Saturday, December 30, 2006


Odd time of year.

A bit in between. So, have been catching up on various year-end blog round-ups and wondering whether I too should resolve to 'post more frequently' or 'write x or y numbers of film or TV scripts' Hmmm...

Don't really like to make too many resolutions. Though I enjoy making lists. Right now I'm surrounded by them - 'looking back lists', 'looking forward lists', 'script lists', 'chase up lists' and all that stuff. All ready for the New Year.
BTW - for those who are listless - there's always twitter (ha)

There's stuff I could have blogged in the past week but (wisely) didn't: seasonal family fracas complete with stuffed lion. Plus the intrigue behind a juicy breaking news story (hint: Earl)
... Anyway all great material or 'story dust' as some folk term it and bound to turn up in some form or another in a script sooner or later.

Anyway *trumpet sound* the children TV series (which took a fairly hefty chunk out of my 2006) will now TX weekly from 24th January next year. Hurrah!

So cheers all and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Time to power down. Time to stockpile Pinot Grigio and crumbly mince pies.

Time to trudge off to the local lido at 9am and swim amid 200 yodelling kids hurling themselves into the pool. Pyyeeeeow!

Time to go to Spier and scowl at cheetahs and orange eyed owls that always hoot just before you sneeze.

Christmas time.

Seasons greetings everyone!

Monday, December 18, 2006


Over on Danny's blog today there's mention of a visual thesaurus which I'd not heard of before.

Try it out. It's fantastic.

Definitely a must-have for scriptwriters. OK Santa?

Friday, December 15, 2006


Final mix done and dusted. Let me draw a line under it.


So back to scriptwriting.

Finished reading a script that I've been asked to do a page 1 rewrite on. The premise is great but the material is lacklustre (can't be too rude on the blog) The main problem is POV. Whose story is it? Well considering the main character's name is the script's title then the story POV should be fairly obvious. But hay nonny no no no. Actually what is needed is not a rewrite but an entirely new script from the same premise. Let's see - what side of plus minus the fee falls first....

So will first tackle TV drama 'WF' which has been waiting in the wings now for about 6 months. Plus catch up on all other stuff..

There's a brilliant short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Granta 95 (latest issue I think) 'Jumping Monkey Hill' - about a workshop for African writers taking place in Cape Town. Read it.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Year end round up

So on to the latest round up of film and TV opportunities for local screenwriters and filmmakers (and thanks to those who emailed info).

**Update: Details of a whole range of scriptwriting initiatives are now available on the updated SASWU website (see sidebar).

Mnet are currently looking for 13 x prime time stand alone 'made for TV dramas'. The information is available
here. Deadline is 30 March 2007

SABC recently launched briefs for all genres including drama - which are available for download at their
website. This year - there is development (R & D) finance available for certain proposals.

For filmmakers worldwide, MTV's onedotzero initiative offers a chance to propose a one minute film and win a commission worth 2000 UK pounds. More info
here. Deadline is 31st January 2007.

For Directors and Screenwriters based in East Africa, Mira Nair's Maisha Film Lab will be open for business again in the New Year. The application process has now been expanded to train cinematographers, sound people and editors. More information is available

Also worth checking out is information about
The All Roads Film Project's seed grants.

Phew it was hot today. I spent the afternoon trekking round fabric shops in Salt River - until I nearly keeled over into rolls of flanelette...


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Africa Lite

Painting by Owusu-Ankomah

Ok so on to Africa Lite posited as a new genre - so this will probably be a long meandering ramble over several posts...

Over the last 7 years we've seen a slew of good to brilliant award-winning films coming from these shores - all of them skewing towards 'darker' subjects. No matter, there's still huge antipathy (in South African audiences) towards 'worthy' or 'political' local films. It's well known that only Schuster's fairly un-exportable brand of slapstick and MTV style youth comedies pull SA audiences in their droves. A cry oft repeated (at Sithengi and on moviezone discussion groups) is 'we need lighter films'. Less drear, more cheer. But can we do light? And do we really want to? Or is Africa Lite a Hollywood skewed economic imperative at odds with Africa's complex history and even more complicated present? Hmmm maybe you can answer that...? (ha)

I'm going to talk about Minghella's forthcoming No1 Ladies Detective Agency movie (or will it be the 'Tears of The Giraffe' adaptation now?) The book has already inspired several productions at the Beeb - see article
here: You can probably listen to it on the 'Listen Again ' service - but I haven't managed to find it yet.

