As we affirm women across the globe honouring International Women’s Day last Friday (8 March), we applaud the team who birthed Escala – a carefully-crafted US-made short film which boasts a 100% female crew … (and five South Africans!) and has been officially selected for six international film festivals since its world premiere in July last year. 

Three South African women have been instrumental in the creation of Escala:  editor Eileen de Klerk, co-writer Tammy-Anne Fortuin and sound designer and music editor Reanne de Klerk. Escala is a multi-award-winning short film featuring SA actor Nick Boraine. 

Last week, Escala was announced as an official finalist for the Utah Film Festival which means that it is a nominee in at least one award category.  Categories were announced on Saturday 9 March, and the film has nominees in two categories:   Best Score (Miriam Mayer) and Best Editing (Eileen de Klerk).  The festival awards will take place in Utah on 6 April and the team will be attending the festival.  

Escala has been screened to the rousing public and critical acclaim at five leading industry showcases thus far. It had its worldwide premiere at the LA Shorts International Film Festival in July last year which ranks among the most prestigious and largest international short film festivals in the world. 

In September it was screened at the Tops Shorts International Film Festival. At the festival, the film walked away with three accolades: Eileen de Klerk was winner of the award for Best Editing, Reanne de Klerk won Honorable Mention for sound design. Winning the Inspiring Woman in a Film category was Jy Prishkulnik, who played Amalia in the film.

The year wrapped up in California with an official entry to the Culver City Film Festival in December. So far this year, Escala was screened at the World-Wide Women’s Film Festival in February in Arizona as part of the official selection. The film returned to Arizona to be screened at the Sedona International Film Festival last month.

Next up is the Utah Film Festival scheduled for early April. Escala tells the story of Amalia, a teenage violinist torn between tolerating the inappropriate advances from her music instructor and winning the competition of a lifetime to change the future for her and her father.

It features South Africa’s Nick Boraine as Dereck; James C Burns as Gustav and Jy Prishkulnik as Amalia.   “The film is only 16 minutes long – so every frame, every gesture, every nuance counts. Oftentimes it is more of a challenge and far more intense to communicate a story in a few minutes, rather than the more typical format of a full-length movie or series,” considers editor Eileen de Klerk. “Being part of this amazing production has been the most astonishing journey,” “The critical acclaim has been extraordinary, hugely affirming and quite unexpected,” she adds. Reanne de Klerk concurs. “For us as South Africans working really hard to develop careers in the hugely competitive American film market, we are especially chuffed to have our film, and in particular our individual contributions to the film, being so affirmed by the global film industry.”    “It is reassuring that South Africans – and in particular South African women – can find their place in the global marketplace. Our experience and journey in South Africa have set us up to allow us to do what we love with like-minded creatives who have amazing skills, tenacity, vision and commitment to make great work.”  

Durban-born Reanne has been playing music since the age of five. She has performed with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra; Night of 100 Stars; KickstArt’s productions of Cabaret and Chicago, Platform Jazz, and Pastiche Jazz Orchestra. Now based in LA she is a composer, sound designer, music editor and assistant editor for features, short films and TV series and is currently working on the Warner Bros Studios Lot.  

Reanne is also currently working on a solo album with South African composer Anthony Costandius – once the album is recorded, she will premiere the album with a concert tour throughout South Africa. Eileen is originally from Pretoria, moved to Cape Town in 2005 and is a former teacher for special needs children. She moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and has worked as a script supervisor and editor on film projects in South Africa and the States. She has worked on documentaries, shorts, features, music videos and series. She has also just edited a short film, LA Hustle, for one of six up-and-coming female directors who were chosen for the AWD (Alliance of Women Directors) Shoot-Em Up Film Series, with director Charissa Sanjarernsuithikul.

The feedback from Escala has been amazing: “Escala is a disturbing and absorbing film that pulls you in with fantastic editing and sound design.  Every moment is precisely paced in a very cinematic way. The sound is elegant and ethereal, bringing to life Amalia’s moving story,” said Doobie White, Editor: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Polar. “Escala is unquestionably an award-winning masterpiece. I never thought that a fifteen-minute short film could make such an emotional impact on me… This short film is a must-see for all.” Utah Film Festival.  “A powerful and important film that violates the senses and one’s sense of self.  Poignant, gripping, escalatory,” Charissa Sanjarernsuithikul, Director: LA Hustle, Playing it Straight. Both Reanne and Eileen are looking forward to building on their experience and to continue telling important stories through music and film.