Wednesday, August 30, 2023

SABC cricket blackout after public broadcaster fails to sign contract with Cricket SA for latest Australian tour.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster has once again failed to reach any agreement or to sign any contract with Cricket South Africa which will lead to a SABC TV blackout for viewers from today for the latest Australian cricket tour.

The SABC will not broadcast any of the latest limited-over Australian tour of South Africa after the SABC failed to sign any contract with Cricket SA for any of the three T20I and three one-day international matches.

The first match in the T20 series will be taking place today at 18:00 at Kingsmead in Durban and the tour will be shown on SuperSport for DStv pay-TV subscribers.

The SABC constantly tells parliament that it should be allowed to broadcast sport of national importance and of South Africa's national teams and that the reason it's not doing so is because it's prevented from acquiring content due to MultiChoice and SuperSport snapping up all the rights.

There's been no statement and no comment from the SABC about not showing the South African Australian cricket tour.

Meanwhile Cricket SA, hilariously and ironically, has the audacity to claim in a statement that while the cricket is not on the SABC, that it is "commitment to making cricket accessible to all South Africans". Since the cricket is not on the SABC, that is exactly what Cricket SA is failing to do.

Cricket SA in a statement says that "After protracted negotiations, the two parties could unfortunately not reach agreeable terms to secure broadcast rights in time to cover the tour".

"While CSA is disappointed at the prospect of many South Africans missing out on coverage of the thrill of the much-awaited Australia series, it reaffirms its commitment to making cricket accessible to all South Africans".

"Consequently, CSA will continue to engage with the SABC to find common ground on the broadcasting of cricket content."

"This is as the public broadcaster pursues to fulfil its mandate of providing cricket coverage for the majority of South Africans, while CSA is unwavering in its quest to ensure that cricket reaches all corners of the country. It is a symbiosis that binds the two organisations together."

"With CSA and the SABC partnership having provided mutually beneficial value in the past, CSA believes that it is in the interest of both the parties' stakeholders that such a partnership be maintained into the future."

OPINION. If Netflix claims an open-door policy why doesn't it want to talk to South Africa's actors?

by Jack Devnarain

The arrival on our shores of Netflix and Amazon Prime has certainly revolutionised the way we consume entertainment. As two of the world's leading streaming services, they offer a vast library of films, series, and documentaries; it’s clear why they have captivated audiences worldwide. 

South African consumers in particular were hungry for more entertainment options and were thrilled to welcome them. But have they led us to the land of milk and honey, or are we lambs to the slaughter?

Did streaming services approach the South African market and invest in local production for our benefit, or solely for their own profit?

Netflix certainly said all the right things to charm local talent and content creators. They highlighted their commitment to fair remuneration for authors and performers and made encouraging noises about uplifting and growing our entertainment industry while stimulating the local economy.

They assured us of their open-door policy; they were eager to learn more about what made local producers and creators happy. In short, the newcomers were keen to foster an environment of success that would be beneficial to all parties. That was until proposed reforms to our copyright legislation ruffled their feathers and the backlash began.

Now, thanks to the current SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike action in the United States, the flaws in the streamers’ subscription-based business model have bubbled to the surface. Big name stars are pointing out that the current system makes a fortune for the streaming companies and studio-heads, but that this does not trickle down to the talent in the trenches.

South Africa’s outdated Copyright Act from 1978, and its companion Performers’ Protection Act from 1967 are overdue for revision. The proposed changes would be positively transformative for the local film industry. 

But Netflix is disturbed by any changes to local copyright laws. They have raised particular concern over statutory royalty payments, stating that this is simply “not compatible” with the Netflix business model.

They claim that they have no way to track exactly which content leads to new subscriptions or what keeps existing subscribers hooked. This is extremely hard to believe, given their own quoted numbers: since 2016 they boast over 170 South African movies, series, and documentaries on their platform, including such originals as Blood and WaterMy Octopus Teacher, and Queen Sono.
Their own Socio-Economic Impact Assessment report for South Africa shows that, between 2016 and 2022, they spent R1.8 billion on local content, estimating that this investment resulted in an R2.5-billion contribution to South Africa’s GDP. 

