Substance Films
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5 September 2011

Broadcast and distribution:
Since completing the documentary in March 2010, Substance Films has successfully had the documentary broadcast on Cape Town TV We were also featured at the TUR Ostrava Film Festival in the Czech Republic The film was invited to be submitted to the Watch Docs Film Festival in Poland as well as the FIPATEL Market The documentary is currently in submission to the Brisbane International Film Festival and the Kenyan International Film Festival. All of our attempts to have the documentary broadcast by either the SABC or eTV have proved unsuccessful as yet, but we continue to submit whenever appropriate.

Felinda recently celebrated two years of sobriety. She has been sober since she received treatment during the filming of the documentary. She is still living in Cape Town, with her daughter and remains very positive about her prospects and her involvement with the documentary.

When the pain of using drugs is greater than the pain of getting clean

People are often interested in the filmmaking process and what goes on behind the scenes. Dying to Stop has been in development since August 2008 and we would like to share our experiences with you.

Here you can read about where it all started and understand the lengthy, detailed and dedicated efforts to fund, research and craft the story of Dying to Stop.

Where it all started

Yvette Lambrecht

With a personal understanding of the disease of addiction, the horrors, as well as the light and growth of recovery from addiction, I wanted to tell a story that highlights the discrimination against addicts. I also wanted to highlight the need for a greater response in the public sector to rehabilitation treatment. I took the proposal to my business partner, Cassidy Fine and we created a proposal for the Open Society Foundation. We decided to co-direct the project and make it the first venture of our new company, Substance Films. We submitted the proposal in September 2008 and in November we were granted production funding of R 400 000 to complete a documentary entitled “Dying to Stop”. So began our journey.

Meeting Felinda

Yvette Lambrecht

Work on the documentary started in January 2009. I visited various treatment experts and started to gather information and opinions about addiction and get a feel for what was available in the public sector in terms of drug addiction in-patient treatment, especially in the Western Cape.

I visited the Cape Town Drug Counseling Centre in Observatory. This centre has been in operation for many years and is well-known for having set many poor addicts on a road to receovery. They run an out-patient programme and invite self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous to give presentations and participate in this programme. We were hoping to find one of their patients who could participate in our documentary as our lead character. The CTDCC explained to me how it would be breaking the ethics of confidentiality that surround treatment at the centre to volunteer one of their clients for the documentary. At this point we realised that the only way we were going to meet our character was through personal contacts and not through “professional” interactions. All counsellors, doctors, social workers and psychologists are bound by confidentiality, so they can not offer their patients or clients to participate in the documentary.

We put the word out through various social networks that we were looking for an addict whose story we could tell and at one point we even considered putting an ad in the newspaper! We had a few leads and a couple of opportunities, but nothing that lead to any concrete participation in the film. In about February, we employed an exciting, young researcher, Amy Daneel. She began in-depth research on all of the various treatment methods for addiction and also on the public sector options for getting clean. She also continued the search for a lead character for the film. One day a fellow TV researcher, Nicky Munro came to the Substance Films office to drop off a DVD of an HIV documentary that I had done an interview for in 2008. She got chatting to Amy about what Substance was busy working on and during the course of the conversation, revealed that she had a friend who was an alcoholic and struggling to access help for her addiction. Amy sent us an excited email about our “big break” and we set up a meeting to hear Felinda’s story.

Finding the Resources

Cassidy Fine and Yvette Lambrecht

Contrary to what we initially expected, it was easier to find funding that it has been trying to find a broadcaster and various distribution outlets. The success of Dying to Stop goes well beyond merely its production,; it’s success lies in how many people will get to watch it and how they will use the information and learn from Felinda’s story. Below, we at Substance Films (SF) have outlined our endeavours to find broadcasters and additional forms of funding and support. We are passionate and committed to engage viewers and promote change and understanding of addiction and its treatment. From the responses we have received, it has been clear to us that the message in Dying to Stop is considered valuable, but we have not met with success in securing a broadcaster.


SF submitted a solicited proposal for production finance and broadcast to the SABC in September 2008 in response to an open call for 48 minute once-off documentaries by the SABC. The documentary was submitted under the name of “Willing to Stop” . This submission was refused by the SABC in January 2009. After discussions with the SABC, the project was re-submitted as an unsolicited proposal to the SABC under the title “Dying to Stop” and included our securing of production finance from the OSF-SA. This submission was made in February 2009 and included our existing research on characters for the documentary. To date, SF has received an acknowledgement of receipt of this proposal by the Commissioning Editor at the SABC, but no further response on the proposal.

In October 2009, SF re-approached the SABC through the Content Enterprise: Business Development department. We were informed that the documentary could very likely be screened on SABC 1 or 2, but that SF would have to pay for airtime per minute to be broadcast. They indicated they could offer us a reduced airtime rate due to the nature of the documentary. Obviously this is not a solution. As the public broadcaster, the SABC has a mandate to broadcast content that is important to the nation.


