Letter From The Editor
Good day guild members, friends and fans,
It has been a challenging year with a whole new council as well as a new Executive Officer at the controls of the guild. “Iron forges iron”, they say, and a year on, we are a year older and a year wiser, as we look forward to an exciting 2018/2019!
In this edition the current council chairperson, Khobi Ledwaba, gives you a brief overview of the year. For an in-depth report from her, you can request the minutes of the AGM, that is taking place on the 28th of April, from our office later in May. Not as much fun as reading our newsletter, we know, but informative nonetheless.
REMEMBER THAT ONLINE VOTING IS CLOSING 9 AM ON SATURDAY.
The council candidates are listed in our Upcoming Events below , where you will also find details on how to vote. To put faces to the names scroll down to just before our Toolbox.
PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT FOR YOUR ORGANISATION!
In this edition we also share a fabulous interview we conducted with the Vice-Chair of the Independent Producer’s Organisation (IPO) with great insights about the bigger picture (pun unintended). Make sure to read it.
And for everyone who has asked the question: “what do we get from going to overseas film markets, festivals and expos?” we have two articles that will give you more insight into what goes into attending those events; as well as what kind of outcomes to expect. One is by council member Lukhanyo (appointed in the Professional Development Portfolio) who attended recent New York City Story Expo.
We also have some really inspirational stories from members regarding their successes. From interviews with novice writers like 17-year old Promise Ndlovu to seasoned professionals like Harriet Meier who has been in the industry so long, we’re not allowed to say how many years it has been, and Matthew Kalil who just published a book on screenwriting.
This edition is truly jam-packed (and have you ever seen how packed a bottle of jam is?) and we hope you catch on to the excitement that lies in South Africa’s future, which is right at our fingertips… Literally for us writers of course.
Now, go and enjoy the jam!
- WGSA Chairperson’s Review Of 2017
- WGSA’s Stand On Inxeba (The Wound)
- WGSA Updated Membership Benefits And Fees Guide
- WGSA Market Readiness Workshop: Members’ Feedback
- WGSA Annual General Meeting
- WGSA Council Members Nominations
- Young Voices Of Excellence: Promise Ndlovu
- A Discussion With WGSA Member Marc Bloom About Runt
- WGSA Interviews IPO Vice Chair, Dr Lwazi Manzi
- WGSA Member’s Animation Project A DLA Finalist
- WGSA Member’s Dahomey Warriors
- WGSA Member’s Screenwriting Book A Hit
- WGSA Council Member’s Experience At The NY Story Expo
INDUSTRY NEWS AND TIPS
- Using Film Festivals To Sell Your Script
TOOLBOX: USEFUL RESOURCES
- Guild Members Discount On Final Draft
- Guild Members Special On The Black List
- Moviebytes: Comprehensive List Of Screenwriting Competitions
WGSA CHAIRPERSON’S REVIEW OF 2017
2017 Was a remarkable year for the Writers Guild of South Africa in more ways than can be imagined. We started as a council of seven and we are now down to five. We also had an all new Executive Officer, Dr. Nonkosi Slatsha. This of course, has made us endure many challenges of varying degrees: from orientating ourselves with the organization and its mandate, to closing our office and moving into a virtual space.
However, we also have some highlights, such as our proud incorporation into the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG
) at last year’s conference with the signing of the MoU in Los Angeles. Such an esteemed alliance brings with it benefits for our members and this should be celebrated.
We’re also proud of our presence at last year’s inaugural Cape Town International Film Festival
which we aim to develop further this year. We had the privilege of sending 15 delegates to the London Screenwriting Festival in September of last year, and 20 to the New York City Story Expo
, only recently returned, where writers and writer-producers explored opportunities to expand beyond our shores.
On behalf of the 2017 Council, we look forward to engaging with you at the up-coming AGM as we look towards a new and even better year ahead.
[Editor’s note: A full chairperson’s report will be presented at the AGM to be held on 28 April 2018.]
|Briefly About The IAWG:
The International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) was established in 1986 to address the globalization of the entertainment industry and improve the working conditions of professional film and television writers worldwide through collective action, mutual support and common representation internationally. Its member guilds work on behalf of 50,000 writers in the areas of collective bargaining, standard contracts, credit disputes, government lobbying, and the promotion of the essential role of the writer as first creator in the filmmaking process.
WGSA’S STAND ON INXEBA (THE WOUND)
On release of Inxeba to both local and national audiences, the film has garnered huge success, including making the Oscar short list for Best Foreign Feature film, whilst winning a handful of awards at the SAFTA’s, including best screenwriter(s) for Malusi Bengu, Thando Mgqolozana and John Trengove.
However the subject matter has sparked debate
and reaction since its release in South Africa. At the centre of this argument is the notion of freedom of expression versus cultural appropriation or the perceived insensitivities expressed by the filmmakers in making this film. The, anger, threats and intimidation towards the filmmakers coupled with reclassification of Inxeba
to X18 (pornography) cannot be ignored. However the anger harboured by some of our communities have become polorised; some see this as a “smoke screen” to hide true homophobic sentiments that were believed to be behind the banning, whilst others perceive the film to be culturally insensitive around the Xhosa circumcision tradition (Ukwaluka).
WGSA has as its chief mandate a responsibility to protect its writers and to defend their constitutional right of freedom of expression. We believe that this freedom of expression should allow our writers/filmmakers to create any stories they wish so long as this is legal, and is centred on authenticity, sensitivity and cognisance that offence may be taken by traditional organisations in whose perspective differ from the artist/filmmaker.
Vigorous discussions have occurred with our partners at SASFED
led to the possibility of SASFED holding a debate entitled “are there any Sacred Cows” as a way to unpack this difficult but important topic.
If members have comment, please feel free to get in touch via social media
or email: email@example.com
WGSA UPDATED MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS AND FEES GUIDE
- Monthly training sessions in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban. In 2016 we took our workshops to Soweto.
- These sessions are either knowledge share sessions (3 to 4 hours) or a full day seminar with a professional performance writer.
- The sessions also offer a great platform for interaction with one’s peers.
- Annual master class with a professional performance writer / teacher from abroad. In May 2016, the WGSA hosted the Peter Russell workshop.
- The WGSA Annual Muse Awards:
- Honouring the South African performance writers – an award for writers by writers. This is also a huge opportunity to get your work read by industry professionals, local and international.
- In 2018, this will form part of the screenwriters’ conference the Guild will be hosting. Submissions for the Muse Awards will commence from October to end December, with the award ceremony in March 2018.
- Our Great Idea Competition will run simultaneously in 2018.
- Networking and marketing of your work: In 2015 the WGSA started to make use of the Department of Trade and Industry’s SSAS scheme, through which the WGSA can take 20 writers to 4 different international markets per year. This year, this has been reduced to one market per year. WGSA sent 15 writers to London in September 2017.
- Local networking and pitching sessions with local producers.
- The WGSA is a member of SASFED (the South Africa Screen Federation) and therefore has access to Government and is able to discuss issues around performance writers with these governing bodies
- As a member of the International Association of Writers Guilds, the WGSA has access to knowledge and shared experiences from guilds that are far more advanced than our own
- The WGSA has membership to the Blacklist, where WGSA members can upload their work free of charge
- Regular job alerts and calls for scripts and competitions
- Access to discounted prices on Final Draft
- Behind the scenes, the WGSA council and its executive officer are lobbying for the rights of performance writers:
- The copyright bill has now been revised and we are awaiting finalisation.
- Standard rates – beneficial to performance writers. We are in the process of collating rates from each broadcaster and we will post these on our website.
- Standard contracts – beneficial to performance writers. We are in negotiations with IPO.
- In 2018 the WGSA will register a collecting society in collaboration with SASFED, that will collect residuals and royalties on behalf of the film industry
- The WGSA offers an inexpensive script registry to protect your work and proof ownership. [See below]
- Advice on contractual and industry related issues. However, since the WGSA does not have lawyers, we do not provide legal advice or legal representation.
Membership and Script Registration Process
Member Registration Process
- Request an application form from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Members who are renewing their membership need to update their contact details.
- Submit completed application form, copy of ID and proof of payment.
- You registration number will be emailed to you.
- The turn-around time for membership registration is 48 hours to 7 days.
- The turn-around time for emergency membership registration is 1 to 24 hours and there is an extra charge for this service as follows:
- Emergency membership renewal for existing members is R 900 for full members and R700 candidate members.
- Emergency membership registration for new members is R 1000 for full members and R800 candidate members.
Regular Membership Fees 2017 to 2018
|Type of Membership
||Once Off Payment
|A Full member: a performance writer who has had work produced in any of the scope disciplines. A Full member shall have a vote in a General Meeting, will be eligible for a council seat and will share in all benefits. A Full Member may use his/her status as a WGSA Member in his/her credits.
||R200 deposit (payable upon joining)
New members can choose to pay the balance over 3 months.
Please note: You will receive provisional membership and you will not be able to register a script until full payment has been received.
|A Candidate member: an aspirant performance writer who has not yet had work produced. Once a script has been accepted for production, an affiliate member must apply for change of membership. A Candidate member shall have a vote in a General Meeting, will be eligible for a council seat, but may not chair the council, and will share in all benefits. A Candidate member may not use the WGSA membership status as credit.
||R200 deposit (payable upon joining)
New members can choose to pay the balance over 3 months.
Please note: You will receive provisional membership and you will not be able to register a script until full payment has been received.
|A Student member: an aspirant performance writer enrolled with a learning institution. Applications must be accompanied by Proof of Enrolment. Once a member’s status changes, application for changed membership must be submitted. A Student member shall not have a vote in a General Meeting. Such a member will not share benefits, but will receive the benefit of professional development from the Guild.
||No payment plan available
|Friends of the WGSA: Interested persons may make a donation to WGSA. Such a person will not have any voting powers, will not be eligible for a council seat, but may attend workshops at membership cover charge. Writers from other genres will fall into this category. Please note that this category is NOT for performance writers
||Donation of not less than R300.00
||No payment plan available
|Corporate Membership: Companies and Production houses may apply for this type of membership, which gives them access to WGSA members, posting of free advertisements to our membership and having their logo displayed in our newsletter. Such members will not have any voting powers or be allowed to attend the General Meeting and will not be eligible for a council seat.
||No payment plan available
|Pensioners: LESS 40%
||Full membership – R400, Candidate membership – R280
||No payment plan available
||Optional to all member categories
||Fees available on the UASA website
Emergency Membership Registration Fees
Note: Keep an eye on our website. Changes might be made from time-to-time without prior notication.
|Type of Membership
||Once Off Payment
|Emergency Membership Renewal
||1 to 24 hours
|Emergency Membership Registration
||1 to 24 hours
Script Registry Process
- All people [members and non-members] who want to register a script must provide an affidavit that is not older than three months stating their ownership of the script.
- All scripts must be submitted in pdf format.
- Writers can submit up to three drafts of a particular script at no additional cost. From the 4th draft additional charges will be incurred @R100 per revision.
- Writers will bed charged separately for the different products.
- For a script to be registered each writer must submit the script in pdf, a copy of ID and an affidavit that is not older than three months.
