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Carly Barnes


NFVF call for project submissions for Cannes International Film Festival

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, will once again host and facilitate the South African film industry presence at the Cannes International Film Festival. This year’s festival has been scheduled to run from 11 to 22 May 2016.

The NFVF is putting together a festival catalogue of projects from the 2015/16 period, seeking either completion, finance or sales agents for publication. Along with other activities, the NFVF will also host a sales event aimed at presenting projects to international buyers and agents.

Through the catalogue, sales event and screenings to industry experts, some of the South African films showcased at last year’s festival have travelled around the globe, signed with international distributors and won various awards. These films include: Ayanda, produced by Terry Pheto’s Leading Lady Productions and Real Eyes Films, which was picked up for distribution in the US by American director, screenwriter, film marketer and film distributor Ava DuVernay; Sibs Shongwe-La Mer’s Necktie Youth which premiered at festivals including Berlinale, Tribeca and Sydney, and won Best Director and Best Feature at the Durban International Film Festival; and Bordering on Bad Behaviour by Zenhq Films which also received various international awards.


Independent filmmakers which have fully developed projects (final scripts) or completed projects that are ready for sale are invited to submit project synopses for the NFVF to consider for inclusion in the catalogue and/or pitch at the sales event. Filmmakers must email the following information (application form is not required):

• Full synopsis of the project
• Tagline
• Two high resolution digital film posters (2000mmx2000mm and 610mmx 910mm)
• Trailer/promo (where available)
• High resolution production stills (where available)
• Requirements (funding/sales agent/distribution)

Failure to submit all of the above will result in the application not being considered.

The NFVF reserves the right to select qualifying films for the sales event or catalogue.

Deadline for submissions is 26 February 2016. For project submissions email Thandeka Zwana thandekaz@nfvf.co.za.

Director speak: Stephanie Linus


Nigerian actress Stephanie Linus has featured in several movies and TV productions
and has grown into a director, writer and producer. Her latest film Dry, which
highlights Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) conditions and underage marriages in Africa,
screened at the Africa in Motion Film Festival and has earned 12 nominations for the
Best of Nollywood Awards 2015.

Why did you decide to become a director?

I got to a point in my career where I wanted to do more than just acting. I had, and
still have, a number of stories to tell; stories that inspire me, stories that I feel
need to be told. I wanted to be more versatile, have more control of the creative
process and to show that we can really do quality movies in Nollywood despite all
the challenges. Also, there are not many female directors in our industry so it is a
way of encouraging women not to be afraid to go behind the cameras and tell their

What was your most memorable moment on the set of Dry?

There are so many of them, really. It’s hard to pick one. I think it’s when I had the
real women who are victims of fistula volunteering to be part of my cast. It was
heart-warming to see the smiles on their faces, hearing that the movie is about the
condition which they are going through and that we wanted to help create more
awareness about it.

What are your top three African produced films and why?

• Living in Bondage – for kick starting what we know now as “Nollywood’
• Tsotsi – for winning an Oscar
• The Gods Must Be Crazy – I watched it while growing up and I don’t mind watching
it over and over again

What inspires you?

God! Real people, real stories. Everyday mysteries.

Which character from a film/show you have made has impacted you the most?
The characters of Dr Zara and Halima in Dry; and in my reality show Make me
Fabulous, it’s really impactful to see people’s marriages and lives transformed just
by a little kindness.

Do you feel film has the power to catalyse social change?

Oh yes, definitely. Films should always strive to ignite and open up social dialogue
and that is exactly what I did with Dry on the issue of VVF and child marriage. The
medium is powerful and can travel – cutting across barriers of caste, religion and
generation. Just one social film can create a huge difference and we as storytellers
have a lot of power and responsibility. With the amplifying nature of media, we
filmmakers have a big tool in our hands.

What does the future of film and TV in Africa look like to you?

It is promising because it’s one of the key sectors that contribute to Africa’s
economic development through job creation, cultural development, tourism,
information and much more. It will also help foster unity among various African
countries. We just need to be sincere and collaborate more with one another; and
work towards a unified goal and not just for personal gratification.
We are on the right path to a positive change. Although there are a lot of challenges
like piracy, distribution, funding, training and unenforced copyright policies, but
there are great opportunities with African cinema. There is an abundance of
incredible stories and filmmaking from the continent. We also have an abundance
of talent and I am truly thrilled to be part of it.