An unsolicited proposal was submitted to ETV in February 2009. This proposal was unsolicited, which denotes that it did not respond to a specific “Request for Proposals” issued by the broadcaster. The proposal applied for co-production finance for the completion of the project from ETV as well as a broadcast opportunity on the local, free to air channel. Although the proposal was submitted in February 2009 and has been acknowledged as received, ETV has been slow in replying to this proposal with either a positive or negative response. SF has approached Pearl Rahube, the contact person for commissioning enquiries at ETV, but have been unable to solicit any official response from her.

A licensing deal is when the broadcaster purchases a complete “product” and pays a once-off fee for the rights to the first broadcast of that programme. The finance provided by the broadcaster for such a deal is considerably less than that of co-production funding, however, this might be a last resort situation for SF in relation to the broadcast of “Dying to Stop” on the ETV channel.


SF submitted a proposal to Cape Town Community Television on 24 February 2009. This new channel is very supportive of the project and willing to broadcast, however they require production companies to pay the channel for broadcast as they are still in a development phase and have limited funding. In communications they have asked for 5% of the production budget to secure broadcast for the documentary on their channel. This community television channel as well as Soweto TV and Bay TV, the other two existing channels are strong secondary broadcast platforms, SF feels that it would not be a sufficient stand-alone platform for the documentary’s message. We are continuing communication with CTV and remain in a strong relationship in order to keep this option for broadcast open.

National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF)

SF submitted a proposal for production funding to the NFVF on 5 March 2009. We received a response from this proposal on 2 April 2009. Although the NFVF refused our application for funding in its existing format, the feedback we received from the body was extremely supportive and cooperative. They strongly suggested that we further develop the documentary project and re-apply.

The proposal submission was praised for its structure and analysis of the situation as well as for the diverse team that had been put together to produce the project. The NFVF will be approached for funding for the second series in the documentary

Sundance Documentary Fund

SF submitted an application to the Sundance Documentary Fund in early February 2009 in response to the call for proposals from the Fund. This fund has been a launching pad for many successful local and international documentaries and the weight of funding from the Sundance Fund is heavy in the industry. We received acknowledgement of receipt of our proposal on the 5 April 2009 and were informed that a further response was to be expected within two to eight months. Unfortunately, again we received a negative response and our application was unsuccessful.

Montrose Foundation

The Montrose Foundation is a small, recently established foundation based in Cape Town and linked to the Montrose Place Addiction Treatment Centre. The Montrose Place Addiction Treatment Centre caters almost exclusively for luxury, international addictions treatment. The Foundation director is Johnny Graaff. Substance Films contacted the Foundation with regards to funding for “Dying to Stop” in January 2009. The Foundation seeks to remedy the stigma around addiction and publicise the disease concept of addiction. More information about the foundation can be found at

While we have not obtained funding, we have been strongly supported by Johnny Graaff who agreed to be interviewed for the documentary. Substance Films continues our relationship with the Find Help. Find Hope. Foundation.

Ford Foundation

On 11 May 2009, Substance Films submitted a concept note to the Ford Foundation for funding for the project. We received a swift response from the Alice Brown indicating that the Foundation was not a likely source of funding for this project.

Off the Fence

Off the Fence is an international production and distribution company, which has a field office in Cape Town, South Africa. We approached the local office and were referred to Manuel Tillmann in the international distribution department. Our proposal was considered by this department and we received the feedback that it did not contain enough international content for international distribution.

Discovery Channel

Substance Films approached Marian Williams at Discovery Channel’s EMEA office in London, with regard to possible co-production and distribution through Discovery. We approached Marian in January 2009 and she indicated that the documentary was not suitable for distribution on Discovery.

Other Distribution Channels

With regard to distribution, we have established contact with the University of Cape Town library and Clarke’s Books – who sell content to university libraries in South Africa and internationally. Both of these distribution contacts have indicated their expressions of interest for distribution once the documentary is completed and packaged as a final production.

Substance Films will enter the documentary into various local and International Film Festivals, particularly those that are competitive – our aim is achieve exposure through screening and through awards.

International festivals are vast, but Substance Films will focus on those festivals that maintain industry credibility and critical acclaim. Substance Films is entirely owned and managed by women and the key creatives in this documentary are women which opens up further avenues for film festivals and competitions.

Doing the Research

Cassidy Fine and Yvette Lambrecht

We knew the research of such a topic would have to go in depth in order to assess the content and develop our opinions based on fact and objectivity. We realised through the research process, and even the production and post-production processes that 52 minutes was nowhere near enough to tackle all the concepts and many challenges that surround the issue of addiction and its treatment.

Substance Films employed researcher Amy Daneel to conduct research on the documentary since the end of February 2009. She has created a research document that provides a snap-shot of the situation in relation to substance abuse and state-funded rehabilitation facilities in South Africa. This research document marks the culmination of the research phase of the project and will provide a springboard for the inclusion of issues in the completed programme.

Research has included investigating statistics and figures around substance abuse in South African and internationally. This was conducted as internet research, primarily through the United Nations World Drug Report, issued in 2008. Statistics on South Africa were obtained from the SA Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use and these statistics were issued in June 2008.

