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July 29, 2006

M'dala from Zambia

seriousJabbesSm.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER, PHOENIX, USA — In Zambia, "M'dala" translates as "Big Man." In the original draft of the script, several street kids called the main character, Chiku, "big man, big man" as they begged for money. Jabbes explained that is was a phrase in Zambia to connote respect. I've taken to calling Jabbes "M'dala" lately.

It's not that I'm trying to turn him into an egomanical director (always a catastrophe if your director gets too big for his britches). It's a title that captures the change I have seen in him the last several months.

Jabbes and I began working on this film together in January. In the beginning, it was just the two of us pushing, pushing, pushing to get this film made. He told me the fictional story of Chiku and the true stories of Zambian culture and custom. The more I heard, the more I was excited to get a Zambian story onto the screen. In those conversations, he shared his dreams for his country. He had a powerful desire to provide more education for filmmakers. He had hope for greater economic freedom and opportunity for all Zambians.

One of the things I admired most was his honesty about the challenges his country faced. He didn't paint a rosy picture of Zambia as some sort of "Eden in Africa" nor did he paint his country black like it was "Hell on Earth". He talked openly about AIDs, poverty, unemployment, corruption and refugees. Like the U.S., Zambia has challenges. He also talked about family bonds, communal gatherings and so much dancing. (Listening to Jabbes, I swear Zambians must be dancing all of the time!) Also, like the U.S., Zambia had wonderful gifts to share with the world.

The more we talked, the more I could see his profound commitment to his nation. I admired and respected that. I became more committed to providing what I could to make the film a success AND to supporting the other economic and educational goals. Though he tries to play humble, I can tell you that Jabbes is becoming quite the M'dala these days. For BAD T!MING to be successful, Jabbes had to become something "bigger" than he had known himself to be in the past. He had to be willing to grow and take on new responsibility.

I see the same thing happening with the MCC student crew. Whether they're going to Zambia or supporting the effort from the U.S., they are having to EXPAND and grow beyond who they have known themselves to be in the past. We (the students, faculty and I) are helping with the FIRST feature film in Zambia. Jabbes is a first-time director. Many of the actors will be first-time actors. For much of the crew, this is their first film. Today I was thinking that all innovators, inventors, pioneers and explorers had to take the risk to do something they had never done in order to accomplish something revolutionary. Our modest, merry little band of students and faculty may qualify for the title of M'dala, too.

July 27, 2006

Five Most Critical Things To Know

Shooting the first feature film in Zambia is one of the most exciting — and challenging — things I've ever taken on. Filmmakers know there are a thousand different things that need to be handled before a film can be shot; that's why pre-production is as long (or, in our case, longer) than the actual production. There are, however, several critical things that I learned doing a film outside the U.S.

  1. Names Must Be Exact: Since 9/11, things related to travel have become much more rigid. We were told that the names on the plane tickets had to match the passports EXACTLY. I was very careful about sending the exact names but THREE of the tickets were not identical. The one without the middle name and the one with the hyphenated last name will probably be okay (I love reassurances that contain the word "probably") but the one with the wrong first name is sure to create a problem. Whose name is wrong? The lead cinematographer. I shudder to think at the impact that would have on the film. Murphy's Law. We've got ten days to sort that out.
  2. CARNET or Customs Form Must Be Completed: Taking film equipment across international borders requires that you complete a Carnet (pronounced CAR-NAY). Or, for prosumer equipment, a US Customs form 4457. This form is to prove you own the equipment when you leave the country. The only trick is that you need to go to a US Customs office with your gear.
  3. Immunizations Must Be Taken EARLY Enough: The entire crew is going to need immunizations. Depending on where you're going, they may need a wicked pile o' shots. Most of us ended up with five or six plus pills. Cost to each person, around $325. Depending on which malaria pills that were prescribed, there was another $40 to $240 per person. (Ironically, Zambia does NOT require that you have any immunizations to enter the country. It's the recommendation of our physicians that motivated us to get them.) So, that's a total of $500 per person PLUS the $3000 flight. Ouch.
  4. Many Visas Must Be Managed: There are THREE Visas to worry about when filming out of the country. The first (and most critical Visa) is the one to enter the country. Frighteningly, I had to send all of our passports to the Embassy for the multiple entry visas. After all the other costs, the $100 fee seemed reasonable. It was the sending of the passports that makes me want to blow a lung. The second "visa" is the equipment waiver that we needed to secure from Zambia. There is an import fee to bring equipment in because the government doesn't want visitors hauling in a pile of equipment and selling it for an exhorbitant fee without paying import taxes. Of course, we're bringing all of our equipment back but approval is required prior. The final "visa" is for getting money while in the country. Researching credit cards, conversion rates and bank fees, we discovered there is a horribly wide range of penalties one can pay when getting money. It's important to check with your bank before you go.
  5. It's Really, Really, Really Hard to do Pre-Production: Being half-way around the world makes it really challenging to mount a production. Initial efforts to locate actors, locations, sets, props, costumes and such have to be negotiated with great difficulty. There is a NINE HOUR time difference between Arizona and Zambia, so Jabbes and I are doing most of our telephone calls between midnight and three A.M. Calls are expensive. I had to send six faxes to Zambia and it cost over $140 to get them there. Even silly things like sending copies of the press coverage and the press kit took near Herculean effort. I wanted to get funding for award-winning cinematographer Nancy Schreiber and documentary filmmaker David Mallin to join the crew but the distance made the cost so prohibitive. No wonder everyone wants to shoot on sets in L.A. or Vancouver. Everything is so close by. We have the added challenge that there is little film industry in Zambia so we have to bring everything with us.

