Thursday, June 28, 2007


I'm sitting here gobbling sweets from a mini-tub that I've bought for my daughter's birthday party on Saturday (she's 5 today actually) - while she's asleep.

First I swallowed (whole) a fluorescent, lime green worm and now I'm sucking what looks like a pair of gummy false teeth which I should really have tried out first in front of the mirror. But hey I'm not 5 .

Scriptwriting thoughts will resume shortly.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

fish packing

There's a small ad that appears in newspaper classifieds all over the place here - for 'fish packers in Alaska'. Yes you can earn zillions of dollars a month apparently packing fish there. Students sometimes contemplate it for a year off; 'Hey I could go and pack fish for 6 months, then earn enough to travel.' Maybe it's even a fantasy for domestic workers, packed into taxis on the early morning run from the townships to the plush suburbs. 'Maybe today I'll hand in my notice and go and pack fish in Alaska. In one year I could earn enough to buy a house.'
I met a woman who did it once - she said it was dark all the time, cold, nasty, smelly and depressing. She flew back home after 6 weeks.

After yesterday's episode of Oprah aired, I doubt there'll be too many new takers here. A pretty young woman hobbles on stage and tells Oprah her story.

She was on board a fishing trawler somewhere near Alaska, in the middle of a terrible storm. She leaned inside a menacing-looking fish disembowelling machine - trying to pull out the tails or something. Anyhow, because the sea was so choppy she'd fallen right into this lethal metal vat. Although it was switched off, the motion of the sea tossed the ship and triggered the 'on' switch. The vat's metal chomper-blades whirred into action and started to chew up the woman's legs. She couldn't get out or switch it off. Plus she'd found out that very morning that she was pregnant. High drama on the high seas. Meanwhile crucial medical help was helicopter miles away, through a storm across the ocean...

At this point, the programme cuts to a solemn-faced Oprah who reminds us of the salient facts - gross, gripping and rather unbelievable. I feel sick.
Happily a year on - the victim is now recovered (legs pinned back together), smiling and healthy. Baby is healthy too. Phew. A happy ending.

Fish packing in Alaska anyone?

Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award


Are you under 30 years of age and a non-U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S.?

Can you create a completed half-hour to one-hour English-language television drama script for a family audience?

If so, you may be eligible for a US$2,500 prize and a trip to New York City. The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2007 and the winner will be presented with the Award at the International Emmy® World Television Festival in New York on November 17, 2007. The winning script will be read by actors in front of an audience at the Festival, and the winner will be invited to take part in the red carpet festivities at the 35th International Emmy® Awards on November 19.

Sir Peter Ustinov, the quintessential writer / director / performer, graciously gave his name to the Foundation’s Television Scriptwriting Award. In addition to his acting career, Sir Ustinov was an accomplished writer, as proven by the 23 plays he wrote, two of which were nominated by the Writer’s Guild of America.

The competition is designed to motivate novice writers worldwide and offer them the recognition and encouragement that might lead to a successful career in television scriptwriting.

The Foundation organizes and administers the worldwide exchange and educational programs of The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. It has its own Constitution, Officers and independent Board of Trustees.

Rules and Regulations

I. Eligibility:
· The Applicant must be a non-U.S. citizen or resident not residing in the U.S.
· The Applicant must not have reached his/her 30th birthday as of December 31st of the current year.
· The Applicant must deliver an original completed DRAMA script for television, written in English.
· The script must be a minimum of a half hour and a maximum of one hour in length.
· The script must be intended for a family audience.
· The script should be a stand-alone, not a program that is part of a series.
· All Applicants must provide a completed entry / release form to be eligible.
· Applicants may not have had a script produced on television prior to date of entry.
· Material that has previously been sold or is currently under option may not be submitted.
· Only one entry per scriptwriter will be accepted.
· There is no charge for this competition.

