Oil on Water was a film that needed to be made. When Elle Matthews, the Screenwriter and Producer first began to work on the script in 2004, it was initially around the idea for a short feature. But from first draft of the screenplay to filming, the film grew as layer upon textured layer evolved into a powerful full feature story with intriguing, emotive content and exquisitely beautiful visuals.
Based on the story of a young couple, Max and Anna, whose lives are broken into pieces when Max begins to experience strange symptoms that he cannot explain, Oil on Water is also the tragedy of millions of people in the world, whose lives are affected by some form of mental illness. And, the story of millions of people who love them.
When casting the character of Anna and Max, it was decided to look for actors who were similar in disposition to the scripted characters - and whose acting talent could depict the characteristics in all their complexity - real, damaged, beautiful, intricate people doing their best to survive under difficult, changing life circumstances. The search was not for two characteristics who would just act as Max and Anna, but rather have some of the characteristics of Max and Anna.
The story behind the decision to cast both Bianca Lishansky as Anna and StJohn Alexander as Max is an intriguing one. CV's and Z-cards were put forward by casting agencies in South Africa, and even from as far afield as France, for the lead characters. Once all the faces were on the table, Producer Elle Matthews began the process of shortlisting. After living with hundreds of faces scattered over the table in her office for weeks, she finally picked up two cards and took them to the Director, Peter Matthews, with the words, "This is Max and Anna." They were Bianca Lishansky and StJohn Alexander.
Peter Matthews liked what he saw in both of them, both had been cast in international feature films and they were flagged first choices based on their look. Casting began in March 2005 and went on for nearly four months, with auditions taking place in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. After Bianca's audition in Johannesburg, another audition was scheduled with her. StJohn, however, was on a trip in Mozambique at the time, and it seemed that he would be unable to audition for the role, as the date of filming drew closer and he was completely uncontactable. But on a flight from Durban to Johannesburg, to audition Bianca with another potential Max character, Elle came across a photographic spread in a magazine and recognized StJohn. She checked the credits, established his modeling agency, who knew where he was, and StJohn was flown to Durban to audition with Bianca the next day. As soon as the audition was over, both Director and Producer knew they has their Anna and Max.
There was no doubt from the outset that filming would take place entirely in the picturesque province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Finding locations that would portray the international setting of the film was an easy task, and the film is a showcase of the natural beauty of this particular stretch of South African coastline, and the architecture of the area.
From the very beginning, everyone working on the film grasped Director Peter Matthews' vision and threw their support behind what he was trying to achieve, making it a truly extraordinary experience for the entire cast and crew.
Throughout the filming and post production on Oil on Water, the challenge for Peter was to make the portrayal of the characters real, to accurately portray Max's experience of schizophrenia and the degeneration of Max and Anna's relationship, and to keep the special effects realistic and true. This subtle balance has been well achieved and Oil on Water is a spectacular visual feast with a captivating story that tells the story of mental illness for the tragedy it really is. Elle Matthews states, "Every frame in the movie, and every scene that is played out through the exquisitely raw, human performances by the actors, is a true work of art."