Writing South Africa's First Dance Flick
This is a throwback to my experience writing the screenplay for the dance film "Hear Me Move."
I finished the first draft in July 2011 .At the time, the working title of the story was “Contenders Only." I was happy with the story at the time, and felt that I had given it my all. After that, we went into developments hiatus, a euphemism for development hell. It was the time during which we were trying to raise money to fund the film. It took us much longer than we thought it would. By us, I mean my business partners at the time: Wandile Molebatsi and Scottnes L. Smith. We were producing projects under our company, Coal Stove Pictures.
The fundraising efforts had actually begun in 2009. We only saw their fruition August 2013. During that time I was able to work on a lot of other projects.
Then the money finally arrived. I remember Scottnes telling me "Dude, you need to do another draft of the screenplay. Because, from the time when you wrote the first draft, up until now, you have grown as a writer."
Now that was not something which I wanted to hear. I understood the amount of work that goes into writing another draft of a screenplay. I simply wasn't ready for it, and I had to take a step back and psyche myself up a little bit. What clinched it for me was a piece of feedback I received from Trigger Street Labs. (It has since shut down, which is a shame.) The feedback gave me the enthusiasm I needed to undertake another draft. It was the identification of the theme, which, according to the reviewer, was "family."
(This is a theme I have since discovered I keep going back to in most of the stories I write. Also, most of my favourite films are about family: "Guardians of the Galaxy 1", "Logan", "Road To Perdition", "The Road"...the novel, not the film. But I digress.)
That opened up a completely new panorama of writing possibilities for me. And this is what excited me about the next draft. I explored the theme of family for all the different characters.
Suddenly, the screenplay came alive for me. That was when I started experiencing moments of flow: getting lost in the story, trying to keep up with the characters and events that were unfolding, making discoveries (that's always the best part), and feeling that I was not writing as quickly as I should be to capture all the ideas that were coming. It was great. For me that's what makes writing worthwhile. So I rewrote the screenplay from the ground up, and I was quite happy with the draft that came out a few months later. That was a draft that we ended up shooting. It went on to win the Kalasha Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2015. And I owe it all to one piece of feedback from a defunct website, and to a director who pushed me out of my comfort zone.