II. How entries will be selected:
· The Judges’ decisions will be based on original story; dramatic situations and scenes; compelling characters and how they are developed; crisp, believable dialogue; and use of the visual medium. The Judges’ decisions will be final.
· The Winner will be presented with the Award in November at the International Emmy® World Television Festival in New York City.
· Applicants will be notified only if they are selected by the Judges as one of TEN (10) Finalists. The Winner will be selected by the Judges from among the Finalists.

III. Entry Submission:
· Deadline for receipt of submissions is July 15, 2007. Entries may be submitted via regular mail or by e-mail, although email is preferred. In either case, in order to have your script considered, please include all of the following:

1. A cover page for the script listing the title of the script, the author’s name, address, telephone number and email, if available.

2. TWO (2) typewritten copies of the script held securely by a binder (if submitted by regular mail), or an attached file containing the script (if submitted by e-mail).

3. A signed original copy of this entry / release form, copies of which may be obtained from the International Academy, from participating organizations or from the Academy’s website at

4. A ONE (1) page resume or biography of the writer attached at the end of the script.

E-mail entries should be sent to: tracy.oliver 'at'

Monday, June 25, 2007


Bit of a meandering rabble-babble about anything and nothing this one - seeing as several of my regular readers are on holiday or out of their country. Plus it seems to be raining torrentially absolutely everywhere on the planet. Plus there's not been too much in the way of opportunities to post about for the last couple of months and no information yet on the re-incarnation of Sithengi this year.

So maybe now is a good time for a word on rejection.

Long ago when I was (we were) green, my producer friend and I were touting my first script. One evening she spied a top, top producer in a pub and (unwilling to waste any opportunity) decided to pitch him then and there.

Before she even launched into her opener, he stopped her in her tracks, asked a few telling questions and then guffawed loudly at her response. 'You think you know about rejection? Well I've had thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of rejections.'

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Rian Malan on South Africa and the Alcock boys. Read here.


The fascinating back story of Molly/Misbah.
Read here.

Friday, June 22, 2007


The aloe vera in front is almost in full bloom so here's a pic.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Quick post as there's lots of work to get on with. The jazz thing suddenly mushroomed into something much bigger while I wasn't paying much attention. Oh if film were so easy.

Book fair was great. My daughter held Shrek's finger. Antje Krog spotted in the caf at lunch - fab haircut. Also in the caf - a youthful Eric Miyeni holding court. Gcina Mhlope seen checking in at her stand. And on the podium Kiran Desai enthralled audiences.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book fair

The highlight of Cape's Town's cultural calendar kicked off yesterday with the annual book fair. Apparently it was mobbed.

I'll be off to take a look today.

Friday, June 15, 2007


One inspiring book which I picked up on the Charing Cross Road in 1989 and return to time and again is 'The Fragrance of Guava' ( Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza in conversation with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.) My copy has two Freetown addresses scribbled in the back so I must have taken it to Sierra Leone. Anyway it's basically one long conversation with Marquez organised into short chapters. There's one each on his two most famous novels, then one on Origins, Family, His Craft, Education, Readings and Influences, Work, Waiting, Now, Politics, Women, Superstitions Mania and Tastes and (lastly!) Fame and the Famous. It is thought provoking and I took it out again yesterday when I started thinking about superstition.

I'm not that superstitious though I detest Friday 13th. Early this year it fell in the middle of holiday school so I kept my daughter home. In a month there's another - in holiday school again so I'll do the same. That's one of my few concessions. My mother holds this 'reverse superstition' thing where she almost goes out of her way to disprove it. She wore green when she married for the 2nd time on Friday 13th (and no - it didn't last).

Everyone seems superstitious here, in one way or another. One of my hub's female relatives will get up in the middle of the night during an electrical storm to cover all the mirrors with a sheet to prevent bad luck.

© F Jason
In this photo a sangoma (witch doctor) is interviewed by a journalist. Her beliefs don't allow her to look in the face of a white man. Instead he must direct his question to the small circular mirror she is holding.