Minghella's film is due to shoot in these parts sometime next year. In many ways McCall Smith's detective series typifies Africa Lite - with pleasant African settings and colourful characters and 'small town' outlook with an accent on traditional values and virtues. The mood is kept light - moments of sadness are quickly overtaken by cheerful humour or comic oddity. Nasty stuff (AIDS, poverty, domestic violence etc) is pushed firmly into the background. This is 'feel good Africa' for Western audiences.

And maybe this is why folk seem peculiarly polarised in their opinions of the Lady Detective series - either loving or hating it. I'm even going to suggest that these opinions are polarised around race. The novels certainly hold an appeal for middle England (even middle America) - gentile, travelled white ladies of a certain age - Archers listeners perhaps? Go on now, punch me madam. Whereas black women seem to hate them - just talk to Facety about McCall Smith (and outsider's perspective and authorship and cultural authenticity!) But this is only a straw poll - and not very reliable. Just to prove it - I admit I'm a fan. Though I have to claim more than a passing interest here, since a few years back (one of SA's producers has/had the rights) I lobbied to do the adaptation (and received a pleasant enough reply alluding to re-decorating issues..hmmm).

Anyway, Mma Ramotswe has all the potential to be as magnificent on the screen as on the page. But please no Joan Armatrading, Oprah, Queen Latifah or Whoopie Goldberg! And there you have it - casting famous black Americans (or Brits) as African characters - the first of many pitfalls... be continued...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blogs and bean counters

I've tried to avoid getting obsessed by this whole blog thing and tags and side bars and exploring the why fors of the Beta and bean counters and even video blogging (!) But sitting in front of a computer for most of the day - it's hard to avoid peeking and tweaking and refining. A bit like gardening I suspect.

Yesterday I uploaded a free counter I found somewhere, but it appeared to be going backwards (maybe I was bouncing people away from my site?) Anyway the design didn't match my layout. So I took it off but I think it is still buried out there - busily counting. No doubt someone will illuminate me on its whereabouts.

In case anyone is interested, what I'd like to see on the Beta is some kind of IM (Instant Message) tie-in with the comments for the occasional real-time chit chat with scriptwriters across the globe. Hmm..

Well this month, I'm taking a cue from
TM MacGregor's horoscopes for writers (Aries) 'So many planets are stacked in your favor that it’s the ideal time for submitting manuscripts, finding an agent or editor, or for expanding your readership overseas. Your inbox fills up, your phone rings constantly...'
Can't wait.

BTW promised post - coming soon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

+ Plus Minus -

And so back to the blog - after the 10 day re-editing blitz (in de-humidified Henley). Ah breeze. Ah sea.

A few disparate projects seem to be heating up here and there - but still too early to tell. The long holiday is fast approaching. Everyone will shut up shop for plus minus 6 weeks and I have a backlog of writing to get on with.

One of the phrases I've become accustomed to in the last five years is 'plus minus' usually used in reference to the vagaries of 'African time' or, less often - mooted script payment amounts. Ha. Another is 'per cent' - as in amounts of daily rainfall forecast. This can be 30 or 60 per cent rain in August or April. On occasion it is 100 percent rain. I've never yet been able to work out what the percentage refers to since 100% rarely means that it rains all day.

Anyway - coming soon a post on Africa Lite or rather a ramble about what types of African scripts currently seem to be attractive to local and international financiers. So to get you in the right mood here's a short burst of Skokiaan ....(if I can get the link right)


Thursday, November 23, 2006


Short post - as I'm far from home this week ( re-editing) hidden away in a concrete basement filled with muttering machines.

If I crane my neck sideways and up by the window, I can see a small rectangle of blue sky and the tip of Jo'burg's landmark radio mast.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Round up

Every so often I'll try and do a periodic round up of the various scriptwriting, filmmaking and other opportunities for those of us based in the southern hemisphere.

