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|News and Highlights - 2014|
Anchors Aweigh - again!Season One of Black Sails set a viewership record for a Starz original series, so it is not surprising that we started work on Season Three in December, before the second season airs in the USA toward the end of January, 2015.
While the headline cast is drawn from the UK, USA and Australia, several South African actors have worked their way up the credit roll into important supporting roles. Patrick Lyster survives - so far! - as Captain Benjamin Hornigold, while Andre Jacobs also evades musket balls, mutiny and politicking to portray Mr. DeGroot, Ship's Master aboard Flint's ship The Walrus. Sean Cameron Michael plays Richard Guthrie, the corrupt Governor of Nassau, while Louise Barnes is the mysterious widow Miranda Barlow, who knows more about Captain Flint's past than anyone else. Between thirty and forty South African actors have appeared in other supporting roles so far.
Family Fun too...Amidst the skullduggery and Sturm und Drang, there's also been time for family entertainment from Two Oceans Productions. This low-profile Cape Town based company has specialised in German-language made-for-TV movie production for at least a decade. Producer Geselher Wenske and his team, led by Marco Le Roux and Andrea Pienaar, have facilitated or Co-Produced between two and four productions a year. Their quiet, unfussed efficiency stood them in good stead during November and December, when the family comedies Superdad and Rosa went into production almost simultaneously.
Since German television productions are often "dubbed", Two Oceans Productions provide opportunities for South African actors who can't yet cope with American or period English accents. We also have a limited number of performers who can cope with the German dialogue, such as Sandi Schultz (NYPD Blue, City of Angels), who played her role as the feisty South African matriarch in Rosa in German.
Note to other local actors: Even if it's just for picking up your cues, brush up your German, because the last actor's contracts had barely been signed when two more scripts arrived for production early in 2015!
Northmen hits the Screen
One of the ironies of working in the international film industry in South Africa is that we don't always get to see the results of our efforts. We do appreciate it therefore when producers or directors let us know about the fate of projects we have worked on. Ralph Stephan Dietrich, Producer of NORTHMEN - A Viking Saga, sent us a gracious thank-you email recently to let us know that the epic has been sold to 40 countries and opened at the end of October on over 1,200 screens.
Sadly, South Africa is not one of the territories, but Cape Town co-producer Giselher Wenske of Two Oceans productions hopes to arrange a cast & crew screening soon. We look forward to it - the batch of trailers we saw earlier this year was pretty spectacular! Cape Town actors Danny Keogh, Nic Rasenti, Joe Vaz & Richard Lothian appear as King Dunchaid, Gostun, Murdill & Haldor, while Johannesburg actors Daniel Janks and David James play Messenger and Gang Leader. NORTHMEN is directed by Hollywood-based Swiss director Claudio Fäeh (Sniper: Reloaded, Hollow Man 2)
Bumbling council workers Sam Pinkett and Phil Bourne try to extract themselves from the unlikely web of crime, conspiracy and corruption they got themselves into during the highly successful first series.
July 2014The Wrong Mans
Mathew Baynton & James Corden have again written a hilarious script for themselves and Director Jim Field Smith to play with. Apart from the surface humour, there are scores of wicked sideswipes at everything - from American race-relations and British ambivalence about Europe to Anglo-French cultural dissonance.
Since this is the second series, most of the major roles are set, but Sam & Phil's escapades cover a lot of ground, affording opportunities for a range of South African actors to prove that "There are no small Parts..."
The Last FaceWell, there's so much chatter out there on the Web that we'll just admit that we've almost completed casting for The Last Face. This has entailed very specific searches in our refugee communities, in their home countries, and amongst our professional actors to satisfy Director Sean Penn's attention to detail. Although Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron play the lead roles, there are no "filler roles" - Erin Dignam's script requires every other cast member to carry an important aspect of the story.
June 2014There is a tide in the affairs of men...
As the weather in the Western Cape of South Africa at last turns from long sunny days to the short, dark and stormy days of Winter, our actors are no doubt pondering the fact that audition calls have diminished and asking themselves whether the Pirates of New Providence Island will take on the might of the Royal Navy in Black Sails, Season 3. Will the Angels, good & bad, return to pester the citizens of Vega in Dominion Season 2?
They're probably simply asking “Will there be work for me next Season?”
It is possible that not even the Producers of the two biggest shows in town have a certain answer to the first two questions at this time.
The answer to “Will there be work...” is almost certainly “Yes, even if not necessarily on those two series.”
Immediately after Liberation in 1994 there was a flood of work into South Africa. Firstly, because it had become morally and politically possible to work here. Secondly, because we were the miracle of the era and became “flavour of the month.” Our actors could make a living, if they had the stomach for it, by playing the same dastardly Cruel White Policeman or the same cardboard Noble Freedom Fighter in movie after series, after Docu-Drama.
When the rush had passed, foreign producers also realised that filming in South Africa made economic sense – because we provided good value. Our Film Commissions and production company marketers rattled on about our scenery, our crews and even the state of the art equipment that was available.
