READ INTERVIEW WITH SCREENWRITER-ACTOR RUSSEL SAVADIER
Everyone keeps telling LENNY VINCENT that, "Everything happens for a reason". He's told it so often - he's almost tempted to believe it.
When he's relieved of his position as coach to the under 11's at St. Benedicts ... Everything happens for a reason" When he's fired from his job as a Sportswriter at a daily newspaper ... "Everything happens for a reason" and when he's wife of 19 years leaves him for a hunky blonde stud ... you guessed it -"Everything happens for a reason!
We meet Lenny on a very auspicious morning - the morning of his 50th birthday …
A fact that seems to have gone totally un-noticed by his overly distracted, overly peroxided wife, BARBARA, who's pre-occupation with the treadmill at the gym, seems to have long overshadowed their marriage.
No problem …
There are worse things than your wife forgetting the most important birthday in your life! Right?
And so LENNY sets out to work just as he has done, every day, for the past 27 years - little realising that by the end of the day his life will have changed ... forever!
In the space of a few short hours - LENNY will lose his job, his wife ...and his belief in the inherent milk of human kindness!
So, when his only true friend in the world, DAVID MARKOWITZ - a highly neurotic, failed bookie - suggests they go drown their sorrows at a fancy restaurant ... LENNY agrees - the bottom of his world has fallen out - and things can't get any worse...
Unless of course you choose a restaurant where a heist gang are about to strike...
In that case it's probably not a good idea to ignore the AK 47's pointing at you, stand up, and tell them what you think of them!
The inside of a car boot can be a cold and lonely place.
And as the gang's car rattles along a series of dirt roads, in a high-speed chase - LENNY bounces around inside the boot like a lonely sock in a dryer, thinking that if everything does happen for a reason ... someone's got a lot of explaining to do.
Of course if LENNY had had the gift of foresight at that moment - he'd have known that the reason he was so desperately searching for, was inextricably linked to the village he was about to be dumped in...
And the CHIEF of this village - a Madiba like man, with an overwhelming passion for soccer...
His two sons, GIFT and GODFREY - who inhabit completely different worlds - GODFREY who's embraced the bright lights of the big city, and GIFT - a gentle son of the earth, through and through...
A money grabbing Property Development Company ...who want to build a Golf Estate on the Chief's land, and who'll stop at nothing to achieve their aims.
A soccer match that will decide the fate of that very land!
All this will become abundantly clear to LENNY, soon enough.
He'll embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Along with DAVID - he'll get to coach the CHIEF'S soccer team...
He'll take on the might of the evil Property Developers...
He'll fall in love with the woman of his dreams...
He'll re-unite two warring brothers...
And most importantly...
He'll find himself!!
FINDING LENNY... a revealing comedy - with balls.
FINDING LENNY LOCATIONS
Although the film looks and feels like the cast and crew travelled many many miles, the truth is that we managed to shoot the entire movie in and around the Gauteng area. A beautiful piece of land was found in the Broederstroom area.
Sam Ramasuku, an innovative and creative art director, went about designing and building an authentic traditional African Village. The interior scenes at the village were shot on location in the huts which were fully functional. In fact the labourers stayed in the huts whilst building and the unit team stayed in the huts during filming.
Another section of the land was graded and treated to be the rural soccer training ground.
The main soccer field was in fact a grass meadow surrounded by trees and bush which formed part of a farm further up the road. This was cut and painted to resemble a soccer field.
The Johannesburg locations included Sandton, Greenside and Melville.
We were exceptionally lucky with the weather. Our shoot dates were 15 September -17 October… The very months when the summer rains begin! Thankfully these rains held out until the 17th October. Half an hour after we had wrapped the film and closed the technical trucks the heavens opened… and it continued to rain for a full 2 weeks. This production was truly blessed. At one point the director needed to shoot a pick up shot. This required full sunshine. It was an overcast day but the crew set up for the shot anyway. Once the camera was ready to roll the clouds parted for 10 minutes… Just enough time for him to get his shot!
All the villagers and soccer crowd were from the neighbouring township of Brazzaville. For most this was their first time in front of a camera and they did a fantastic job! Managing to maintain an air of excitement despite being in direct sunlight for 8 hours at 35 Degrees for 5 days!
