A Shot at the Big Time, a short film by award-winning Durban film-maker, Janet van Eeden, has been selected for the Durban International Film Festival and will be the screened as part of a Think!Fest panel on the Legacy of Apartheid Conference during the National Arts Festival this July.
The film, inspired by the story of van Eeden’s brother, Jimmy, who died on the border three days after arriving in 1979, during the Apartheid Border Wars, is directed by Australian based Stephen de Villiers, produced by Janet van Eeden and London-basedMagda M. Olchawska, with Durban-based director of photography, Luke Pallett. Original songs have been written by Jonathan Handley, of the eighties Radio Rats fame, while the score has been composed by John McGuiness.
Van Eeden is Production Course Coordinator and Screenwriting lecturer at AFDA in Durban She’s written and produced many stage plays. She wrote the script for the internationally-acclaimed White Lion (2010). She says that it has taken nine years to write the poignant story inspired by her brother’s death. The short was produced as a promo for the full length feature, in the hopes of attracting further funds.
The film, which was shot on location in Pietermaritzburg and surrounds, features Sean C. Michael from Cape Town, as Staff Sergeant Van Staden, AFDA graduate Brad Backhouse as Jimmy, the small-town rock star with a big time future, who is drafted into the army, celebrated actor, Tim Wells, who plays the role of Corporal Wiese. UKZN Drama student, TQ Zondi, plays the role of Petrus, Jimmy’s friend. Others in the cast include Caitlin Harrison as Jess, Cade White as young Jimmy, Livvy Henning as young Jess and Mapumelelo Maphumulo as young Petrus.
“After many years of trying to find the right producer to make this film in the way that would pay tribute to my brother and others who died needlessly in this war, I decided to take the reins into my own hands and produce this film myself,” explains van Eeden.
Inspired by Peter Broderick, a US crowd-funding expert who spoke at the Durban Film Mart two years ago, she launched her 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, but within hours, the story touched a chord in so many hearts of people around the world. Not only were people donating money, they were also donating skills. This was a true labour of love with a string of people volunteering including the full cast, a team of Media Honours students from UZKN under the guidance of Navikiran Babulai and Karel Schmidt who created the EPK, graphics design company, Visual Graphics, based in Australia who designed the poster, publicist Sharlene Versfeld, photographer Val Adamson, wardrobe mistress Kirsty Geldart-Mitchell and first assistant director Stuart Nixon.”
“Money came from the most unexpected sources, and although we didn’t raise a huge amount, it captured the imagination of these amazing people. It was then I knew that this film had universal appeal and just had to be made.” she says.
Three months of concentrated pre-production went into the making of this demanding short, due to the military nature of the film. There had to be intense attention to detail in the military scenes and van Eeden was able to secure the services of Sergeant Major Mike Bond from the Natal Carbineers Unit in Pietermaritzburg who gave the crew access to military weapons and uniforms and ensured that every single detail on each of the thirteen military uniforms was 100% accurate.
Last year, the feature film project was selected for the Durban FilmMart and this year the short will be screened at the Durban International Film Festival (July 18 - 28), which attracts a significant number of industry guests and an audience of close to 32 000.
Van Eeden will be speaking on a panel at the Legacy of Apartheid Conference at the National Arts Festival in July where the film will be screened. “I will be drawing on my own experience as a sister of a young man who lost his life as a result of the mental anguish he underwent as a victim of conscription. I will also reveal the very tough road I undertook to tell this story, which I might add, was met with some frightening resistance from unknown entities in cyberspace, determine to deny that this kind of thing ever actually happened. This of course has made me even more determined to tell this story, in its full feature form.”