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Project chooses 12 screenwriters to tell African stories

Realness Institute, in partnership with Netflix, has announced the selectees for the 2022 Episodic Lab and Development Executive Traineeship

After a rigorous selection process, the Realness Institute, in partnership with Netflix, has announced 12 participants selected for the 2022 Episodic Lab (EPL) and Development Executive Traineeship (DET).

Realness Institute is a non-profit organisation which aims to empower Africans to tell their stories from an unapologetically African point of view.

Each of the 12 participants (six per programme), will receive a monthly stipend of $2,000 during the incubation period to cover living expenses as they focus on their concept and professional development.

The successful applicants were drawn from a competitive pool of 200 submissions from an open call, which closed on 21 January 2022.  EPL and DET commenced on 1 May and runs until 31 July 2022, with the last week of the programme consisting of in-person sessions in Gauteng, South Africa.

For the Episodic Lab, the selectees are: Hussein Kurji with Bushcamp (Kenya), Khanyo Mjamba with Byline (South Africa), Mlilo Mpondo with Bayeti-Visitors (South Africa), Neo Sibiya with Ukushona Kwelanga (The Setting of The Sun) (South Africa), Sandra Madu with From Lagos with Love (Nigeria), and Voline Ogutu with Dilemma (Kenya).

The selected screenwriters will spend 3 months in a virtual lab where they will work on developing their original story ideas, in any genre, alongside the mentorship of Realness Institute creative producers Elias Ribeiro and Mehret Mandefro, and story consultants Selina Ukwuoma and Thandeka Zwana. After this stage of mentorship, the lab participants will have the opportunity to pitch their incubated stories to Netflix executives.

“Anxious and excited,” says Hussein Kurji. “It’s not every day an opportunity, specifically to showcase African talent, comes around. The Lab will strip our writing bare, and we’ll all be better for it.”

For the Development Executive Traineeship (DET), the selectees are: Babalwa Baartman (South Africa), Khosie Dali (South Africa), Mona Ombogo (Kenya), Neiloe Whitehead (South Africa), Omotunde Akiode (Nigeria), and Pedro Duarte Soulé (Cabo Verde).

These selected participants will gain a deeper understanding of the story development process, working alongside creative producers and story experts. DET Participants will work in teams to support the development and crafting of the Episodic Lab Participants’ respective projects  and help translate their concepts into pitch decks. The approach of the Episodic Lab and DET programmes is “vertical and horizontal learning”, using writing rooms as a co-creating collaborative space. 

While there is no guarantee that any proposal will be developed further by Netflix, it affords the participants the space and time to develop their stories and skills with the guidance of international experts, including Netflix executives. 

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