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About Jenna Cato Bass

I'm a director, writer, photographer, aspiring explorer and retired magician living in Cape Town, South Africa

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FilmMartED (and other shocks and amazements...)

Posted July 29, 2010

Update from Freakingoutsville:

I think I am going insane. But it's been a weird few days. Let's start at last night:

In my hotel having a nervous breakdown. It's the last night of the FilmMart, I'm supposed to be at the closing dinner. I am convinced that the entire exercise has been a failure. Of course there were good moments, but I feel  that I've ruined my chances of anyone ever ever ever ever (times, like, infinity) taking me seriously as a filmmaker. Everyone here is older and wiser. I am small and alone. And I obviously suck. It's a bad time. Full of self doubt, angst and all that jazz. High above Durban, the city spreads out in its hazy mist. It's the kind of city where you can imagine everyone sleeps with their eyes open. I think I've been under a lot of (deserved) pressure. Oh woe. 

So I call Bevan. We can go for a drive, get some food maybe, and then, strength regained, I will face the remainder of the Closing Dinner (Capital Letters). On the way, the car breaks down - it's seems to have a battery life of about 0.0004 seconds. Then I get the call: 'Jenna, where are you and are you planning to come to the dinner?' Damn and blast, it's already 8pm. We get the car started, drive at top speed to the the restaurant. Damn and blast, wrong restaurant. Call for directions. Drive at above top speed to the right restaurant. Damn and blast, wrong directions. Eventually we find it. I run in, close to tears now, no idea why I've been summoned to an event I was convinced no one was going to miss me at. 

OK, so enough preamble, I hear you. I've just missed the awards ceremony, at which it was announced that my film is the recipient of the Hubert Bals Award - for most promising project. Really? Really. No false modesty here, I am truly stunned and shocked. At the jury meeting earlier, I had left convinced it had been a disaster. There had been laughter. Kind of like a pitching session I had attended earlier at the Talent Campus  where some crazy concepts about the end of the world were postulated. 'Your project is silly' laughter. That kind of laughter. 

But anyway. I was wrong. What follows is the truly most awkward photo session of my life (I dread the results) - my only real smile (as opposed to hysterical panic) occurs when I see Bevan in the background in his shorts and Tshirt helping himself (conservatively I must add) to the free food. 

But now I will backtrack. FilmMarts: Very important experiences. Even, as was in my case, when you are in the early (relative) stages, with some creases to iron out, as long as you come with confidence and passion in your laptop case, you're going to get a ton of insight into the merits and weaknesses of your project, as well as direct contact with the 'right' people who, even if things don't work out this time, you have the chance to make an impression on. Also, was privileged to have personal consultations with Clare Downs, Luciano Gloor and Mike Kelly, which blew my mind. 

Things have been so busy I've hardly seen any films. But this was more than made up for by catching a screening of DOGTOOTH - I'd heard the hype, and was intrigued. Wow, what a spectacular film. The first film in a long time where I've felt I'm seeing something new in the direction of world cinema. That there is hope. Wow. Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime, the only other film I saw was also far from shabby - not his best film, I think, but on his scale of genius that still sets it apart. 

Whew, so back in the present I am still a little shaky. David's talking immediate press releases. It's all a little mad. But we've advanced a few big squares on the chess board. Tonight I am going to watch 'TRASH HUMPERS'. Things are good. 

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Posted July 21, 2010


First off, this post it for Carla.... for saying that my script will probably turn out to be like 'The Core'. 

Right now, this is all feeling scarily like deja vu. Not the part about my script being like 'The Core' (though I'm sure similar comparisons have no doubt been made before). Rather, I find myself, a few days before a pretty major, pressurizing event, for which I am completely out of my depth, rushing to finish a whole lot of things that I shouldn't be thinking of. Feeling a little... OK, a lot... like Tracy Flick (I knew there was a reason I liked Election so much) with my nose pressed to the cutting board, slicing out little foldable cool things that I convince myself will somehow greatly increase my chance of people noticing me... anyway, it's definitely more important than working on the script... about which I still harbour some niggling worries.... the script is a whole nother story, which, if I were to tell you the subterfuge and intrigue involved, it may cost me my career. so i'll laugh about it with you later.... but for now.... woohoo, on the road... even if it is to nowhere. But in this case it leads to Durban. to the FilmMart. On Thursday. 

I'm in formidable company. Idrissa Ouedraogo has been making (great) films since the 80s. The cinematographer of Daratt (which I just watched recently and was pretty darn hugely impressed by) will be there with his feature. Francois Verster who has made one of my favourite SA films ever. And Oliver Hermanus who's Shirley Adams has been one of the talks of the town for a while (just watched it's star, Denise Newman, vamp it up as a lady gangster in The Sexy Girls (90s somewhere) - awesome). So ja. Yikes and all that. Basically, this is my pitch:
Hi. my name is Jenna and I have made a short film called The Tunnel which has done quite well. My script is quite crazy, but don't worry, it can be made for around ZAR 800,000.00. This is good because that, historically, is the amount granted by the National Film & Video Foundation to feature films. Which means this is possible. Added to that 66% of South African features made over R800,000.00 at the local box office. So basically it's a solid investment. Please like me. Or at least like my film.

Or something to that effect. 

But like I think I mentioned before, in the end of the day, I'm going in easy as I've constructed this film in such a way that I know I can make it with or without anyone's help. Hurrah. 

So FilmMart Checklist:
Passport/wallet/keys (check)
Complete script (95% check)
Marketing/Distribution Plan (surprisingly, check)
Sound budget (semi-check)
Cool foldable presentation flyers (double check)
website (check. domain name... not check)
Confidence and self-assuredness (I'll come back to that one)

Woah, so like who has seen Herzog's 'Bad Lieutenent'? Please, let's talk about this. A film which inspires talk, that indeed it is. 

Also, I just want to mention the series of film analysis books by Terrie Wadell, which look at a number of really snappily chosen films from a (mostly, but always objectively) Jungian perspective - and they're really great and useful. Recommend. 

OK. Off to go fight the battle between: do I get some sleep, or do I watch 'Sleep Dealer'?



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