Sunday, 29 September 2013

Making it to the big screen

They say that life happens while you are busy making plans. Apparently computer glitches too. So after planning for our whole team to watch the first airing of our short film together at the Rosebank Nouveau Cinema our team leader could not book tickets for us to watch our short film for the 48 hour film project on Tuesday. So, scattered throughout the week, our team watched our film as each had the opportunity. For me, this was yesterday. I saw myself on the 'big screen' for the first time. And immediately strengthened my resolve to diet...

After a full day of Lessac voice training in a workshop yesterday my partner and I left Pretoria to watch the films of Group G (I was doing my hair and makeup in the car via map-reading lights). Ours was the fifth film to be show and I found it fascinating how involved and personally vested I was with the characters on screen, as well as making mental notes as to what I felt did and didn't work with regards to my performance. About half way through I realized how tense I was and consciously forced myself to relax and try to enjoy the film.

For those who don't know, the 48 hour film project is an international competition in which film makers have merely 48 hours to write, shoot an edit a film between 4 and 7 minutes long. After drawing the genre of your  film at 7 on a Friday evening teams have 48 hellish hours to create a genre specific film, including compulsory elements (a character, line and prop). You can tell how excited I am about this project as it the third I am writing a post on the subject, and I will probably post again once the films are released onto YouTube.

It was fantastic to see some of the other short films, and the talent that it is emerging in South African cinema. There were some really amazing concepts, and hopefully the beginnings of some fantastic careers.

As last night was the final screening of the films a small thank you was handed out to anyone representing the films. I was the only member of our team present, so when called for I stood up to fetch our little certificate and pop corn tub full of sweets as a "thank you", or more accurately, "Congratulations on surviving and making it this far" . I was welcomed with warm applause from the cinema audience as I walked to the front to receive our thank you.

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Monday, 23 September 2013

A peak of things to come!

A still from the trailer of  Unsolved

This past week I was again adjudicating a local eisteddfod for a small town in Mpumalanga. Besides running late on the first day due to 27 late entries, and missing out on my supper the eisteddfod was relatively uneventful. Well, besides the 5 to 6 year old category, the youngest of the eisteddfod, deciding as a group to walk onto the stage to collect their certificates after I had directed them to the floor space to my left to receive them from me personally. And a child with a silver certificate walking up to me and informing me her father would purchase her something or other if she received gold. I was not sure how to respond to this. So I was rather thankful when, on my second morning I was running ahead of schedule and had a full hour for tea before my second session of the day started. During this time I turned on my cell phone to receive a message on the whatsapp group for the team I was part of the 48 hour filmproject. The trailer for the film we had shot two weeks ago had been released! As the trailers for films friends of mine had been in popped onto social media throughout the week I was awaiting the release of hours with baited breath. And as I refuse to look at any of the takes while I'm busy shooting I was excited to see, on screen, what our film is going to look like.

Tomorrow the short film UNSOLVED for the 48 Hour Film Project, made by Zwoosh! premiers at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank Mall. Most of our team, including myself, will be there for the premiere. Our film shows tomorrow evening at 20:00 and again on Thursday the 26th at 20:00, Saturday the 28th at 14:30 and Sunday the 29th at 17:30. Enjoy a couple of short films, and see the wonderful work filmmakers are doing in Johannesburg.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Big, BIGGER...Technical?

My directors have often said it to me, and I have said it to my casts: in live performance things go wrong. Somewhere you are going to make a mistake. It's part of what we do and what matters is how you handle the blunder, miss-spoken word, the entrance you missed or the choreography that temporarily vacated your current consciousness. And 2 weeks ago our cast had to deal with just that. The insanity of live performance.

CHASING had been invited to perform at the University's weekly 'Lunch Hour Performances'. So the week before the performance we changed the format of the show to fit the 40 minute time limit we had. Our director and choreographer could not attend these rehearsals and we were left in the equally competent hands of her business partner, friend and the designer of our show. With the time imposition placed upon us many of the transitions between the pieces of our show changed, meaning that entrances and exits were different, and people were on stage or off stage when they had previously been doing something else. Many of the routines were also shortened to carve our hour plus show into the 40 minutes. But knowing the show as well as we did, and being comfortable with the changes we weren't too stressed about the performance. That was until the morning of our show.

