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?