Last year was sent The Travelers - a book of photographs by Elizabeth Heyert taken at a Harlem undertaker. Macabre and fascinating - it is a series of huge colour photographs of dead black Americans of varying ages - dressed up in their Sunday best for their journey to heaven.
Anyoldhow sometime ago, this book was lying on the sofa when the 'light bulb people' came round. (South Africa is becoming more eco-friendly and so light bulb people were despatched to every house in the land to exchange the old light bulbs for the new two-prong low energy ones - bulb for bulb - totally free. While hub was up the ladder unscrewing bulbs all over the house, the Xhosa light bulb official started looking through this book with great interest. Then she took out a notebook and started writing things down. Of course being a nosy writer, I had to ask what she was writing. She said 'the birth dates and death dates of the people in the photos - to use to play the Lotto!

Dead people have great powers...


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chinua Achebe

There was a writer, Nelson Mandela recalled of his 27 years in jail, "in whose company the prison walls fell down".
Chinua Achebe of Nigeria, whom Mandela honoured on his 70th birthday as a fellow "freedom fighter", was yesterday named the winner of the £60,000 Man Booker international prize.
Read on here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


There's a strike on - an on-going strike by public servants across South Africa that's expected to peak today when solidarity action from other unions kicks in. Teachers (and other professionals) here are badly paid and are holding out for a 10% pay increase across the board

So daughter is at home - therefore not much writing today. The school is actually open, but yesterday she brought home a letter containing this worrying sentence:

"If it should happen that protesters gain access during class time then we should sound the alarm intermittently and teachers will lock the children and themselves into their classrooms."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

daft ideas

Onwards and upwards. Ok today I thought I'd chat a bit about blogging and writing and self-consciousness and daft ideas all kind of rolled in together. Maybe a train of thought will emerge.

A while back I did something which I hardly ever do - which was talk about one of my scripts on the blog and I even posted part of a statement. It was all to do with the local TV drama news story here. As it turns out that 4 part TV drama series was pulled completely (despite a re-edit) That was after the story had gone wide - even being reported in Variety here. Anyoldhow this blog received a fair number of hits from people googling it. Then my script came 2nd somewhere (I'm fond of slipping that in). Since then I've had a few requests for reads (even though I've now re-worked it for radio.) Maybe this disproves the whole self-conscious karmic blog thingy.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was 'daft ideas'. I'm sure all scriptwriters get them sometimes. At the time, the idea appears to be the most stupendously, magnificent one imaginable.

Once I wrote up a film synopsis about a 'dancing minotaur'. Yes you read that right. (OK so I went to Art College.) I even submitted it and received an ever-so-pleasant letter which must have been typed by someone fighting to keep a straight face. 'While this is certainly an unusual and original premise, we do not feel that in the current climate there is a huge demand for a movie about a dancing minotaur'.

Ha ha.

So that's mine - what's yours?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ousmane Sembene pioneer of African cinema 1923 - 2007

DAKAR, Senegal: Sembene Ousmane, the father of Senegalese cinema and one of the pioneers of the art in Africa, died at his home over the weekend after a long illness. He was 84.

"It's a great loss for Senegal, for Africa and for cinema," said Tidiane Niangan, the director of a government-run cinematography institute in Senegal, who confirmed he died on Saturday.

Read on here

Watch here

Sunday, June 10, 2007


The 82 year old lady next door, popped round to ask if I'd seen a bunch of flowers that she'd signed for at the door but which then disappeared. I said 'no'. She huffed and puffed and then asked if I thought she was mad. I arranged my features into a suitable expression and then said 'no'. I asked if it was her birthday and she said 'no' - the flowers were for a friend in hospital. She then launched into a story about a woman who was stuck in her bath for 3 days and had to drink the bathwater until people came and broke down the front door and found her. Then she started to rail against her son in-law. I kind of knew she was going to get round to this. They argue a lot these days. One of their windows is about 3 yards away from where I type. When they fight it sounds exactly like Egyptian geese.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


The scribosphere's been keeping an eye on it. But now 'Spoof blog parody of young controller is the talk of (UK) television.'

