SASWA will be participating in preparing writers for the competition by screening movies from the three genres and holding workshops on genre. Watch this space! SASWA's position is that this is a satisfactory interim solution to the problem that agents for writers do not exist in South Africa. However, we are engaging with the NFVF about this and mapping out a strategy for the discussion of Intellectual Property rights for writers at all levels.
We believe that the intentions of the NVFV are sound and we will be consulting with them througout this process to look for solutions around the question of writers' representation. Their overarching message is that there are few places in the world right now where it is as good as in South Africa to be writing for television. Confirming this sentiment, Mitzi spoke of pitching and developing Binnelanders for M-Net.
M-Net’s approach was quite unique: they wanted a drama that could segue into a soap after its run as a drama. The one area in which South African television writing is more challenging, potentially damaging to the product, and not always giving viewers what they deserve, is the unreasonably and impractically short period allowed for development. The turn-around time from ‘commission’ to ‘on air’ is usually a mere few months, not sufficient to allow ideas and stories to develop to their full potential.
What was clear in the MGM is that there is currently no structured way in which inexperienced writers can join the writing teams of the established local soaps or dramas. SASWA is looking at practical programmes that will address this gap; this is particularly necessary with the SABC’s increased demand for local content in dramas and soaps. Another huge gap which was identified, and which SASWA is also working on, is the scarcity of experienced Head Writers in South Africa.