The good news ... if we can make this happen in Zambia, the next film should be a breeze.

July 25, 2006

When the going gets tough

JABBES MVULA - "God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage". Today the Film Zambia crew had a very good experience of that fact. We had a feel that in the process of achieving success, sometimes the situation may become tense and unpleasant. The most important thing is to realize that success is not easy to come by, it can sometimes be rough to attain, especially when everyone is working so hard to a point that they even overstretch themselves.

_MG_1109.jpgThe crew was today working on schedules that would make it possible for the film to be shot in within three weeks. For those who know what it means to shoot a movie, planning to film a feature in three weeks is an uphill battle, unless you do a very good homework when planning. That is what we were doing today, planning every details of the shooting schedule.

Cyndi put together a crack team to work on different aspects of pre-production planning in order to come up with a schedule that would make it easy for everyone involved, from cast to crew, to know what we would be doing at every particular time. Thanks to a very sophiscated software that she has, it makes you understand the filming process better and even reminds you of the little things that you might have overlooked.

There were about three different groups that were working on different aspects of schedulling. Cyndi herself was coordinating all the groups and ensuring that whatever was being planned, would work on the software that we are using. I, as the Director, was moving from group to group explaining how I will direct the film.

The first group had Jeanette and Pamela. The two had to all the questions to do with locations and the scenes so that they could group them together and see which scenes could be filmed together. Both Jeanette and Pamela are very precise in their work, and they really put me through a process that also made me realize where I had not done proper planning. The ladies were awesome, they really wanted all the details on paper so that everyone involved understands my vision. It was like attending a job interview that is for a manager's position.

The second was a one woman group of Gina. This is the kind of a woman who wants to make sure that she knows the number of hairs on your head if she has to plan a hair make-up for you. What am trying to say is that she wants to make sure that she is so precise with every little detail. Perfect for continuity when filming. She had to make sure that she lists down every prop in every scene and even the changing of clothes from scene to scene. She was amazing.

Then there were the storyboarders, Eric and Jacob. I had expected the storyboarders to just draw the sets in order to give averyone an idea. Eric had his own approach, the guy wanted detail in how am going to direct every shot that he was to draw. I had to think of the camera positions especially in relation to the Actors. The guys did an awesome job (Eric and Jacob). Let me say I started directing the film today, way before even moving on set.

Robby was in another building editing video news packages about the film. M.K was locating items we would bring to Zambia. It was in the process of the groups trying to get information from me, that Cyndi, who sometimes becomes protective of me when she feels am getting stressed, wanted to stop the detailed questions. Almost everyone got stressed at one point, including me. However, everyone continued working until we achieved our goal for the day, and now, everyone knows how we shall shoot the whole movie in about 15 days. The rest of the days have been left for "B" rolls and "B" plans should one or two things not work as per plans.

