two disillusioned new generation Zulu youths, Jabz and his best friend September, rummage through the sleepy manicured northern suburbs of Johannesburg in search of answers, drugs, distraction and salvation. The suicide stained their youth forcing them to examine the city that surrounds them as well as their own lives. Under the hood of Jabz’s fathers sleek new black jaguar, the two boys attempt to reacquaint themselves with the carefree hopefulness of their high school years. Jabz realising that the passionate Johannesburg he remembered existing not so long ago has slowly shifted into the visage of a conflict zone in his mind. Desperately desiring a sense of rhythm in the world, Jabz attempts to connect the dots. Somehow trying to make sense of why the friends he loves need to die.
Award winning Ugandan feature film “House Arrest” directed by Joseph Ken Ssebagala, will celebrate its official public film premiere on the 19 December 2015. Hailed as production of the year, the film won six awards at the Ugandan Film Festival, including Best Film and Best Director to name a few. A glamorous red carpet event will be held at the National Theatre on the 19 December 2015, to celebrate the production by Zenken Films.
“The picture was good, I had the best Actress, the location for shooting was good and I worked with the best crew” said Joseph Ken Ssebagala to Chano8. The films established cast includes award winning actress Faridah Kuteesa Farshee, William Ndawula and Jakira Suudi. Check out the official trailer to House Arrest here.
MoMo is a Somali urban refugee living in Eastleigh, Nairobi where he runs the community radio station Wazi?FM with his Kenyan friend Kevo. Everything is going well until one day the team stumble upon a dark secret in their community and MoMo suddenly vanishes. Pulling together the evidence for the story an inspector from the Kenyan Special Forces is trying to understand what really happened before MoMo’s disappearance. Is everything really as it seems in Eastleigh? Were MoMo and Kevo ever really friends? Will the inspector unravel the case in time? All will be revealed in this gripping detective mystery thriller.
South African feature film “For Love and Broken Bones” by Tebogo Malope walked away with all the spoils at the Portland Film Festival 2015, winning the festivals prestigious main award, Best Film. To earn the title of Best Film, “For Love and Broken Bones” had to compete against 220 other films screened at the Portland Film Festival to win the Jury Narrative Feature Section. After the great success at Portland Film Festival, the South African filmed and produced feature film is likely to generate a buzz among festival goers at the New York Independent Film Festival running from the 12-18 October 2015, with the film making official selection at 6th annual film festival.
“For Love and Broken Bones” starring Lerato Mvelase and Mduduzi Mabaso, tells the story of a lonely and ruthless debt collector who falls in love with a feisty and passionate wedding planner, who also happens to be his latest assignment. Can they overcome their old fears and let love into their lives? And can he save her and her son in time before his powerful and dangerous boss comes back to collect his money. Check out the trailer to Teboge Malope’s film “For Love and Broken Bones” below.
What happens to an adolescent discovering they attracted to the same sex? To make circumstances more complex, what is it like to be an interracial homosexual couple in South Africa? Well, allow South African feature film “While You Weren’t Looking” produced by Out in Africa, to demystify some perceptions you may have with regard to homosexuals and their experiences through the eyes of one family.“While You Weren’t Looking” directed by Catherine Stewart, follows the shaky marriage of a mixed raced lesbian couple and their daughter Asanda’s new found discovery of being a lesbian. The film shot on location in Cape Town, highlights South African issues like race, gender, identity, class and sexuality through the eyes of one homosexual family. “While You Weren’t Looking” won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the Pink Apple Film Festival 2015, and recently screened at the Durban International Film Festival 2015. Check out the official trailer below…
Dez and Terri, a mixed-race couple married 20 years and adoptive parents, are the trailblazing lesbians of the New South Africa, who seem to have it all. When a wedding anniversary gift goes very wrong, cracks begin to show. They must now learn to cope with their own hypocrisies and secrets, which threaten to destroy the seemingly perfect world they’ve crafted. Asanda, their 18 year old adopted daughter, is the poster child for South Africa’s diversity but describes herself as “an experiment”, being made up as she goes along. She meets Shado, an enigmatic Tommy Boy from Khayalitsha, a township on the edge of Cape Town, and a different picture of the New South Africa emerges.
Ayanda, the new film by award-winning director Sara Blecher and produced by Terry Pheto, Busi Sizani and Robbie Thorpe was awarded a “special mention” by the prestigious Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) Jury when the 2015 festival winners were announced, following its screening in the World Fiction Competition.
Ayanda had its world premiere in Los Angeles on 13 June, and debuted to rave reviews. The Examiner said, “The Los Angeles Film Festival’s 2015 mission to find ‘… diverse stories and storytellers … who exhibit true and singular voices’ is fully realized with Ayanda. Shot in South Africa, writer Trish Malone and director Sara Blecher create a vibrant, colorful film about a young woman looking to make her mark in today’s South Africa.”
The film tells the story of a resolute 21-year-old Afro-hipster Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani), who has a talent for taking neglected pieces of furniture and “bringing them back to love”. Eight years after her father’s death, his prized auto repair garage is in deep debt and in danger of being sold, but Ayanda does everything in her power to hold onto his legacy.
Entertainment blog Indiewire called the film “an important and fascinating piece that is absolutely worth seeing for its representation of a modern African story, which is uniquely, distinctively African, but also urban, fresh, and contemporary in a way that is far too rare. Anchored by a standout performance by the magnetic Fulu Mugovahni, the vibe and milieu of Ayanda is as refreshing as a light summer breeze.”
Culver City Observer named Ayanda a “standout “Must See” in the World Fiction Competition”, and “A beautifully lensed film courtesy of cinematographer Jonathan Kovel…” The review described Trish Malone’s screenplay as a “a nuanced script with strongly detailed characters that come to life through some well oiled, fresh performances,” and said “Fulo Moguvhani is nothing short of luminous in the title role with strong supporting performances.”
The film also stars Nigerian actor OC Ukeje – winner of the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award for Best Actor, Jafta Mamabolo, Nthati Moshesh, Kenneth Nkosi, Sihle Xaba and Vanessa Cooke.
Both Pheto and Blecher were at LAFF to promote the film, a line-up of 74 feature films from around the globe.
“We could not have wished for a better response from a discerning American audience,” says Blecher. “The film was praised for being distinctively African while exploring universal themes of love, friendship and growth. We cannot wait to share the film with South African moviegoers. As a female team, we are proud to have made such a strong and vibrant film about women in contemporary South Africa.”
Ayanda was produced by Real Eyes Films and Leading Lady Productions, with the support of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Africa Magic and the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It will be distributed in South Africa by Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution.
“The film has an excellent cast and superb production values, as well as a story that is young, fresh and distinctly urban,” says Kuun. “We are excited to bring a creative product of this calibre to the local movie circuit.”
Ayanda will be the opening film at the 36th Durban International Film Festival, taking place from July 16 to 26 this year.
Ayanda releases at cinemas nationally on 02 October 2015.