On a policy level, she has read and summarised the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependency Amendment Act of 1992, the South African Drug Master Plan or 2006 – 2011. This research provides an overview of current trends in policy and legislature with regard to SUDs. This research provides more of a background to the state of government intervention policy in substance abuse and probably will inform our questions to the Department of Social Development, within the documentary rather than be included in the documentary as issues.

Access to Government departments for comments and input has been a challenge. Representatives are difficult to get hold of, and are not forthcoming with information. We have approached representatives of the Western Cape provincial Department of Social Development as well as national representatives of the department. We would have liked to conduct on-camera interviews with the representatives most appropriate for the documentary and we have also approached the Premier of the Western Cape to explore her policy on substance abuse. After lengthy conversations and trying to get appointments in their busy schedules, we have not been successful in getting these interviews.

Various articles in the International Journal of Social Welfare (2008), by Bronwyn Myers of the Medical Research Council have provided further perspective on the issues around substance abuse in South Africa, especially in relation to accessing treatment for historically disadvantaged communities..

SF also approached treatment and prevention professionals in the field of Substance Abuse in South Africa, these include Sara Fisher from Substance Misuse: Advocacy, Research and Training (SMART) who provided valuable insight into leveraging government policy on the prevention of substance abuse. We also interviewed Dr Rodger Meyer of Kenilworth Place, a respected treatment clinician and director of a successful Matrix-model substance abuse treatment facility. Rodger provided valuable insight into the Department of Social Development’s activities as well as the value of in-patient treatment for the treatment of substance abuse.

SF approached the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) in January 2009 to be involved in the project and to help us to source possible characters whose stories we could follow. CTDCC were constrained by ethical concerns with regard to assisting us with following patients, but are able to provide interviews with counsellors and their treatment director. Interestingly, the CTDCC refers very needy patients to sponsored beds in private facilities rather than to state treatment facilities, due to the nature of these facilities.

SF also interviewed various individuals in their personal capacities as recovering from substance dependency and counsellors. This provided valuable insight into the work being done at a community level and also the extent of the challenges in the poorer communities such as Soweto, the Cape Flats and Khayelitsha. Ibrahim Yusuf, recovering from substance dependency and a member of a 12-step fellowship, has opened various treatment facilities around Africa. He operates presently from within the Boys Town facility in Ottery in the Western Cape. This treatment model is strongly based on 12 step beliefs. SF completed a preliminary interview with Yusuf at the Boys Town facility on 15 May 2009. SF also went with Yusuf to interview Pastor Alfonso Schilder (from the Hope Again Recovery Home, a Christian-based treatment facility in Mitchells Plain, Western Cape).

An important part of the research process has been finding the potential characters for the story. These individuals need to best represent the cross-section of people and the type of drugs of choice in South Africa and this search has proven extremely challenging.

In Gauteng, we continue to research a character, 43 year old, Terry, who is addicted to cocaine and crack cocaine. Terry lived in the poverty-stricken suburb of Troyeville but has recently been rendered homeless. He lives alone, isolated by his addiction, and his son and daughter visit him occasionally.

In the Western Cape, we have found a 27 years old woman, called Felinda, who is in active alcoholism, living in Bridge Town, Athlone. Felinda has been seeking help for her alcoholism for a few weeks and her only daughter is currently living with a friend’s mother due to her inability to care for her. It turned out that we have successfully managed to follow Felinda on her journey and the documentary has focussed entirely on her search and its outcome.

We have followed various other leads on possible characters for the documentary and none of these yielded any positive results. An example of the challenges we have faced in securing characters is that one of the individuals has subsequently been incarcerated and is thus rendered unavailable. Other characters have been constrained from speaking to the team in terms of their personal circumstances: one of the possible characters is employed by the South African Police Services and is thus unable to tell his story on character, for fear of losing his livelihood.

Developing the Story and Creative Treatment

Cassidy Fine and Yvette Lambrecht

By this stage, we had just begun our relationship with Felinda and focussed on her story – that being alcohol addiction. What struck us most throughout the entire process of making this film has been the recurring themes of the mother-daughter relationship; and the importance of trusting, loving and open family relationships. It became apparent that the cycle of abandonment and lack of support had already begun with Felinda’s mother. We know that Felinda’s story is common in South Africa and this even more fuelled our passion to make a documentary from which people could find treatment and find hope.

The story and treatment is the key creative plan for the production of the documentary. It incorporates the likely development of the story and how it will play out on screen. It also describes the creative treatment of the visual and audio elements and how they contribute to the meaning and context of the story. The story and treatment of a documentary are instrumental in engaging the viewer and critical to the overall quality of the documentary.

Developing the treatment for the documentary has been challenging due to the changing nature of the characters in the documentary. We have only recently secured Felinda as our second central character. Up until early May 2009, we had only included narcotic drug addicts and so the creative treatment had been centred around these visual ideas. We are using Felinda’s story in the documentary as we believe that alcoholism is the same disease (according to the disease model of addiction) as drug addiction and also more pertinent to South Africa’s disadvantaged communities, especially in the Western Cape. This shift in definitions has caused us to expend our creative treatment for the documentary. This is an organic, working document and will continue to evolve along with the documentary project and will only be resolved once the final master is created.

© 2010 Substance Films
This project was supported by a grant from