An unpretentious comedy, a film that does not take itself seriously
In the local action-comedy Finders Keepers, a strip joint janitor and a club patron strike up an unlikely friendship as they evade gangsters and Russian mobsters, and try to secure the release of a kidnapped stripper, by trading her for a lucky fish they had stolen
Finders Keepers was conceptualized by director Maynard Kraak back in 2012 when he set up West Five Films, but it was not until early 2014 that he brought his very good friend Strini Pillai, onboard to write the screenplay – Pillai, who now resides in Australia, is an award winning film, television and stage actor who has branched out into writing and stand-up comedy.
Finders Keepers is the pilot film project of the Emerging Black Film Maker initiative, run by the NFVF and the IDC. The film is the third film to be directed by Maynard Kraak, and the fourth that he has produced. The movie is being distributed in Southern Africa by Ster Kinekor Entertainment with the highly anticipated theatrical release of this comedy set for 18th August 2017. The film has already been picked up for US distribution by Tom Cat Films and sales agent Summer Hill Films will be representing international sales (a first sale has already been made). Participation in the NFVF Cannes catalogue would specifically be targeting potential international buyers. In particular, the film would benefit from a market screening in Cannes, and the sales agent would be able to utilize the opportunity to also invite buyers from their database of clients.
The Art Of Collaboration
The screenplay is an original work, with the story by Maynard Kraak and Strini Pillai.
They both grew up in Cape Town in neighboring areas Penlyn Estate and Rylands Estate, but met for the first time when they started working on SABC series Generations within a couple of weeks of each other, and subsequently became firm friends.
Only a month difference in age, Kraak and Pillai were teenagers in the Eighties and both frequented a local movie theatre, the iconic Cine 400 in Rylands.
Here they were fed a healthy dose of 80’s popular culture comedies like Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, Bad Medicine and Porkies.
So, when developing the screenplay, Maynard Kraak and Strini Pillai set out to create a film script that transported them back to their youth, with a film that is targeted predominantly at teenaged boys and young adult males.
Anyone who knows Strini personally, will acknowledge that he is one of the funniest people in the entertainment industry. His personality certainly permeates throughout the humour in the film.
Maynard Kraak on the other hand, has a love for comedy as well as Theatre of the Absurd. His first professional work as a director was his Absurdist stage play Bourgeoisie Gam and he has directed three television sitcom series: Let Heaven Wait, Parys Parys and Loitering in Jozi.
Having produced three feature films in Afrikaans (Vrou Soek Boer, Sonskyn Beperk, Knysna), Maynard Kraak has shifted his focus onto films in the English language.
Where he believes in creating content for the various language groups in South Africa, Maynard also feels strongly that we need to also make English language films, in particular films that can travel beyond our shores.
Finders Keepers is the first of a large slate of projects that West Five Films will be concentrating on over the next three years. The cornerstone of his local productions will be comedic films, with Maynard developing and strengthening relationships with the local comedy industry.
Bringing The Screenplay To Life
Once the screenplay and financing were finalized, long-time collaborator, casting director Thorsten Wedekind came on to cast the film. During the casting of the film, Maynard and Thorsten spent close on three months in auditions and call backs before being finalized.
While producing the film Knysna, Maynard Kraak discussed Finders Keepers with Neels van Jaarsveld (Knysna, Man Soos My Pa, Sonskyn Beperk, Bang Bang Club).
Then directly after that production, an approach was made to stand-up comic Dalin Oliver during the run of his successful one man show I Came, I Taught, I Left at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Maynard Kraak had been tracking the young comedian for a year, catching his stand up shows at venues in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Lise Slabber, who has risen to prominence in the Starz series Black Sails, is the Russian dancer Sonja, who works at the strip club Pussie Galore. She is the victim of manipulation on the part of the Russian mobster club owners, who have her young daughter.
Grant Swanby (Beyond the River, Modder en Bloed) is an award winning actor and here he makes a hilarious turn as the Russian gangster Kiril. Tyrel Meyer (I Now Pronounce You Black & White) is the younger Russian brother Fedor, the muscle in the criminal organization.
Cape Town comedian Stuart Taylor makes his acting debut as Jackie Jardine, the leader of the Seven’s gang that includes Irshaad Ally (Four Corners) and Khalil Kathrada (Alien Outpost). Clayton Evertson (Honey 3) is Lee, Jackie Jardine’s son. Siv Ngesi steps out of his comfort zone, as the conflicted camp bouncer SS. Then there is Matthew Dylan Roberts (Faith like Potatoes) as the swashbuckling bookie, Sweet George.
Even though the film is skewed towards the ridiculous, true to Maynard Kraak’s Absurd roots, the comedy still originates from a place of truth and honesty. Finders Keepers is an unpretentious comedy, a film that does not take itself seriously, and aims to provide unashamedly, a vehicle to entertain and make one laugh out loud, without descending into vulgarity and crassness. Bottom line, the film is really very funny
Creating The World Of Finders Keepers
Finders Keepers is set in Maynard Kraak’s hometown of Cape Town.
After twenty years living in various places including Johannesburg, the UK and the US, Maynard Kraak returned to Cape Town to shoot the action comedy.
As an ex-pat Capetonian, it was important to Kraak to return home to make a film.
Principal photography took place for 30 days in and around Cape Town.
During the development, it was Strini Pillai’s idea to introduce the fish character to the story. Other animals have been commonplace in films, but to have a fish that has to interact with the actors is something novel.
Maynard Kraak, embraced the idea, and engaged the services of Hilton Treves, one of the most experienced Visual Effects Supervisors in South Africa. A 3D fish was designed and animation was undertaken by Lung Animation, with lead animator Claudio Pavan sharing the Visual Effects Supervisor role.
It may have been easier and cheaper to cut Ishy the Fishy from the script, but instead, Maynard Kraak decided to take up the challenge and push out the envelope.