Checking the lights and setting up the morning of our performance.
We moved into the theatre, which none of us had performed in before, the night before our lunch time performance. We were informed that the workshop and props department had lost one of our four boxes. I found it odd that they were able to lose a box made of steel and wood, which weighed almost 5kilograms and stands about a meter high. But it was gone. A new one had made to replace it, so we were not too bothered about this first development. Two other props were also missing, including a black chair and an old fashioned typewriter, which was essential to some of the show's spectacular visual elements. We thought we knew where they were, and we would get them early the next morning before we performed.

And so we arrived bright and early on campus the morning of our lunch time performance, with earrings in place for later, we all realized, and costumes in hand. We found our typewriter without too much bother, but our chair was missing. This meant that while I was fixing the box used for my solo with contact adhesive which had broken in Grahamstown (using my fingers as a brush as it too was missing) our stand-in director found a stand-in chair, bought spray paint and painted it black (I ended up performing with a thin stripe of black paint on my forearm and bits of stubborn contact adhesive all over my fingers).

And then we heard the news that changed the energy of our entire group instantly: it had been made compulsory for the entire drama department to come and watch our performance. Classes and meetings were put on hold and rescheduled so that we would have an audience. And as we walked on stage, to an audience of about 700 people, more than double our biggest audience we had had before we realized that the black coats which were supposed to be hanging on a hatstand for the beginning of the show had not been pre-set. And there was nothing we could do in that moment. Thankfully one of our male cast members on the opposite side of the stage and the sense to put them on the hatstand in the momentary blackout we had after the opening of the show, and the show was off to a roaring start...and yet not without its hitches...

 A Section of the seating...which was soon filled.
The large rolls of paper we had never had a problem with before and which we use in our show decided to tear while being used on stage, or simply not to roll across the stage as they were supposed to, and had done so often before. In the second routine of the show the four ladies in our cast dance to a piece of music called "Fragment". The music comes from a poem written by the female poet Ingrid  Jonker, whose life serves as inspiration for the show. Essentially a large sheet of paper is held across the stage and in so doing our bodies are fragmented while we dance as the paper covers parts of us and only disjointed arms, heads and legs can be seen. When the paper tore this illusion was broken, but we carried on without batting an eyelid. This was followed by our essential, and incredibly heavy typewriter being put down on top of my dress and I had to keep my calm in order to free myself unobtrusively before we started dancing again. Seconds later the typewriter hooked on the edge of our new chair when it needed to be lifted high in the air, and I again had to unobtrusively manoeuvre the typewriter to get it to do what it was supposed to do. And my favourite moment of them all…
Our show

After my feet got covered in salt in the new format of the show, we performed the second last routine, a routine our cast dubbed 'chasing', and by implication involves quite a lot of running. As I jumped my salt-slick feet broke my trust in them and I fell on my (already temperamental) right knee. I was up in a flash and only grazed but only I will manage to do that in front of an audience of 700.

So despite the technical issues, and dancers forgetting cues, and spectacular falls I had fun on stage. And we performed our hearts out. I couldn’t be happier.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sci-Fi Psycho...for 48

At the end of my third year I was not regarded as much of an actress. A physical theatre performer and dancer yes. But straight acting… Let’s just say that mine was not the first name that would come to mind in my year group. And the repercussions of this has affected my confidence in my straight acting and the agent I have now. Which made this past weekend both unexpected and rewarding.

Earlier this year a friend I had met via my Master’s studies, who had done his undergraduate work at a different institution asked if I would have liked to audition for a short film he and his sister were making. Although I didn’t get the role he and his sister remembered my work, and asked if I would like to act for their short film in the 48 hour film project this last weekend. So this last Saturday I joined team Zwoosh. It started with a message, summarizing that we had drawn the sci-fi genre, the wardrobe options I would need to take with and my character description: psycho bitch.

