23 Rue d’Amour
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The First 100 customers to pre-order will receive limited edition, signed collectable press cardsfrom the BlackMilk short films and stand a chance of winning one of 10 vouchers worth R200 each.
All profits will go towards the creation of Sunrise Hotel, the next BlackMilk short film.
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Production Design for BlackMilk is like living in your favourite Art Film. Anything and everything is possible. It is a world where beggars are puppeteers; theatre is life is theatre; character regression manifests physically through the set and lovers lead you to Dali-beaches scattered with memories. It is a world where typewriters and televisions can co-exist and where mirrors and telephones lead you into deeper and darker dimensions of the human psyche.
I have been working with BlackMilk for almost two years in the capacity of Production Designer/ Art Director. I came on board about a month before shooting 23 Rue d’Amour. I still today do not quite know how I managed to prepare everything in time, but somehow it all worked out. Today, three shortfilms and multiple smaller projects later, and I am still here. BlackMilk is my mistress and ours is a clandestine affair. She seduced me… and I willingly allowed myself to be mesmerized by her black seamed stockings and high heels, her face still hidden in the shadows and obscured by a wide-brimmed hat, and a silky trail of smoke rising from the elegant cigarette holder in a gloved hand…
Following is a bit of insight into the behind the scenes workings of the visual world of BlackMilk…
23 Rue d’Amour stole my heart… and ate it. When I read the script I was inspired. A new world opened before me. There was so much that I could play around with and elements that I could add to the film. I do not recall the complete briefing that I received, other than Film Noir and ‘old-school elegance’ without restricting the script by confining it to a certain period. I started sourcing in the prophouses of Cape Town where bit by bit the different pieces started falling into place. Items inspiriting ideas and those ideas tying in with general themes of the film. A good example of this is the eye-shaped mirror in one of the opening scenes. During the pre-production phase I constantly tried to include textures and depth into the design. I created depth with interesting things such as a dirty popcorn machine to shoot through, a warped carnival mirror to twist you into a different reality and big old metal letters backlit for added dramatic effect and background texture.
Another rather unusual and interesting experience of Rue d’Amour was the specialized fabricated props. The script called for an uhm… intimate part of the male anatomy to be chopped off, cooked and eaten. Let me tell you now… finding willing donors in that department is rather difficult. So a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. You make one. After exploring different ideas and options, we finally decided on making said piece out of different meat and food elements. I collaborated with a food-stylist, Marien, and together we found the perfect combination of salami, steak, chicken skin, spaghetti and liver spread to create a rational fear in any normal man. One of the most unusual questions that you could possibly ask you ‘boss’ is probably the following:
Me: “So, Thomas… would you prefer it circumcised or uncircumcised?”
When shoot day finally arrived it was a delicate juggling act where you could find me at any given time either a)squirting blood from underneath a table; b)poking skewers through pigs’ eyes; c)wrangling goldfish or d)dragging furniture around. All this while attempting to keep an eye on what is happening in the frame and with continuity.
Looking back at the film I can see my mistakes and places where I could have done more. I really should have ironed that goddamned tablecloth…. I am human. I make mistakes. I learn. And next time I will make sure to include the steamer into my breakdown…
The BlackMilk team has been blessed to gain the recognition they so truly deserve with their creative film productions. Without the talent of the respective cast and crew, the following would not have been awarded:
2008 On the Verge of Blood…, Best Homage, South African Horrorfest
2009 KiTTY KiLL, Best Art Direction, Auteur Film Festival
2009 KiTTY KiLL, Best Cinematography, Auteur Film Festival
2009 KiTTY KiLL, Best Editing, Auteur Film Festival
2009 KiTTY KiLL, Overall Best Film, Auteur Film Festival
2009 Emma-O, Official Runner Up, South African Horrorfest
2009 Emma-O, Best Screenplay, South African Horrorfest
2010 Regression (Trailer), Audrey2 Creative Arousal Award
2010 Regression, Overall Best Film, South African Horrorfest
2010 Regression, Overall Best Film, Auteur Film Festival
2010 Regression, Best Director(s), Auteur Film Festival
2010 Regression, Best Cinematography, Auteur Film Festival
2010 Regression, Best Editing, Auteur Film Festival
2010 Regression, Best Sound Design, Auteur Film Festival
2010 Regression, Best Actress, Auteur Film Festival
2010 The Lovers, Best Screenplay, Auteur Film Festival
The team is currently busy with a new film.
Photo by Leon Visser, assisted by Lohan Koegelenberg.
We have just returned to Cape Town from Johannesburg after a very successful weekend where we screened four of our films. The screenings took place at the CULT event at CCHQ in Johannesburg, organized by Gen Twoco and crew.
We had some very creative experiences and returned back to our mother city full of ambition and inspiration. Thank you to Gen, Kat, Gary, CCHQ, and everyone else that contributed to the event and amazing weekend.
Films that were screened:
23 Rue d’Amour
We are planning another Johannesburg visit early 2011.
The following article appeared in yesterday’s Newspaper. (Sunday, 21 November 2010)
The Lover’s … of dreams and demons.
The release of their latest short film has sweetened the lives of all those at BlackMilk Productions, writes Astrid Stark.