The village celebration scenes were truly remarkable. Nowhere else in the world could a group of extras pick up drums and start dancing and singing around a camp fire with such verve… with no rehearsals. The traditional Zulu songs that were sung were well known to the cast and members of the crew alike and everyone joined in. "These night shoots were truly memorable and made me especially proud to be a South African" says producer Terry Vallet.
The most challenging aspect of the film, by far, was the final soccer match between the Execon players and the Mighty Spears.
This took an entire week to film - out of a 5 week shoot. Everyday was over 35 degrees Celsius.
We had 3 cameras rolling everyday.
The Mighty Spears were all professional actors with some soccer experience while the Execon Team were all professional soccer players, most with little or no acting experience. Both teams ( including Mark Fish and Phil Masinga) would need to do exercise warm ups in the mornings and after lunch to ensure no injuries. The tackles and soccer action was all filmed live - even the trick kicks. The game was choreographed and rehearsed by the director Neal Sundstrom and soccer technical advisor Dale Harris. Dale also played the referee so he could control the match in front of camera too.
The match also proved to be the most challenging sequence to edit, grade and score!
After the challenges of the soccer match, Neal was heard to have joked that his next movie would 'be a darts game "
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
5 years ago Neal Sundstrom was looking to write and produce a South African comedy. He identified Barry Hilton as one of SA's best loved comedians. Barry was yet to make a feature film so Neal approached him with the idea of working with Moviworld and creating one. Barry says 'stand up comedy is performing, I am a performer so I did not have any doubt about my ability to act in a movie"
Neal Sundstrom, Russel Savadier and Terry Vallet discussed story ideas. Neal knew that he wanted the theme to be "Everything happens for a reason". He wanted the film to be uniquely South African and he wanted the story to be heart warming as opposed to slap stick humour. Neal and Russel went about writing a first draft. When this was presented to Barry Hilton, Barry was astounded at how much the opening scenes mirrored his own life experience. From the start everyone knew they were on the right track. The idea of the soccer match was inspired as it happens to coincide with the soccer fever that the 2010 world cup will bring to South Africa.
FINDING LENNY TRIVIA
· Finding Lenny is the latest film by Moviworld
· It was written by Neal Sundstrom and Russell Savadier.
· Directed by Neal Sundstrom
· Produced by Terry Vallet
· Finding Lenny was financed partly off shore and partly through South African funding including the new DTI rebate scheme.
· Finding Lenny was shot over 5 weeks.
· It was shot in and around Johannesburg and the Hennops area.
· A rural village was built from scratch by set designer Sam Ramasuka
· Local extras were used in the village dance celebrations where traditional Zulu songs and dances were performed
· The Execon soccer team comprised of Professional soccer players.
· The mighty spears were professional actors who all had soccer experience
· Dale Harris - a professional coach - was the soccer technical advisor and plays the referee.
· Ex Bafana Bafana soccer stars Mark Fish and Phil Masinga play cameo roles as themselves.
· The film was shot on Sony 900 HD camera
· Use was also made of the new RED ONE camera
· Casting by G-Casting
· The Goal keeper from the Mighty Spears Themba Minga is also a musician and the soundtrack will feature some of his original songs
· The film was post produced at Deep End Post Production.
· The sound mix took place at the Refinery
ABOUT THE CAST
BARRY HILTON (Lenny)
BARRY HILTON, "The Cousin", has reached international status as a stand-up comedian performing all over the world. Many agree that he is, without a doubt, one of the top comedians South Africa has ever seen.
Performing his original brand of South African humour, his sell-out shows are proof of his popularity as "the cleanest" comedian in the country. He entertains at the highest possible level without barbed prejudice, snide racism or crude language. (He says "kak" more than a couple of times, but that doesn't really count!)
Hilton is an icon and - as many other comedians may agree - a role model in the entertainment industry.
Say 'the cousin' and everybody knows exactly who you're talking about, my china!
Barry Hilton is a household name in South Africa and audiences love his irrepressible sense of humour! He is a skilful, generous and engaging entertainer who pulls out all the stops for audiences across the country and his shows are invariably sold out well in advance.
His unique brand of humour has an uncanny ability to entertain and it shows an awareness of the fine line between laughing at and laughing with the jokes about an array of 'sensitive' issues. He has the knack of taking every day situations and turning them into hilarious skits on stage. Barry Hilton is undoubtedly South Africa's best-loved funny man!
