Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Executive Producers and screenwriters Jarrod de Jong and Pieter Oosthuizen, whose film Eintlik Nog Baie is loaded with a good balance of romance, comedy, suspense, tragedy, and is shining with charisma.
Tell me about what inspired Ally?
Jarrod de Jong: Ally is a fictional character that was created by an old school friend of mine who assisted with some relationship advice at a time when I was going through a divorce and really gave up on love. She encouraged me to write about what I feel and seek out the happiness in every moment and to stop dwelling on past mistakes. She constantly reminded me that is life is too short to waste on not taking chances, living for the moment and falling in love again. So Jay, the main character in the movie, is very much based on myself.
Tell me about changing the title to Eintlik Nog Baie?
Jarrod de Jong: I was looking for an artist to write and perform the title track of the film, and found these very talented brothers in Centurion, Pretoria, who called themselves 1925Band. I asked them to write me a love song entitled Ally, or where the name Ally is at least mentioned. The youngest of the brothers, David-Lee Gericke wrote the song Eintlik Nogal Baie and when they came to perform the demo of the song to the director and I, I immediately fell in love with the song. It had the X-factor and I knew we could make it a hit song. And based on the latter, and wanting the film to have a more Afrikaans title that will appeal to our target market, we decided to change the title of the film.
Pieter Oosthuizen: The original title was Ally; however, we felt that the title firstly wasn’t effective enough and with the film being Afrikaans and Ally being an English name, we thought it might be a bit confusing. We struggled with that though, as we couldn’t come up with a new title everyone felt satisfied with. Then the 1925 Band came to pitch the title song to us. It was so beautiful we were all mesmerised by it. They said the song’s title is Eintlik Nogal Baie we all had an a-ha moment right there.
Tell me about the process of writing the screenplay as a team?
Jarrod de Jong: Pieter, a partner of Madrobot, a product placement company, bought into the concept of Ally but felt we should make the project more commercially viable in order to get a return on investment. At the time the script had a very art house feel to it and even though I loved allot of scenes which was dropped in the end, purely because it was loosely based on my life, it made sense to make it more appealing to a wider audience. It was fun writing with Pieter who has a great sense of humour and he helped me in getting the structure of the film right.
Pieter Oosthuizen: It was an interesting process, a bit unorthodox maybe. Jarrod wrote the first draft of the script. I then came on board to rewrite the movie and from there it was a back and forth process. I would do a complete rewrite and send it to Jarrod who then added to that and send it back to me on which I would do a complete rewrite again until we were all satisfied.
How much as the story changed from the screenplay Ally it is based on?
Jarrod de Jong: A lot has changed. The original script had only 66 scenes and the final script about 120 scenes. We cut down on allot of characters that we felt did not contribute to the story and we wanted to make this very intimate and we wanted the audience to buy into each and every character. The entire main cast remained and we developed their characters more and more so that when you walk out of the cinema, you felt that you have experienced their story with them, as if they are real people.
Pieter Oosthuizen: That’s a controversial question! It’s always difficult to take somebody else’s story and then do an overhaul on it and still stay true to the original vision. I would say script wise we probably changed 90% of the original script, but story wise still stayed true to the core plot which is the romantic journey between Jay and Ally and also the subject matters discussed between them and also the space in which it plays out.
Was it a difficult story to bring to the big screen? Tell me about the process, obstacles….
Jarrod de Jong: It’s been a 3 year journey since I started writing the first draft of the script. I would say the biggest obstacle was getting the finance together, as it is with all films. Getting that right partner to buy into your story and believing in the project! But the rest of it was fun. I handpicked the cast and knew exactly what I wanted. I handpicked my entire creative team and were surrounded by top industry professionals. Production went very smooth in comparison with previous productions that I have produced. The director and I planned very meticulously. We had very few obstacles from that point of view and even post-production went as well as it could and the entire journey has been allot of fun but allot of hard work. Over 400 people has altogether worked on the film.
Pieter Oosthuizen: To be honest, it was less difficult than I thought it would be. I think this was largely due to how long we spent in development. Normally pre-production on a local film is about 3 months, in some cases even less. We spent a good 7-8 months planning the production. We were also blessed with a fantastic crew and cast who made all played there part so well that production was smooth sailing. In terms of challenges I’d say funding and time lines are always an issue. We would have loved to have a week and R500K extra to shoot the film, but we still managed. Travelling to Cape Town and shooting many scenes in Pretoria – in October – and passing it off as Cape Town were some of the challenges we had to overcome.
