Inside the world of Binnelanders

Published Feb 24, 2006


Lights, camera, action became a reality for Rafiek Mammon when he visited the set of Binnelanders (M-Net Thursdays at 7.30pm) to experience the fast pace of a daily shoot and to speak to the cast and crew of this popular Afrikaans TV series.

People often see actors as super beings who lead super-normal lives and who do not live the day-to-day routines of mere mortals.

They are usually associated with all things glamorous and living only in the fast lane. And, maybe some of them are glamorous and some of them even do live the high life. But from what I could gather on the Binnelanders set, they work every bit as hard as the next person - if not harder.

One gains far better insights into what these actors go through and of the scope of the task they need to get done before they wrap up for the day. When credits roll at the end of Binnelanders we may very well ask why so many people are needed to make what is ostensibly a simple drama series.

Spending a day on set with them helps one understand the role each of the cast and crew members meticulously needs to perform to make the final product the success it is.

I arrived just before their lunch break - yes, just like any other work ing day, they run a very normal, very tight schedule that needs to be adhered to or things can easily go pear-shaped.

The last scene before lunch was being shot - with Milan Murray who plays Frankie. I watched from the Green Room - where they all gather for a cuppa or for a quick rest or a chat or to pick up notices from the director or the producers.

The fun (for me, anyway) began when we gathered in one of the studios for the scenes to be shot with Paul du Toit (who plays Malan Koster, the spoilt wealthy son of clinic owner At Koster - played by Hans Strydom) and Nadia Valvekens (who plays the role of nurse Pippa Venter).

To give you an idea how far ahead they are, they were shooting scenes from episodes 37, 38 and 39 at the time (while we are watching episode 19 this week).

After being sworn to secrecy - to not let our readers know the story lines, the shooting began. I sat quietly on the side - out of harm's way (not to mention out of the way of the tons of cables).

Extras (dressed in towelling gowns to look like patients at the hospital) swarm the set (under the firm direction of the very interesting second assistant director, Werner Grobler, who also plays cameo roles in Binnelanders, "especially when they need a thug", he laughs).

At the same time the wardrobe and make-up women fuss over the actors. "There's still too much of a shine on her forehead," the one would murmur while a rehearsal is in progress with her watching attentively on one of the monitors.

And just before the floor manager (or first assistant director) shouts "quiet on set" (for the first take is about to be shot) the wardrobe mistress would quickly grab a damp cloth to remove the tiniest white speck that she happened to notice on one of the actors' blue uniforms. She is after all "responsible for wardrobe continuity", she explains.

And so they plough forth, take after take, pick-ups and drop-ins - having to get things just perfect before a scene is put to rest ... all day, every day they go through these paces - just like any normal nine to five job. And they love it.

Being in such a small space daily makes of this team a very tight, close-knit family. We then trotted off to the control room to meet the vision mixers - the people who have a bird's eye view of and monitor all proceedings.

Throughout all of this I had a chance to sneak a few questions to Du Toit and Valvekens about their story lines and their experiences.

"My roots are in the theatre although my career has spanned

theatre, film and TV work," says Du Toit. "I have experienced so much creative freedom here (referring to his Binnelanders experience) and I love the fact that Binnelanders has a completely unique South African context.

"It is quality South African work with well-created, real South African characters, made by South Africans for South Africans," he adds.

Valvekens echoes his sentiments. "It's been my best experience to date. The characters are real and viewers can easily relate to them.

"But what is really exciting for me is the terrific cast and crew.

Binnelanders has great energy and coming to work has never felt more like coming home to a big, happy family," she smiles.

As one leaves the building and drives through the busy Johannesburg streets, the experience seems almost surreal.

From the reality of what one sees on the set to the final product that arrives on the telly in one's living room, one has such a clearer and more appreciative understanding of the jobs these people do.

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