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Lara Utian-Preston

Lara Utian-Preston
Lara Utian-Preston is a passionately committed marketer and strategist with a focus on promoting African content and events. Two decades of working across Africa have provided her with insights and experience that she puts to work for the projects she manages. In 2006, Lara founded, and still personally manages, Red Flag Content Relations, a full service below-the-line agency that also focuses on African entertainment and lifestyle brand marketing, strategy, and publicity.

Kenyan co-production to be shopped at Series Mania

When an invasive mining company threatens the existence of her village, a city girl caught between two worlds must return home, overcome her painful past to save the village and find herself in the process.

In an exciting first for Kenya, Country Queen, a new TV drama series produced as a joint German and Kenyan co-production will be shopped at market at both the upcoming Kalasha Market in Nairobi Kenya, and Series Mania in Lille France. With its exceptional production quality, uniquely Kenyan and yet universally accessible storylines, Country Queen will raise the bar for all other regional productions to follow.

Good Karma Fiction, supported by Federal German Ministry of Economic Collaboration and Development and Deutsche Welle Akademie, and in partnership with Kenyan Production Company Tililiz Pictures, has completed the pilot of the drama series that boasts world-class production values and that boasts  a team of Kenyan writers, crew, and cast.

Country Queen focuses on the fast-paced and perilous world of Nairobi as well as that of the rural populations – who are mostly neglected  when it comes to serious and riveting storytelling – and is told through the view of  a rarely highlighted tribe of the Akamba community.

The writing team primarily comprises of Kenyan female writers who have created the story for themselves and their peers, aspiring to appeal to both local and international audiences. The series focuses on storylines that are authentically Kenyan and driven by an ensemble cast of strong characters.

Country Queen is directed by Vincent Mbaya a Kenyan professional who started his career in 2000 as an actor and has worked across various disciplines including documentary film, reality TV, commercials and drama.

The series is co-produced by award winning Kenyan producer, Kamau Wandung’u, Winner oft he Ousman Sembene Award ZIFF, Best Feature ZIFF, Audience Award Berlinale (Writer), Sense 8, Nairobi Half Life, First Grader (BBC).

Good Karma Fiction will be looking for international funding and distribution partners as the team attends two key markets at the end of March. The Kenyan Kalasha Market has become a focal point for regional and African broadcasters, while the Series Mania event in Lille will see the team reaching out for global partners. Good Karma Fiction’s Ravi Karmalker and Peter Obrist have also been invited to take part in a panel at Kalasha with a focus on Filming For Impact And Importance Of The Film Industry.

With the recent upswing in the global appetite for African content shown by major streaming and broadcast platforms, Country Queen is will also be a welcome East African entry into the international market. The series is a first for the region in terms of its narrative scope, production values and savvy scriptwriting.

Good Karma Fiction’s Peter Obrist explains further, “We are thrilled to be taking the pilot of Country Queen to both Kalasha and Series Mania. We expect major interest from international broadcasters and distributers who can understand and appreciate the global potential of this kind of uniquely African content.”


The Africa Hub & EFM: Asking What If & Why Not


Having the amazing opportunity to attend the recent Africa Hub at the European Film Market (EFM) 2019, I was overwhelmed at the sheer variety of innovative and collaborative projects that were presented from the African continent.

I also was fortunate enough on my first day in Berlin to attend an EFM Horizon presentation from Professor Alex McDowell of World Building Media Lab (WBML) at the University of Southern California that framed my thinking for the rest of the week.

McDowell set out an inspiring thought process and way of thinking that could have a profound impact on all of us working to improve and develop the creative industries across Africa.

At the WBML, McDowell and his team imagine future worlds built on two key questions that initiate and inspire every project they do and every world they create – WHY NOT? & WHAT IF? Combining deep research with irrepressible creativity, the team builds potential future worlds to address some of the most pressing challenges facing society.

This ability, to imagine and then to actually map out and build future scenarios that are premised on a spirit of optimism and wonder, is urgently required by anyone working in the creative industries, and especially in Africa. Starting with the premises of what if and why not enables us to ask and imagine.

What if there were meaningful co-production treaties between African countries, and why not include gender parity requirements in these agreements? We can ask, why not have visa-on-arrival policies for all visitors, like Rwanda does, and what if African creatives could travel cheaply and easily throughout the continent?

From just these two scenarios entire future worlds can be imagined. Worlds that see financial and political cooperation between countries to support the film industry.

And what if we were to think even bigger and to question even more? World-building began within the realm of science fiction, which – we have seen – is more and more becoming science fact,where what is imagined can be achieved.

If we look around the world, it is clear to me that when we do imagine alternative models and scenarios, they are often the most successful and paradigm-changing.

At the Africa Hub, a few of these paradigm-shifting trends emerged, although not necessarily explicitly connected to one another. For example, the understanding -which is imminently sensible yet has not often been the norm – that it is more sustainable to focus on the person than the project, was expressed repeatedly during more than one presentation during the week.

