Trackers’ Jozua Malherbe on shooting action scenes and getting into a woman’s head
With the Springboks’ triumphant victory over the English in the final battle for the Rugby World Cup and the accompanying euphoria still lingering in the air, a writer friend of Jozua Malherbe wrote to him on Facebook: “If you’re willing to direct the the Siya Kolisi-movie, I will write it!” This is an example of how much faith people in the local movie industry have in him…
Jozua Malherbe is an award-winning producer, writer and director, best known for his work on Bloedbroers, Wolwedans in die Skemer, Hartland, Getroud met Rugby and Vlees van my Vlees. More recently he had to fulfil two roles in what can probably be described as one of South Africa’s most ambitious TV productions yet – that of writer and second unit director on Deon Meyer’s Trackers.
We (ahem) Tracked him down for a few questions…
You are forever on location recons and you have a keen eye and a passion for architecture as far as I can tell. Was this instrumental in your role as second unit director? How did you land the job?
My love for architecture and photography has certainly helped me in my career as director. Finding the right composition and location is key to executing a successful scene. I am a writer on the show and when the production needed someone to help with the filming of the show, I was lucky to be front of mind.
The second unit director is normally responsible for shooting supplementary footage such as establishing shots, inserts, cutaways and in some cases, stunts. What were your duties during the filming and production on Trackers?
This time it was a little different. The show actually split up into two units to complete the schedule and so I ended up working with the actors and completing scenes that are in the final show. I shot action scenes and additional footage but also performance and story scenes.
Those action scenes were a thing of beauty! One of the most important duties of being part of the directing team is maintaining a look that is consistent with scenes. How did you and director Jyri Kähönen get on the same page?
Jyri was very clear on how he liked to shoot and it wasn’t hard for me to understand that visual language. We had a few meetings and I was also very fortunate to have the DOP (director of photography) Ivan Strasburg work with me, which helped the continuation of the look and feel that had been established.
One thing that really stood out for me in Trackers is the quality: the establishment of shots, the grading and the attention given to detail. The drone shots (or was it helicopter?) for instance, were beautifully stitched together. Can you comment on the workflow?
Most of the drone was done prior to my arrival on the show. But when we wrote the show our intent was always to show the landscapes and cityscapes to give the feeling of a much bigger world that our characters are living in. We used a drone for the aerial work.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing role?
Deon, Tim and Cobus approached me to be a part of the writing team in 2017, which was a huge honour. I worked with Rene van Rooyen on the first episode and when Rene had to leave the writing team to complete her feature, Amy Japhta and Kelsey Eagen joined us. The three of us were ultimately tasked with working with the head writer, producer and executive team in outlining the story and then to draft the scripts until everyone was happy.
Without dropping any spoilers: what is your favourite scene in Trackers?
A couple stand out, which include the first interrogation with Janina, and I loved how Sandi understood the character and made it such a strong, powerful performance! I enjoyed writing for Milla – she has such a big character journey, so to get into her head and explore that was really great!
All episodes of Trackers land are streaming on Showmax.