WGSA SOWETO TRAINING INITIATIVE GOINGSTRONG The WGSA has hosted a series of training workshops in Sowetothis year. We spoke to Yolanda Mogatusi, who has been tirelessly running theprogram and working with aspiring young writers from the largest township inthe Southern hemisphere, in order to help them realize their dreams of becomingprofessional writers. Please give us background informationabout the WGSA’s initiative in Soweto. The WGSA’s Soweto initiative started off with a GFC sponsored5 day course which was a holistic introduction to script writing. The idea wassparked by Theoline Maphutha, WGSA’S former chairperson, who was verypassionate about having a presence in Soweto. This year, our Muse Awards wereheld at the Soweto Theatre and it only made sense to continue to establish theguild in the region. How did you get involved? I was asked to facilitate some of the workshops during theGFC sponsored introductory course. I absolutely loved it and loved the myriadof stories coming out from the group of eager writers. There was a great thirstfor knowledge amongst the group and an even greater pool of untapped talentthat just needs some guidance. How long has the program been goingon for? We have only been running for about 10 months, with one totwo workshops or knowledge shares each month. This was to test the interestafter the sponsored course and to provide support and further education forthose potential scriptwriters who might want it. How is the project funded? The first main 5 day course in April was sponsored by TheGauteng Film Commission. The subsequent courses or classes have no funding. Werely on the participants’ low entry fees to at least take care of the refreshmentsand teas and such. Everything else we just volunteer. What do you find most fulfillingabout the program? Well I enjoy sharing what I have learnt as a filmmaker; thedisappointments as well as the victories. It’s great to think that you mightinspire someone just by giving some of your time and energy. I love impartingwhat has taken me years to get right and finding simple ways to teach it sothat the scriptwriters might “get it” a lot sooner than I did. What challenges do you face? Sometimes an adequate venue has been really hard to find.Because the entry fees are so low, we can’t really pay for a space that isconducive to teaching. We also can’t really raise the fees because it justdoesn’t make sense in the environment we find ourselves in. I have had studentsstruggle just to put together the R30 entry fee for a workshop but who reallywant to be there. Part of me wishes we could host the classes for free to bemore inclusive but we feel having some sort of monetary investment from theparticipants reminds them that what they are getting is of value and shouldn’tbe taken for granted. We also have costs that we need to cover and want theproject to be self-sustainable. How are you interactions with thewriters? The interactions vary as you always get a mixed group ofparticipants. Some have worked on a show or two and have even written somethingwhile others are still figuring things out and hand in hand-written assignmentsof some of their ideas. You always have to quickly suss out the class, assumenothing and imagine everyone is interested in everything! There are sizable plans for the project. We don’t just wantto leave these potential writers, unemployable and with nowhere to go afterthey have attended a multitude of workshops. We are working on building on thewriting foundation to create independent content producers. It might take a bitof time but that’s where we are trying to head towards. Please tell us about your passion fortraining and why/how you got involved? Well I have 3 years of film school under my belt and even dida postgraduate business program and NFVF’s Sediba spark but everywhere I wentthere was just lots still to be learnt. A lot of the things I learnt by trialand error I must be honest, sometimes falling flat on my face and sometimesexperiencing unexpected success. I’ve also been very fortunate to have been tolocal and international film festivals and markets where even more knowledgewas acquired. For a lot of the students I teach, this is such a far off dream -a mountain of odds are stacked against them and if I can with my limitedexperience, a bit of time and just love of storytelling, can help to diminishsome of those odds, I will jump at any chance I get. What are your hopes and dreams forthe WGSA in general and the WGSA’s Soweto Program? I’m hoping the WGSA will grow into a mighty influential andwidely respected organization, not only for its governance but also itsinnovation and I hope the Soweto programme will create even just a handful ofaward-winning storytellers.