A host of projects are now specifically working to develop future sustainable leaders, industry activists and entrepreneurs, instead of just focusing on the rush to develop and produce specific projects.

Projects including the Creative Producers Indaba, a collaboration between The Realness Institute EAVE and IFFR PRO, and the Film Pro Series partnership in East Africa between Docubox and The Robert Bosch Foundation, amongst others, are focused on developing the individual who can then go on to develop and support others within their regional industries, as opposed to developing a specific script or film.

Taking that to the next level, what if we focused more on education than on production from the start? Why not have film clubs at primary and high schools across Africa to instil an appreciation, love and a language of film amongst the next generation? What if we focused on creativity and creation as opposed to conformity and consumption?

Throughout the presentations and conversations at the Africa Hub there was a sense of both frustration and optimism: optimism, first and foremost, at the mere existence of the Africa Hub. Now in its third year, the Africa Hub continues to grow and there has been a conscious effort towards inclusivity and diversity in terms of its  attendees and programming.

Another cause for optimism is that more and more individuals and organisations are recognising the need for collaborative and sustainable projects that see past the once-off or short-term project. This optimistic and collaborative kind of thinking is exactly what can lead to the what if and why not kind of world-building that we require.

The frustration, however, arises from the realisation that many of the gatekeepers to resources are not keeping up with this mode of thinking. Whether it is the many African governments who refuse to open up visa regulations and to actively pursue economic and co-production cooperation talks, or some of the top European funders who structure their grants and programmes in accordance with antiquated and outmoded ways of thinking, the gatekeepers need to start asking themselves what if and why not?

What if these funders could open up Pan-African funding streams so that organisations operating across the continent could get support without having to apply to three or four regional offices? What if the gate-keepers actually listened to existing needs, instead of providing solutions to challenges that don’t exist?

What if African writers, directors, and producers got to retain their IP in co-productions? Why not set up equitable models of co-production and distribution that leave lasting financial impact on the affected regions?

Let us all keep asking these questions and challenging those with resources to do the same. It’s time to world build an ideal African industry that can become a reality.


It’s Time to Bridge the Divide: Francophone & Anglophone Unite!


As we head into 2019, and with FESPACO right around the corner, it is well past time that we address the so-called divide between Francophone and Anglophone Africa within the film and television industries.

This issue is one of many that seems to alienate African from African, and it must be overcome, along with other geographic and cultural divides, in order for our industry truly to thrive.

In terms of the particular Anglophone vs Francophone issue, one would think this divisive colonial remnant would be fading away – but instead it is having frightening present-day ramifications, as recent events in Cameroon attest.

Perhaps fuelling these on-going divisions are interventions, such as those by the French government, to expand the use of French in Africa. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly made this call, even while on a visit to Burkina Faso, calling on Africans to help make French “the first language in Africa and maybe even the world in the coming decades!”

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, “The International Francophonie Organisation has forecast that because of explosive population growth in Africa, over one billion people will live in French-speaking countries by 2065, second only to countries that speak English. In Africa, it predicts that French will overtake English by 2050, given stronger population growth in former French colonies that speak the language.”

It is another interesting development that, across the continent, there is also the emerging call for Swahili to become the acknowledged Pan-African language, with South Africa even proposing to start teaching the language in schools.

Whether or not it is necessary or desirable for Africans to speak the same language is arguable. What is clear, however, is that language does not need to be a tool for separating people, and that through creative collaboration, Africans across language and cultural groups have the power to achieve self-expression and representation.

The 26th edition of FESPACO, taking place in February, has a welcome diversity of films from across Africa, with 16 countries represented: Mali, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Tanzania, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mozambique, Morocco, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria.

Often criticised for failing in its Pan-African mandate by focusing too strongly on Francophone films, the festival’s selection this year is refreshingly diverse, with nearly half of the 20 features in competition being non-French language films.

Whether this more representative selection has to do with increased support from countries such as Algeria and China – in addition to France, the long-time major funder of the event – is not clear. The Embassy of China in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, has reportedly provided electronic equipment and financial support to the tune of 36 million CFA Francs (about $62,000/R865,000) for this year’s event, and the festival’s on-going partnership with Algeria has been strengthened. FESPACO therefore represents a unique opportunity for filmmakers from across Africa to create lasting and meaningful networks across language, cultural and geographic divides.

There are also other projects aimed at bridging the language divide, one of the most recent being STEPS’ Generation Africa initiative. This new documentary project aimed at young filmmakers has been hosting workshops across Africa in order to create a series of films –in both French and English – that will change the dominant narrative on African migration.

DISCOP Markets, which hosts a Francophone-focused event in Abidjan, has also strongly put cross-language cooperation on the agenda. A number of panel discussions will concentrate on this issue, including a panel specifically focused on Unblocking Co-Productions Between Anglophone and Francophone Africa.

This importance of inter-African cooperation within the film and TV industries will be an integral part of the process of breaking down linguistic and cultural barriers.

