"Parable" director Beer Adriaanse. Picture: Burger Meyer
"Parable" director Beer Adriaanse. Picture: Burger Meyer

Beer Adriaanse steps out of his comfort zone to direct first feature 'Parable'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Apr 8, 2020

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Beer Adriaanse is an accomplished actor, scriptwriter and singer. 

Of course, viewers will remember him as Thomas van As in the kykNET sitcom, "Hotel". 

His versatility is his strength and his passion for telling stories remains his compass.  

This brings us to his latest undertaking - directing his first feature, "Parable", for Showmax.

On the genesis of the horror, he says, “Zandré (Smith) from Nagvlug Films approached me on the set of Hotel (a show we work on together) and asked if I had any genre concepts that I wanted to pitch as she was working on a slate for Multichoice. 

"I had recently pitched a horror series and one of the episodes was about creepy twins in the suburbs, so I refitted that idea and pitched it as a feature film.

Jane De Wet with co-star Jay Hlatshwayo as Kasper in a scene from the Showmax horror, "Parable". Picture: Supplied

“Shortly after that I asked my brother, who is also a writer, if he would helm the screenplay and we had quite a crazy writers room in Cape Town to bash out the concept. My brother ended up writing three drafts of that story but we still felt there was something missing. 

"So during the December holidays, we decided to throw the whole ‘twin’ angle away and start fresh.”

They ended up penning the tale of Esther (Jane De Wet), a gay teenage girl. She is “treated’ by Reverend Randal Day (Michael Richard), who, in helping cure her of her homosexuality, summons a demonic spirit. Her only ally is Kasper (Jay Hlatshwayo), a loafer of note, who begins having dreams of the girl reported missing in the news. 

Horror isn’t a popular genre with South African filmmakers but Adriaanse bravely pushed on. 

He explains, “I think South Africans are, broadly speaking, already too traumatized to want to have their entertainment traumatize them further. It's a pity because I find the chills and thrills of horrors quite cathartic or at the very least just plain fun. My brothers and I (all three of us featured somewhere in the movie) have loved horror movies since we were young.  

"I've been wanting to do horror all my life; especially since becoming a filmmaker. So when the opportunity came I jumped at it.”

Casting was another crucial part for him, too.  He shares, “Casting-wise I find there to be two schools of horror. The more over-the-top campy horror films work better if the actors overreact and the gore is just pushed to the max and there's a general tongue-in-cheek feel to it; almost meta.

"The other camp that we went for, is where you try to ground the story in reality so that by the time the horror arrives, you're invested in the world. So I was looking for natural actors, who felt like believable characters in order to save the suspension of disbelief for later when we need it most.

“Jane de Wet caught my attention in "Griekwastad", the gruesome true-life film directed by Jozua Malherbe. She's very believable and seemed able to ground her performance even though things around her were spinning out of control. 

"I needed that for our film too and then some. Add to that her haunting eyes and a willingness to go anywhere the story asks, and you've got the perfect collaborator. She turned out to be moerse scary as well!”

Although he has directed his fair share of TV series, a feature film is new territory for him.

Adriaanse admits, “This is my first film, period! I've done two series' and a few shorts and stuff but never something as high concept. 

"The one thing that really helped was that I could have my brother on set, so we could make sure the story makes sense or make changes to the script when we needed it. It helped to be able to adapt to circumstances because we only had 12 days to shoot this and we were up against crazy thunderstorms and quite technical shots.”

He also sang the praises of Dino Benedetti, his DOP, who got really creative under very challenging conditions, at times.

While viewers can catch the movie as an escape from the current Covid-19 reality, the director is keeping busy during the lockdown. 

He laughs, “I've become the best chef ever. Banana bread, chilli eggplant and omelettes for days. Also, I’m reading like a mad man, catching up on the 1324 films on my watch list and I’m also writing for a new project. 

"I had a man date with 10 of my tjommies via Google Hangouts recently. Each in our own apartment with a beer. Also, me and my girlfriend take a free Pilates class by one of our friends, so I might be fitter than I ever was before the lockdown.”

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