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'High Fantasy’ star on filming SA’s first selfie-style movie on an iPhone

15 November 2018 - 00:00 By Zola Zingithwa
From front: Qondiswa James, Lisa Scholtz, Francesca Varrie Michel and Nala Khumalo, the stars of 'High Fantasy'.
From front: Qondiswa James, Lisa Scholtz, Francesca Varrie Michel and Nala Khumalo, the stars of 'High Fantasy'.
Image: Supplied

Local 'selfie' movie High Fantasy, shot using iPhones, premieres tonight at The Bioscope in Maboneng, Johannesburg.

The film is about four diverse young South Africans who have just graduated from university during the tense time of the #FeesMustFall movement. The friends go on a camping trip and wake up to find they have mysteriously swapped bodies.

Stranded in the wilderness on a Northern Cape farm, they need to solve their predicament while grappling with heavy issues, such as the land debate, racial tension and misogyny.

The film was directed by Jenna Bass, who workshopped the script with the cast, who are all credited as co-writers and for their camera work. They decided to film the story using iPhone 7s to keep costs low, but Bass realised during production it was the perfect format for a film about millennials.

“If these characters were really to swap bodies, the first thing most of them would do would be to take a selfie,” she explained.

WATCH | The trailer for High Fantasy

Each actor had an iPhone and a gimbal to film their scenes while acting. According to Francesca Varrie Michel, who stars in High Fantasy, they had a few days to learn how to use the gimbal, a device which allows the user to capture movement in rotation, eliminating the jerky movements typical of handheld cameras.

Michel says each character had their own way of filming. For example, her character Lexi was interested “in the detail of close-ups and the vastness of landscapes”.

“Acting and filming wasn't that difficult because our generation is used to filming pretty much everything, considering the nature of social media.”

The low-budget, indie film was named the Best South African Feature at the 2018 Durban International Film Festival and has showed at various prestigious festivals, such those in Toronto and Berlin.

“I think it was pretty badass that we pulled this film off with such a small team,” declares Michel.

“Spending [over two] weeks in 45 degree heat, no air con, 13 people in one farm house, sharing beds, one bathroom, no privacy, in the middle of nowhere, with no escape, was brutal. We laughed, cried, felt extreme anger and frustration, spoke brutal truths and discussed them. It was all worth it.”