What is the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your profession?

Failures are lessons that should help us to do better in the future. Never regret
anything that has happened in your life; it cannot be changed, undone or forgotten.
Take it all as lessons learned and move on with grace.

What film would you make if you had an unlimited budget?

I would love to do an action movie.

If your life had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?

It would be a song by Matthew West titled “Grace Wins’.

What are you working on at the moment?

Dry has screened at festivals across the world such as the Bentonville Film Festival,
USA; Africa In Motion Film Festival, Scotland; St Louis International Film Festival,
USA; Montreal International Black Film Festival, Canada; and a screening at
Lancaster University, UK; which has kept me and my team busy. Next year, we
would be proceeding on a tour of some African countries with the movie. We are
also taking the message of Dry beyond the screens and are carrying out some free
repair surgeries on women with VVF in partnership with some corporate
organisations. We just signed a distribution deal and Dry has just been released in
the USA.

Compiled by Carly Barnes

Film Riot reviews the Helix Jr and looks at lav vs shotgun microphones

A camera stabiliser is used by filmmakers and cinematographers to position a camera in such a way that unwanted movements are evened out and shaky video footage is prevented. Film Riot’s Ryan Conolly takes a look at the Letus Helix Jr camera stabiliser. Light and user friendly, the Helix Jr is able to fall into “low mode’ to allow for low tracking shots. Though it provides a smooth image with slow steady walking, Connolly demonstrates how some vibrations are noticeable when the pace increases.

Lav mics are attached to film subjects, allowing filmmakers to capture sound as they move in a shot. However they are omnidirectional and can pick up on small environmental sounds. Shotgun mics are more directional, which combats this problem. So which one works best for your production? Conolly puts the two to the test.

Watch the full review:

Source: Film Riot

ACA call for 2016 APEX award entries

The Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) has announced that the 2016 APEX awards season is officially open. ACA is the official, representative body for the communications and advertising profession in South Africa and hosts the annual APEX awards.

“The purpose of the APEX awards is to encourage agencies and their clients to develop new, higher, best practice standards for measurement of advertising and communications campaigns and it promotes a better understanding of the business and why spending money on advertising and communications is a business investment – not an expense,’ explained Odette van der Haar, ACA CEO.

The awards programme was launched in South Africa in 1995, following the success of awards programmes globally. Countries such as England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland established similar programmes as far back as 1980.

Agencies and their clients are invited to enter their best work, i.e. communications campaigns which generated a measured and proven return on investment, into the 2016 APEX awards. Entrants are required to submit case studies detailing their campaigns and how all possible factors other than the campaigns have been considered as causes for brand success and in so doing, systematically prove a case for the campaigns themselves as being the cause for the brand’s success.

There are three APEX categories into which campaigns may be entered:

Launch – for brands or services which are less than 12 months old with no significant history of advertising.

Change – for new campaigns from previously advertised brands which resulted in significant short-term effects on sales and/or behaviour. Short-term being within a period of no more than 18 months.

Sustain – for campaigns which benefited a business by maintaining or strengthening a brand over a long period, i.e. 36 months.

“An APEX award represents both strategic and creative effectiveness which positions winners as being leaders of a profession that is constantly evolving and redefining creativity and effectiveness,’ explains Andy Rice, chairman of the 2016 APEX jury.

Compulsory briefing sessions for all entrants will be held at the AAA campuses in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as follows:

Johannesburg: 28 January 2016, 14h00 to 16h00
Cape Town: 2 February 2016, 14h00 to 16h00

At these sessions, entrants will receive information on how to enter, compile and win an APEX. While attendance is free of charge, seats are limited and booking of seats is essential. To book a seat at one or both of the briefing sessions, send an email to apex@acasa.co.za.

The annual APEX awards are hosted by the ACA with key partner, SABC and sponsors Millward Brown and Unilever.

