Up Close and Personal with ‘Frank and Fearless’
The Callsheet catches up with prolific writer, director and producer, Gray Hofmeyr, and actor Themba Nthuli to find out more about their film, Frank and Fearless.
Why is Frank and Fearless different from the other films you’ve worked on over the years?
Gray Hofmeyr: It is certainly different from any film I have done with Leon. We have put big effort into a strong crossover storyline which will hopefully take it into the international market. It is a bit like when we made Sweet & Short all those years ago, the first film I did with Leon, where we departed from the Oh Schucks movies of Leon’s early career into solid storytelling.
What was it like working with Leon, what did you enjoy most about this film?
Themba Ntuli: Working with Leon was a dream come true, not only for myself but even for my family. Being a short individual, I have always looked up to the Alfred- Leon collaboration and I have always had a desire to one day be in collaboration with the both of them – and it finally happened. This film has taught me a lot about our cinematic legends and just how long it took them to build and create their legacies and brands.
What I enjoyed the most working in the Frank and Fearless movie with firstly laughing at Leon’s gags and seeing them in real life. Also, working with a strong and willing crew. Everyone we worked with was lovely and passionate about the job and we were all a big, big family. So that was a nice touch to the film’s experience.
How was the concept thought out and built on?
Gray Hofmeyr: We have been working on this script since 2013, when we thought, “Let’s make a story around an old reprobate, a rural kid, his big dog, and a baby rhino.” Like all good stories, it started with something simple. Then we got Australian writer Geoff Newton involved, and we started really brainstorming. After 14 drafts of the script, we were ready.
What was your favourite moment from the production?
Gray Hofmeyr: Seeing the first 3D animated shots of Reini, our baby rhino, coming through the process. I thought, “We have cracked it!”
Tell us about going from a more serious production like Meerkat Maantuig to a comedy?
Themba Ntuli: It’s been quite the challenge. But the beautiful thing is that even though Meerkat was a serious fantasy film, you had lots of light-hearted moments and the fact that my character was also a very hopeful character that thoroughly enjoyed life, and now shifting into the Fearless character felt like putting on another pair of gloves. Both films and characters have been such a perfect fit that the transition wasn’t too difficult. The demands [of going] from one film to the other were quite extreme in comparison, but as a disciplined actor, one needs to learn to pace oneself, develop to fit into any role and do the best that you can.
What are your methods for getting the best performance out in any medium?
Themba Ntuli: My methods are firstly prayer. I believe that in everything that I do, God must get the glory, so to enquire how best to glorify Him is the first step because it’s not always easy to get work, so I must give thanks to Him. I then go through the entire script at least twice and see if there is anything similar I might have done in comparison to the character I have now. Then I have to find a way of how best to play a certain role completely differently, and also being careful of not being too critical in the process but to allow myself to develop the character as we go.
Doing a table read and getting to know what the director intends to do also gives me as an actor a bit of a perspective in what is expected. I then apply my knowledge of acting with the talent of acting and work out a formula for how best to execute this role for all the days that we’ll be on set.
Any plans in the pipeline for 2019 yet?
Gray Hofmeyr: Yes, I am developing a romantic comedy which is going to be a winner. Watch this space.
As a producer, tell us why you enjoy working with Leon Schuster?
Gray Hofmeyr: It is the comedy script creation process; he brings the comedy, and I bring the dramatic structure. We are a good team, we complement each other.
What’s your secret to making good TV or a successful film? (Gray Hofmeyr)
- Tell a great story.
- Structure the cliffhangers.
- Get great dialogue, the tighter the better.
- Cast good actors.
- Support the actors so you get great performances. Everything else is secondary.
How healthy would you say the South African film industry is right now?
Gray Hofmeyr: Within the confines of a struggling economy, we are doing okay. We are still making movies and there are talented young writers and directors coming through all the time. We have a lot of talent, new talent, black talent, coming through – that’s great! The dti and other government departments are doing good work in supporting the industry. Thanks, because without them we would be nothing. What we need is a stable economy.
Just for Fun
We asked Gray what his favourite things were …
Favourite animal? Rottweilers
Favourite food? Seared tuna
Favourite book? Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Favourite film? Phantom of the Paradise
Favourite place to go on holiday? Greece