Screenwriter Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo talks about writing ‘Trouvoete’

A film about love in all its crazy wonder and confusion

Tarryn Press(1)

In 2012 I graduated in BA (Drama) and in 2013 I completed my BA Hons (Drama) (Cum Laude) at the University of Pretoria. I am currently enrolled as a Master student furthering my research in the specific domain of Screendance and Laban Movement Analysis. Earlier this year I was invited to partake in a certification program course hosted by the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York. Once I am qualified as a certified movement analyst (CMA) I would be one of only three CMA’s in the country with this qualification. From 2011 to 2014 I performed at the National Arts Festival with a physical theatre/movement work, which was also performed at the State Theatre and Aardklop. In May 2014 I start working as a full time screenwriter at Phoenix Films with Treurgrond as my first official feature film which released on 29 May 2015. Treurgrond deals with farm murders and the destructive impact of farm attacks and murders on the community by following the narrative of Lukas van Staden (Steve Hofmeyr) and his family. Trouvoete, my second screenplay, is a film set against the backdrop of a Christmas wedding and releases in cinemas on 16 December 2015. Erica Wessels and Bouwer Bosch play the romantic leads in this story about love with a comedic touch amongst some serious moments. In February 2016 Skorokoro, a screenplay that I co-wrote alongside director Darrell Roodt will release in cinemas countrywide. Skorokoro tells the tale of Happiness, a small town taxi driver who falls in love with the Chief’s daughter, Rose. Unfortunately Happiness can’t afford the lobola and then decides to partake in a race in a bid to win the cash prize. Mignon “Mossie” van Wyk releases in April 2016 marking my third solo screenplay to be produced. It is a story about love, naturally, but it’s more about being a teenager and how rough life can be. It’s a story about monsters and running shoes. About letting go and holding on. About friendship. It’s a story about how Mignon “Mossie” van Wyk and how she learns to fly. During my free time I adjudicate at Public Speaking festivals, as well as freelance as a choreographer.

Tell me about Trouvoete, what is about in your own words?
Trouvoete is really just a film about love in all its crazy wonder and confusion. The film comments about how love can ruin you whilst at the same time rescuing you. It is about weddings, bridezillas, groomzillas, misunderstandings and happy endings. It was inspired by the true life events of every broken heart, every love at first sight, every true love and every happily ever after.

How did you get to write the screenplay?
I am the in-house writer for Phoenix Films and I write most of the screenplays.

Why did you write Trouvoete?
I sat with producer Samuel Frauenstein in a brainstorming session and what was clear from the start was that we wanted a slice of life, romantic film most people who have been or are in a relationship, not limited to romance, can relate to. It had to be a reminder of love that has been lost and new love that pulls the carpet right from under our feet.

Did you ever have ‘trouvoete’? If so, tell me about it?
Uhm… I’ve had “birthday feet – yearly”, “heartbroken feet – more often than not”, “happy feet – almost always” and I’ve spotted a few “crow’s feet” but no sign of “trouvoete”.

Was it a difficult screenplay to write? Why?
Every screenplay has its own challenges and with “trouvoete” it was difficult to write something that is fresh and somewhat unpredictable. Films are set in a world where everything is scripted; everyone has sharp comebacks, knee-numbing dialogue, and perfect timing, unlike life. I enjoy watching films that I can relate to and trying to translate that onto paper and ultimately onto screen, can be a challenge at times.

Were there any particular films that inspired your screenplay?
A personal tradition to my festive season is to watch Love Actually and although I’ve been inspired by the film it was rather the idea that there exists this seasonal film, that I can watch anytime throughout the year but almost always on Christmas. There has yet to be such an Afrikaans film. Films that resemble a similar tonality to “trouvoete” is for instance You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’s Diaries, Notting Hill and (500) days of Summer.

What do you think it is about ”wedding films” that makes it such a winning formula?

