Short films and skate parks

Marcel Swanepoel at the Gardens skate park, Cape Town, The park is set to open in July 2014.

From the studio to the streets, from architecture to film, Marcel Swanepoel thrives on not producing ‘average work’. Anthony Molyneaux discovers what his ever changing existence is like and what he thinks our ‘everything-all-the-time’ generation is searching for.

The unfinished skate park lies quietly under the yellow light of Cape Town’s lampposts. Marcel examines the rubble and construction of the steps, half pipes and rail placements. “Our company, Epitome, wants to produce a video for this park and display it on the back wall on the day this skate park opens. We love skating, film and Cape Town and want to be a part of this venture. We just can’t get through the hierarchy at the moment.”

Marcel is working on a host of his own short films. Some animated, others shot in real time. One of the films called “Through the Fire” depicts a monster like creature, down and out lying on a couch, dismayed by the life of routine and its orthodox environment. The monster is contrasted in the short film by Lilly, a young child who instead enjoys the life of routine. Lilly is depicted as a happy-go-lucky being, thriving on the routine of life that the unhappy monster can’t stand.

“I have a phobia of normality, I was brought up in routine, society placed me in routine throughout my younger years and I needed to break free from this,” he states while stroking his week old beard.

Sparkling neon lit slot machines with names such as ‘Kitty Glitter’, ‘Russian Treasure’ and ‘Indian Dreaming’ illuminate an otherwise bland, square room at the back of a quaint pizzeria. The type of place one would expect the mob to meet. Framed photos of drunken customers sporting vuvuzelas and soccer scarves line the wooden walls.

Marcel Swanepoel, a 28-year-old man, now sits across from me with a woolen beanie concealing his short disheveled hair. He drags hard on his cigarette, creating an orange furnace at the end of his fingertips.

The tiny silver ball attached below his left lower lip jumps up and down his beard laden face as he details his enjoyment of the otherwise empty room.

“A room can create comfort, calm or distress without you even knowing it.” He casually sips on his golden beer in between the drags of his hot cigarette and his explanation.

“Architecture is a wonderful concept; it’s a way to manipulate your environment. That’s why I went into it but I realized that I wanted more creativity than architecture could offer.”

Film is where Marcel finds his freedom, his passion to share his ideas and concepts with the world.

“In film I can manipulate space and environment infinitely with no rules or overseeing authority.”

Another cigarette is lit, his eye movements rove the ceiling in an attempt to formulate his words and concepts. “Little pieces of myself get into them [short films]. People wear masks for different occasions and I thrive on this fakeness. I call myself ‘the fake Marcel’ as I too adopt these facades.”

“Every person I meet can offer something. Getting to know people is my number one thing in this world. I love trying to break through these facades to get through to the real person.”

Marcel has studied many things in his 28 years. He started with Math. The idea of creating new theorems enticed him into the field of mathematics. After a year in this field, he changed to Engineering as this was less confining than math and he yearned to create something physical. After two years in Engineering, the creativity he desired was not satisfied. Architecture was next. The concept of developing and designing enticed him and he continued to gain his master’s degree in this field. However, this too provided too many obstacles to his creative nature.

Marcel now works for a ‘small time production company’ called Epitome with his step brother, Renico van Wyk. Film now caters to his creative streak while he lectures part time at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Architecture.

“I believe I have a lot of valuable thoughts and ideas that could influence society”

The problem comes about as society is the very factor that’s preventing him from producing his ‘masterworks’.

Marcel refers to our society as an “everything-all-the-time generation.” Marcel believes that our current society has learned to adapt to everything coming at us at once due to the ease of information that the internet has brought us. Skimming the surface like a skipping stone, only taking in the bare minimal to serve our ever active fingertips and thought.

He chose a short film medium as he himself deals with this dilemma.

“I make these films for myself, not to serve any other purpose. Yet I want people to feel something when they watch it.

“I believe creativity is problem solving, or how creatively you can solve the problem.” He slides two empty beer glasses together and poses the question of how to merge the two glasses to become one. As he is explaining this, small droplets of perspiration formulate on his nose. “Many would come up with the most practical solution and go with that one but there are so many more ways to address the problem.

“You could break the two into shards of glass and because they are the same glass, they could be regarded as one. You could fill each with liquid and place them on top of each other to merge them into one glass.” After a shrugging of shoulders and more nose perspiration explaining multiple options to this dilemma, he states, “I could go on forever.”

Another one of Marcel’s film concepts is of greed. Marcel depicts greed as ‘Doctor Terrible, a well-to-do physician ambling from house to house. After knocking on people’s doors, he asks, “Anymoney home?”

Society is under scrutiny throughout Marcel’s life yet an overwhelming truth comes to realization. “Society creates the framework to work within.” Without it, too much freedom is given and essentially, the artist is left to their own divergent and detrimental devices. For Marcel, his work is aimed at the public, in order to influence the public. Therefore without the public, there is a missing link.

Upon asking what he hopes his movies will achieve he states, “I want people to be affected by them, to get emotional, to maybe even cry and to realize something within themselves they have been denying.”

Renico van Wyk, Marcel’s half-brother, a talented videographer, speaks of Marcel as having “a lot of good energy mixed with almost too much confidence. Creatively, he is always bringing the crazy ideas [sic].

He is really scared of losing originality.”

Marcel explains his idea of passion with a flurry of hand movements. “I believe I have many passions but finding one real passion to stick to is difficult.” He instead distills his passions across the board and infuses the different mediums with his infinite energy. Through short film Marcel finds his contribution to society through extension of his creative spirit.