The film is a romance at heart? Your views?
Jarrod de Jong: From the beginning it was going to be a story of the heart. I didn’t want to tell just another romantic story. I didn’t want it to be predictable in anyway. I wanted to take audiences on a rollercoaster ride and I wanted them to really feel emotion. And based of what we have seen so far from audiences reactions we have ticked the right boxes. People are angry, they laugh, kept in suspense, cry, and taken on a journey of the heart with a very distinct message. In the early part of developing the script we had a huge flashback towards the end creating the opportunity that if we could do things over again, would we and how? But in the end we settled that life is too short and that we cannot changed what has happened, and that we must make use of every opportunity and keep moving forward. Life is gonna knock you down, but it is how you get up and keep moving forward that matters.
Pieter Oosthuizen: Definitely. The film has been misclassified as romantic-comedy on some platforms, but it is a Romantic Drama..
The storyline is also loaded with a good balance of comedy, suspense, tragedy, and is shining with charisma. Your views on this?
Pieter Oosthuizen: That is also true. We tried taking a more “real life” approach to the film than the local market may be used to. We took a risk mashing up some genres, but so far it’s being received very well.
Jarrod de Jong: Yes, it is quite a handful. We literally explore every genre except for fantasy all in one. It was a very risky endeavour because we were scared of how audiences and even our distributors would react to this. We wanted to create the rollercoaster effect as I have explained before. We wanted to push the envelope and seriously take people’s emotions to the next level where they honestly feel again, share the pain, share the laughter, and are touched in a way that they can talk about it afterwards and try to make sense of it all. There is an incredible chemistry between the lead characters and we get audiences to buy into that very quickly and then we throw life at them and see how it pans out. It is very realistic and because of that you get drawn into it emotionally.
Tell me about the casting of Jay and Ally?
Jarrod de Jong: This was not an easy process. All the supporting roles was pretty much sorted but getting the leads right was a daunting task. The director and I didn’t just want to throw two leads together and say go and play these characters. It was important for me from the beginning that people really buy into their love and believe their story. There had to be a distinct chemistry between the two of them. We went through numerous casting choices and in the end we decided to cast two not so familiar faces so that you won’t associate them with other films they have made and really buy into their characters. Both Andre Lotter (Jay) and Marisa Drummond (Ally) have never played a leading role in the film and was known for playing villains in soapies on TV. An when I first put them together during casting, I didn’t get them t read at first, I made them wait for an hour and observed from a distance how they would be with each other of camera. They were like two old friends, laughing chatting and I was immediately sold.
Pieter Oosthuizen: We felt like taking calculated risks with the casting too and decided to cast to excellent actors, but who are not known for big screen appearances and backing them up with a stellar supporting cast. André Lötter and Marisa Drummond were both cast on an audition. The chemistry between them were explosive and we all knew after they read their parts that we don’t even need to look further.
What excites you about being a filmmaker?
Jarrod de Jong: I want to inspire people through the power of film and through intelligent storytelling. I want to make my peers know more about the power of films and how simple pieces of footage that are put together to make a film can end up opening many people’s eyes. You can speak out about a problem people are neglecting, you can tell a story about someone’s unfortunate life, you can even make a movie all about how you go to big places with small tools. I believe you can have a huge impact on an audience through just a film.
Pieter Oosthuizen: You know, after the revival of the local industry in the early 2000’s we’re still in infancy at the moment. The most exciting times still lays ahead. The most exciting thing for me is that we still have such a long way to go that everybody in the industry at the moment and especially young guys entering all have the potential to make maverick strides in cementing the foundation and our position on the global stage.
Your views on the state of the local film industry?
Jarrod de Jong: South African filmmaking is still in the midst of a renaissance. We are producing more and more quality films but with this the market has also become very saturated and it is becoming more and more difficult to have success on the domestic front if your film is unable to travel into foreign markets. I haves gradually been shifting his focus to international co-¬‐productions over the past couple of seasons, facilitating and developing local projects with international distribution potential. Even the current film Eintlik Nogal Baie will see distribution in Europe, especially in Dutch countries like Holland and Belgium and the film will be dubbed into Spanish and distributed into the Latin American Film market who finds this genre very appealing. I continuously strive to meaningfully contribute to the culture and nation building of our country by telling highly entertaining, truly South African stories with universal appeal.