For more information about the APEX awards, details on how to enter, key dates to diarise, entry fees and more visit the ACA website or email apex@acasa.co.za

APP-titude: Teleprompter Pro & Artemis Director’s Viewfinder

Teleprompter Pro

  • Publisher: Matt Cowlin
  • Compatible devices: iOS, Android
  • Price: Free (Teleprompter Lite); $6.99 (Teleprompter Pro)

How it works: Teleprompter Pro is an app designed for filmmakers, journalists and video bloggers. The app essentially turns your device into a teleprompter, which can be remotely controlled with a Bluetooth keyboard or remote or directly with your speech.  Scripts can be imported from a device in .txt format and users can also apply mirror mode to use with any iPad-ready teleprompter rig. Teleprompter Pro Lite is the free version of the app, which offers fewer features and capabilities.

Why this is awesome: Presenters use teleprompters to interact in a more direct way with their audience, as it enables them to read their dialogue or script while looking at a camera. The major benefit of having an app like this is that it can be loaded on various devices which you may already own, saving on production costs. Traditional teleprompters can be a difficult to setup and are very expensive.


Artemis Director’s Viewfinder

  • Publisher: Chemical Wedding
  • Compatible devices: iOS, Android
  • Price: $29.99

How it works: Using a device’s camera, the Artemis Director’s Viewfinder app reproduces various lens and camera combinations. The app can be used on set in place of a traditional director’s viewfinder optic to frame shots or capture stills which can be used to create a storyboard. Users only need to select one of the many film and digital formats supported, aspect ratio and lens type, before checking out a shot.

Why this is awesome: Directors use viewfinders as a way of framing a particular shot. Usually a small optic is used so that they don’t have to operate the entire camera rig (which is heavy and expensive) to allow them to view a shot with the precise film size, focal length and aspect. The Artemis Director’s Viewfinder, which is notably cheaper than a traditional director’s viewfinder, offers a more convenient solution that presents precise and adjustable features.

Using a filmmaking app you think we should know about? Tell us why you think it’s awesome by emailing: carly@screenafrica.com.

DISCOPRO pitching competition winners

Part of the DISCOP Africa content market is an annual pitching competition, which runs under the DISCOPRO workshop programme and offers producers an opportunity to pitch their projects to an audience and a panel of potential industry buyers.

At DISCOP Africa this year for the first time there were six pitching categories for the following content genres: TV series (two), formats, documentaries, animation, and a combined category of comedy and web series. Only five competition entries were selected to pitch in each category, and each producer was given only a few minutes to present their project idea to the audience. The judges then selected three final nominees, who were awarded another eight minutes to present a more detailed idea, after which a winner and runner up were announced.

During their pitches, some key points which were put to participants by the judges were surrounding target audience, the use of archive footage, narrative structure and the level of experience encompassed by the production team.

Winners and runners up received market badges for DISCOP Africa Abidjan and DISCOP Africa Johannesburg 2016, as well as consultations with professional filmmakers on developing their projects. Winners were each awarded US$2 000 and received commitments from selected African broadcasters to air produced content in accordance with their channel requirements and licensing agreements, while runners up received US$1 000.

DISCOPRO 2015 winners:

  • AnimationWINNER: Abel N’guessan Koume Project title: Roi KeitaCountry: Côte d’IvoireRUNNER UP: Khanyisa MfekaProject title: Modern MadnessCountry: South Africa
  • TV SeriesWINNER: Skay MandoselaProject title: Team StacyCountry: South AfricaRUNNER UP: Angela AquereburuProject title: The Blood of NigeriaCountry: Togo
  • DocumentaryWINNER: Lisa WickhamProject title: Hero: The Life and Time of Ulric Cross Country: Trinidad and TobagoRUNNER UP: Michael LeeProject title: Vigilante Road TripCountry: South Africa
  • FormatsWINNER: Jason CorderProject title: Yolo PoloCountry: KenyaRUNNER UP: Patrick WaltonProject title: Cheese CultureCountry: South Africa
  • TV Series 2WINNER: Anna BalloProject title: Ablaha PokouCountry: Côte d’Ivoire RUNNER UP: Gugulethu MaqetukaProject title: Ithwasa – The RookieCountry: South Africa
  • Comedy and web series WINNER: Kaizer MokgoboProject title: TV LoversCountry: South AfricaRUNNER UP: Gregory SheppardProject title: The Geek and The FreakCountry: South Africa.

