the writing studio
Celebrating the art of storytelling and the craft of writing


Read interview with screenwriter- producer Anton Ernst

Editor and director Christopher-Lee Dos Santos' objective is to become one of the best filmmakers not only nationally in South Africa, but worldwide.
Ever since a young child I've been a dreamer, constantly telling stories visually. That's what I want to be,
a great story teller with moving images.
Chris wrote and Directed a 50 minute short feature entitled Brothers in Arms which aired on MNET in 2006.
The film was shot in four days on a budget of R5000.00. It has since made back over R300 000.00
Chris worked on the Test shoot and Commercial shoot for District 9 / Halo in 2007 as a Set Decorator.

Chris worked on the Race-ist as a 2nd Unit Director in Charge of shooting pickups for the film as well as
being B camera Operator on the shoot.
Chris has extensive experience in the visual Effects department due to his interest in the subject. He has
since continued working and teaching himself as much as he can. He has done Visual Effects for more
than 6 films, including the award winning short
In a Place without Love, starring Litha Booi.
Chris graduated from AFDA film school with his BA Honours Degree in Motion Picture Sciences, majoring in Directing and Screenwriting. He also did Psychology and sociology as minor subjects. Chris was one of only two directors in his original class of 75 to graduate in directing/screenwriting with Honours. Since 2007, Chris' honours film, AT THY CALL, has opened many doors for him. AT THY CALL played has played at many prestigious film Festivals, including the grand Festival de Cannes in France in 2008.


What made you choose to direct a "vampire" movie?
It was something different, something that had never been done before in South Africa. I've always been one to push boundaries. Making a film like Eternity allowed us to enter a stylistic world with a certain visual set of rules that I've always wanted to play with. It's fast, it's gritty, it's exciting. It's the type of film we definitely need to see more of from local filmmakers..

What is your own interest in the genre?
I used to play a lot of "Vampire the Masquerade" pen and paper game when I was younger. It's a game similar to dungeons and dragons where you build your character and learn all the rules from different vampire clans, so I developed an interest in vampire lore long before I ever thought of making a vampire film. But that was about ten years ago. When the Eternity screenplay landed on my desk, my interest was rekindled. All the memories of that game came rushing back and got me excited about vampires all over again.

How would you describe the experience of directing?
The director is a painter who has to create an image on the canvas without physically touching the paintbrush. Only his words can guide which colours go where. The producer provides the paint and the canvas, the actors and crew provide the brushes. It's the director's job to help the actors and crew place their brushes in the right place. That's how I see it, anyway. Directing is quite an experience - it's non-stop hard work, but the best job ever.

What was it like to take on the roles of both director and editor?
The director is the storyteller on set, while the editor tells the story in post-production. In many cases, they fulfil similar roles. My job as the director was to ensure that the story was coming to life while we were shooting the film, and that we could relate to the characters emotionally through their visual representation on screen. As the editor, working with Christopher Harvey was a long process that required us to make certain that that the story was stitched together seamlessly. In the process of filmmaking, you always get different variations of a scene during different takes - that's inevitable. As the editor, it's your job to choose the take that best helps move the story forward.

What are you comments on the location?
We shot in and around Johannesburg, mostly in abandoned buildings. That was interesting, not just because of the unusual aesthetic value of these structures, but also because the environment is really quite harsh. Logistically, it's not easy to shoot on the top floor of an abandoned, 12-storey building which has no power. It's a different Johannesburg from the one we normally see and it's very unusual. As a director, I wanted to bring to life Johannesburg at sunset, under the moonlight, in the dead of night, and in the hour just before dawn.

What comments do you have on the cast?
The cast were nothing short of amazing. I had a lot of fun working with them, creating new ideas and just having a great time. They were supportive of me which was especially important to me as this is my first feature film. David James, best known for being the bad dude in District 9, was more than happy to let me work with him on nailing his character. Honestly, I was a little intimidated at first, having made only shorts in my career, but I am very proud of the film and I love it.

What was it like to work with the "parkour vampires"?
The Parkour vampires had some crazy skills and an enormous amount of energy. I was tempted to try some parkour moves, but only ended up embarrassing myself. They came up with new ideas over and over again. I'd say, "Jacky, do you think you can run up that wall and dodge the other vampire?" He'd say, "How about I run up and back flip over him?" Once I realized how much skill these guys had, I was really able to unleash my imagination. At times I was scared that I might be going a little overboard, but they proved me wrong every time.

What did you learn in the process?
I learnt a lot about dealing with deadlines, working fast and being precise. Because budgets are limited, you can't take all day to shoot a scene. You've got to do it right as quickly as possible and move on, without ever compromising on quality. As always, preparation is key.