Surviving Evil, and the SA film industry

Posted: July 31, 2009 in Investigative articles
Tags: , ,

Ster-Kinekor releases Surviving Evil

First published in The Event – July 2009

Surviving Evil, a movie filled with shape-shifting, flesh-eating creatures, opened nationally across Ster-Kinekor and independent theatres on 10 July 2009.  The British/South African co-producers have seen their fair share of drama in creating a film that has been riddled with problems from the very beginning. 

Surviving Evil stars Titanic star Billy Zane opposite Hong Kong’s Natalie Mendoza (The Descent, Hotel Babylon) and South Africa’s England’s Christine Cole (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), Colin Moss (Big Fellas, Number 10) and Louise Barnes (Jozi H, Egoli),  who play a film crew shooting a jungle survival special on a remote Mayaman Island in the Philippines. Their adventure rapidly turns into a nightmare as they encounter the flesh-eating Aswang, mythological creatures from the Phillipines that live in the trees, can change their shape, hunt for human flesh and crave the blood of pregnant women. Only fire deters them and they won’t venture below ground. The film was shot entirely on location in Durban, with South African Mike Downie as the DOP and Brit Terence Daw as the director.  

Anton Ernst, the South African producer, initially blamed the late funding from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for non-payments and the cost of the film spiraling out of control.   He says they received the IDC funding weeks after shooting finished, which created cast and crew strikes, which in turn pushed up the expenses.  Soon a string of creditors voiced their protest at a total amount of around R1.8million outstanding for services and products delivered for the film. 

Anton adds that they possibly started on pre-production too soon, “which led to things snowballing away from us. It has taken me about 12 months to get it back under control, and only now are we in a position to potentially succeed. I think I have done more than anyone to ensure that it ends well.” 

Anton admits there were weaknesses in terms of their production procedures. “This resulted in some R3m worth of invoices coming in, which were not approved by me or the UK producer,” says Anton. “This does not imply that these invoices are not real, but rather that suppliers had provided equipment and other services without written authorization by myself or the UK producer.”  This seems to be the main reason for the stand-off between Anton Ernst and Slim Films, which is still holding onto Surviving Evil’s behind-the-scenes footage, commonly known as its EPK.   

Slim Films confirmed that they have withdrawn from any negotiations on behalf of other creditors and say that Anton Ernst insisted that the EPK must be handed over, “or the prospects for all other creditors will be jeopardised.” 

Anton says they have already paid twice for the EPK and that Slim Films is withholding it because of other outstanding invoices, which are currently being disputed.  “People can’t just invoice for services they provided without proper authorization,” says Anton. 

He says that people forget about the amount of jobs and income he has created in the film industry through projects like Wake of Death, Number 10, Cryptid, and Lullaby. He estimates that his activities have led to a projected income of around R100m during the last six years. 

He confirms that they have since put measures in place to ensure that the creditors will be in a preferential payment position.  Anton says all the revenue will be collected through an independent accounting firm.  “This firm reports all revenue streams to all parties, and collects on behalf of the parties – including the creditors,”says Anton.  “If the film makes a profit, all the creditors will be paid.” 

However this offers very little relief for creditors such as Tyrone Stevenson of Stunt Pro, who has had to carry Surviving Evil’s burden on non-payment throughout a tough recession. 

Anton says he is cautiously optimistic about the release of the film and that it has so far had a good reception nationwide. “Let’s hope that by the end of July we can announce that payments may be made to all creditors,” he says. “I am grateful to everyone who has supported us through this difficult period and guarantee them that we will continue to strive to find solutions and continue to create opportunities to make new movies.I am extremely excited about the future of the South African film industry as I believe there is a huge emerging market that, if exploited commercially, could ensure that filmmakers are able to constantly produce their own material and be in a position to survive financially.”

Surviving Evil will also be released worldwide and sales will be handled by Fries Films. To watch the trailer, visit

Astrid Stark

  1. MIKE BUNN says:

    Itis now almost a year since the above article was published, and despite Mr Ernst’s soothing words, creditors are are still owed substantial amounts for equipment and services provided to the Surviving Evil Production.
    We have heard nothing further regarding payments to outstanding creditors.
    Has there been any progress on settling the claims of outstanding creditors?
    Who is the independent accounting firm mentioned in the article, and how can they be contacted?


  2. astridstark1 says:

    Hi Mike,

    It sound like it is time to re-open the case. I have forwarded information to you on your e-mail address.



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