Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Somer Son writer-director Clinton Lubbe
“There needs to be a balance between inspiration and awareness of your market. We tried to accommodate this while still telling a universal story, says writer-director Clinton Lubbe of his delightful Afrikaans film Somer Son, which he co-wrote with Luan Jacobs (a proud graduate of The Writing Studio) and Zandeli Meyer, based on a story by himself and Jan-Lourens van der Merwe.
How would you describe Somer Son in your own words? What is it about?
Family, relationships, dynamics and ultimately the balance thereof. A humorous yet realistic look at these aspects of life and situations that we can identify ourselves in.
How did you get involved with the project?
A few years ago I knew nothing about film and then I made a promise to someone that we would make a film together in the next four years.
What inspired the story?
There needs to be a balance between inspiration and awareness of your market. We tried to accommodate this while still telling a universal story. A strong theme is family and our lead character Sonja’s desire to fall pregnant. This aspect was inspired by a dear friend who experienced the painful loss of her two children and then struggled for the next five years to fall pregnant again. She finally conceived and gave birth to a strong little man just before the release of the film.
It seems to be a world and people you are very familiar with. Your comments?
I think it is a world full of people we are all familiar with. A lot of film is metaphor and that is where we find our resonance. You don’t need to have had a vasectomy to understand the concept of giving something up to further your career or making a stupid decision that you later live to regret, we’ve all done that in some form or other.
At its heart, it’s a story about love, are you a romantic at heart?
I’m a dreamer and love is a dream isn’t it? I suppose I have fallen in and out of love enough times to have hopefully learnt a thing or two along the way. The genre would be more who I am, if we can’t laugh at our own folly then we are lost.
It’s also a soulful story about friendship? Your views on this?
Thank you, I like that you think it is soulful because that means it’s genuine, we tried to avoid too much pretence. I’m a bad friend, I think I spend too much time in my own world (head) to nurture my friendships enough. I suppose this awareness makes the writing a penance. Some of my friends will find an apology or a nod here and there in the story.
Did you write any of the characters for specific actors?
No. The characters Richie and Terry are real people who are good friends with Bok and Hanna so that is as close as we came to tailoring roles. For the rest we had very strong ideas and lengthy character bibles that gave birth to the characters before writing began – there were suggestions thrown about for our lead, that was always going to be Reynard Slabbert or at least we hoped it would be him so maybe there was a little tailoring in his character.
Was it difficult to separate your role as director and writer?
I don’t know any other way so I wouldn’t be qualified to offer a worthwhile opinion. I do however suffer from a mild dose of memory failure as I find it difficult to keep up with writing and working in Afrikaans but thinking in first language English – I believe it made my job as director easier being so intimate with the characters and the story.
The songs effectively underscore the emotional journey of the characters. Was it difficult to decide on the music for the film?
I used music video production as a training ground for our company over the last few years, maybe that’s where the intuition came from. My very talented right hand man, Jan-Lourens van der Merwe and I worked the story out together before writing so a lot of the music was in his hands after we discussed the direction. From there it was easy to identify strong emotional contenders in our listening sessions.
Tell me about finding the right actors? The actors are perfect in their roles
Pre-production seems to be neglected somewhat in local circles, our character bibles were longer than the scrip – well over a hundred pages. This gave us a synergy when casting, as a unit our production team recognized the character in the actor. There is a line of advice that says cast correctly and half your job is done as a director, I was hoping that this would be true!
Your views on the local film industry?
Perhaps a little disillusioned? It came as a shock to find out how the film business model in general works. We have great talent, ideas and ability on a limited playing field which I think is a conundrum. It is difficult to have first world ideals in, dare I say it, a third world market place. Contentious I know but we do like to compare our locally produced content for local consumption with an international stage.
Why do you think Afrikaans films are so successful locally?
A loyal and more captive audience. In English we have a deluge of international productions to choose from, to compete in English I would be putting my production up against a long list from a different weight division.
What do you hope audiences will get from watching the film?
A good evening’s entertainment and apparently a lesson or two. It has been unexpected to hear from our male audience that the film pushed some buttons.
Have you always wanted to be a screenwriter/ director? How did it start for you?
Not at all. I am a photographer – a portraitist at heart and only got into film four years ago. The opportunity to direct hundreds of people in front of my lens for so many years – from covers of our biggest stars to the unknown – made the transition into identifying and capturing emotion for moving pictures that much easier. As for writing I still have a lot to learn and my process is based on a solid team and open exchange.
Any advice for aspiring screenwriters/ filmmakers who would like to break into the industry?
Be sensible, be market aware. Know who your market is and what your market wants because if you don’t the decision makers do and they will shoot you down in two minutes if you aren’t relevant. Create work for yourself. If you wait for something to come your way then you might be the one in a million that realises your dreams but if you make it happen for yourself you are more in control. This film grew from a little log line and a whole lot of determination. Take your ideas as far as you possibly can on your own, the rest of the world will get the message, they will realise that you are serious and hardworking enough to take seriously.
Future projects and any comments you would like to share?
In terms of film I would like to take the idea of using green production methods forward into our next big project and evolve it into a trend. We have three stories on the table and from here I will appoint two writers who suit the project to begin work with us.
How difficult it is to produce an independent film in SA?
Every process will have it’s difficulties. I wouldn’t like to assume that it is made any easier or more difficult as I can think of a long list of pros and cons on both sides. My best guess is that it probably balances out at the end of the day. Foremost in everyone’s mind is obviously the question of finance as an indie. Be market aware and create a relevant product and you will find help along the way.
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