Greg Kriek, a rising star and talented South African actor, is making waves in the film industry. He makes his debut in his first feature film playing the lead role in the movie, ‘Born to Win’, based on the true story of Leon Terblanche, a teacher at a school for the physically disabled.
We caught up with Greg to discuss this film by Christian director of Faith Like Potatoes, Frans Cronjé.
Q. Greg, what enticed you to play the role of Leon in Born To Win?
A. The amazing thing is that the role of Leon found me, and not the other way around. I was supposed to have a casual coffee with Frans Cronjé (Director) and Cobus van den Berg (Producer) the day I heard about the movie, but somehow that ‘coffee’ turned into an impromptu audition. Well, the rest is history! God had set up circumstances in such a way that I got the part.
Beyond that, there were many areas of Leon’s life that I relate to on a very personal level. I was excited that I would be able to turn hardships from my own life into something that had the potential to touch others.
Q. One of the scenes in the movie, where Leon is shouting out to God, looked very emotional. What was it like acting that scene?
A. I’ve never experienced anything on a movie set before like I did when we filmed that particular scene. Initially the script only had three lines. That particular morning, Frans came to me and said I mustn’t be bound by the lines, but do whatever feels right.
While the crew was setting up, Leon, Frans and I prayed about the importance of the scene and for God’s will to be done. I took some time reflecting on the ‘rock bottom’ moments I’ve had in my life, moments where my mask came off and I couldn’t help but honestly lash out at Him - a ‘wrestling with God’ moment where there was no sign of hope and Christ seemed distant.
As I walked onto set there was a peace that came over me and I just let it rip from the heart - raw, naked and uncensored. You could hear a pin drop, as everyone on set was shocked into silence. Once the scene had played out, most of the crew were in tears. It had struck a chord so deep, because so many people have been in that place! There is no doubt that that scene was inspired by God!
Q. What did you personally take away from this debut experience?
A. I came out of ‘Born to Win’ a different man than I what I was going into the film. Beyond the fact that this was my first feature film, playing the lead role, I underwent so much personal, emotional and spiritual growth that it will always be remembered as a turning point in my life.
The movie left me no choice but to reflect on my own life on a level that I’ve never delved into before. Up until that point, even though I knew God, I was still riddled with self-doubt and wrestled with a lot of unanswered questions.
It is safe to say that before we started filming, the words ‘Born to Win’ were merely words of a movie title to me, but in the end turned out becoming God’s message to me. I learnt that even I was ‘Born To Win’.
Q. Why should one watch the film?
A. This is not your typical film. There’s something tangibly real and honest which so many people have been waiting to experience on the big screen. No matter who you are, or where you are from, all of us have a real story to tell. Even when we try to run, ‘life happens’ to everyone.
Whether you know God or not, the hard knocks of life hit us all. The question is what do we do when we’ve done everything we can and it all bottoms out?
‘Born to Win’ is not a film that bashes one over the head, or tells one what to do, or where one falls short. Instead it tells it as it is and is entertainingly jam packed with a raw and unmasked look at real life. This is a true story not just of one man, but when you watch it, you realise it’s also your story. I have no doubt that every person will be affected deeply by this film and still enjoy many laughs. This movie needed to be made because we all need to be reminded that we weren’t born to lose. We were ‘Born To Win’.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring Christian actors?
A. First, look yourself in the mirror and truly answer why you want to be in the industry. Is it for the so-called ‘glitz and glamour’, or do you know that this is what you were born to do? Once you know that, you have a part to play in God’s Media Army. Look to Him first and foremost for guidance, instruction, creativity and favour. He will handpick your parts for you.
That being said, as much as Olympic athletes hone their craft every day, what excuses you? If you want to act, then act! Do it unto Him and work hard as a form of worship. Learn. Grow. Play. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. You control your attitude. Also, don’t be too proud to ask for advice and surround yourself with a network of industry professionals and friends that you can journey with.
Don’t be intimidated or jealous of others. The Lord has a unique journey for all of us. Don’t be a copy of someone else, just be the real you. Don’t settle for anything less than His best for you.
The real story of faith
Leon and Elmarie Terblanche, the real people of this story, currently reside in Sedgefield in the South Western Cape. They are in full-time ministry and pastor the Suid-Kaap Christen Familie Church. They have one daughter, Briggitte, who is married to Juan and two beautiful grandchildren.
This is what they had to say about ‘Born to Win’...