Pieter Oosthuizen: I think we’re in an exciting, yet scary state. Production wise it’s the most fruitful the industry has been in decades. Genre and subject wise we’ve been making great strides. Financially, however, we’re still on very uncertain grounds. Government has been stimulating finances fantastically for development and production, but I think more still needs to be done in terms of distribution, and soon, because with the large number of local films being produced at the moment, especially the local market, I’m afraid that we run the risk of imploding if stronger platforms aren’t introduced soon. I also think it’s time for the private sector to become much more involved for mutually beneficial reasons.
Your views on the future for screenwriters in South Africa?
Jarrod de Jong: I have received around 60 script from writers in the past year. There is allot of stories out there and we are growing as a writing nation, but I must honestly admit that we are still far behind countries like USA and Britain. Too many beginners focus only on how to write a script without bothering to learn what it takes to BE a screenwriter. They believe writing a script is easy and only dream of that six-figure sale. All they have to do is get the right software, attend the right classes, read a couple books and bingo! After all, we all have access to a computer keyboard, and we all think we could write. Even I am still learning the craft of writing for screen. Highly successful screenwriters are the most disciplined people I know. They make the time to write, face the blank page, produce a consistent amount of pages every day and deliver high quality scripts on deadline. We as a writing nation must not be content with just producing mediocre work. We should set out standards as high as we can in order to compete at the highest level and ultimately strive of winning the Oscar or any other top international award.
Pieter Oosthuizen: Very exciting! I think South Africa has some of the best storytellers in the world. We also have a very unique way of telling uniquely South African stories. With that I do not mean more stories about Apartheid or of shepherds herding cattle or sheep. Of course those stories should also be told, but there are so much more to South Africa than that. Everyday stories of modern heroes and interesting events that can compete with the best European films and even Hollywood – we can also blow stuff up…
What do you think is that magic ingredient in a screenplay that producers are looking for?
Jarrod de Jong: First you need a good idea of interest that appeals to a large audience. Then you need an interesting main character with a personal goal and a flaw that prevents him from reaching it while eliciting our sympathy. Follow that by an adversarial character who establishes a challenge for the main character that requires him to overcome his flaw in order to resolve the challenge and attain his goal. Add an inciting incident that unexpectedly and ironically propels our main character into conflict while highlighting his flaw and a meaningful theme that links the main character’s flaw and the adversary’s challenge through which the main character can struggle from one thematic pole to the other. Throw in a crisis that forces the main character to finally and fully confront and overcome his flaw in order to resolve the conflict and ultimately attain his personal goal. Add lots of creativity, some aesthetics and lots of sweat and then you blend it all into a well-developed plot which follows the accepted norms of screenplay structure. That’s what we are looking for!
Pieter Oosthuizen: I don’t think there is a single magic ingredient. There has to be a balance between passion, originality, marketability and craft. Writing is rewriting and as much as it is art it is a technical craft which needs to be honed.
What do hope audiences will get from watching Eintlik Nogal Baie?
Jarrod de Jong: That life is too short. We should make use of every opportunity you get and cherish it. And tell someone you really care about that you love them and what they mean to you. Don’t take things for granted. We live in a cynical world, and we seldom appreciate the beauty around us and the people who infuse our lives with reality.
Pieter Oosthuizen: Hmmm. That’s a dangerous one. What I hope for most is that it will stir at least 1 person’s soul (hopefully everyone’s!) It’s not a preachy film, but it touches on a very important real life topic that’s relevant to everyone.
Any comments you would like to share regarding Eintlik Nogal Baie.
Jarrod de Jong: Go and watch it. The film is not ground-breaking in the sense that we have reinvented South Africa cinema, but it is a good old fashion romantic story with so much heart and finesse that you will leave the cinema asking questions about yourself, have you loved as freely as you can and have you done enough with your life where you have no regrets. This is a very emotional film and it as real as our own lives. Let’s share the love and pay it forward.
Pieter Oosthuizen: The film is what it is. We didn’t try to impress with any gimmicks or clever marketing. It’s a universal story and we told it as honest as we could. I just sincerely hope the public is satisfied afterwards.
Jarrod de Jong: I have a whole bunch of films on my slate next. 2017 is a bumper year with 3 brand new films going into production. One is a biopic, another a horror and the last and action-packed rollercoaster ride of epic proportions. Let’s hope they all come together as we have envisioned them. 2018 is also heavy traffic with my new script making it to production and maybe a sequel for Eintlik Nogal Baie, answering some of the many questions audiences have had so far and shaking up new drama. The latter can only be achieved if audiences support our film and spread the word for other that this is a must see for the year.
Pieter Oosthuizen: Don’t know. Seriously. We stirred the pot with this one, I’m just hoping to survive it for now…
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