- Turn-around time for script registry is 48 hours to 7 days.
- Emergency script registry is available at additional cost. See the table below for the specific amounts.
Regular Script Registry Fees
|Type of Membership
||Once Off Payment
||48 hours to 7 days
Emergency Script Registry Fees
|Type of Membership
||Once Off Payment
|Emergency Membership Renewal
||1 hour to 24 hours
|Emergency Membership Registration
||1 hour to 24 hours
PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Renewal refers to existing members and registration refers to new members
- Should your status change during the year, you need to apply for upgrading
- WGSA Membership is valid for 1 year
- Please ensure that you submit an application form to email@example.com
WGSA MARKET READINESS WORKSHOP: MEMBERS’ FEEDBACK
WGSA Market Readiness Workshop: Members’ Feedback
In the month of March the WGSA hosted workshops to prepare the successful applicants for the New York City Story Expo. What is a market readiness workshop you might ask, and what would a member benefit from it?
After the workshops we took the liberty of asking attendees to send us feedback and a little background about themselves.
Here is what we asked:
- Experience as writer in brief
- What are you hoping to sell in NY? (ie. film, drama, comedy, animation etc)
- What expectations do you have about going to NY?
- What do you think Africa and African stories bring to the American movie context?
And here is the feedback we received:
From Lize Jacobs
- I published my first novel, “Lost in Chance”, in 2015 and have sold a script to KykNet’s “Ons Stories“. I’ve completed NaNoWriMo in 2013 and 2016. I mostly love to write in the RomCom genre but am fascinated by the surreal as well. My strength and passion lies with dialogue.
- I’m hoping to sell a Historical Period Drama Feature Film Spec Script.
- I hope to wholeheartedly experience the craziness of the pitching process, network and form relationships. But mostly I expect to make a sale.
- My project is not an African or South African story. I do however believe that if we can globalize our unique stories and make them more commercially acceptable America will sit up and take notice of our diverse and distinct perspectives.
From Karen Jeynes
- I have been writing for 18 years, in theatre, film and television, as well as novels for young adults. I am currently the head writer and producer in charge of development for Both Worlds Productions, where I oversee Puppet Nation, Point of Order, and numerous shows in development – to date these have won 22 SAFTAs, 2 International Emmy nominations, and 2 WGSA Muse awards.
- We have a number of TV series’ that we are looking to either sell or find co-producers for, drama and comedy.
- It’ll be a great opportunity to network, there’s always a benefit in meeting face to face, and being able to gauge quickly if you’ve got the right thing for the right person, or if you’re wasting people’s time. It’s hard to be more precise than that until we’ve logged into the event itself and been able to sign up for sessions and pitching.
- I think the time is ripe for more African stories, and more international co-productions of stories – there are stories which are very local, but have a global resonance, and then there are stories which live in breathe across countries and in numerous worlds. I believe it’s imperative that we jump onto a feeling which is growing, that our stories need to be more diverse, more varied, and told by a more diverse range of people. This weekend the first ever black screenwriter won the award for best original screenplay, and while I’m not black, I believe that our delegation, representing South Africa, could not come at a better time.
From Savyra Meyer-Lippold
- I come from a background of mainly illustration, photography and some animation. Was fortunate to benefit from the MAPP-SETA 2D Animation course via Varsity College taught by Archie Birch in late 2006-early 2007, which gave rise to my feature film, A Tail at The Mall. After it lay dormant for almost ten years, I resurrected the concept and submitted that and a TV script for kids age 4-6 called Shooz to the StoryLab initiative by Triggerfish late 2015. Subsequently I’ve come up with another TV series, Little Wingsters which I got to pitch-bible stage plus the pilot and a random sample episode via Natasje van Niekerk’s Storyteller Pod course, From Pitch to Script 101-103, last year. During that time I also participated in her course called ‘Polish’ to create a short film (currently under consideration at the NFVF for funding) called When the Glove Dies. This is a 7min allegorical story about the death of ‘Allegra’ and what she learns about herself and her loved ones, all played by hands in (and out of) gloves. With the help of the dti, I’ve managed to be chosen to accompany the AnimationSA group to Miami in 2016 and Ottawa in 2017, where I learned a lot and pitched to many producers especially in Ottawa. I am now in the wonderful position of having had three Canadian producers respond positively and in one case (Guru) even giving me notes on the pilot episode of Shooz, which I have now re-worked and will send to them when I’ve uploaded the music to the songs I composed for this show. The other two passed, for reasons involving work already in their studio or perceived similarity to an existing show, but both are open to seeing new work as it is produced. Currently working on two such new concepts:
- An 11 min animation for ages 4-8, called Heaven’s Dust, (original story by Lisa Suhay), about the relationship of a leaf with the wind that finally carries it away
- You Have Visitors A 25min live-action and CGI film for adults about a young doctor returning to a Cape Town hospital from his family in Benin, unaware of two invisible companions who decide to end the misery of two unhappy patients with a permanent body-swop. It ends well, eventually.
2. I’m hoping to sell the following:
- A Tail At The Mall: 110 min 3D animated adventure comedy, ages 8-11
- Shooz: 26 x 7-min TV series – 3D animated fun, songs and games, ages 0-3
- Little Wingsters: 26 x 7-min TV series, 3D animated rescue adventures
- When The Glove Dies: 7 min short, multimedia animation for adults
- Heaven’s Dust: 11min animated short, ages 4-8
- You Have Visitors: 25 min supernatural drama for adults, combining live action with CGI.
- I would greatly prefer to link up with potential producers and collaborators in NY rather than LA. Of course I’m not in a position to choose, and anyone who throws money at one of my projects will be most welcome. But New York embodies so much I admire about the US, whereas the LA culture… not so much. I have met lovely people from LA, but New York is a place I have literally dreamed of going to and being in, all my life. First prize would be to score Laurie Anderson as the narrator for When the Glove Dies – she epitomises NY and its culture. I know this is unlikely to happen, but if you don’t ask… Mainly this visit is about establishing contacts, as I did in Ottawa and Miami during similar trips. If I can achieve something similar in NY and have more introductions, more producers who are willing to engage and build a relationship, give me notes, help me develop my concepts and most importantly be open to seeing more work in the future, then I will have succeeded. I do not expect to sell a show outright at this early stage; for me it’s about getting that second date. Because I’m an unknown in the wider scheme of things. I also hugely look forward to meeting and bonding with my fellow writers from SA. These are connections that I hope will last for years.
- Depth: I feel very sad that Inxeba was snubbed by the Oscar selection committee. [From the Editor: read about the guild’s response to the Inxeba debacle in our article “WGSA’s Stand On Inxeba”] I have missed the chance to see it for now, but plan to see Black Panther before we leave. As a fairly ‘African’ white person, I’ve learned much from sangomas and find the African tradition of venerating the ancestors very beautiful and rich. One of them was my teacher for as long as time and money allowed, to develop my abilities further and this part of African culture will always be part of me. There is a respect for the supernatural and a familiarity with another plane of being and I now feel very comfortable with it. It’s high time Africa rose to its rightful place in the world and commanded respect for its people and their values. This aspect of daily African life (broadly speaking) also plays a part in the last movie on my list –You Have Visitors, when two ‘protectors’ who are more gods than ancestors are sent back to South Africa with a newly graduated young doctor from Benin by the family shaman. But then they become bored, leading to some mischief and meddling… Still, this has to be done right. There is a minefield to navigate when one is referencing a culture that is not one’s own so there would need to be local collaboration and consultation too if this movie ever gets made. I do feel disappointed at the negative local reception of ‘Inxeba’. It is the dark side of the patriarchal, traditional outlook of ‘old Africa’. One can only hope that time will change this. In even more ancient times, shamans were often bisexual and honoured for it. This cruel persecution is perhaps due more to the influence of Christian missionaries, than actual African ‘traditional culture’. Originality: I hope to live up to the old saying ‘Always something new out of Africa’.
From Ree Treweek
- I am an animation director and my writing experience to date revolves around developing treatments and concepts for commercials and game trailers. Alongside this I have been developing a series of stories alongside Markus Wormstorm based upon a visual world that I have been developing the past 8 years. We have a number of short films concepts we are working on which are a prelude to a feature film concept based upon the same world. For more details about our work please view http://www.blackheartgang.com and http://www.tulipsandchimneys.tv
- To sell animation.
- I am looking for feedback on my stories and a new book we are planning to publish towards the end of this year. I also have various meetings set up with animation companies and agencies we hope to collaborate with.
- We have a large pool of untapped talent and a complex history and rich mythology to draw inspiration from.
From Roy Bannister
- Extensive experience as a journalist, publisher and photographer, but this is my first foray into screenwriting.
- I’m hoping to sell two scripts: A feel-good African drama about the Ugandan Space Program and a true-crime drama about South Africa’s most notorious crime, the Gert van Rooyen kidnappings.
- I’m excited to be given the opportunity to meet serious producers face-to-face and have a reasonable chance of actually getting funding to produce my films.
- Africa has a wealth of untold stories that break the clichéd African trope, and I think that being given the opportunity to tell these stories will enrich the American movie context and allow a greater discourse beyond the standard film fare most audiences are used to.
We thank these attendees for taking time out of their busy schedules as they prepared for the market to answer our questions.
We cannot wait to see the result of their sensational excursion! Watch this space, as they say. But as Julie Hall once said, “I think it’s also important to remember that going to markets is a long term strategy. Very few people actually get optioned or bought on a first meeting, so most people say you have to go to a few markets and make contacts which eventually pays off over time.”
And that is why the guild is committed to continue arranging for screenwriters to go to as many film markets as possible.
WGSA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
For any organisation to properly work, meetings are essential and the annual general meeting of the guild is no exception.
Quorum must be attained for it to be formalized and invitations to attend the meeting were sent out during March and April.
If you are a member and did not get an invitation, please send an email to our office.
This year the guild’s annual general meeting will take place on the 28th of April and here is what is on the agenda (apart from the usual reading of the opening and welcoming, previous minutes, attendance register, etc.):
- Portfolio Reports:
- WGSA Chairperson overall report
- Professional Development Programme
- Legal Services
- Admin and Mandagement
- New Business:
- Muse Awards and Conference
- IAWG Funding/Hosting IAWG in 2019
- WGSA office
- Election of new Council members
Additional agenda points will be discussed during the meeting as well.
The RSVP deadline for attendance of the meeting (which can be attended by members as well as non-members although non-members would not be able to vote) has now passed. If you cannot attend the meeting but would like to know the outcome, feel free to request the minutes of the meeting from our office at the end of May.
We shall be announcing the outcome of the meeting and the new board members in May.
WGSA COUNCIL MEMBERS NOMINATIONS
Have you ever wondered how the guild is run and what happens behind the scenes? Well, voting for the council members for the 2018/2019 cycle is now open so we thought giving you a bit of background information about the inner workings of the guild will help with your vote.
The WGSA Council consists of 7 to 8 council members who volunteer their time, energy and resources to be the warriors for South African writers. The guild is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, which relies on its membership and sourcing funding for events, to exist.