If you ask me if it was easy to make the movie, my answer is "Sometimes the going got tough".

Sundance Submission Deadline Challenges Us

To be honest, I am a bit upset about the deadlines this year. The early submission deadline will pass while we're still in Zambia filming. We return to the U.S. on September 4, 2006. The LATE deadline is a scant three weeks later. We're going to have to work like crazy to get the films ready. I was so hoping that BAD T!MING (the first Zambian dramatic narrative) and the documentary VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION would debut at Sundance but it's going to be dang tough to hit that date.

The Sundance website lists the requirements and deadlines for the upcoming festival. Films should be submitted to Sundance on a single DVD, packaged in an industry-standard, 5 1/4" x 7 1/2" plastic DVD case (the same type that most retail DVDs are packaged in). DVDs must be compatible with standard set-top DVD players -- do NOT simply burn a quicktime or AVI file to a disc as data. Make sure that your disc plays in a standard DVD player before you mail it in! They don't want fancy artwork -- and absolutely NO paper label on your disc!

EARLY SUBMISSION DEADLINE:

U.S. & International Short Films
Friday, August 18th, 2006
($25 Entry Fee)

U.S. & International Feature Films & Documentaries
Friday, August 18th, 2006
($35 Entry Fee)

OFFICIAL SUBMISSION DEADLINE:

U.S. & International Short Films
Friday, September 1st, 2006
($35 Entry Fee)

U.S. & International Feature Films & Documentaries
Monday, September 11th, 2006
($50 Entry Fee)

LATE SUBMISSION DEADLINE:

U.S. & International Short Films
Friday, September 15th, 2006

($60 Total Entry Fee)

U.S. & International Feature Films & Documentaries
Monday, September 25th, 2006
($75 Total Entry Fee)

July 22, 2006

VISUALIZING ON THE SET

BY JABBES MVULA - Eleven days from today, Cyndi and I will be joining several other Independent Producers at the Sundance Conference, and then eight days later, we will be arriving in Zambia to start the filming of BAD T!MING. Most of my friends are very excited, but Cyndi (am sure) and I are having sleepless nights going over every little detail and making sure that everything is in place. Sometimes I pity her because whereas am only answerable to her, she is responsible for the whole crew and answerable to the entire management of Mesa Community College and the taxpayers of Arizona State.

The last three days have been very cool for me, Thursday having been my birthday, and I made sure that I took it easy. Yesterday I was very excited when my buddy Oliver Mzenje Banda brought me the pictures from home. I took sometime looking at the picture over and over, visualizing the scenes and comparing the pictures with the script. I should admit that the pictures highly motivated me because I felt like I was already on set in Zambia.

cranecam.jpgAfternoon yesterday, Jacob and Robby were packing the crane and a couple of other things. As they mounted the crane, my mind was visualizing the kind of shots I will need using the crane. I imaged the shots at the concerts as the revelers are having fun. I think am just picturing in relation to the script.

Later yesterday, Cyndi gave me a copy of TSOTSI. I should say to me, TSOTSI is a big deal because it was the first African film to win an Oscar, and that it was done in a local language, but in a style very easy to follow. When I first got the DVD and rushed home, the first question was "What is in this film?" I have since watched the film twice, and I will be watching the "Making of" later tonight. At one time, I realized that I was not concentrating on the film, but I was rather looking at the Director's intentions and shots. I constantly asked myself, "Would I use that shot?" I enjoyed the movie, and look forward to meeting some of the people involved in the movie.

I hope I can find something else that can keep me visualizing the set so as to take away the anxiety.

July 21, 2006

Location Scouting

village.jpg

BY JABBES MVULA, PHOENIX, USA — This is one of the locations that we'll be using for BAD T!MING. It's the village scene and it's very near to where I grew up. My Mum still lives near this area and it makes me long for home to see it. A friend, Oliver Mzenje Banda, got these images for me and delivered them at 1:00 a.m. We're getting ready to go to Zambia to shoot the film. We're having to do the location scouting from a far. Cyndi tells me that it can happen this way with Hollywood films, too. They have to send a Location Scout to the area to find suitable locations before the cast and crew arrive. Of course, I know what things look like but this helps the crew a great deal.

vicFalls.jpg

Here is the Victoria Falls location where we will be shooting the wedding scene. It's a gorgeous setting. I think the audience will love seeing one of the most beautiful settings in my country. I too will be excited to see Victoria Falls as I have never been there. I worry that the water may create problems when we're filming because I read that it can shoot up in the air. Many people wear raincoats around the Falls.