Some of the equipment in one of the unused rooms of the house we were graciously given full reign over by the owner. It was amazing to be supported in such a way...and his attitude towards us breaking more than one chair was refreshing: "Oh, its only material things"
So I arrived on set at 7 in the morning with freshly highlighted hair,  wardrobe options, a full makeup kit and my straightener. I was greeted by an amazing crew, tea, rusks and a script. Just before we were about to start our first read through of the script the tiny model who was playing my sister sat down on a low couch, and a moment after her I sat down. As I did the couch broke and the two of us were thrown to the floor. In a tumble of laughs we stood up. As the admittedly 51 kilogram model claimed she had picked up weight recently I joined the conversation:

“Well in that case it has to be me. I’m not sure my self-image is going to survive this shoot”

Our director, who had witnessed the fall,  joined in the laughter:

“Now that our two fat actresses have been knocked down a peg we can start”

The laughter set the tone for the rest of the day off camera, which was a fantastic change of pace considering the heavy subject matter of the shoot. My character was deeply disturbed, and the scenes my co-actor and I were shooting were very emotional and challenging. As we wrapped a very difficult scene my co-actor, who is more experienced that I am asked if I had ever done such challenging work before. I hadn’t, and neither had he. It was exciting to be challenged, in manner that wasn’t in physical theatre. and it was so much more rewarding when our director, editor and director of photography were all impressed with my work. Congratulations were handed out via fist bumps and the word 'respect' after scenes were wrapped. Considering how nervous I had been the day before I was not expecting it. Especially as I had always been considered more of a dancer than an actress I was happy and humbled by all the compliments. And considering how professional all the members of our team were I was blown away by the fact that there were keen to work with me again.

One of my favorite moments on set on Saturday was when I was doing Sudoku when I knew I wasn’t going to be filmed for a while. One the crew members walked past:

“You’re blonde, and you’re doing a sudoku.”

“And…? Just because I’m blonde doesn’t mean I’m stupid”

“Yes, but I do sudoku”


The character I played was married, and as is expected for a married woman, I was given a ring for my left ring finger to show this on film. As I was about to send a picture to my boyfriend my co-star saw what I was doing:

The little bits that make the character...
“Please tell me you’re going to post that photo on facebook.”

“No. I don’t think that’s wise”

“Just as a joke. I’ll comment and say that I was there, and that it was amazing”

After I finally got all the fake blood out of my hair, and assessed all the blisters on my toes from spending a day shooting in high heels I was happy. I had done challenging work, well. I had spent time, and laughed with an amazing team. And I’m not sure, we had made an amazing short film. The details of which I will write about once the film has been screened. For now, I'm holding thumbs that we will do well! Go Team Zwoosh!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Attitudes and Acro-tots

I started competing in acrobatics at quite a young age, and as I get older and reflect on the hours my parents spent with me, the time spent sewing sequence onto leotards and the trips to competitions I have an even greater appreciation for childhood. Especially regarding my parents’ attitude toward winning, and attitude.

As I gave my general feedback this last week to groups of dancers (and acrobats) after adjudicating a dance eisteddfod this past week my mother’s words poured from me to the parents and expectant dancers waiting for me to say my piece so they could collect their certificates:
“When you walk on stage it doesn’t matter what happened earlier. It doesn’t matter if your mom pulled your hair, or if you fought with your teacher or if yous costume is itchy. From the moment you walk on stage you are performing. You have the attitude of the greatest performer that has graced the stage, and you enjoy your dance. And the moment you walk off stage that attitude is gone.”

Adjudicating the dance section of the eisteddfod I have been adjudicating for the past two weeks turned out to be a completely different kettle of fish, as the organizer attempted to warn me before my first session. I had received detailed instruction via email informing how I should do my general feedback after each section. I was asked specifically not to mention any category winners. I do not usually announce category winners, but the week before at the high schools speech and drama section I was asked to do so when I didn’t. I was also not to hand out any certificates to dancers. Their coaches would receive them from a special certificates table to minimize any contact between performers, their parents and myself. As I was ferried out of a side door of the hall I was adjudicating in far from the reach of parents later that day I became more and more aware of why I was held to such stringent codes.

