Ty Keogh and Stephanie Schildknecht on ‘Accident’

Ty Keogh and Stephanie Schildknecht star in Accident, an upcoming action thriller from writer-director Dan Tondowski in his directorial debut. The story follows a group of California teenagers on a joy ride after a car accident finds them trapped at the bottom of a ravine. Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, Accident premiered at the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival and is opening on 1 December.

Rising star, Ty Keogh, has featured in many international productions over the years, but is best known for Dominion, The Wild and most recently 24 Hours to Live. Botswanan-born, Stephanie Schildknecht, is an up-and-coming actress who has appeared in numerous TV and film productions from Cape Town to LA. Spling met up with Ty and Stephanie to discuss Accident and the many acting challenges they experienced.

How did you come to be involved in this production?

Stephanie: I was actually living in Johannesburg at the time, got the audition and had to self-tape over there. I happened to be in Cape Town for a weekend, I don’t think they were actually going to call me back, but they thought she’s here already, banging the door down. From there, I got the part, the script and the rest is history.

Ty: My wife was shooting something in Cape Town, so we were here for a while… went in the morning, auditioned and got the part that afternoon… so it was a bit of a wham, bam, thank you mam.

I’m also curious to know how much preparation went into the opening shot?

Stephanie: The one with Roxanne and I? We didn’t do a whole lot of rehearsal before. We did a lot of blocking trying to get it right because Dan wanted to do it in one long shot, everything had to be in place and everyone had to know what they were doing. We had to do it a few times to get it right, and they were like “the light’s getting bad guys… the day is almost over it’s either now or it’s never!” Then we got that, yeah.

Ty Keogh, ready to roll… 

It’s really impressive because of the way they framed it and merged the gaps, if they did it in one go that’s amazing, but you can’t really tell where it was joined together, so well done on that… what was it like shooting this film in such hostile conditions? Being subjected to continuous rain, cramped car, underwater…

Ty: Atrocious!

Stephanie: I think a lot of us are still suffering from PTSD!

Ty: Basically, it’s the middle of winter in Cape Town with the rain machines, shooting at night in the cold, I think a lot of the time we weren’t acting, we were honestly just responding to our environment, which was very hostile. Challenging physically and emotionally, there were more than a few times, where I was like “I’m out of here.

I need a time out before I lose my sh*t in front of all of you!” Actually I still did a few times but you know, rewarding at the same time especially after the fact, I think in the moment it was like “I hate you all, why did I do this? I’m not getting paid enough”. But then after the fact, I can say I grew as an actor and as a person…

You earned some stripes?

Ty: I earned some stripes and didn’t kill anyone.

Stephanie: That is actually impressive.

The movie could have taken a slightly different turn… more tension with someone being dead… murderer on the loose(!)

Ty: It probably would have created a bit more hype for the film!

The film is set in California, was it easy to adjust in terms of accent and environment, considering it was shot in South Africa?

Stephanie: We had the voice coach early on, Judy Phillips, and we were just speaking in our accents for the rest of the time. We were encouraged to do so even when we went home, which only some of us did because it was a bit weird… for example, going to the supermarket, “yesterday you were here, you did not speak like that!”

Ty: The environment, you’re on a set dude so that’s how much you have to play with, you’re living within a frame. Well we can, until they see Lion’s Head! I haven’t done any South African work for a long time, pretty much everything we shoot in Cape Town is for the international market so it’s all American accent stuff. If I get an audition in a South African accent, I struggle… my default goes straight to American when the camera rolls. I feel comfortable doing that.

 On the road – Roxanne Hayward and Stephanie Schildknecht

I thought they did a reasonable job, I mean you sold it very well with the accents but just in terms of recreating a forest roadside situation because I knew it was shot in South Africa, but I think it will sell quite well on an international stage.

Ty: I hope so. I spent half my year in California and it’s a pretty good match you know… if you head out to Palm Springs and head out to the desert area up to like Idlewild it’s like a pine forest… so it kind of works.

I think that’s the thing with Cape Town, it’s so versatile and has lots of patches that could be anywhere and I suppose the same for LA being a bit warmer.

Ty: Yeah, but it never rains like that in LA though.

Have you guys done a stint in Los Angeles?

Ty: I’m kind of based there.

