it’s all greek to me!

wow!!! what an eventful few months!

ironically, just as i got my fingers back on the keyboard, life conspired to get me busy doing the other thing i do really well, actually, the thing i do best. acting.

i booked a role in a german movie which was shooting in cape town and from one week to the next, i had to organize a house/dog-sitter and haul ass down to the sea.

flashback 30 or so years:

i meet Wolfgang who becomes my first boyfriend, then i meet my terrible twin, sylvia – both germans. soon we are all hanging out ALL the time and they’re speaking ze cherman around me and almost by osmosis i’m beginning to understand a lot of it. so i decide to do german intensive during my third year at uct. i didn’t do spectacularly, but having been exposed to two native speakers, my german accent is really not bad and i lied, it’s not entirely greek to me.

over the years that smattering of german has stood me in really good stead. well, not that often, but it was there when i needed it. like in moscow circa 1991, seeing that i basically understood “spasiba”, “dobra utra”, “dasvadanya” and as most russians  spoke no english back then in the ice-age ;), for any kind of communication, we had to fall back on our common second-language: german! next came budapest in 1997 and once again my little knowledge of german helped to get me around the city and in the general direction of where i needed to be.

a few years later: i’m cast in another german movie and once the lead actress hears me speaking german, that’s it. she insists that i act in german and that they not dub me. (a little aside here: on these movies the german actors all do their dialogue in german and the local cast speaks either english or afrikaans and are then dubbed, at great expense, back in germany. apparently german voice-over artists are some of the highest-paid performers in the country! it’s a peculiar thing, this acting in different languages – invariably, language which to the other person is as incomprehensible as the gibberish spoken between baby twins in those viral you-tube videos. it really takes some doing.

flash forward to mid-november: i get cast in this latest movie and i (overconfidently) tell the director and producer that i will attempt the dialogue in german. this before i read the script. before i realize  just how big the part is and how many monologues i will have to master! suffice to say that it was one of the most challenging things i’ve had to do in a long time. normally, i do my prep for a day’s shoot, but i never really learn the words till i finally get to run the dialogue with the other actors. that way the performance stays fresh and much more believable. it feels that way for me, at least. well, this time around, unless i put in endless-nights-in-my-hotel-room-worth of prep-time, there was no way i would be able to get through the scenes. my brain did gymnastics. my tongue twisted. all while i was slathered in layers of fake-tan, make-up, a lace-front wig and stilettos to die for (and good as they looked, i sure felt like i was dying after each day’s shoot – of back-pain )!

it was scary and exhilirating and mind-expanding and it’s making me explore going to the goethe institute here in johannesburg this year and taking some more lessons so i can finally master this infernal language, instead of being it’s sub.


we were fooling around on set and in that outfit i just had to do a kim k impersonation! 🙂

so, that was some of my experience with the germans. lots more transpired these last few months, but i’ve been so verbose,  it’ll have to wait till next time.

oh, and happy new year!!! 🙂

eine tasche tee…

i’m just starting week 3 on the german movie and let me tell you , i’m no longer movie fit!

make no mistake, shooting a multi-cam tv show is a beast of its own that needs time and skill to tame, but i’ve been doing it daily for so long now that i’ve pretty much got it figured out. if there are emotional scenes, hold back during blocking and rehearsals, give a little during the technical rehearsals, but save your performance for the take and hopefully there’ll be no more than 3 of those.

get to a movie and it’s a totally different story. day 1, my first scene: sobbing next to a grave side. after the first wide shot the director comes up to me and quietly advises me that i can go much louder, more hysterical. 8 wide shots later of me wailing through the entire length of amazing grace sung in afrikaans to be dubbed into german, we move in for mid shots and by the time we get to the close ups the tears have long dried in the magaliesberg heat and i am now required to EMOTE on take 15. and NOW finally, the director would like those tears running down my face!!!

