Monday, May 19, 2014

The Actor – in conversation with Aidan Whytock

Exciting things are happening with the homegrown film industry, and The Actor is one initiative that has drawn on local independent filmmaking talent. This feature-length film is the brainchild of actor and director Aidan Whytock, known to local audiences for his lead role in the 2013 Fleur du Cap People’s Choice award-winning production, I am Hamlet.

Whytock shares a little about how it all came together: “The idea came to me in a proper lightbulb moment. I wasn’t trying to come up with a story – it hit me while I was in the back of a friend’s car coming back from play rehearsals. Heath Ledger and his relationship with The Joker originally inspired the story. Out of respect we chose to not tell that specific tale.

“The process was surprisingly quick – I had the idea on May 10 last year and four months later we had our fifth (and final) draft. I have Colin Pegon, our frighteningly talented writer, to thank for that.

“Our strongest influences came from Oren Peli and his first film, Paranormal Activity, and spectacular characters such as Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Edward Norton’s Aaron in Primal Fear. Oren’s work gave us a blueprint of how to create a high production value first feature without a big budget. Christian’s and Edward’s characters inspired us to dive deep into the character of our story and grip the audience from there."

Not only was The Actor filmed and edited in record time, Whytock also worked on a shoestring budget, to accomplish his vision.

He adds: “We realised that we have a certain amount of creative juice on this and the longer we took, the more juice we would burn. Our approach was to leverage the inspiration and excitement we had by working quickly without sacrificing quality.

“We weren’t sure quite how much power our setup would need. So we experimented and turned on devices one by one until we found our limit. It turns out we were fine as long as we didn’t boil the kettle - luckily Cape Town has great takeaway coffee."

Independent filmmaking is not for sissies, however, and Whytock certainly did not approach production for The Actor without the right balance between passion and precision.

He cites years of dreaming as common ground. He says: “The cast and crew all have this in common – we got into the film industry because we love the art of movies. We all had a dream of making something bigger than ourselves. However it’s not an easy game and there is a lot of rejection and hearing ‘no’. After hearing ‘no’ a certain number of times it became clear that if we want to make a feature film then, well, we’ll damn well do it ourselves. So rejection, followed by resilience and stubbornness helped prepare us.”

Fans of scary movies can look forward to a dark, tense psychological thriller with horror undertones, to which Whytock adds: “Without giving too much away there is a showdown scene where Simon faces off with his dark side in the mirror. There’s a knife involved and… well. You’ll have to see who wins the argument.

“Our story is universal. Even though it’s made in South Africa you don’t have to be South African to relate to the story. It’ll appeal to anyone who likes the process of movies and is curious about what an actor goes through preparing to perform a role."

Fans and those wishing to be part of the movie-making process also have an opportunity to help out the cast and crew of The Actor.

Says Whytock: “Now that is where our supporters will make the decision. When we hit our Indiegogo fundraising target we will take the movie to the international film markets. From here we want to partner with someone who believes in it as much as we all do and take this into cinemas near you.”

In conclusion, he remains upbeat on what lies ahead for South African independent filmmaking, and adds: “Local film quality is very much touching on world quality. It’s an exciting time, especially as we service more and more international projects,” and those who're considering a career in film should, “have faith, have vision, back yourself and work damn hard.”

See the Indiegogo fundraiser, and stand a chance of getting loads of rewards. 

Go check out the official trailer here.

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