CFDb Interviews Frans Cronjé – Producer/Actor/Director
How did you first get started in the film industry?
I committed my life to Jesus in 1996 and my life changed so drastically that I became passionate about sharing what God did for me. Since then I was invited regularly as a guest speaker at churches, schools, breakfasts, functions, dinners, etc. I would tell stories from my life and found that this had a good impact. As I discovered more and more that I had a gift for story telling, I started getting interested in putting some of the stories on film. At the same time I read the book “Faith like Potatoes” about Angus Buchan. I became friends with Angus and immediately asked permission to produce a film about his life story. That was in 1999. It took until 2006 before I eventually decided to start production, in faith that we would have enough funders to invest in the movie. God provided these funders, week by week, until the movie was paid for and completed.
Did producing “Faith like Potatoes” increase your faith?
Oh boy, did it test and increase my faith! I realized after a while that I was walking just as big a walk of faith as Angus did in his story. At times things looked so impossible during production that I was lying face down in the dark at 4 am praying. No more words to utter – just waiting to hear from God. My wife stumbled over me one morning and thought I had a heart attack and died. I told her :”No, I am OK, just praying dear.” My biggest challenge back then was that no person believed that a Christian movie could make it, or that I had enough experience to produce the movie. This was before “The Passion” was released. What was interesting is that we released “Faith like Potatoes” more or less at the same time in South Africa as “Facing the Giants” was released in the USA. Both films did well and the rest is history. We have now sold over 1.6 million DVD’s world wide of “Faith like Potatoes“. This is unheard of for a non-American movie, especially a Christian movie.
Tell us more about your recent film “Break Away”?
Even though “Faith like Potatoes” was hugely successful, it has been very tough for me financially in the last 4 years. We produced a second movie the year after “Faith like Potatoes” called “Journey to Grace: The Hansie Cronje Story.” We had sold the worldwide rights to this movie to a California company and so started production. Halfway through the production it became evident that this company was not going to be able to pay us for the movie, due to the recession and that tumbled me into financially disaster. It has been a long road since then, but we are making headway. About 18 months ago, I was having coffee with two friends, Morné Theunissen and Etienne Janse van Rensburg. All three of us at that stage without work and without any money in our bank accounts. We had just received news that the production of the movie that we were developing for over a year was delayed for at least 6 months. This was desperate for us. But, we decided not to give up. “Let’s make a movie without money” we told ourselves. And so we started writing a new screenplay, based on an idea I got while taking a shower a few months earlier! We called it “Baroudeur.” It is French for “fighter.” In cycling the term is used for a cyclist who is willing to ride ahead of the peloton on his own, willing to risk being caught before the end. I started cycling 3 years ago, lost 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of weight in 3 months and fell in love with the sport. Because I am a former professional athlete (rugby and cricket) I love competing at a high level and quickly started my own team with the help of a few sponsors. One key sponsor ASG Sport Solutions decided to invest US $70 000 into the movie. The main product they sell is an Italian bicycle made by Pinarello. That at least gave us some cash to work with, but it was the only budget we had. The movie should have cost around $1 million. Instead of paying people we did three things. Firstly, we gave shares to the industry professionals that worked on the movie. Secondly, we gave an opportunity to students to work on set and gain experience. Lastly, we used every person we could find as volunteers. We did not even have to pay for the camera we used. We filmed the movie in HD with a Canon EOS 5D Mark 2. This is a stills camera, but it also films beautiful HD video. We also decided that we would act in the movie. This was tough, as we had to multi-task extensively, but in the end we completed the movie, exactly 9 months after we started. I think even this is symbolic! People that have seen the movie are amazed at the quality and we have received much praise. But most of all we receive daily emails from people who testify of how they identify with the movie and how much hope it has brought them.
Are there any works in progress that you can tell us about?
For sure! I am passionate about telling stories and will hopefully produce many more movies. A large funding organization in South Africa liked the “Break Away” model so much that they have made money available to us to produce a new movie this year. We will hopefully use this new movie to shape a workable model for the future. This is exciting for all independent film makers.
I get contacted weekly by people from all over the world with scripts and ideas for new movies. I realize that there are so many great stories to be told and huge demand to see them!
The new movie for this year has a working title of “Born to Win” and is the true story of a school teacher who taught at a school for disabled children. I have written the first draft and I think this might just be the best story that I have written thus far. It is so packed with emotion, laughter, inspiration, but most of all it shows God as the loving Father that He is! Apart from this movie, I am already developing 3 other movies as well.
How can others learn from your work?
I think primarily by watching our DVDs. We always bundle a good “Behind-the-Scenes” section. I have also written a book called “Destined to Win” where I share 20 lessons that I learned while producing my first two movies, as well as some lessons from my sporting life. This book is available in South Africa, but hopefully soon it will be available as an e-book for worldwide release. We will also have place for students on all our future movies, so stay in contact via Facebook to see when the next opportunity presents itself. We had students from Africa, North America, Europe and Asia during “Break Away.”
We also plan to launch a new “video” channel where we share testimonies and interviews with people in order to encourage people to live a better lifestyle. Connect with is on Facebook and our web-site to see when this happens.
Although “Break Away” is not a true story, every scene is based on something true that has happened to us or one of our immediate friends. Nothing about the movie is make believe! The recession has touched the lives of people all over the world and this film brings hope to all of these people!!! It also shows the people who are blessed enough to have jobs how to help their friends.
Many churches in South Africa have shown the movie to their congregation during church service and have used our study guide that you can download for free from the web-site www.baroudeurmovie.com
Even our marketing has been based on the “Break Away” (Baroudeur) model of “using what we’ve got”. We are relying on word-of-mouth and social media like Facebook to get the word out about “Break Away.”
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