FilmDailies on Nollywood

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA - FilmDailies posted a piece on Filmmaking in Nigeria. Thanks to CNN, we now know that Nigeria’s blossoming film industry is number 3. That’s third place after Hollywood and Bollywood.

"The efforts of early Nigerian filmmakers were frustrated by the high cost of film production. Nollywood, however, is a video movie industry. Nigerians call them home videos. All Nollywood movies are produced using digital video technology. Television broadcasting in Nigeria began in the 1960s and received much government support in its early years. By the mid-1980s every state had its own broadcasting station. Law limited foreign television content so producers in Lagos began televising local popular theater productions. Many of these were circulated on video as well, and a small scale informal video movie trade developed.

A report on CNN featured a production which had all the features of a low/no-budget production: a video camera and NO lights in sight. The scenes were shot in the blistering hot Nigerian sun! They could have used a reflector to soften the light but they probably wanted that gritty look - it looked like a gangster movie.

They are buying Sony FX1 and Panasonic HVX200 by the dozen. They are shooting a movie a week - they need to shoot 20-30 setups a DAY!"

Thanks to the folks at FilmDailies for this report ... they're on my new "must read" list.
For more information:
http://www.nollywood.com
http://www.nollywood.net
http://worldfilm.about.com/od/africa/

July 20, 2006

20th July — My Birthday Arrives

BY JABBES MVULA - It was just about 21.00 hrs (9:00pm) Arizona time on July 19 when I got my first text message from home. It was my immediate young Sister Monica, and the message - "You are now our Big Bro and Father, our first born, don't get upset when we wrong you." Monica followed up with another message from her two daughters Violet and Rachel, together with my other kid Sister, Ellah. Well, I was humbled with the message, that my large family considers me the father.

littleThoko.jpgThe next two messages were the greatest, my first daughter Judith, she was teasing me, coz she knew Dad was happy. Then Thoko just came on the line and sang two songs - Happy Birthday and ... oh my God, I have forgotten the other song coz I was so excited. Just after Thoko said "I love you Dad", her Mum came on the line too to wish me a happy day.

I haven't spoken to my young Brother David who is in South Africa in a while. His message that came just after midday local time just made my day coz I had decided to sleep a lot today. His message was "Today a boy is born, happy birthday Big J." By the way, sometimes people call me BIG J.

One of the biggest suprises of the day was a call from a very old friend who has never called me in a century, Norah. She suprised me with a stray call to wish me a happy day. She admitted that she meant to call somebody else, but she was suprised that the call came to me instead - interesting. Anyway, it was fun talking to her after sometime. It added a smile to my day.

My good friend and confidante, Richard wrapped up the day when he and his wife Julie hosted a special birthday dinner for me at their home. I spent a wonderful time with his three children, Maddie aged 12 in grade 6, then Jack who is still in pre-school, and 18 months old Heather who spent the entire four hours that I was visiting, running all over the house. They were so warm to me and I enjoyed the art and creativity of Richard, which he has passed onto his daughter Maddie. I loved the presentation she made at school about Jamaica, and I asked her to make a presentation about Zambia next time. She agreed. After spending some quality time with the family, we had dinner, and I enjoyed the Chicken and Macaroni. They gave me the birthday cake. I wish Thoko was here to eat with me.

I gave myself a lot of rest today, sleeping half of the day, something I have never done in the last nine months that I have been working on the Bad Timing project. My birthday was worth writing about.

July 18, 2006

CRITICISM

"In the face of criticism, we can become bitter or better, upset or understanding, hostile or humble." — These were the words of one William Arthur Word.

BY JABBES MVULA — Most people hate criticism, I don't like it either, though depending on the approach, I may take it or just ignore it. However, little did I know that during the process of developing the script, I would go through a stage at which my script would be criticised and torn apart. This is a very important part of script development in the business of writing either film or book.

