Pay-TV broadcaster M-Net’s South African content channel Mzansi Magic is to commission 45 one-hour movies for the 2012/2013 cycle of its Bubblegum Movies strand, which starts airing in August on Mondays at 21h00.
Since Mzansi Magic was launched two years ago, 30 movies have been produced under the Bubblegum banner.
According to newly appointed Mzansi Magic commissioning editor Brian Lethlabane, submissions for proposals for the 2012/2013 cycle closed on 28 June.
“We received lots of interesting proposals and have so far commissioned 10 production companies. Some films are in production with others in script development,’ he says.
Commenting on the budget for Bubblegum Movies, Lethlabane notes that there are three budget brackets: R100 000; R150 000; and R250 000. The latter is for a five-part series (as opposed to a single standalone movie).
“The five-part series is positioned as a sub-brand of the Bubblegum genre,’ continues Lethlabane. “Last year we made our first five-part series, Mshika Mshika, produced by Jeremy Nathan.
“Our budgets encourage filmmakers to be creative. I tell filmmakers not to have pre-conceived projects but to look at the Bubblegum budget and then come up with a story to fit it. They need to limit the number of their locations and keep the cast small. If you look at overseas examples, Quentin Tarantino said that he would have shot Reservoir Dogs in a garage if he’d had a smaller budget. Similarly, the first movie in the successful Saw franchise only had two or three locations.’
Bubblegum movies are aimed at family viewing which precludes the inclusion of explicit violence or sexual content.
“That’s why film is such a great medium, because you can hint at these things without showing it, but only if they support the context of your story. We’ve seen that comedy is doing particularly well as a genre in South Africa and it has sub-genres such as romantic comedy, horror comedy, action comedy and dramedy,’ states Lethlabane.
Audience ratings figures for the Bubblegum Movies prove that they have been well received by the audience.
Says Lethlabane: “Our viewers like moral conclusions in their stories – they want to see good triumph over evil but they don’t want to be preached to as TV is an escapist medium. The success of local movies depends more than anything on audience approval and I think the Bubblegum movies have struck a chord with viewers. These movies are a like a mirror of society told against the township and semi-urban backdrop.’
Lethlabane comes from a production background, having directed short films and music videos and worked on major international productions such as Dredd, Tsotsi and Hotel Rwanda. He was previously a commissioning editor at free-to-air channel e.tv and was also a storyliner on the popular soapie, Scandal.
Screen Africa magazine – August 2012