They further claim that over 7 000 jobs were created by Netflix productions in South Africa over the past seven years. How then is it not possible for them to know why viewers have subscribed? 

Surely such a substantial investment – an amount deemed worthy as proof of their local impact – must have been backed up by extensive market research?
But let’s return to their concerns about statutory royalty payments. It seems Netflix has not understood the proposed updates to legislation, nor are they familiar with the contents of the bills. 

They claim the draft provisions would prevent producers, authors, and performers from choosing between different forms of remuneration — such as an up-front lump-sum payment in lieu of royalties. Disingenuous as it is to suggest that local performers have ever had a choice in their manner of remuneration, Netflix has missed the point altogether. 

In fact, "equitable remuneration" – as laid out by the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill – is the upfront buy out option. So, what exactly is Netflix protesting?
Not only has Netflix already claimed a rather large investment into the local market, the figures they share also demonstrate that they are, indeed, able to track the viewership of local content on a global scale. 

They clarify that while local viewership for a South African title might only be a million views, thanks to Netflix and their global reach it might stream up to thirty times that viewership across the world. 

In addition, local productions are being dubbed into foreign languages, further extending their reach into new markets. Local producers should benefit from those increased earnings, but with the way Netflix insists on licensing content, the producers’ share is nil. 

Netflix’s reaction to the very legislation designed to ensure fair compensation for local creators, is really telling. If the streamer is genuinely concerned about the growth and stability of the production sector in South Africa, why are they so vehemently against an equitable sharing of revenue?
If they are truly open to working with local industry to ensure that everyone is happy, why are they not willing to come to the table to discuss these issues with all parties involved? SAGA has been trying to arrange a meeting with Netflix executives for around two years now, with little success. In fact, at our last request for a meeting we received a curt “thanks but we decline”.  
The proposed copyright reforms will not only transform the South African film industry, but will align our industry with international standards, helping us to address problems that need more up-to-date solutions. 

The updated legislation will also enable us to anticipate what changes we could expect to see over the next few years as technology continues to advance, both in the production and consumption of content. By refusing to engage local role-players and adapting to the real needs of the industry, Netflix is effectively blocking transformation of the sector.
Striking an equitable balance is crucial to protecting both creators' rights and consumers' interests. 

Only through transparency and cooperation can we create an environment where everyone benefits, from creators and audiences, to streaming platforms like Netflix. But to do that, everyone needs to be on the same page. Right now, we’re not even in the same library.

Jack Devnarain is the chairperson of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) and this is an opinion piece.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

IN IMAGES. How kykNET created the SA film biz's first true 'Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty' - with 30 photos from inside.

by Thinus Ferreira

As DJ Criss let rip with tracks from across the decades on Saturday night, something quite unique - perhaps never to be repeated again - happened: The best awards show afterparty in South African television history ever, with kykNET's afterparty for its 1st Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film that felt exactly akin to the mythical Vanity Fair Oscars party.

If you were there, consider yourself extremely privileged. 

You were part of a life experience and bore witness to something that might very well never happen again. 

If you attended, you quite miraculously found yourself inside a glorious bubble that had exactly the ethereal pop culture quality that only America's entertainment biz has ever been able to create with its iconic Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty. 

Take a look at the black-and-white photos of the night and you'll see a magical moment in time captured in amazing images of an event that might very well never be duplicated at any South African awards show ever again. It's 2023 after all, and this is the first time it's ever happened.

The afterparty which will surely be buzzed about in future as legendary, took place on Saturday night in the Cape Town Convention Centre (CTICC) after the conclusion of kykNET's  1st Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film which served as the closer to its 11th Silwerskermfees that took place last week in Camps Bay.

The confluence of two unrelated kykNET decisions - unexpectedly and surprisingly - led to the most awe-inspiring party that South Africa's TV and film biz has ever seen: A Disneyland night of talent from in front of, and from behind the camera, and from all levels and spheres from within the industry, all dancing the night away until after midnight. 

Firstly, kykNET invited over a thousand people to the CTICC for the awards show - not just actors new and old, but producers, executives from across the vertical biz-building industry, directors, TV presenters, socialites, media and influencers and the press from editors to journalists, as well as everyone from TV channel bosses and commissioning editors and line producers and content execs to award-winning filmmakers and stylists.

