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The Making of a R1-million Film

How do you make a movie for a million bucks? That's less than a lot of adverts on TV cost. And they're only 30 seconds long.

So how do you make a ninety minute film for the same budget? Here are a few things we tried:

Firstly, we decided to shoot this movie on brand new technology – on the Panasonic HVX-200 - a High-Def Camera that was basically untested around the world when we started shooting – but many people had a lot of high hopes for it.

The test pictures looked great, and by choosing not to shoot on film, we saved a considerable amount of cash. This route also meant that we could check our footage as soon as we shot it. And because this new Panasonic shot onto memory cards, we became very familiar with the takes from the day – while downloading the footage onto our Powerbook and external memory drive – right there on set.

And when we say set, we mean on the side of the road, or in someone's house who had generously let us shoot for free, or in our production van that doubled as a stunt vehicle. You get the point. It wasn't about big lighting trucks, catering companies and huge crews. This would only slow us down and cost money that didn't need to be spent. And having the footage readily available meant that we could go straight from shooting to editing. Then catch a few hours sleep, and then repeat the process until the shooting was complete.

We installed Final Cut Pro on a Mac at a friend's flat – that way we saved spending on an edit suite in a fancy office. The only difference between a flat and an official edit suite is that you get toasted sandwiches and air-conditioning in the suite. Plus, in the flat you can roll out of bed and edit at three in the morning when an idea strikes.

We also got help from a bunch of talented and energised acting friends who supported the project and loved the script (writing the script is the hardest, and also, the cheapest part of the movie making process – get the script right and you'll save a lot of time and money when it comes to mobilising the troops for the shoot).

We also used the aforementioned actors to help hold lights on set and carry equipment. Not all the cast will be willing to do this, so if you're going to try it, enlist the right people. Also, if you can't afford trained actors in every role, use your friends. They all want to have a go in front of the camera.

We continue to ask favours from smart people who have made films before, getting their advice, as well as tapping into the abundance of musical and film-school talent that this country is growing.

You make a film on a million Rand by pre-planning, asking favours, sweating, sometimes shooting from the hip…. and when all else fails, by praying.




The million Rand guerilla crew

Directors: 187 and Brendan Jack

Overseeing the creative process, telling people what to do in the nicest way possible. And keeping the crew and actors as happy as possible.

Producer: Ronnie Apteker

Always the first to arrive, even in foreign Roodepoort locations. Makes sure that the team is sticking to the schedule and that the operation is running smoothly.

Cinematography: James Frater, Trevor Calverley, Rory O'Grady

Making everything look super-cool and an essential part of the creative process. The reason there are three was that if anyone got offered a job that paid the bills, they had to leave our set and come back when they were finished.

Sound 'Department': Chris van der Walt

A small guy with a loud voice, essential for quietening a crew before going for a take. Good at getting onto small ledges to get the best sound. Also hired because he had a big van to carry equipment and actors.

Production Designers: Annelie Mare, Emma Eunson

The people running around with check-lists and getting asked a million questions. Making sure everything from wardrobe, props to continuity were in order.

Make-Up: Kyla Nortje

This included some special effects make-up... that she had to leave set for to write a make-up exam during shooting. She also doubled up as a decent spark at times, helping out the lighting 'department'.

Production Managers: Scott Sargent, Jonty Kramer

The other two people running around with clip-boards, making sure that all the shooting days were in order. Having the thankless task of taking pizza orders and having to keep everyone informed. Also made up the rest of the lighting 'department'.

Runner: Logan Reed

Made to do a variety of tasks, from fetching actors, to fetching dynamite fuse from some old lady hours away at the Vaal Dam, to holding heavy equipment, to acting in the film.

Assistant Director: Ben Horowitz

Called on to take control of the set for the last week of shooting, as this involved hundreds of extras and co-ordination. The man who keeps checking his watch, but has to maintain a patient smile at all times.

Editors: Alistair Thomas, Brendan Jack, 187, Kevin Bentz, The Vos

Making sense of all the footage, making some tough decisions about what stays and what goes. Assembling the puzzle at all hours of the day and night.

Grade: Paul Hanrahan

Giving fantastic colour to the picture, and also phoned a lot for technical advice.

Website: Andrew Murray, Mark McIntyre

The reason you are able to read this. Behind the scenes, making it look cool for you.