I’ve done my fair share of rants about the local film industry. At times, it seems like we’re only capable of producing 3 types of films: Lowest of brow slapstick comedies, racially fueled historical pictures starring non-South Africans and dusty Afrikaans dramas that walked right out of a couple sombre Boerneef poems. While there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with these, and they are the ones that mainly generate the most noise, there are actually some very different and interesting movies being made by some very talented people down here in our corner of the world. So when one of them, Adelard, catches my eye, you can be damn sure I will tell you guys about it.
Made as part of the 48 Hour Film Project – an annual global filmmaking contest in which teams from around the world get 48 hours to produce a film around an assigned genre, character, prop and line of dialogue – Adelard, the contribution by the Cape Town based Team Dromedary, appears to be an intriguing blend of sci-fi/fantasy ideas, with a touching human story.
“There are other worlds than these.”
A man must choose between this world and the next. Love clouds his judgement. But is he even a man?
Now I have to confess, Adelard‘s writer and co-director/producer, Willem Grobler, is a friend of mine, which is how I came to know about this, but I’m more than willing to face down some accusations of friendly nepotism when the results look as good as that. There’s an ethereal Terrence Mallick like feel to the whole thing that really appeals to me.
If you’re as intrigued to see the whole film as I definitely am, Adelard will be screening at 14h30 on this coming Saturday, October 19, and again at 20h00 on Sunday, October 20 at the V&A Cinema Nouveau Ster-Kinekor Theatre as part of the 48 Hour Film Project Cape Town screening, which will be running all weekend. The screenings are broken up into three groups (Adelard is part of Group A), and you can book for any of them on Ster Kinekor’s website. If you come through to the Sunday night screening, you’ll probably see me there too.
Here’s the film’s full press release, explaining the process of the 48 Hour Film Project and also providing some very enlightening snippets into the making of Adelard, particularly the toll it took on everybody involved.
ADELARD is a Fantasy Short Film co-produced and directed by Cape Town-based filmmakers Jennifer Pack and Willem Grobler as part of the 48 Hour Film Project. Written, produced and delivered within 48 hours, the pair – who along with Director of Photography Chris Aupiais formed Team Dromedary – joined a whole slew of filmmakers at AFDA in Cape Town to kick off the competition on Friday evening 4 October 2013, a night that most Capetonians spent rocking the daisies.
At 19h00 sharp the event organizers called out team names in alphabetical order. Team leaders then had to draw a random genre, as part of the criteria the film had to fulfill to qualify for the competition.
“Itʼs pretty scary, since you canʼt really prepare, and filmmaking is ALL about preparing. We drew Fantasy, the one genre we didnʼt want, and suffice it to say that it was really a bit of a dampener on our excitement,” comments Pack.
Along with picking a random genre, teams are assigned a character, a prop and a line of dialogue – to be repeated verbatim – that they have to feature in their film to qualify for the competition. These were, respectively, Neil or Nandi Msimang (a stylist), an envelope, and the line of dialogue “You gonna learn.”
“We rushed back to my apartment to get cracking” says Grobler, who also wrote and edited the film. “While Chris and I were doing some post-production workflow tests to make sure we were ready for the edit on Saturday night after wrap, Jenny and a few other crew members were bashing out a story.”
By midnight the team still didnʼt have a script and panic set in. “Iʼd managed to secure the rights to use music by UK composer Ben Woods, which I found to be very inspirational. When we were stuck with our script, I sat the team down, played them the music, told them what images it evoked in my head, and right there and then Adelard was born.”
Grobler locked himself in his study to write, and by 2am Team Dromedary had a screenplay. Next up they had to contact crew members to give them call times for the next morning – 06h15 at Signal Hill – and they tried to get some shut-eye by 4am.
“We didnʼt really sleep, we just twisted and turned due to the panic and stress caused by the desire to really deliver something special,” reflects Pack.
The team shot for 15 hours on Saturday at a variety of locations, including Clifton 3rd Beach, Company Gardens and Cape Townʼs infamous unfinished highway – a favourite of filmmakers in the Western Cape – and had a great cast to work with.
“The 48 hour film project is an absolute blast,” says Aidan Whytock, who portrays the title character and protagonist in Adelard. “It’s silly to allocate any time to pedantic perfectionism, as is often the case in film. Instead teams have to play off each other’s strengths and collaborate to create something great. Greg Parvess and I were fortunate enough to be the actors on this and we had the chance to focus on exactly that.”
Parvess, who plays Gregor – a friend of Adelardʼs whose essentially a ʻvisitor here on earthʼ – agrees: “Working on Adelard was incredibly challenging, enormously rewarding and extremely inspiring. In terms of character process the initial thought was to create a sense of the ethereal and otherworldliness.”
Whytock continues: “We created a colourful back story for Adelard and Gregor – a past of political conflict and sacrificed love – in an alternate realm on the verge of extinction, whose future rests in Adelard’s palm. Whilst none of this is in the short we hope it gave the characters a tad more gravitas and intrigue.
I think it would make for a great feature.”
On the Saturday night, while the rest of the team got to take some hard earned rest after the long dayʼs shoot, Chris, Jennifer and Willem were only getting started. “Shooting is the first half of the job. Editing is the other. Iʼm really happy we shot on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, because we could just take the footage straight into Final Cut Pro for the edit.”
Grobler agrees: “Even though we worked without a shot list we knew exactly what we wanted to see in the edit, but it still took time to synch up audio, find the best performances, and just get the pace right.”
Grobler edited until the early hours of Sunday morning, while Aupiais worked on some visual effects shots. “I think I stopped at around 5am? Chris had passed out around 3. I just couldnʼt anymore, my brain was shutting down. I slept till about 08h30 and then woke up Chris and Jenny for approvals.”
Once theyʼd approved the edit, the team had to get a final mix and grade done before they could submit their finished film. “We were cutting it fine,” recalls Pack, “and as Murphy would have it, we ran into render issues and other little bugs.” But they persevered and handed the film in at 19h00, along with the other burnt-out teams of sleep-deprived filmmakers whoʼd likely gone through much of the same during the frenzied 48 hour span.
“To make a seven minute short film in just 48 hours is a fantastic challenge that pushed us to our boundaries, but in a good way. Experiences like this can only make us grow as filmmakers because you just have to trust your team, and thereʼs great value in that,” reflects Pack.
“It was a total eye-opener for me,” concurs Grobler. “I realised that, instead of just talking about making films, we should just get out there and make them. You need to be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them because, every once in a while, you wonʼt make a mistake and may just end up with something truly awesome!”
For more info on Adelard, including plenty of stills, production notes and behind-the-scenes stuff, head on over to the film’s Facebook page.
Last Updated: October 17, 2013