DISCOP Africa advances pan-African collaboration

An ongoing initiative at DISCOP Africa has been to foster an environment where producers from across the continent can meet and enhance their network of potential collaborators.

This year’s market featured a Country Zone where industry representatives from Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, The Caribbean Islands, Ghana and Cameroon were hosted. According to event director Patrick Zuchowicki, the aim of this was to give participants more of a presence in the industry, to encourage engagement with each other and for producers from those countries to attend and have a base at DISCOP Africa.

Collaboration between South Africa and Kenya was brought to the fore at the content market, as delegations from the two countries further cemented plans for an official partnership in the future. Following on a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed in 2013 between the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), KFC film industry development manager Timothy Owase hopes the countries will have an official co-production treaty in place by the end of 2016. “When you look at what Kenya and South Africa have to offer, and you combine the two, the benefits are greater than if each country continues to work individually,” he commented.

According to Owase the Kenyan government has in the last financial year approved a number of film incentives, which will make the country an attractive filming destination for South African producers. On the other hand, he adds that Kenyan filmmakers could benefit from the experience which South African producers have to offer. “When you look at developed countries, there are quite a number of co-production treaties signed. When we look at Africa, there is no single country which has signed a co-production treaty with another. When we join hands we are able to deliver more and achieve more than if we remain working in our own silos as countries,” says Owase.

Okey Nwosu, CEO of Nigeria-based Key Media, attended DISCOP Africa as part of the Nigerian delegation and stated that the country is also working towards having an agreement and a treaty in place with South Africa.

Nwosu added that DISCOP Africa had provided a number of promising opportunities to collaborate with other African producers: “I had a meeting with a South African producer yesterday, and we have planned to continue our discussions around the possibility of a co-production between my company and his.”

SA’s local content boom

In the past year South Africa’s major broadcasters have diversified their local content offering and have delivered some progressively engaging narratives and quality productions to audiences. With content choice driven more and more by the viewer and a local content quota review that is currently underway, commissioning strategies are adjusting to what the market demands: stories that are culturally rich; that present in different genres; and that are reflective of South African realities.

Culture is the cornerstone

Free-to-air commercial broadcaster e.tv has made huge gains in its local content offering with newly launched shows like Gold Diggers, Umlilo and Matatiele earning quick audience favour. This, according to group head of channels Monde Twala, is a reaction to the market.

“People are looking for African sentiment. ‘I want content in my language, I want content that reflects who I am and where I come from.’ South Africa is dynamic – we have nine different provinces with different cultures, sub-cultures, languages and traditional backgrounds. It’s a rich source of content and ideas.”

Over 20 new shows for M-Net’s local entertainment channels were commissioned in 2015 and Nkateko Mabaso, channel director of Mzansi channels at M-Net, also believes success is driven by authenticity. “Local audiences react to big ideas told simplistically while the unscripted formats are driven by reflecting local audiences’ current reality, whether it is weddings, dating or solving family and societal issues,” he explains.

The launch of shows such as Uzalo, which premiered on SABC 1 in February 2015 and attracted five million viewers, has contributed to audience growth for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago adds that positioning has played a significant role in achieving positive audience reception: “The implementation of a network scheduling strategy has been key in the three channels offering relevant content to viewers as and when they want to see it.”

Some are of the opinion that there is still a great deal of transformative work to be done in serving local audiences a plurality and diversity of views. Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi, a coordinator at the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting coalition, says that while commercial operators are providing local content which speaks to the realities of the black majority of South Africa, there is far more to be done, especially on the part of the national broadcaster:

“It is the SABC that should be innovating in this way, and defining the direction South African content goes by commissioning more content, across multiple genres (particularly factual content and dramas), experimenting more and pushing the envelope.”

In addition, Phamodi believes the recent MultiChoice deal, which granted the pay TV operator exclusive access to SABC archives, goes against creating a truly competitive content production and distribution sector. “Having taken control of SABC’s archives, MultiChoice Africa has locked out all future broadcasters from accessing the single largest local content catalogue in the country,” he explains. “The net effect of this is that there are only two real centres of power that control the nature of the content produced for the market, who produces it, and at what cost.”