The portfolios of the council members are:
- Legal Services
- Professional Development and Membership
- Communication, Relations, Marketing and Branding
- Treasurer and Capacity Building
- International Relations
- Head of Transformation
Depending on the skill, strengths and visions of the council members, portfolios are sometimes shuffled for instance the Branding can be given to the Chairperson or Vice-Chairperson, or another one, and replaced by Membership.
We only have only one staff member, the Executive Officer (EO), who is appointed part-time and the only person earning a salary.
The EO uses those 20 hours to answer inquiries, reply on emails, do the logistics for the workshops and events that the council members set up, make travel arrangements for overseas guest lecturers in screenwriting masterclasses, register scripts, process membership applications, co-ordinate meetings, visit government departments like the dti to sort out funding requests, etc.
Freelance assistance is called in for social media, the newsletter and other sundry, but important, tasks.
And that’s it.
So you see just how important it is to have the best council possible to run this beast of a guild?
Voting for council members are done by members of the guild (all categories of members qualify) via an online voting system.
For the coming year, three of our current council members will remain in council, which is great for continuity’s sake.
The guild’s constitution regarding council states that “A term on Council is a period of two years. Members may not retain a position on Council for more than two consecutive terms. To ensure continuity on the Council, four council members will be elected at AGM’s held in a calendar year ending with an even number, and three council members will be elected at AGM’s held in calendar years ending with an odd number.”
The council members, who are remaining for the next term (if seconded at the AGM), are: Khobi Ledwaba
Khobi has a BA in Languages and Literature specializing in Creative Writing with Unisa, as well as a diploma on Brand Communication with Vega, the Brand Institute.
Her career in the creative industry spans over 15 years, ranging from artist management, festival productions, public relations, events management, to television and film production. She has been working in the tv/film industry as a writer and producer for a myriad of shows ranging from mockumentary, comedy, drama to reality in various capacities.
Her first screenplay, Between Friends
made her the first black female writer to have a nationwide commercial release. Prior to that she started writing for a digital series Couches
and as a script editor for Font
, an SABC sitcom.
She would later become a head-writer for the multiple award-winning 26-part rural drama series Matatiele
, as well as the 26-part action drama, Heist
She is currently penning her next feature film due for release in 2019. Some of her work as a producer include Taryn & Sharon
, Last Born does the Loeries
, Single Guys II
(The Wedding), Top Shayela
I&II and is currently producing a feature film entitled Polygamist
for her company Branded Soul Productions.
Her passion for the industry sees her partake in industry programmes and dialogue – she has been a coordinator at the Durban International Film Festival’s Script Station; a panellist at the Africa Television Market, as well as a facilitator at the Women in Film Festival held at the Constitution Hill.
Sechaba got his BSc. Degree in Statistics at the University of Manchester in 1984. He worked for four years as a Statistician in England and then at Eskom in South Africa before giving it all up to pursue a career in the film industry.
In 1999 he enrolled at the American Film Institute (AFI), in Los Angeles to do a MFA in film directing where his thesis film Ubuntu’s Wounds
won numerous awards including the prestigious Franklin J. Schaffner award for directing the best thesis film from his year, Best Short film at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and The Director’s Guild of America (DGA) Student Award for outstanding achievement in directing. The film also showed on HBO for two years.
He has worked extensively in the film industry mainly as a TV actor, writer director and producer. His acting credits include, the Original Green Man’s Flashing
, The Buddy Holly Show
, and Angels in America
(theatre); Going Up III & IV
, Yizo Yizo I
, Sinners and Settlers
, Cry me A Baby
, the Not quite Friday Night
series (as presenter), Dangerous Grounds
: Justice for All
, Zero Tolerance
, Hard Copy
, Rhythm City
, The Wild
, Table Manners
and the recently Bedford Wives
(TV and Film).
Provoke Entertainment, Sechaba’s production company produced the following TV drama series where he worked as the head writer, director and producer: Hola Mpinji
(2010), After 9
Season 1 (2007) and Season 2 (2013), Ihawu
And he is not done yet.
Lukhanyo has a Marketing and E Commerce Diploma through Damelin College. In 2009 he wrote and directed a feature film, titled uMalusi
, which was distributed nationwide (South Africa) by Sterkinekor and Numetro.
A few years later he was hired in the scripting department for Africa’s biggest soap opera, Generations
, (SABC1 channel).
From 2013 to 2015 Lukhanyo wrote a text-based series for MXIT, which had a following of 35 000 daily readers. Simultaneously, he wrote a web text-based series titled Chameleon
Lukhanyo has written a novel titled Maria’s Child
, which was converted into a radio play by SAFM.
In 2015 October, he served as a Producer and Project Manager for Tswelopele Productions, Channel SABC 3 – the Win a Home Show
The following year he became a Series Producer at Okuhle Media producing TV for the channel VIA on DSTV.
His written and photography work can be found at: www.lamlafilms.com And here are the new candidates who await your vote – vote for four (in no particular order):
Sean is the founding manager of the Cape Town chapter of the shnit Worldwide Short Film Festival, celebrating and awarding South African and international short films yearly, and he sits on the festival’s international executive committee, pushing artistic collaboration and exchange between filmmakers from all around the world. He has hosted panels on development, production, finance and distribution around South Africa and has served on the Writers’ Guild of South Africa’s executive council. His debut feature film Five Fingers for Marseilles premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, continuing to Fantastic Fest, BFI London Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival and beyond. His shorts Sweetheart
and Wide Open
and feature documentaries Lost Prophets
have screened extensively at festivals around the world.
Projects in development include period-set Miami fantasy The Blue Lady
, television drama series Acts of Man
and a high-octane feature adaptation of Charlie Human’s beautifully twisted novel Apocalypse Now
Sean has an Honours degree in screenwriting and documentary film. His experience in media and marketing set him on the path towards the film industry as a complex screenwriter, creative and conceptual producer and intuitive documentary director, through his own Be Phat Motel Film Company and within local and international markets.
Mark is a committed filmmaker, writer, director, and producer, who cut his teeth developing concept for music video productions of high profile artists, by translating their songs’ lyrics and emotions into narrative story and visual dramas.
His repertoire as a screenwriter include: Wasteland/ Masinga “The Calling”/After Midnight
and the TV series Kingdom Of Heaven
Mark started a company, Blast Films, an internationally recognised film production company facilitating advertising, music, television and feature film projects, and developing South African film and television script content for international distribution.
Godisamang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Motion Picture Medium in 2013. She worked as a freelancer in 2014, trainee producer on the feature film Tell Me Sweet Something
, a journalist for the e.tv
and a production manager for a short film funded by the NFVF titled Into the Ring
She was headhunted by Multichoice late 2014, and worked as a Quality Assurance Specialist. During that time her Experimental film Brief Encounters of A Sexual Kind
was screened at the Bojanala Film festival and was selected for Talents Durban as one of the forty new voices of African cinema.
She is still at Multichoice and have just recently changed to a Video On Demand Operations Specialist for Dstv Catch Up and Box Office.
“I feel I have come very far in the short space that I have been in the entertainment industry, which is something that new graduates and emerging filmmakers really struggle with. I would like to help when it comes to knowledge about the importance of being a part of the film community very early in their careers, networking and knowing where to go to find opportunities for emerging filmmakers. I want writers to see themselves as filmmakers as well, [and] be able to sell their product with confidence,” Says Godi.
Michael is a writer, producer, and educator. He is currently working on screenplays to three literary adaptations, which will total five film screenplays written on commission in the past two years.
Historically his focus was on factual programmes and documentaries, including the 4x SAFTA winning Jam Sandwich
He has served as the Treasurer of both the Documentary Filmmakers Association and SASFED
, and has been a member of the WGSA, SAGE
, and IPO. He founded the Academy of Television and Screen Arts, a division of Academy of Sound Engineering (ASE), and works there part-time as the Head of Storytelling and Head of Industry Relations. He is developing a screenwriting training connecting high school students to industry professionals as well as corporate creativity training.
Harriet is a writer, producer, editor and journalist and thus carries a lot of experience in the entertainment industry. She is one of the members who have supported the Guild from its inception.
Harriet was the Treasurer and Chairperson of the Guild from March 2011 to March 2015 and started the WGSA official bi-monthly e-magazine, which was distributed to the Guild and entertainment industry members, locally and internationally.
Harriet also started the famous WGSA Muse Awards that recognise and reward excellence in all fields of scriptwriting, which aspires to raise the standard of professional scriptwriting in South Africa.
In 2016, Harriet received the WGSA Special Service Award, an acknowledgement of her exceptional and selfless service to WGSA and Performance Writers in South Africa.
Tshego is a writer with many years of experience in the entertainment industry.
She has worked as a Commissioning Editor at the SABC’s Content Hub’s Drama, and at e.tv
’s Local Productions as Executive Producer.
Whilst working as Commissioning Editor, the programmes she managed won numerous technical and creative awards at the SAFTA’s.
Tshego has written three novels, two of which are romance novels. As an independent screenwriter, Tshego has written for sitcoms, Ga Re Dumele
, My Perfect Family
, Single Guyz
, Thuli noThulani
and Single Galz
, as well as Mzansi Magic’s daily drama, Isibaya
and SABC 3’s Isidingo
. Tshego was also Head Writer on Mopani
She has facilitated scriptwriting workshops, and evaluated proposals for the NFVF.
Tshego currently works as a Storyliner and Scriptwriter for new channel, Moja Love’s flagship telenovela, Hope
, and is a Storyliner and Scriptwriter on upcoming Mzansi Magic drama, AboMama boMthandazo
. Through her company, MonaLisa Productions, Tshego is developing a bevy of feature films, TV dramas and sitcoms. In 2018, Tshego will produce and direct The single diaries of a Jozi girl
, a web series which is an adaptation of her romance novels.
Richard H Nosworthy
Richard is a writer, producer and director. Richard has written, shot, directed and produced more than 2,000 hours of programming for both South African and International broadcast television.
He has worked in Theatre, Television and Feature Films, and his expertise includes working with both live multi-camera coverage and single camera ENG productions. His more than 40 years of experience in the industry that spans genres that include music, soap, television drama, sitcom, theatre, feature films, consumer journalism, variety, sport, travel, children’s programs and magazine programming. His experience in genre is as wide and varied as the diverse styles used to capture the high quality images that typify his work. He has experience in many aspects of television, including script writing, directing, producing & working as a DoP (director of photography).
Programmes include; The Wild
, Jozi Streets
, Reg Park – The Legend
, Hlab U’khangele
, Making Cents with the Sitholes
and Number One
Among his many awards are the 2015 WGSA award for Stage Plays and the WGSA Service Award in 2014.
Joe Spirit is a published author, poet and a screenwriter who also produces his own films. He has won many awards as a novelist and runs his own fiction writing training programmes in his community.
He writes in both isiZulu and English and his passion lies in good story telling across all genres. His moto in life is. “If it is worth telling, then tell it”.
And there you have it. Now, go and vote! Voting is open until 9am on Saturday, the 28th of April.
Voting is done online via a link that is emailed to all members.
If you are not a guild member yet, you can still join and cast your vote until then too.
