5 MINUTES WITH … FRANCOIS VERSTER
1. Tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?
My name is Francois Verster. I am a documentary filmmaker, cameraperson, editor and consultant, and I also teach documentary filmmaking.
I am currently producing and filming Shameela Seedat’s AFRICAN MOOT, which is part of the Generation Africa series. I am co-directing, co-producing and co-filming GIRL, TAKEN, a film covering the Zephany Nurse story, with Simon Wood; we are co-producing with Soilsiu Films in Ireland and delivery is planned for May next year.
I am in the final stages of development on THE LAST DAYS OF ELIZABETH COSTELLO, a film on writer JM Coetzee which I am producing, writing and directing, in coproduction with Witfilm in Holland and JOTZ Productions in Australia.
2. What are you currently up to? Are there any exciting projects ongoing?
I am currently still in distribution on SCENES FROM A DRY CITY, a short film co-directed with Simon Wood and produced by Field of Vision, and also on Shameela Seedat’s WHISPERING TRUTH TO POWER, which I produced, filmed and edited, in coproduction with Fireworx Media and Dutch Picture Industry.
3. What’s your best project/work to date?
It is very difficult to answer that… I like to try out something new with each film, and would like to think that each film has different strengths. Different people seem to prefer different films of mine. The film that took the longest amount of time and probably had the greatest personal investment was THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD, which looked at political events in Egypt and Turkey around the time of the Arab Spring through the lens of storytelling and music.
4. Who or what inspires you?
I am a great believer in the “religion of art” – in the idea that experiences of art can take you into ways of thinking or feeling or sensing that exist outside of ordinary life. I am also inspired by people who have some kind of purity of vision, who stick to the call of their inner being and are true to whom they are.
5. When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
To be honest, it feels as if as filmmaker one is always working in some way…! The moment one finally has time to relax, all kinds of ideas start streaming in… I like to swim at the Sea Point Pool, to go surfing, to hang out with my wife and son, to read, to play or listen to music, to travel, to drink good brandies…
6. Finally, what tips or advice could you give to other documentary creatives, just starting out or to the more experienced creatives needing a bit of encouragement?
Stick to what you are doing… at the end of the day it is the director’s resilience and focus that make documentaries happen against the odds… A good measure of suspension of normal good sense is needed, in quite concrete ways. One of the crazy paradoxes common to documentary filmmaking is that difficulty of access often equates to more meaningful content – often, the more subjects are resistant the closer one is getting to the real issues… Apart from that, it is very often the films that had significant financial difficulty, because of inevitably greater personal investment, that end up being the best ones. Other than that: aim for personal integrity in films rather than objective truth; ask questions rather than trying to communicate answers; remember that documentary can be anything you want it to be, as long as it has some relation to the real world.