South African pay-TV broadcaster M-Net’s Format Development Unit has introduced an
original television format called the TeleLovela, described as “the escapism of romance
that meets the appointment viewing of a mini-series’.
The first edition of this planned long-running series is called Ligte, Kamera… Liefde
(Lights, Camera… Love) and debuts on M-Net’s Afrikaans-language channel kykNET on 2
September this year.
The format has been designed in such a way that half-hour episodes on a Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday tell the love story in daily doses while the whole
romance is then edited into a stand-alone feature referred to as a Lovela.
Creators and producers Kristen Broberg and Merran Ann Williamson, who work in
format development at M-Net, follow international trends and noticed a massive surge in
Broberg says: “As romance novels have never really crossed over to television in the
short format, we decided to look at the structure of a weekly romance novel to see how
we could adapt that to the screen, which we have done with this new scripted formula
which is called the TeleLovela.’
“I am so excited about this project,’ comments Williamson. “I have always been
passionate about format development in South Africa and Kristen and I can’t wait to see
one of our original formats on air.
“Trying something new is only possible with a passionate and committed crew and cast,
so we were lucky to have the chance to work with some of the most talented people in
In order to achieve optimum results, the experienced core crew consisted of director
LeRoux Botha, assistant director Cindy Nuttall, commissioning editor and screenwriting
expert Henrietta Greyffenberg, scriptwriter Handrie Basson, director of photography
Chris Vermaak and second cameraman Divan Rossouw.
The cast of Kamera, Ligte… Liefde consists of a mix of experienced actors and new
“We worked with established actors such as Heidi Mollentze and Chris de Clerq who were
both wonderful. Jenna Dunster, who plays the female lead, is a young actress who is
making her mark and everyone’s eyes are on lead actor Jacques Bessenger at the
moment. Bouwer Bosch, comedian and musician, was fabulous on set and excellent at
improvisation,’ says Broberg.
The rest of the cast consists of Marlee van der Merwe and Danie Putter who brought
their own unique skills to set.
The biggest challenge was shooting the TeleLovela under extreme time constraints while
still delivering quality.
“We shot a minimum of 20 minutes screen time a day which resulted in 84 minutes over
five days,’ says Broberg. “When you see the quality it speaks volumes for experienced,
good actors and a skilled director.’
However, the team put in a huge amount of preparation as well. Broberg remarks: “We
were able to maintain quality under such immense pressure as we were all in
communication for a long time before shooting. Everyone was aware of the restrictions
we would be under, so we were all prepared for those challenges.’
Greyffenberg says that although the TeleLovela is light entertainment, it is rooted in
strong dramatic principles. “We had to be careful to avoid cliched storytelling despite it
being light and entertaining and wanted to give viewers rounded and identifiable
characters. The minute the clock started ticking on this project we all got involved and
made it work.’
Botha did a lot of performance directing prior to the shoot. “I am sold on the idea of a
table read after this experience. One of the reasons we were able to work so quickly was
because the actors were so well prepared. During the table read we went through all the
processes and who the characters were and would go.’
The director says that, “During the table read the actors got the whole picture and really
knew what they were doing, what their function in the story was and that led to us
working on an ensemble feeling already. As a result, everyone felt more at ease and
confident and knew what to expect from their fellow actors.’
Botha stresses: “I also enjoy being part of the post-production process. Johan Oelsen
of Presto Post Production is genial and I love the look and feel of the show.’
In terms of a scriptwriter, Broberg, Williamson and Greyffenberg had to find someone
who understands format and drama. “We realised that Handrie Basson knows the
kykNET audience very well. He used to be the head of marketing and publicity so has
walked a long road with the audience.’
The TeleLovela has been designed to be a long-term project with a weekly story.
“Because it has such a spin-off with the movie it lends itself to long term. With romance
everyone is pretty sure how it is going to end, but there is so much joy in watching how
things develop,’ Broberg says.
“We hope TeleLovelas help give South Africa’s scripted format industry the kick-start it
needs to compete on an international level,’ remarks Williamson.
“I think it is wonderful and exciting that kykNET saw the opportunity of an original
product, which is built to last. We definitely have big plans for it,’ concludes Broberg.