To find out about our different categories of membership and the fees, read our section in the newsletter, “WGSA Membership Benefits And Fees Guide” and email our office and we shall forward all the necessary documents to you.
The attendance of the AGM has been finalised so if you did not RSVP, you cannot attend the meeting, but you can still vote online until Saturday morning 9 am and you can request the minutes of the meeting later in May when the new council has settled in.
Don’t delay! Join the guild today!
YOUNG VOICES OF EXCELLENCE: PROMISE NDLOVU
A screenwriters’ agency that two WGSA members opened in 2017 has received over a hundred submissions since then. Close to 50% of the submissions were accepted for representation and of these only a few made their top ten list.
“Siege’s concept is original and definitely within the budget margins of South African producers. But it also has the added bonus of international appeal
and the agency is actively seeking co-producers from overseas to make it a reality,” says Yolanda, COO of Upon A Quest
Why are we bombarding you with all this information?
Because one scriptwriter in particular surprised the agents with his original concept. And it turns out he is a teenager!
So, we just had to probe the young man’s mind. And this is what Promise Ndlovu (who prefers going by the name Siege Proquee), from Roseacres near Johannesburg had to say.
Siege, how old were you when the agency accepted your television series proposal?
16 years old.
Which school do you attend and what grade are you in?
I’m a student at Falcon Private School in grade 12.
How long have you been interested in writing?
I’ve been interested in writing for the last 4 years, since I was about 12 years old.
How did you get started?
By reading screenplays by already established screenwriters and familiarized myself with the formatting before I attempted to write one myself. I also found some formatting e-books online that were really helpful.
What made you want to get into scriptwriting specifically?
During the June holidays in 2015, I completely fell in love with one-hour television drama like The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, Revenge and The Flash. They brought about a new way for me and my siblings to pass the time through binge-watching these brilliantly crafted stories, which really brought us closer together. I knew from that time that I wanted to do the same for other siblings out there. These shows inspired me to make the switch from short stories to film and television. I did not just find my way to scriptwriting, it was a bit of a process because I hadn’t found my footing yet and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to fit in. I have a cousin who’s also an aspiring film director who gave me some guidance and considering that I was already into writing, I read a few scripts and I fell in love with the art.
What convinced you to stick to your choice?
In the last 2 years, I can honestly admit that I was tempted to switch careers whenever scriptwriting became too hard or when I felt a bit discouraged. But I’d constantly remind myself why I started writing in the first place: to tell stories that haven’t been told and entertain people at the same time. And if that wasn’t enough to keep me writing, I knew I could lean on my family for support.
What prompted you to choose writing a TV series instead of a film?
This is because with television, I get more time (in terms of episode duration) to explore every angle of the story as well as tell the character’s entire backstoryin greater detail whereas in film, you are constrained to an average of about two hours, and depending on the film’s success, a possible sequel. I could never bring myself to fit all the details into 90 minutes.
Tell us about the challenges that you faced.
So far, the biggest challenge I’ve faced was the fear of failure. At my age, so many people have told me that it was an inevitable reality that I would not succeed as a scriptwriter. Sometimes it was my own anxieties and fears that got the best of me.
Another challenge I faced was getting the necessary equipment to write. I’ve been writing my screenplays on my android device (Samsung Galaxy Fame Lite) which has been a bit of a problem because it is not always able to install some of the software that could’ve made writing and formatting much easier.
I also struggled for years to find my specific genre in the industry. I’d constantly be trying new and different genres but none would really entice me or keep wanting to explore it further.
How did you conquer the challenges?
Well, I haven’t been able to conquer the fear of failure just yet. But I can say having a great support system has made it a whole lot easily to deal with. My parents, siblings and friends are to thank for that. When it comes to genre, I can honestly say I’ve found the perfect genre that really allows me to express my innermost darkest thoughts which compels me to really dig deep inside myself and I love it. It took a long time but in the end I found my way to Psychological Thriller as my main base of operations. And with the equipment, I knew before I started that it wasn’t going to be easy getting it. I just try my best to work with what I have until I can afford to get everything I need.
Tell us about the thoughts that went through your mind leading up to the day you decided to submit your series bible to the screenwriters’ agency?
I’d recently finished the first draft of the TV series I had been working on since July 2016. At the time I hadn’t quite decided to get representation yet, and this was because I didn’t believe in the concept I had come up with. My siblings were some of the first people to read the concept and they were fully behind the idea; and their approval was all I needed to take it further. So I started searching the Internet for literary agents in South Africa and I found it; “Upon A Quest.” At the time they were just a Facebook page, but the fact that it had been run by Yolanda and Lorato – two scriptwriters who had given me some of the most crucial and important tips during the time I was still developing the concept – gave me some much needed confidence in my project and I knew I could trust them to sell my series. In that moment, I decided to take a leap of faith and submitted the treatment along with the pilot episode script to them. I remember how scared I was to hit send and after I did, I remember thinking, “what on Earth did I just do?!”
How did you feel when you found out that they wanted to represent you?
In a phrase, I was ecstatic. For the weeks leading up to their response, I became overwhelmed by my fears, a lot more than usual, because this was the first time industry professionals were going to read my work. I hit quite the dead end in my writing and I just couldn’t bring myself to start another story. But the moment I got the email saying they had decided to represent me, all the fears and doubts were washed away. It was the way they believed in and spoke about my concept that gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with my project.
What tips do you have for other youths who want to be a screenwriter?
- Don’t ever let your age dictate you or discourage you from pursuing a career in scriptwriting.
- I can’t guarantee that your journey to success will be easy, but it’s a good idea to surround yourselves with people that believe in you.
- You are going to be faced with situations where you feel overwhelmed and you want to quit, but remember that you are the only one standing in your way. As long as you continue to believe in yourself, you can conquer any doubts.
- Find what inspires you.
- The world is yours. Don’t rush to place yourself in one genre – let your mind explore different themes and elements until you find a perfect fit.
- Be patient with yourself; hurry up and wait.
- Most importantly, keep writing.
From your point of view, what are your concerns regarding SA’s film and TV industry?
- The current television industry has been stuck telling the same stories on repeat for the last couple of years. Our current leading television shows are lacking in unique storylines – they all just basically follow what the next person is doing.
- We’ve been too scared to explore different genres other than action, romance and comedy. There are more than just two genres out there just waiting to be explored.
- A large part of our diverse traditions and beliefs have been left unexplored. Our main focus has been on telling the audience stories that we believe are suitable and forget that we must also consider their thoughts and opinion on what they want to see.
What are your dreams and aspirations for your future as well as the SA TV and film industry’s future?
My personal aspirations are to open my own production company within the next 5-10 years, to launch an international television network and corresponding streaming service and to build the biggest film studio in Africa. Apirations for SA TV and Film industry are to expand on genres and themes, to showcase our diverse cultures and heritage on both big screen and small screen and become a top contender in film and television.
What do you plan on doing when you finish school?
I plan to get a formal education in film and television production and continue my work in the film and television. It’s my one and only passion and I want to spend the rest of my life pursuing it.
What made you decide on this idea for your series and how did you come up with the characters?
The idea for my TV series came about during a time when I was trying to write a S.A based story – since I’d previously been writing American and European-oriented stories. It was meant to target the then recent Xenophobic attacks that had been imposed on the foreigners in South Africa.
As a huge fan of American television, I also wanted to integrate a few international elements to make the series more relatable to people outside of South Africa. I originally had a different concept in mind that I developed for about 7 months, which later developed into this concept after I swapped around some characters and plotlines, and thus Ayanna was born; an elegant blend of psychological thriller, crime, science fiction and action. With the characters I didn’t have to think about them much. They basically created themselves and all I had to do was write them down. Some of the characters in the series however were inspired by and based on the people I’ve met in my life – more specifically my friends and family.
Any last thoughts for our readers?
In the last couple of years, writing has really become a big part of who I am. My screenplays have helped me get through some of the toughest moments in my life and I’m eternally grateful to have been granted this wonderful gift at such a young age. Words can not express how thrilling, fast-paced, emotionally and physically demanding this journey has been so far, but every last moment will be worth it in the end. To all those who can relate, your pen is your greatest weapon. Tell your stories to the world.
By the time of going to press Siege had received the incredible news that his show has been optioned by Coal Stove Pictures who has now also proposed it to M-Net. We truly look forward to seeing this young screenwriter’s future unfold!
About the show:
Genre: Crime Drama/ Psychological/ Paranormal/ Action/ Spy
Mila, a.k.a. Ayanna, a retired criminal who used to be a high-profile heist expert that assisted the government in bringing and end to large scale attacks on foreigners in South Africa, dubbed in the media “The Witch-Trial Massacre” is now a university lecturer and widowed single mother. But when a new faction referred to as “Project Genocide” threatens the country’s stability, Mila is coerced by the government to assist them once more. With a son to protect from her past affiliations and a disturbing secret about her mental health her worst fears quickly come true and she must fight not only for her country but also her son and her sanity.
A DISCUSSION WITH WGSA MEMBER MARC BLOOM ABOUT RUNT
The guild loves receiving good news from our members. Not too long ago we were informed by WGSA member Marc Bloom, of some of his really good news and decided to share it.
Marc’s script was recently selected for the BloodList
. This is a list of the best dark genre material in the Hollywood system, which has been running now for nearly 10 years, and is well known and prestigious. Marc’s script Runt
, was selected as part of the Fresh Blood selects
component which allows writers ‘outside’ the system to enter and participate. He made the top 10. He is currently in discussions with producers in L.A (Los Angeles) about optioning and developing the material with them,” Marc wrote us.
We just had to sit down with Marc and find out more about the man the behind Runt
. When did you start writing scripts?
I started writing scripts about twelve years ago. What made you choose writing scripts out of all the different kinds of writing out there?
I originally wanted to be a journalist, and I l always loved movies since I was a kid. I was watching IT
and the Nightmare on Elm Street
movies when I was seven years old, as well as all the old westerns with my dad. You could say I was pretty much obsessed with movies, and would spend every spare hour I had cruising the isles of video stores (RIP). Only when I was in high school did I realize, “Oh wait a second, someone actually wrote these movies”, and from that moment I knew what I wanted to be. I could combine my love of writing with my obsession for movies! It was a perfect match. How did you come up with the idea for this script?
I’ve always been a fan of contained movies with a singular tension, and that rely on big emotions to propel the story forwards. Movies like Cujo
, and to a certain extent Buried
and The Grey
, are character driven but take place in a very specific moment in time, and have always excited me. Runt
was born out of this love. My desire to combine a big emotional trajectory with a contained location. Besides, what could be more sympathetic than an injured wolf pup? My intention was to really make the audience empathise with the protagonist’s dilemma. How long did it take you to write the script for Runt?
From conception to completion, including rewrites, the final script took me about four months. [To read the script, click here
.] What have you learned along the way?
Each script presents its own unique set of challenges, the ability to tackle these issues and learn from them is the key to making one a better writer. I embrace each project, and am fully aware that when I finally come out the other side, I’ll be a better writer for it. In scope Runt
is a small movie and is set predominately inside a cabin with one character and a wolf pup, but relies on big themes, primarily being motherhood. The main challenge was keeping the stakes as high as possible, while escalating tension at every available opportunity, at the same time always remaining true to my character’s motivation. Making sure she’s driving the plot and not vice versa. Which are your favourite genres and do you write according to your likes or do you have other criteria you write for?