JabbesCyndi.jpgThe last two weeks have been so hectic for Cyndi and I. After I finished writing the script at the end of April, I gave it to my Executive Producer (who is also my Professor in Digital Filmmaking) Cyndi Greening, to proofread it. It took her almost the whole month of May to write her detailed comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the script. She gave me her comments, together with a 19 page layout of how I could improve my script. Her comments were very good and enriching to me, but I suddenly developed fears that the guide would make my script sound American.

This is one of the times that I gave Cyndi a plus in the way she played her game as Executive Producer. She came back to me with a different approach. For a period of two weeks straight, the two of us met from morning till late to discuss the script in depth. Her role - criticising the script word for word and sentence for sentence. I had to justify why I put "that" and not "this". Sometimes we differed, sometimes we agreed, but at the end of the day, we made sure that the Zambian voice of the original script that I wrote was maintained, while at the same time making it professionally accepted.

I learned that sometimes, when you realize that criticism can be good, it can make you a better person and it can make your work better. For two weeks straight, I went to bed at 03:00 AM and was up at 06:00 AM waiting for Cyndi to pick me up. I only slept for 3 hours a day, not so healthy, but it was worth it. Am so happy with the script, but guess what, I still have a lot to do before we can start filming.

In the face of positive criticism, we have produced a better script, and I feel so humbled.

COOPERATION

BY CYNDI GREENING — Filmmaking is such an odd art form. Fine artists in many fields create their work and refine it—alone—and then present it to the world. Paintings, drawings, sculpture. They spring more often from the mind of a single person. Critics may comment on the work but the artist can simply say, "This is the way I have created it."

In order to make a successful film, it is vital that the filmmakers face mounds of criticism long before the critics ever see the finished film. Filmmaking demands that a group of artists come together and bring every skill they have to bear on the creation of a magical tale woven out of everyone's imagination. This can be the missing element in independent filmmaking.

I've been going to the Sundance Film Festival since 1996 and I have seen over a thousand independent films. Some of those films are wonderful and amazing. There are some, on occasion, that needed more criticism. Some films have the same writer, producer, and director which makes for a singular, independent vision. But, sometimes, those stories are weaker because they wander all over and are too "loose" to sustain the story for the viewer. They did not benefit from enough criticism and cooperation.

I have to give Jabbes a lot of credit for the way he has handled the development and production of BAD T!MING, thus far. Like me, his goal has always been to serve two masters in the making of this film. One commitment is to make the best film possible. Equally important is the commitment to accurately reveal contemporary Zambian culture. Both commitments must be manifested by the script. Based on the stage play by Samuel Kasankha, the story of Chiku and Mutinta needed to be adapted for film. It had to be developed for the camera and the visual shorthand that comes from filmmaking. As Jabbes worked the many drafts of the script, the story kept getting stronger and clearer. The dramatic throughline for Chiku strengthened and the opposition of the villains (major and minor) clarified.

It would have been interesting to see us working on it. (Ask Pam, she had the dubious distinction of being able to watch us for a couple of hours.) I'd say, "I don't get this part. It doesn't work for me. I don't think this character would do this."

Jabbes would scowl at me as he considered what I said. Sometimes he'd explain why he thought it should go that way. Sometimes, the explanations were very long. Sometimes, he'd say, "You're right, Mum. What about this ..." Sometimes, it would really be a cultural thing. I recall one scene with Mutinta and her mother when I said that I thought the mother would speak a certain way. "In Zambia, Mum, never. Never would a parent say that to a child. Never."

The real gift of this experience (and, as a producer, I must say, if only all writer/directors were like Jabbes, the world of filmmaking would be a joy!) is that the goal for both of us was always the strongest, most compelling Zambian tale.

Now, we count on all of the other members of the team to use their skills to make this script leap off the page and into the hearts and minds of viewers around the world.

