Finding Lenny, which was shot in and around Gauteng, is scheduled for release in May.  In Focus spoke to the lead, Barry Hilton, one of SA’s most loved funny-men, as well as  to director Neal Sundstrom and producer Terry Vallet.

Barry Hilton in action
Finding Lenny began 5 years ago when Neal Sundstrom decided to write and produce a South African comedy. Together with Russel Savadier and Terry Vallet, he discussed story ideas, wanting the film to be uniquely South African. When the draft, written by Sundstrom and Savadier, was presented to Barry Hilton, Hilton was astounded at how much the opening scenes mirrored his own life experience. The idea of the soccer match was inspired as it coincides with the soccer fever that the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup South Africa™ will bring to the country.

This latest movie by Movieworld was produced with finances sourced partly off-shore and partly through South African funding, including the new DTI rebate scheme.

Finding Lenny is described by its creators as a “revealing comedy”: In this film, “Everything happens for a reason.”

When Lenny is relieved of his position as coach to the under 11’s at St. Benedicts ... Everything happens for a reason. When he’s fired from his job as a Sportswriter at a daily newspaper ... Everything happens for a reason and when his wife of 19 years leaves him for a hunky blonde stud ... you guessed it –“Everything happens for a reason!”

He has a whole lot of dreams and he’ll embark on the adventure of a lifetime, with ambitions to oppose the might of evil property developers, drown his sorrow by falling in love with the woman of his dreams, re-uniting two warring brothers and perhaps more human he will definitely search to discover himself.

Commenting on shooting in Gauteng, Sundstrom said: “Although the film looks and feels like the cast and crew travelled many miles, the truth is that we managed to shoot the entire movie in and around the Gauteng area.  A beautiful piece of land was found in the Broederstroom area and Johannesburg locations included Sandton, Greenside and Melville.”

Strundstrom said the shoot was “exceptionally lucky with the weather” as it went dry during the scheduled days. “Half an hour after we had wrapped the film and closed the technical trucks, the heavens opened… and it continued to rain for a full two weeks! This production was truly blessed.”

The film’s cast of all the villagers and the soccer crowd came from the neighbouring settlement of  Brazzaville, in Atteridgeville.  For most this was their first time in front of a camera and they did a fantastic job, say Sundstrom and Vallet.

Sundstrom described their village celebration scenes as ‘truly remarkable’. “Nowhere else in the world could a group of extras pick up drums and start dancing and singing around a camp fire with such verve… with no rehearsals.”

Vallet echoed this sentiment: “These night shoots were truly memorable and made me especially proud to be a South African.”

Hilton, who says the secret to his magical creative antics is that he loves his job, found filming a challenging affair.

“It was difficult working, stop, start, stop, start all the time.  It wasn’t like working at a live show and the hours were very long.  I overcame it because of pure want.”

Hilton has achieved international status as a stand-up comedian performing all over the world.  Many agree that he is, without a doubt, one of the top comedians South Africa has ever seen and a role model in the entertainment industry. He’s renowned not only for his comedy, but also for starring in commercials (really funny ones!) and giving them a certain sense of South African-ness.  He has also featured in several television shows, including his own series entitled Funny You Should Say That on SABC prime time.

Asked what advice he could give aspiring comedians, Hilton, who says “life” makes him tick as an actor, said:  “You need to be prepared to work very hard.  It takes years and years of long hours and pure dedication.  You can’t expect things to happen overnight.  You have to be passionate about it.”