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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

INNOCENT TIMES (article first published : 2008-04-19)

Over the years, pay-channel M-Net has become renowned for its groundbreaking local productions. In the tradition of revolutionising the way different television genres are produced, M-Net is now turning its focus to local drama as well.

On April 23 at 20h00, M-Net marks the launch of the technically pioneering new six-part drama Innocent Times which was shot predominantly in front of a green screen for the first time in South African television history. The show is infused with more CGI effects than in any Star Wars movie and it is also the first M-Net project that will be accompanied by a full original local sound track.

Carl Fischer, M-Netís Head of Original Productions, says this cutting-edge drama was commissioned to push the boundaries of the local industry: ďInnocent Times is unlike any drama series our viewers have seen before. It seamlessly integrates various filmic styles by using the latest computer technology. Itís an exciting project that will hopefully pave the road for similar endeavours in the future.Ē

Innocent Times is part road movie, part love story and part dark comic thriller and tells a story that unfolds across the past and the present.

When Genevieve Scott-Thomas is let out of prison after almost two decades, her son Zac is killed when he falls off a balcony. Most think it is suicide, but Gene knows differently. To her it is a sure sign that her past is catching up with her. She decides to team up with award-winning journalist Jeff Levine and takes him on a journey into her dark past. As she reflects on her life, we flash back to a landscape of the mind, a strange world where a murder spree took place.

To create this multi-layered story, the technical production team of Innocent Times spent months refining the hyper-real CGI scenes of the past, shot under the direction of Tristan Holmes. The present-day scenes were directed by Alex Yazbek who created a film-noir present day South Africa, with characters that are slightly larger than life to follow through and compliment the styles of the past. To put the scale of this production into perspective, Innocent Times is a show made up of six episodes but contains more special effects than an entire season of the popular American series, Heroes.

Accompanying the show will be a full-length, originally scored soundtrack, which was spearheaded by South African music legend Sean Fourie. The music video for the title track of the show, Sold my Soul to the Devil has just completed filming. The song stars local rap star Pharrel and includes a host of collaborators. Also contributing to the rich collection of songs on the Innocent Times soundtrack are local music legends such as Chris Chameleon and Zola.

Filled with sinister twists and some shocking characters, Innocent Times promises to grip viewers from the start. The show boasts a small and talented cast made up of Nina Milner (who made her debut in M-Netís Ella Blue) as the young Gene, Justin Strydom (of Snitch fame), Quentin Krog as Zac Snr, Juliana Venter as the older Gene, Az Abrahams in the role of the journalist, and new-comer Matthew Lotter as Geneís son Zac Jr.

Co-written and co-produced by Geoff Newton and Justin Strydom, this is the first time that a programme of this technical magnitude has been tackled in South Africa, by South Africans.

The cutting-edge technological effects with which Innocent Times is infused, are both stylistically breathtaking and emotionally heart wrenching. Screened on M-Net on April 23 at 20h00, Innocent Times is very much a love story Ė as twisted as the love sometimes is, it is still very real and very much the driving force of this ground-breaking show.




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