It is, furthermore, clear that the long-time reliance on European funding for African films has also fueled the apparent divide between Francophone and Anglophone films. With African producers needing to rely on European donors or funders (often French- or English-language donors), a certain level of autonomy is lost. Although these films often do well internationally, in Africa they are rarely dubbed or sub-titled so that they can be viewed across the language divide, and the funding of these projects may get caught up in neo-colonial agendas such as Macron’s desire to promote French across the continent.

In a recent QZ article, Steven Markovitz (producer of Rafiki, amongst many other African films), Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu and Etienne Kallos, director of the film The Harvesters (Die Stropers), all agreed that if African countries could work together – through co-production treaties, for example – there would be more control over not only what stories are told, but also how they are told.

Discussions in this direction have been taking place, and were furthered late last year at the Cape Town International Film Market and Festival, when representatives from the Nigeria Film Corporation, the Kenya Film Commission and South Africa’s National Film & Video Foundation met during the Work Café sessions.

It is clearly incumbent on all the players within the film, TV and content industries to look across Africa, across borders, and across cultural, language and ethnic differences in order to collaborate and develop a sustainable Pan-African industry.

I believe that it is only through this kind of collaboration that the industry will ever take its place on the global stage, and it is high time that we start moving in that direction.

3D Design trends to look for in 2019

3D modelling is one of the fastest growing design trends – set to exponentially increase over the next few years. The multitude uses for 3D designs and models seem to increase every year, and it is becoming essential for those across various sectors to know how to access the most creative designs as quickly and easily as possible.

There are some exciting trends that are set to dominate the space in 2019 as 3D design begins to permeate nearly every industry. Platforms such as the Flat Pyramid 3D model marketplace are therefore essential for those in the creative industries, as well as for professionals in the fields of engineering, construction & architecture, education, development, industrial or automotive design.

According to a report by Market Watch, 2018, “The global 3D mapping and 3D modelling market is expected to grow at USD6 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 26% during the forecast period 2018-2023. With the emergence of 3D technologies such as scanners, 3D sensors, and other such devices, the market is expected to grow to a large extent. Adoption of high-speed internet connectivity and advanced technologies are driving the market growth.”

The expert team at Flat Pyramid scour the globe, with an enhanced focus on Africa, for the best and brightest 3D designers. The team’s expertise within the field ensure that the most relevant and innovative designs find their way to the platform. For 2019, the Flat Pyramid team has also identified some key trends to look out for in the exciting space of 3D modelling and design.

3D Design in Gaming & Animation

With the exponential increase in gaming globally, the demand for 3D characters and environments is also growing. 3D designers are contributing to the popularity of gaming based on exciting 3D characters, weaponry, landscapes and environments.

In Africa particularly, there has been a massive increase in the demand for animation, whether for games, short videos, feature length films or advertising campaigns, animation is becoming more and more prominent.  Animated characters, and their 3D counterparts from games or movies, are proving to be valuable as revenue streams in their own right, and marketers are advised to take note.

An example of this is Shudu, the creation of a 29-year-old London-based photographer, Shudu is an Instagram model from Africa with more than 130,000 followers. Shudu is completely and has been called “the world’s first digital supermodel.”

Film, TV & Advertising

3D design and modelling are also transforming the creative process in the worlds of advertising, TV and film. In 2019 we can expect more storyboarding and even marketing plans and strategies to be presented in 3D format. The use of 3D characters and modelling has opened up new creative opportunities, especially for advertising agencies. Those agencies who are looking for the strategic advantage in 2019 should look at the 3D space.  3D modelling within film and TV can reduce costs, foster creativity and reduce inefficiencies in the production process.

Platforms such as Flat Pyramid’s online marketplace are ideal hunting grounds for creative concepts and talented 3D designers. By sourcing 3D models via online marketplaces, agencies have the flexibility to pick and choose the most relevant and innovative models that suit their client’s needs.

Advances in 3D Printing & Materials

As 3D printers become more advanced and more affordable, the materials available for printing are following suit. New materials, advances in colour options, and an increased focus on sustainability mean that 3D printing is becoming more and more popular for various applications.

A rise in polymer materials for plastic 3D printing will also enable affordability within the space, while rapid changes that have seen the quality of cost–effectiveness of metal materials, means that metal 3D printing will expand beyond the manufacturing sector. A new focus on organic and wearable materials has huge implications for the medical fields, but also for fashion and décor.

From high-tech advances in printing body tissue, and even bone, and 3D printed cement past to hold buildings together in natural disasters, to more mundane uses such as the printing of toys, ceramics, and automotive spares, the variety of materials now available for printing are driving the growth of the industry.

African Solutions

3D design and printing have a particular role to play within the developing world, and in 2019 African innovators will start to take their place within the global marketplace. Already on the Flat Pyramid platform, African designers are sharing their models and designs, and we are sure to see more creative design solutions coming from the African continent in 2019.

