Eva du Preez is an award-winning TV and Film producer, script supervisor and editor. In 2013, she made her producing debut with the multi-award winning short film Toevlug directed by Christiaan Olwagen. Her other editing credits include Die Seemeeu, Ander Mens, Die Boland Moorde, Die Boekklub, Fynskrif, Toevlug and Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee. Her highly anticipated debut feature film, Kanarie, will arrive in theatres on October 19th following a successful premiere at this year’s Silwerskermfees, which awarded Eva an award for her edit of the film.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
I think it’s always been in my bones. I grew up with a family who were always kind of performing in their own way. My mom’s father was a doctor but he had this amazing love for photography and for film. It was the 90’s, everyone had a video camera and, as kids, we were just having to perform for the camera. We had Christmases where we had to sit and do interviews with my grandfather and we had to say, “Thank you mom and dad for the present, this is what we are thankful for…” We grew up being in front of the camera. On my father’s side, my grandfather was also an amateur actor. I did eisteddfods and dancing when I was younger. I come from a very small town and after high school, my parents said, “You are going to Stellenbosch. You are going to get out of this bubble. Life is bigger than this small town.” I think it’s my parents who went, “You probably aren’t going to make any money but this is what you are doing.”
What was your time like at Stellenbosch? What were you originally there to study?
Acting. I thought I was an amazing actor. I was very naïve coming from a small town, so I had all of these ideas of what it was supposed to be and I somehow didn’t fit in in drama school. I was actually very shy and then there was this thing called ‘movement’ and I was like, “This is what I can do. I don’t have to speak.” I didn’t like speaking parts so I decided that movement was going to be the thing that I was going to do. In my third year, I met Christiaan Olwagen and he did a play and I somehow convinced him that I could sing. He made me part of the chorus and I couldn’t sing at all but I could perform like a singer and that just gave me the courage to say, “I know this is what I want to do. I want to be part of this theatre world or at least behind the scenes but I know I want to be part of this.” Then, in my third year, I had a class with Elsabé Daneel and we had a subject called media where we had to do presenting and if you wanted to, you could edit it yourself and then present it to the class. After this little edit I made, she asked me, “You are actually great with storytelling, not so great with presenting, isn’t something behind the camera interesting to you?” I thought [that] being shy and not having the confidence, I didn’t know how I’d ever make it as an actor or as a physical performer. That is just something I couldn’t see myself doing. I went to the head of the drama department and I convinced them to make me an editing course in my honours year. They made the course for me and in that year, two guys from the drama department, who were lecturers, decided to pitch something for kykNET for a TV series. They said that I could edit that pilot for my honours project. Eventually, they got a season of the pilot and had told me that if they got a season, I could be the editor. The fact that I studied drama and I understand what it takes to be an actor, I understand what it takes for stories to happen and all the technical stuff behind it. The transition into being an editor was so easy because I know what is a good performance or what works or what doesn’t work in terms of rhythm because I’ve done it myself. I really had to grow very fast in university because I was very insecure coming from a small town and didn’t know anyone in Stellenbosch. That’s where I met most of the people who I am creating stuff with now. I remember seeing them at drama school and just thinking, “They are so amazing. I could never be that but somehow, I want to be part of that collaboration and work with these people because I feel like that’s where I belong.” I just needed to figure out what it should be. That’s how I came to editing.
What was it that originally attracted you to Kanarie?
It has to be Christiaan Olwagen. In 2013, I went to him one day and I said, “We are going to make a short film.” He wrote it with Martelize [Kolver] and we made the short film, Toevlug, that I produced and edited. That year, it won everything at Silwerskerm. He won Best Director and because of that, he got 3 movies from M-Net. He did Johnny is nie doed nie, Kanarie and Die Seemeeu. From there, I knew as collaborators we worked very well together and obviously as friends it makes it easier. When Kanarie came, Roelof [Storm] phoned me and he said, “We want you to edit this.” It was going to be my first feature film so whatever the subject matter would have been, I was just like, “Its my first feature film so yes.” I grew up with two brothers so I’m more attracted to male energies than female energies. Hearing that the whole cast was going to be male, was something that I just felt comfortable with because I knew I could do this. The other thing I also do is continuity on set. With Christiaan, I do continuity and then afterwards, I edit the film. Being on set then as continuity, you are already editing. You know exactly what you need and where you need to go from this. It happens a lot in editing where you get a lot of footage and there is no way that you can actually put it together because whatever the vision was on set, it’s not translating into the edit. By the time you are done with the movie, you basically know exactly what you have and how the edit is going to come out. Because we shot Kanarie out of continuity, we jumped around. In terms of that continuity and where the story needs to go, it was nice to be on set and see how that actually develops because we thought it was going to be more of a drama but somewhere, while shooting, we actually realised it’s a rom-com. There is a sweet love story and we have all been through our first love and finding out it’s not maybe that.
Kanarie is your first feature film and debuted at Silwerskerm where you received an award for your editing of the film. How does it feel to receive that recognition on your first film?
I think it’s just validation that all the hard work in the dark room for hours and hours on your own is so worth it. It just feels like we are obviously doing something right. It’s nice to be part of a collaboration where we just get each other and trust each other to do this. It’s amazing because I don’t know a lot of female editors. Editing is a way more technical field and for most women, it’s actually something that is quite daunting because the programs keep on changing. It’s very technical. I think winning the award is highlighting that as females, we also have a voice and that emotional journey [of the film] is so important, I think most of which happened in the editing of Kanarie because we had to take a lot of scenes out and change things around. It comes with emotional intelligence and I think it’s something that we as females are more prone to have. The boys have all the technical knowledge and we have the emotional knowledge.
