We at Road Rash Reviews were lucky enough to see and review Thirst a South African feature film that was filmed on a minuscule budget, set around the events at the end of the 1991 Desert Storm. We follow best friends John McDaniels (Monré Aucamp) and Danny (Proetic) from high school through to their predicament in the desert war. Director Kevin Singh (Tokolosh) also wrote the screenplay and a lot of the behind the scenes post production for his film.
We asked both gentlemen our 6 six shooter questions and here are their replies.
First up is the man in charge director Kevin Singh.
1: What gave you the inspiration to write ‘Thirst’?
Around 2006 I came up with the idea of about seven men stuck in a desert not knowing where they were going. What inspired me, there were very few desert survival movies. I saw the original flight of the Phoenix with Jimmy Stewart and thought it would be an interesting story if it’s set during the time of The Persian Gulf war. I thought it would be more intriguing if the war was over and they did not know it. The love triangle aspect was not the original idea but I thought make the audience for those two guys to come home.
2: How did you manage filming a feature film on such a low budget?
Firstly, what you do is cut down the shoot days, we had 13. Then you find a place like Witsand, which is a desert reserve where you negotiate cheap rates, where you can rent out the entire bungalow, especially off peak seasons. They were dormitory type rooms where 4 or 5 people shared a room. We shot the school scenes in one day. This sounds a little silly but you wrap before supper so you keep your catering costs down. The actors also got paid very low rates. Most of the equipment I owned.
3: What were the difficulties of filming in such a dry desert?
The desert is a nightmare to shoot, the wind blows the sand in the lens. You constantly have to clean it. You do a take, then there are footprints, you have to do another take. Sometimes the wind is so strong that some scenes you have to re dub the scenes. Your camera over heats, you have to wait and bear in mind we could only afford to be there for 4 days. Small window you can shoot ’cause in the morning actors had to have sunburnt make up. The rangers were close by but there were scorpions and snakes, Puff adders are very dangerous. The actors got dehydrated because there was no tent.
4: How long has it taken to get this project in the can?
I started writing in mid December 2013 and did the last draft in Jan 2014, tried for one year to try and get funding. Didn’t get funding then decided to make it with my own money. We shot most of it in 2015. Then March 2016 the Uday Hussein scene. Then I took a few months to get an editor for very low cost. Then in January 2017 the final mix of sound was done and by March 2017 it was finished. So around two years to make mostly because of lack of funding.
5: How much support do you find for the South African film industry?
Very little support. Almost all the movies that are in movie theatres are American, British or bollywood films. Very hard to get funding and when you make your film they say it’s low budget and you struggle to get it distributed. Artists are not supported, that’s why I decided to make an American story. You realise at some point, why do you need to get permission to tell a story, work hard make a micro budget film.
6: Can you tell us of any future projects you are working on?
Yes I will soon be writing a sci Fi horror this time though I will look for funding.
One more thing I would like to disclose:
South Africa don’t support their artists but it’s a very cheap place to make a movie. Our crews are as good as North American or European crews. Actors who are talented. But its a country of a lot of corruption and therefore its talent is not seen, because merit doesn’t exist.
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Next up is Monré Aucamp our lead actor playing John, a man of conviction for his goal.
1: How did you find out about ‘Thirst’ and Director Kevin Singh and get your first IMDb credit?
Funny enough I didn’t find out about THIRST through my agency, Kevin Singh (the Director of THIRST) contacted me. He found me through the College I went to, I received a phone call from him saying he wants me to Audition for the part. I didn’t think twice of course and said sure, ’cause I mean, who wouldn’t want a leading part in an Independent Full Length feature film? I went to Audition and he said he wanted me on the production and as the lead roll. I was super ecstatic and could not believe that I landed my first roll in a full length feature, it was a dream come true to be honest. Before Kevin approached me, I haven’t actually heard of him. But through doing this film with him, I actually see what vision he has and how brilliant he really is as a Director overall. Kevin gave me such great direction and treated me with great respect and I him. To have THIRST as my first IMDb Credit is actually something to be proud of, I enjoyed myself so much on set, meeting new people, seeing a place I have never seen before as well and just being in the movie is such an Honor.
2: How did you take inspiration to play your character ‘John McDaniels, and his determination to get the girl?
Wow that is quite the question.