July 15, 2006

ACTION

Today is probably one of the most important days in the diary of BAD T!MING. This is the day that the stage will be set for the movie. The final script for the movie will be released at the end of the day today, July 15th, 2006. Those within the 'Film' family will be able to see the script. Originally, I wanted to release it on 20th July on my 37th birthday, but I realized that the more we are getting closer to the D-day, the more am getting anxious, and I have to reduce this anxiety.

clapboard.jpgMy mind will now be thinking of the first sound of the 'clapboard' in Lusaka just before I will shout the word 'ACTION'. I should admit that am so anxious for that life changing moment of my life. I feel it will be like attending a job interview or my first date with a girl of my dream. Am not jittery or afraid, but am just sort of excited to assume the most envied job in the making of a movie. Being a 'Director' in a movie is a very challenging job.

Since I embarked on this journey, it has changed the way I watch movies. Every time am watching a movie, this time I try to ask myself questions like 'Why did the Director do that?' or 'Did the Director really to put that action there?' To me, every action that I see in a movie now, must have a reason, coz the 90 minutes given to tell a story, is just too valuable to be blown just like that. These kind of thoughts are the ones that bother me a lot, because I know that people will also judge my directing the same way that am judging others.

The more I think of all these things, the more I wish I could just bring the days forward to that I can go for it. I will have the Actors and Actresses looking at me for guidance and directions, while at the same time, the technical crew will be looking at me to explain to them what I really want to achieve. Its not easy when more than 100 people are all looking at you expecting you to answer all the questions.

I know that once I start, everything will get back to normal life, it's the beginning that sort of bothers me. I wish we could start shooting next week on Monday. I think am now ready to go.

July 14, 2006

Sony HD from Z to A

Like many traditional photographers who made the transition to digital, Arizona Republic photographer Dave Seibert migrated from 35mm film to digital stills and is now moving into motion digital. A few nights ago, Dave brought out his digital video tool, the Sony HVR-A1U. A phenomenally compact camera (only 1.5 lbs), it very much resembles its big brother, the much bulkier HVR-Z1U. At MCC, we have the Z1U and it's a great HD camera with native 16:9, Carl Zeiss lens and terrific fidelity in tough light situations.

SonyHVRs.jpg


I love the camera and it is what we're using for the Zambian feature BAD T!MING because of the superior quality. In spite of that, I was quite impressed with Dave's little wonder. It had TWO high-quality XLR sound inputs, 3CCD CMOS Sensor, Carl Zeiss lens, HD with a 2.97 megapixel resolution. The only disappointment is that it can't do 16:9 native, only 4:3. Still, to be able to capture images of that quality from such a tiny camera was very appealing ... especially if one were to be carrying that camera around for hours, as often happens in documentary filmmaking.

I think of how great it would be to have a few of those to train with and leave behind in Zambia. That would really help build the film industry and encourage production.

July 07, 2006

The Nation that Knows Storytelling

The ARIZONA REPUBLIC article on the Zambian film projects was published in the Mesa edition on Friday. We've been told it's going to run in the Sunday edition (in the Valley and State edition). Reporter Josh Kelley did a really nice story that is being well received in Arizona and Zambia.

On Sunday, Frackson's sister is returning home to Zambia. She agreed to take some things back for us. She's taking the Colin Boyd interview on THE BIG PICTURE to ZNBC so they can share our efforts with citizens in the Lusaka viewing area. She also took a big stack of our printed Press Kits to distribute in Lusaka. We topped off the box with several copies of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC that will be given to the Ministers and other government officials.

Jabbes and I have been polishing up the script so it can be sent to the Zambian actors and given to the crew this week. On Saturday, we're going to have another crew work day. We're going to have Zambians standing in for the actors so the crew can light dark fleshtones. We're exactly one month away. I'm getting anxious to go now. I've even started thinking about future projects.

ManWhoKnew.jpgSince I started on this project, a lot people around me have been learning quite a bit about Zambia. Some of it is through my research but some of self-motivated. My friend, Margaret, has been reading Zambian folk tales. She was telling me about THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. It's about a new mother who goes into the field with her infant son. The child is visited and comforted by an eagle. When the father finds out, he can't believe what his wife is telling him. Tragedy is the result of his unwillingness to believe. I find myself thinking of this story and wondering if there's a way to film these folk tales. Jabbes is always saying that Zambians use parables and wise sayings to teach their children. I find them fascinating. For instance, in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, initially the mother does not talk of the eagle visit because "some things are so wonderful, they are to be enjoyed privately." In the over-connected, digitally-linked U.S., the idea of holding things privately is a powerful thought.

