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The Producers of NIGHT DRIVE: James Carroll and C.A. van Aswegen

Hi guys, thanks for doing this interview/questionnaire for ReadWrite. I am very excited about this for two reasons; one: this is the third Film Factory endeavor followed by your first hit Bakgat! and two: Horror movie.

Lets start with the basics shall we… What is NIGHT DRIVE?

Night Drive is a South Africa horror / thriller set in the bush. Sean Darwin (Chris Beasley) used to be a maverick undercover cop with the Endangered Species Protection Unit, but after an operation involving a smuggling syndicate goes bad and results in the death of an innocent woman, Sean is kicked out of the police. Feeling disgruntled and shell-shocked, Sean tries to find comfort in a bottle, but it does little to stop the constant bombardment of haunting flashbacks to the tragic incident.

A dying wish is about to change Sean’s life forever. His terminally-ill mother (Jennifer Steyn) asks him to scatter her ashes back home at Nyari Game Reserve, where the escalation in poaching has resulted in an all out war between Sean’s estranged father - the jaded ex-special forces soldier now turned game ranger, Jack Darwin (Greg Melvill-Smith) – and a band of ruthless poachers.

On arrival in Nyari Game Reserve, Sean is forced to join a group of tourists on a night drive safari. For married couple Karen (Corine du Toit) and Ian (Brandon Auret), it’s a chance to escape the traumatic memories of a home invasion that left Karen feeling suicidal, and turned her husband Ian into a trigger-happy cocaine addict. For golden oldies Rodger (David Sherwood) and Mary (Clare Marshall), it’s a chance to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in Africa – a lifelong dream. For Tumi (Matshepo Maleme) and Denzel (Antonio David Lyons), it’s another opportunity to continue their steamy love affair.

Africa has often been thought of as The Dark Continent, but for Sean Darwin and this eclectic mix of people, it’s about to get even darker. It’s not long before they make a gruesome discovery: the poachers are now hunting people for their body parts to be sold on the black market! The evidence is left behind by a refugee woman’s mutilated body - the work of a gang of muti poachers who extract their victims’ organs while they’re still alive. Hell-bent on tracking them down, Jack leaves the group in the care of his timid, superstitious tracker, Akani (Yule Masiteng).

Sean becomes the group’s only hope for survival, but if he’s going to keep them all alive he’ll have to confront his own inner-demons before they drive him to the brink of insanity…and everyone else to their graves!

Why did you guys choose to go Horror as a follow up to Bakgat? Considering Bakgat! was a comedy and did amazingly for you do you think audiences will follow you into this genre?

The success of Bakgat! was due to carefully developing a film that would attract the largest possible Afrikaans audience. The fact that it has spilled over into a non-Afrikaans market only serves to prove the strength of the script and genre. Local audiences like seeing themselves represented in a way that’s attractive, proud and endearing. Night Drive is our first English language film and again, we want to attract the largest possible market segment. Horror/thriller films do decent money in South Africa and Night Drive is something audiences locally or internationally haven’t seen before. It isn’t about monsters attacking people or mutant wildlife – it’s about the scariest monster of all - man. It has a basis in reality in terms of the muti murderers. In recent history poachers out towards the border have been found with human body parts.

The response from media regarding the film has been amazing – and they haven’t seen a single frame yet! The film looks incredible, it has the who’s-who of South African performers and the subject and context are seriously thrilling. Night Drive was developed to be our calling-card to an overseas audience whilst giving local audiences a film they have been waiting for.

I was on your website and noticed a couple of your sponsors. Are these people involved as executive producers / investors? How have you incorporated other businesses into Night Drive regarding your investment needs?

The sponsors who’ve come onboard to support us have been fantastic. While they haven’t provided us with cash, the product and services they’ve offered have made the film possible. Proaction provided all of Chris Beasley’s outfits as well as loaning us a KTM 990 bike for his specialist training and the shoot. Guess have dressed the majority of the leading cast – a massive saving considering all the triples that were required. Face to Face did all of the extensive prosthetic make-up and gore as well as providing students to work as crew. Conrad from Skinbling did all the hair for the shoot and publicity. Jaded Ink did tattoo designs and applications for several of the actors. When audiences see Chris or Chang’s (Kenneth Fok) tattoos, they will be convinced they are completely real.

We had brilliant support from service companies like Media Film Service, Motion Picture Effects, Nate’s Audio Visual and Digital Film. They are just as passionate about the feature film industry in South Africa as we are. Our primary location host Pelinduna Adventures in Broederstroom helped tremendously by also catering, housing and transporting us while we were shooting.

