Represent Interview: Hanneke Schutte
Hanneke Schutte is a young South African film director and screen writer that recently got to direct her enchanting short film ‘Superhero‘, thanks to the shedding of much blood, sweat tears and the great fortune of being chosen for an NFVF funding program for women and Black film makers. Bursting out from the starting blocks, Superhero has already been on it’s first international jaunt - to Cannes of all must-be-seen places, Represent found out how she managed to get in the bag with so much panache. Great inspiration for any wannabe film makers…
Tell us a bit about your background… what is your backstory?
I’m 33 and live in Jo’burg with my husband Slim who’s a commercials director at Egg Films. I studied languages and eventually ended up as a Copywriter in the ad industry. A few years ago I did a post-graduate qualification in Drama and Film and fell in love it. I’ve been lecturing part-time at Vega and writing screenplays since.
In a nutshell, what’s Superhero all about?
An amnesiac finds himself stranded in the middle of an arid landscape dressed as a superhero. He’s assisted and spurred on by a young black boy who wholeheartedly believes that he is a superhero. But as the man’s memory returns he discovers that he’s been anything but a hero.
How did you get to make the film?
The screenplay won a competition run by the NFVF aimed at developing Female and Black filmmaking talent – they ended up giving the three winning scripts production funding - the only prerequisite was that the director had to be black or female.
How did you find the actors? Anyone really special that you believe your film could change lives for?
We went to casting agents and saw a great deal of people. I ended up working with two brilliant actors, Justin Strydom (Snitch, Stander) and Loyiso Gxwala (Red Dust, A reasonable man). The young boy Johannes de Bruyn didn’t have any acting experience, but did a great job.
What about the soundtrack - what music do you use and how did you choose?
I worked with two good friends Jonathan Beggs and Trevor Sacks who are both creative directors at ad agencies. Trevor plays the lead guitar in The Privates International Band and Jonathan is DJ Badly. They are two amazingly talented musos who brought a great deal to the project.
Where did you shoot?
We shot the whole film on and around a huge mine dump in Dobsonville, Johannesburg. (Nothing like arsenic rich mine dust to give you nice buzz.)
What were the greatest challenges in making the film?
We had a small budget, but that’s a challenge that 99% of filmmakers face. We also had problems with the production company we worked with, but that’s a whole different interview. (They basically used the funding for the three films to pay off their bad debts and haven’t paid a single cast or crewmember – they’ve been audited and there’s an investigation pending - but don’t get me started on that topic, I break out in hives.)
Two months - wow - how did you pull that off?
Well, including pre-production it was probably about 3 months. I was lucky enough to work with a phenomenal DOP, Willie Nel, who helped me a great deal.
Your film is was taken to Cannes with the NFVF - where was it screened and what are you hoping to gain from it?
The NFVF showcase a selection of South African films (and projects in development) at the South African pavilion in Cannes every year. I’m not sure if they actually show the whole films or just the trailers, but they try and pique international producers and buyers’ interest. I think feature films probably have more to gain from this than shorts, but I’m just happy for any bit of exposure.
Have you seen the other films that it’s accompanying? Any thoughts on them.
No I haven’t, many of the films are still in development and they’ll be pitched to prospective investors in Cannes.
We love the screenshots - tell us a bit about your special directing style.
I took inspiration from Wim Wenders’ films, especially Paris, Texas. I was also inspired by the photography of Jodie Bieber, Pep Bonet and Nadav Kander. And then, of course, I had a wonderful DOP with an amazing eye.
This is your directional debut, where to from here?
I’m in talks with a producer about adapting a really beautiful South African novel. Writing is still my first love and I’ve always wanted to tackle an adaptation. The plan is to direct it as well, but I’ll cross that hanging bridge a bit later.
If you were finishing high school and you really wanted to make movies - what would you do if
a) You could afford to study somewhere
I probably think AFDA would be a good call, simply because I know so many of their talented alumni.
b) You have no access to funds to study film
I got my post-graduate qualification in Drama and Film at Wits University – so I’d say try get a student loan or a bursary and go study there. Otherwise, try and get into a production company as a researcher, a tea lady or the guy to whom the tea lady hands the soggy tea bag. Learn as much as possible and work your way up from there.
Any other encouragement for young artists dreaming of a fulfilled life?
I’m with Baz Lurhman on this one: Wear sunscreen, sing, floss and do one thing every day that scares you.
Making a film (even a short one) isn’t scary, it’s terrifying, so once you’ve done that you’ve built up a few credits and you can skip flossing for a day or two.
If we gave you three wishes to revamp / improve the film industry in South Africa, what would you do?
Eek, tough one. The NFVF is doing a great deal to support and grow film talent in South Africa and it’s no easy task. The only thing filmmakers can do is to make films, even cheap, nasty-ass ones that you shoot under a pseudonym (the name of your first pet and your mother’s maiden name will do the trick). Unfortunately I have no magic solution, but since you’ve offered me those wishes I’ll go with money trees, peanut brittle bicycles and world peace. (and such)
Sharpile Hanneke and keep Representin’!