Just recently, South Africa’s Red Cup Village announced its first biodegradable design patent cup made from sugarcane & corn-starch in May of 2019. The company uses 3D printing technology to manufacture a unique drinking cup using a polylactide (PLA) filament, which is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources such as sugarcane and corn-starch.

Somalia Architecture is a project aimed at imagine how Mogadishu once looked as a modern African capital, and to assist in the rebuilding of the city. So far, the team has produced up to 15 3D models including the former parliament, the national theater, the monument of the unknown soldier, and the Mogadishu lighthouse.

360 Videos and 360 Web Pages:

First there was standard definition (SD) videos then High Definition (HD) videos and now, the latest trend is 360 videos and 360 web pages.

This new form of photography and filmmaking, but for the most part these photos and videos can be seen on 2D phones and devices. While 360 degree video is not the same thing as VR, however, for many, 360-degree spherical content will be the first immersive “VR” experience they have, particularly via Facebook and YouTube.

360 videos can be created in two main ways, by using a 360 video camera or through a 3D engine and or WebVR editing tool. However, creating through a 360 camera requires sophisticated post production in order to stitch the video frames together to create an equirectangular, or spherical video. It is also very challenging to use 3D Engines like Unity or Unreal Engine due to the huge learning curve required in mastering this 3D engines and software applications.

The easiest and most effective way to create it that requires no programming/coding skills is through a WebVR editor such as the Web VR editor developed by Flat Pyramid. This tool enables users to showcase their 3D models as a 360 video or a 360 web page.

With Flat Pyramid’s WebVR editor you can you can create WebVR experiences using the WebVR Editor and export it as a 360 Web page and/or generate a 360 video to share.

This is a major breakthrough because for the first time ever 2D & 3D artist, 3D modelers, graphic designers, Illustrators, as well as any creative person anywhere in the world can easily create 360 videos and 360 web pages to showcase their work.

This can be viewed on any regular 2D screen (laptop, mobile phone, etc) and immersively in VR using a virtual reality headset. Prior to this, the only way to showcase 3D models was by using rendered images or through a 3D model viewer.

DISCOP Johannesburg 2018 – nurturing emerging talent


As I sat amongst about 50 very patient (and some very anxious) people in the Bill Gallagher Room at the Sandton Convention Centre on the last night of DISCOP Joburg 2018, I was struck by the realisation that this is what the industry was actually all about.

We were awaiting the judge’s decision in the Annecy Animation du Monde pitching competition, which was run across five territories in Africa and in the major cities of Abidjan, Johannesburg, Zanzibar, Nairobi and Lagos.

Most of the 10 finalists, two from each territory, were at DISCOP Johannesburg to compete in the continental final. The two winners of the continental final, identified by the panel of international expert judges, will now go on to represent Africa and compete against their global counterparts during the Annecy International Animated Film Festival & Market 2019.

This award ceremony was very low-key, with only those really passionate about animation in attendance; however, as the winners were announced, it became clear to me that I was witnessing a life-changing moment for the two young finalists, who were overwhelmed by the announcement.

After three days of both watching and taking part in intense networking, deal-making and various cocktail parties and events – the activities that define a DISCOP Market – I was exhausted. However, as the winners of the competition were announced, I felt re-invigorated and I understood why it is that we all do what we do.

There are so many people that work tirelessly behind the scenes at any film festival or market such as this – and yes, of course everyone is getting paid – but trust me, most of the time that payment does not come close to compensating people for the time and commitment they put into making these events happen.

The force behind these particular animation events is Nick Wilson, the founder of African Animation Network (AAN) and a tireless advocate for African animation.

In addition to the partnerships with Annecy and MIFA, Nick has managed to secure the support of other major players within the global industry, who were also in attendance at DISCOP and at this awards event. Mike de Seve, the director of Baboon Animation (the multi-award-winning animation studio out of the US) and Rathan Sam George, director of Operations for India’s Toonz Media Group (along with Toon Boom), have also joined forces with AAN to develop a long-term incubator and accelerator project for African animators.

DISCOMICS IQEMBU, launched at DISCOP Johannesburg, is a multi-faceted project aimed at incubating young talent and accelerating production in order to develop the animation industry across Africa. These global partners will ensure a sustainable model into the future.

Based in India, the Toonz Media Group is a world leader in animation production, producing over 10 000 minutes of animation per year. Baboon boasts a peerless animation IP development team, who have produced Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated writing, directing and design for over two decades. Toon Boom, meanwhile, is the leading 2D animation software in the world today.

The two winners from 2018, who will travel to France for the final round of the competition, are Dami Solesi of SMIDS Animation in Lagos – the studio behind The Makerbolts project – and Nildo Esso from FX LTD Animation Studios in Maputo, who is behind The Troublemakers project. Nildo, and this project in particular, have been represented at several competitions in the recent past, including Digital Lab Africa and Durban Talents at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF). Furthermore, his pilot was part of the selection for the FUPiTOONS FESTiVAL 2018.

