Friday, July 7, 2006

South African Filmmakers to Develop Four New films through UK-South Africa Project

Six South African writers have been awarded funding to develop their feature film ideas into screenplays through the '25 Words or Less' pilot project announced by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and the UK Film Council's Development Fund.

Run as a competition, the filmmakers will receive R100,000/£10,000 each to develop a first draft of their project and will be helped by a script editor assigned by the Development Fund and the NFVF.  Each of these drafts will then be jointly produced by a UK and South African producer.  

The winning writers who were challenged to pitch their idea in not more than 25 words within three chosen genres - teen horror, comedy 'fish out of water' and zero to hero are:

  • Zero to hero - Khumba by Anthony Silverston andRaffaella Delle Donne:   in a daring search for his missing stripes, an outcast zebra discovers his true self, revealing a lost legacy that saves his entire herd.
  • Zero to hero - Another Brother Moses by Uzanenkosi Motha:  three losers plan a simple break-in but a slip lands them in Brother Moses' house with 20 million bored viewers who want them to stay
  • Teen horror - Judgement Day by Sharlto Copley and Simon Hansen: a mystery virus causes national panic when it takes hold of a sleepy town; the origin of the virus is 'unimaginable'.
  • Comedy 'fish out of water' Jimmy in Pink by Hanneke Schutte: a bankrupt Limpopo farmer is elated when he inherits a hairdressing empire; but is horrified to discover he'll have to air-kiss and bare his midriff.

The UK Film Council's Development Fund has run a number of 25 Words or Less funding rounds in the UK but the South African programme is first to be run with an international partner.   The pitching concept has kick-started the careers of emerging British writers and seen scripts snapped up by major production companies in the UK and the US.  The South African programme is designed to help writers find a way of fast-tracking high concept screenplays which are aimed at the international market and have commercial appeal. In the process, British and South African script editors will work together on the projects, bringing an additional development dimension to the programme.

Jenny Borgars, Head of the Development Fund at the UK Film Council says: "Developing opportunities for the UK to work with international film talent, exploring different approaches to storytelling and finding new voices is vital to creating exciting new films.  South Africa is a rich source of writing and creative talent and this partnership with the National Film and Video Foundation has attracted exciting talent to develop their ideas as film projects and opened the door to future co-productions."

Ryan Haidarian, Head of Development and Production at the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa says: "We were overjoyed at the calibre of pitches. It was a proud moment for us having to mill over the shortlist of fantastic story ideas wondering which one was the best. Ultimately we had to add a fourth project due to the stiff competition."

Comments from the winners:

Hanneke Schutte, writer of Jimmy in Pink has worked in advertising as a copywriter and lectures in copywriting in Sandton.  "The idea for Jimmy in Pink originated from my fascination with hairdressers and women's professional and emotional relationships with them. Men speak to barmen (or maybe those are drunken monologues) women speak to their hairdressers. I come from a long line of mielie farmers, so I thought, what would happen if you take a farmer ('n stoere boer) who's never set foot in a hair salon, you dress him up, you teach him to say "doll" after every sentence and you make sure he services his customers' hair and hearts?"

Raffaella Delle Donne and Anthony Silverston writers of Khumba are both Cape Town-based writers who have teamed up to write their first feature-length script. "We believe that our story is universal yet uniquely South African and will resonate with anyone who has ever experienced what it feels like not to fit in. We wanted to tell a personal story that addresses sensitive issues such as the search for identity and self-acceptance in an entertaining way; and the great thing about animation is that it's the perfect medium to do this. The animation industry in SA is still in its early stages and this is an amazing opportunity for international exposure for us and the local industry as a whole. After working on this story for about 3 years, to say that winning this competition is a dream come true, is an understatement."

Uzanenkosi Motha writer of Another Brother Moses is a producer/writer/director. "9/11 and Big Brother Africa inspired Another Brother Moses. First and foremost, I was searching for a commercial film for a first time black filmmaker. I also understood that the project, once realised, had to establish me as a bankable film producer/writer/director. So, I asked myself what would happen if terrorists, instead of hijacking planes, dropped in the Big Brother House. Since terrorism was and is not really true for South Africa, I ended up with housebreaking."

Simon Hansen and Sharlto Copley, writers of Judgement Day, are co-directors of the two most popular South African short films of all time, both of which were screened last year in the Cinema du Monde section of the Cannes Film Festival.  "We are extremely thrilled and grateful to be one of the "25 words or less" winners. The collaboration between the UK Film Council and NFVF is an exciting step forward for us as South African's into the international film making arena and we look forward to the development process."   Simon and Sharlto are currently in production on the NFVF funded feature film Spoon.

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