Friday, April 27, 2007


I do love a bit of taboo. Every so often I read a news story that, in my opinion would make a fantastic film and which I'd love to write the screenplay for. So in a first for this blog, I've decided to declare my interest in this news item - "75 year old Granny & her 25 year old Gambian lover" here .

I know that there are all kinds of legal issues with scripting a real story (about real people.) But aside from this and in the unlikely event that anyone has managed to snap up the film rights from this duo, I'm your writer.

How I'd love to get right inside their heads. She - sedate, reserved, well travelled and now 'livid' with her granddaughter's betrayal in a revelatory article in the
Guardian earlier this week. He - the softly spoken black outsider, forced to smoke out of a bedroom window and with no one else to talk to.

It's not just the obvious age and cultural differences that attract me but the whole idea of 'impropriety' in middle England and the subtly embedded prejudices at play within and outside the family. I know this 'type' of story pops up fairly frequently but this particular tale resonates with me.

The 'family values' sub text of the Daily Mail's story
here focuses on why a gentile, respectable elderly lady of means from the 'picturesque village of Buriton' should embark on such an 'unsuitable' and (probably) doomed relationship. No one seems too interested in imagining what the young man may be thinking.

Yes there have been other films about supposedly 'mis-matched romance' notably
The Mother brilliantly scripted by Hanif Kureishi and Vers le Sud (Heading South) with Charlotte Rampling and my all time favourite: Harold and Maude but this story seems to offer even more fascinating possibilities.

What do you think? And have you come across a news story you'd love to script?

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I think we had 100% rain today because it rained non stop and about 17 inches - so that must be 100% don't you think? Update: it has now been raining solidly for 48 hours - if it carries on like this someone's going to have to build an ark.

You can tell this post is filler - I'm speeding rapidly towards my 100th (92nd this one) so have throw in a few empties. Tee hee.

Plus I wanted to equal February's rate of 20 posts in one month.

Done that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

woo hoo!

It may sound like I'm making this up but……

Yesterday the phone rang. It was long distance and quite a bad crackly line and a woman with a West African accent asked to speak to Barbee*. Now Barbee is my Sierra Leonean middle name which I never use and so in two minds I answered hesitantly 'Yes...speaking?'. Then the lady asked me to hold because she was putting a call through from Lagos School of Studies*. I waited for 20 seconds while the line crackled, then suddenly imagining that either this was a new type of 491 spam telephone scam or that I'd somehow agreed to accept a reverse charge call from someone I didn't know in Nigeria, I slammed down the phone. Yes - a bit unfriendly I know but I'm from the yookay.

The minute I slammed down the phone I had a blinding realisation. You see I'd thought the only people who ever call me by my African middle name are some or all of my eleven half brothers and sisters from Sierra Leone (not that I'd slam down the phone on any of them I must point out). EXCEPT I suddenly remembered that nearly 2 years ago I had gone in for some poorly advertised 'panafrican' scriptwriting competition and had posted my entry to - wait for it - an address in Lagos. In an Afro moment I had decided to use my middle name on my entry because it seemed appropriate for this contest. Though I must point out that I have never done this before. Anyoldhow the closing date passed, no winners were announced and the original competition details and website disappeared off the face of the web within 6 months. So I thought 'Ahh well' crossed it out of my script log book and carried on with my life.

Recalling this, I rushed eagerly to the PC, googled here and there and lo and behold! there was evidence of the long forgotten script competition and unbelievably - the winners were due to be announced at a ceremony THIS FRIDAY in Lagos!!
Of course my mind started whirring like a frantic thing and spinning all sorts of delicious outcomes in my head. I immediately rattled off a polite but cautious email noting that from my perusals of the web, the results of the 'panafrican' script competition seemed imminent, and would they please keep me informed etc. since I had in fact received a call from Lagos that very afternoon but unfortunately the line had become disconnected. (Ahem ahem) and signed off with first name, MIDDLE NAME last name - just in case there was any confusion.