When Ronnie and Thomas get together, somebody usually dies. These two independent film-makers have found each other through a mutual fascination with the horror film genre. Ronnie Belcher is an award-winning jewellery designer, photographer and film-maker. Thomas Dorman is an award-winning designer, photographer and film-maker. Their short film Regression recently won the award for “Best Local Short” at the 2010 SA Horrorfest.
“During December, 2008, Ronnie was having a relationship with one of my models, and I wanted to do a shoot in Ronnie’s attic,” says Thomas. Ronnie lives in a semi-detached Victorian house in the back end of Gardens where the street people are too lethargic to beg on a Saturday morning. The street in front of the house is deserted and the area has the ambience of a horror film set. Ronnie’s house, however, is a haven. A wooden staircase leads into a gorgeous wooden-floored kitchen with dark orange walls. The smell of freshly brewed coffee fills the kitchen. Ronnie and Thomas are waiting for me. Leon Visser joins them.
Somehow I expected them to have red-rimmed eyes, pale faces and corks through their ears, but these guys are fresh-faced and clearly focused on their work. “ While I was busy doing the model shoot, Ronnie was filming me shooting the model,” Thomas continues. “He had a rough script he thought could fit some of the resultant footage.”
The two guys instantly gelled and their first short film was born. “We shot KiTTY KiLL on a handycam,” says Ronnie. “It was a two-month project and is still one of our finest films to date.” KiTTY KiLL” won BestArt Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Overall Film at the 2009 South African Auteur Film Festival.
Their unique collaboration has so far led to Emma-O, which won Best Runner-up Local Short Film at SA Horrorfest 2009, and 23 Rue d’Amour, Regression and their most recent work, The Lovers. Ronnie and Thomas co-write and direct their films.
Leon, who is a photographer, editor and producer, joined the team for the making of Regression and The Lovers. “Two weeks before the shooting was to take place I got a Facebook invite for Regression,” says Leon, “I knew I had to be part of it, even if I made coffee.”
Regression is a chilling short film about the darker side of love and what happens when we can’t let go of each other. They call their films horror, but after watching The Lovers, it is obvious their films are powerful works of fine art.
Ronnie and Thomas say their films are less about the issues of the day and more about individual journeys removed from societal influences. “There is never a linear story,” says Ronnie. “We are pedantic about time frames and environment. The Lovers can be best described as a post-apocalyptic 1920s love story. The movie took 56 hours from script to screen,” says Ronnie. In the film, two lovers follow a length of cotton they discover in the woman’s belly button. Their heads are wrapped in cloth as they journey through a Salvador Dali like landscape. There are strong themes of birth, betrayal, love, denial and murder, and hardly a word is spoken.
“We wanted each shot to look like a painting,” says Ronnie. And indeed the film is a visual feast with its rich textures, symmetrical themes and surreal use of colour. “The music we usually finalise when we know what the film looks like,” says Ronnie. The music for example in The Lovers are soundscapes. It is a journey. You don’t hear it as much as you feel it.” The production value of the film is very high. In one of the scenes a poem by Gary Cummiskey, also called The Lovers, is narrated. Then into the kitchen wafts Estè Kira. She is smoking a pipe. Her body is covered in intricate tattoos and a pair of silver goggles roosts in her violently red hair. She has no eyebrows. She’s been working in the film industry for about six years, and is production designer with BlackMilk.
She laughs as she tells me how some of the special effects and props were created. “Once, we needed a scene where a penis is cut in half and cooked. We had to make it believable. The usual visual effects guys couldn’t help us because we had to cook the penis and the thing would just dissolve. So I worked with a food stylist and we created a penis out of steak, salami and chicken skin. I still have one in my fridge.” She is also the head honcho of Miss Demeanour & The Squid Circus which sees her entertaining people with an octopus and several hooks pierced through her back. “Our movies usually start small and then evolve into something gigantic,” says Thomas. “Myself, Ronnie and Estè fund most of the projects in collaboration with production company Sex On Toast, which often helps out. “We hope someone will spot what we can do with a minimal budget and help us realise our potential. We are also thinking of creating a box-set collection of our short films.”
Just before we trundle down the stairs and into the empty street, Estè corners me in the kitchen and insists on reciting a quote from Barend Buitekamer that, to her, defines her work with BlackMilk and Squid Circus: “In this world, an artist must sometimes be his own I-am-what-I-am god. He must visit upon the conforming meatpuppets plague after plague of obscure shock art. He must lead them from their land of milk and honey into a warzone of blood and semen. Once there he must cast them upon burning pyres… and forget about them.”
On November 27, Flymachine Films, BlackMilk Productions and Purple Velvet productions will be screening their films at CULT in Johannesburg. There will be two movies from the US and five from South Africa.
Submachine, Slashdogs, Shots Fired and Ransom Note will provide music. Find the event at CCHQ, corner of Main and Violet on Fisher’s Hill. Entry is R90, doors open at 6pm.
Films at the festival:
BlackMilk Productions: KiTTY KiLL, 23 Rue d’Amour, Regression, The Lovers
Flymachine Films: Kult Without Name
Purple Velvet Productions: Blood Drips; Maven: Instillness I Lie