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SA director talks about new local thriller and the importance of its female lead

2017-05-12 12:25

Cape Town - The dark world of illegal human organ trafficking is explored in a new local medical crime thriller.

Bypass releases at select Ster-Kinekor cinemas on Friday, 12 May.

Directed and produced by husband and wife team, Shane and Bianca Vermooten, Bypass is a first of its kind in South Africa. 

The story centres on cardiac surgeon Dr. Lisa Cooper (Natalie Becker) who is devastated by news that the last chance for her son’s liver transplant has been destroyed. When presented with the alternative of using an illegal organ transplant, she ignores reason, willing to do whatever it takes to save the life of her only son.

See the trailer here:

The film recently made the news with its unique marketing strategy. (Read more here.)

We had a quick Q&A with the director to find out what their inspiration, the challenges they faced while making the movie and what they hope viewers will take away from the film

What made you want to tell a story of a mother and a son with a thriller twist?

In the world of Bypass, our main protagonist needed to be the top cardiac surgeon in the country and so we saw this as a great opportunity to challenge the stereotypes of what a top surgeon in South Africa can look like in 2017.  We were very intentional when we made the decision to cast that role as a woman of colour.

Natalie Becker (Dr. Lisa Cooper) was amazing for this role as there is an incredible depth to her emotions and she is very believable in her role as a surgeon but yet she still looks great when she has to kick butt. 

It delves into the underworld of organ trafficking, which is illegal and very black and white but the decision to source an illegal organ becomes a lot more difficult when the issue becomes personal and a loved one’s life is at stake. Therefore the relationship between Lisa Cooper and her son Sam (Joel Brown) is the driving force behind the entire film. When a mother’s son’s life hangs in the balance there is not much she wouldn’t do to save his life and that creates a great backdrop for our charter to do things she normally wouldn’t.

Can you tell us more about casting Sam and Lisa?

Due to the fact that I was looking for something so specific for the role of Lisa Cooper, the journey to eventually cast Natalie was a long one. We were actually only a couple days out from starting production when we received a tape from Natalie, she then came in for a casting and we knew as soon as we saw her on camera, she would be perfect for the role.

Working with kids is always going to be a challenging experience as a director and initially I wanted to cast an older child but we had already seen a handful of kids when Joel auditioned, and what struck me first about him was his amazing smile and the ability he had to say so much without saying anything. When working with Joel I was very intentional to never give him the full story, so every day on set we would create the story together, and that helped him give an authentic performance. If you ask Joel today, he will still tell you he is the main character because in his world he was.

What thriller movies inspired this groundbreaking film?

That’s always a tough question because I think it comes down to having a lot of different sources of inspiration from all across the board and the creating something new out of that and trying to bring your unique voice through that process.  If I had to choose two movies that we drew inspiration from I would say Panic Room and Disturbia.

This is an African first, can you tell us more about the  challenges of making it?

Due to budget, we had to shoot the entire film in 24 days, which was a challenge as there were action scenes and intricate operating moments; which always take longer than you want and can’t be rushed. 

Two of the most challenging scenes to bring to life was the Dr. Lisa Coopers operating theatre as this needed to be state of the art and we were shooting the majority of the film in the abandoned Woodstock Hospital, which was perfect for most other scenes but was not going to work for our top of the line operating theatre. To film in a working theatre is almost impossible and so we were stuck until we found Intercare Day Hospital in Century City. They were amazing and allowed us to use their theatre to create the world we needed.  

The other challenging location was the grungy jail cells, which I wanted to look more like a dungeon and less like a standard prison, we filmed at the old Rhodes Memorial Zoo which is on the side of Table Mountain. It was a big challenge to bring in everything we needed but the team pulled it off beautifully and ultimately it takes the film to another level.  

Bypass was an amazing project to be able to lead, the cast and crew were incredible and everyone was on board with what we were trying to create and it was an honour for me to to be given this opportunity and entrusted with this film by Media Village Productions.

What was the inspiration behind your unique marketing campaign?

I had seen something similar when I was on a shoot in Indonesia a few years back with a band advertisung a concert, and the concept had stuck.  So when the time came to market Bypass, I took what he had seen and repurposed it on a far larger scale. We used what we had at our disposal, a great, creative, original idea, some wonderful sponsors, Stuttaford van Lines and Container World and a whole lot of willing hands. We wanted to do something fresh that had large impact with minimal cost. Often the greatest creative ideas come out necessity and constraints and this was definitely a great example of that.

Are there any plans to release the film internationally?

We are represented internationally by Princ Films, so Bypass will be sold around the world and hopefully end up on a few more movie screens for audiences around the world to enjoy.

What do you hope viewers will take away from the movie?

I hope our audiences will walk out of the cinema having thoroughly enjoyed themselves and maybe had a few good frights along the way. But after the movie has ended and they have told all there family and friends to go watch it, I hope that people will respond to the issue of organ trafficking and how they can become part of the solution by signing up to become an organ donor.


(Photos supplied Bypass Movie)

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