First thing this morning I received a response informing me that the competition assistant 'Begonia* will respond shortly' Hmmm.

Later on this afternoon I received an email saying that they had tried to contact me over a month ago and "Please note that the jury has long concluded on the selection process and the first five scripts will be recognized during this April 27th conference. I am not very sure you will be able to attend and I am glad to inform you that your script took the second position. It would have nice to have you present during the award presentation. All the same, if you have someone in Nigeria whom you think could act as a proxy that will be honoured."

Woo hoo perhaps or woo who? Maybe there's a small amount of money involved or maybe not - (there's supposed to be). 2nd prize. That is affirmation of sorts isn't it? I don't think I'll be getting on a plane to Lagos though.

Watch this space.

* All names have been changed to protect the innocent


Ok some fresh stuff this month - with a couple of opportunities for makers of short films.

First up there's a competition for African filmmakers being organised by the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and the Goethe-Institut supported by the Art in Africa Foundation.

This is a themed competition which is inviting filmmakers to 'engage with the challenges facing the African continent through the medium of film.' The contest is open to young professional filmmakers resident in any African country and operates in 2 phases. Phase 1 is a scriptwriting competition and Phase 2 is a development period resulting in the selection and awarding of production funds to 3 winning scripts.

For more details visit the website
here. The closing date is 30th June 2007

Happy Snaps is a call for proposals for 8 - 10 minute 'feel-good' lesbian & gay films. The call is open to those who have some filmmaking experience, but who may not have yet had the opportunity to make a film. Organised by Out in Africa South African Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and the Italian Institute of Culture the request is for 'simple scripts'. For further details on how to submit visit the website
here and click on 'Happy Snaps'

The Writing Studio has a range of frequently updated opportunities on their website here. This is where I saw a general call for 'scripts, stories, synopses or treatments for international co-productions as well as South African television ideas' from Slim Films. There's not much other information so perhaps best to query first - write to:


Details of the latest the Mnet Edit 'learner based initiative created to provide emerging film and television talent with genuine production opportunities within a real world television environment' have been announced. For more details visit the Mnet site by clicking

To catch up on previous opportunities and deadlines click on the 'opportunities' label in the sidebar.

Also remember to check back very soon for updates. I often receive information on other opportunities straight after I've posted!


Monday, April 23, 2007


For some time now, I've been fascinated by the relationship between writing and drawing - and in particular the pictorial origins of writing. Part of the appeal is the beautiful graphics of some 'early writing'.

A recent birthday present was Lyn Davies lush 'A is for Ox' which tracks the pictographic origins of the Western alphabet. Another book I've been looking at is Steven Roger Fischer's absorbing 'A History of Writing' which covers the origins, forms, functions and chronological changes of the world's major writing systems and their scripts.

Saki Mafundikwa has managed to put together a partial but extraordinary, illustrated array of alphabets and syllabaries* from across Africa. In this colourful book 'Afrikan Alphabets' he relates how in 1896 King Ibrahim Njoya of the Bamum Kingdom in Cameroon undertook a massive effort to develop and install a local system of writing called 'Shu-mom'. Although much of this work was later destroyed by French rule, Njoya's children have since made an effort to preserve some of these amazing scripts and records. Here is an illustration.

click on pic to go large

* list of characters representing syllables

Sunday, April 22, 2007


There are a couple of exciting writing things - simmering away - that I'd like to blog about right now - but can't since I'm a convert to the '3 karmic principles of blogging for writers'*

1) Don't blog in detail about anything for which the outcome is yet undecided
2) Don't blog in detail about anything for which you desire a favourable outcome
3) Be vague about specifics and don't mention names.


* which I just made up


Problems with SABC reach crisis point.

The full article in the Mail and Guardian is available here.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Ever wondered what is the point of blogs for writers?