Budget balancing act

Broadcasters have stated that production quality sits high on their priority list – but, with local content budgets remaining consistent, how does this marry to the increasing demand for more shows and more content? For e.tv, which relies solely on advertising revenue, it’s a constant managing of risk and investing in partnerships which has allowed them to produce shows of high production value. “By engaging more with the production sector, we are getting the benefits in terms of value versus cost, and sustainability in terms of quality. We also take a few calculated risks, working with new producers who want to do business with us and who are putting value on the table.”

Karen Meiring, director of M-Net’s Afrikaans-language channel kykNET, says that the channels’ budget has consistently grown with audiences over the past five years, but adds: “We have to always operate on the principle of taking affordability and viability into account, while still giving our viewers the value proposition that they expect from us as a pay TV operator.”

The SABC recently announced a R600 million budget set aside for local content, which is just below the previous years’ R621 million allocation. M-Net’s local content budget has also ‘remained stable’, according to Gideon Khobane, channel director of M-Net-branded channels, who adds: “For M-Net 101, quality takes priority over quantity.” In the past year M-Net 101 commissioned a new season of Idols SA and Carte Blanche, as well as the first season of Power Couple SA and documentary offering My Story.

Up the ante

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is reviewing local content quotas as the country moves towards a multichannel digital environment. Currently the quotas are set at 55% content for the national broadcaster, 35% content for FTA commercial broadcasters and 10% of acquisitions for satellite subscription broadcasters. Concerns have been raised by broadcasters over their financial capacity to meet these requirements in a DTT environment. Should these quotas increase, FTA broadcasters will be placed under additional financial pressure.

“There is no relationship between having more local content and more advertising revenue – those will never go hand in hand,” comments Twala. “I think we need to look at what the impact of that would be so that we create a sustainable industry across the board. The intent is fantastic and probably welcome because that’s what the market demands, but it needs careful financial analysis.”

But Phamodi says that content quotas are crucial in ensuring support and investment in South Africa’s cultural production and in some cases, need to be increased. He remarks: “The use of our airwaves, which are a public utility, need to principally benefit us, and only after that can profit-making be considered. Instead, we’re being flooded with international content from the global north that has little to no resonance or impact on the lives of the South African people.”

Elements of Cinema: No strings attached

Puppet Nation ZA is an Emmy-nominated South African satirical puppet show produced by Both Worlds. The show requires a hard working crew which works at lightning speed to produce well-researched, believable, side-splitting characters. The team discusses the work involved in making this skit ‘Game of Cronies’ – a spoof of the popular TV series Game of Thrones – come alive.

Karen Jeynes on writing:

I think Puppet Nation resonates so well with audiences because it allows us to laugh at things that might otherwise seem taboo, or make us angry or sad. By satirising politicians, we give people a way to laugh at them – but also to imagine that things could be different. The fact that our characters are puppets allows for an extra layer of safety – you’re not really laughing at the president himself – or Vladimir Putin – you’re laughing at a representation of them.

Each puppet is unique; some talk slower so their dialogue needs to be shorter or punchier. Our voice artists are remarkably talented, and you learn which actors will relish in a certain kind of dialogue, and which characters are better singers or better at delivering one liners – it’s a wonderful challenge.

Alex Fynn on directing:

In our latex world, created in our tiny studio with our small crew, attention to detail in all departments is key to allow for complete suspension of disbelief. Timing in all aspects is vital. Between one and five puppeteers per character are needed for manipulation on set, depending on their size and the complexity of their performance. About 90 percent of what we do is on green screen, so I have to take into consideration how the choices I make will heavily affect the rest of my team while still ensuring the original intent of the satire comes through.

In this scene I focussed on ensuring that the correct, zombie-like performance was achieved with all characters in all of the plates so that they could be composited together to create the effect of hundreds of zombies walking in the snow. I referenced a shot from Game of Thrones which gave the team a good indication of what the final picture should look like.