Secondly, a golden wristband like to Charlie's chocolate factory, is all that was needed for access to the CTICC's massive Ballroom East venue on the first floor.

There was no VIP section and no VVIP section - no section within a section keeping those deemed more "worthy" away from those in the biz seem as less worthy.

With a DJ and a dance floor, kykNET created a completely egalitarian afterparty where an absolutely A-lister would dance right next to an up-and-coming hopeful, while DJ Criss played greatest hits like a remix of Journey's Don't Stop Believin'.

These two factors combined are exactly what made kykNET's Saturday night afterparty so special, enviable, completely unbelievable and exactly like the storied Vanity Fair Oscar Party: No VIP section but with enough people attending and funnelled into it that it brought a cross-section of the entire biz into it, creating an astounding microcosm dancefloor, rubbing shoulders together as equals, for a special few hours.

Black and white and Sikh, old and young, award-winner and TV presenter and executive producer danced next to Lourensa Eckard, next to Siv Ngesi, next to Binnelanders and Suidooster soap stars, next to tuxedo-clad men who stood alongside glittering women in evening wear.

Everyone was in the same room laughing and dancing and chatting - from Lynette Francis-Puren and Renaldo Schwarp to Brett Michael Innes, Terja Beney and Vinette Ebrahim to Dillon Windvogel, Ben Heyns, Marciel Hopkins, Liam Bosman, Ingrid Paulus Vraagom, Zane Meas and Ivan Botha to Sunday Times scribe Leonie Wagner - and many, many more.

Like the crosswalk in Times Square - like standing in Disneyland and feeling as if you're watching the faces you know from the entire world of South Africa's TV and film gliding past - the kykNET afterparty was truly an unprocessable moment.

Here were both the who's who and the will still be who's, all together in the same room with no airs and no pretence, with no couches and no cordoned-off areas for VIPs, truly just having fun for one night - something that neither the SAFTAs and the MAMAs, nor any sports awards, the SAMAs, the Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards, Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards, Royalty Soapie Awards or Metro FM Music Awards have ever managed to get right or do in this way.

Keep your golden wristband if you still have it - it's a keepsake to a very unique occurrence.

Look at it and remember what's possible even in South Africa's fame-obsessed TV and film biz when the stars align and everyone is truly seen as equal in an industry where too many, too often, start to believe that they're too special to share the same dancefloor.

2023 Silwerskerm Film Festival | Day 4: 5 reflections from the fest: Serious, uncertainty, new faces and the name not said.

by Thinus Ferreira

As 2023's edition of kykNET's annual 11th Silwerskermfees film festival drew to a close over the weekend after a week of premieres, film types chattering, and wine glasses clinking in Camps Bay in Cape Town as it rained outside, multiple questions kept swirling about the current state - and future - of South Africa's film and TV biz.

Here are five salient takeaway points to ponder:

1. Serious business
Maybe it was the early spring rains sifting down keeping everyone mostly hunkered down and the sundeck mostly empty, maybe it was the even more urgent need to network and pin down producers and execs for possible early dealmaking and shop talks and introductions at any available bistro table, but the film festival had an even more serious atmosphere than last year. 

Maybe Covid really changed everything.

Some of the late-night frivolity and somewhat party atmosphere was still present - mostly on display on Friday night - complete with a clubhouse DJ vibe on the window-fronted first floor of The Bay Hotel - but none of it was anything like the film fest's joie de vivre like previous years. 

Everywhere it was evident: people milling about were not really in the mood for superficial small talk - they were hanging around waiting for opportune open moments to try and strike while the iron is hot to make quick connections with deliberately sought-out industry types for quick chats, selling themselves and their potential projects and getting numbers into phones.

An on-property "treasure hunt" for a little treasure chest on Thursday tied to the screening of an upcoming new kykNET reality competition show - a neat idea that had the potential to create some communal excitement and buzz at the festival - was quickly over before it even began.
The Silwerskerm film festival is still fun but more than ever everyone attending are focused on fast and furious connection.

2. Programme schedule
This year's Silwerskermfees felt like those who attended never really got the really specific answers they came to seek. 