For all the participants in this pan-African pitching competition, the opportunities have been life-changing. While often it is the large deals and acquisitions that make the headlines after international markets such as DISCOP, to me, the real and enduring value is to be found here – in these developmental moments.

During DISCOP, I also had the chance to chat with a number of the volunteers on site, many of whom are film students, and some of the younger producers also in attendance. Through these conversations, many of which were with young women, I realised the importance of networks, mentoring and internships. The enthusiasm and ambition of these young people needs to be channeled into career paths with sustainable futures.

The DISCOMICS IQEMBU initiative, therefore, must be seen as a model that can be replicated in other production sectors: cinematography, documentary filmmaking, etc.

While many businesses and larger companies boast about major deals that were signed during DISCOP – my eye is going to remain firmly fixed on the talented youths who are just starting their industry journeys.

Global Content Hub by Zee announces drama co-production in Africa

Global Content Hub by Zee has announced a co-production deal with Nigerian agency MACE, and Multimedia Group, a broadcaster from Ghana whose channels Joy Prime and Adom TV will air the new drama series Deceptive Measures.

Deceptive Measures, currently in production, is a remake of popular Indian series Pavitra Rishta, one of the most successful ever Indian drama series with both Indian and international audiences. The original programme has travelled across more than 20 countries. The story revolves around a middle-class girl, who is not highly educated and yet handles her house impeccably. Everyone is dependent on her however its only her brother and her mother who one really value her. Her mother has a sole aim of finding a good alliance for her daughter.

The filming takes place across Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria and the first season will have 52 one-hour episodes. Popular actors from Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria will star in the series such as Michael Godson, Joy Jasmin Aygeman (Adomaa) and other actors from the 3 countries. The series will be directed by Uduak Obong.

This is the 2nd African co-production from Zee. Khwaabon Ke Darmiyaan a sophisticated drama series about real estate tycoons,starring African actor Ahmed Souane from the Ivory Coast. This 2016 co-production between Zee in Dubai and India with RTI from the Ivory Coast aired to great success, breaking ratings records in the United Arab Emirates.

Sunita Uchil, chief business officer, International Ad Sales, Global Syndication and Production of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) said, “Global Content Hub by Zee is thrilled to announce our special partnership with Nigeria’s MACE and Ghana’s Multimedia Group for the remake of our Indian programme Pavitra Rishta, sharing this beloved story with new audiences across Africa. It will be exciting to see how they adapt the series into their own identity. With this, we mark for our foray in creating local programmes for local audiences. We also look forward to creating more partnerships throughout this continent.”

Behind the Headlines: Successes of the CTIFMF


As the dust settles on the incredibly successful Cape Town International Film Market and Festival (CTIFMF), we dig below the headlines to recognise some of the impressive results and processes that came out of the event.

It was truly inspiring to see so many diverse role players – even those that, at times, may be at odds with each other on certain issues – gather together and commit to the hard but necessary work to grow the industry.

Various stakeholders from the City of Cape Town have proven wholly committed to supporting the local film industry, from the Mayor’s office to the team at Wesgro [the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape]. Whilst they have made mistakes and the need to scrutinise and constructively monitor and engage with their policies remains, it is clear that the intent to drive and support the industry is real. The involvement and support from a policy point of view has been complemented by tangible financial support for the sector and a willingness to listen.

The Western Cape Department of Culture, Arts and Sports also came to the table, with their support enabling 500 young people to visit the festival. Equally important as the opportunity for these young people to see themselves and their stories reflected back at them on screen, was the opportunity for them to discover entirely new career paths.

Chatting to one learner who wasn’t quite sure about what it all meant, I explained to her that she could work in the film industry and that there were dozens of potential jobs, from being a cameraperson or a producer to a make-up artist or set designer. When I pointed her towards the ADFA stand and mentioned that she could go and speak to people from one of the best film schools in Africa she literally ran over to them in excitement. Hopefully one day we will see that young woman return to the festival as a professional within the industry.

Lives were changed during some of the smaller closed-door sessions that occurred during the festival. The Works in Progress programme offered an unparalleled opportunity for filmmakers, some still starting in their careers, to get in-depth, specific and constructive feedback from an international panel of experts hardly ever found in one room. Industry experts included representatives from Berlinale’s European Film Market and Berlinale Africa Hub; Tribeca; Toronto International Film Festival; London BFI; international sales companies such as Pyramide International and Flourishing Films; talent agents Casarotto and Curtis Brown; M-Net; Indigenous Films; Ster-Kinekor; and Post Production South Africa.

The Work Café session focused on the difficult policy discussions that need to happen across government levels and structures. The importance of engagement from local and city structures, through to national government, and ultimately to pan-African agreements was made abundantly clear in this full-day session.

Sitting around one table and facing the realities of the film industry in the three continental power houses of South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, were representatives from Wesgro, The KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, the Department of Trade and Industry, The Kenya Film Commission and The Nigeria Film Corporation.

