Regression is the fourth collaboration between South African filmmakers Ronnie Belcher and Dr-Benway, founders of production company Black Milk, and is a frightening look at how obsessive love can spiral out of control, with an underlying theme of death and entrapment within a hell, of sorts. It is a short horror film Black Milk finished shooting this weekend, due for release during the SA HORRORFEST in October this year.
My involvement with Black Milk started out as a bit of a cheerleader act, since I’m married to the “infamous” Dr-Benway, who is well known in certain circles for his dark glam/fetish art photography and illustrations. Since he started collaborating with Ronnie Belcher, a talented up-and-coming filmmaker, the scale of each film they’ve produced has grown, and extra hands are always needed, be it dashing out to the shops to buy food or helping out on set.
In my case, my skills as a writer and editor have come into play, and I’ve employed my proof-reading skills, helped with dialogue development and even conducted interviews for “making of” documentaries. It’s not terribly glamorous but it’s been fabulous seeing how ideas thrown around a kitchen table eventually evolve into short independently produced art films with an underlying theme of horror.
More often than not, I end up mopping up fake blood, carrying boxes or sticking down props with super-adhesive gaffer tape, all in a day’s work for an author of urban and dark fantasy. Most of the folk getting involved in the assorted Black Milk productions are already involved full-time in Cape Town’s film industry, which has become a regular little Hollywood over the past decade.
With Regression, I’ve varied between proofing the script, writing promotional copy, running errands, conducting interviews and making sandwiches. Essentially, I’ve been on standby whenever the crew have needed someone to drive to the arse-end of the world to buy fake blood or collect a tripod... or even purchase linen for the set. Most of the time, however, is spent waiting around, which can get pretty boring. Luckily for me, I have my trusty netbook, so I’ve not been idle. In fact, I’ve finished most of my novels while waiting behind the scenes. And, of course, I’m the one who has to make sure Dr-Benway has clean clothes, food and a warm bed to keep him sane throughout the madness...
The highlight of the filming for me is always the sense of camaraderie going on between crew members. They’re all highly intelligent creative people, and sometimes it can be a bit explosive putting so many of them in one room, but what blows me away is how everyone focuses on their area of expertise, from cinematography to set design, and it all seems to fall into place without anyone getting his or her ego bruised. Some of the folk have been on board since the start, so we’re like a family that gets to hang out whenever the next film is in production.
Everyone involved in a Black Milk production is a volunteer. We don’t have much in the way of budget, and we all chip in where we can. Without the support of companies such as Visual Impact, which has given us the use of a lot of equipment, things wouldn’t have run nearly as smoothly as they have so far.
But the sense of purpose generated from the Black Milk Crew, as we collectively refer to ourselves, is worth more than money. Firm friendships have been forged and there’s an underlying sense that we’re onto something big, something very special, because each film completed carries with it that spirit of love for the unusual, the sometimes shocking and macabre. We’re making art.
None of this is easy. Movie-making is expensive, so we have to overcome our financial limitations creatively, which also has an impact on the locations chosen for filming. With previous films Emma-Õ and 23 Rue d’Amour, shooting schedules were quite hectic, so the directors overcame that particular challenge by assigning a much more relaxed schedule for Regression, which has made a world of difference. It was still pretty intense, however; being on set at 9am and leaving well after 11pm that night, especially after a busy work-week, can make you hanker after that appointment at Club Duvet.
I must make special mentions of some of the folk involved with Regression. Kirsten Holtshousen, who acted as producer; Este Kira for her fantastic set design and attention to detail; Leon Visser for the mind-blowing cinematography (and editing); actors Stephen Preston, Angie Kennedy and Georgia Brooker, who probably spent a fair amount of time freezing half to death; Henk (sound); Daniel (CGI); Stef (for the red dress); stills photographers Zoltan and Jim; Digital Brothers, who allowed Black Milk to use their studio for casting; but also Lohan; Leon Partridge for being the best evillist little brother; the make-up ladies; Donovan; and Pierre, whose antics “messing up” the primary location I’ll never forget. I’m almost scared I may have left someone off that list. Everyone has put so much effort into this film.
Everything considered, I wouldn’t trade the experience of being on set with Black Milk for anything in the world. It’s a lot of hard, dirty work at times but when I look at what has been achieved in less than three years, I’m blown away.
Join the Regression Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=118385271533140