Maybe there are no answers yet, or no easy answers to be found. Q&A time during and after panel sessions were the most limited and short it's ever been - or was non-existent - as sessions ran out of time.

As South Africa's film biz and creatives are looking for answers from those holding the purse strings and controlling commissioning budgets, answers remained overall elusive and vague. 

With heightened anxiety in a difficult economy about a future with AI, streaming services and where and how everything fit in and together, creatives got vague answers like "we're not looking for niche", "we're looking for new ideas", "we're not looking for what others are doing", "we're looking for edgy", "we want content that resonates with our audience". 

Programme schedule-wise, people complained about and whispered about kykNET's lack of a physical, printed film festival schedule booklet guide this year - something they say work better than just an app, to look up and read schedules and film information and that a real booklet is simply more practical as a quick pull-out.

While the schedule had interesting panels, unlike previous years where panels had more varied experts, panels this year comprised mostly MultiChoice and M-Net execs. It meant festivalgoers got mostly the MultiChoice and M-Net as company talking points - with a lesser emphasis on industry-wider perspectives.

In previous years there were more panel sessions with more general topics under discussion at the film festival - how to finance your film, insurance, securing film locations and general film biz-focused panels. 

These made way for more thematically themed sessions centred around what MultiChoice and M-Net are doing within the content space and what they are looking for.

3. An influx of new faces
Publicists and actors who became producers, execs who became consultants, first-time female directors, new stars, new filmmakers, and old faces venturing into new chapters: The 11th Silwerskermfees was filled with fresh faces trying new things.

The most exciting thing about the Silwerskerm festival is probably its core aim - in which it remains very successful: Making the circle bigger and bringing in new voices, new images, new talent behind and in front of the screen and new hope into what can often be a jaded industry outlook. 

With new films and series - telling new and varied stories set in new and some rarely-shown places - the blue carpet at this year's Bay Hotel saw hundreds of new sets of feet making their way to the Rotunda for premieres, screenings and panel sessions. 

The addition for the first time in its existence of TV to the film festival, also helped to bring an added new dimension as well as new first-time visitors and stars (one from as far as Amsterdam with Trix Viviers starring in Juffrou X). 

So too did the the addition of TV categories for kykNET television shows to the annual awards ceremony.

4. The name not said
Like out of Harry Potter, the elephant in the room - as in previous years - remains the word "Netflix".  You can use the F-word, just politely please try and refrain from using use the N-word.

Even M-Net director of premium channels Waldimar Pelser, in a panel session literally made a mention about "viewers happy to stay with us than being promiscuous and going onto an unnamed streaming platform that's not in the room".

It's not that Netflix scares everyone like a Voldemort. 

It's that its gigantic influence - also in Africa and in South Africa - looms large over the existing TV and film industry and the traditional pay-TV industry which is having to play catch-up here, as they are in the United States and other markets.

What the future will be for TV in local markets where global streamers are increasing their influence and popularity, remains to be seen. It's also that broadcasters, producers and talent have to try and navigate a whole new uncertain world where decisions must be made without a lot of answers and without a lot of information, while the industry's tectonic plates are felt shifting.

5. Awards improvement but ...
kykNET for the first time added TV category winners to its awards show for its Silwerskermfees and renamed it. 

It's now known as the Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film and it's a great change. There are however more Afrikaans television than just kykNET Afrikaans.

For a first time, the inaugural edition of the Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film was wonderful but of course it can and will be improved further with more refinements and tweaking as the years go by.

kykNET would do well - and it would do and serve the entire industry well - by making the Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film more inclusive of Afrikaans television in its totality than by keeping Afrikaans television on other platforms deliberately locked out.

kykNET can - and should - add Afrikaans television to the nominees list, from wherever it is found and available: SABC2, VIA, YouTube, TikTok and more.

Opening the door to celebrate Afrikaans video content wherever it's found won't make kykNET seem smaller or ever lead to "the others" stealing all of the prizes - in fact, it will make kykNET appear even bigger, more gracious, more supportive and something like the Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film even more credible and representative of everything Afrikaans TV.

It was already quite encouraging how multiple people who present shows on SABC2 and VIA and who make shows for SABC2 and VIA and are producers and executives behind the scenes actually attended the 1st Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film on Saturday night. 