for my first dialogue, i decided to give the german script a try during rehearsal, after which i swiftly retreated and did it in english and afrikaans (germans dub everything! – the german actors speak german and the south africans speak whatever and then some voice actor later makes them sound like germans). on the final take of an emotional scene the director announces that she wants me to do in german. talk about patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time! it was rather edifying that when i drove back after jumping in the car and racing off dramatically at the end of the scene, i was met with a round of applause from cast and crew. and since then, i don’t even bother with the english dialogue. never mind that i offered someone a suitcase, rather than a cup of tea, and that i offered to shoot someone rather than water them (don’t ask), for the rest everyone seems to expect me to do it in german now. after 20 years it’s quite a task getting the brain and tongue to wrap itself around a barely mastered third language.

add the getting up at 03h30, the long hours and the hour schlep to and from set and the dust and the scorching sun and my iphone battery dying by 11a.m when i have the slutwalk to help organize inbetween takes and you get that life is far from boring and sleep is in short supply. i’ve taken to using sleeping aids to ensure that i’ll get some sleep.

and yet, despite, or because, of it all, it’s rather fabulous to be on a film-set again. and i hope to do it again soon!

warte mal, ich komme, ich komme!!!

mimosa film festival/schleb schlep

the production co-ordinator at works asks if i want to attend the mimosa film festival in bloemfontein. “tell me about it”, i say, while calculating flights and schedules and the insane time i’d have to be on a plane to be back in time for work. i shake my head. no.

the next day i get a message on my cell which says, thank you so much for agreeing to attend. we’ve booked your ticket. aarggghhh. i’m not sure what i’m supposed to do at this event. rolanda, who was supposed to go with me, cancels. so does sarahanne. though this i only find out as i’m about to board the plane and call to find out where she is.

fortunately i run into my old friend, super-talented actress and supercharged personality, shaleen surtie-richards. we met when i was still a teen. waiting for the same flight is regardt van der berg. he auditioned me a million years ago for the first movie i ever did, but eventually koos roets directed. shaleen and i have a grand old time catching up and and having a good old gossip sesh. at the airport we are met by a large old classic american limo. we are chauffered with melanie and heather millin, the daughters of david millin, one of the directors who helped shape south african movie-making.  at the hotel we disperse to our various rooms and i meet up with shaleen in hers before we head downstairs. i can barely breathe. the room is choked by the cigarettes shaleen (literally) chain-smokes.

downstairs we bump into vincent cox, award-winning camera man and director. he directed the movie in which i played lucky dube‘s girlfriend and on which my husband and i met in 1989. over dinner i am seated between vincent and another old friend, director cedric sundstrom. awards are announced, speeches made, the film festival and arts festival announced. i wish i could stay and see all those old films, like katrina. i joke with nina swart who’s mc’ing the evening, about being in search of fish for supper. 🙂

at the end of the evening we pose for pix, exchange phone numbers and then shaleen and i take the trek through the mall back to the hotel where i help her out of her corset and we head back down to the bar where we’re meeting some of the others. the bar, we discover to our disappointment, is closed. shaleen and i sit and chat in the smoking room, torturing my lungs. nina arrives and the others slowly trickle in. everyone bitches about not being able to get anything to drink while nina proactively persuades the restaurant manager to open up so we can buy some drinks to take back to the bar. this done, we repair to the smoking room to do ourselves some damage. in honor of the company, i am on this occasion, allowing other people to smoke with my lungs. we hang out till about 1a.m.. my lungs protesting, i finally drag shaleen out of there seeing that we both have to be up at 4:30 to catch our flight back to jhb.

next morning we are bleary-eyed as we make our way through crisp orange free state rain to the airport and onto the tiny plane. shaleen learns lines for her soap, while i promptly pass out and catch a quick nap before we land and make our way into morning traffic. her driver, looking like a body-guard (tall and white and afrikaans) is there to pick her up and off they swan in her “surtie-1” plated merc. the runner from work has a new hair cut and the same house music booming as i get in the car.

it’s 07:45. some people are still sleeping. by 8:30 i am in the make-up room having my hair colored. i drag through the day. fortunately my scenes are dispersed throughout the day, so i have lots of time to make sure i know my words. the first scene is fine. one take. i’m so exhausted though, that despite knowing my words, i find myself struggling and the other scenes are not much fun. it’s as if my synapses are not firing – there’s not enough fuel to spark the information from one to the other. my brain, sputtering on empty. i struggle home and pass out on the floor with my puppy infront of the heater. hooray for sleep.