Cintaine Schutte is an actress and producer. She has performed in more than 30 professional theatre productions and has toured to all the national art’s festivals and major theatre’s in South Africa. In 2015 she received a Kanna Award for her performances in Moeder Moed and Die Seemeeu and in 2016, she was awarded a Fleur Du Cap Theatre Award for her performance as Masha in Die Seemeeu. In 2017, she was awarded the Woordtrofees Award for her performance in Reza de Wet’s Drif. She is well-known for her Television work, including Die Kasteel, PHIL 101 and Fynskrif. She has appeared in numerous local films such as Knysna, Sonskyn Beperk and most recently, the film adaptation of Christiaan Olwagen’s Die Seemeeu which will arrive in theatres in 2019. Cape Town audiences can catch Cintaine in Half Leeg, directed by Tara Notcutt which will run at the Alexander Bar in November.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
My drama teacher in High School, Shareen Swart*. She is also an actress. Albert Pretorius and I went to the same drama classes with Shareen. When I was in matric, I wanted to do a gap year in London. Shareen was the one who spoke to my parents and she said, “Maybe Cintaine should just apply to Stellenbosch University or UCT.” I think Shareen was always that person who motivated me and believed in me. She was kind of a mentor. We still keep in contact and if I have a show or a movie, she messages me. Albert and I always talk about Shareen who was our cheerleader. She inspired me to just push through and do it. I think my mom also inspired me because, at a young age, we would travel to Cape Town to visit my aunt. She would work but then my mom and I would have a free day so we would sit at these coffee shops. I was a little girl so I was bored but then my mom would tell me, “Just sit and observe. Just look at the people.” I think she inspired me to sometimes just sit and observe because, as an actress, this is research. Everything is research. I think my mom inspired me to just sit and watch and learn and listen to stories.
I did my BA Drama at the University of Stellenbosch and then I decided to do my honours. That year, they had a module, it was the first year they did it and I don’t know if they’ve done it again but it was honours in acting. You join the fourth years and finish their fourth year and you do the honours in acting with them. I did my year at UCT which was very cool because after UCT, I worked a lot with people I met in Cape Town and people from UCT. Tara Notcutt gave me my first professional theatre show. I met her at UCT but then somehow I found my roots back to the Stellenbosch alumni and we started a theatre collective. We were just a bunch of friends who said, “We don’t have work. How are we going to make work and how are we going to get ourselves out there?” Our big mission was to bring young people to the theatre. We did that for a while and that was a cool platform for us to just put ourselves out there.
What was it that originally attracted you to Die Seemeeu?
I really love Anton Chekhov’s work. It was interesting in those two or three years, I did some classical works and when I was at UCT, I also did Chekhov with Sandra Temmingh. Sandra introduced me to a lot of his work so when I heard about The Seagull and Masha, I was like, “Yes! Let’s do this.” I was busy with Mother Courage which was done very much in the sense of, “Here’s the script. We do it this way. We don’t cut.” It’s very classical and Christiaan [Olwagen] and Saartjie [Botha] just went, “We are going to turn it on its head.” I’ve always loved to work with Christiaan. I’ve got a lot of respect for someone like Saartjie and I just love Chekhov. I love his work. It’s so interesting. He really just puts a lot of people in one room and is like, “Watch. What happens when there is silence and boredom?” Masha has been on this farm her whole life. She knows the farm like the back of her hand but what happens when silence gets too much? It’s very common in society and I relate to it, what happens in my head when it gets too quiet? And just the themes of acceptance. Everyone just wants to be loved and understood. Even though someone like Masha takes herself super seriously, she also wants to be loved and accepted in the small world that she lives in. During the rehearsals for the theatre piece, I really struggled to not judge her. Christiaan would be like, “You need to start loving her.” Obviously, you should never judge a character that you portray but I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with her in the process but then it started to just love her. I think she’s a very funny character. She takes herself super seriously and sometimes she needs the pain to hide behind it. It’s a coping mechanism. It was so awesome to do a theatre piece and then make a film. Where in my life would I be able to do that? I hope this is the start of a lot of theatre pieces making their way to a film. It was also really special to me because the location where we shot the film was the old yacht club of Hermanus. My mom was born in Hermanus and she would party there. I would walk on set and think, “My mom was here.”
What do you feel was the advantage of working on this project as an ensemble for the stage and then transitioning with the same ensemble for the film version?
What’s interesting with the theatre piece, when you are in a rehearsal room, if scenes are going on and Christiaan is rehearsing a scene between Marius [Weyers] and Sandra [Prinsloo], you sit in your corner and you are busy with your script or you are focusing on running down the stairs at the Baxter doing your wardrobe change. But the cool thing about the film, because of the way we shot it, which was very much continuity [involving] eight or nine minute long scenes, you are essentially part of Sandra and Marius’ scene because you know you have to walk past. It was interesting to take a magnifying glass to it. That’s what Chekhov does, he takes a magnifying glass and you were part of that magnifying glass. In the filming process, everyone was either part of each other’s processes or just nearby because you know that by the eighth minute, if you don’t come in and walk past, you screw up the whole shot, so you zoom in on the entire story which helps you. I think as an ensemble, it was quite cool to witness each other’s work first hand right there. It’s not that you don’t find it in theatre, it’s just an organic process that you have to go off-stage, do wardrobe, come back again [and] wait behind the wing. You are not so involved in the process of the other actor but with the film, you were because you are part of the shot and the movement and the flow. We also had the luxury of doing rehearsals on set before we actually shot the film. We had to because it’s one take sometimes. It was a full-circle. The place that we filmed in felt so secluded and that also helped because we didn’t feel like we were in Hermanus. We made that whole farm our own.
