Frequently glossed over by uninterested viewers or just ignored outright – movie credits have been getting a raw deal for years.
But this was certainly not the case at a home in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night when author Vernon W Baumann, 45, got the first glimpse of his name in proverbial lights after the new South Africa thriller series Spoorloos [without a trace] made its debut on DSTV channel KykNet.
Based on Baumann’s fictional work about a serial killer titled Daddy Long Legs, Spoorloos was recently filmed in Cradock, some years after the original work was penned by the Free State writer in 2012.
“I watched it; it was an unbelievable, amazing feeling.
“I even took pictures of the screen and then looked at it over and over again,” enthused a delighted Baumann after finally seeing his name appear on television.
Further describing the event as emotional and as a career highlight, Baumann said the acknowledgements and congratulations had flooded in after his family and friends had viewed the first episode of the 13-part series.
With Cradock as the physical setting, and other scenes filmed in Johannesburg, the story is set in the fictional town of Digtersdal and woven around a serial killer inspired, according to Baumann, by America’s infamous BTK (Bind Torture Kill) Strangler or BTK Killer, Dennis Rader.
Rader, who killed 10 people between 1974 and 1991, is serving 10 consecutive life sentences in the US.
He became known for sending taunting letters detailing his crimes to police and newspapers.
After going to ground for about 10 years, Rader resurfaced and started sending letters again – which finally led to his arrest in 2005 and his subsequent guilty plea.
“This, that he [Rader] suddenly disappeared and then popped up again, is the basis of the similarities between the fictional character in Digtersdal and the real serial killer,” Baumann said.
While the original work had been adapted to the film version, the Daddy Long Legs synopsis best describes the basis of the plot: “Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Daddy Long Legs is Back. Twenty years ago he took nine lives. Nine boys. Abducted. Tortured and mutilated. Nine bodies dumped across the barren landscape of a small town in apartheid South Africa. Then – abruptly – the murders stopped. And Daddy Long Legs was no more. Until now.”
While revelling in his latest achievement, Baumann, who has authored five works of fiction – which are available on Amazon, and who has dabbled in copy writing for the advertising industry, some script writing for South African soapie Binnelanders and lecturing in English, was candid about his relatively arduous road to success.
“There were no Hollywood moments. Perseverance and tenacity are among the talents I do have.
“Those attributes and the ability to generate ideas. And they paid off after many interviews, trips to Johannesburg and pitches to various companies and people,” he said, adding that he had other projects now waiting in the wings.
“I am hoping to interest a production company in another of my works – Man in the Wind, and hopefully this could mean another shot at getting a book into a film format,” he said, explaining that the adaptation of Daddy Long Legs had meant rewriting the book to produce 13 cliffhangers for each of the 13 episodes.
As evidenced by his writings, Baumann said he held a particular interest in stories based on small towns.
“I just love the idea of small, rural towns which have dark secrets simmering below the surface.
“This makes for great plots and great settings for stories,” he said.
Resisting relocating to Johannesburg and closer to production houses, Baumann, who is married “with two dogs and eight cats as our kids”, plans to continue working from Bloemfontein, saying the city, which has a large, rural town feel, continues to inspire him.