This year has a mind of it’s own. My 2019 overseas sales trips had been planned to a T – 2 trips, 6 countries. But a documentary film we recently completed about Blankbottle, called EPILEPTIC INSPIRATION, resulted in 2 additional trips – firstly to Hollywood last month and then next week to Marseilles, France…
Unknowingly, this journey started 3 years ago. I was still battling it out, making 85 tons in the old 160 square meter winery. It was a mess. My wife asked me if I was willing to help a friend of hers’ brother. He is a filmmaker and spent 4 years making films on cruise ships. He had recently returned to SA and was looking to make a documentary about someone. A sort of passion project, something he could use on his CV.
So I met the familiar face of Theo-Donald Stewart – I’m 11 years his senior and although we had never formally met, we’d shared plenty of waves at our local surf spot for many many years.
He asked me if he could possibly make a very short (as in 3-minute) film about BLANKBOTTLE. I told him that I will happily give my time but I don’t have cash to invest.
So we started filming – a little bit here and a little bit there. Then harvest struck and every morning between 3 and 4:30am, I would pick him up at his house and he would go wherever I went, filming all the way. So he shot footage and then some more. Harvest came and went and we were still going. The more we spoke, the more he filmed. And before long the next harvest was upon us again, and I moved into my new cellar. And he then filmed some more until May 2018 when we had our first edit.
Both of us were very much pleased with the result at that point, until we showed it to my older brother, Xaver who is a filmmaker in Zurich Switzerland with a lifetime of experience. The feedback: shocking to say the very least. So we had to start over with the editing. The footage was fantastic but what we’ve learnt is that the art of storytelling is indeed that – an art.
Once we were done licking our wounds, the game was on again. Theo-Donald filmed some more, dissected and dug deeper into happenings of the past, professionally but also on a personal level. Interview upon interview, from graphic designers to winemakers, my wife or whoever had something to do with BLANKBOTTLE. Even digging through old footage of the family etc. And so, the “3 week” project became edit number 5 then 6, and then 8, 9 and 10. Each time back and forth between Theo-Donald, me and Xaver. And now, 3 years later we are on edit number 15. A 31 minute episode – EPILEPTIC INSPIRATION – Only time will tell if this is the final one!
And then our first opportunity came. A very good friend and winemaker Alex Starey (he features in the film) from Keermont told us of this film competition in France. Only wine related films were allowed to enter. In Theo-Donald’s words – “This competition was designed for us”. After the registration of our PTY Ltd. – Saint Rand Productions (tongue-in-cheeck upper class name for our very humble but wonderful home town – the Strand) and 250 EUROS later we were in the mix alongside famous Hollywood directors like Ridley Scott.
And before the French revealed the finalists, the Americans rocked up. They want to buy the film. So before we really knew what we were in for, we were sitting on a plane crossing the Atlantic to Hollywood…
Just after we got back we received the news that our film was selected as one of the 30 finalists of all the entries worldwide! They will be screening all of the finalists from Wednesday to Saturday next week at the Mucem in Marseille as part of the Oenovideo film festival (http://www.oenovideo.com/) and the winners will be announced on Sunday.
And, as from the very beginning of this fun journey, again, we have no idea what to expect; maybe a sightseeing trip or maybe, just maybe, we’ll be taking this to the next level…