Each of the representatives was surprised to find the similarities of the challenges that they all face, and perhaps the most important result of the meeting was the commitment of all involved to continue the conversations between each other, and with their respective governmental organisations.

It was readily acknowledged that despite some African countries (notably South Africa) having co-production treaties with a host of non-African countries, in Sub-Saharan Africa, no African countries have such co-production agreements in place. Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa’s governments all have funds available to local filmmakers, and by collaborating across these territories filmmakers can exponentially increase their access to funding.

There was also the real understanding that many of the barriers to such collaboration come from other areas of government, such as the on-going and taxing issue of visas for African people looking to do business across the continent. Nigeria and South Africa’s tit-for-tat visa spats continue, and across the continent it is sometimes either exorbitantly expensive to travel, impossible to secure visas – or both.

Another tangible outcome from the festival was the confirmation of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) becoming official partners of the CTIFMF, as part of the on-going annual European Audio Visual Entrepreneurs (EAVE) programme. Five African and five European producers will be selected to take part in a year-long programme, where 10 audio-visual projects will be developed through two residential workshops and presented at CTIFMF October 2019 and at the 38th CineMart in January 2020.

EAVE aims to provide professional training opportunities and to bring producers from different regions of the world together with the goal of facilitating co-production relationships, and this rigorous programme will afford these African producers the incredible opportunity to develop their projects in a global collaborative process.

The CTIFMF 2018 saw exponential growth in this its 2nd edition, in large part to the outreach and inclusion of other local and national events. Instead of seeing each other as competitive threats, film festivals in South Africa are realising that by working together towards a greater goal, by synchronising their efforts, the entire industry benefits. This year, representatives from the Durban International Film Festival and FilmMart, the Shnit Short Film Festival, the Black Filmmakers Film Festival and even from regional counterpart the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, were all involved in one way or another with the CTIFMF. Monthly industry gatherings for the industry were organised by market director Elias Ribeiro and ensured the buy-in of the local industry – absolutely critical for the success of the event.

It’s often these stories, sometimes not covered in detail, that are the real successes of any festival. Without a doubt, the buy-in, good-will and positive energy cultivated at this year’s event will be powerful drivers towards a more inclusive and sustainable industry for all.

DISCOP Johannesburg 2018: What not to miss

Taking place from 14 to 16 November, DISCOP Johannesburg is the leading content, adaptation rights and project market dedicated to Africa and the Middle East.

As DISCOP Johannesburg approaches, here are some inside tips for getting the best out of the three-day intensive market. As anyone who has attended the event knows, DISCOP is about the business. Meetings, deal-making and networking are the most important elements of the event – especially for independent and smaller production houses.

With a massive focus this year on animation, music rights and synch deals, TV series and Swahili content, as well as the newly launched DISCOP CLUB, opportunities will abound for both sellers and buyers of African content.

The Meeting Service

As a registered delegate of DISCOP, the match-making or meeting service is probably the most powerful tool for anyone attending the market. Especially for producers who may be just entering the market or who operate independently, or for those who are not sure how to get the attention of buyers, the online meeting service is the best way to fill your diary with substantial and meaningful meetings.

DISCOMICS and Animation Highlights

The DISCOMICS Joburg segment, organised by the African Animation Network and DISCOP Markets, will bring comic books, animation and video-gaming talents before international buyers and producers. Twenty creators, graphic artists, game developers and animators have been offered the chance to attend DISCOP and enjoy VIP privileges, including a Producer’s market badge, a meeting pod in the DISCOMICS umbrella, meeting organisation assistance, access to the Next Gen programme, and up to five programmes and projects featured in the DISCOP Club online library for 12 months, among other perks. DISCOMICS will additionally host a talent showcase for key industry players, with the FUPiTOONS Festival also taking place during DISCOP.

Anyone with an interest in animation should also attend the two Next Gen sessions, which will take place on Friday 16 November. At 9am, ‘Wham, Pow, Boom’ will take a closer look at Nigeria’s animation, comic books and gaming industry. Thanks to a growing interest in the country, Nigerian animators are now stepping up to improve the quality and availability of their content. At 5pm, the Africa Animation Network (AAN) will explore the issue of ‘Animation Progeny’.

There will also be an ‘Animation Du Monde’ pitching competition, the grand finale of which takes place on the final day of DISCOP.

Finally, a DISCOP Conversation session will bring together globe-trotting animation experts to discuss the emerging trends and future outlook of animation in ‘The United World of Animation’. Using their own countries as case studies, panellists will paint a vivid picture of the opportunities, pioneering spaces and potential collaborators in this field.

Connecting Women across Africa: The Ladima Foundation

Following from the highly successful ‘Women of Influence’ Panel at DISCOP Zanzibar, the Ladima Foundation will present another similar panel at DISCOP Joburg. These interactive panel discussions bring together women who have achieved a certain level of influence within the industry and challenges them to brainstorm the tangible ways in which this influence can be used to improve the opportunities for women across Africa.