Stephanie: I was there to test the waters for a couple of months. I did a little insert for Jimmy Kimmel and then I did a conceptual trailer with Ving Rhames… that was quite fun, but haven’t been back for a while now.

I also understand that you guys did your own stunts, what was the most difficult undertaking in terms of that… who’s got the best war story?

Stephanie: I feel like I do. I should get the pictures of my leg after the fight scene… because it was so muddy, anything could have happened… we were just going free for all. It was choreographed to an extent, but all the slipping and sliding… it was kind of crazy and I did come away with a few battle scars from that… plenty actually! The next day we were doing the underwear scene, so my entire leg needed to be airbrushed to hide the bruising.

Ty: I think the worst for me was the point of being trapped inside the car underwater. The car was on a rig which dropped you straight down underwater and we went down quite deep, then they would pull us up after the take but it was quite hard to indicate from inside the car to the guys that you needed to go up. Also, when you rise from a depth and come up, you can get pretty sick. We had rebreather’s so we are taking in pure oxygen at the bottom and usually I’m cool, but the idea of being trapped in something underwater with poor visibility and not being able to get out was terrifying!

Dan seems to have been inspired by Michael Bay in terms of his objective to create this big, loud action thriller… what was it like working with him?

Stephanie: A laugh a minute… he was a lot of fun to work with.

Ty: He’s a very sweet guy… it was his first time playing with all the toys, I think he was making the film he wanted to see as a kid… kind of like Michael Bay, he’s making it for the audience and he was very energetic trying to bolster our moods the whole time… we got a bit down sometimes, and he was always there to try encourage us.

Did he come out in the rain with you or was he just calling the shots?

Stephanie: He came out… of course they were all wearing enormous jackets, paunchos and hoodies.

Ty: We were all in our flimsy little t-shirts.

Stephanie: He was a lot of fun to work with… at one point I did have to ask him to tone it down… there was a serious scene and I could hear him saying jokes over the mic and I was like “Dan, I’m trying to get into character here!”. 

You seem quite comfortable together on screen, have you worked together before and was there plenty of time to jel in rehearsal?

Stephanie: I hadn’t worked with either of them before.

Ty: In rehearsal we were kept apart, so the girls worked together and Keenan and I worked together. I used to share an apartment with Keenan in Joburg and we did a show called The Wild together. We were also at film school together, so we’ve known each other for 14 years. I hadn’t worked with Stephanie or Roxanne before. We met for the first time on set, which was an intentional thing. We were kept apart… I think Dan was looking at what directors in the ’70s did.

It’s a bit like Saving Private Ryan… sending everyone except Matt Damon to boot camp?

Ty: Exactly, it was that kind of thing.

Stephanie: He had his little ways… remember when we had that scene in the car where we’re making out.

Ty: Oh gosh, I’m so sorry about that(!)

Stephanie: Right before that… Dan put an ice cube down my pants. I don’t know what his intentions were, but I think it was to keep me in the moment.

Ty: You could probably sue him now… with the whole Harvey Weinstein thing. Seriously, that’s so out of line!

Stephanie: I don’t think those were his intentions then… I thought it was some sort of director’s trick, but all I could think of was my bottom getting wet and very cold… the one scene I had where I could be warm, dry and inside the car!

Ty: …and he had to f*ck it up.

That’s an interesting point… I attended one of the workshops at the CTIFM&F, where three actresses discussed the whole “Harvey Weinstein thing”… and they were saying it’s important for actresses to band together and protect one another… the veterans need to look out for the newbies when they come on set in terms of that political dynamic.

Ty: It’s awful, we were just saying… the fact that men in positions of power feel they have the right over any woman’s body, or to use that power to try and pressure someone do something… it’s just disgusting. It’s not just the job of the mother hen, it’s the job of everyone on set… if someone sees something like that you step in and say something. There’s no room for locker room boys talk on set. Those days are over! My friend Morgan was his assistant for a year and a half… she was employed because his wife didn’t see her as a threat… and she left working for him because she was completely disgusted by the man.

There’s such a pressure especially when you’re starting out, not wanting to rock the boat… and they kept coming back to not wanting to act like a diva or being perceived as an ice queen, which can jeopardise future work, but it’s really about boundaries, owning your space, being able to say no and knowing your rights.

Ty: …because you do have rights as a human being.

Saying I need a closed set, if you’re doing a nude scene you don’t need everyone there.

Ty: The story gets repeated so often.