Your performance as Masha in the stage version and now in the film version has gone on to award you with multiple awards, including the most recent one at this year’s Silwerskermfees. How does it feel to have received that recognition?
I remember the first time when I won the Kanna at KKNK and I was like, “Are they sure?” Because you kind of just do your thing. I was totally overwhelmed. For me, you are just loving your character enough that you are actually giving her life and then this award comes and it’s like, “I can’t drop the ball.” It’s just overwhelming. I think you don’t get used to it but I do see it as a recognition and that you are doing something right. Hopefully, there are a few Masha’s out there who can see that she’s ok. That’s what you hope for. These prizes and stuff are great, I’m not taking away from it. If there’s prize money, that’s also amazing because you kind of see it as your 13th cheque or your bonus for your hard work. You can never think, “I’ve got all these awards so I’ve got Masha down.” That was what freaked me out because when I got to the filming, I was like, “I don’t have Masha down at all.” But I’ve grown as a person and brought something new.
You’ve had a wonderful career of being able to balance film, TV and theatre. Do you actively try to balance all of them?
It’s actually interesting. I was theatre, theatre, theatre and then a bit of TV came. Seemeeu is my second film. I’m a bit of a newbie in film and TV but this year, the only theatre piece I did was Half Leeg which I’m very happy about but I got a bit anxious when I realised I had only done TV and film. I’m very thankful for that work but I realised that I really do miss theatre. You kind of feel like, “Has the theatre world forgotten about me?” I love theatre. Then I decided, if no one is going to ask me to do theatre, I’m going to produce my own work. That’s how HuisHou is happening. I’m trying producing for the first time. It’s quite challenging to produce but also act. Sometimes I find myself in the rehearsal space and I’m on the floor and I’m like, “You can’t. Our budget is done.” It’s just putting on the two different hats. You have to do a bit of everything, even if it’s just working on set somewhere giving someone water. Just keep busy and do everything. That’s what I believe. I would be silly to say I’m going to act my whole life and that’s all I’m going to do. Yes, you can if you are lucky but I’m also at a point where I’m like, “Do I want to go study again? Do I want to finish my masters? Do I want to teach?” If I think about my heroes, they don’t act 24/7. I’m at that point in my life and need to make plans for it but something could happen tomorrow. You don’t know. I think it’s just about learning.
What are the stories you feel you gravitate towards? How do you pick your projects?
Hopefully one day, and its slowly starting to happen where I can actually read a script and go, “Sorry, this is not speaking to me.” I’m still very young but when I was younger, you can’t really say no to work. Every story has a place under the son. It doesn’t mean just because you don’t like it, other people won’t learn from it. I also think that we are at a stage now, as artists, where we can collaborate and we can have a conversation with the writer or director or producer and say, “If I am going to be part of this project, I would want to do it this way. Maybe we can talk about what happens if we tell the story this way? Would you be open for me to sit in the process with the writer and the director beforehand and also work on the script?” We have to be part of the process much earlier than just walking into the rehearsal space on the first day. Not on all projects, sometimes you can just trust a project but there are some projects that I read or see and I am like, “I see the potential and the story they want to tell but wouldn’t it be cool if I could come in earlier?” Why not? Why can’t we? It’s also very important, I think, for us to not feel like we are stepping on each other’s toes anymore. If we want to actually go into the process and say, “Thank you. I think it’s going to do wonderfully but it’s not for where I am in my life right now.” That’s also ok. You can choose what stories you want to tell or not but I do believe that every story has a place under the sun.
Is there anything still on your career bucket list?
I would love to go overseas and be part of a theatre company and just do theatre from 9am to 5pm. I would actually love to investigate and see if maybe I can combine my masters overseas with a theatre company. That is one thing I would like to tick off. I’ve been thinking about finishing my masters but incorporating it with a company. If they could just pay for the clothes on my back, the food in my tummy and a roof over my head, I would love to be part of a company. I don’t know how realistic it is nowadays with funding. I would love to direct but I don’t know about now. I’m first producing and I think I’ll wait a bit. I’d love to write one day but I’m very scared to write but I would love to, even if it’s just for myself. I wanted to do a one-woman show and that’s off my bucket list now. I just want to work and learn.
Who are some South African women in the arts that inspire you?
Bibi Slippers, Antoinette Kellerman, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Susan Danford, Nicola Hannekom, Tinarie van Wyk Loots. I would just love to act with Anna-Mart one day. There are so many! Liezl Spies is amazing. Lara Bye, Crystal Donna Roberts, Saartjie Botha. Mercy Kannemeyer, Kabous Meiring, Rolanda Marais, Antoinette Louw, Amy Jeptha and Tara Notcutt. And do you know who is also very inspiring, Eva du Preez. She is a very strong woman and she is fucking amazing.
You can follow Cintaine on Instagram.
*This interview was conducted prior to the passing of Shareen Swart. We send our condolences to Cintaine Schutte and those who knew and loved Ms Swart.