The latest round of National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) slate funding has been awarded to Fineline Productions, RealEyes Films and Fuze Films with the aim of cultivating sustainable and viable production companies, empowering female filmmakers and encouraging transformation in the industry.
According to NFVF Production and Development executive Thandeka Zwana each production company will receive R2m annually, over a period of three years. “R1m will be devoted to developing three scripts per year and to pay company overheads, the other R1m is earmarked for production of the best project out of the crop selected for development.
“At the start of the year, each company must pitch a selection of projects they wish to develop to the NFVF and any other investment partners. The successful projects are green-lit, after which each company will re-pitch the projects for production. The best projects will be selected for production.’
Junaid Ahmed from Fineline Productions says their projects for development in 2012 have already been green-lit. “We will be developing three projects in three genres – drama, comedy and crime thriller. At the moment we are working with three teams of writers: Zee and Thuso, Patronella Sello and Cynthia Jele and Ndumiso Ngcobo.
He notes that, before the slate funding, they couldn’t compete with the resources and infrastructure of the big production companies. “The NFVF funding actually helps in levelling the playing field. There is now the absence of pressure of how to pay monthly bills and service providers. The slate funding allows a freedom to focus on developing and producing good quality projects and helps us to seriously address the issues of transformation in the industry,’ notes Ahmed.
Johannesburg-based Fuze Films is a female and majority black owned media company, awarded the slate funding with the aim of empowering women filmmakers. Zikethiwe Ngcobo will head up the producing element, Mokopi Shale the development and story components and Cati Weinek will focus on creative excellence.
“The funding allows us to get onto the first rung in the film industry and become a sustainable production company. We are new voices that can reflect on previously unseen aspects of life in South Africa,’ note Ngcobo, Shale and Weinek.
They have started development on their first four features – two comedies, an epic romance and a thriller.
“Our mission is to generate uniquely African content, made by women, that is market and profit-driven, while challenging the established benchmark of quality and production. We are going to develop women feature film directors as well as producers,’ they add.
According to RealEyes Films’ Judy Naidoo, she and producer / director Sara Blecher partnered to submit a proposal for slate funding because they share the same vision.
“Throughout this process, the aim is to advance women on all levels of the production chain. In terms of development, the funds allow us to adequately compensate talent for their efforts and support them in their growth. It also enables us to function as a proper structured company with systems and processes, which will ultimately establish a strong foundation from which to grow,’ explains Naidoo.
Two of their three films for development this year have been approved by the NFVF, and they intend to pitch the third project soon.
She notes that producers often have to dig into their own shallow pockets to finance films. “With the slate we have the opportunity to develop nine films in three years! This is a huge blessing. We have the opportunity to build our credibility as filmmakers and provide investors with confidence in our ability to deliver outstanding films. Just as important an outcome is that women’s voices will be heard telling their own stories in their own unique way.’
Zwana notes that the three production houses all encompass a strong training and development ethic as well as a real desire to unearth previously disadvantaged and undiscovered emerging talent in the fields of producing, directing and writing. “They were also intent on engaging with the public in attempts to uncover the “real’ stories and help to get these stories put to script and hopefully eventually to the big screen.’
Over the past five years the NFVF has awarded slate funding to two production companies with specific developmental and sustainability objectives. “The first slate, awarded to Dv8 Films, was very clearly targeted at providing black directors a shot at their first feature in a supportive environment and also involved the training of black heads of department. The second slate, in its second year, was awarded to Rogue Star Productions on the basis of a unique low budget commercial concept. They have released 31 Million Reasons which performed well at the box office and proved commercial viability. They are currently developing their second feature, which should be going into production early next year,’ notes Zwana.
By Linda Loubser
Screen Africa magazine- May 2012