Q: When did you first meet Riaad Moosa, and what was the first thing he said that made you laugh?
A: I met Riaad on stage in Cool Runnings in December of 2001. I was getting guidance from John Vlismas and that Sunday night is when the first seeds were sown. John was a champion. My comedy set went down good - not fantastic, but good - Riaad, John, Bevan, Tshepo, Darren, they were all on the bill - it was an adrenalin filled night. Riaad hit himself with the microphone on his head and fell down on the stage. My mother and brother were there that night. The whole thing was magical. Riaad made me feel right at home. I could see a warm and talented man, who was kind and sensitive. Everyone said so many funny things. I can't remember the first thing he said that made me laugh, but when he fell down on the stage with that one gag he prepared, I thought "Boy, he is one brave guy."
Q: What did you say to make him laugh?
A: I wish I could remember. I was so nervous. I have done so many corporate presentations and public speaking functions, but, this was my first time trying out a stand-up comedy event. They all made me laugh that night. I remember Tshepo's one line - he said, "What do you call a blow job from a midget?" "A low job." Riaad also did magic tricks back then. He trained at the Magic College in Cape Town. His first comedy gigs had magic tricks and he was just hypnotic to watch. I can’t remember what I said to make him laugh. Perhaps it was something along the lines of "Hey, do you want to make a movie one day."
Q: What do you think makes Riaad stand out as a standup?
A: So many of the comedians in South Africa are fantastic. And most of them have a unique style and approach, and it is amazing to see how comedy in South Africa, like sports, has become a valued exercise. But, with each step forward into the bigger picture, with each monetary advancement, so do egos swell, and attitudes grow. But not Dr. Riaad Moosa. His humility and compassion is inspiring. And his warmth and sensitivity refreshing. He is a professional artist whose heart, and head, are in the right place. Also, like Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld, Riaad's comedy is clean and sharp. It does not offend anyone, and his jokes about Indians are akin to Jackie Mason's jokes about Jewish culture. In short: Riaad is universal in his appeal, and a pleasure to work with.
Q: Where did the idea to make a movie about Riaad come from?
A: Carl Fischer at M-Net handed me a rough cut of Gums & Noses to watch and I was amazed at what the film making team had created here. Craig Freimond knows how to tell a story, and he understands about character development. Carl then gave me Craig's number and we met. From there we got to know each other and Craig went to watch Riaad perform his special brand of magic. I had a vision and also, I had written a short story about Riaad's life. This became the foundation for the movie we are making now. Craig then spent 7 years with Riaad, Robbie, myself, and a host of others, writing and refining this beautiful and magical script. Craig deserves all the credit that is coming his way - this has been a true labour of love, and a fantastic collaboration.
Q: Why was Riaad's profession changed from medical doctor in the script from the movie?
A: Craig argued, rightfully so, that the script had become too big, too complicated, too all over the place. The best things in life are simple. There is genius in simplicity. It takes real talent, and effort, to be simple. Like that old saying goes "I would send you a shorter mail but I don't have time."
Q: How much of the movie is a true story?
A: The story was inspired by Riaad Moosa. The central conflict was made up, but it was underpinned by real world pressures. It is not accepted for a Muslim to go into a bar - it is considered Haraam. The story has been embellished, but its essence is true.
Q: Do you see any connections or similarities between Riaad's story of growing up and finding his "purpose", and your own story?
A: I believe that the reason this film feels so right, so pure, is because of this exact question you ask here. Riaad is a man with a purpose, and I have been driven here by a strong sense of purpose. We are all doing what we do best, and together, we form a focused machine. Now, the question is, will this machine produce something magical in the end? If it does, then the similarities were all written in the stars.
Q: What's the most enjoyable part of making a movie?
A: Well, my work here is not easy. The most enjoyable thing will be if we get it right. For the rest of it, I am biting the nails of the guy sitting next to me. The pressure is overwhelming, and the stakes are sky high. I do love the creative process and I feel inspired like never before. But, I can't say I enjoy it. To enjoy something you have to be well rested, calm and relaxed, and I don't sleep much at the moment. But, I do love what we are doing here, it is just not easy on the soul.
Q: What's the part of making a movie that you like the least?
A: Losing money. Next question please.
Q: What's the secret of making a successful movie?
A: You need to be lucky. It is a gamble, anyway you look at it. It all starts with the script. If the script is bad the film will be bad. But a good script does not guarantee a good movie. The secret, like with all ventures, are the people. I am confident to say that we have the best piece of screen writing to come out of SA in a long, long time and the most humble and inspired team. On paper it all looks good, but still, we need some luck to get us over the finish line in pole position.
Q: In what ways would you say making a movie is similar to starting a business?
A: An independent film (ie, a non-studio sanctioned movie) is a start-up venture. It is a venture where a product is created and then that product needs to be marketed and sold. That is the nature of all business ventures.
Q: You used to hang out in Fordsburg during your student days...has it changed much?
A: The world has changed so much. I never remember there being cell phones back then.
Q: What's the Big Message of the movie?
A: That the world will conspire to reward you, if you follow what is in your heart.
Q: How "hands on" are you as the producer of a movie?
A: I am not sure what this word "producer" means. So many people use this term for all the wrong things. A guy who is hired by an advertising agency to make a TV commercial refers to himself as a producer. A producer in the world of independent film making is an entrepreneur. And that's what I am here - I am the entrepreneur behind the film. And, I am so hands on you would not believe it. The project was, after all, my vision originally. The story and the script developed, and Craig, Robbie, along with Riaad and a few others, became the custodians of the creative vision, but I was involved at every step. Craig is the leader of the creative vision – this film is his baby – the buck stops with him on every turn. I am the commercial leader of the film, but I am also involved with the creative process each and every day. And together with Robbie, we make up the partnership that is driving the ship, along with Allison, and the rest of the crew at Tom Pictures.
Q: What does the producer of a movie actually do, exactly?
A: Beg people. And toss and turn. And pray.
Q: What did it take to persuade Vincent Ebrahim to star in the movie?
A: Some chutzpah helped, some grace definitely played a role, and humility and honesty worked wonders. But, the key was the script. Vincent is a smart man, and he knew the script was a winner when he read it. And then, ultimately, he could see that Craig was the real deal.
Q: Where does the material in Material come from...is it all Riaad's own material?
A: Good question! And yes, Riaad is the captain of that particular ship. Craig however directs, changes and vets all of this.
Q: How much of a "Materialist" are you, when it comes to writing material for Material...in other words, did you contribute to the script in any way?
A: I wrote the original story that the script is based on. And, a few years ago, Craig and I drank a vodka together, looked each other in the eye and then threw the script away. We started again. There were no sacred cows here - just a sacred vision. The script evolved, and Craig is the man who made this happen – the script is his work. We all helped shape this, but Craig is the master.
Q: How would you sum up the state of the South African movie industry at the moment?
A: There seem to be so many local movies being made. Perhaps a local film industry is finally on the horizon.
Q: What are your hopes for Material?
A: Is that a rhetorical question?