screenwriter to watch
Hanneke is a multi-award winning South African writer and director. Her second feature film Meerkat Moonship had its North American premiere at the Austin Film Festival and has been selected to screen at over 12 international film festivals. Her short film, Saving Norman, starring Willem Dafoe was produced by Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey.
How did you break in?
I was lecturing full-time at an Advertising school and decided to do a post graduate course in Screenwriting. At the end of the course I’d written my first screenplay, which was really terrible, but quite off-beat and it got me into a writing program that gave me the opportunity to work with a wonderful script editor. She taught me so much and I was able to apply those tools to my second and third screenplays which both won competitions. This helped me to secure production funding for my first feature film.
Writer and Director of the feature films Meerkat Moonship and Jimmy in Pink as well as the short film Saving Norman starring Willem Dafoe.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Don’t try and imitate anyone. In the beginning I thought that no-one would want to see a film written by a woman who grew up in the Kalahari desert in South Africa. So I attempted to write the next generic Hollywood blockbuster. But I soon realised that there are thousands of people who are trying to do just that, and, the only way my voice would be heard was if I wrote a small, but authentic story that could only be told by someone with my particular life experiences.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
I’m in the midst of it! The screenplay I’m writing at them moment is forcing me to go to emotional places that my mind seems to be resisting at all cost. The result is endless procrastination. I even Google “How to overcome procrastination” pretty much on a daily basis. But sometimes not even the oracle of Google has an answer. You just have to sit with it, feel the discomfort, let it seep into your bones, write half a page and get back to watching dog videos.
What do you feel was your turning point?
There have been loads of small turning points and I can’t say that any one of these completely changed my career, but each gave me the confidence boost I needed to take on the next challenge. But that being said, I think it was my many failures and struggles, more than my successes, that have been the most meaningful and transformative moments in my career. That’s where you build the grit, resilience and depth of character you need to become a better writer.
What are you working on right now?
I’m busy writing my next screenplay called ‘The Poem’. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written and I really need someone to put a small blankie over my shoulders, hand me a cup of Chamomile tea and tell me that it gets easier.
What are your favorite movies?
One of my favorite movies of all time is the Spanish film, “The Spirit of the Beehive” by Victor Erice. It is quiet, beautiful, poetic and has some of the most wonderful child performances I’ve ever seen. I also absolutely loved “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, apart from the fact that it was exquisitely beautiful, it made me reassess my life, something that a great film has the capacity to do. Some others include “Her”, “Babette’s Feast”, “Hiroshima mon Amour”, “Tokyo Story”, “Lost in Translation”, “A Ghost Story”, “In the mood for love” and “Ida”.
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
I absolutely admire and adore the work of Charlie Kauffman. I also love Jane Campion who writes and directs most of her films. Some others include Sofia Coppola, Aaron Sorkin and Paul Thomas Anderson.
What is your most Memorable AFF Moment?
After the first screening of my film at the Austin Film Festival a lady came up to me, handed me a note and scurried off. In the note she wrote that she was afraid that she’d start crying if she spoke to me, that’s why she wrote the note instead. She also wrote that the she hardly ever cry in films, but that Meerkat Moonship made her bawl her eyes out, she also thanked me for writing the film and bringing it to Austin. I was in tears after I read that! It’s still one of the most precious and meaningful moments of my entire filmmaking career.