International comedy in Cape Town


Internationally renowned industry experts shared their knowledge on the subject of comedy and sitcom during the third module of the Entertainment Master Class (EMC) 2011, which took place at the Monkey Valley Resort in Cape Town in September.

The Cape Town Module was the third EMC module of the year and the second module to be hosted in South Africa, following one in November 2010.

Guest speakers included Christian Munder, director of comedy for Sony Pictures FFP GMbH, Germany; South African creative producer / director Roberta Durrant; former UK producer of hit sitcoms Humphrey Barclay; director of investment at BBC Worldwide Caroline Torrance; and Hollywood literary agent Norman A Kurland.

Different sessions focused on subjects such as trends in comedy, international distribution of comedy, format protection and sitcoms for children.

EMC head of programme, John Gough, says the various practical workshop sessions and the successful first-time introduction of children’s and animated comedy into the module were among the highlights of the event.

South African participants formed about half of the 22 participants, and the other half came from countries including Germany, Norway, Malaysia, Spain, Belgium and Romania.

“The South African participants were enthusiastic and committed and brought a different dimension to the module. South Africa is well placed historically in the international market and should have the confidence to grow its business on its firm foundations,’ adds Gough.

Cape Town based Waterfront Studios handled the coordination of the event from the South African side. According to Waterfront Studios producer Markus Davies, just having the international guests in South Africa was already a highlight.

“It has been a rocky road to secure the South African leg and succeeding to bring them here has built a relationship with the EMC to return to the country in the future. This is crucial to the development of the local industry. As a result, South Africans have secured relationships that will bear fruit to all in the near future.’

Gary Edwardes, Waterfront Studios general manager says: “Our involvement with EMC fits with our strategy of competing internationally by cementing our relationships with top decision makers. Our staff members who participated in the EMC learnt from the best. We certainly hope to send more staff on the various modules in the future, as well as continuing our sponsorship of the Cape Town leg.’

According to South African participant Asivhanzhi “Asi’ Mathaba, executive producer of Asi-B Films, he saw the EMC as an important opportunity for networking and an investment in the future of the industry. “If you look at the calibre of the lecturers, this was a chance to get unlimited access to them for a few days,’ said Mathaba.

“I haven’t done comedy before and I’m working on a slate of films of which some will be comedy. As a producer, you need some of the basic rules of identifying good comedy. I’ve learnt that there can be truth and pain in comedy, and that it’s not only about the jokes. It has set me free.’

However, Mathaba notes that he would have liked to have seen more African participants on the course.

Another local participant, development executive at Light & Dark Films Anneke Villet, attended the 2010 Cape Town module on entertainment management and decided to attend the 2011 module as well, based on her experience the previous year.

“I especially enjoyed the workshop seminars on script editing and storylining. My company will be producing a sitcom for broadcast next year and I believe that what I’ve learned at the EMC will be of much practical use.’

Villet believes the hosting of the EMC will bear fruits for the local industry. “I think that the South African industry can learn a tremendous amount from the EMC about truly professionalising itself. Unfortunately our industry suffers under the typical

lack of proper funding and training one encounters in a developing country. The EMC provides its alumni with practical tools that they can apply in their day-to-day work life and can teach others within their industry.’

The EMC will be present at MIPCOM in Cannes at the beginning of October, and the next module for 2011 entitled Entertainment Management will take place from 2 to 8 December in Andermatt, Switzerland.

SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – October 2011 (view here)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here