To read the findings of Miss Cellany's recent analysis click here.

and feedback on a UK Writers' Guild event on 'blogs for writers' is available here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Was going to post about what's cooking writing-wise at the moment but thought it best just to keep things simmering away (on low) on the back burner. And I'll post about butternut instead - which is a staple food over here - with butternut soup, butternut mash, butternut pie. Hub loves it and now I'm a reluctant convert.

When my daughter was little I used to sing her this little song:

'You can't butter up a butternut
You can't butter up a butternut
La la la la'

The one day hub brought home a particularly big butternut and I drew a face on it and some ears and my daughter fell in love with it and named it 'Baby Butternut' and wrapped it in a blanket and took it for walks in her pushchair and kissed it and put it to bed. Ah. Then she forgot about it and it rolled away down the back of something, somewhere in her bedroom.

One day - weeks later, craving his favourite vegetable, hub remembered the butternut and retrieved it sneakily. Hearing a bloodcurdling scream I ran to the kitchen to find my daughter in tears and orange slices piled up on the table.

'Daddy's killed Baby Butternut!' she sobbed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Been discussing with a friend via IM whether the scripts by Cho Seung-Hui (the gunman responsible for America's latest mass assassination) might contain any indication of a subversive mind or intent. Both short plays Mr Brownstone and Richard McBeef are popping up everywhere all over the net - you can access them here.

My thoughts (on a cursory read) are that in Richard McBeef I wouldn't have detected anything other than bad and gimmicky writing, juvenile outlook and too much swearing. It reads like poor Tarantino-esque pastiche..
I would have been more than slightly disturbed by Mr Brownstone - not least because the play (if that is what it can be called) involves the teaching profession. Handing in something like this would be tantamount to provocation. Besides the extreme negativity and polarised positions of the 'characters', there's a complete lack of reality and humanity. I'd say this is written by someone who is not experiencing 'normal' or sane human inter-relations - maybe that is what the teacher reported. Definitely cause for concern if I was marking it.... what do you think?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Weddings and Beheadings

BBC accused of censorship after cancelling short story broadcast

The author Hanif Kureishi accused the BBC of censorship last night, after it dropped a radio broadcast of his short story describing the work of a cameraman who films the executions of western captives in Iraq.

Link to the full Guardian story click here.


Short post as I'm undertaking a major writing re-jig at the moment including a change of title, format & medium (f>r), conflation of 2 sets of characters, back to fronting, front to backing etc etc. Did 23 pages of re-drafting yesterday and now my wrists are swelling up (but then so are my ankles) so think it is probably down to the change in the weather here (getting damp) rather than RSI. Going to try and do the same amount again today.

Have been thinking quite a lot about the why fors of writing and blogging prompted by
Miss cellany. One commenter on her site mentioned something about how, after a while, 'self consciousness' impacts on blogging.

Hmm maybe I'll throw in a bit of code here and there for regulars..
Anyway back to work


Friday, April 13, 2007


There has been a flurry of posts lately wondering why scriptwriters, who are trying to carve a niche for themselves, choose to remain anonymous and whether anonymity is self-defeating. Yesterday the blogger formerly known as Pillock became the latest to 'out' himself. Update: now back in again.

So is anonymity self defeating?

In Word's online thesaurus, the antonym for 'anonymous' is 'distinctive'. In the virtual world you can be distinctive and anonymous at the same time - which maybe sums up its appeal for certain writer-bloggers.

So no I don't think that being anonymous is self-defeating. I'm anonymous mainly because it suits me. I would never have started blogging in the first place under my real name or revealed any personal information at all. And its not that I've got anything to hide. I'm not a household name. There's no big secret. I don't have (many) axes to grind. When I set out it was never my intention to create a website to showcase myself and my wares or gain work (and I don't really know whether people actually gain any scriptwriting work through blogs but maybe some do.) In fact I'm not anonymous at all to most friends (who I've told about this blog.) I've told other bloggers who I am too (so if you email me and ask me nicely, I will tell you too).

I just prefer it. Anonymity is a protective cloak - like Little Red Riding Hood's - it fictionalises.

