Tuesday 25 September 2007


by Ronnie Apteker

It takes a long time to earn trust, perhaps even a lifetime. But it can be lost in a heartbeat. I think the Footskating movie had a fundamental problem from the start. I realize that now. I think the teen audience that we made this movie for do not trust us.

I love the Footskating movie; it is the film we wanted to make all those years ago. The Benoni movie should have been the Footskating movie. But the Benoni movie did not deliver on the expectation that was created back then and for this we lost trust. We all start out on projects with the best intentions but sometimes we make mistakes and we just don’t get it right. Yes, we intended to make a 10/10 on the Benoni movie but it landed up being more close to a 3 or a 4. The new Footskating movie is closer to a 7 in my view and I am happy with the growth that we have demonstrated here. But, sadly, sometimes it just isn’t good enough. I think the timing of our release just recently was really unlucky considering all the big sporting action on the go at the time, but, the trust issue is a fundamental problem and one we can’t do anything about. For those of you who have been following this thread you will understand, and for those of you who have not been following, well, this is the last installment on this subject. From next week we will move on to something different.

Barry Ronge gave the Footskating film 4 out of 5. He said that the new movie found the balance between silly and cool. And that is right on the money. We were indeed trying to make a silly movie. Something that didn’t take itself too seriously, something with great colour and character, something magical with cool music and a fast pace. We feel we did achieve this, and we are very grateful that the vast majority of the reviewers saw the magic in what was created here. We did have good luck in this respect. Good luck that came from good people.

But, the market has given us a clear message. They didn’t want another film like the first one and the box office numbers have highlighted this. We just couldn’t seem to escape the association to the first film, even though the new movie was a whole different ball game, with a new team. So, it’s back to the drawing board on the movie side. It has been said through the ages that there is always progress from struggle. And, if this is the case, then, a lot of progress will be part of the reward here.

I remind myself once again that everything we do is all about people. The right attitude brings results. Let me re-emphasize that one would rather invest in bad business with good people than in a good business with bad people. And this is what I got out of the Footskating journey: a strong, solid base of people. We created more than just a colourful, eccentric movie, we created a good team of people. An inspired, motivated group of story tellers, that are now ready for the next journey.

Getting a film to market must be one of the hardest challenges in the world. Competing on the world stage is overwhelming. Going up against all the big budget Hollywood films is monster exercise. Getting an indie film released in the USA must one the toughest things you could do; now imagine getting a non-American indie film out there – wow, talk about a big mountain to climb! Yes, competing in the arts is not easy: there are very few winners and lots and lots of losers. Well, we won on some fronts now and we lost on others. But, when it comes to investing in people I came out with flying colours and this means more to me than anything.

When you go to a cinema or a book shop or a CD store, you don’t ask to see the international products or the local stuff, etc. You simply want to see what’s hot – you want the best. Your leisure time is precious. Simply put, you don’t want to waste your time with something that is average. Then, consider that South Africa is not a big film going country – it is not a big part of our culture. Sports, on the other hand, is all everyone talks about. So, with that in mind, I am off to watch some sporting action on TV. Then I will get some sleep. Tomorrow, a new journey begins.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Do all good things come to an end?

by Ronnie Apteker

I have never really understood this saying. Do all good things really come to an end?

My mother always asks me why I work so hard. But I don’t see it as work. If you love it then it is not work. I do love what I do, even those most days end in frustration and sleepless nights, but I look forward to each new day, to carry on the adventure.

Yes, I love what I do, but it doesn’t always love me back. Film making, like writing software, is a creative process. I can speak from both of these perspectives: when you are in the zone there is nothing quite like it. There are many frustrations and there are always things to fix and change. But when it all comes together there is no better feeling.

But, developing software and film production have two very different trajectories. Software can grow and become popular. A film, on the other hand, has an opening weekend and this generally determines its path. If the opening weekend is not mind blowing then the prognosis is not good. The Footskating movie opened this weekend and the numbers weren’t great. But they were not great for any movie. Looks like our timing to launch a movie was not ideal; the big sporting action this weekend kept people glued to their TV sets.

So, what does this mean? Well, next weekend there will be another bunch of Hollywood movies that open and fight for supremacy. And our indie film will have to contend with the hype and attention that this new big studio product will receive. In short, we got a real battle ahead if the long weekend coming up, in our second week of release, is going to be ours.

So, does it have to come to end? If the movie doesn’t land up doing the numbers this next long weekend does it mean all is lost. Considering that we spent two years on this journey I think this tough weekend that just passed now only means that our team needs to be more street smart next time round. Every venture, be it in software or in film, needs luck. Perhaps our timing was off now because of the all the sporting activity on the box of late. And perhaps we will still shape up over the long weekend coming as we move into the important tactical period of school holidays. One thing is for sure, the Footskating journey has been brilliant and inspired and we love the movie. We know who ever will watch will love it too. We just hope that this coming week people start going back to the movies. All movies, especially Footskating 101.

We constantly remind ourselves that it’s just a movie; no one dies. And, to answer the question, does it have to end. Well, we got another film in development, and we are more excited than ever to carry on our journey.

Monday 10 September 2007

Footskating Friday

by Ronnie Apteker

They say that the camera never lies, but as I get older I find this to be more and more untrue. What you can bank on are the numbers; they are the ones that truly never lie.

This coming Friday the Footskating movie gets released. Two years ago around this same time, the Benoni movie hit the circuit. That film sold 200,000 tickets during its theatrical run. The new movie is not Crazy Monkey 2, it is a whole new piece of work, and we are looking for growth here.

If we do less than 200,000 tickets then the market is giving us a clear message: “voetsak”. Yes, if we do less than the previous film then we are being told to give it up. But if we do more than the last movie, then will take this as a sign of encouragement, to keep going.

This is our approach when it comes to Vottle. So far, month on month, the traffic continues to grow. As long as it keeps growing, albeit still relatively too slowly for our liking, we will keep on enhancing the Vottle experience.

I have been investing and championing film makers, writers, comedians, and artists now for over 7 years. I think we may turn a corner on the Footskating film. This Friday the first days’ numbers will tell us a lot. By the end of this coming weekend we will know the truth.

Please support the Footskaters. Check out www.footskating.com and go see the Footskating movie this opening weekend. You will laugh! A lot!

Monday 3 September 2007

I would send you a shorter email, but I don’t have time

by Ronnie Apteker

We all over complicate our lives. I am starting to understand what constitutes a genius more and more. I think the smartest people know how to keep things simple. A genius is often described as someone who lives in their own world. Perhaps we can interpret this to mean that this is someone who just does not buy into all the distractions found in the mainstream mediocrity. And perhaps that is a whole other discussion, so let me keep things simple here. After all, this update today is about simplicity.

I actually heard someone say the other day “I would send you a shorter email but I just don’t have time.” And this got me thinking. It takes time to simplify things. It takes time to get to the point. It seems to be easier to waffle on and on.

I get many film scripts sent to me, but when I ask for a one paragraph description or a one page summary I get this silence on the other end of the phone. An interesting paradox indeed.

We were always taught in school about keeping it simple. There was that expression “KISS” which stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. We all tend to fill our lives with so many time wasting distractions. Perhaps this is what gives us comfort. God forbid we have to deal with the real issues.

So, without confusing anyone any further, or myself for that matter, let me keep today’s rambling short and simple. It is simplicity we are trying to achieve on Vottle, and it is simplicity I am trying to achieve in my own life. I hope I get one of these right. I think the Vottle one will be easier.