Like I said, I absolutely love horror movies. They were my first love. The ability to illicit fear, such a strong emotional reaction, has fascinated me since I was a child. Watching IT
and seeing Pennywise rise out of the sewers and bite off Georgie’s arm was the first image of horror that really stuck with me. I’m also a massive fan of thrillers and action movies. Fast moving action movies like Apocolypto
and I Number Number
really fall into my wheelhouse. My rule is I only write movies that I would pay money to watch. When I was younger and greener I used to try chase the market, but that is a slippery slope, because inevitably you’ll always find yourself one step behind. Be your own benchmark, and love what you write.
“Be your own benchmark, and love what you write.”
What made you decide to enter the BloodList competition?
I decided to enter the BloodList competition because truthfully, Hollywood loves lists, ever since the inception of the famous BlackList. The Bloodlist offers two paths of entry, one for established writers with big reps, and the other point of entry is for writers like myself, who are not repped and operate outside ‘the system’, which is called “The Fresh Blood Selects” section. Entry is free, and the exposure for placing is significant.
What does it mean to you as a scriptwriter to be among the top 10?
The main thrill I got for being selected was validation. A sense that I’m doing something right. It’s always scary starting a new project, and to be selected and recognized reaffirmed my faith in the project, and the vision I hold for it, and that others share the same faith in it, that I do.
Describe the aftermath of the competition; what is it like to talk to producers in LA?
Look, truthfully the aftermath hasn’t been crazy. It’s not like people are bashing down your door, but doors were opened and then it was my responsibility to capitalize on those openings. I have got enquiries from a couple of managers, but the most exciting part was getting a phone call from a well-known horror producer, who offered to take the script out for me to certain big-name genre-directors, as well as other production companies. After a couple of meetings, the script is now being optioned by one of those companies, who came to me with an exciting vision and package for the project and I decided that they would be the best fit. Subsequently I’ve also been offered management, which is exactly what I was after. The truth is that this isn’t a fluke, I’ve spent countless hours and toil working towards these opportunities, so taking these meetings wasn’t overwhelming to me, but something I was ready for.
What are your biggest concerns for your script?
I don’t really hold too many concerns creatively. I’m working hand in hand with the development team of this [LA production] company, and ultimately, it’s me who is doing the rewriting and not some other writer, therefore I have a certain amount of control over my own fate. I’ve had many projects that had directors attached, and have been in certain advanced stages of packaging, that unfortunately collapsed. I guess my concern is that this doesn’t befall the same fate.
What are your highest hopes and wishes for Runt?
I want this to get made! However, I’m also excited to see the package come together. If they can attract the right type of star to the project, that could literally be life changing for me due to the exposure that would come with it.
Can you give us your logline for Runt?
A woman rescues an injured wolf pup, but when the wolf pack returns and threatens her life and the pup’s, she must fight for survival, sending her on a grueling journey of self-discovery.
Think: The Grey meets Gravity.
Share your most valuable lessons learnt on your scriptwriting journey so far with us, please.
- “Keep writing” is the most valuable thing I’ve learnt.
- And never be satisfied with what’s in front of you.
- I don’t like to talk about projects unless I’ve actually written the script, because it doesn’t exist if it’s not on the page.
- Your script can always be better, so always be humble and let the best idea win.
- Outline, outline and outline! Structure is your best friend.
- Know the type of writer that you are and don’t mind being pigeonholed. I’m more than happy to be known as the horror/thriller guy, and once you established then you can start taking out those passion projects.
- Always do your due diligence about the person you are meeting with, it shows respect and also gives you a point of commonality.
- At the end of the day writing is a job, it’s how I earn my living, so I treat it as such. I sit down everyday in front of my computer, and I take my lunch break, just like any other office job. I’m just lucky that it happens to be the best job the world.
What do you think of, or what has your experience been, in the film and TV industry in SA up to now?
My experience in the S.A. industry has been positive, and has given me a wonderful grounding. I’ve worked with great people, and had some amazing collaborations. I have spent a number of years working as a writer for a number of local TV shows and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. On the downside, I still feel there is a tendency to shy away from an intensive and cohesive development process, which can leave projects muddled and half-baked. I also think writers in the country tend to be underpaid, and at times are vulnerable to being exploited. I suggest having contracts properly drawn up, and airtight, because believe me, if there are loopholes they will be exploited. Organizations like the WGSA and NFVF are invaluable, and offer amazing ways to improve your craft. I love the movies and voices coming out of the country, and I hope I can keep being part of that wave. We have some amazing stories out there, unique to us, and I have every intention of telling them.
Any advice for aspiring scriptwriters out there? The ones who are still considering whether they want to try it or not.
As per my previous statement, if you are serious about writing, then write, don’t talk about it. Don’t be too eager to show your project too early. I know it’s exciting to write Fade Out on that first draft, but that’s what it is, a first draft. It’s going to change significantly, wait until it’s ready. Sometimes you only get one shot, so always put your best foot forward.
What else have you written?
I’ve written a variety of projects and they are all in various stages of development with an array of different directors. I have projects in Canada, America, Netherlands and South Africa. The film I wrote, SHAFT 6, starring Vuyo Dabula and Paul Du Toit, recently finished shooting in Johannesburg, and will be released nationwide in 2019. Watch this space!
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to keep writing! I might have a TV movie being shot this year in Canada/America, so I’m holding thumbs for that. I’m also planning a trip to L.A in June to take some meetings. I want to write another spec (a serial killer movie set in 1994 S.A), and to keep improving upon my craft!
Answers filled with some much enthusiasm lifts up even the darkest, deepest scriptwriting gloom and we thank Marc for making the time to answer our questions and sharing his wisdom so candidly.
Thank you Marc! Congratulations! And keep the writing fire burning and the horrors coming!
WGSA INTERVIEWS IPO VICE-CHAIR, DR LWAZI MANZI
In recent months the Independent Producers’ Organisation (IPO
) has become more active and this could be due to their great team at the helm. Among those is Dr. Lwazi Manzi.
Please note that this interview was conducted with Lwazi and it contains her personal views, which are not necessarily shared by the IPO.
|Lwazi, how long have you been part of the IPO as member?
3 years Why did you want to be part of the organisation?
I’m a believer in organised forums to tackle issues of national interest as well as protect groups of industrialists. I have been involved in many organised structures across multiple sectors and when I became a producer 6 years ago I was soon introduced to the IPO as a means of networking and tackling disputes.
What is the IPO’s vision and what is your personal vision?
There is no personal vision when leading an organisation – I have personal visions for myself and my own company. The IPO’s vision is to promote the interests of South African producers locally and abroad, drive accelerated transformation and assist to build a world class platform for film industrialists.
What are currently your biggest concerns about the South African film and television industry?
Our state and parastatal agencies need to co-operate with the industry by providing certainty and stability regarding grants and incentive schemes, accountability of state agencies like the NFVF, disruption of the monopoly enjoyed by a few white owned companies in servicing foreign productions and also the archaic, contracted and monopolised distribution and exhibition infrastructure that pulls the rug under the value chain.
What inspires you about the industry?
Creativity and the fact that this industry is held up by tenacious people with a sheer passion for filmmaking.
Please share some advice with our screenwriters regarding the industry.
We can no longer think of ourselves in isolation – to be the best you must play in a global stage. There is no more “local film industry vs global film industry – we now operate in a continuum and soon we’ll be talking interplanetary entertainment. I would encourage screenwriters to reference and study writing techniques all over the world then develop a uniquely South African voice at the highest level of screenwriting, to push themselves into all genres and styles and to take writing risks. First time writers should steer clear of stories they are not familiar with and write what they know, have lived or experienced themselves. Female writers, as with all previously disadvantaged groups, must be prepared to work twice as hard to get half as far – but in the end this will be to your advantage. I also strongly encourage all female filmmakers to join SWIFT as this is proving to be a very powerful and effective organisation. Above all be bold, stay positive and strive for excellence.
What was the past year like for you to serve as IPO co-chairperson on the Executive Committee?
I have been in the industry a very short time compared to my more senior colleagues and have found myself in leadership positions before I knew as much as they do about the industry – the growth curve has been exponential. However since I do not have any historical baggage or prejudice and as I am constantly pushing boundaries I have found myself to be that voice of possibilities and disruption. There have been many times I have been told that certain things can’t happen – for instance that it was inappropriate or not possible to get all the state agencies to talk to each other. Now recently at the DAC BRICS cultural positioning workshop we presented our position at IPO to get all relevant stakeholders to co-operate jointly with the industry and DAC agreed that we now need to start thinking in industry clusters and not as individual agents so that we can not only grow the local industry but also position ourselves as real global participants. So in the short time I have served on the EXCO (less than a year) I have learnt to balance new ideas with old wisdom in order to provide effective leadership.
What are your future goals/plans?
The IPO future goals are to position itself strategically within our stakeholding enterprises, draw investment into the industry, protect the value chain at every level, guide policymaking for the industry, accelerate transformation and provide opportunities for growth for individual producers and producing companies
We thank Lwazi for setting time aside to answer the few questions we had for her and are inspired by her tenacity and service to the industry, which is crucial to the future of our country’s screenwriters.
WGSA MEMBER’S ANIMATION PROJECT
A DLA FINALIST
Yolanda Mogatusi has made the WGSA newsletter a few times now and it seems that her news know no end, which is absolutely wonderful of course.
The Digital Lab Africa
call for projects closed with a bang on 25 February 2018 with 730 entries from over 30 Sub-Saharan African countries (including Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). From those entries Digital Lab Africa’s selection committees
chose 30 finalists
who will compete – for the first time this year – in an online pitch competition.
And Yolanda Mogatusi’s animation film titled Rapulani & Rapunzel is a finalist of only 5 in her category; out of all those entries!
Obviously we just had to ask her where it all started and how it got to be where it is now.
Tell us what made you want to do an animation film.
I had a story I wanted to tell and this particular story felt like it needed to be told in this format. I have also always wanted to work on an animation and was just looking for an opportunity to do so. I attended one of the Storyteller Pod’s online classes and the story was written in that process.
What is the film about?
The film is about a little 5 year-old black girl with a magic afro whose best friend is Rapunzel. Rapulani has a hard time accepting her step-mom and the story follows this little person’s journey as she navigates the big emotions she is feeling all with the help of her magical afro!
Is there a big difference between writing for animation and real action?
Yes! With live action, the more I hone my craft, the more I learn to write less and less and communicate more with very little words. With animation, I cannot leave room for that kind of interpretation. Here, if it is not on the page, it literally is not in the story. Every action and intention has to be scripted and you have to be as descriptive as possible because chances are that you are not going to direct and animate your own film so you need to clearly lay out your vision. You also should ideally not put anything in the script that might be optioned out later. What is on the page in that final script must all be vital to telling the story.
How long have you been working on the project?
