Cape Town filmmaker wins inaugural SundanceTV Shorts Competition for South Africa

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Still from Ian Morgan’s winning short, Good Mourning

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: We all have a secret hope that when the time comes, our funeral will draw a large crowd of loved ones, who mourn and share heartfelt sentiments about the valuable contribution we made to their lives and the world.

However, this is sadly not always the case; when no one is there to mourn your loved one, Ted – the professional mourner – is there to assist.

Good Mourning is a dark comedy that looks into the life of a professional mourner who loves his job. However, one day Ted is challenged by a disbeliever, Sandrine, who questions his morals and ethical standpoint, and the conversation takes an unlikely turn.

The self-funded short film, created by Ian Morgan, recently won the inaugural SundanceTV Shorts Competition in South Africa and will have its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in London, which takes place from 31 May to 3 June 2018.

Morgan comments: “After coming from advertising, where it has predominantly been about creating beautiful images, the film was originally intended to be a project to prove to myself that I still could direct characters in highly dialogue-driven scenes. To have it selected as the South African SundanceTV winner is a massive honour. It is great to know that there are people out there looking for the type of narratives I create. I love the dark comedy genre, and I think it is a genre that South Africa needs to start exploring more.”

Morgan’s journey with SundanceTV began earlier this year when his pal and the lead actor in his short film, Paul Snodgrass, informed him about the competition. The pair had been entering the film into a number of local and international festivals and thought they’d try their luck with the SundanceTV Shorts Competition.

Submissions for the competition were open from 1 March to 15 April 2018 on the South African SundanceTV website. To enter, films had to be submitted by the producer or director of a film, who could provide proof of residency in South Africa. Films were to be no longer than 15 minutes and had to be delivered with English subtitles if English was not the language spoken in the film.

The Jury Prize was judged on a number of criteria, including creativity, entertainment value, original storytelling and production values. The jury was headed by Mike Plante of Sundance Institute and included Harold Gronenthal from SundanceTV Global; Aletta Alberts, executive head of Content and Third Party Channels at MultiChoice; and Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film.

Amusingly, Morgan received news of his win via an email, which he accidentally trashed, while busy on his current projects. “As I was super busy in post-production on a few adverts I had directed, I got to work early to check my mails and started deleting the ones that were not job-related. I then stopped and thought to myself did I just see the word SundanceTV. I went into my trash, and there was the mail that said my film, Good Mourning, was selected. I went into a little bit of a shock. I didn’t even have time to process that there was a prize until my producer said, ‘Hey dude you are going to London’,” he laughs.

Commenting on the film, Mike Plante, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival and president of the competition jury said: “Good Mourning is funny and compelling yet unexpectedly poignant. It makes great use of a very creative story idea and a pair of immediately engaging characters.”

MultiChoice came on board as an exclusive partner for the inaugural Shorts Competition in South Africa and as a result, Good Mourning will be broadcast on SundanceTV (DStv channel 108) later this year.

Marketing director at AMC Networks International, Victoria Spitalieri had this to say: “We’re incredibly excited to broadcast Ian Morgan’s film on SundanceTV Global later this year as well as to premiere Good Mourning at an event during the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in London. We’d like to thank all of the South African filmmakers who submitted entries as well as our partners who generously supported this exciting initiative.”

“At this point commercials fund my passion for narrative storytelling, and it would be great to be able to make more films in the future. As mentioned I have a number of ideas in the pipeline, but ultimately it all comes down to funding. It is not a case of if it will happen, but more of how soon,” Morgan concludes.

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