Nobody mentioned the acting talent....
All our marketing efforts missed an important point: South Africa is one of the few places in the world outside of the US and the UK where a producer can populate a film with people of diverse ethnic appearance who understand and speak English.
Admittedly, it was difficult to sell our acting talent when they were confined to playing one-liners and day-player roles. The release of both District 9 and Invictus within the same year changed that. (2009) District 9 was the box-office sensation of the year, Invictus was a “worthy” film which has recouped a little over twice its budget at the box-office. Both pictures garnered a slew of nominations and several awards.
Both films had almost entirely South African casts, so our actors appeared far higher up the Credit roll than ever before. From a Casting Director's perspective, the effect was immediate. For the first time, feature film directors and television producers would ask for South African actors by name and with specific roles in mind. The effect is also apparently long lasting and for those actors lucky enough to find a “fit” for a role or two in quick succession, the effect has been cumulative. Of course the old adage “You're only as good as your last movie” always applies. The dangers of “Punching above your own weight” should also not be forgotten...
Having two high-profile productions such as Black Sails and Dominion in production at the same time, quite apart from several other productions, in a sense gave the film service industry a Stress Test, which it passed.
Take a look at this link and scroll down to CAST:
(Should open in a separate Tab)
Two South African actors appear among the twelve “above the line” cast credits, followed by a list of thirty-one Supporting / Recurring cast from Season 1 alone. (Just over 100 roles by the end of Season 2) In a series with a notoriously high body count, many of these roles have survived into the second season because the Producers either expanded the roles or decided not to kill off the characters after appreciating what our actors brought to their roles.
Dominion is a much smaller production than Black Sails, but we're not “Budget Boasting” here, we're talking about the involvement and contribution of the often under-rated South African actors. It appears that, after making the Pilot episode, both the Producers' and the Network's perspective on the importance of certain roles shifted on the basis of the performances they saw on screen from South African actors.
At a rough estimate, we cast between forty and fifty roles on Dominion, from one-liners upwards. Dominion has not aired yet, but expect to see at least three South African actors on screen very often, with another half-dozen in smaller recurring roles.
The way Networks commission programmes is changing. Rather than mull over the merits of several Pilots then “picking up” one or two, a younger generation of executive appears to be ready to back several projects at once. They have the agility to tinker with the project on the fly either to keep it on track or to swerve around storyline, character, or casting issues.
These developments have brought our actors to the brink of increased recognition and we hope that more of them will be encouraged to do whatever it takes to up their game to International level.
Producers already feel more confident about casting our actors in bigger roles – we can do without our Government's meddling with work visa requirements and undermining twenty years of steady growth.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Brutus: Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3
It's A Wrap!
Well, not quite!
Our Girl has gone home, Black Sails has furled sail on Season 2, Dominion's Angels have flown home to their eyrie. Ace Hunter will plunge his panga (machette) into his last shark of the season at the end of May, but we're not going to get much of a "Winter Season Break" in which to make improvements to the Cape Town studio. Grzimek, a two part mini on the life of Bernatd Grzimek and his quest to save the Serengeti, has completed filming of the European part of the story in Germany and recently started filming the African section in Cape Town, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Our winter break lasted about as long as it takes to gulp down a cup of tea...
Steven Shainberg (Secretary, Fur) paid us a flying visit to "chat" to a selection of South African actors, then gave the go-ahead to cast about two dozen delightfully quirky character parts for The Big Shoe.
While "aarghrrr-arrghing" their way through two years of pirate auditions has been fun, many Cape Town and Johannesburg actors leaped at the chance to strut their stuff with characters from the hidden world of shoe-fetishists. Believe it or not, after our initial round of auditions, a healthy clutch of dead pirates have caught the eye of Mr. Shainberg!
Not that surprising really – South African actors have to be versatile!
After a few years of being submerged in "Soapie Swamp", Johannesburg will be the base for a few feature films later in the year. Christa has already started casting for Tremors 5, but another science fiction film and a "Big Name Movie" hover in the wings under NDAs. Watch this space.
Time Warp - Past, Present and FutureSeason 2 of Black Sails continues shooting at the Cape Town Film Studios, so we've continued to send actors back to the Eighteenth Century, while looking for actors who can get their tongues around Pashto dialogue for Our Girl, a contemporary miniseries set against the gradual withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.
Based on a "one-off" aired by the BBC to much acclaim in 2013, the five-part series will follow Molly Dawes during her first deployment as an army medic in Afghanistan, where the eighteen-year-old encounters life-changing experiences which affect the way she deals with her dysfunctional family when she returns home on leave. Former East Enders actress Lacey Turner returns in the role of Molly Dawes.
As for the future... Dominion follows the perilous journey of a rebellious young soldier who discovers he's the unlikely savior of humanity amidst battles between good and evil angels in what used to be Las Vegas. This eight-part series is also a spin-off, based on characters from the 2010 feature film Legion
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