Sunu Gonera's Faith Creations are currently seeking South African-set scripts. Send a one page synopsis and CV to

Elemental Pictures are still on the hunt for South African scripts aimed at the international market, particularly within the horror genre. Send a 25 word synopsis to

New York based Transformer Films is looking for interesting scripts aimed at the international market particularly those that deal with the African spirit world and the clash between contemporary and traditional cultures. Send a synopsis to For more info visit Transformer

There's still time to hone a 12 page script entry for the NFTV short film contests - one calling for scripts in SA's indigenous languages and the other for scripts to be written and directed by women. Full details are available here: - click on the relevant banner. Deadline has now been extended to January 31st 2007.

Two competitions for Radio writers.

First up there's the BBC's 10th International Radio Playwriting Competition launched on October 30th: BBC World Service and the British Council have teamed up to find the next Pinter, Brecht or Soyinka. Details are available here:

The deadline is April 30th 2007 - so plenty of time to get writing.

Information on the other BBC radio competition African Performance 2007 is available here:

Entries should arrive no later than midnight 15 December, 2006.

I'm not going to delve much into documentary filmmaking opportunities but this one may be of interest:

Filmmakers from Africa are invited to submit proposals for 5 to 11 minute films on “what does democracy mean to me?” - full details available on :
A one to two page proposal and a detailed CV of the filmmaker should be submitted to by 30th January 2007. A workshop for short films will take place from 2nd to 4th April 2007 in Cape Town, South Africa, around the theme of democracy. Films produced out of this workshop will be included in a global debate on democracy.

A comprehensive list of documentary funding opportunities available is listed at the sadox website here:

Any interesting local or international opportunities you know about - email me (at the email address in my profile) and I'll include them in the next round up.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I've been contemplating 'fear of the pitch'. Not the pitch meeting where it's just you and the other person - that can be nerve wracking - but at least it's fairly private. I'm talking about the public 'open forum' type of pitch or these events - where one or two (lucky?) writers are pre-selected to pitch projects to an illustrious panel before a large and merciless audience...

And wondered whether argentum nitricum* would be any good...? Long ago in London, I kept a tiny bottle of these homeopathic tablets* - in my handbag - just in case. Someone (on the radio) recommended them for 'fear of flying' - among other things. Then, once upon a late-night drunken tube journey home, I took them out and offered them to fellow passengers explaining that they helped to relieve 'fear of the future'. The little white pills were quickly gobbled up. A man seated opposite demanded several - on the grounds that he was from Eastern Europe.

I wonder whether commuters would be quite so receptive nowadays......


Picture: 'Fear' by Dumile Feni

Friday, November 10, 2006

Global local

The annual highlight of the local film and TV industry's social calendar Sithengi starts here next week.

Friday has various discussions on TV drama for most of the day - I'm hoping to get to this:

Local and international broadcasters discuss international trends in international drama
Chair: Indra De Lanerolle (Ochre Moving Pictures)
Panelists: Kethiwe Ngcobo (SABC) • Andy Harries (Granada
TV) • Tara Ellis (Alliance Atlantis) • Gub Neal (Box TV)
Here the panel will present case studies including five minute clips on popular international television dramas, with the objective of showcasing why these dramas work for an international audience, what challenges they face with regard to international co-production, and what South African producers need to be aware of when developing international drama co-productions. The SABC will also highlight what their strategy is in relation to international drama co-productions.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bottling out

Yesterday I finally got round to reading Sharon Foster's TV script for Shoot The Messenger which I'd filed away to study at a later date. STM is downloadable from BBC Writers room here

Hmm.. its an inventive, easy read; a page turner (or page scroller) The lead character's storyline dashes along - from unjust accusation to suspension from work to criminal conviction to job loss and unemployment to social withdrawal to mental breakdown to homelessness to rescue by religious do-gooders to re-employment to love interest - at break neck speed.

The lingo is often crisp and punchy - especially lines such as Mabel's 'Stop coming and come'. The lead character - Joe's narrative slips skilfully between monologue and dialogue - a device which works well on the page - building rapport with the viewer and bringing some comic moments. Less successful are certain 'contrived' scenes (how do you introduce a single mother who has four different children by different fathers? - let them each call dad on their cell phones!)