Read the Guardian story here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A day in the life of a scriptwriter

The day starts early - very early - my daughter is up at 5.30 without fail - rain or shine, so it's a bit hard to stay in bed much later than 6am. Early morning is spent getting her ready for school then hub drops her off just after 7.30. Then 'Eyes' arrives around 8 o clock.

Normally I've made a list - the evening before - of things I still need to do the next day. Right now I have all these edit scripts outstanding from the children's TV series. Doing them should have been a piece of cake - tweaking the shooting scripts here and there - but due to the extensive re-edit, not so. I have to view and transcribe it word for word. Laborious. This all needs to be typed and submitted along with the final accounts (grrr) and other paperwork in order to get the last chunk of funds from the broadcaster. I keep putting it off.

Unless there's a deadline, the daily routine is fairly fluid. The script log book gets checked through to see how long things have been out. Then I skip around the internet around to see what's happening everywhere. Plus I read the local and international trades online and the papers. Today I check the bank - wooee been paid for the first jazz article! Then look for stuff for my daughter's 5th birthday party (month end). Then notice the desk has half an inch of dust all over it - so take everything off and do a major polish.

But if I have a deadline - then it's straight to work - I can do an 8 hour writing day, more or less, before my daughter's back at 3. There's usually Sky news burbling away in the background unless hub is in, then it's the new Russian news channel or Al Jazeera or something that's not quite so preoccupied with the current movements of Paris Hilton.

That's about it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Here's a short doc opportunity - Call for Proposals for the ENCOUNTERS Shorts Workshop.

Encounters South African International Documentary Festival and the Jan Vrijman Fund of
IDFA are inviting proposals for documentary films of up to 10 minutes duration on the subject of LOVE. New love, old love, unconditional love, secret love, true love, puppy love, forbidden love, love at first sight…

In this 4-day workshop filmmakers will further develop their proposals with the view to producing a finished film within a 10-month period.
Encounters and the Jan Vrijman Fund will cover the costs of flights and accommodation, workshop tuition and meals.Eligibility Candidates must:· be filmmakers from either Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia or South Africa· have filmmaking experience – at least one completed film to their credit as either director / producer / writer

For full details click
Deadline: 5pm on Wednesday 20th June 2007.

Applications to be sent to Mandisa Zitha

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


For international script news in bite sizes click here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Submitting TV proposals (local)

A number of recent hits to this blog have been searches for 'how to submit proposals to the SABC' and 'submitting proposals to local broadcasters' - so I thought I'd post a general overview on 'how to' - based on my own recent experiences.

The SABC issues a RFP (request for proposals) booklet once a year usually at Sithengi. This contains tenders for numerous programmes across a range of genres including: religion, education, factual, drama, entertainment, children and reversioning. Last year, in an attempt to provide greater scope for programme development, they also introduced 'research and development' (R & D) briefs across all genres. Since the future of Sithengi is hanging in the balance at present - the next SABC RFP booklet could be issued at any point over the next few months. The RFP booklet is usually available to download from their website or a hard copy can be picked up from any of the main SABC offices. In the current booklet, there are still a number of drama R&D proposals whose deadlines are yet to expire - so it is still worth looking through.

The RFP booklet contains a comprehensive guide on how to submit and a list of names and contact numbers of all the various commissioners. There are a few schemes where individual writers can submit proposals directly but most of the time proposals must be submitted via a local production company. Small or new companies can sometimes pair up with more established companies, in a 'joint venture' to make a submission. In some instances the genre teams may guide newer companies - if they sense an idea has merit. It can be worth sending an email query - or phoning..