Their content might not have been "eligible" but they were there, are there and they're all working towards the same common goal: the Afrikaans TV viewer and content consumer. 

They deserve the same recognition for wherever deserving work is done and kykNET sprinkling the TV fairy-dust when it comes to award prizes a little bit wider will further enhance kykNET's stature but also benefit Afrikaans television in its broadest form even more.

The Hollywood Reporter republished a Showmax press release and a trailer for its upcoming Spinners drama series ' exclusively' - only, everyone got it.

by Thinus Ferreira

The behind-the-hand sniggering among South African journalists are ongoing over the bizarre PR approach of MultiChoice's Showmax with American outlets, this time over Showmax getting The Hollywood Reporter's Georg Szalai to republish what is a Showmax press release for its upcoming Spinners drama series as an "exclusive" together with a Spinners trailer branded an "exclusive trailer".

The hilarity? The Showmax press release is a general press release sent to media, and the trailer ... well, how is any trailer from any TV series ever "exclusive"?

The weeks before The Hollywood Reporter, MultiChoice's streaming service played with Deadline again who then had the "exclusive" trailer for Showmax's upcoming Outlaws drama series. 

Only, again, the information and trailer were anything but "exclusive" and are general production information - and a trailer! - that can and will never be something exclusive!

It's unclear what Showmax's thinking is its the odd PR approach but possibly American outlets don't or won't run press releases unless it's sold as something "exclusive"? 

Part of the broader ongoing issue as well is that MultiChoice and Showmax continue to do lip service saying they support the local biz ... however, that just doesn't really extend to the local news media. 

Constantly running to the likes of The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline and others because they are American, divvying up so-called fake "exclusives" hoping someone bites, after then doing an email blast with the same press release that then goes to local outlets in South Africa or Kenya or wherever, seems demeaning, destructive and counter-productive to building actual media relationships.

Spinners, a co-production with Canal+ of 8 episodes starring Cantona James and Chelsea Thomas with director Jaco Bouwer, will release the first episode on Showmax on 8 November.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Hans Steek die Rubicon Oor and Donkerkos the big winners at 11th Silwerskermfees' 1st Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film.

by Thinus Ferreira

The film Hans Steek die Rubicon Oor and the Showmax series Donkerbos each won three awards on Saturday night at kykNET's 1st Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film with lifetime contribution awards which were bestowed on newsman Freek Robinson, actor Cedwyn Joel and producer André Scholtz.

The bookend of the 11th kykNET Silwerskermfees film festival which took place this week in Camps Bay, Cape Town was the rebranded Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film which replaced the festival's competition and was enlarged to include TV categories for the first time with Afrikaans nominees from MultiChoice's kykNET and Showmax stables. 

With the addition of TV stars, the 1st Silwerskerm Awards for TV and Film which took place at the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC) was the biggest awards show in the film festival's history with an unending stream of stars who lined the blue carpet before the ceremony started, followed by an incredible afterparty afterwards in one of the adjacent ballrooms which stretched into the late hours of the night. 

Hans Steek die Rubicon Oor, die film version of Rudie van Rensburg's book which will be released in theatres on 29 September, won the best feature film award on Saturday night with the main award show which will be broadcast on kykNET (DStv 144) tonight at 20:00.

Besides the best film award, Hans Steek die Rubicon Oor also snagged a glass award for Pierre van Pletzen as best actor for his role of Hans, while Corné van Rooyen from  Red Letter Day Pictures that produced the film, won for best director.

Edwin van der Walt won best actor in a drama series and Erica Wessels snagged the win for best actress in a drama series for the Showmax series Donkerbos, while Nicole Holm won for best supporting role in a drama series for her performance in the show.