More surprising is the absence of real controversy. Early scenes where Joe goes out of his way to avoid black people are some of the funniest in the script. So STM manages to keep a safe distance from inner-city realism and escalating xenophobia. There's no mention of asbos /recent school yard murders. Instead, newspaper headline montages create a 'back-grounded' sense of the melting pot. Some parts seem dated or clich├ęd - scenes in the job centre, sleeping in card board box, equation of natural Afro hair with self worth etc.

In the first act, Joe the schoolteacher (hero/anti hero) is falsely accused by a pupil at school and suspended pending further investigation. He is found guilty and loses his job. Ok so in a script, an 'unjust accusation' can be used to 'buy into' viewer sympathy right from the start. Then, of course, the wrongly accused must proceed to fight his corner.
However here, someone (maybe the script editors) decided that probably no one was going to 'sympathise' with black Joe's anti-black opinions - so he had to be isolated in some way. So Joe bottles out - he bottles out of lodging an appeal - he bottles out of standing up for what he believes in - he bottles out of life. Maybe this is supposed to be the point? But because Joe bottles out, the script also falls down. Someone forgot that because Joe is the wrongly accused 'underdog' at the beginning, we are actually on his side. By the end who cares?

Overall STM is more treatise on 'black British self worth' 'identity' and 'blame culture' - rather than controversial UK race drama. There's much talk and little action and ultimately (on the page anyway) it fails to move.
I know I'm a bit late with this but what did you think?

Monday, October 30, 2006


Since it is Halloween tomorrow, I picked a suitably witchy book for my daughter's bedtime read. There's a bit (in the lunar module) where Meg and Mog snack on packets of brown goo.

Made me think of kesp that was introduced to school dinners - for a short time. Anyone remember kesp? (kinetically engineered soya protein - or something) No children ever ate it. Not even hungry ones. This was a bit before veggie meals became interesting.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The First Time

I picked up Danny's meme (just to remind myself)

The First Time

Do you remember the time……you became aware of scriptwriting?
Mmmm I became aware of the 'power' of the script probably through watching - something like Harold & Maude at Wigan Cinema Club, in some chilly hall in my teens.

you made the decision to give it a go?

My first sort of proper 'short' script was my BFI New Director's entry in 1990. I found out the day after my birthday that I was short-listed.

…you bought your first scriptwriting ‘How To’ book?

It was Viki King's 'How to write a movie in 21 days' and I bought it just prior to going on a 3 week holiday in South Africa (where I now live) in 1995. I took lots of exercise books and in 3 weeks I churned out my first feature length screenplay. I've been recommending Viki King ever since. My original copy is now in Jamaica; my second copy was borrowed by a scriptwriter friend in Ireland (but eventually returned). My 3rd stays on my shelf.

…you wrote your first script?

Well my first 'real' script that got a fair amount of attention (rather than the really first one) was around 1995/6 and wait for it, I was funded to write it from a 6 page treatment -unprecedented - and has not happened again since...

…you gave up the day job?

I never had a day job of any real note. Having been to art school and done the whole schlep thing for a fair amount of time, it was a shock to my system when Restart forced me into full time work - on the London Underground in the early 2000s - as Station Assistant - iron filings and all. I survived 18 months before taking 3 months sick leave in which I took stock of my life, wrote a script (which was later commended by BBC Writer's Room) and plotted my escape from the grey.…

you became a script reader?

I avoid reading other people's scripts if I can help it. I know they say it's a great way to learn but I prefer to see them on screen. I don't have the sensitivity or the temperament to be a script reader.

…you did your first proper rewrite?

It was when I received development finance for '**'. The first lot of finance came from Europe and no one was really 'driving' the development in any significant way. Then Producers came on board and suddenly it was all these intricate script development methodologies - writing stories from each of the character's POV'S - re-structuring in terms of fairly conventional linear narrative arcs. Then when feedback started to come in from interested parties, the development kind of blew any which way with the wind.

…you got paid for it?

First an indy producer gave me 600 squids to write their draft of a script hmmm. Then I got some development money from the European Script Fund around1995/6 to take a treatment into a first draft. 5000 euros was a mega amount then. I was thrilled, plus I knew jack shit about script writing which probably worked in my favour. Then got more and more money for the same script. Needless to say it didn't improve the script at all....