So how to submit? First of all, it is best to read through the RFPs carefully and see what attracts. Then do what it says on the tin. Many of the RFPs provide strict guidelines of what materials need to be submitted (in addition to the company and other administrative documentation and budgets). For drama they usually require a step outline of one episode, a synopsis of the remaining episodes (for a series) a character bible and 10 pages of sample dialogue.

For factual and other genres the application materials vary but usually require a detailed proposal of not less than 10 pages showing evidence of research. Evidence of research means proof that characters (for the documentary etc) have been located and that experts have been approached, logistics worked out etc. Sources of archive material, historical references, supporting organisations should also be listed. If a particular presenter, anchor or personality is to be used within the programme then a letter of intent from them or their agent should be included.

It is important to adhere to the language/ representation requirements of the brief and address these adequately in the proposal. If applicant team members do not speak the language of the proposed programme then they need to provide evidence of how they will meet the language requirement, who will be involved and how etc.

For all genres the proposal must provide what the broadcaster terms 'a goal statement.' This is a brief sales pitch for the programme - describing what makes it stand out from other shows and who the audience is.
A synopsis should then provide more detailed overview of the programme content.
A more detailed treatment should then provide a breakdown of at least one episode for factual programmes (and most other genres.) The treatment should describe the specific format, style, content, new media elements, graphics etc.

The key word to remember when writing up a programme proposal is simplicity. Keep the language easy rather than academic. Make the proposal fun to read - convey a sense of the style and energy of the programme in the language. Make reference to similar programmes.

Always read through and check the proposal carefully before printing it off. Make sure that all the correct materials have been assembled. Companies based in Cape Town can actually hand deliver proposals to the SABC in Seapoint right up to the day of the deadline. These are then sent up to Jo'burg overnight. Short listed candidates are supposed to hear within 2 months of the submission deadline.

In the past the SABC have also run road shows for unsolicited proposals. It is also worth checking out their website for separate RFPs that may be issued throughout the year.

Mnet have put out several drama industry briefs over the last year and it is worth checking out their website for updates. They usually require a comprehensive proposal and a full script or sample script for drama proposals.

eTV run an occasional regional documentary strand which is usually advertised on their website.

If anyone has a query about any of this (or anything else related to the world of scriptwriting) then feel free to email me (address in profile) and I'll respond in a future post.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I did promise a post-a-day in June. No writing today or even any thoughts to offer about writing or screenwriting.

Went on a family trip out to Hout Bay for fish and chips and to watch the seals in the bay. I thought I saw a crocodile - but they're freshwater aren't they - not salt water?

Then it was off to a 'baby shower' in Gugulethu for my (wait a minute I have such an extended family here - it gets a bit confusing sometimes) husband's youngest sister's youngest daughter's baby which is due next week. She (J) has had the most vibrant and (outwardly) healthy pregnancy I've ever witnessed. Today at the shower - only a week away from giving birth, she looked stunning in pink furry top and blue contact lenses bomping down on the dancefloor. The average age of the mainly females guests was 22 - so all the oldies gave the speeches - in Xhosa. So of course I had to come up with something off the top of my head - in English - about how we're all looking forward to this baby and how every child is welcome into this family.
Hmmm - maybe this is what growing up is all about - I never once thought when I was younger, that I'd ever be doing this.

Then the DJ turned the music up. Food and beers came out. More folk poured in. I stomped around to the heavy, heavy dub dub kwaito sound until a one-eyed man started to lurch around rather erratically, then I knew it was time for us all to go home.


Friday, June 01, 2007


I like June. Egyptian geese are back again on the Parkway. They travel in pairs - well one usually sits forlornly on top of a lamp post and brays until its mate arrives.

But this is a scriptwriting not a bird-watching blog. Posts were a bit sparse in May but I'm going to try and post daily in June.

Haven't blogged many script opportunities lately since there don't seem to be many new ones around, but will try and get a clump together soon.