Talking "kak" as he puts it, the cousin makes it fun being South African, and if Proudly SA should reward someone for doing his bit for supporting the country, he deserves a nomination. Barry's optimistic outlook on SA makes you feel proud to be a South African. His positively radiant patriotism rubs off and makes the audience feel as one, subconsciously eradicating for a short time, all differences in colour, creed and social standing.
Not only does Barry enjoy sell out South African tours, he has performed to sold-out audiences around the globe. He was also the first South African stand-up comedian to perform at the prestigious London comedy club, The Comedy Store. So he's obviously got the universal formula right!
With this phenomenal success it's no surprise that he's been in the business for 25 years.
His unique style of entertainment is a real winner at corporate functions from golf days and launches right through to conferences and gala banquets. In addition to his corporate shows, and public concerts Barry has devised an exciting motivational concept for companies. The "Laughter Factory" shows employees how to bring more laughter into the workplace, and how success comes with laughter.
Barry Hilton is renowned not only for his comedy, but also for starring in commercials (really funny ones) and giving them a certain sense of South African-ness. "The Cousin" has also featured in several television shows, including his own series entitled "Funny You Should Say That" on SABC prime time.
Being a prolific writer, Barry pens all his own material, including music. His work has been captured on video and CD and they have all sold extremely well.
RUSSEL SAVADIER (David/Writer)
Russel has worked extensively as an actor and writer - in film, theatre and television. As an actor, his many television roles include his award winning portrayal of a mentally disabled water diviner in Thicker than Water, and leading roles in Heroes, The Big Time, Louis Motors, Big Okes, and Fishy Feshuns. He writes for and has a recurring role on the popular "Madam and Eve". He's currently to be seen in Hallmark's Mini Series "The Poseidon Adventure" and "Snitch" on M-Net. He's recently completed "Coup" for the BBC, and "Jozi-H" for Canadian Television.
His film work includes Bravo Two Zero for BBC Films, Inside Out, Jock of the Bushveld, Danger Zone, Zulu on my Stoep, Dead Easy, and most recently "Avenger" for Warner Bros, and "Lullabye" for Darryl James Roodt.
Among his many stage roles, he has been seen in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, for which he received a Best supporting actor award, Another Country, Midsummer Night's Dream, Boys Next Door, Lisbon Traviata, Oleanna, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Popcorn, Crashing the Night, Waiting for Godot, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, and David Mamet's play "Romance" for which he received a 2007 Naledi nomination as best supporting actor. His most recent role was playing Dudley Moore in the World Premiere of "Good Evening"
NEAL SUNDSTROM (Director)
Born in Johannesburg, Neal has harboured a passion for film as long as he can remember.
As a child actor, Neal worked in stage, film and on early South African television and - at the tender age of thirteen - wrote, directed and acted in his first film, an eight millimetre epic - financed by and starring his high school gym teacher.
With an Artes for Best Director, five NTVA Awards for Best Director, a Daily Mail and an Avanti: Special Mention; Neal's talent, energy and contagious enthusiasm carries him through as one of South Africa's finest.
TERRY VALLET (Producer)
Having started her film career in the AD department on Feature films, Terry decided to pursue further film studies. She was enrolled for a year at AFDA Johannesburg, a year at City Varsity Cape Town (where she won director of the year) and followed up with a postgraduate course at NYU in 2000. Years of studying directing convinced her that her talents lay elsewhere and upon returning to South Africa she began to work in the burgeoning commercial production service industry in Cape Town. Eventually opening her own production company GroundGlass in 2001
Terry produced for directors Neal Sundstrom and Ian Campbell at GroundGlass for two years before a near fatal ski accident forced a two year sabbatical during which time she sold her production company to her partner.
In 2005, Neal Sundstrom invited her to join Moviworld as the head producer.
During her time at Moviworld she has produced several television commercials for directors Neal Sundstrom and Russell Underhill.
Terry and Neal have recently completed their first feature film as a Producer/Director team titled "Finding Lenny". A poignant comedy starring well known South African comedian Barry Hilton.
They are currently in development for three more Feature Films.
"Moffie": Based on the book of the same name by author Andre Carl, this is an autobiographical coming of age drama.
Scheduled to start shooting 2009.
"Final Round": The true story of the relationship between South African boxing legend Brian Mitchel and Jakes Moraki, whom Mitchel killed in the ring.
Currently rewriting screenplay.
"Out of the Blue": The true story of Josiah Thugwane the first black South African to win an Olympic gold medal.
PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN FILMMAKING