…you got your agent?
I have had various agents attached at various stages of my development - ha! (Sounds like a line from a Dov S Simens course!) But it's true.

…you got your first TV gig?
My first TV gig has been over here - in a country faraway f- where the whole business of writing for TV is a completely different ball game.....
That said it is still riddled with controversy and oddity.…

you saw your first on-screen credit?

As an art school-trained independent filmmaker, I had my first screen credit via an Arts Council scheme long before I had aspirations of a serious scriptwriting career. 1990. One minute TV.…

you made your first short film?

See above. My entry into this industry was via a small video training initiative. I went on to make a number of shorts...

…you got your first cinema release?

My BFI New Directors' Film went to festivals around the world.

My feature? I'm still working on that....


18th October

Not updated for a while and what a horror of a day eh? what a horror (as they say in Leeds, God bless 'em) of a day- which thankfully is over and I can still laugh. About 'the children series' - which up to this point I can say I've been really enjoying...

Up til today..

Then 'the meeting happened'. I behaved quite well. Took notes, nodded and mm and ha-ed sporadically to all suggestions, criticisms, advice - worldly and unworldly, I didn't object very often and when I did not too vociferously....

I'm growing up. Learning.

You can't invest emotionally in everything you do. Some of it is just a pay cheque. Give them what they want. Get it done.

Save that space.

'We saw it go.
A blue bird'

Friday, September 29, 2006

Last 2 weeks..

a quick recap:

low lights:

near constant low-level stress

not ever having the time to even review footage in my mind

manic panic mother

not speaking to my daughter for more than half an hour each day

VIP set visits..


accommodating parliamentary security guards

shooting though the partial solar eclipse - weird and chilly

eating good food and not having to cook


being so busy

champagne and tangerine breakfast on day off


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Touch wood

Just realised that getting a blog is a bit like getting another email address - unless you post on other blogs or tell someone - no one is going to know about it. I've had one visitor so far - and that was me! Ha! Ah well anonymity suits me.

The pace of life picked up considerably this week. BTW - this is all to do with a children's educational TV series I've scripted and will direct in a couple of weeks. We've managed to access a local astronomical observatory as our key location and the place is magnificent. Ticks all the boxes. Not only is there a massive telescope housed in an orbic (?) building but it has a floor which rises and the roof cranks open. How great is that? - ok perhaps not so good sound-wise. Maybe I'm a bit excited from the tour. People actually make telescopes there. It feels like a major coup . Touch wood.

There - superstition even creeping into my blog. My granny in Wigan was oh-so superstitious about too many things. When I was little I once made the mistake of giving her a real-life peacock feather for a birthday present. She hissed under her breath as she thanked me, then picked it up wearing rubber gloves and deposited it in the back of her sideboard. I think she threw it away as soon as I left. Never mind.

Feeling flush today, I finally put in my order for '26a' (OK Simone?) so hopefully it'll arrive by the end of the month.

BTW that horoscope for writers hasn't updated this month has it? Hmmm


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Life is not a plot!

I hate genre. There I've admitted it - I hate genre. But what I really hate are these snappy 'summed up Hollywood genres' (as in the Film Council's 25 words or less contest criteria) - like 'fish out of water comedy' (yak!) or 'zero to hero'. Why can't it be a fish-out-of-water tragedy? Or a hero to zero? OK OK I know these are tried and tested genres that rake in squillions but some day folks are going to get tired of formulas aren't they?

I prefer strange, thought-provoking films. Or obscure cult movies. Or new genres. John Heffernan called 'Snakes' "kickassian". Bring on the new genres I say.

Snatched girl - a great movie waiting to be made

Well there's been that big story in the news about the snatched Austrian girl Natascha. Sad but fascinating and has all the ingredients of a great movie so I'm sure chequebooks are being waved at her as I blog. Stockholm syndrome or not, she sounds remarkably self-possessed. But who knows the full story yet? Her rumoured pregnancy indicates a more subversive side to what went on. But still - it's the type of story I'd like to tell. I can already see those mesmerising, circular cat and mouse scenes between the caged captor and child - dark and disturbing. Here I must point out I don't do 'dark and disturbing' much at all - I just feel drawn to the details of this story- the little girl who ran away when her parents were arguing and met a wolf ... a truly grim fairytale...