I wrote the script during the online animation course I mentioned and that was around May last year so it’s coming on a year now.
Is it easy to find investment or funding for animation?
Well I am still in the middle of this phase. I decided not to wait to be green-lit and funded by an institution and instead optioned for crowd-funding. Now crowd-funding, no matter what it is you are funding is a lot of hard work but it has also been an interesting process. Starting with the crowd funding has definitely helped with visibility for the project and growing our audience. I don’t know what the road ahead looks like in terms of finding the rest of our funding but I’m hopeful and so far, we have managed to keep the ball rolling whether we had money or not. So we will continue striving forward.
What is the route you’re taking with the film? (Film festivals, broadcasting?)
The film is only 5 minutes long so we definitely want to do the festival circuit and depending on how that goes, we will look at the options we have regarding broadcasting.
Tell us about your journey so far; the biggest challenges and sweetest victories.
Well just deciding to get started was quite a big hurdle but being on that writing course with fellow new animation writers was a great support. Once the script was written, the question was, “What now?” I applied to one of the funding bodies for production funding but that didn’t quite go well. Disappointed with that, the thought of crowd-funding came but it was quite late in the year and I was advised that people don’t really contribute to these things during the holiday season so I had to push it back to January. Running the crowd funding campaign on my own was just such a huge task… but I’m so glad I did and I am so glad for the support received. I’m actually still finishing off and sending prizes and gifts to the donors of the campaign so yes, crowd-funding is really not for the faint-hearted. The two highs thus far are definitely coming second in the NFVF Annecy pitch at the Cape Town International Animation Festival and now, being shortlisted in the Digital Lab Africa animation section from over 150 entries [in its category]. The competition is steep but you know what, I am really grateful to have even made it thus far.
What are you most excited about for the project?
The art and animating! I can’t wait. Creating these characters and seeing them come to life is the equivalent of hearing a really talented actor bring your words to life in live action. It is super exciting…
What advice do you have for script writers who want to go into animation?
Just go for it. And really go into that childlike place inside of you and use your imagination. Everything is possible in animation. That is what I love about it!
Where do you see animation going in SA in the next few years?
Just doing a bit of research for my artwork and illustrations, there is already quite a sizeable community of animators and illustrators across all demographics here in South Africa. Does it need to grow, oh absolutely and perhaps more home-grown shows will also help. I saw people doing their own thing and not waiting for funding like we sometimes do and how we try to go about things in the traditional course of how films are made here. There are some African animators doing some fun, crazy things with little or no funding. There are animators located here working on projects from all over the world and companies like Triggerfish wining all sorts of prestigious awards making it feel like anything is possible. So the future is already here and I think it looks super hopeful.
And with that Yolanda had to rush off again to her next adventure.
But in the meantime the video pitch will be displayed online on a dedicated platform (vote.digilabafrica.com) developed by Qwant, in partnership with Dailymotion Africa. This platform will allow Internet users to anonymously vote for their favourite pitch (from April, 26th to May, 9th), without having to communicate their personal data.
We cannot wait to see her pitch! And hopefully the film soon!
WGSA MEMBER’S DAHOMEY WARRIORS
Harriet Meier is a familiar name in the industry for various reasons; among other as one of the founders of the guild and a dedicated soldier for the vision of fair treatment of all scriptwriters; whether by producers or broadcasters; local and abroad. She is not one to back down from a challenge and now she has taken on a television series that might just be the embodiment of her fighting spirit as well.
Let’s find out more about this phenomenal television series in the making that gives the Black Panther
’s Dora Milaje a run for their money: The Dahomey Warriors. Harriet, please tell us a bit more about The Dahomey Warriors.
The series is about the adventures of Yahi, a teenage tomboy who loves to go hunting in the forest, instead of doing ‘girly’ chores at home. The story takes place in the mid-19th century kingdom of Dahomey, part of the country now known as Benin in West Africa. We join her adventures at a very dramatic point in her life when Yahi sees the king’s fierce female warriors hunting elephants. A stampede ensues and Yahi’s skill with a throwing spear saves Omolara, the leader of the hunters, from being trampled to death. This proves to be a fateful meeting, as Yahi is torn away from Abolo, the man she has a teenage crush on, and selected to become Omolara’s slave. At the same time, her beautiful older sister, Urbi, is chosen to join the harem of the prince regent, who is ruling on behalf of the underage king.
[If you would like to know what happens next, you better keep a look out for the show.] How did you get involved in the writing for the series?
I was contacted beginning May 2016 by Mo Abudu, the CEO and executive chairwoman of EbonyLifeTV
in Nigeria, with the idea to do a TV series on the Dahomey Warrior Women
. As I had dealings with Mo and ELTV before, I created a pitch for a 3 season contained TV series, and we got the go-ahead from ELTV to develop and write the first series. The next two series were dependent on getting a pick-up on series one, which has now happened. Who is producing and distributing the series? Sony Pictures Television
, a major American television production and distribution studio, have come on board as a co-production partner with ELTV on the Dahomey series, guaranteeing the series world-wide distribution including network television. They have also upped the number of episodes per series and increased the production budget to high-end, which means that we are now looking at A-list actors and high production values, which is very exciting for a series which was conceived and written in South Africa. How long have you been working on it now?
As Head Writer and series creator, I started with research and budgets in May 2016, with my co-creator Marina Bekker joining me in December 2017, and the full writing team, which also included Thandi Brewer, Chinaka Iwunze and Francois le Pere, coming in by March 2017. We delivered final scripts in October 2017. I worked on the first series of Dahomey for 17 months, and we are now going into a new rewrite phase to extend the first series from 6 to 8 episodes and to drastically increase the production value, especially as we did write the initial series with South African/Nigerian budgets in mind. That should keep us busy until end July, at which stage we will start negotiations on series 2 and 3. What do you enjoy most about this project?
I love the characters we have created. They are not only inspired by historic fact, but have assumed an identity of their own during the scripting process. They are real, strong and somehow crawl into your heart. The fact that the series has been picked up and that Sony is using the same writing team for the extended series shows that we are not the only ones who have felt this. I’m praying it will translate to the audience as well. Oh, and the story is really interesting. We’ve taken historical fact and integrated it into the world of our leading character. While Yahi does not really exist, she very well could have lived in those tumultuous times. What are/were your biggest challenges with the project?
The Dahomey Warrior Women is a big story, so writing for a limited production budget and still getting in all the epic battle scenes and happenings was tricky. But that is hopefully now something of the past and we can give our imagination free reign. Another challenge was condensing 200 years of history into 3 limited TV series. As such, we’ve taken artistic license with some of the time frames and character names, but overall there is a solid historical background to everything we’ve covered in the series. Any closing ideas/thoughts that you would like to share with the readers and other scriptwriters regarding projects of this size?
I must say that I am thrilled work on this project in the international arena, and I am looking forward to learning, and bringing new knowledge back to my peers in South Africa. I also want to express my gratitude to The Pack, the writers’ co-operative which has placed me and my co-writers in a position where we are able to create and take African stories into the international market place. It’s taken exceptionally hard work from all the members of the team, but this proves that talent and perseverance do pay off in the end.
Well said Harriet!
We share in Harriet’s excitement and eagerly anticipate the, what is sure to be a super, premiere of the pilot episode!
WGSA MEMBER’S SCREENWRITING BOOK A HIT
Matthew Kalil has been giving training in screenwriting for a few years and eventually, like most good trainers, decided to compile and publish a book for screenwriters, The Three Wells of Screenwriting.
As always it is not just about the book for us, but about the author. We wanted to introduce you to the writer behind it all so we came up with a few questions for Matthew…
|Matthew, how long have you been in the screenwriting business?
The first movie I “wrote” was in about 1984. I was in Grade 6 and I had a whole action-adventure kids movie in my head. I didn’t write it down though! The next time I seriously wrote for the screen was in 1987 when I was a finalist for the M-Net New Directions writing program. In terms of the “business” of screenwriting I think my first produced screenplay was around 2001. So that makes it 17 years. But more like 20 years in total.
What made you decide to publish a book about it?
Well, I have been teaching screenwriting since 2001, so that’s also about 17 years. I did my MA in Screenwriting in the UK and tried to distil that information as well as what I experienced in the industry into my classes. What I found was that the “standard” way of teaching screenwriting, using characters, structure, theme etc worked to easily construct a class or to easily “assess” student’s work but the real “inner writer” was not addressed using these techniques. I also wrote another book, which was course notes for an online screenwriting class, which basically distilled all the books on screenwriting I could find into one book. Still, there was something missing. While this was going on I was also teaching a class about writing from Memory. I identified these three “wells” where we get our ideas from. Simply stated they are Other Media we watch, using out Imaginations or using out Memories. When students used the exercises and techniques developed in these classes their work was always more alive, unique and resonant. I realised that I needed to write a book that captured the spirit of these classes.
How long did it take you to compile/write the book?
The book went through very many drafts. I think I had the very rough skeleton down after about two or three months of writing. But then it changed dramatically. The two massive changes were, one, that I sent the book to six people in the industry whose opinion I value and they all gave me very through notes. I then integrated their notes, page for page, and that changed to book a lot. It really helped to focus the story.
Secondly, I decided to take out “you” as much as possible and use “we” and “I” when writing. This was very helpful. It made the book feel like it was written more from a writer’s perspective (which it is) and that really helped make it feel more “human” and less “preachy” which was what I had wanted to achieve. I hope that the book helps us become better writers and better people. So it’s not just an academic study of screenwriting.
How did you land the publishers?
During a trip to Story Expo organised by the WGSA I, along with other writers, met Kathy Fong Yonega as well as other Michael Wiese Productions authors. Meeting Chris Vogler was amazing for me as I had taught his books a lot. He said that I should write The Three Wells. It was very inspiring. Once the book was completed I asked Kathie, via email, who I should submit to. She mentioned Ken Lee, who is with MWP. I sent him an email and he asked for a sample chapter and some chapter headings. I sent them through. He then said that he liked it and asked if I had anything else to send. I said, “I have a whole book!”. And I sent it through. In a month or so they wrote back and said they loved it. I got such an amazing phone call from Michael Wiese himself one day saying they were keen to publish it. I will never forget that moment.
What were your biggest challenges and sweetest victories in writing the book?
I suppose my biggest challenge to writing the book was to keep it focussed on The Three Wells concept. I have so much else that I have taught or read on the subject I had to try and keep focussed on the wells. Also, in truth, I think that the Memory Well (which I talk about a lot) is very powerful for a writer. So it was difficult for me to keep the focus spread over the Three Wells all the way through the book. I think my bias for the Memory Well comes through in the book. But that’s okay, because that’s where the magic lies. Then I went in a 10-day silent meditation retreat. While there I noticed what happened when I slowed my mind down. I really felt the wells in operation. And I noticed the connection between being present and accessing the wells. There is something of this in the book. It is a book not just about writing but about consciously living in the world as a writer. My sweetest victory was when Chris Vogler wrote my forward. That was just so unbelievable. I mean, his book on screenwriting was the first book on the subject that I read. I was taught him in my MA and I have taught him at UCT and other places I teach at. He is one of the top script gurus in the history of screenwriting. And having him write my forward was such a god send. I mean, that is just beyond me how that happened. A real Higher Power moment! It still makes me smile deeply inside when I think of it.