When I started not so long ago, blogging was a novelty, fun. I thought a blog would be a great way of storing interesting thoughts and images every now and again. A work in progress. Then it became more of an obsession with tweaking and clouds and add-ons. Then comments - spawning unlikely allegiances across continents and arbitrary dialogue with complete strangers on favourite topics.

Now it is a habit and I'm perfectly happy in my anonymity. I don't see why anyone should be bothered by it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The post below was a little dark - so now for something lighter (see it's all about pace and tempo...)

My mum, who has been told many a time that she looks like one of the Golden Girls (remember them?) - the one with a deep voice - even though she actually has quite a high pitched voice, loves entering competitions - sudoku, crosswords, everything and anything. So she wins things all the time which can come in quite handy. Anyway once upon a time she won 280 pounds worth of 'Instant Weave' hair from the Voice newspaper. Conceding that her grey bob was unlikely to be enhanced by a woolly weave-on, she sent me to receive it in her stead. So off I went, with a mate to the 'Afro Hair and Beauty Show' which at that time - took place inside an airport hangar off the north circular.

I had to sit, perched in the middle of a podium while four women with frighteningly curly fingernails pulled at my roots and cackled at the state of my dandrufty-tufty afro while attacking my head with a frenzy of clips and twists. '100% pure Chinese hair' they kept telling me. In big helpings - with gold safety pin things attached to the ends. It took hours and hours. My friend kept wandering off to have a look around at the wigs, gels, conditioners, straighteners, tongs and other delights. And each time she returned to check progress, she crumpled up on the floor in hysterics.

The crowd that gathered provided an unflattering commentary. Someone shouted out 'Poodle head'. Finally, transformed into an incarnation of Diana Ross (at her most hairy), I was set free.

I tried to stand up but the sheer weight of the new head of hair yanked me back down. I felt as though I was in drag. I understood why long-haired rocker blokes bob their heads in that jerky way - as they walk along. It was like having a curtain sewn on to my head.

I kept it in for 2 days and then pulled it all out.


Ok this is not something I normally do - and for readers outside South Africa - this post may hold little interest (and readers within South Africa are few in number anyway!).

Right now there is a quite a hot debate in moviezone about a 4 part TV drama series which the main local broadcaster developed and commissioned, aired the first 2 episodes of and then abruptly pulled from the airwaves. Apparently this was done in response to the concerns of several powerful organisations including Contralesa who objected to the subject matter.

So what is this controversial topic that is too 'hot' to be dramatised in the new South Africa?

Xhosa 'initiation' (or male coming-of-age ceremony.)

Update: "SABC1 took the decision to halt the broadcast of the local mini series 'Umthunzi Wentaba' due to objections raised by various interest groups and the general audience." Clara Nzima Programme Manager of SABC 1 explained that in line with the corporation's organisational value of "Conversations and Partnerships" (which encourages ongoing dialogue with stakeholders), it became necessary to raise the issues in the public domain through open discussion on 'Asikhulume'. After the consultative process the SABC re-briefed the producers of Umthunzi Wentaba, taking into account the valid views raised from all stake-holders."Starting on 3 May 2007, 'Umthunzi Wentaba' will enjoy an uninterrupted 4-week broadcast, in line with the original channel schedule strategy", says Nzima.

I have also written a script on the same topic - (albeit a completely different narrative take) My story was in fact about Sotho initiation. At the time I wrote a statement of intent which I am re-posting here - as a contribution to the debate:

A close friend of my family went off to his Sotho initiation and after 10 days, was brought back dead. Shocked by this untimely death, I wanted to delve deeper and over the last two years - talked to men who have been through initiation. I found out more - although the subject is pretty much taboo.

'Death during initiation' is both important and problematic to write about. As a woman I'm automatically an outsider. Here, a Xhosa storyteller could be accused of tribalism or attacking Sotho tradition. A Sotho storyteller could be criticised for 'selling out' or even betraying their own culture. I wrote to try to understand and as an outsider, I had to try to 'get it right'.