With all our projects, The Film Factory is always first in on the investment front. Some people say we’re crazy to do this, but we view it as a show of good faith to both our investors and the people we work with. We have, at best, conservative budgets and pay our crew and cast a fraction of what they are worth but they understand where we are coming from and we all want to make good films.

How did you guys decide on director and cast for this film? The cast all look great and have a real sense of normality to them, they gave me the feeling that they are all real, normal people. Was that intentional?

We’ve worked with Justin Head (director/writer) before and pitched the story outline to him in the middle of 2008. He loved the idea and we immediately went into development with the film. He’s also the first writer we know to deliver quality material early. He’s really professional and loves what he does. The casting was completely intentional. We had over 150 people read for Chris’ role before casting him. Again, it makes such a difference working with experienced, talented people. We’re really proud of our cast and think audiences are going to be blown away at what they see.

I noticed in your production stills on Facebook that you have built a camera rig for a CANON DSLR. How are you using technology in shooting this film?

As far as we can tell, we are the first feature film worldwide to shoot completely on Canon 5D Mark II cameras. We’re definitely the first in SA. It’s completely bizarre shooting on what is essentially a stills camera but for the purpose of Night Drive, the look we required, the budget we had, it was the best choice. Trevor Calverley, our DP, pitched us the idea and we did extensive tests before deciding on this format. He was spot on.

Our grip Justin van Zyl built us several different rigs that are used in the film including a body mount rig, a shoulder rifle rig and even what we’ve termed ‘panga-cam’! The results are terrifyingly good and it gives the film an epic feeling. The world that we’ve created feels massive and real. We had to build these as there simply are no rigs for the gear! Getting the camera onto a jib was a challenge, especially with a tiny follow focus, but the results are worth it.

For productions on a small budget like this, the 5D levels the playing field. We have 35mm ‘weight’ on a DV budget. Yes, we’ve had to find workarounds for sound and post, but these ‘hindrances’ have actually helped us. All our sound is recorded separately as opposed to running through a mixer back into the camera – this gives our sound designer, Bibi Segola, four channels of quality material to work with.

We developed a workflow for converting the 30p HD footage to a workable 25p HD format. It took a little while to work this out and the conversions are tedious, but the system is no more difficult than working RED or D21 footage.

Have you found using social media in the pre-marketing for the film to be useful and actually convert to selling tickets? And how are you guys involved with your audience prior to cinema release?

Social media is essential – the Bakgat! group is standing on 45,000 fans. That’s insane when you think that we haven’t advertised our group – people have actively sort it out and joined. It becomes a very powerful direct marketing base for a willing and receptive audience. The sequel to Bakgat! happened because of public demand.

It’s very important to continuously update the groups – on Night Drive for example we had a Twitter feed giving the public a timeline of our progress. The majority of our behind-the-scenes will be available first online followed by traditional broadcast.

We pay attention to what audiences are saying online and don’t take their praise and criticism lightly.

You are almost done shooting now. How has it been going and where can we keep up to date with the picture?

Yes, principal photography wrapped on Friday. It was an incredible, exhausting experience. Lots of night shoots, lots of gore, lots of pyros and stunts. We were incredibly lucky with weather and the film gods blessed us with a talented, motivated crew and cast.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and on our website. We’ll be releasing promo material consistently over the next couple of months leading up to festivals and eventually our cinema release in South Africa in the middle of 2010.

When are you looking at opening the film and can you tell us anymore about your distribution strategy for NIGHT DRIVE?

We’re looking at releasing the film country wide in the middle of 2010 through our local distributor Ster-Kinekor. We’re also talking to sales agents at the moment to get the film into markets overseas.

What is your take on making films for local audiences VS making films for international audiences?

It’s a difficult divide. Local audiences are very supportive of local content – if it’s in their language. English language films battle because they are competing with major studio films; films with budgets, films with stars and films with production values that people are used to. Our advantage comes from the improving quality of films that have come out of South Africa in recent years – Jerusalema, District 9, White Wedding. Audiences are responding positively and they are seeing real value. Time will tell if Night Drive performs well locally – we think it will.

Well, thanks so much for your time and making this film! Please send the trailer when you have one so we can post it on ReadWrite!

Absolutely!

And so to their las tpoint here are some still frames from the actual Film . Horaa!

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