The competition between participants and dance schools at the dance eisteddfod, I was informed, had reached ridiculous heights in the previous years. The organizers of the eisteddfod were adamant to try and prevent this and apparently, questioning the adjudicator on why exactly a child had received a percentage higher or lower, affecting their ranks in the competition had been common place. At the beginning of each day the organizer reminded parents, participants and coaches that it was a dance festival, and not a competition or championships that the dancers were participating in, and that category winners and rankings would be conveyed to the dance schools at the conclusion of the festival. I don't think that this lessened any pressure, or pressure on me regarding the colour of the certificate I deemed appropriate for a dancer. Or the fact that on my first day, I was running late.

Due to a number of difficulties on the first day, including a problematic sound system, and participants who hadn’t followed the rules regarding the format of their CD’s my program was running late. As an adjudicator I do my best to stay on time, but sometimes these matters are not within my hands. A number of teachers also requested items to be moved due to clashes. The moment the organizer accommodated one legitimate request she was flooded with requests and I had to keep up. I ended up having a four hour session before my supper that day without a break in concentration. I was informed later that as I was ferried out of the hall for supper and a cup of tea a father approached the headmaster of the school where the eisteddfod was being held.

Apparently he could not understand why I was braking for supper and why I could not finish the last two and half hours of the day’s program, after my four hour session. The headmaster explained that the program had been delayed due to factors outside of anyone’s control. And that after my afternoon session I needed the break before finishing the day. Even if just to go to the bathroom. The father was not satisfied, as apparently I had also been sitting in the hall the afternoon.

This tale was related to me as I ate my supper, isolated from the demands placed upon me. When I returned home I asked my mother if the competition and pressure to win had always been so great, as I had never experienced it in the same way while I was competing. My mom laughed:

“Remember when you were at a competition in Roodepoort and I told you before you went on stage that you would walk home of you didn’t win?”

We had driven three hours to the acrobatics competition in Roodeport almost every year since I was 7 years old. The first year I competed I stood nervously with my mother before I had to go on stage, not knowing what to expect. My mom had said that to me, immediately calming my nervous before I performed as I knew my parents only expected me to do my best on stage. The statement reminded me that it was only a competition and that winning didn’t mean everything. It had become a joke in our household whenever my brother and I were competing in a competition.

“The reason I said it was because of the pressure to win I saw other children experiencing. Some mothers that heard me were horrified”

Not all families have our sense of humour.

Making up for the sense of competition, and truly making my week were the dancers in the 3 – 5 year old section. Specifically what we call the acro-tots. You never know what they are going to do on stage. Or if they will go on! But if they do it is always entertaining. For this section their coaches usually stand in the wings, showing them what to do. Many of them run forward as part of their routines, and more often than not on the completion of their forward action they look to their coach in the wing. Upon realizing thay they can’t see them they walk backward awkwardly until they can. Another little girl in a group piece ran to pick up the flowers her friend had dropped, and rightly ignored while dancing. And after a partner making a mistake in a duet piece the anger on the face of the second dancer sent the audience in to hushed fits of laughter. This was followed by a look of apology as the first dancer attempted to complete the duet.

One of the coaches, in her great wisdom, had thought it wise to put 3 three year olds in a large group piece. They were just supposed to sit on stage with their hands under their chins making a ‘flower’. A blonde curly haired three year old stood up a few seconds into the group performance, turned around to face the dancers and yelled at the top of her lungs “Mooi julle!” “Well done guys” as the group went into one of their lift sequences. She proceeded to walk across the stage, without regard for the other 15+ dancers attempting to perform the piece, hitching up her jazz pants as she went. At one point her teacher from the wing told her to make a flower, which she ignored and decided instead, from stage, to show the organizer playing the music for the participants how pretty the flares on the bottom of her jazz pants are. After this, while the rest of the group was holding a trick she decided to go, without fear into a backbend (a crab-stand in layman’s terms) on top of one of the dancers who was holding someone else in the air. Thankfully the weight of a wandering three year old didn’t disrupt the supporting dancer.

The tears were streaming down my face and that of my assistant as I did my best not to burst out laughing with the rest of the audience.