The conversation will also touch on the recently launched A-List – Africa’s largest searchable database of women professionals from across the film, TV and content industries.

Women producers attending DISCOP are encouraged to attend this session.

Swahili Producers and Content Opportunities 

East African and Kiswahili language content producers can take advantage of their own Swahili Pavilion at this year’s DISCOP market, sponsored by AZAM TV. This meeting space will be the home of a Swahili content-focused press conference, and there will also be a panel discussion on Swahili content taking place as part of the Next Gen programme.

These platforms promise to provide significant opportunities for Swahili content buyers and sellers.

Music Producers – Monetise Your Music through Content

DISCOP Johannesburg is not just for TV and content producers; the DISCORE programme will take place on 15 November with a full day of NEXT GEN discussions, focused on the ins and outs of licensing music for content. Film and TV producers are waking up to the importance of music in their productions, and – with DISCOP’s focus on the African content – this means opportunities for musicians, composers and performers.

The legal intricacies of royalties, publishing and synch deals will be covered and the sessions will provide the opportunity for music supervisors to connect with music producers. For anyone in the music industry looking for additional opportunities – these events are a MUST-attend.

Sign up for the DISCOP CLUB

Independent producers attending DISCOP Johannesburg should also take advantage of the innovative new service being offered. DISCOP CLUB is a digital interface specifically designed to support independent producers with small catalogues of content, with projects in development and with works in progress. Signing up and loading your content on the platform will enable year-round, 24/7 access to buyers, with experts on hand via the website to complement and support interactions between buyers and sellers outside of the physical market space.

Animation and TV series dominate content demand at 2018 DISCOP Johannesburg

As the African/MENA regions continue to grow as the world’s most coveted entertainment and media marketplaces, encompassing 70 countries with a combined population of 1.5 billion, DISCOP markets remain the go-to events for face-to-face meetings, insightful and educational discussions, as well as for ever critical deal-making.

With increasing internet connectivity, fast-growing smartphone reach, the ever-falling cost of data, DTT, and streaming platforms, video entertainment is more readily available and has put hundreds of millions of potential customers in play – with 75 per cent of them under the age of 25. Whilst these markets can seem overwhelming and sometimes impenetrable, DISCOP continues to offer both buyers and sellers of content the most reliable and direct access to decision makers, movers and shakers, and industry thought leaders.

DISCOP Johannesburg promises once again to be the largest and most respected content market of its kind with an unparalleled reputation for consistency and return on investment for participants and exhibitors.

This year will be no different, with the continued exponential growth of the market continuing with over 1 500 delegates attending the event at the Sandton Convention Centre from 14 to 16 November. Guests will include over 400 acquisition and development executives representing broadcasters, premium cable channels, mobile operators, and streaming platforms from across Sub-Saharan Africa. DISCOP Joburg will also attract 200+ global and regional distributors who will be showcasing their latest offerings and seeking new representation deals.

DISCOP’s Next Gen programme is meticulously curated to focus on the most important topics and issues relating to Africa and the Middle East. Some of the industries most influential professionals and decision makers take part in lively and interactive sessions that provide critical insights for anyone wanting to understand these lucrative markets.

This year’s topics are particularly on point with a strong focus on animation and TV series. With all the rapidly changing platforms available for content distribution, both animation and TV series are still far ahead of any other type of content in relevance and viability.

DISCOMICS – African Animation Network Highlights

Over the last two years, the African Animation Network (AAN) has partnered with Annecy International Animated Film Festival & Market (the premiere animation event globally) and DISCOP Markets to host the Annecy – MIFA Pitches Animation du Monde in Africa.

In 2018, DISCOP Markets and AAN, launched DISCOMICS in partnership with ICON Comic & Games Convention (South Africa), NAICCON (Kenya) and Lagos Comic Con (Nigeria)- the three longest running pop culture events in Southern, Eastern and Western Africa.  As a result, Annecy – MIFA Pitches Animation du Monde was run across five territories in Africa including Abidjan, Johannesburg, Zanzibar, Nairobi and Lagos.  The 10 finalists, two from each territory, will descend upon DISCOP Johannesburg to compete in the continental final. The two winners of the continental final, identified by the panel of international expert judges, will then go on to represent Africa and compete against their global counterparts at Annecy International Animated Film Festival & Market 2019.

