I was surprised to find that it leads toward hope instead of despair; why does fiction so often assume defeat is our destiny? This was one of those crazy interview sessions where you are crammed into a press conference with dozens of other journalists looking for the same story. It was only out of persistence and having a great contact person that I managed to sneak in a one-on-one with Gavin Hood. This is where you have to make sure that what you get out of the one-on-one is unique for your publication. Someone who is passionately interested in ideas.
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I was surprised to find that it leads toward hope instead of despair; why does fiction so often assume defeat is our destiny?
This was one of those crazy interview sessions where you are crammed into a press conference with dozens of other journalists looking for the same story. It was only out of persistence and having a great contact person that I managed to sneak in a one-on-one with Gavin Hood. This is where you have to make sure that what you get out of the one-on-one is unique for your publication.
Someone who is passionately interested in ideas. You are first and foremost a storyteller. You have core ideas that you are exploring. Arthur Miller once said write until you discover your theme, and when you discover your theme, type what that central theme is and stick it above your typewriter.
Not the story, but what the story is grappling with at a thematic level. What is the central idea that you are struggling with? You have to think about it that way around. The most important element is central thematic idea, and that has to be worked towards or around with extremely good characterisation.
Stereotype characters are a big no-no. Ask yourself whether each character has been properly developed. Not the style of it. Do they feel like fully formed, preferably flawed human being? But, given that you start with a thematic idea that you, hopefully are not too sure about yourself, like the question of redemption — how do you feel about forgiveness? Can you forgive someone who has really wronged you? Not through their words, but through their very presence. Do you have a particular writing process?
Any advice for aspirant and upcoming writers in South Africa? Write and re-write, and re-write, and re-write! I have 41 drafts of Tsotsi. Every draft is very different. Have I really looked at the scene? What do I need for Morris?
Have I given Morris enough personality? Does this character respond. Be that character while you do that read. Then when you do another read, be the other character so that you are constantly re-arguing your points of view. Without a great script you will never make a great movie. With a great script you might still make a bad movie. I feel that one thing we have to do more in South Africa is recognise that a camera, sound, music and even actors are tools for the telling of the story.
It is about the structure of the story, not just the story, but the way the story is told. Directors are not camera people, they are storytellers, they understand rhythm, pace, human emotion. Everything should serve the central story that you are telling. The question is: Does the shot serve the telling of the story? What you are really trying to do is to get an emotional response from an actor. How does the camera help the story, not how does the camera make the film look cool.
How do you think Tsotsi and your achievements will change the future of the South African film industry, particularly for young filmmakers and writers? I only know what I have been learning over the last twenty years and I hope I got better at my craft. I keep saying that. To take on subjects that frighten me. This is a good and bad thing. A lot of times people take it that you may not write about subjects that are outside of their immediate experience.
I would actually say to write if you are interested in something. Write about anything you like. I write because I want to grow. And then, being a bit little frightened, go into that world, and immersing myself into that world, and finding our about that world so that I can come back with something to say as craftsman about that world. Remember, remember, that screenwriting and directing are crafts that you get better at the more you work at it. Master your craft and then go and tell any story you want.
This is one of those interviews that happened without planning it. It happened during the press conference and discovering that Paul Raleigh was wandering around the foyer. I was quick to corner him. A good screenplay; they are tough to come by. Really good, well crafted screenplays are difficult to find. Does it make you laugh? Does it make you cry? Do you like the characters? At the end of the day the screenplay is about the characters. Television is different; it is about issues.
We may be dealing with issues on a film, but that tends to be the canvas. The painting is really about the characters. What I enjoyed working with Gavin is that he comes with challenging subjects. They are not easy stories to tell, and if not done right, you can lose your audience. If Hollywood had made Tsotsi, what would it have looked like?
That to me was definitely a good sign. If you look at films like Whale Rider, Rabbit Proof Fence, City Of God, Central Station, which all have challenging subjects, but they are all films made by people from their country, and they were made with passion, and they were made in a way the could never make them.
If you make something from the heart that is genuine, there is a market for it. So in a way those were the films that we said: why were they successful? That may happen for a reason. Continually we are making films where you are pretending to be somewhere else. I think the other thing is that we have the confidence now.
If we can maintain the standard, I think they will. Film Funding off course is a complicated subject. If we focus our attention on development, good scripts will always find money. You can put 10 million into a bad film, where you can put a million into a great script. Why do you want to lose the 10 million if you can invest a million, and make it grown ten times.
Generally producers do not have the access to funding. Most people end up writing in their spare time. It may be two or three years before we have another film even making it into the next five. I would like to see more money going into serious development of screenplays, with people brought in from around the world to do these workshops, but not just for a workshop and disappear, but for script editors to work continually with our writers, so that people can start writing fulltime and make a career out of writing, and not a hobby.
Talk about something new. I think every damn story in the world has been told. We have a huge amount of stories to tell. So what? We do come from a country that has 11 official languages.
Why have we insisted in the past that everyone speaks English? The world can watch and read at the same time. This is not a franchiseable thing. We have so many stories out there. I think in a way the political thing has played itself out now. I think generally what the response from the rest of the world was, was that it is great to see a film that does not deal with issues.
What about the issues in Tsotsi dealing with crime and carjacking? Surely they are heavy issues? The audience realises that this is a film about forgiveness. The audience has a capacity to forgive. At the end they cry, or are moved and it tells us something about our humanity.
The biggest gift we can give another person is forgiveness.
The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)
Already have an account? Log in! It follows the story of a young thug or 'tsotsi' in the Soweto slums who gains a chance to redeem himself. Intro to Tsotsi. Class Handouts Film Techniques Diagram.
Interviewed by Adrian Hennigan. It's a powerful drama about a young thug the eponymous Tsotsi, played by newcomer Presley Chweneyagae whose life changes when he carjacks a vehicle containing a baby. The film has put director Gavin Hood on the international map and he's now based in Los Angeles. You shot the film on location in the shantytowns around Johannesburg. What was the experience like? The people in the shantytowns were absolutely amazing to us.