Hollywood industry experts explore SA health challenges
A group of Hollywood executives, writers and producers visited South Africa this week (2 to 7 May) to listen to the stories of Aids patients and the medical staff working to treat them as part of a programme to portray global health issues more accurately in television storylines.
The trip was hosted by Hollywood Health & Society (HH&S), a programme of the Annenberg Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California that provides consultations, facts and briefings by medical experts to writers and producers on popular television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, House, Army Wives and Law & Order: SVU.
The visitors included Carol Barbee, consulting producer on Hawaii Five-O and creator of the medical drama Three Rivers; John Max Burnett III, creator and executive producer of Nickelodeon’s The Troop; and Karen Tenkhoff, a development partner at Walt Disney Feature Animation who has worked as producing partner with Robert Redford on films including The Horse Whisperer and The Motorcycle Diaries.
HH&S director Sandra de Castro Buffington says they wanted to take the industry experts to see the health challenges in South Africa for themselves, but also look at innovative solutions to see what is working on the ground. The group visited clinics and hospitals in and around Johannesburg and listened to the personal stories of patients and staff members.
South Africa was not only chosen because of the many health challenges, but also because of the country’s long history of successful edutainment. The Hollywood visitors joined South African experts Harriet Gavshon of Curious Pictures, Harriet Perlman of the Soul City Institute for Health & Development and Makgano Mamabolo of Puo Pha Productions in a panel discussion on 5 May in Johannesburg on ways to incorporate health information into powerful programming.
“The purpose of the trip was to learn about global health in a local context,” says De Castro Buffington, “it’s been so inspiring and I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of creative output as a result”.
For more on the Hollywood Health & Society visit, read the June issue of Screen Africa.