Q. What has it been like to see your life story being filmed and put on the big screen?
Leon: During the period 1996 to 2010, it was prophesied over me four times that I must write a book. God’s Spirit moved in me, and prompted me to start writing! This book was a preparation and conception ground for the ‘Born to Win’ movie. Whilst writing the book, God removed all callouses of poor self-image, rigidity and negative thoughts from my life. Once removed, He took the red cloth of Calvary and wiped my heart clean! I was then ready to see the book come to life on the big screen.
Each scene I observed on set was monumental. I had to repeatedly remind myself of the verse in the Bible, Ephesians 3:20: “God is able to do super abundantly far more and above all that we dare ask or think beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams.”
I have to be brutally honest and admit that during some days of filming, it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, shredded with blunt scissors, and then trampled upon. That’s how much it hurt! Some nights I cried myself to sleep, because here in front of my eyes, whilst cast and crew were busy with their day jobs, my life was being exposed. These were all emotions, as cast and crew alike were tremendous in their support.
During numerous discussions, Elmarie and I came to the realisation that this was no longer about us. This was now a tool God was using to give the world hope! During this time, God kept his promise of never leaving or failing those that love Him.
Elmarie: On numerous occasions I heard people say that in the face of danger, they see their life play off like a film in their mind. This was precisely how it felt going through the production process. We saw how our decisions caused the decline in our lives and relationships which put us on a path of self-destruction, all until we grabbed hold of God’s gift of mercy, extended to us all.
Q. What would you like people to take away from the film once they have seen it?
Leon: ‘Born to Win’ is about overcoming obstacles and not about defeat. It’s all about hope. ‘Born to Win’ reflects our Living God. The world is in desperate need of hope. “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.” Heb 6:18 (The Message).
Hope gives you stamina, endurance and makes you feel strong and healthy. You are charged with a new breath of life. Hope declares: “I am permeated and polished by His powerful anointing oil”. All of us, without exception, get hurt. We get beaten up in this life. This pain causes us to wrap ourselves in a kind of pain wrapping to protect ourselves from more hurt.
It is only when you truly surrender to God and allow Him to change you that the pain begins to drop off from you; it is then that we become the winners that we were born to be. I don’t ask God where He is anymore. I know that He is here. How can I not know it? God has made each one of us, even those with the worst physical disabilities, to be winners. We just need to discover what His purpose is for us and never let go of hope.
Elmarie: I would like people to watch this film and realise the fatherly love of our God and the importance of family values. Parents need to create a safe home and haven for their children whilst growing up. Children are a precious gift from God and He expects us to raise them in His love, protection and ways.
Q. What has changed the most since you have both let the Lord guide your lives?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come the old has gone, the new is here.” 2 Cor 5:17. Thus, we’re in agreement that we are indeed new creations. We have grown spiritually, reaching a place where we’re focussed on eternal value, and Jesus is our reason for existence.
More about the film...
‘Born to Win’ was produced by Cobus van den Berg, the producer of Klein Karoo, and directed by Frans Cronjé, who produced Faith Like Potatoes and Hansie.
This dynamic team managed to stretch the R4 million budget to look bigger than many R10 to R20 million productions. The quality of the cast is one of the strong points of the movie. Playing the lead role as Elmarie Terblanche alongside Greg is Leoné Pienaar, a talented actress who also acted in Baroudeur.
Other cast members include Nadia Beukes, Merlin Balie, Garth Collins and Cobus Venter, some of South Africa’s best loved actors, and they will certainly get you laughing. Award-winning actors and actresses, such as Sylvia Mdunyelwa-Kobus, Dorette Potgieter, Anrich Herbst, Tim Theron and Leandie du Randt are also among the main cast.
With the cinematography skills of Jorrie van der Walt, the film has a classic and solid look to it. Filmed along the stunning Garden Route, this proved the perfect location, as the movie covers three decades - the 1970s, 1980s and 2000s. The city council and mayor of George gave tremendous support to make the film possible.
Inspiring others with a message of hope and the Gospel
Frans and Cobus believe that the cast and crew have put together not only a work of art, but a ministry tool that represents a true story about real people that will inspire and change lives all over the world.
Don’t miss it!
‘Born to Win’ has been released in cinemas on the 15th of August throughout South
Africa. It will be released worldwide during the first quarter of 2015. We highly recommend that you take as many friends as possible to watch it in cinema.
Please pray for those who watch Born To Win - that God will open their hearts and they will listen to His voice, realising that they too were born to win! See www.borntowin.co.za and www.facebook.com/borntowinmovie for details.
—by Kirsten Percy