Here's Saturday night's list of winners:

Best actor in a comedy: Desiré Gardner (Magda Louw)
Best actor in a drama: Edwin van der Walt (Donkerbos)
Best actress in a drama: Erica Wessels (Donkerbos)
Best supporting role in a drama: Nicole Holm (Donkerbos)
Best actor in a telenovela or soap: Dan-Jacques Mouton (Arendsvlei)
Best actress in a telenovela or soap: Cindy Swanepoel (Binnelanders)
Best villain in a telenovela or soap: André Odendaal (Binnelanders)
Best newcomer in a telenovela or soap: Devonecia Swartz (Arendsvlei)
Best presenter in a magazine programme: Hannes van Wyk (Kwêla)
Best presenter in a lifestyle programme: Nataniël (Nataniël. Erik. Wolf.)
Best presenter in a reality programme: Bertus Basson (In Die Sop!)
Best presenter in an actuality programme: Lourensa Eckard (In Gesprek)
Best presenter in a game show: Rian van Heerden (Wie word ’n miljoenêr)
Best presenter in a talk show: Heindrich Wyngaard (KLOP!)
Best presenter in an outdoor activity program: Dewald Visser (Mal Kamper)
Best presenter in a cooking programme: Alfred Adriaan (Roer)
Best ensemble presenting team: L’at Wiel
Best TV moment of the year: Mr. and Mrs. Samsodien get married (Suidooster)
Personality of the year: Jonathan Rubain (Koortjies)
Best TV film: Vuurdoop
Lifetime achievement: Cedwyn Joel, Freek Robinson, André Scholtz 

*By Sunday morning kykNET hasn't sent out any press releases or winners' lists regarding Saturday afternoon's technical awards or Saturday night's awards.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

2023 Silwerskerm Film Festival | Day 3: How too controversial reality TV literally becomes a turn-off.

by Thinus Ferreira

As more producers globally as well as in South Africa are enticed by the lure of especially the reality TV genre to create real-life drama on the small screen, they are being warned not to push in-show controversy too far since on-screen fights and uncomfortable viewing don't always lift ratings and in fact could alienate viewers who flip to another channel.

"In the current climate of the golden age of television and where feature films don't make the money at the box office that they did before, it's likely not such a bad idea to consider reality television as an additional income," says Marguerite Albrecht, a commissioning editor for reality content at MultiChoice and M-Net.

She was one of the panellists at a discussion about the new era of reality TV at kykNET's 11th Silwerskermfees film festival currently taking place at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay, Cape Town where the pivot from traditional reality TV, reality competition television and docudrama were discussed.

Marguerite Albrecht said that producers who previously never would have considered this genre, are not warming to what used to be TV's "stepchild".

Terja Beney, senior manager for reality and entertainment for M-Net's premium channels, said that "any filmmaker at their heart is a storyteller and storytelling - whether in the genre of documentary, whether in the genre of scripted. Story is at the heart of reality as well".

"If you can tell a story and if you love telling stories, then you can flourish in the unscripted genre as well, especially in the reality space".

Marguerite Albrecht said that M-Net and kykNET are first and foremost TV platforms "and our budgets first and foremost go towards making television. For that reason reality is a good option for any filmmaker."

Terja Beney however warned reality TV producers and said they should be careful with how they present real-life drama, since buzz over certain moments or televised events, might not actually lead to ratings.

"It's an interesting conversation to have about talkability versus ratings. Sometimes 'talkability' is talkable because it has a push-factor. People are talking because they're uncomfortable about things. Sometimes uncomfortability however extends to a drop in your TV ratings and not necessarily a push in your rating."

"In what you're putting forward is: How controversial are you being, and what really is the appetite for that controversial content that you're putting out?"

Marguerite Albrecht says the new era of reality TV is just an evolution of what producers, broadcasters and viewers already know.

"Internationally we're starting to see a nice blend of different mechanics from different reality formats coming together. They're blending in a logical way."

"It's not like 'I want a tribal council thing at the end like Survivor. I want a bit of Wipeout in the middle. And the whole first section is just docu-reality.' No. That makes no sense."

Marguerite Albrecht said it's an open question as to whether the news media, like broadcasters, should adopt what the industry calls a "duty of care" in their approach of reality show participants, after the negative media coverage that engulfed the women who chose to take part in kykNET's Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande which had its first season on DStv earlier this year. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Carte Blanche exec producer John Webb on Derek Watts: 'His passion never dimmed'.

by Thinus Ferreira

With the entirely of Sunday's episode of Carte Blanche on M-Net (DStv 101) at 19:00 which will be dedicated to and be a tribute to Derek Watts who died earlier this week after losing his battle against cancer, the show's executive producer John Webb says Watts' "passion never dimmed".