The inspiration to play my character actually came from Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, but to be honest, inspiration for the Character actually comes from within oneself, creating the character in your mind, creating that mind-set that the character would have in certain situations in the film and also having the input from the director, moulding the character and also adding the accent was quite the challenge but needed. I’ve never done a Southern Accent before and to actually hear myself doing the accent was a shock. Not in a bad way, I was actually impressed with myself in making it quite believable. It’s actually the first time I felt comfortable with seeing myself on screen haha, usually I cringe but this time it was different, I felt good about my craft and it’s definitely a good thing. John McDaniels’ determination to get the girl was insane. The lengths he would go to or actually went through to get the girl is nothing that I would do…Like NEVER! Haha, I’ve played a lot of dark characters actually, so I know how to trigger that side for a character. John on the other hand is a very complex person, if he doesn’t get his way or gets what he want, that is his trigger of his determination and that is where his inner darkness comes through, his inner, sociopath. He isn’t a sociopath but definitely has some of the traits of a sociopath. I guess you could say that going to that dark place isn’t pleasant but I do have techniques in “stepping out” when Kevin called cut which helped a lot.
3:Did you form a bond with your on screen squad?
I really did form a bond with my on screen squad. One thing that I have learned in College is the fact that you should form a bond with your fellow cast members. If there is no chemistry whatsoever, then what’s the point, you can basically ruin a whole film if you don’t have chemistry with the whole cast. I formed lasting friendships with Prosper (playing John
McDaniels’ best friend), he’s an amazing human being and he just has such a positive presence. I bonded with him mostly cause we had the most interaction and the most rehearsals but the whole cast was just a delight to be around. They would pick you up if you were down and if anything got difficult we would always think about solutions to make things easier. They are basically like family to me now and I keep in contact with them as
often as I can.
4: How did you find the conditions in the desert and what was the first thing you did when the filming stopped?
The conditions in the desert were quite brutal haha. I’m maybe being a tad overboard with calling it brutal.
Uh, it was very challenging indeed. The desert was the most I’ve ever suffered from sun burn ever. It was definitely like we were stranded in the desert, we had limited water every day because we had to hike up to the dunes each day. And by the time we got there we had almost finished the water, but also walking in sand, with no clouds to be seen and the reflection from the sand almost blinding you took it’s toll on us. We were fine the first 2 days but the days
after that we started to feel weak, like the desert is finally getting to us, which was good because it actually made the acting more believable.
When we stopped filming and when we got back home, I went to work haha. I kid you not, I work in a permanent position so I had to take leave for shoot days. But the day I got home right after finishing and wrapping the film I had a moment to think about the amazing experience that it was. Meeting new and amazing people, working with such great and upcoming talent. The crew behind the cameras as well, to see the technicality that goes with filming, even though I learned about a lot of things film related, I learned a lot of new things,
from the crew especially. To be honest I would love to do it again, it was a great, no…an amazing experience as I said. Film and Acting will always be one of my biggest passions in the world.
5: What was the hardest part of the filming and what did you enjoy the most?
I would say the most difficult part of filming for me was the desert scenes. No doubt about it. I put it in quite some detail in the previous question but damn was it hard. Sorry for my language but we couldn’t f*#k around up there in the dunes. Take for instance walking in the sand and doing scenes in sand, it’s a difficult thing especially for continuity, so if we screwed up our lines the continuity would be quite screwed as well. So most of the lines had to be a
one take wonder. What I enjoyed the most actually as well was shooting in the desert at Witsand. It was such a beautiful location and I could take so many photos which is one of my hobbies just by the way. I absolutely love photography, but spending time with great people and developing lasting friendships must have been one of the most enjoyable things for me,
but mainly shooting on location is the best. I enjoyed everything about the shoot, best experiences come from a film shoot.
6: What does the future hold for Monre Aucamp?
Well for now it’s pursuing my dream of becoming an Actor. I don’t want to just act locally, I would love to Act for productions in the US. I’m currently working a full time job but at the same time I’m trying everything I can to do what I love. I currently have a YouTube channel which at the moment is quite slow and I do what I can, where I can, when I can. I have also thought about doing photography part time especially because it’s one of my favourite hobbies. It’s a struggle. Everyone has told me it’s a difficult profession, of course I know this but it’s good I like a challenge. To get to where I want to be is going to be difficult but I can assure you that it will be worth it in the end.
Right now I guess I need to focus on Creating content, not only on YouTube but also in the industry such as short films so that I can get my name out there. I will need to take a risk if I want to get to where I want to be, I will eventually but I’m still young and the world has a lot to offer. I will succeed and I will achieve my goal, in time, I’m not in a rush…or maybe I am…just a little. But there will always be this little voice at the back of my head saying, someone who will watch this film, a big shot director will see something in you and get you to where you want to be. Let’s hold thumbs! haha
Thank you for taking the time to answer our Six Shooter questions and carry on the great work.
Stay tuned for release details of Thirst.