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How to pitch your stories to Netflix in Africa

Netflix’s manager of African Originals, Dorothy Ghettuba, tells BRYAN TURNER how storytellers can pitch their creations to the world’s biggest streaming platform

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Think you’ve got what it takes to be a filmmaker or storyteller? Netflix Africa is open to your stories.

“We’re looking for exciting stories,” says Dorothy Ghettuba, manager of African Originals at Netflix. “People sometimes ask: are there specific things you’re looking for?

“We are passionate about creatives who are passionate about their stories. We want stories that people will watch and see themselves, stories that they’ll watch and enjoy. Those are the kinds of stories we’re looking for. We’ve always, for the longest time, had stories told from the outside in. Now we get the opportunity for African creators to tell their stories from the inside out.

“We’re looking for alternative narratives. In Africa, there are lots of stories to tell and we want a variety of stories and that’s why our stories are really different and that’s what you’re going to see. We’ll present different experiences, genres, drama, soapies. We want to see them all on Netflix.”

And then there are languages. In Queen Sono, the South African Netflix Original that debuted on the platform last Friday, close to a dozen languages can be heard, as characters talk in their own languages rather than the stilted English we have come to expect of foreign dialogue in Hollywood.

“We’re also welcoming African languages, and a great aspect about Netflix is you can have 26 languages to choose from when choosing from dubbed titles and then much more with subtitles,” says Ghettuba. “It’s vital to have as many people as possible to have access to these services, as well as balancing representation.”

She is one of the first Netflix employees to operate and manage Netflix Originals in Africa. She is precise about her responsibilities.

“My role is to find creatives who have got good stories,” says Ghettuba. “I’ll work with them to tell the stories. It’s all about creatives having the creative freedom to tell their stories, and we work together to find the best actors, the best actresses, and the best teams, because we really want African representation in the shows. Queen Sono is an example; it has an all-African cast, crew, and writers. It’s filmed at seven locations across Africa: Zanzibar, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, to name a few. At Netflix, we encourage local by local, so the world can also watch it.”

Once a story is accepted, says Ghettuba, Netflix does its best to support everyone involved so that they make the best content they can.

“We’re going to see a multiplier effect when you see a certain number of people working on set. There’s caterers, make-up, fashion designers, and we’ll start to see this huge multiplier effect. Having sets that are well set up is something that contributes to making content better.”

Getting a story to Netflix is far easier than before, now that Ghettuba is here to hear them.

“It’s as simple as sending me an email. I’ll come to South Africa, exchange ideas and concepts, and we take it from there. We’ll also find talent at festivals and other spaces that are rich in creativity. So we’re trying to cover as many ways as possible for people to reach us.”

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New measures as video production comes to a halt

MultiChoice has announced a range of measures to safeguard the incomes of cast, crew, and creatives, as well as the sustainability of production houses.

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MutliChoice Group has confirmed that production of video entertainment has come to a complete halt in South Africa, as the industry adheres to the national lockdown.

Many sectors across the African continent are adjusting and finding ways to deal with challenges brought about by the current coronavirus pandemic. Among these, MultiChoice Group is one of the best-known brands across Africa, due to its dominance of the video entertainment sector. As a result, it says, it is acutely aware of the challenges its partners in the industry are facing. 

“For many years MultiChoice has been a leader in the sector and are a leading investor in local content production,” it said in a statement on Friday. “The group has deep rooted partnerships and long-standing commitments that have grown the industry for the benefit of many, both in front and behind the camera.”

For this reason, says MultiChoice, it has decided to implement several measures aimed at safeguarding the incomes of cast, crew, and creatives as well as the sustainability of production houses. 

“With these measures the group can hopefully steer the industry through this tumultuous time.”

MultiChoice announced the following measures:

  • “MultiChoice has set aside R80 million to ensure that current productions are able to pay full salaries of cast, crew, and creatives for the months of March and April, by when hopefully we will have the worst of the disruptions behind us. The need to secure salaries of our creatives goes a long way in creating income stability for them and their families. We believe this to be critical for the industry and in our view simply the right thing to do.
  • “Through the MultiChoice Talent Factory we will be launching an online learning portal that will support over 40 000 members of the industry to gain access to courses and online master classes, so they can continue to hone their craft whilst adhering to the public health measures of social distancing and isolation. 
  • “Furthermore, we have committed to guarantee the incomes of freelancers in our SuperSport Productions, who are currently unable to work due to the suspension of sport and the national lockdown. This extends to guaranteeing the income of freelancers in our broadcast technology environment.”

MultiChoice Group CEO Calvo Mawela said: “Our main concern is to ensure as much as possible that we secure the incomes of creatives, cast and crew over this period. We want to ensure that they and their families are not negatively impacted as work has come to a standstill.

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Nintendo South Africa launches online gameathon

Nintendo’s South African distributor has set up live events for virtual participation during lockdown.

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Being stuck inside doesn’t mean not being with the game. Players now have the chance to meet up virtually to play Nintendo Switch Online games like Ring Fit AdventureAnimal Crossing: New Horizons, and Pokémon Sword and Shield

A daily schedule is available for each game. For example, Ring Fit Adventure has a kids challenge at 9am from Monday to Friday, while adults can join in at 2pm. The challenges are co-ordinated by a dedicated Ring Fit coach. 

The challenge instructions will be available via the Discord channel. Join the channel via the invite here

Players of all skill levels are encouraged to join. Plenty tips and tricks will be shared about the games. 

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