Melancholia written by Lars Von Trier is a great example of the way in which a wedding forces family and friends together to celebrate a couple’s matrimony. But then again Von Trier prides himself in showing unsettling relationships between his distinct characters. Saying “I do” is a big deal, and many films in the past including Konfetti written by Louw Venter, have emphasised just how big of a deal organising a wedding can be. The list of “wedding films” is extensive. It comes down to conflict and action. Conflict reveals character. Although “trouvoete” is not in any way similar to Melancholia there are two simultaneous conflict triggering events that manage to send the characters through a fair deal of ups and downs i.e. a wedding during silly season. I find the idea of a “winning formula” somewhat contrived and restrictive, as I believe each screenplay has a life and mind of its own. What makes writing so much fun and challenging at the same time is to constantly try to tell the same story differently by relentlessly turning the formula on its head.

Did you write the screenplay with any actors in mind?
No, not specifically. It’s far more liberating to write interesting characters placed in fascinating universes as opposed to keeping actors and their repertoire in mind.

Trouvoete3

Lika Berning and Erika Wessels in Trouvoete

Briefly tell me what the process was from page to screen?
It’s often the case that once the screenplay is submitted to a production studio the writer surrenders and walks away only seeing the finished product for the first time on screen. Being part of Phoenix Films we have brainstorm sessions around the screenplay, along with inputs from the director and producers. After the first draft is submitted, we discuss the screenplay after which rewrites ensue. The amount of drafts and rewrites per screenplay can vary anything between three and seven, with that said a lot of rewriting takes place within a single draft. Writing is rewriting. Once the script is locked, scheduling and casting happens followed by production which usually lasts up to four weeks. Post production takes up most of the time before the film releases along with the marketing campaigns and creatives. It is a gruelling process of non-stop management, administration, deadlines and deliveries from sound to colour grading, picture-lock, and music clearance in order to ultimately sit in front of the big screen and watch the culmination of everyone’s hard work. It is an overwhelming feeling which makes everything worth it.

Were you happy with the end result? Watching it on screen?
Rita Mae Brown says that “you sell a screenplay like you sell a car. If someone drives it off a cliff, that’s it.” I have yet to see one of my screenplays driven off a cliff. The Phoenix Films crew and team have done a wonderful job with this screenplay.

What was the most exciting part of writing the movie?
I suppose one can only say this in hindsight, but the rewrite stage is as exciting as it is agonising. Shifting scenes around, polishing dialogue, and editing the words, plot points and characters until everything slots into place is exhilarating. It’s like you’re playing pickupsticks, trying to move crucial parts without the entire structure falling apart. It’s a balancing act.

Your views on the future for screenwriters in the local industry?
More and more films are being produced yearly in South Africa which shows that there exists a definite future for screenwriters. Yet to a screenwriter an unproduced screenplay means nothing. Screenwriters writing specifically for the local industry can only grow and become established when given the opportunity of having their screenplays produced. It is crucial that the role of the screenwriter is not undermined or bypassed. The screenplay is the foundation.

What do you think makes a great screenwriter?
It is different for everyone. I would say that patience with yourself and the process is vital, a willingness to evolve and be challenged, and a resilience yet receptiveness towards critique.

Any advice for screenwriters who want to see their name on the big screen?
Aaron Sorkin, a master screenwriter of dialogue says it best: “The trick is to follow the rules of classic storytelling. Drama is basically about one thing: Somebody wants something, and something or someone is standing in the way of him getting it. What he wants—the money, the girl, the ticket to Philadelphia—doesn’t really matter. But whatever it is, the audience has to want it for him.” Apart from that I would say, write every single day, finish your screenplays, send your polished screenplays to producers, keep your eyes open and your ears on the ground and persevere.

What is your next project?
I have two films releasing early next year, Skorokoro in February 2016 and Mignon “Mossie” van Wyk which releases in April 2016. Apart from the new releases I have a screenplay that is set to be filmed in February 2016.

What do you hope audiences will get from watching the film?
That’s the great thing about films. In a cinema of a certain amount of people not one of the audience’s experiences will be the same. They each walk out with their own personal satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Films prod, poke and provoke, they remind us about memories, people, our mistakes and our triumphs. To everyone who walks out after seeing “trouvoete”, my hope is that they walk out with at least one of these experiences.