Independent South African producer Anton Ernst has created an impressive body of work over the past 10 years including the 2010 sleeper hit Jakhalsdans an Afrikaans language love story. He started his career at the SABC where he worked on television productions such as the series Hotnotsgode at the same time freelancing as a writer on Franz Marx's award-winning soap Egoli. Following this, he worked as assistant production accountant on the feature film Red Phone starring Arnold Vosloo and Michael Ironside. Moving to London, he joined Bauer Martinez Studios, where he became finance executive and co-producer on various movies shot in Europe and North America. These included Modigliani starring Andy Garcia, Out of Season starring Dennis Hopper and Dot Kill starring Armand Assante. In 2004 he produced the action movie Wake of Death starring Jean-Claude van Damme and followed that with the 2006 drama, Number 10 starring Colin Moss and Mandoza which was released theatrically in South Africa. 2007 saw the production of Cryptid starring Lori Petty and later that year he produced the South African inspired Lullaby starring Melissa Leo and Lisa Marie Schneider. The film garnered a best actress award for Schneider. Always looking to explore different genres, Anton produced Surviving Evil in 2008, a slick horror movie starring Billy Zane, Colin Moss, Christina Cole and Natalie Mendoza.
Q&A: ANTON ERNST, PRODUCER
Where did the idea for the film come from?
The idea came from sitting and looking at the city of Johannesburg and thinking, what if there was a world inside the city, in the shadows of the underworld that we don't really know about? What if the beings that inhabited that world were sexy and captivating, yet bound to the night? This idea really fascinated me. We looked at a couple of different variations on the vampire genre and we then decided to write our own home-grown vampire story. I must stress the point that I never wanted to write a film that was overly dark; my goals was to get a diverse audience to enjoy what is a mainstream, sexy movie and see things they have never before witnessed in a South African film.
What made you choose to produce a "vampire" movie?
It's not a vampire movie in the traditional sense of the word. It's a love story set against a fast-paced action-packed Johannesburg that leverages the vampire genre as a vehicle for the love story.
How would you describe the experience of producing this film?
Producing the movie came with many different challenges. First of all, this is a genre that has hardly been looked at in South Africa. We had to do a lot of research on prosthetics, make-up and special effects. Secondly, shooting the movie at night had its own challenges - it's far more taxing on the crew than shooting during the day and it also affects the lighting requirements for the shoot. Thirdly, to co-ordinate the schedules of such a talented and seasoned ensemble cast was difficult. However, the film is so much superior for having this level of actors on board. Other than these challenges, we had loads of fun shooting the movie. The locations were amazing and absolutely unreal. Who would have thought that there are such remarkable locations around us in the inner city of Johannesburg?
What was it like to take on the roles of both producer and writer?
That was quite easy. The moment the production started I handed the script over to the director, Christopher dos Santos. After that it became his baby. He made changes to accommodate his vision and I was very comfortable with his suggestions as he is one of the best and most talented directors I have worked with in my career.
Why did you choose Johannesburg as a location?
Johannesburg is a character in itself. Much like New York is to the United States, it is our own highly energetic city that never sleeps. It was only fitting that the vampires live in Johannesburg as this embodies their struggle to be able to able to walk in daylight. The scenery and settings with the derelict buildings in particular fitted in nicely with the themes of the movie.
What were the highlights during filming?
Every day was an amazing experience. We had such a good, young and talented crew that it made the experience something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
What were the low points?
It took four weeks to shoot the film. Shooting outside in Newtown in June with the temperatures at -10 degrees was extremely unpleasant. It was the coldest I have ever been and I was seriously concerned for the health of the crew.
What are your hopes for the film once it releases?
I want people to see the movie for what it is: a well-made, mainstream love story set against the backdrop of night time Johannesburg. It's certainly not a gory horror movie.
What comments do you have on the cast?
They were all amazing. It's worth watching out for newcomers Andre Frauenstein and Rikki Brest. Working with Hlomla Dandala was an eye opener and I think he must be the closest we will ever have to a Denzel Washington. David James, who we last saw in District 9 will be the most wicked villain to appear on South African movie screens in a long time. Christina Storm is going from strength to strength in every film she appears in, and cinemagoers will view her in a different light once they have seen her performance in Eternity.
What was it like to work with the "parkour vampires"?
That was surreal. The guys jumped off buildings and performed stunts we have never seen before. It was an absolute pleasure having them on board.
How important was the makeup?
It was critical to the success of the film. The vampires have different looks throughout the movie and getting it all right was an extremely taxing process.
What did you achieve in the process?
I believe we made a wonderful movie. It was a very challenging film to make because of all the different elements, such as the CGI and special effects requirements, but I think the audience will marvel at what they see on screen.
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