Film Courage – The Making of SHOT THE SHORT by Janet Van Eeden
After many years of trying to find the right producer to make the film, A Shot at the Big Time, a film which was deeply personal as it dealt with my brother’s death on the South African border during the years of enforced conscription for young white boys during the Apartheid struggle, I decided to take the reins into my own hands and produce this film myself.
I wrote about the arduous process of getting this film into production here: Film Courage, The Courage to Make a Film.
I heard Peter Broderick, a US crowd-funding expert, at the Durban Film Mart a year ago and this inspired me to launch my own crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo.com on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 2011, Remembrance Day, in honour of all those fallen in war. It was at a time of personal turmoil for me and I wasn’t too sure I knew what I was doing, but I posted a youtube clip of a song written especially for A Shot at the Big Time by musician friend, Jonathan Handley and put it up alongside the, by now, well-honed treatment of the film. I had no idea of the response this film would receive. When I came back to my computer, a few hours after posting the very basic campaign, many people had already commented and donated money and offered services of all kinds. The story touched a chord in so many hearts of people around the world. I was humbled by the response.
Not only were people donating money, they were also donating skills. A film
producer from London offered to come on board and give her services for free. A graphics design company, Visual Graphics, from Australia offered to make the poster. Money came from the most unexpected sources. It was then I knew that this film had universal appeal and just had to be made.
We didn’t raise very much money due to a glitch in my set target, which I couldn’t undo once I’d posted it. But we raised over $5000 and acquired a highly skilled group of volunteers. Amongst these were a professional director from Australia, Stephen de Villiers, who flew over the shoot the short in July; to highly skilled actors who auditioned for the roles online and came from around the country to make this film happen; to a professional DOP as well as crew.
We decided to shoot the short as a promo, to have something to show future producers who might want to invest in the feature film. We also hoped to have a stand alone short film which could be entered into the international festival circuit to create a buzz around the world. It took twelve drafts before Stephen and I were happy with the short film script.
Three months of intense pre-production went into the making of this rather
demanding short, due to the military nature of the film. There had to be intense attention to detail in the military scenes and we were so luck to secure the services of Sergeant Major Mike Bond from the Carbineers Unit who gave us access to military weapons and uniforms and ensured that every single detail on each of the thirteen military uniforms was 100 % accurate. I also had a remarkable wardrobe mistress on board, Kirsty Geldart-Mitchell, who was extremely efficient. Our 1st AD, Stuart Nixon, also took a huge load of my shoulders during the pre-production process and liaised with Stephen across the waters to get the shooting schedule up and running before Stephen landed. He arrived five days before the film shoot and it was a miracle how smoothly everything went from the first day of filming.
On the first day of filming I marvelled at my long-held dream becoming a reality before my eyes. The shoot exceeded my expectations and went beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s not often that something is beyond your wildest dreams, but this shoot was.
Media Honours students, under the guidance of Navikiran Babulal and Karel Schmidt, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal came on board and offered to do the EPK as part of their studies. The result is visible here:
They, too, exceeded my wildest expectations and I think you’ll agree when you watch this film.
The short is in the edit suite and we hope to have it completed early in September. We are still sourcing feature film funding but this film has its own momentum. A Shot at the Big Time, the feature, is destined to be made.
Janet van Eeden has been a writer most of her life. She wrote her first poem about a Tiger when she was eight. She has earned her living from freelance journalism, script writing and producing for the past thirteen years. She has written for many print media including The Witness, The Sunday Independent, as well as a few British magazines, including Scriptwriter UKand the websites Litnet and Twelvepoint.com.
Van Eeden has written eleven screenplays and six stage plays to date. She reviews books regularly for The Witness and Litnet. She has produced six plays (and directed two) and taken each one to the Grahamstown Arts Festival with funding from the National Arts Council each time. Her new play, In-Gene-Uity, premiered at the Grahamstown Festival in July 2009.
She was a supervising producer on two M-Net EDiT Films, “Smile” (2006) and “Commando” (2007), written by her film writing students, Johann Hyman and Stephen de Villiers, while lecturing at UKZN. A full-length feature film she co-wrote, White Lion premiered at the Durban International Film Festival in July 2009 and was released internationally in February 2010.
Van Eeden has her Masters in English (cum laude) and lectured part-time in Scriptwriting at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal for two years. She gives Scriptwriting workshops around the country and has given workshops at AFDA Johannesburg, for the Wildlife Film Academy at the Kruger National Park and at Entabeni Game Reserve. She has also given workshops at Wild Talk International Film Festival at the ICC in Durban in 2009 and at Spier Wine Estate in Cape Town in 2011.
She received a National Arts Council Grant in 2008 to write the novel The Width of a Thread.
Her stage play A Matter of Time was unanimously declared the winning entry by all three judges of the Olive Schreiner Award 2008.
She is currently producing her own film, A Shot at the Big Time, raising funds on Indiegogo
She also offers an online Scriptwriting Course which has attracted students from as far afield as the DRC and Europe.
She is currently doing her PHD in Media on Scripting the South African Film.
She has won the 2011 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award for the northern/southern regions as a Columnist for The Sunday Independent.
Be sure to read Janet’s prior Film Courage article THE COURAGE TO MAKE A FILM!