South African film writer Hanneke Schutte wins chance to make short film in Hollywood


Three talented film writer and directors will be heading to LA for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make their short film with Trigger Street Productions  starring Willem Dafoe.

One of them is Hanneke Schutte, a writer/director from Johannesburg. Having previously had her work shown at Durban International Film Festival, her winning script, Ping Pong With Mr Yong tells the story of a hypochondriac ex-ping pong player who never got over missing a major tournament final because of a cold.

Having fought off stiff competition from hundreds of other talented screenwriters and directors, Schutte and the other two winners will now go on to direct two-time Academy Award nominee, Willem Dafoe in their short film, all with the backing of award-winning production company, Trigger Street Productions.

Sylvain Béletre, Editor of Balancing Act’s broadcast film e-eletter interviewed Hanneke Schutte before she left.

Q. Which opportunities do you see in this prize? What would you like to get from Kevin Spacey and the rest of the team?

A.I see it as a wonderful opportunity to learn from experienced and award winning Hollywood talents and to work with a world-class production team.

Q. What do you bring to them?

A. I'm just grateful for being able to work with them! I hopefully bring my own unique worldview and experiences to them.

Q. You received a personal Skype call from Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti and
Carter Swan to notify you of your win. What did they say to you?

A. I started the call with only Dana Brunetti and Cater Swan and they basically just asked me a few questions about my inspiration for the story, why I entered and a few technical questions. Then they said they wanted to introduce me to a Ping Pong expert (seeing that my script is about Ping Pong), I thought it was a bit peculiar and then Kevin Spacey came on and said congratulations, you've won and we'll see you in LA a couple of weeks.

Q. How long will you stay in LA?

A. Three weeks.

Q. Did you study film script and film production?

A. I actually studied Zulu and Psychology at the University of Pretoria, but later did a post-graduate qualification in Film and Theatre at Wits University. I also did the screenwriting Master's programme through the NFVF.

Q. What is your previous experience in films?

A. I won a local short film script contest and got to direct my first short film Superhero about three years ago. The film won two SAFTA awards for best short film and best cinematography (Willie Nel) and it premiered at the Durban International Film Festival. I also won the NFVF and UK Film Council's 25 words or less competition a few years ago and I got to develop that script and I also directed the feature last year. It's called ‘Jimmy in Pink’ and will be released by Indigenous Films nationwide in August 2013.

Q. Have you sold anything to TV channels or other types of distributors so far?

A. My short film Superhero has been flighting on I think M-net and as I've mentioned that Indigenous Films is distributing my feature film.

Q. Do you wish to settle in LA or stay in SA?

A. I definitely want to stay in SA. I've lived abroad before and trust me Dorothy was right, there's no place like home.

Q. What is your winning script all about?

A. My winning script, Ping Pong With Mr Yong tells the story of a hypochondriac ex ping pong player who never got over missing a major tournament final because of a cold. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to say more that that!

Q. How long did it take you to write this script?

A. About a week.

Q. Did you get help or did you write it on your own?

A. Nope, I did it all on my own.

Q. What inspired you? Is your script based on the theme of a legendary, humorous or very tall tale?

A. It's a very tall tale.

Q. How was the FS selection process?

A. It was quite tough. They selected 7 finalists and we had to shoot a one minute movie (they provided the script), we had to do a director's treatment, send samples of our previous work and record ourselves pitching the project and telling them more about ourselves.

Q. After that do you hope to produce a long film or do you have other projects in mind?

A. I've just directed my first feature film and I've written another feature
(an adaptation) which I hope to find the right producer for.

Q. Do you feel that South Africa is a leading country for film on the continent, and if so why?

A. Absolutely. Every year SA seems to improve, both artistically and in terms of box office success. We definitely have a growing film canon that we can be proud of.

Q. Which are your 3 favorite African films?

A. Some recent SA films that I enjoyed were Material and Die Wonderwerker.
Classic African films that I love are Xala by Ousmane Sembène and Hyenas by
Djibril Diop Mambéty.