How did it feel to hold the first published book in your hands?
Haha. Actually I have only held the “galley” copy. The published books have been sent but they only arrive on Monday! So I haven’t even held the book. However, the “galley copies” (which are like the book just before the final version) are amazing. It feels so “real”! I can’t really describe the feeling except that my heart swells and resonates with such excitement and happiness when holding it. In some ways it feels surreal. What was interesting during the whole process was that I could picture the book 100% clearly while I was writing it. I could even see the MWP insignia on the spine. I kinda just knew it would happen. Which was an odd feeling for me. And yet it still feels surreal!
Where can our readers get hold of your book?
My local distributor is Peter Hyde Associates. There will be books in the local bookstores as soon as we import some. If readers go to their local bookstores they will be able to order them. However, they can also go to Amazon and buy from there. Or directly from the MWP website. www.mwp.com. However what I have realised that we are on the tip of Africa and getting books here that are published in the USA, it’s tricky to keep the costs down. If readers like my Facebook page (search for The3Wells) or subscribe on my website (www.thethreewells.com) they will get info on where to get the most cost effective versions. There will be book launches in Cape Town and Johannesburg this year.
Any advice for screenwriters regarding screenwriting books?
Read as many as you can. MWP is a great place to find a lot of them. There is a big difference between South African and USA writers that I have noticed. USA people KNOW about writing. If you mention Chris Vogler, they know who he is. Same with all there other script gurus. Linda Seger, Robert McKee, Syd Filed, Blake Snyder, John Truby…these people are KNOWN to USA writers because they read a lot of books and take their craft very seriously. I am always bemused when SA authors ask me “who is Christopher Vogler” or don’t know who he is. I am like, “what have you been doing with your life?”. We need to read and read and read. In order to write and write and write. They say the six Golden Rules of writing are, “read, read, read and write, write, write. And I don’t just mean screenwriting books here. We have to read scripts. Lots of them. So many people who want to write scripts don’t read scripts. I really don’t get it. I mean, I get that scripts are not always around but you can find loads of them online. Expecting to write a feature film without having read at least 10 of them, I mean…who would do that. I don’t get it. Read as many as you can. I would almost say that it’s more important to read scripts than books about screenwriting. Except mine. 🙂
Thanks to Matthew’s hard work and persistence (publishing is not for the faint of heart), screenwriters around the world has another arrow in their quiver of knowledge to equip them for a career in the industry.
No, really. Don’t believe us how good it is? Here is what a few other people had to say about the book after reading it:
Profound and powerful insight about the deepest and most important aspect of the writing process. Learning the craft of screenwriting is simply a matter of research and hard work. This book teaches you what others don’t — how to access the story in your soul that will resonate with audiences.
Pamela Wallace, Academy Award Winning writer Witness, Straight From The Heart
The Three Wells of Screenwriting is an invaluable resource for writers who have mastered the basics of storytelling, but want to provide the kind of insightful creativity that enriches the story, its characters and even the writer himself! Of particular note in author Matthew Kalil’s book are the wonderful examples and great exercises that will guide writers to delve more deeply into the obvious and not-so-obvious places where they can experience both a stronger personal story connection while providing a more meaningful resonance to their characters and their inner journey.
Kathie Fong Yoneda – consultant, workshop leader, author of The Script-Selling Game (2nd edition)
The Three Wells of Screenwriting connects you up with a long and varied world of story tellers and story tools. Calling upon myths, media examples, exercises, and his own experiences, Matthew Kalil’s observations and suggestions are both universal and practical. Content creators in many aspects of the creative process from inspiration to completion can make good use of the wisdoms in this book.
Each of the Three Wells is different yet they’re deeply connected. Learning to appropriately use all of them can greatly increase and improve your own story-crafting skills and offer you much more enjoyment throughout the process.
Michael’s work has given me a new perspective on how to approach one of my own stories that’s been difficult to organize and dive into. Now I’ll draw inspiration from all three Wells and I’m sure it’ll make a huge and positive difference in my work.
Kalil urges us to widen our exposure to many forms of media including mythical, historical, classical, multi-cultural, and even just entertaining fluff. It all goes into the Wells and who knows what ideas may be sparked in you from such a rich mixture of themes, plots, scenes, characters, images and emotions.
Follow the guidelines in this book and you’ll become a more conscious – and thus more effective – media creator.
Pamela Jaye Smith – mythologist, author, international speaker-consultant, award-winning writer-producer-director and founder of MYTHWORKS.
Matthew Kalil’s thoughtful and thorough book makes “writers block” a thing of the past.
Open this book, then open your mind. You’ll never be stuck on an idea again.
Author of “The Coffee Break Screenwriter”
“A light and airy approach that makes screen writing attainable.”
Senior Vice President Production
I am often asked, “How can I learn to write?” Matthew Kalil tackles this difficult question by gently reminding us that, when fearfully facing the blank page, there are multiple wells, both external and internal, from which to drink deeply when searching for something truly original and moving to say.
Gavin Hood, Academy Award winning screenwriter and director.
The Three Wells of Screenwriting is a unique and powerful aid capable of helping all types of writers. Author Matthew Kalil teaches a surprisingly simple and fun way to gather original stories. You’ll use what you already know, and combine this with explorative journeys deep into your imagination, where you can then create stories your readers will gobble up. No matter what kind of writing you do, you have the “three wells” of storytelling available to you. This book is quite simply the map and set of keys that allows you access to these three infinite sources of ideas and inspiration.
Forris Day Jr.
Host of Rolling Tape
Commentator for Hitch 20
Story comes through us. It is fluid in motion. We absorb it, we experience it, we feel it and we aspire to pass it forward. In his spiritually moving book, “The Three Wells of Screenwriting”, Matthew Kalil beautifully sets up a system that guides us how to draw from three specific wells when it comes to understanding how to birth a story. The wells are: The External Sources Well, The Imagination Well and the Memory Well. Through his book, you gain invaluable insight about how to deepen the stories you tell through drawing from all three in a way that will lead you to write your stories from a place of depth that will allow your audience to see you and themselves in your message.
Story/Career Consultant, Writing Instructor at NBC, Author
“Kalil plums the depths of the human psyche as well as what’s been created to write cumulatively. He knows what makes us tick, and what makes stories durable, memorable, and resonate with all of us. Less is indeed more, and this little book proves it.”
Dave Watson, author of Walkabout Undone
Editor, Movies Matter
“A poetic look at the art of screenwriting, combined with concrete examples of how to deal with the craft.”
David Misch – writer, Saturday Night Live, Mork & Mindy, Police Squad!
A good story! Without it all those other screenwriting elements have little value. Or to put it positively: narrative structure, characterization, dialogue, locations, and script formatting are important only in the service of bringing forth a tale that matters.
For Matthew Kalil, creating that kind of story starts with finding something worth writing about. Because ideas are slippery, the process of finding them is often left in the shadows. Bringing the job into the light is the big achievement of Kalil’s The Three Wells of Screenwriting.
Kalil starts by identifying the three wells of inspiration: external materials (books, other movies, songs, plays, articles, and so on); memories (all the experiences we’ve had—including the dark ones); and imagination (the people, places, things, and events that exist only because we invent them).
While these three sources are widely know, Kalil’s breakthrough is defining them in clear, concrete terms—with illustrations from well-known movies—and then giving specific and engaging exercises that allow the reader to practice accessing the wells.
Most important, Kalil demonstrates that great stories almost always blend material from all three wells. Even a fantasy film that clearly draws upon the imagination (for example E.T.) will be strengthened if the writer adds elements taken from external sources (e.g., previous movies featuring out-space beings) and from personal experiences (the sibling conflicts that make E.T. feel real).
There’s an old saying that ideas are “dime a dozen.” That’s true for many ideas, but usually ones that lead to forgettable films. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. If you want to build stories on the foundation of precious ideas, you’ll pay—says Kalil—by working to discovering, tender, nurture, and tap the deep sources of inspiration which—luckily—are available to everyone who wants them. The Three Wells of Screenwriting is a clear, creatively written guide for doing the necessary work.
Murray Suid is a screenwriting (“Summer of the Flying Saucer”) and the author of Movie Quotes to Live By. His day job is editing MobileMovieMaking.com
To order a copy of The Three Wells of Screenwriting, go to the publisher’s link by clicking here.
WGSA COUNCIL MEMBER’S EXPERIENCE AT THE NYC STORY EXPO
By: Lukhanyo Sikwebu
For the past few years the Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA) has partnered up with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to send a WGSA delegation overseas.
For the past few years the Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA) has partnered up with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti
) to send a WGSA delegation overseas.
The dti provides funding for Emerging Exporters through its Sector Specific Assistance Scheme (SSAS
) to develop new markets and expose South African individuals to international markets.
The reason is to expose local writers to overseas markets, producers and opportunities.
The latest trip was to the New York Story Expo
(NYSE), on the 17-18 March 2018, for 4 days. 20 members of the WGSA travelled to New York.
The objective was to either:
• Sell a completed unproduced or produced product (script)
• Find a production company to produce the script
• Network with industry players on a global scale
• Attend seminars and conferences by some of the world’s best writers Preparation for the Expo
The WGSA conducted two market preparation workshops for the selected applicants; one in Johannesburg and another in Cape Town. The focus was on how to pitch to an international audience of industry players, among other things. Story Expo attendance
The Executive Officer of the Writers Guild, Dr Nonkosi Slatsha, escorted the delegation of writers to the New York Story Expo in New York.
There were approximately 200 American writers present among others, showcasing different genres of film. The Experience of Delegates
The conference had two streams: classes (lectures) and pitching. On the whole, there were praises for the classes (lectures) and disappointment on pitching.
The classes or lectures were great. While all delegates were professional writers, they were at different levels of expertise and competence. This was reflected by the feedback received on the classes. For the ‘young’ professional writers, there was a lot of new information learned and for seasoned writers most of it were things they already knew and even taught – but it was presented differently and afterwards there was good feedback with even the seasoned trainers reporting to have learned something new.
The experience was also largely about making friends, having fun with fellow writers and networking. And on the social end, the trip was an absolute hit. The members got along very well, and were able to see the city – as freezing cold as it was. Many photos were snapped at NY’s landmarks.
The delegation was indeed grateful for the international opportunity, and encourages the Guild to please continue.
[From the Editor: Read more about the preparation workshops leading up to the Expo in the article “WGSA Market Readiness Workshop: Members’ Feedback”]
USING FILM FESTIVALS TO SELL YOUR SCRIPT
Filmfreeway is one of the go-to sites to see lists of film festivals from across the globe. Although it is time consuming to go through all the lists, it is worth it.
Because if you have a list of local and international film festivals that specialize in your area of screenwriting, you will know the deadlines and pitch them with your synopsis in your query letters. Right there you immediately have an advantage over the traditional same ol’ same ol’ query letters received by producers, directors, agents and actors all the time.