San-Mari Calaca on wardrobe design:

With a show like this all clothes bought have to be tailored to fit the puppet’s body correctly and sometimes need to be made specifically. I always have to be aware of current trends, hairstyles and the personal style every character possesses. Politicians’ and celebrities’ styles change in real life all the time, so current references of all characters are very important to keep the show current.

For this scene I had to research the Game of Thrones wardrobe thoroughly to recreate the exact style needed. I then personalised Helen Zille so she is highlighted and still true to her blue DA colours.

Adriaan Hellenberg on sound design:

Keeping the sound design as realistic as possible is key to making the Puppet Nation world a believable one. Subtlety, detail and timing are important but because we are working with these amazing puppets, I can get cheeky and playful with the sound design at times. Sometimes when I’m working on a news interview scene I will spontaneously add small bursts of music for comedic effect, so in this regard the medium does allow me to be a bit more off the wall at times.

All the voice recordings are done in studio before going on set. Tassyn Munro directs the voice artists in studio and I chime in here and there. The only voice artist who does not come into studio is Ben Campbell who sends his clips via internet from America. Once I have all the voice clips, I compile the scenes together while following the script. Once checked and approved by Alex, the sound is played on a speaker on set and the crew shoot the scenes syncing mouth movements with the sound.

Tonga Isango on cinematography and lighting:

My aim is to keep evocative compositions while framing out the mechanical aspects of the show and guaranteeing a certain level of comfortable posture for the performers. To spare the puppeteers from physical strain I design the lighting and mark the blocking points with similar size ‘dummies’ prior to the shoot. While it is commonplace to use soft flattering light on human subjects I use relatively directional light to have the puppets’ features and texture ‘pop’ because a substantial part of the comedy lies there.

To convey its sombre tone and the overall low key lighting of this scene, I placed a full CTB and ND filter on a 1k Tungsten as low level cold key light and back light with a double CTB converted 1K Tungsten with no diffusion for shape defining, subject rimming light. I placed an additional 650W CTB converted tungsten 180 degrees left pointed at the foreground to backlight the Styrofoam snow. The same light was then bounced back at the subjects as a fill light.

I shot this scene with a Canon DSLR 5D MkIII coupled with assorted 24-105mm and 85mm 1.4 Zeiss lenses. Out of my gear options this kit allowed the right balance between maximum mobility (just a day to complete the entire sequence) and a slightly higher technical image quality.

Aurora Drummer on editing:

Due to the fast turnaround of Puppet Nation, all of our edits need to be locked down before they go to VFX for compositing. The majority of our footage is shot on green screen and so in a particularly complex skit like ‘Game of Cronies’, one needs to use a fair amount of imagination to determine the feasibility of a cut. One needs to imagine how a scene will look once it has been composited and had effects added, and pace the edit accordingly. One also needs to pay special attention to how believable the puppets are from certain angles, and cut the scenes to make the puppets seem realistic.

Occasionally puppeteers will be visible on screen or the puppets’ necks will pop out of their bodies, so we need to edit around this. Usually we shoot each scene with a multi-camera set-up and so this is usually possible. However, I usually discuss these mistakes with the director and the VFX artist to determine the best course of action.

Nikolai Groudev on VFX:

The biggest challenge in working on a show like this is speed – I have four days to complete a 25-minute show which is shot entirely on green screen. How much is practical and how much is fake depends from shot to shot. There have been some shots that are nearly all practical and shots that are entirely a puppet surrounded by green screen fakery. My goal in each shot is to blend them together in such a way that the viewer might suspect it’s a green screen but be unable to tell at what point the practical set ends and the CG set begins.

In this particular skit, making the shot come alive involves layering multiple plates of individual puppet performances shot on green screen in order to create the illusion of an endless horde. Adding elements like the snowflakes and subtle gusts of wind as well as depth of field, motion blur and chromatic aberration is what makes the shot look less clinical and fake as well as the addition of a slow camera move in post which also helps to add depth to the crowd as well as make it less obvious that they are standing in front of a static green screen.

Jeremy Nathan on “The Nairobians’

South African producer Jeremy Nathan of Zidaka talks about: the story in the TV series The Nairobians; the creators behind the series; and another TV series he is producing in Nigeria called Runs Girl.

Source: Smart Monkey

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