Camera, lights and … action

2009-10-29 00:00

SASHA Nirmul has an illustrious career ahead if her current trajectory is anything to go by. When the credits roll on the feature film Florida Road, due for release in January, Nirmul will be listed as assistant producer and production manager.

Florida Road is an independent movie being produced by Brad Glass from Hollywood, starring Bollywood and South African actors, and was filmed in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. According to website oneindia: “The movie is a heartfelt story about love, culture, family values and following your dreams.”

Pietermaritzburg-bred Nirmul shares an insider’s view on the making of Florida Road. “The Hollywood producer was very busy and would phone me at 1 am and say: ‘Here is a list of things for you to do today — I’ve got to find an actor who looks like this. I need this kind of location. Can you meet with the Durban film office? Can you meet with the mayor of Durban? We need him to come on board and sign these agreements’.”

Nirmul was more than fit for the task. Using industry lingo she explains how she got a sponsor and an investor on board, and got offices, crew, transport and accommodation “locked down” (which I assume means “wrapped up”).

The emotional hospital scenes were filmed in Daymed Private Hospital in Greytown Road, as orchestrated by Nirmul. “It was surreal making a movie in the neighbourhood where I grew up and just a few metres from the schools I attended,” she says excitedly.

Nirmul is based in Durban and wants to lure movie makers to KwaZulu-Natal. “Durban is such a beautiful city to shoot in. We’ve got jungles and waterfalls. We’ve got the Drakensberg nearby — we’ve got so much in KZN. I want to prove to people who are anxious to shoot here that there are service providers and there is a Durban film office in place. It is actually cheaper to shoot here because the local government doesn’t charge as much for locations as it does in Cape Town. We say, come here and you are actually going to save money on your budget.”

It is interesting to learn that one page is the equivalent of a minute of film. “Seven pages for a day is seven minutes of film, which is going to be edited to about three minutes,” explains Nirmul.

In a production department it is not unusual to work 16-hour days. “I am accustomed to very little sleep and not seeing family for a while.”

One of her biggest challenges is spending time away from her son. “A lot of people in production are not married and don’t have kids because there is no time for it. I manage to work it out somehow. Either my child comes with me on set or spends a week in the holidays with me down in Durban. My parents are a good support system,” she says in acknowledgment of their role.

To make it in movie production, one has to be organised. “The stress is hectic. You’ve got to be fussy about things. You’ve got to multitask and you have to think quickly, be a problem solver, make an alternative and be completely co-ordinated. You have to have signs up in the offices, timesheets, flight breakdowns, welcome letters and visa application stuff. If you’re not organised in this industry you’ll never make it. You’ll get fired on the first day,” confides Nirmul.

So what makes it worthwhile? “I think what is rewarding is we get to go to lovely parties,” laughs Nirmul, describing the welcome parties where the crew and actors all get to know one another, and the wrap parties where they get a sneak preview of the film and let their hair down.

“It is rewarding seeing that the work you did in the background has taken shape. I got to fly in a Huey helicopter and stay in lovely locations that I don’t think I would have been to otherwise.”

Nirmul got into the industry by studying performing arts and production with the Media, Advertising, Publishing, Printingand Packaging Seta and Movietech, and then working as a production secretary for an SABC 1 drama series called Bay of Plenty. She then went on to co-ordinate productionfor the Biggest Loser SA, and worked on the Bollywood film, Luck, soon to be released.

Sasha is particularly excited about the movie Surviving Evil, which is currently on circuit. She had the challenge of co-ordinating on the film with stars such as Colin Moss and Billy Zane. “It is an unbelievable feeling knowing that these films are shot in our very own KwaZulu-Natal,” says Nirmul.



Home town: Pietermaritzburg

Schools attended: Maritzburg Muslim School for Girls and Deccan Road Primary

Tertiary education: Unisa, On Cue communications, Movietech Film and Television College

Age: 26

Likes: Motorsports, dancing and sushi

Dislikes: Eskom’s power cuts, cost increases and arrogant people

Favourite movies: Shawshank Redemption, Grease and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

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