The 10 finalsts are:

  • Leshika Manue (Congo Braza) presenting Koka Kitoumbou
  • Ouassila Kharoune (Côte d’Ivoire) presenting Étincelle/The Spark
  • Nildo Essa (Mozambique) presenting As aventuras dos Pestinhas
  • Mike Scott (South Africa) presenting Da Bes Band
  • Khanye Mfeka (South Africa) representing My Friendly Tokoloshe
  • Mike Scott (South Africa) presenting Hiraeth
  • Shadrack Munene (Kenya) presenting Nini
  • Salim Busuru (Kenya) presenting The Next Rainbow
  • Ridwan Moshood (Nigeria) presenting Garbage Boy and Trash Can
  • Dami Solesi (Nigeria) presenting The Makerbolts

Nick Wilson, head of Projects and Content at AAN, has this to say of the 2018 programme: “We’re really excited about the expanded footprint in 2018 having received 28 per cent more submissions than we did in the previous year.  It’s allowed us to access more talent on the ground and provide them with opportunities to further develop their projects and find potential investment. As validation for what we’ve been trying to achieve; one of the winners of the competition in 2017, Ingrid Agbo, secured a pre-sale from Gulli Africa for her project L’arbre à Palimpseste at the finals at Annecy in 2018.”

A host of animation studios from across Africa have taken advantage of the offer to be part of the DISCOMICS Umbrella at DISCOP Johannesburg, these include:

  • Zeropoint Studios (South Africa)
  • PIXCOMM (South Africa)
  • DreamlifeTV (Nigeria)
  • Trueways (Kenya)
  • Lekholokwe Media Services (South Africa)
  • Smids Animation Studios (Nigeria)
  • The Tsunami Studio Ltd (Kenya)
  • Whitchcraft Design (South Africa)
  • Naota Studios (Kenya)
  • Basement Animation (Nigeria)
  • ASsmo-Alliance of Slum Media Organization (Kenya)
  • Crossroads Digital Multimedia Ltd (Uganda)
  • 5Seven Seven6 Entertainment (South Africa)
  • Africa Games Week (South Africa)
  • Monument Creative (Ghana)
  • Buni Media (Kenya)
  • The Hidden Hand (South Africa)
  • ICON Comic & Games Convention
  • Lagos Comic Con

TV Series – Evergreen Format Sees Resurgence

With the recent announcement at MIPCOM that South Arica’s Known Associates Entertainment has optioned the rights for Ugly Betty, there has been much attention focused on the TV series format, but for those who have been paying attention to the African market will know that this is just the latest announcement that highlights the ongoing popularity of TV series across the continent.

Throughout the three days there will be sessions focused on the role and importance of public broadcasters, each day a leading public broadcasters will be invited to discuss their creative and business strategies to lead their organisation into a digital and mobile future.  These broadcasters include Radio Television Ivoirienne, British Broadcasting Service, and the Canadian Broadcasting Service.

DISCOP Markets general manager Patrick Zuchowicki explains further, “DISCOP Johannesburg 2018 will be an opportunity for broadcasters, premium cable channels, SVOD platforms and mobile operators to find for the first time a great choice of international TV series projects initiated outside Africa, in an advanced development stage and where Africa takes center stage.”

For more information on DISCOP Joburg, click here.

Local TV series selected by C21 London International Drama Pitch Summit

In a first for a South African drama series, Both Worlds’ Unarmed has been selected as one of the finalists for C21 Content London 2018 Drama Series Pitch. From over 100 submissions from established drama creators worldwide bidding to attract additional finance and co-production partners, C21 selected Both Worlds’ political spy thriller as one of the final eight invited to pitch at the International Drama Summit on 27 November 2018.

Unarmed will be presented at the International Drama Summit at Content London on Tuesday, 27 November between 15h00 and 16h30. The series will compete with productions from France, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and the UK. The winning project will be announced at The International Drama Awards, which take place from 19h00 on Wednesday, 28 November.

Unarmed, in advanced development stage, has attached internationally recognised talents including Shawn Slovo (A World Apart, Catch A Fire, Mohammed Ali’s Greatest Fight) who developed the pilot script alongside Both Worlds’ Thierry Cassuto and Karen Jeynes, Charlotte Brändström (Colony, The Witcher) as director, and Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou (Amistad, Guardians of the Galaxy) as the lead.

The series is a fact based thrill ride through Southern Africa, Germany, France and Belgium in both the late eighties and present day. When terrorists pull off an audacious heist at Pelindaba,  one of the world’s largest stores of highly enriched uranium, and a representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency is brutally murdered, the world’s eyes are turned to Southern Africa and the threat of a dirty bomb. Unarmed is based on the premise that South Africa finally agrees to hand over its weapon-grade uranium stores, a legacy from the atomic bombs the apartheid regime made in defiance of UN sanctions, and thirty years of secrets were to be revealed.

Both Worlds is a Cape Town based South African production company known for its many award-winning programmes including twice International Emmy nominated and multiple SAFTA winner ZANEWS’ Puppet Nation, as well as Point of Order and Operation Rainbow Warrior. Both Worlds has recently launched a high-end scripted programmes division, and has several series in advanced stage of development with local and international broadcasters.

The Content London International Drama Pitch Summit is the world’s highest platform to launch scripted series to the international marketplace, providing access to over 2000 of the industry’s top executives. The winning pitch will receive a marketing package through C21Media worth £30,000 to support series’ development and pre-sales promotion.

For more information on Both Worlds, visit their website.

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