The entire hour of Sunday's Carte Blanche will be devoted to Derek Watts and to remember and honour the work and legacy of the veteran anchor on the South African current affairs show, with the "gentle giant" who has become one of the longest enduring presenters and faces on South African television.

Diana Lucas is the producer of Sunday's Derek Watts' look-back and tribute Carte Blanche episode done by Combined Artistic Productions.

"Where do you begin to eulogise a man who has meant so much to so many people?" says John Webb, Carte Blanche executive producer. "This Sunday, the Carte Blanche family stands together to pay tribute to our beloved colleague and friend, Derek Watts."

"Our superlatives exhausted, what is left to be said about Derek Watts not already reflected in the thousands of tributes that followed news of his death? From politicians to sports stars and fellow hacks, the memories and messages have been overwhelming."

"Still, I wonder if any of us have done true justice to the legacy of this remarkable man. How do you capture a life lived as Derek lived his; one squeezed of every ounce of adventure and possibility and promise yet one so devoid of selfishness? I have tried - as I’m sure others have, too - but my words are inadequate."

"No matter which I choose, or how I order them, nothing that comes from my lips brings to life the images of the man in my head. The best I can do - we can do - is to live a life that leaves others in a similar quandary when our time comes."

Webb says "Derek was a remarkable man, fearless in the pursuit of justice. He was a beacon for the forgotten and downtrodden, and a steadying hand amid chaos and anxiety. He embodied the ideal, 'umntu ngumntu, ngabantu' (I am because you are), connecting with people from all walks of life and treating each with dignity and respect. He dedicated his life to telling South Africa's story."

Webb explains that in 1988, producer Bill Faure approached Derek to co-host a new show, Carte Blanche, which would air on M-Net every Sunday night. 

"Forty years old, easy-going, sports mad Derek might not have been an obvious choice, but his charisma and the chemistry he shared with co-host Ruda Landman created a dynamic partnership that audiences found irresistible."

"As Carte Blanche grew and evolved, covering the seminal moments of South Africa's changing story, Derek too went from strength to strength. The stories he told reflected this: from reporting on the Boipatong Massacre where the crew filmed through the night as Derek confronted politicians and gave the victims and their families a much-needed voice, to traveling to the foot of Mount Everest and every possible corner of South Africa."

"In the 35 years he spent with the show, his passion never dimmed and he never lost his unique ability to connect with people. We will miss him tremendously, but we draw strength and inspiration from the incredible legacy he leaves behind."

"Our deepest condolences to his beloved Belinda, Tyrone, Kirsten, and his siblings. Lala ngoxolo Papa D, ugqatso ulufezile. Umzamo omhle uwuzamile. Rest in perfect peace."

Thursday, August 24, 2023

2023 Silwerskerm Film Festival | Day 2: kykNET boss Waldimar Pelser on how it remains fits through adapting and colabs beyond Afrikaans.

by Thinus Ferreira

A film festival like kykNET's 11th Silwerskermfees film festival currently taking place at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay remains fit for purpose by forever adapting to changing needs - especially through ever-bigger networking and collaboration in ideas and projects beyond just Afrikaans.

In this quest, kykNET through its Silwerskermfees is adamant and focused on finding and supporting new voices and new talent.

So says Waldimar Pelser, M-Net director for premium channels, who spoke with me on the sidelines of the annual Rotunda-set film fest showcase where TV is officially incorporated this year for the first time, short film documentaries have been expanded into, and festivalgoers and filmmakers come from a far broader background than just Afrikaans, to look, listen and learn.

"The one thing everyone in South Africa's TV and film industry celebrates unequivocally is when local South African content is produced," he says.

"Every time local content is produced it means local jobs, local boost for the economy, local upskilling and local stories. Because it's local content, storytellers and producers and writers are digging locally for our own stories - for what the themes and subjects are that need to be told," Waldimar says.

"Rarely is it about in what language local content is being made in - it's about using local casts and talent and local production crews. In terms of Afrikaans content on kykNET, there's a multitude of talent and crew working on these local productions who are not mother tongue Afrikaans speakers."