'The script tells a story which neither condemns nor condones tradition but which unearths some of the darker aspects of ritual. Just as in gangster initiation or even the army where young men, holed up together are forced to prove themselves under duress. Though it is not what happens on the 'inside' that interested me particularly but how men 'outside' (friends and family - in particular the father) try to cope with such a sudden and terrible death. Thus it is a story that explores men's relationships via the emotional landscape of loss.

For those interested in finding out more about the controversy there's a local news story here and another news story about initiation deaths here (may be slow to load)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Of late I've become over reliant on this glimmering screen (fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight). The conclusion - I'm not doing enough printing off. In the old days I'd meticulously print out every draft then spread it out, move it around, scribble here and there and even cut and paste with a pair of scissors and Pritt! Plenty of time to think and correct. But over the years - maybe it's something to with the cost of ink cartridges or the need to be close to all things online, I've fallen into the bad habit of hardly ever printing off during re-writing at all.

Right now I'm doing a thorough re-work (film to radio anyone?) and it suddenly struck me that the best action would be to print out, then read through slowly and shuffle (while sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea) away from the computer. Yes.

Then launch a pen and scissor attack.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I'm thinking of doing all my blogging in a bumper 'buy one get four free' posting once a week on a Wednesday evening* or some other time when everyone else is doing something much more interesting and all the blog widgets are offline or temporarily discommoded.

But when you all come back - comments are very welcome...
*subject to change

Who's who

Nicked from Robin Kelly's website is this link to an interview with playwright Lonnie Carter who is not interested in plays about white males. Read it here

"I don’t have any hesitation writing about Black people, working with Black directors, actors. It feels comfortable. If you’re observant, you can write about cultures other than your own. Men can write about women. Blacks can write about Whites. Gays can write about straights, whatever. There should be no restrictions on what writers write."


could be good, could be bad, could be a dead end, could open doors, could lead to other things, could be a bit of a long shot, could be a wild goose chase, could be an uphill slog, could be brilliant, could be crap, could be unrealistic, could be impractical, could be a legal minefield, could be something they're already doing, could be something they've already done, could be too 'off the wall', could be too much 'on the fence', could be too edgy, could be too safe, could be too gentle, could be a quick response or a slow one, could be no reply at all, could be ..
(on the topic have a look at the brilliant cartoon on Lianne's blog here.)


My friend from Chapeltown in Leeds once told me how, as a child her whole family were asleep in the house one night, when the front door opened and an old drunk man staggered up the stairs and attempted to get into one of the beds. The family woke up and threw the man out.

It turned out that this man lived in their house 15 years ago and still carried the front door key on his bunch. Being an alcoholic he was used to stumbling home on autopilot.

Unfortunately that night, his memory played a trick on him...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Deadlines etc

mostly old but something new -

Mnet have resumed their New Directions scheme. They are seeking short dramas of 26 minutes in length and also a 48 minute documentary. Deadline is April 30th.
There are now two schemes - one for submissions from South Africa -
details available here. The other is for ONLY for short drama submissions from Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia and details are available here.

International deadlines
April 30th
BBC's 10th International Radio Playwriting Competition to find the next Pinter, Brecht or Soyinka. Details are available
May 14th
For playwrights,
iceandfire and Amnesty International UK announce the first ‘Protect the Human’ playwriting competition "exploring individual stories of displacement and conflict."
May 15th
This year's All Roads Film Festival have just put out a call specifically for African films. "As the May 15th submissions deadline approaches, we are stepping-up our outreach to filmmakers, distributors and producers." For further information click on the link here:
All Roads Film Festival
31st May
The forthcoming
Africa in Motion film festival in Edinburgh have put out a call for 'emerging African filmmakers' to submit short fiction films or documentaries

Local deadlines
30th April
Mnet New Directions - see above
31st July
Maskew Longman Miller competition for original and unpublished drama manuscripts - information is available