Young African mzungu filmmakers go to Cannes film festival market with a 50K ZAR budget film

[ 0 ] June 14, 2016 |

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!

Greg Kriek & Howard James Fyvie

      Greg Kriek & Howard James Fyvie

[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.

Vukile Zuma in character as Vincent

     Vukile Zuma in character as Vincent

[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. 🙂

Wide shot bridge


[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.

Hold thumbs.

Click here>>> For the synopses, cast and crew details <<<Click here

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