The movie Noem My Skollie is hitting the big screen later this year, but behind the scenes is a Cape Flats man who lived every minute of the drama in real life.
John W. Fredericks, 70, has been writing and telling stories since he was a little boy, growing up in Kewtown in the 1950s.
He says: “I used to play on the dump behind our house, there I would scavenge for books that I could read.”
His father worked at the dumpsite and he found a typewriter that John still has today and he even used it to write the script for the movie.
Sitting in his makeshift office, in his garage in Strandfontein, John can talk for hours about his journey as a storyteller.
The crime drama, set on the Cape Flats in the 1960s, centres around four youngsters – AB (Austin Rose) and his three best friends Gimba (Ethan Patton), Gif (Joshua Vraagom) and Shorty (Valentino de Klerk).
The boys became a small gang and when AB is arrested their friendship is tested.
Since his retirement as a security guard, John has been busy writing scripts, and is the brains behind documentaries like Hard Living Kids and Mr Devious.
Many of his childhood stories have been recreated for the film, including that time he was jailed in Pollsmoor for theft at the age of 17.
“We built that prison that today you call Pollsmoor, my blood and sweat is in that foundation,” says John.
It was while sharing a cell with 16 other inmates, many of them from the numbers gangs, that John became a master storyteller.
“They would put their blankets on their heads, and come together in a circle, they looked like spoke,” he recalls.
“I was this maer laaitie and they would lift me up and so there I would sit, elevated with these hardened criminals listening to the stories that I would make up as I go along,” says John.
In early 2007, he decided to sell his script to the National Film and Video Foundation in Cape Town.
He says proudly: “Here I was, a coloured man with a Standard 6 education, walking into this massive building to try and sell my script. I walked into this room and at the boardroom table there was all these white people, they studied film and movies at university and in places like London. All I could say when I stepped into that room, I was so nervous, was: “Awe!”
He was sent on a scriptwriting course, and his script, Noem My Skollie, was the only one they chose to produce.
Talking about his movie, which was filmed over five weeks in Ocean View, Athlone, Woodstock, Salt River and the City Centre, John says: “You will laugh and you will cry for this story, because it’s about the everyday things that happen. And there’s a great twist in it as well.
Noem My Skollie stars Denise Newman, Austin Rose and Christian Bennett, and opens on September 2 at Ster Kinekor cinemas.