Here and there

Caught up on past Writers Guild e-bulletins (different info than on their blog) today plus discovered the Scriptwriter's Union here is undergoing massive changes for the better even though - unlike Writer's Guild - it is pretty capital-centric i.e. all the wonderful talks, happenings shenanigans, jobs are based in the 'big city' - faraway from us sea-siders. Of course, there's more to it than that - a huge historical, cultural and social divide between 'us' and 'them'.

My (major) revelation today is: 'thinking time is just as important as doing time'. I'm not one for recklessly attacking the keyboard every morning, empty headed. I find when I've thought a script through (in its entirety) then it's much easier to bang it out on the page. Whereas if I'm struggling obliquely with some facet of the story - then usually it ends up not working well. In fact my 3 best scripts I managed to knock out within 21 days mainly because the 'story had fallen' into place - like an egg.
What about you?

I now have this series I'm mulling over - spanning there and here. I am now going to pad it into 13 eps for submission to a local broadcaster before the end of Sept. Earlier this year another project outline received positive feedback and is something else I must thrash out by the end of the year. Again it spans two worlds. After five years here, its the 'there' bit I'm now having difficulty with. Aside from the one page outline, I beat sheeted the first third and scripted 5 pages - what a crap way of working huh? I now I need to thoroughly think through the whole story before I go any further. It needs to 'drop'.

Now it is 8pm. I've put my daughter to bed. Earlier I delivered 2 lemons from my garden to my mother. I emailed my soon-to-be wed sister asking her to tape ultra controversial drama to be broadcast next week. I did a couple of follow ups on my latest script BM but no actual writing. Hmm..

I was also daydreaming about a derelict Victorian mansion fairly close to where I live now - beautiful huge building - and imagined setting up my various film related businesses there + photographic gallery (husband) plus writers' tearoom (Granny)..


Boo hoo

Already had to edit first entry (prior to going live) due to a rejection received this morning. Very generic letter - no hint of anything positive to be teased from it. Yeah I know a form letter means its didn't push any buttons anywhere. But I have been wondering if all the major institutions now send their employees on courses on how to deliver/write rejection letters.

'Don't promise anything you can't give. Don't offer any hope because the writer will follow it up immediately. Never write any subjective or critical comments that the writer may question. Never offer any reasons for rejection beyond 'the high calibre of proposals received'. Always open the door to other new projects at some indefinite time in the future... etc'

So now I'm re-thinking the purpose of this blog and wonder whether I'll actually launch at all - boo hoo - so much better to have positive feedback and news to unveil at the outset. Well this same proposal was pitched to the main broadcaster here last month - so I'm not losing hope completely. In fact the whole idea was developed with audiences over here in mind. When you have a foot in both worlds you tend to get caught in between.



First a link to horoscopes for writers I just found - perfect for those empty days when waiting just gets too much:

'Here you'll find astrological insights on the best times to court your muse or to sign contracts, to start your book or revise it, to go on tour or postpone it. You'll be able to plan for the times your creative flow may be blocked or when that flow is racing so fast there's hardly time to sleep. You'll discover the most propitious times in a given month to negotiate with agents and editors or with your clients'

August was quiet month for writing and feedback.

My soon-to-be-married sister will shortly be moving to Clungunford which I tried to find on Google Earth but apparently it doesn't exist. Another reason I now need to increase my script income rapidly is to pay for plane tickets to wedding. And on most airlines it's full or two thirds fare even for my four year old (who told me today that her best friend had asparagus in her lunch box. Now what kind of mother puts asparagus in her daughter's lunch box?) Plus there's 'no hand luggage' to think about.

This afternoon the hub (who has been having a few twinges in the chest lately) went off to have himself checked out. First the student doctor said he had 'an enlarged heart' - (which a quick search on the www will indicate is pretty serious) But then the senior doctor said he was perfectly fine. Relieved? Not quite.
Who would you dis/believe?

About a week ago I set up an email filter to alert me via mobile to certain 'work' emails. And today it worked for the first time! Peep peep. Woohee - I rushed home to open a photograph of a rather dark hall suggested for a shooting location. Hmm will have to re-filter the filter methinks.