Correct me if I’m wrong but at this year’s Silwerskermfees, you had three films?
So basically every single film you worked on, was nominated for something during the festival.
A lot of people will ask, “What did you have to do to get so many films at the festival?” It’s an accumulation of two years. We did Kanarie two years ago and then it was Die Seemeeu and then Ander Mens. Over the course of two years, we did three feature films. Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee with Marì [Borstlap] was very inspiring because she is also writing and now directing her first short. I remember being in her shoes with Christiaan. When she came to me and she was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing but can you help?” I was just like, “Yes.” It was very inspiring to work with her in creating that because she also overshot the film. It was supposed to be 11 minutes but the first cut was 20 minutes and basically you have to cut half of the film which is very hectic especially for a writer to go, “But how do you now make this story?” All of that happened in the edit. It was amazing when that won Best Short. It’s like we are doing something right.
In regards to the editing process, where do you start?
Basically you would get the footage, I would watch all of the footage and then, with the notes from set [and] what the director had in mind, start building on the timeline, take all the coverage they did and start cutting stuff together. Then, as all the scenes come along, kind of find a rhythm but it’s a very lonely world because you sit there with footage and you weren’t there for all the inside jokes. The day I send my first cut to producers is the most stressful because it’s the first time you are going to get feedback. When I do continuity, it’s obviously easier because you know and you’ve seen it. I did a series now called Fynskrif and they were shooting while I was editing. At the end of the week, I would send them an episode. It was such a fast turnover and you just have to trust your instincts. You are telling a story but obviously, as you are going, you have to find the best performance. You have to sift through all this footage and find the best performances and still make it match the other performances.
How long did it take you to edit Kanarie?
I think in total 10 weeks.
Is that roughly how long it usually is?
Usually for feature films they give you about 12 weeks but because of the budget constraints, we had less time. By week eight, we had our first viewing with the producers. You obviously have a lot more time in the edit when you are doing a feature because there is more budget than, lets say, a TV series where you gooi episodes as you go and you don’t have directors coming in and working on stuff. With Christiaan, he would come in and we would spend four weeks trying stuff and getting the continuity right or the right feeling for the scene. Then you actually have time to sit with the director whereas with TV, you don’t have that at all.
You also worked on Die Seemeeu which involved several continuous scenes which ran for longer than eight minutes. Does that tend to happen often?
No, that was very unique. Christiaan likes shooting longer takes because he feels the performance continuity is better. I think it’s a lot like theatre. It feels more real. The second last scene in Die Seemeeu, the one between Albert [Pretorius] and Rolanda [Marais] was the longest scene I’ve ever done in my life. It was one take and it was 15 minutes long. I think we did eight takes and then you have to choose one where with TV, you have lots of angles and so much coverage that you can build a scene from that. With that, you are basically directing the edit on set. Die Seemeeu was more challenging being on set and creating the right edit on set then a TV series where you have all these different angles and you can basically do whatever you want. Sometimes when you sit there and you see a 15 minute long take and someone had a fluff or a bit of performance that isn’t great, you are sitting there watching it over and over and you have to decide which take is going to benefit the film the most. It’s tricky because you were on set and maybe there was something you didn’t see like a shadow or something. You can’t just cut around it.
Does that method of filming result in a more or less effective way for your process?
I think it’s so different. I like to work with coverage because then I can decide what the pace is going to be so I’ve got the liberty to do whatever I want, I can start the scene on a wide or on a closeup. For me, it’s way more creative to have more coverage and you can decide the beats and the reactions and when you want to cut to what where. With Christiaan’s work with something like Die Seemeeu, there is nothing you can really do. It’s just basically deciding when you are going to start the scene and when you are going to end it.
What advice would you have for women who are looking to enter into this profession?
It’s really not that difficult. I think the technical stuff can be really daunting and so overwhelming but there are so many [resources] you can find online to teach yourself how things work. You get so many apps on your phone that you can edit stuff with. I think it’s easier now than it was long ago to actually get into this profession. We don’t know what it is and that’s why we are scared of it. I think there should be way more female editors because we do understand emotions, not that men don’t. That’s why female directors are also so inspiring because there is something in the quality of the way we go around with emotions, and in the edit is where it actually all comes together. I would just say do it. You don’t have to study it. The only reason I studied it was because I wanted to do my honours and I was lucky enough to have someone to show me how the program worked but no one ever taught me how to feel what’s right. There are no rules when it comes to editing. It’s all about feeling. I think if you have it or you feel you have it, then the technical part is something you can spend time on but it isn’t something that should keep you from doing it.
Who are some South African women in the arts that inspires you?
Sandra Prinsloo is top of my list. In Die Seemeeu she just threw herself into that role and it was so inspiring to see that. Rolanda Marais in Johnny is nie dood nie and in Die Seemeeu, she is so vulnerable and just being able to work with material like that is so inspiring. Cintaine Schutte, her emotional intelligence when it comes to performance is just… Tinarie van Wyk Loots is a machine. Then, I’d say Martelize Kolver. When it comes to comedy, her and Nicole Holm. Lastly, I’d say Anna-Mart van der Merwe. I am mostly inspired by actresses because I have to look at them the whole time and I think that inspires me.
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