Filmfreeway and sites like it might not have all the inside information about film festivals, though, e.g. that they include short films from students or something else like that, which is why social media is your next best friend, for example:
Mzanzi Women’s Film Festival, Closing date: 30 April 2018
The Mzansi Women’s Film Festival (MWFF) is a platform to empower women filmmakers by showcasing films by women and about women.
Films should be produced after 15 August 2016 will be considered AND films produced before 31 December 1999 as Classic films category.
SPECIAL films submission opportunity for STUDENTS is now opened until 30 April.
For the MWFF Facebook page click here. For submission details and about the MWFF festival, click here to go directly to the Filmfreeway link.
There are other Women’s Film Festivals open for entry at the moment. Click here to go to the list on Filmfreeway.
Surf the rest of Filmfreeway to see what else is happening in the film festival circuit.
If your film is suited for a low budget film, then you can also find out which producers entered this festival, the Indie Karoo Film Festival, and contact them with your query letter and a sentence stating that you think they might win the next one if they use your screenplay.
The Indie Karoo Film Festival aims to become a lasting platform for independent film makers to showcase their work to a growing audience and industry.
For their Facebook page, click here and for their website, click here.
Important to note is that you can never imagine or predict who might be present at film festivals. A film based on your screenplay might just be noticed by someone like Gavin Hood! No joke! Daniel Dercksen interviewed Gavin at the 2016 IKFF! To watch the interview, click here.
Another film festival that has attracted big names like Steven Lambert from the Star Trek series among other, is Ugu Film Festival.
The Ugu Film Festival was officially launched in 2014 and has since attracted other big players too. “This is the first festival in South Africa that will go beyond artistic films, by accommodating all kind of genres i.e. action, sci-fi etc. We believe that emerging and experienced film makers deserved equal rights to showcase their talent. Therefore, this festival is initiated as a platform to give new film makers from KZN, Africa, and all over the world a chance to showcase their films worldwide, while promoting the work of the experienced film makers. Using the existing relationship between Sollywood Films and major US studios, the festival will organize experienced film makers, A-list actors and actresses from Hollywood, Bollywood, and Europe to provide seminars for local artists / film makers interested to make it big in the industry,” is how they describe their festival.
For the Ugu Film Festival Facebook page, click here and for their contact details (if the producer wants it), click here. Deadline for submission for them is 25 May.
Popular with Indie Producers (who make up the majority of producers in South Africa) is the Sundance Film and TV competitions. One that the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) advertises in their recent newsletter (another great way to keep informed: newsletters from film commissions and other organisations involved with productions) is one for short films.
“MultiChoice, SundanceTV’s exclusive affiliate partner in South Africa, is supporting the competition with a representative joining the panel of jurors alongside SundanceTV and Sundance Institute. Geraud Alazard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at AMC Networks International says: ‘The SundanceTV Shorts competition reflects the very essence of the channel. The SundanceTV Shorts competition reflects the very essence of the channel. It encapsulates SundanceTV’s unique energy and passion, shining a spotlight on independent storytelling and emerging talent.’ For the whole article in The Callsheet about this competition, click here.
So, you see that having the right producer is crucial. And finding one is not too difficult since their credits appear on their shows. But here you must remember your friend, the Internet. When you find interesting film festivals and competitions you think your screenplay aligns with, and you find contact details for producers you think might bring the screenplay to life, you must research the producers. You wouldn’t want your screenplay to be linked to a less-than-professional producer and director after all, right? Chat rooms are fountains of knowledge for this kind of espionage. Some producers unwittingly reveal their true colours by complaining or whinging on festival chat rooms.
Then use what you find to compare the producer’s revelations to this excerpt from an article Raindance released last year in May:
16 Things Film Festivals Hate About Filmmakers
by Elliot Grove
[*Note from the Editor: you can apply this article almost verbatim to what annoys screenwriting and literary agents as well as competition readers and judges when a screenwriter submits material.]
1. Filmmakers who don’t read the festival rules and regulations
Each festival has it’s own reason for being, and devises a set of rules in order to make sure no one wastes time.
You wouldn’t believe how many phone calls and emails we get from filmmakers who obviously haven’t read our rules and regulations.
To have a legitimate query is another thing altogether, and we, like all festivals, welcome those calls.
However, some filmmakers never spend any time researching the profile of the festival they are submitting to, and then complain bitterly of why they weren’t selected.
|2. Filmmakers who don’t complete submission details
Filmmakers who only partly complete their submission forms do 2 things:
firstly, their submission can’t be considered and goes into the ‘incomplete submission form’ pile where it won’t be watched and secondly, ties down admin time chasing for the details.
Please fill in the form. If you don’t know what a term means, why not try googling something like “Aspect ratio” before you call the office and bemuse one of our interns.
3. Filmmakers who send wrong or incorrect email and telephone numbers
How hard is it to make sure that your contact details are correct? Come on, be professional.
4. Filmmakers who are incommunicado
If you went to all the effort of submitting your film, the least we expect is that you can be reached within a reasonable time ie: 24 hours.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to email, telephone and leave messages, call other members of the crew trying to reach a producer or director with important information about their film. sometimes I just give up, and we won’t screen the film.
5. Filmmakers who are too communicative
The opposite side of the coin is true too. Our Royal Mail postman jokes that the minute he stabs received by Raindance into his computer, filmmakers from around the world start calling us to see (a) if we have received the film (b) what our decision is and (c) why we haven’t entered it onto our database.
Geez – the package only arrived three minutes ago!
Another call we hate is from nervous filmmakers asking if we have seen their film yet.
6. Filmmakers who are having fights with their team
We get 10-20 films submitted each year which are then withdrawn (or kicked out) because the person who submitted the film didn’t have either the rights or permission of the rest of the cast and crew.
Geez. This seems like a basic thing to get agreed BEFORE you started filming, not when someone on your team hears your film is heading to a festival.
7. Filmmakers who haven’t cleared music rights
Festivals like Raindance can’t screen your film unless the music rights are cleared. If we get busted, the person who gets the heavy legal writs aren’t you, but the festival, and the cinema where your movie plays.
I would say that half the reasons that films don’t get into Raindance is uncleared music rights.
8. Filmmakers who send faulty preview discs
I know it’s a pain to check every single disc you duplicate before you send them out, but our programmers get really annoyed if they find a faulty disc. I know it’s not your fault that someone screwed up, and our programmers know that too, but now your submission goes back to the front of the queue and we have to hope that you will answer your emails (number 4 above) and can send us a new disc in time.
9. Filmmakers who want us to watch their films online
You mean you want me to watch this through an internet connection that might mean that your movie skips or stalls? Worse yet, it might screen on a very small player to avoid connectivity issues. Are you happy with that?
10. Filmmakers who send bad production stills
The most difficult task we have is finding great production stills from the movie to print in our commemorative catalogue (that goes out to agents and distributors) and for our website.
We stopped printing pictures of filmmakers in our catalogue 3 years ago, because the pictures we got of film directors looked like they had been lifted from college yearbooks.
Come on! It’s the film industry and the entertainment business. Stills need to be entertaining.
11. Filmmakers with no social network
A festivals job is a lot easier if a filmmaker has a social network, and can alert their followers to an upcoming festival screening.
At Raindance we welcome, and work with filmmakers to try and pack out the screening as much as possible.
Remember that all festivals have limited marketing budgets and the more you can help, the more successful your screening will be.
12. Filmmakers without a press kit
Raindance, like most festivals, evaluate submissions based on the quality of the film. Once a film is selected for the programme it is reviewed and a PR` campaign strategy for each and every film is created – a monstrous amount of work.
Filmmakers without an understanding of the kinds of hooks and strategies a publicist and marketeer needs hamper the success of their festival screening.
I wrote and article about the Essential Elements of a Press Kit and I found an excellent case study of a great press release.
13. Filmmakers who are rude
Ouch! We work our butts off to try and make every single screening a success. At a festival like Raindance with nearly 300 movies and over 250 filmmakers attending from 36 – 40 countries every year, it becomes an organizational challenge, and sometimes we drop the ball. It’s not that we hate you or your film, but we certainly will start hating you if you can’t be polite while we are trying to sort things out.
Incidentally, I travel to 3 of the greatest film festivals in Europe every year: Rotterdam, Berlin and Cannes. Every year at every festival something goes wrong. It’s part of screening in a festival.
14. Filmmakers who don’t understand the role of a festival
Our job is to try and deliver a room full of people to appreciate your work. Your job is to deliver a pleasing and entertaining film, and if you attend the festival, be available for interview and Q&A sessions after your screening.
Together, the festival and filmmaker hopes that you get ‘discovered’ ie: that someone gives you a cheque. That way, we can both say ‘this is the film that was discovered at Raindance – enhancing both of our press kits.
15. Filmmakers who fall for cons
There are a few con artists out there who are attempting to stand between filmmakers and festivals – thus earnign them a tidy sum for their so-called expertise. No one in the festival circuit that I know, likes, trusts or needs these middle-men (or women). Stay well clear and make sure you don’t fall for one of the 5 cons filmmakers fall for.
16. Filmmakers who ignore relationships
The film industry is all about relationships. It is also about staying touch using your social networks. When you are at a festival, you meet not just the harried, hard working and grossly underpaid festival staff, you will also meet other filmmakers – also likely to be harried, over worded and underpaid. A camaraderie can spring up and if you nurture the relationships with the people that you met at a festival, they are certain to pop up in other festivals, perhaps even the Oscars years later. Hard work, but worth a fortune of the sort of thing that money can’t buy.
For the complete article and more about the fabulous Eliot Grove, click here.
Other film festivals and markets to keep an eye on:
Durban Film Mart (this is not a film festival but a fantastic pitching and networking platform – remember to take enough business cards!)
Durban International Film Festival (this film festival also has the Talents Durban training and development programme for screenwriters)
Cape Town International Film Festival And Market
Encounters Documentary Film Festival
DISCOP (although not a film festival it’s a fantastic pitching and networking platform)
RAW Short Film Festival
For an example of a query letter that you can use to send your synopsis to a producer, click here.
Remember: never submit your treatment, series bible and/or script to a producer or anyone else without them first signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Click here for a sample of one.
Once you have interest in your work, it is time to get an entertainment lawyer or agent (if you do not have one already) on board.
More about entertainment lawyers and agents in our next edition.
You or your proxies can still vote for your council until Saturday morning 9am!
Guild Members Discount On Final Draft
WGSA members get 40% off. Send an email, quote your membership number (if you’re a paid up member), and we will give you a code.
Then go to Final Draft’s website and follow the purchase process. The discount will appear at the end of the checkout.
Guild Members Special On The Black List
Partnership with the Writers’ Guild of South Africa allows Full and Candidate members to list scripts on the Black List database for free and receive a discount on hosting and evaluation services.
Follow their registration process on their website and you will be asked about your membership to a guild. Fill in your details as required.
Moviebytes: Comprehensive List Of Screenwriting Competitions
The most comprehensive website for navigating the thousands of screenwriting competitions and film markets!
Subscribe to their Free Newsletter to get regular updates sent straight to your inbox.
The rating system of screenwriters rating the competitions they have entered, will also help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
Go to the website by clicking here.
“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
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