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GRAY Hofmeyr had to cut short his Mad Buddies marketing participation last week to get back to Joburg to help out the Isidingo crew.
While he no longer handles day-to-day directing on the local soapie, he is still involved “to a degree” as an associate producer.
He, of course, was the original creator of the popular soapie back in 1998. It quickly became an SABC favourite as Hofmeyr drew on his experience as an award-winning scriptwriter and director.
“I’ve got to rush up this afternoon and help to salvage things,” he said last week, referring to the fire that destroyed the Isidingo set at the SABC’s Auckland Park Studios.
While executive producer Pumla Hopa runs the day-to-day set, Hofmeyr says he “tries to keep an eye on the stories and that side of it”.
Hofmeyr indicated that they would be moving the whole production out of the SABC studio site: “One of our two studios is completely destroyed and most of our sets are destroyed. So, it’s quite an operation to rewrite,” said Hofmeyr.
As is usually their schedule, the Isidingo crew already had between three and four weeks worth of footage complete.
“With a little bit of extra shooting on location we’ll have seven weeks of episodes and then, what we’re going to do is work on location.
“We’re going to write a new story, just to shoot on location for four weeks, so we will have then bought 11 weeks during which time we will be able to relocate the whole show and rebuild the sets. So, it will go out without any break.”
They’re looking at a couple of places in Joburg like Sasani Studios: “There are quite a few studios…” he added.
While he admitted they were “pretty screwed”, he was optimistic that they could make a plan. “It’s a big job, but the SABC’s insurance is very comprehensive, so that’s not a problem, thank goodness.
“There’s enough money to do what we need to do. The problem is just the time that we have to do it in, the rupture, I suppose.”
This rethink of storyline is not the first time Isidingo has changed tack when it comes to story treatment. While it first may have found its genesis in reference to The Villagers, a soapie Hofmeyr directed back in in the 1970s, it soon changed from a very true-to-life depiction to a more melodramatic soapie approach.
“It was a commercial decision, we just had to get bigger audiences to attract the advertising revenue,” he explained.
“We’re market-driven and all countries love soaps. It’s a simple formula, people love seeing themselves.
“We try to maintain a very realistic acting style and dialogue style, whereas something like Generations and 7de Laan are more over the top.
“We try to retain the reality within the depiction of people, but the actual stories are less driven by contemporary issues, although we do do that to a certain degree.
“So our stories are more melodramatic than they used to be. We deal with murder and big dramatic things, more than we used to in the beginning.”
While he is quick to credit Leon Schuster as the brains behind Mad Buddies, Hofmeyr is credited as a co-writer and has co-written many of the films he has directed for Schuster over the years.
“Leon is an extraordinary brand, he’s been busy with it for a long time. He’s wormed his way into the national consciousness and he’s a part of the fabric of the nation now.”
Hofmeyr pointed out that while comedy was a popular genre in all countries, it didn’t always travel. Only one of their previous collaborations has ever done substantial business in an overseas market, There’s a Zulu on My Stoep.
“We really thought that Mr Bones would travel, but it didn’t. I don’t know why.
“But, we’ve got high hopes for this one, because Disney is distributing it.”
Disney provided risk finance for the project (which ran at a budget of just more than R20-million), which explains the high production value. There are plenty of animals and long landscape shots.
“Leon is primarily responsible for the humour, for the gags. It’s very slapstick. It’s like making an action movie because there’s a lot of stunts and this particular film had a lot of CGI.
“Visual humour, far more than dialogue driven… mainly they laugh at the physical stuff.
“I think that’s what Leon has instinctively done. People are saying it’s different from the others. I think it’s also what Kenneth brings.”