SA screenplay catches US attention


Cape Town scriptwriter Shirley Johnston’s feature screenplay “Felix!’ has been declared a quarter-finalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest. Zoetrope is the motion picture company formed by Coppola and George Lucas to produce feature films which challenge the norm.

The aim of the scriptwriting competition is “to seek out and encourage compelling film narratives’. This year the judge was writer/director/producer Gus van Sant (Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho) who “honoured’ a number of screenplays entered into the competition, Felix! among them. The competition drew 2,500 entries.

Felix! has already garnered a number of credits: It won the Writer’s Forum Award for Best New Drama at Sithengi, it was one of ten finalists in the U.S. Specscriptacular Competition and was a finalist at the Moondance Film Festival in Colorado.

The screenplay, which has been optioned by Penguin Films, is about a brilliant young Gugulethu musician who wants to follow in his late father’s footsteps and become a famous saxophonist so that he can one day play with Bra Hugh Masekela. In his attempt to pursue this dream, he coaxes his father’s old buddies out of retirement to recreate their famous “Bozza Boys’ jazz band.

The story is essentially “Billy Elliott with sax meets Buena Vista Social Club in the shack lands of Cape Town.’ International talent attached to the project includes Richard E Grant (Withnail and I), Embeth Davidtz (Junebug) and Miriam Margolyes (Life & Death of Peter Sellars). Local casting will begin once the balance of the finance has been raised.


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