This is one of the goals of the Zambian Innovative Project ... to bring technology to the story-telling Zambian culture and allow them to share their art and culture with the rest of the world.

Developing TV Drama

Lungu.jpgZambian Independent Producers involved in the production of Television Dramas, have come together to form a commision that will help them speak with one voice and promote technical excellence in the industry. This is according to a press release published in the Abet Arts Newsletter of June 2006. The commission that will be called COPPERBELT TELEVISION DRAMA COMMISSION, was formed by the four main production houses on the Copperbelt Region of Zambia. The region as the name suggests, is the economic hub of Zambia, a country whose main traditional export is Copper. The region currently has four active production houses that mainly produce soap operas and sitcoms for the country's public national broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

Despite the fact that there is no locally produced film in the theatres in the country, local Independent Producers have for a long time been making several attempts with limited resources to develop the film industry. During the past two years, the country has seen the opening of the second television channel MUVI TV, and the coming to the screen of a number of locally produced soap operas and sitcoms. The country has also seen films like PASSION OF THE CHRIST being premiered at the same time with Western countries, except that one had to purchase the ticket two weeks in advance to secure a seat.

The formation of the commission came at the end of a one day seminar held at the Fatmols Guest House in Ndola on the 14th May 2006 to discuss the future of the Film and Television industry in the region. The primary object of the commision is to build a culture of technical excellence and financial strength for the production houses. It is generally very difficult to secure financing for a Television Drama, let alone a film in Zambia.

The four houses behind the formation of the commission are BGM Studios, producers of LOOSE ENDS, Mwazanato Studios, producers of WHAT A LIFE, Zilile Studios, responsible for the production of WINDS, and the producers of REFLECTIONS. Members of the commission are drawn from Executive Producers and representatives of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

Meanwhile, Abet Arts Newsletter also reports that Zambia's most celebrated Actor and Comedian Augustine Lungu, has finally bade farewell to bachelorhood after marrying former Miss Kamwengo Vunda, an Actress. Augustine, who overstayed in his bachelorhood, and whom we used to call "Confirmed Bachelor" lost his much treasured bachelorhood at the Carnival Resort in Lusaka on 27th May 2006. He is one of the most famous names in the Zambian entertainment industry, and probably the most highly paid Actor and Master of Ceremonies in Zambia. Apart from being an Actor, he has also produced and presented several Radio and Television programs.

July 06, 2006

We've Been Chosen by Sundance!

I am very, very excited to report that the Zambian film projects have been selected for the Sundance Independent Producer's Conference. That means Zambia will be making its maiden appearance at the prestigious Sundance Institute through the country’s upcoming production BAD TIMING, which was picked from the hundreds of productions that applied for participation at the conference. Film Executive Producer Cyndi Greening (me!), Zambian Director/Co-Producer Jabbes Mvula and Editor Alec Hart will represent the film and the nation.

ipcheader.gifThe Independent Producers Conference is held every August and is structured to provide participants with opportunities to explore the issues of independent producing and to apply them to their own projects. The goal of the conference is to support filmmakers in finding resources to develop their films and to enhance their options for production and distribution. The conference brings together emerging producers, executives of production companies and distributors to discuss the challenges and possibilities for bringing these new film projects to the global marketplace.

This is the 21st annual conference and it will be held from 03-06 August at the Sundance Resort in Utah, United States of America. Among the producers and distributors expected to attend this year’s conference are Michael Barker of Sony Pictures Classics, Sara Bernstein of HBO Documentary Films, Ricky Strauss and Diane Weyermann both of Participant Productions, Marcus Hu of Strand Releasing and Mark Urman of THINKfilm. The agents scheduled to attend include Cassian Elwes of William Morris, Micah Green of Creative Artists and Jeremy Barber of United Talent.

It is the connection with these established members of the industry that is most vital for the participants. The wisdom, guidance and experience of these veterans assist emerging filmmakers in making better production and distribution decisions that ensure greater long-term success for their current and future films. “To have this sort of support as we establish the film industry in Zambia is a great blessing,” said Director Jabbes Mvula. “Through Sundance, the voice of our people can be heard by the world and our stories may have a global market. The success of BAD T!MING can create future opportunities for many Zambians.”