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Connecting content producers across Africa and beyond
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Thu, 03 Oct 2013 15:03
 DISCOP, Kate Skinner, Russell Southwood, Marc Schwinges, 
Romanou Kouferidji
AFRICA RISING: Kate Skinner, Russell Southwood, Marc Schwinges and Romanou Kouferidji at DISCOP AFRICA 2012

Specifically targeted at independent producers and focusing on regional and international cooperation, DISCOPRO forms an integral part of the DISCOP AFRICA multi-platform content market that runs at Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre from 6 to 8 November.

Around 200 producers, mostly from South Africa and Africa, are expected to participate in the DISCOPRO Programme.

DISCOPRO community manager Azania Muendane has been on an aggressive drive to attract producers from the world over, particularly the USA, who are looking to Africa for co-productions.

“The response to DISCOPRO programme has been positive. We have engaged industry from all over the continent and the rest of the world to tell us what they want to listen to during the DISCOPRO series and what topics are relevant to them. In fact, we even went so far as to solicit presentation proposals.

“We have also invited individuals who are on the fringe of content to come to the DISCOPRO to listen in on the discussions. These individuals include advertisers, bankers, lawyers, brand strategists and those people who are related to, but for whatever reason are not exposed to, such markets. To have such a powerful market and speaker programme as the DISCOPRO here in our backyard, makes it even more opportune to expand the conversation further than to just content produce,” explains Muendane.

An important component of the DISCOPRO Programme is the Africa Rising keynote series, which takes place on each morning of DISCOP AFRICA and features three of Africa’s most innovative television and video content distribution entrepreneurs.

Says Muendane: “On the first day of DISCOPRO we want to focus on how to create content on the continent with our keynote speaker Richard Bell, CEO of the Kenya- based Wananchi Group and Zuku TV, and moderator Rick Feldman, a veteran in TV content and former president of NAPTE. Richard will talk about how to accelerate African production and will provide insight into pan-African distribution.

“On Day 2 of DISCOPRO, Brett St. Clair, head of New Products sub-Sahara for Google / YouTubeTM will present the keynote. Brett will discuss all the opportunities that are available for African filmmakers to generate money from the YouTubeTM platform.

“Jason Njoku, CEO of iROKO Partners, the operators of the iROKOtv online platform, labeled the Netflix of Africa, will present the keynote for Day 3. He will tell delegates how he built up a successful company from nothing. Jason will show delegates that there is another life outside of producing content. Russell Southwood, editor-in-chief of Balancing Act, will moderate this discussion.”

Pitching competitions

DISCOPRO includes three genre-specific pitching competitions – for formats, TV series and documentaries. In each competition, 10 previously submitted, specially selected projects will be assigned 15-minute pitching sessions in front of a panel comprising Michelle Garthforth-Venter, Michel Rodrigues, Justin Scroggie and a room full of onlookers.

Two finalists will receive $1 500 each in development money, production guidance and a complimentary market badge for DISCOP AFRICA 2014.

People who don’t make the cut for the pitching sessions may still be able to meet with overseas commissioning editors and financiers on a one-to-one basis thanks to DISCOPRO’s matchmaking programme.

“The pitching competitions are DISCOP AFRICA’s way of ensuring that tangible opportunities exist for content producers to sell their product at the market,” comments Muendane. “Not everyone will win the prize on the day but, they will have their projects heard by local and international broadcasters, sales agents, buyers and distributors who are purposefully coming to the DISCOP to obtain content.
“In terms of submissions for the competitions, we’ve received queries from renowned producers who have produced some great works in the past.”

Conference Track

According to Munedane, DISCOPRO’s Conference Track was developed in partnership with trade associations and governmental bodies representing Africa’s most active production communities.

“Our Conference Track is designed around understanding the dynamics of the international TV content co-production business,” she continues. “One of the sessions, The Co-production Soup, will feature Terrence Khumalo of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), who will give the South African perspective on co- production. It’s worth noting that South Africa has co-production treaties with Canada, Germany, Italy, UK, Ireland, France, New Zealand and Australia.

“Joining Terrence on the panel will be Macenje ‘CheChe’ Mazoka from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), who will talk about how broadcasters respond to co-production. Kwame Boadi, president of the Producers Guild of Ghana, will discuss co-production from a West African perspective, Nelly Molokoane of South Africa’s Department of Trade & Industry (the dti) will also be a panelist.

“This session is heavily loaded with South Africans, including producer Neil Brandt, who has done quite a lot of co-productions in Africa. Also on the panel is Mike Dearham from Côte Ouest, which has spearheaded the distribution of content throughout Africa.”

Dearham will also be on an export readiness panel, speaking about how to take a business to an international level. This discussion will be presented together with Jeremy Nathan of DV8 Films.

At the time of going to press, Muendane was in discussions with producers from Nigeria’s ‘Nollywood’ film industry, as well as Indian ‘Bollywood’ producers, to set up a discussion about these industries which have proved phenomenally successful in the country as well as in the respective diasporas.

Sure to be of interest to DISCOP AFRICA delegates is a session titled The Art of the One-Line Pitch, presented by Michel Rodrigue and Justin Scroggie of UK-based company, The Format People. This will be a reminder to producers that it takes only one line to hook a commissioning editor.

There will be panels devoted to discussions around money, with input from South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the dti. Also participating will be a representative from the Nexim Bank of Nigeria, which is trying to find a business model to fund Nigerian productions.

Animation is on the Conference Track agenda. Says Muendane: “The success of the South African animated feature film, The Adventures of Zambezia 3D, proved to the rest of the world that we can produce Hollywood-quality animated films, and much more cost-effectively. This fact was also evident at the recent Annecy animation film festival and market where South Africa had a strong presence.

“For instance, Cape Town-based Strika Entertainment started off with a comic series in the City Press newspaper and now it’s gone viral all over the world. The Strika model allows brands to maximise their brands in the series. At DISCOPRO the Strika team will discuss how to use animation as an effective advertising channel.”

An often overlooked aspect of film production is dubbing. Producers looking to distribute across Africa and its diaspora need to dub their films and TV programmes into other languages so as to cater for a range of different audiences. US production company, The Kitchen, will present this session.

“It’s key for us to unpack the business of TV and film, beyond the creative aspect of the industry,” stresses Muendane.

A light-hearted panel will be The Revival of Francophone Comedy, presented by Gregoire Furer, the president of the Montreux Comedy Festival in Switzerland.
Another discussion will show how viewers of sport on TV have gone from being passive to active. Gary Rathbone, head of sport for Zuku TV will look at the power that sport wields on TV, while international sports agent Leroy Newton will discuss the trends in sports programming and reveal what people are acquiring.

Michael Wanghu, a US-based producer who creates lots of African content, will participate on the panel called First, target Africans. Wanghu will encourage local producers to create content that is relevant to their home audiences first, before trying to sell it internationally.

As a key sponsor of DSICOPRO, the Wananchi Group will present a session entitled Africa’s Silicon Savannah. Muendane continues: “There is a lot of silent movement in the East African industry. Wananchi will talk about how Kenya attained this position, what the regional advantages are, opportunites and the various growth engines, technological and otherwise.”

A session called The Disruption of TV will show how the online experience has affected TV and how broadcasters are competing with the new platforms. This session will reveal just how much of the broadcast landscape has been fragmented and how broadcasters are responding to consumer decisions in an era when content has become cheaper and more accessible.

For more information about DISCOP AFRICA and DISCOPRO visit:

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