Waldimar Pelser says that "Jordy Sank who at the 2022 Silwerskermfees last year won for best short film at the film festival isn't Afrikaans, for instance".

"There are numerous examples like that. What's refreshing is that it shows and proves that it's all about the art form. Of course, when you're producing Afrikaans content you're going to have someone Afrikaans as part of that - who understands three things: the language, the idiom and the audience."

"To produce and deliver successful content in Afrikaans for the screen you have to understand those three things. The collaboration between content producers from across cultures, traditions, languages and language traditions and idioms s a wonderful thing. It enriches the product - even if the focus of the content is in Afrikaans."

Waldimar Pelser explains that "Summertide which will start principal photography next week in Cape Town as a new M-Net (DStv 101) drama series which will be on air from January 2023, is produced by a team who had their start at the kykNET Silwerskermfees - Corné and René van Rooyen's Red Letter Day Pictures."

"They've gone on to produce the drama series Alles Malan for kykNET."

"Now they've made the jump to local content for one of MultiChoice and M-Net's other local TV channels. There's almost not a team that achieved at the Silwerskermfees over the previous years, who haven't gone on to produce content elsewhere for others as well. That's a plus on every level, for everyone, across the industry."

Silwerskermfees: looking to solve local challenges
Waldimar Pelser says the kykNET Silwerskermfees is constantly keeping an eye on what global film festivals are doing "but our questioning never starts far from home - we start by asking what issue are we trying to solve for kykNET and M-Net but also more broadly for the entire South African film and TV biz".

"Last year when we said we were looking for the Silwerskermfees to also be a driver and stimulant  for TV - after that we noticed that some festivals have switched to become hybrid-format festivals - like SXSW ("SouthBySouthWest") in Austin, Texas."

'It's never been a classic film festival but looks at content generation and ideas. Film festivals that remain fit constantly, successfully accomplish two things: Firstly, they keep asking themselves what's the new and latest context locally that the film festival has to react to."

"Secondly, a film festival has to look at what happens elsewhere - and in this order."

"A massive range of stakeholders attend kykNET's Silwerskermfees and are again doing so this year. If you want to learn more it's the place to be. It's veterans from the biz to icons in news and current affairs, producers, filmmakers from the entire gamut of the spectrum. It's a very, very interesting mix."

"Thanks to broadening into the TV sphere we have film and TV cast and crew. In the real world, these people often mix since you see the same faces on the small screen and big screen and behind-the-scenes everyone works everywhere. So while people sometimes see it as two separate worlds, in blending them together, people are seeing opportunities."

"People who have the luxury of honing their careers in purely just the one of the other you can count on one hand. We don't have that luxury as South Africa's industry. It's an indication that people see in the Silwerskermfees something interesting but also something valuable."

"I really hope that at the end of these four days Silwerskermfees film festivalgoers will say: 'This was lekker. I've met new people. I got a phone number. I gave my number to a few people. Let's see what collaborations it leads to in the future."

Find and help the new people
Why kykNET is helping aspiring and upcoming producers with educational sessions on how to pitch projects properly to broadcasters and TV channels, Waldimar Pelser says the danger is that successful people or producers end up with all of the work.

"It's like that because you work with tight budgets which are still big budgets. You can't waste money. It's not little money. It's always too little money but it's still big amounts."

"The responsibility is on everyone having to make these very difficult decisions on what content is commissioned, to not fail. So there's a structural incentive to go with trusted, proven production companies."

"While it's logical, the doors must remain open for new voices and new talent. The demand for this has been huge. There are a lot of people who really want an opportunity. The model of kykNET's Silwerskermfees has always been to find the new people."

"Let us see what a first-time content creator can do with a bit of encouragement and some mentorship. We're building on that model. That's why the 'how to pitch to us' sessions are full - we're keeping the doors open for more people to enter, but to help the best to succeed."

"Not everyone is going to go on and create content but it's in the industry's benefit that the best ones are identified, know-how, and get a helping hand to say 'this is your first time - here's a bit of advice'. The Silwerskermfees will never be about always just the same old people getting commissioned," says Waldimar.

"The big demand says there are still many, many people in South Africa who want to come into the fold of the local South African film and TV industry but are just a bit unsure of exactly how to go about it. This film festival is for all of them".