Monday, November 2, 2009

SA-based horror team stab out with another scare

It’s not often that one has the opportunity to see the organic process in which indie horror movies are made, taking storytelling from a purely verbal medium to something that is so much more. This is something many authors dream of seeing as a reality for their fiction. From conception to execution, it’s a time-consuming, expensive yet artistically rewarding experience that is very organic. Here's a peek into the lives of two very talented artists and filmmakers who’re definitely onto a good thing in Cape Town, South Africa.

Meet Ronnie Belcher and Thomas Dorman

So far, both your film collaborations have been horror-orientated. Why horror? What do you love about the genre?

Ronnie: I grew up with horror movies, so it’s a genre that has been a part of me for many years. I love all the elements that make a good horror film, from the gore and guts, to the suspense and fear, to the hidden message. It is an extreme art form.

Thomas: I consider horror as an extremely underrated genre of movie. It normally deals with aspects of humanity most people refuse to face, often with a strong moral message. Almost anything can happen in a horror movie... Unlike other genres, you don’t have to have a happy ending or hold back on intense emotional content. Besides that, I’ve been watching horror since I was very young. I’ve found that horror movies have taught me a lot, morally and emotionally. I find the the genre covers a large ground of possibilities ... From early 1920s European movies, 1970s shockers... To beautiful Japanese ghost stories.

What were the influences of your soon-to-be-released short horror film, Emma-Õ?

Ronnie: The dominant influence was Asian horror, from film to theatre—which are some of the oldest in the world. We put a lot of research into this project, from Japanese to Chinese superstition, ghosts and mythology. The culture and superstition is fascinating.

Thomas: Japanese and Chinese ghost stories, movies and Japanese kabuki. Our tale is based both on a Chinese type of ghost called a Nǚ Guǐ and the Japanese Onryō, which are very similar and are both linked to water and tend to be women in white with long black hair and blueish faces (Indigo paint is used to depict her using Kumadori for Kabuki, as well as in Chinese theatre).

Japanese Onryō movies are a big inspiration. The 1960s Kwadian and its modern counterparts such as The Ring are all based on these stories. We have looked back to the original stories and also the modern adaptations for inspiration. Our story is a tradition tale. Like the traditional vampire story, it’s not totally original but we have put a South Africa spin on it.

Why did you decide to go with a predominantly Asian theme when the film is based in South Africa?

Ronnie: It suits our character back story completely: Asian husband and wife move to Cape Town, South Africa… We also wanted to juxtapose the two elements, which is always a good thing to do when writing horror.

Thomas: We have a massive, fast-growing Asian population and their myths are being imported with them at an extremely fast rate. Both Ronnie and myself have a growing interest in Eastern culture and, with it, eastern religion, myths and ghost stories. American filmmakers are adapting Eastern horror movies every year... And the style is growing in popularity.

What was the most challenging part of putting this film together?

Ronnie: The limited time we had. From “Action!” on day one to the final product render was only three weeks. No one believed we could shoot and post-produce a film in such a short space of time, but we managed to pull it off, thanks to everyone involved.

Thomas: Working within budget and the time restraints.

Are there any amusing anecdotes from the film you'd like to share?

Ronnie: Erin Wu (our main actress) informed us that we had to perform a ceremony before filming had to start. We had to ask for the permission and guidance of the ghosts in the other dimension prior to filming. We all stood around a table filled with fruit and incense (their offering) and I (as director) had to communicate with them and ask for their blessing. By the time the incense was burnt out, we could film.

Thomas: Well, where do I start? So much happened. I guess I could tell you about the fact that we filmed it during this years Chinese Hungry Ghost festival time period, without planning it. The movie is named after the statue in the movie. It is based on the Chinese Buddhist god of the underworld, Yan Wang. The God is known as Emma-ō in Japan. In typical horror movie fashion, we do have a little “extra” after the credits... So keep watching.

What is your advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Ronnie: Write a good script. The story is everything. Get good people to help you.

Thomas: It’s early days for me and this is just a short, so I really have no advice.

Useful links

Thomas Dorman
SA Horrofest:

Ronnie Belcher
Skype: ronnie.belcher

Emma-O Facebook group:

Black Milk Productions Facebook group:

1 comment:

Annette Bowman said...

Three weeks is a tight time frame to shoot and produce a film. Bravo! I also like very much that a ritual was done to obtain the blessings of the ghosts. Very cool. I would very much like to know the sources for the Asian ghost tales that the script was derived from.